Friday, August 15, 2008

Lost Bands of Britpop (Part Four)

THE BLUETONES were supposed to be a big deal - at least, that's what the PR guy from their US label said to me in line one night at the annual CMJ festival in New York. CMJ was a magazine/charting service for College radio that was my personal bible while in college. When I was in the industry, these charts were the make or break for a new band because it told the world whether or not a band had indie cred. This is an antiquated notion these days, but a fair analogy would be a hit record today on about a thousand blogs would be the same as getting played on a thousand college stations back then. So, when you went to CMJ, you would be seeing the hippest and coolest of the music industry at that time. Each night was a collection of showcases for different bands trying to sway stations to play them on the air. Each night there was that one band that was the big ticket that every radio and industry type wanted to see. For one night in New York, The Bluetones were that band.

Now, it is never fair to raise expectations on any band to the height that they were at that night. I walked into the club expecting a band on par with OASIS, BLUR or THE CHARLATANS. What I got was an average sounding Britpop band with a couple of strong songs. I left disappointed, and turned to my PR friend and said, "So what else you got going tonight?". To a PR guy working a radio Music Director, this statement was akin to shooting his dog. Upon my return to California, I never even took the time to buy the full album. I had enjoyed the ep they had sent me and at the time that was enough for me.

About a year ago, I found "Expecting To Fly" online and downloaded it. I was surprised at the quality of the record. "Slight Return" has a nice sing-songy feel to it that never translated well live. "Bluetonic" is textbook britpop (as if recycled out of The La's leftovers), while "Talking to Clarry" has that open the show slow build to a somewhat majestic anthem feel that shows off some above average guitar work. It's a nice record and one I should have not dismissed. Were they the second coming? NO! But I was glad to see that they have carried on and I might just see what they have done since their debut. I guess the lesson here is that some bands just aren't good live (at least the night I saw them), but that shouldn't be the kiss of death. Who knows, maybe the pressure was to much for them and they were tight? Maybe a few more shows would have benefited them and given them a greater presence in the US. Still, for a britpop nugget they feel like a nice addition to the Lost Bands Catalogue.

I had the whole album on my computer but apparently deleted it to save room!


JC said...


I think we've all done that....saw a band live and been really badly let down, so much so that you never give them any credit.

I think what you've said sums up The Bluetones rather well..

In football terms, they're not Premiership material, nor are they as lowly as the Conference. Some songs are Championship quality, others distinctly second division..

Jon said...

It's not so much that I was not impressed, more that there was no way they were ever going to be as good as they were made out to be. Had they been presented as a bit more of a traditional Brit pop band rather than the saviors of rock and roll they might have been better.