In the midst of the often laughably misguided wave of seemingly relentless 90’s nostalgia currently invading every aspect of popular culture, an exciting new batch of bands have arrived on the DIY punk scene to breathe new life into a dying genre.
In the wake of the underground success of the now almost legendary Algernon Cadwallader, the past five years have seen an explosion of 90s Midwestern influenced Emo bands bursting onto the scene to reclaim the good name of a style of music tainted in the public consciousness by a decade of abuse at the hands of cheesy pop-punk bands helmed by overwrought boys in eyeliner a-la Fall out Boy and My Chemical Romance.
From the somber melancholy of Nottingham DIY favourites Football Etc. (be sure to catch them at one of their regular sell out J.T. Soar shows), to the joyous twinkly summer jams of Hightide Hotel or the Jawbreaker inspired Emo-tinged Punk of Title Fight, the current Emo Revival boasts a slew of intensely passionate bands who simultaneously evoke the spirit of their predecessors whilst blending new influences to create something fresh and engaging, all whilst retaining that all important punk ethos. (As a side note, the extent of the current Emo Revival is such that Second-Wave Godfathers Cap’n Jazz recently reformed for several shows and legendary 90’s acts Braid and Mineral have been able come out of retirement in the past year as touring is now a financially viable prospect).
[quote]The current Emo Revival boasts a slew of intensely passionate bands who simultaneously evoke the spirit of their predecessors whilst blending new influences to create something fresh and engaging[/quote]
That being said, this has to date been an almost exclusively American phenomenon. With the notable exception of Derby’s recently disbanded Crash of Rhinos (who’s 2013 album Knots is so fantastic even notoriously anti-emo snobs Pitchfork gave it a glowing review) you’d have to back as far as the mid 90’s to Nottingham band Bob Tilton to find much in the way of home grown Emo of the respectable variety.
Enter Nai Harvest.
Nai Harvest are, to my knowledge, the only UK act currently signed to Topshelf Records (essentially the home base of the Emo Revival; the 80s Post-Hardcore scene had Dischord, the 90s Alternative Rock scene had Sub Pop, 2000s Hardcore had Bridge 9, these guys have Topshelf), certainly up there with the best in the business and can more than hold their own on a roster with some of the best bands operating in the scene today.
Whilst their debut LP “Whatever” was a competent and hugely enjoyable summery, jangly romp, their latest EP “Hold Open My Head” takes their sound away from purely genre music and in an intriguing new direction, marking them out as a band to watch over the coming years.
Whilst the Emo influences are certainly still present, the sonic tone of the record owes far more to late 80s/early 90s British neo-pychedelia and shoegaze with a hint of the kind of third tier Grunge bands unfairly overshadowed by the media circus that surrounded Nirvana and the so called “Big 4 of Grunge”. (We’re talking hints of Suede, Truly, Swervedriver etc.)
[quote]Their latest EP “Hold Open My Head” takes their sound away from purely genre music and in an intriguing new direction, marking them out as a band to watch over the coming years.[/quote]
Twinkly, Kinsella-esque guitar lines are replaced with layers of swirling, almost hypnotic fuzz that at times sounds like lesser known Grunge act Love Battery put through the filter of the first two Ride records (and lead singer/guitarist Ben Thompson often performs sporting a “Going Blank Again” shirt, betraying his true allegiances) with a kind of droning, apathy drenched vocal delivery that recalls long hazy summer days spent stoned in the sunshine.
All this alone is, in my opinion, enough for a solid release, but the strength of the vocal melodies knocks the whole thing up several notches, and combined with the wry but sincere lyrics have left me humming “Rush” and “Pastel” unconsciously and occasionally belting out whole choruses after a few too many ciders. In a scene in which the specter of Algernon Cadwallader looms large (and I cannot stress enough how both important and essential their two LPs, “Some Kind of Cadwallader” and “Parrot Flies” are, especially during the summer months) it’s a somewhat ballsy move on Nai Harvest’s part to step outside of the Kinsella (see: American Football, Cap’n Jazz, Owen, Owls) mould and embrace such distinctly British influences.
Even more impressive is the fact that a record of this depth and quality has been produced by a 2-piece. I had the good fortune to accidentally catch their set at Hit The Deck festival this year which, aside from being a rare and refreshing beacon of light amidst a tepid ocean of third-rate scenecore bands designed by committee to appeal directly to 15 year olds with ear gauges and Pokémon tattoos, was one of the top 5 most joyous celebrations of live music I’ve ever been party to. Both dudes were totally on point, the guitar work was exceptional and the energy on stage and in the audience was unsurpassed throughout the entire festival. Even headliners Brand New, (who despite my better judgment remain a quasi-guilty pleasure/holdover from my high school days) and their admittedly fantastic show didn’t bring half the energy or sheer exuberance to the table as these two young dudes from Sheffield playing to a half filled Rescue Rooms.
[quote]One of the top 5 most joyous celebrations of live music I’ve ever been party to.[/quote]
So if you’re a fan of the genre looking for some local bands to go support at shows, if you can’t get enough of the 90’s throwback, neo-grunge style of bands like Kagoule, Yuck etc. that are all the rage at the minute and are looking for a suitably similar sound approached from a punk background or if you just want to get involved in the DIY side of the punk scene and check it out then Nai Harvest very well be the band you’ve been looking for (and it sure doesn’t hurt that the lead singer/sole guitarist is boy band-level gorgeous).
Their first album Whatever is out now, as is the excellent 4-track EP “Hold Open My Head” and they are currently in the process of releasing their second LP which is shaping up to be more in the wall-of-sound vein of the EP. Oh and please if possible go see them live whenever you can and support your (semi) local DIY scenes. They will be touring with the equally wonderful Superheaven throughout the UK and parts of Europe in September including a late September show at the Victoria Inn in Derby (a 20 minute train ride away and directly across the road from the station, so don’t worry about having to traverse the grim and soulless streets of our nation’s third shoddiest city for too long).