Just what is Steampunk? A top 10 bands from Steampunk

Just when old sages had declared that the very notion of dressing up and freaking out had disappeared from popular culture a new twist in the plot has emerged.

 

For several years the popular media notion had been that the youth tribes had disappeared off our streets and that is was not like the 'good old days' when skinheads would beat everyone up and there were several different wardrobes to choose from.

 

Of course, like all these media cliches, this was no exactly true and a whole host of mini tribes have been running around on our high streets for the past decade- from the various shades of metal heads to indie kids to hipsters to the so called chavs…each one with their own distinct dress codes and soundtracks.

 

Added to this is now Steampunk, which looks like a take on the early goth look if it was transported back to 1890 and to a time of industrial revolution prowess and a real sense of the machine as king that tallies neatly with sci fi. No-one can agree where the scene started and their are many antecedents of similar things going on back through pop culture and especially to the early goth scene with that fast forward to the future thing allied witha fascination for the gloomy yet glamorous, forward thinking cam do attitude and yet a very conservative Victorian age.

Initially a sub genre of science fiction from the late eighties that recast sci fi into the Victorian times, Steampunk has become definitive musical sub genre where dressing up in Victoriana but with a shade of the sci future links together a disperate selection of bands who are only loosely connected musically. The diversity of the bands is breath taking from industrial, Darkwave and goth to singalong punk, folk and Indian raga to vaudeville. The bands are loosely linked by their flamboyant Victoriana wardrobes and their fictional back stories where the reinvent themselves as characters in their own stories.

Abney Park

Originally a Goth band (and there does seem to be a lot of Goth DNA embedded in steam punk) Abney Park are from Seattle and are looked on by some as the quintessential steampunk band. Their initial dark and heavy brooding sound, which mixed Goth, industrial and black metal was embedded into their new Steampunk identity which they took on in 2006 when they recast themselves as Steampunk. They even went as far to invent a sci Fi backdrop for themselves and new Victoriana stage names before making an unlikley tilt towards a world music twist to their sound on recent releases.

 

 

The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing

Hailing from London gives this steampunk crew of Dickensian ragamuffins the added advantage of having the perfect backdrop. The band, who are the punk wing of steampunk, steep themselves in the city's Victotiana. They describe themselves as “Crusty punk meets cockney sing-songs meets grindcore in the 1880s” and took their name from the graffiti that appeared above the blood stained evidence discarded by Jack The Ripper. Sounding like Blyth Power or one of those melodic bands that appeared in the Crass period, the band also amusingly had a fallout with EMI when they decided to call their debut album Now That's What I Call Steampunk…volume one. Rather than face a costly court battle the band agreed to change the album title to The Steampunk Album That Cannot Be Named for Legal Reasons. Their songs are either cockney knees ups, Oi anthems or proto metal punk assaults and are sing, amusingly, from the perspective of a punk band operating in 1890.

 

Sunday Driver

Named afer a gene found in mice and fronted by the sari wearing Chandrika Nat, Sunday Driver explore a sometimes Indian and Carnatic flavoured take on the form that makes a powerful change from the more Goth industrial flavours of most of the bands. They also have many vaudevile touches but with a dark, atmospheric undetow as they fuse all their influences. Popular at festivals with their lush and tranced out Indian flavours and their added fusions, Sunday Driver are quite special.

 

Vernian Process

San Francisco based band who combine dazzling aray of styles from industrial to ragtime with a big dose of Darkwave in an avante garde take on the Steampunk past but with a firm eye on the future

Wet Glass RO

Future Steampunk anyone? Setting themselves in a futuristic 2022, Wet Glass RO are futuristic Victorians who combine keyboards and laptop technology to describe a sci Fi future of decay.

 

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society

Canadian jazz composer who put an 18 piece swing band together that is popular on the steam punk scene. Yet more proof of the stunning musical diversity of Steampunk.

 

 

Escape The Clouds

Built around the creative talents of multi instrumentalist Mark Rossmore, Escape The Clouds lean more towards the industrial and noise end of Steampunk with an added story telling capability and a penchant for mixing unusual instruments giving the band a highly distinctive sound.

 

Unextraordinary Gentlemen

With their name a corruption of the Alan Moore title, this LA based outside are one of the prime movers of the scene with their mixture of post punk, synth pop, industrial and experimental. The band have a whole imaginative back story of Victorian Enagland and Wild West narratives involving a time machine and it's backed up with a website you can get lost in exploring these themes.

 

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12 comments on “Just what is Steampunk? A top 10 bands from Steampunk”

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  1. John, thanks for the solid overview of this “genre without boundaries” and for including my work, as well as the work of several artists I really admire (The Men…, Vernian Process, Wet Glass Ro). You may be interested to know I recently launched a web site called http://www.Steampunk-Music.com, a site dedicated to the many artists forging their own takes on the steampunk theme. People can search for artists based on their location and their sound.

    All the best,
    MR of Escape the Clouds.

  2. One of the more unlikely proponents are vintage Canadian progrockers turned steampunkers – Rush!
    Neil Peart’s writing has always leaned towards sci-fan, time travel and tech. Steampunk is just a logical, although slightly unorthadox, direction in which to travel for a band who are currently vying with Guns’n’Roses for Ultimate Classic Rock’s poll to determine the genreā€™s true champions.
    Fortunately, they’ve made enough over the years to indulge their fantasies with elaborate stage sets and videos. Here’s one from their Time Machine tour in 2011 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WadX98ciDtU

  3. twitter_BirthriteUK

    Loads of British steampunk bands now John, have a nose at Birthrite, Gladstone, BB Blackdog, Metropolis, Crimson Clocks. All banging the steampunk drum and partying like its 1899.

  4. facebook_vernianjosh

    Thanks for including our project in your list, and that’s a pretty apt description of our general sound.

    Cheers, Josh ~ founder of Vernian Process

  5. How about Steam Powered Giraffe!

    • Indeed, steam powered giraffe, smokes most of these. Give them a look up. Peace and love every time we post.

  6. Check out Cascadian Airship- gupsy influenced steampunk from Portland, OR. Website:

    http://facebook.com/CascadianAirship

  7. Hello my name is Johnny and I play keyboards for UK steampunk band Metropolis, we have been playing up and down the county these past 3 years and been involved in the steampunk Community. We would very much like to be added to your list of bands if possible, please check us out at http://www.facebook.com/METbandUK Thanks for your time.

  8. Michael Stuart Neale

    Check out. Metropolis. Musically have a simular sound to Early Killing Joke.

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