Our friends over at Back Street Indie are well worth spending a while with for those who enjoy their music writing. Here’s Liz’s latest piece from the Manchester alternative scene…
A three piece band that formed around four years ago in Manchester, Dirty North from Wythenshawe are one of those bands everyone should be talking about. Unique, innovative and completely different, they are one of the very best new bands around. I first discovered Dirty North about a year ago after a friend told me about them. I went to see the band in a little indie venue, and the small crowd that turned up simply loved this band. Feet stamping, dancing and full on collective rapture were in abundance; the atmosphere, feeling and fever created by this band was purely electric. I don’t think I had actually ever seen such a response at a small venue with a relatively new band. What first hit me about them was their incredible genre-twisting. A friend asked me what they sounded like. I replied with lots of one word descriptions, lots of superlatives; my mate laughed. His response was along the lines of “that’s impossible ”â a band doing that ”â and a Manc band doing that – don’t be daft ”â rap-ska-reggae-dub-indie ”â that can’t exist…” But a few clicks on youtube and he knew what I was talking about.
The band have a completely original, energetic sound that combines ska, reggae, rap and in some songs, indie guitar strumming to create a sound that really does have its own life force. There is just no one I can think of who are anything like Dirty North. And entwined with their quite brilliant sound are lyrics that really say something, in ordinary language ”â the language of ordinary men, as a certain poet once said. The band, made up of Johnny, Dave and Carl, create lyrics that are honest, true and reflect life today from the parts of society so often unheard. They give a voice, through their council estate poetry, that is gritty, gutsy and edgy. It cuts and punches and tells it like it is.
Their E.P Know What I Think is an exciting taster of what this band can do. The opening track ‘Standing on a Lamp Post’ begins with a reggae sound that evolves into a high energy rap midway through. It’s a simple, effective gritty love song and has a neat cyclic ending, which returns to its reggae beginning as the opening verse is repeated. The next track, ‘Take Me Away’, begins with low-bass indie guitar strumming but then develops into full on street-rap. Their ‘Spittin’ inn Bars’ indeed speaks volumes as dark, alleyway, back street poetry hits the listener from all angles. The band urges us in this song to “look into their souls through their open eyes”Â, to dig deep, to discover what they’re really about. Their philosophy is simple. As the song says, they’re “in it for the journey”Â and “don’t care where [they] arrive”Â ”â people can take it or leave it; inherently important to them is the fact that they’re choosing what they want to be, not what others tell them to be in a music scene that moulds, shapes and creates to the detriment of musical creativity.
‘Down and Out’ is a great song combining rap, ska and indie. It’s a bitter-sweet love song from the street that is deceptively simple ”â it’s so well-crafted and carefully thought out. It’s got an upbeat ska sound running through its veins, which seems to reflect the love the couple once felt for each other. But it’s a doomed break-up that the band are singing about, and the Orwellian Down and Out perhaps gives us some clue to how this twenty-first century love song is going to end. End it does, abruptly, as relationships so often do…it’s a brilliant song and just like the other tracks on the E.P., Dirty North fill their lyrics with social comment after social comment”Â¦ be it “you know I get down when I think about reality”Â to “all my endeavours and struggles in life”Â¦”Â the band sing about what’s right in front of them and, for most of us in amongst the coalition chaos, that’s pretty dark right now.
‘You Know What I Think’ is made up of pacey, edgy rap, but the stripped down indie guitar, drum and bass create a truly original, creative sound. A great song live, it’s probably up there with my all-time Dirty North favourites including the demo ‘Shameless’ which I heard live and the next track on the E.P ‘Favourite Bad Track’. This track is all about ska and reggae; no rap this time, it’s deep gutsy lyrics wrenched from a fearless, audacious experiment with sound. To get a taster of just how good this band are live, take a listen to the final track on the E.P ‘Demons’. It gives you some idea of how energetic and passionate this band are live… but to truly understand it, you must see this band live!
In the mainstream music scene, there is, tragically, very little in the way of innovation and originality. Sure enough, there are a handful of bright stars who make it through but, for the most part, the charts are full of mind numbingly passionless, speechless, music ”â music that doesn’t say a damn thing. Search round the back streets of the UK and there, in those little indie venues out of the spotlight, there are wonderful bands aplenty, plugging away, night after night creating some great sounds, making statements with bold, imaginative voices. But Dirty North really are something else, something potentially magnificent.
Another notable relatively new release includes The Dirty North Mixtapes 2008-2009 which I think give a brilliant flavour of this band and what they’re all about. Highlights on The Mixtapes are definitely ‘Money and Guns’ and ‘Wythenshawe Dub Live’. Mixtapes, as on the EP, are very succinct ”â the band are very economical with words and sounds; they say it quickly and effectively. Dirty North are a group that we’ve desperately needed for some time and their forthcoming album Down in the Game I hope will become one of the most eagerly anticipated new albums. I know I can’t wait to hear it. After their recent endorsement by Stone Roses Mani, and championing by John Robb, people are starting to take a closer look at a band that many in Manchester have been following with interest for some time. This is a bold band not afraid to subvert, throw out, remix, re-create and twist music. This is Dirty North.