Music

Manchester and Music – What Makes Its Music So Great?

Manchester has arguably produced some of the U.K’s, if not the World’s best bands. Sometimes it’s still a little difficult to comprehend how such a multitude of incredible, yet diverse, music came about from this humble northern city. Anybody from Manchester will always be quick to tell you about how it’s the best place on Earth; if you’re judging it from a musical perspective, their arguments certainly has some legs to it. But when it comes to the production of music, it’s always been difficult to pin down what makes it’s bands so special time and time again. Is it the city’s humble population allowing for such beautiful lyricism and charisma within wholly relatable narratives? Is it the pieces of Northern Soul trapped within each artist that captures the hearts of listeners around the world? Or is it just that the city’s reputation for good music gives all Mancunian bands a head start? This article will focus on six artists from the fabled city and try to explain how their choice of band portrays the essence of Mancunian musical greatness, or something similar. 

Oasis

By Josh Ong

Oasis are, arguably, the greatest stadium Rock n’ Roll band of the last 20 years. Granted, without some of the other big names on this list, notably The Smiths and Stone Roses, you wouldn’t have Oasis. However, without Oasis, you wouldn’t have Everything Everything, Courteeners or most presently touring indie bands in their current format. 

Oasis had just about everything you want from a band; big chantable anthems, the outlandish and outspoken frontman, the (slightly) quieter songwriting genius, and a very public feud between the both of them. Beyond the surface, Oasis successfully strove to capture the spirit of a generation rebelling against the mainstream culture of the time. Where Grunge had made its way over the atlantic and sought to convince its listeners of the eternal doom of the world, Oasis fought back to recapture and inject some positive and energetic ecstasy to English music. 

Where the Britpop feud between Oasis and their Southern rivals Blur dominated the music of the late 90s, for some, it was easy to brush away the Northerners as just some kind of youthful, angry noise. This common misconception, that is somehow still believed by some, couldn’t be any further from the truth. From the beautiful orchestration within ‘The Masterplan’ through to the impassioned storytelling within ‘Champagne Supernova’, Oasis covered the entire spectrum of emotionality. Suitably, on the year of the 25th anniversary of their debut album, Definitely Maybe, we find their popularity has never ceased to diminish. 

Sadly, where the brothers went their separate ways, and split the band in half whilst doing so, it looks increasingly unlikely that we’ll ever see a reunion. As each brother has dove further into their own styles, the music of Oasis has, and shall continue, to live on, albeit with the new addition of getting to witness Liam regularly calling Noel a potato on Twitter. 

Everything Everything

By Luisa De la Concha Montes

Talking from auditive experience, when new bands emerge, they tend to take a while to define their style. By hand-picking what they like from other musicians, and re-adapting it to what they want to create, they often take years to finally pin down a style that is definitely ‘theirs’. However, once in a while we find bands that already knew what they wanted to be before they were even created. This was the case for Everything Everything; contrary to what their name implies, they never wanted to be ‘everything’. In words of their guitarist, Alex Niven, he clearly knew that he wanted “to try to take contemporary R&B pop music and fashion a vaguely Futurist project out of it” . It can’t get much more specific than that, can it? 

However, since their first album, Arc, up to their last, A Fever Dream, they have developed a jarring style that is neither rock, or synth, or indie, a style that feels intrinsically accurate to our current time; it is a musical representation of multiplicity, of what it’s like to exist in both the digital and physical world, being constantly bombarded with information, and feeling simultaneously connected and de-attached. In terms of their lyrics, they also have no boundaries. They’ve gone from writing politically tainted songs, such as Fortune 500, which follows the mental-process of a suicide bomber, to narratives of introspection, such as Final Form, which breaks down the process and fear of aging and losing body movement. Their music is raw, crude, messy, and more importantly, eerily relatable.

The band’s bassist, Jeremy Pritchard has said that the band’s intention has always been “to avoid cliché, or the clichés expected of white men with guitars from Manchester”, and so far, they have succeeded, from their concept of ‘everything’, they have created something firmly unique that just keeps on expanding. 

Courteeners

By Katie May Huxtable

As a band, the Courteeners were often palmed off as something only the North could understand. But their music, complimented by a killer combination of storytelling and charisma, acts as a raconteur of the everyday life we all can relate to as humans – with references to Debenhams, double-decker buses and retrospectives on love lost. 

Over the years the indie-rock four piece, who formed in Manchester back in 2006, have undeniably received a hard time from both the press and critics alike. With little to no radio plays, the early years of the Courteeners survival was down to small, intimate gigs and the power of word of mouth. Sadly, the initial release of their debut album St Jude in 2008 was met with little confidence. In a review for the Independent, Dominic Horner stated: “I confidently predict that exactly no one will be listening to it in 10 years time.” 

Yet, four albums and over 10 years later, the people are still listening. What it is that awarded the Courteeners the leg-up that the press and radio so righteously refused to offer, is a loyal community of fans both from Manchester and beyond. In this digital age, musicians no longer have to rely on the power of radio to ensure their music is heard. Maybe in their early years, when word of mouth was the most common method of communication, the Courteeners were a band that only the north could access. But now, with the power of social media, their fans can take centre stage as there is no longer a need to rely on the radio to do the talking.

Just this June, the Courteeners played what was arguably the biggest gig of their career, selling-out Manchester’s Heaton Park to a crowd of 50,000. A Courteeners gig is just as much a visual experience as it is a vocal one. As pints of Carlsberg are tossed into the air, the chants of fans ascending the shoulders of their friends are engulfed by the billowing smoke of flares in blues, pinks and reds. In a 5.5 review of the bands previous Heaton Park gig back in 2015, Q Magazine described it as “less like a performance, more like a reciprocal communion”. 

The Courteeners may have a range of northern-related references knotted into their lyrics and may not find themselves getting the regular radio play of other musicians. But what they do have is a fanbase that will attend their gigs, buy their albums and live by their lyrics. That is something that will always make them feel truly at home in Manchester.

The Stone Roses

By Emily Ricalton

In the winter of 2016, my dad and I, who I must say has one of the best music tastes I’ve ever known, bought tickets to see one of his treasured teenage bands – The Stone Roses. It was definitely a gig that I will never forget.  As the Summer of 2017 came around, June 17th to be exact, the indie tunes of this Manchester band haunted all musical aspects of my life. In relation to my excitement, their songs were played on repeat, and yet, I never got bored of them either.

For me, The Stone Roses are by far the best band that the Madchester subculture have ever seen before, and this is including the uproar of Oasis throughout the early 1990s. Unlike other Mancunian bands that dominated the rock scene, The Stone Roses had a psychedelic passion that captivated the thoughts, emotions and idolisation of their listeners. And, this was something that was predominantly expressed throughout this summer event. 

As the increasing bass of ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ introduced the band to Wembley Stadium, a sold out capacity of 90,000, the crowd lit the sky with colour, releasing flares and chanting along with the iconic riff of the song’s opening verse. It was a moment of unity, a type of love for music that cannot be explained. And, especially after the Manchester bombings that took place a month prior to this concert, it was definitely a symbol of rebellion, something that represented the level of respect and equality that can be created through music. 

It was definitely a moment of musical sensation, a moment that will remain with me throughout the rest of my life. A concert that will forever be my favourite. It was without a doubt an hour and a half of pure harmony, allowing their live events to become a legendary aspect of the music made in everybody’s favourite Northern city. 

What I love about this Manchester-based band, consisting of original members Ian Brown, John Squire and Reni, is their devotion to the music scene. At this concert, I saw all generations of music fans come together to admire this rock band. Their music never seems to age and continues to be commended until this very day. They are a band of celebration, forever bringing joy to the people who choose to listen to them. I will always be thankful to my dad for showing me the beauty of the indie anthems created by this Madchester smash. 

The Smiths

By Mike O’Brien

‘I wrote in 2018 that, ‘in a decade of bombast and smothering vibrance, [Morrissey] dared to be grey and aloof, to confront the demons in the dark that dance can’t vanquish. [The Smiths’] music gave a voice and community to society’s quiet rebels, to those whose incongruity with convention might otherwise leave them feeling alien and disaffected.’ Even now, as Morrissey does his utmost to undermine his legacy by flailing his mammary glands and shamelessly advocating fringe racism, I stand by these words. 

80s pop was homogenous, a synthy feel-good disco dreamscape where the boys will be boys and the girls are dancing. If you’re not having fun, you suck. The Smiths was a project to demolish the illusion of unanimous joy in a decade that, for some, was rubbish. With songs like Handsome Devil openly exploring homosexuality during the AIDS hysteria, Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now exploring the banal landscape of civilian life, and the scornful Headmaster Ritual indicting England’s comprehensives, The Smiths were bravely vulnerable. Morrissey fought the grain with substance, insight, weeping and witticisms, and all to the jaunty genius of Johnny Marr’s prodigal guitar, Andy Rourke’s unforgettable bass, and, er, the other one. Ringo?

New Order

By James McClements

There’s no doubt that synthpop lads New Order are a purebred Manc institution. Genre defining, ballsy and shambolic, the group had arbitrary and tragic beginnings. When Joy Division’s Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Steven Morris were recovering from the loss of their lead singer Ian Curtis to suicide in 1980, with the infamous post-punk band reaching their culmination and consummation after 2 short years, the remaining members and their label – the iconic Factory Records decided to carry on. They reformed with new member Gillian Gilbert, who pushed a sonic shift towards electronics and synthesisers, moving away from the previously nihilistic, overtly depressive, facist inspired cult sounds that wasn’t really selling records at the time. 

During the eighties and early nineties the band and Factory dominated the Manchester music scene. Not only releasing classics like Age of Consent, Bizarre Love Triangle, and Blue Monday – club banger and highest selling 12” single of all time, (which also happened to lose 20p on every sale due to the elaborate sleeve artwork) they paved the way for new genres all together – like the Acid House and Techno movements, whilst themselves closing the gap between rock and dance music. Their brashness however would soon be their demise, with these true mavericks neglecting their own music and instead pursuing questionable business project after project, most notably opening the iconic Hacienda nightclub which never came close to turning a profit, the boys went bankrupt in 1992, closing the chapter of Factory & Co and opening up the doors to the upcoming Britpop movement.

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