It’s hard to put across a picture of the current musical climate of Dundee without first looking into the recent past, around 2006 to be a little more precise. Indie was cool again. Guitar bands were played on the radio, they released albums and singles that topped the charts and appeared on prime time TV shows. Indie nights were being hastily arranged in nightclubs across the country. The showbiz sections of tabloid newspapers were littered with boys in eye-liner falling out of trendy Camden bars with girls way out of their league. If your hair hung passed your ears you were king of the high street.
Around this time two things happened in Dundee that changed the cultural landscape. Firstly, Dundee was chosen as the host city for Radio Ones Big Weekend, the stations annual star-studded free music festival. For one weekend in May 2006 you couldn’t move around the city centre without bumping into pop stars and celebrities. Every pub, club and venue was rammed with preshow parties, after-show parties, outdoor gigs, fringe events and impromptu gatherings of all kinds. The whole city was buzzing, if you were young and from Dundee you suddenly held your shoulders high. Secondly, around the same time, The View happened. The View were four normal guys from Dundee with ear for a tune and a passion for chaos, and they were huge. They had a number one album, singles in the top ten and were nominated for the Mercury prize.
Suddenly every bar was a music venue, and everyone with enough fingers to play a power chord was in a band. Your weekend would be planned around what band you were seeing and where. If a Dundee band had an out of town gig they would take a coach loads of mates with them, taking over unsuspecting cities and drinking them dry.
Then it stopped. Maybe the excesses began to take their toll, maybe the majority of bands sobered up one day and realised they were awful, maybe it was just the inevitable end of the line for a party that was always destined to burn out. Venues started to close down, the walls of pawnshops hung heavy with Les Pauls, bargain bins overflowed with skinny jeans and Chelsea boots, barbers had never know such a demand for short back and sides. The hangover descended. I’m sure this is a familiar story in any small city or town that had a mid-noughties break out band.
So where is Dundee now? Well, like the resilient survivors in some post apocalyptic dystopia, anyone still in a band post-2010 was in a band because they needed to be in a band. With the good times all dried up and the crowds gone you would only really bother to spend all of your wages on band practices and guitar strings if you were a proper music lover. This meant that although the amount of bands in the city was now reduced to a small fraction of what it once was, those that remained were making music without having to rely on any scene or sound. For me this is when things got interesting.
It would be hard talk about current Dundee bands without starting at Model Aeroplanes. The band most likely to “do a View”. They are young and beautiful, talented and full of confidence. Last year they signed to Island Records and have recently become regulars on Annie Macs on Radio One. Musically they seem to sit somewhere between The 1975 and Two Door Cinema Club, it is indie pop at its shiniest and most glossy. If contemplative beard stroking and The National are your idea of a good night out then Model Aeroplanes probably won’t be for you, but then I imagine they will be too busy fending off legions of screaming teenage girls to be that bothered what you think.
Listen to ‘Innocent Love’ by Model Aeroplanes BELOW:
At the other end of the mood spectrum are Vladimir. A Mark E Smith approved four piece that dish out loud, feedback drenched rock n’ roll in its indiest form. They like Jesus and Mary Chain, they like reverb and they don’t go for much in the way of onstage banter. Over the last year or so there has been a bit of lad rock stomp creeping into their shoegazey sound, adding in a bit more melody and, dare I say it, “sing along choruses”.
Listen to ‘In My Head’ by Vladimir BELOW:
I think there are quite a few people around Dundee that would love to see Billy Mitchell have some success in the coming years. I’ve always seen Billy as a sort of Noel Gallagher type character, the talented one always to the left of some replaceable gobby front man or other, always in bands that never quite take things as seriously as he does. Thankfully these days he has stepped up and is going it alone, opting for a more stripped back sound, and quite simply writing good songs. His recent single “Mother” was brilliant and was rightly picked up by a few Scottish indie radio shows.
Listen to ‘Mother’ by Billy Mitchell BELOW:
Broken Boy are The Cribs that you could take home to meet your Mum. More likely to make everyone a cup of tea than spit blood on the carpet. That said they are still bloody brilliant. They have been playing shows as a three pieces for a couple of years now, but have recently added a fourth member to allow charismatic crooner front man Cameron a bit more room to shake his stuff. They remind me of Franz Ferdinand, The Strokes or Tokyo Police club, they are modern rarity in that they are straight forward good fun, its hard to go to one of their shows without smiling from ear to ear and being compelled to pogo like a mad man.
Listen to ‘Just To Leave You’ by Broken Boy BELOW:
Where Dundee once had a decent circuit of small music venues it now has a fine selection of prime city centre flats and retail opportunities. We have a V&A museum on the way, a full water front redevelopment under construction, independent cafes and craft brewers a-plenty. The seeds of gentrification are beginning to sprout. Thankfully we still have a couple of grimy rock n’ roll pits for new bands to earn their stripes. Buskers is a natural descendant of the old Doghouse venue that birthed The View and a whole bunch of other bands a decade ago, it is very much indie in flavour with all kinds classic rock memorabilia on the walls and fridges always well stocked with Red Stripe.
Beat Generator, situated about fifty paces away, is home to a more alternative clientèle, usually hosting punk and metals shows, as well as a consistent flow of touring tribute acts and old school revivalists. I think the role of the underdog suits us – the party may have stopped a long time ago, but the small town outsider spirit of Dundee remains.
You can catch The Mirror Trap showcase tracks from their forthcoming album Simulations at Buskers on May 7th. Current single New Trance can be found on the bands Soundcloud page or watch the video below.