(Pic: The Rag Dolls)
In The City 2004 – Various Venues – 20.9.04

Dreadlocked Gary Numan doppelganger Duke Special plays quaint musical hall dities that float out of an old gramophone stage left. Earlier comparisons in the day had lead to many parties calling them the next Coldplay, but Duke Special are a little too obtuse and difficult to ever fit in the corporate system. What the Duke Special have by the bucket load is tunes that sound as if they’ve been penned by Brian Wilson and John Lennon and then twisted beyond recognition. “Freewheel”, a song about a stag night, cheap whisky and singing Bon Jovi songs. Much like In The City he muses as we rush downstairs to check out Pure Reason Revolution. PRR don’t sing until at least 5 minutes after they initially hit the stage. More prog-pop than prog-rock, the melodies are so sweet you’re convinced that they’ve encapsulated the entire works of Pink Floyd down to a 10-minute opera vignette produced by Pete Waterman. With Gregorian chants meeting the Beach Boys and the leftfield outlook of Super Furry Animals and Granddaddy it can only be a matter of time before these guys breakthrough.

Welsh rap-rockers Weapons Of Mass Belief start of with “F**k House”, a song about the art of f**king, and end with an explosive versions of “Terrorist Youth”. Imagine if Zach RATM and Peaches were siblings, formed a band that summed up the essence of politics, sex and rock n roll. The riffs are brutal, but melodic, the raps are uniquely British yet carry a universal message which explains why America went mad for them at SXSW. It’s a safe bet to say that Weapons Of Mass Belief will be reaching out to the masses this time next year.

After tipping Primary for great things in the Designer Magazine previews, there was a huge sense of disappointment when faced with the reality that the band simply didn’t live up to expectations. The sort of band that shimmer on the stereo with glossy pure pop production it was such a shame to see a band falter on the live shows through total lack of personality. “Sirmintol 5.0” on record was one of the stand out tracks of In The City, but when it’s played by a band of Sleeper bloke’s whose front man simply doesn’t engage your interest for longer than 5 minutes it’s gonna be hard to see how they convince the rest of the world to get on board.

With 20 minutes to spare we thought we’d throw in a wildcard for Manchester band Change Nothing. Despite a sizeable audience of both friends and industry the band’s melodic rock simply didn’t inspire us. Without a killer hook or chorus it was hard to distinguish them from any other aspiring rock band and with Manchester’s burgeoning rock scene Change Nothing simply don’t make the grade.

(Pic: The Marble Index)

Canada’s The Marble Index are a band that make Jet look like musical innovators, but there’s still something appealing about these chest beater’s retro roots music. Much is down to enigmatic frontman Brad Germain who brings the songs to life with his energetic performance. “Days Seem Longer” takes The Police’s “Message In A Bottle” before segueing into a chorus which sounds like prime-time U2. Elsewhere they take from blues and country standards and rewrite them for a new generation. They’ll never be fashionable, but there’s something about the Marble Index that suggests that In The City will be but a bookmark in their history.

(Pic: The Rag Dolls)

The anticipation before The Rag Dolls hit that stage is unprecedented at In The City. Hitting Manchester over a week before their actual gig it seems that pied piper like the band have attracted followers from their numerous nights out at Rock World and 42nd Street. The Rag Dolls, like the Darkness two years previously, have attracted their fair share of detractors and tonight they’re going to let the music and live show speak for itself.

With only a handful of dates behind them the Rag Dolls have arrived, a little rough around the edges, but still an unforgettable live act. If you imagine the sound of The Donna’s fused with unforgettable tunes which Pink and Avril Lavigne would give their right arm for you’re pretty close to crystallising why the Rag Dolls are such an exciting prospect. Take the fact that the five girls have such strong and individual personalities that they could become the biggest girl band on the planet since the Spice Girls. “It’s Time To Party” and “I Wanna Do” are punk pop at it’s finest, “It’s Too Late” offers a rock ballad and the snarly aggressive cover of “One Way Or Another” simply shows that they’ll take the boys on and better them.

The Rag Dolls came and conquered…and you can bet your life on it that the handful of detractors will be backtracking in a few months time when these girls are the hottest property on planet pop.

Words: Alex McCann
Photos: Karen McBride www.karenmcbride.com


(Pic: The Rag Dolls)
Are the Rags Dolls this years The Darkness?
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