Various Artists - Top 20 Unsigned UK Bands

Music is a very personal thing which makes the idea of a Top 20 Unsigned UK Bands quite a difficult album to compile. What I would judge as the best unsigned bands in Manchester for example is going to differ from other publications in the area and that's just one city. And then you've got to question of whether the idea of the Top 20 Bands means the most likely to get signed or actually the best unsigned bands regardless of commercial prospects. Still the National Music Network (who owns TBA Records) and Drowned In Sound (who have been brought in to promote the compilation) know their stuff and when you consider that it's only really the small independent labels such as Fierce Panda and their ilk who actually go out of their way to promote music rather than a marketing mans wet dream you have to be grateful for compilations such as this.

Of the bands we already know The Dawn Parade are dead certs to make it in some shape or form. Friends of Designer Magazine regulars Miss Black America and with instant tunes like "Caffiene Row" which we haven't seen since Oasis hit the scene with Supersonic it's unbelievable a major label hasn't picked them up yet. Plans And Apolgies "Onwards Away" is a track which suggests at greatness rather than actually achieving it, but at this early stage it's all about finding that spark of passion in a band. Denzel have the trump card of ex Skunk Anansie and Feeder drummer on board, but nothing can save the fact that "Pretty People" is an unambicious dirge. "Heliotrope" by Meanwhile In Communist Russia is as you'd expect cold and stark, but their spoken word monologue calls to mind Black Box Recorder and Whistler which can only be a good thing.

The rest of the CD is to us as much an journey of discovery as it would be to the casual listener. Antonia remind us what was great about the days of Britpop where female fronted bands such as Echobelly, Elastica, Sleeper and later Kenickie and The Audience were the order of the day. If "Big In Japan" is a signifier of what's to come we demand the national media take notice of the band. After The Silence have a great way with titles and "Queens Of The Teens" looks set to put the band in the great list of exports from Sheffield. We were hoping that New Rhodes would be the perfect cross between Romo and Punk Funk, but the pics on their website suggests that they're ex-rock kids who've been listening to Gangs Of Four lately, still "From The Beginning" is an absolute blinder. Junk TV on the other hand sound like the worst parts of Toploader, Robbie Williams and David Gray combined and it's somewhat bizarre to see them on a so called indie label.

While it's very much a hit and miss compilation, the National Music Network is one of the few organisation out there doing it for the love of music. All proceeds from this compilation are being put back into developing new bands and therefore getting us out of the situation where major labels are paying national publications to wrap up adverts as news stories and withholding certain bands unless they feature new signings that really shouldn't have been signed in the first place.

Alex McCann

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