BOG roll, desert sessions, thieves and vagabonds, 2012 has been an interesting year for Sheffield’s music scene, as Rachael Clegg reports.
AS far as Sheffield’s music is concerned, 2012 has been an eventful year.
Richard Hawley released his seventh studio album – Standing at the Sky’s Edge, the Arctic Monkeys enjoy their 10th anniversary and – only two weeks ago – Pulp played what may well be their last show ever.
Hawley’s album marked a different musical direction to his previous releases. Guitar parts were bold, psychedelic and – in some parts – Hendrix-like while his lyrics took on a gritty narrational style.
The album’s subject matter was a catalogue of people failed by and failing society – prostitutes, thieves and murderers.
And, equally gritty, Sheffield’s red-neck duo, Wet Nuns have also had a momentous year, releasing three singles - Heaven’s Above, Throttle and Why Are You So Cold? and touring up and down the country.
The death blues duo also played Reading and Leeds festivals and had one of their tracks mixed by Arctic Monkeys’ drummer Matt Helders.
“It’s been amazing,” said drummer Alexis Gotts. “All our ambitions have been smashed and now we’re planning to do things we never dreamed of.”
But there is a downside. “We’ve been gigging so much that I haven’t been able to work - I have never been so broke in all my life.”
It’s also been an explosive year for the city’s electronic music scene, with Mixed in Sheffield’s new warehouse space opening near Victoria Quays and a wealth of electro releases on Mixed in Sheffield’s label.
It was also this year that DJ and promoter Ralph Razor joined forces with former Pulp guitarist Russell Senior to write a musical about the miner’s strike. Known as Two Tribes, the production will – if all goes to plan – be gracing the UK’s stages soon.
But while Wet Nuns have had a year in the spotlight and the city’s electronica scene is shouting about its latest projects, other Sheffield acts have been tucked away writing and recording.
The Arctic Monkeys have been off-radar, busy - rumour has it - recording the follow-up to their fourth album, Suck it and See.
The band recorded Suck it and See at Rancho De La Luna studio at Joshua Tree in the Californian desert, where - according to Matt Helders’ mum Jill - the band were earlier this year recording a follow-up album.
Internet speculation held that the Arctic Monkeys were set to enter the studio to work on their fifth album, though nothing was confirmed. But responding to this, Jill Helders tweeted: “I don’t know if it helps to clear things up but lads are in the desert!”
All, no doubt, will be revealed.
And while the Arctic Monkeys haven’t played in Sheffield for more than a year, the city has been a magnet for other big acts, including Snow Patrol, The Killers, Lionel Richie, Nicki Minaj and George Michael, who made his debut with the Symphonica Orchestral Tour.
Outside of the city, however, the most sought-after tickets on the live circuit were not the uber-cool indie kids, but ageing rockers – Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, the Rolling Stones, Kiss and Rush, who have all had new releases or new live tours this year.
Our appetite for classic rock, it seems, hasn’t faded, particularly in tough times, so it’s no surprise that Sheffield’s Joe Cocker is still as popular as ever, with almost 400,000 followers on his website alone. Cocker will be releasing his latest album next year.
Reformed indie bands also proved to be topping the live list this year, with the Stone Roses playing its first live shows in years as part of a colossal reunion tour.
But the biggest reunion date was that of Pulp’s, who played what may well be their last ever show at Sheffield Arena earlier this month.
The show marked the end of a year that’s seen the band play a string of reunion gigs, including Coachella and the Royal Albert Hall in support of the Teenage Cancer Trust. And it was a bold, touching exit, complete with bog roll, visuals of Park Hill flats and umpteen pelvic thrusts.
If that’s not a way to round off a year in Sheffield music, what is?