Once upon a time in the Madlands

How Birmingham's music scene is making a mark on the whole country

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Sam Lambeth looks at the burgeoning Birmingham scene, now remodelled and repurposed as the Madlands, and the bands that are putting the Second City back on the map.

Remember when The Beatles landed in Hamburg to a succession of Scousekrout? Or when Dua Lipa first descended down the stairs, gear in hand, of The Sunflower Lounge? Well those reactions are nothing compared to what greets Birmingham band Riscas on a balmy Saturday night. A gang of fervent, floppy-fringed revellers wrestle to get to the hallowed turf of the Castle & Falcon stage. Smartphones are launched into the air with spam-fuelled satisfaction. People have come from as far as Stoke to be here. Everyone agrees it’s a pretty exciting evening all round.

If the lost art of the autograph had come out of its dusty alcoves, May 12th would have sent a spinster into life support. In one corner of the venue, The Clause – the kind of band where you need to read small print in order to soak up their thunderous fuzz – are breaking bread with The Cosmics, Irish by birth but Brummie by brilliance. The crowd came starving for sun-drenched sensation, and as the cherubic boys on stage blast out the arena-sized behemoth ‘Right Kinda Day’, they’re fuller than they can bear. Welcome to the Madlands, where the servings are plentiful and the songs are stunning.

Remember Birmingham? You may have passed through it like a dog passes kidney stones. You may recall Peace came from there, before Harry moved to New York and started picking up the morning newspaper in his mother’s dressing gown. For a few years, it had a Katrina-style slump into indie indifference, but after lying fallow for so long the Second City is pissing directly into the faces of every London-loving poseur and every Mancker. Birmingham, like Twin Peaks or Rick Astley, is back. However, it’s repackaged into the Madlands, a name we can all depend upon.

Riscas may steal the limelight in May but waving the flag is Ivory Wave. Boisterous, bold, brave and brilliant, Ivory Wave have a mercurial touch and a masterful live performance. Bringing the baggy brazenness of Happy Mondays with the earworm wonder of Kasabian, Ivory Wave are firmly putting the Madlands mantle into every fireplace in the country. Sugarthief are stealing more than just Splenda these days, however – every big city has been taxed and every Sugarthief fan must be in the throes of chronic diabetes, such is the catchiness of their candy-coated rock.

It’s not just the bands – noble nods to the likes of long-haired lovers Violet and Spilt Milk Society – that are helping make the Madlands the most authentic, exciting scene since Britpop, however. The face of the Birmingham music scene has got to be Tim Senna. He’s served his dues – toiling away for several years as a sports jockey, cramming final scores and bore draws into the bloated goal hole of every lad in Ladywood. Now he’s risen to the top of the indie pile, providing admirable and unflinching support to almost every band in the region. Artists turn to him for radio play, guidance and vlogs, and his infectious enthusiasm and unbridled love of everything Madlands makes him a genuine gentleman.

The Madlands had the face – all it needed was the mouth. We’ll call him Jacky P as that is his name. Just like Senna, Messr P has been around since Swim Deep were paddling in the shallow end. However, after losing his hair he had a reverse Samson – he’s now stronger (and balder) than ever, a man so full of love and respect for every artist of every shape and size we should be bottling his sweat. Together, Senna and P are continuing to push the Madlands and put it on the map.

Even without them, though, such is the love, unity and togetherness of this scene it means there doesn’t need to be a mascot. People are waking up. People are dusting off their Ocean Colour Scene CDs and thinking about taking a ride down the Spaghetti Junction. Birmingham is alive again. The Madlands is here. Get used to it.

Words by Sam Lambeth

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