Arctic Monkeys

Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
Domino

I’ll always remember sitting in my friend Jack’s bedroom the first time I heard 'The View From The Afternoon', the first track from Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. The thrashing of Jamie Cook’s guitar and Matt Helders’ intense drumming starting the opening track captivated me straight away. It is the first album I truly loved.

It’s a very solid album that most established bands would kill to have as a debut. Much is made about Alex Turner’s lyrical wit and rightly so, as it captures a point in time - growing up, going out and trying to impress the opposite sex.

Arctic Monkeys came at such an important time in guitar music. Britpop was on its way out in the early noughties and there were questions about British guitar music going through a lull, until four lads from High Green announced themselves with an album which remains the fastest selling debut in British music history.

It’s an album that means so much to Sheffield that it’s hard to put into words. Ten years have passed since it was released, but when you consider how much people in Sheffield's music scene still talk about it, it could be last week.
It’s a social commentary, everything about it is iconic, including the album cover, and it deserves to be up there as one of the most important albums to come out of this city.

Brady Frost

Cabaret Voltaire

The Crackdown
Some Bizarre Records

Sometimes it’s not the best music we hold dearest in our memory, but the sounds that had the greatest impact on our own personal journey.

There are probably better Sheffield albums than The Cabs’ The Crackdown, but few have as much raw energy and bloody-mindedness as this. Released as a single album with an optional 12-inch, I opted for the latter and was duly rewarded.
The tracks are pure industrial funk and post-punk at its best - part vocal, part instrumental with samples, haunting guitars and Stephen Mallinder’s unique voice nudging on the funkier tracks with staccato lyrics. The highlight of the 13 tracks, ‘Just Fascination’, sounds like Bauhaus if Juan Atkins had been brought into the studio for remix duties, whilst bonus track 'Diskono' is truly mesmerising, powerful and relentless. Mallinder’s vocals drift in and out menacingly over a live four-on-the-floor beat that would rock any dancefloor worth its salt.

'Theme from Doublevision' and 'Moscow' are incredibly haunting but beautiful pieces of cold ambience that sound incredibly fresh to this day, although the title track is more reflective of where Cabaret Voltaire were heading at the time.

For me, Richard H Kirk and Stephen Mallinder never truly got the recognition they deserved for the boundaries they pushed. This album may not be the best Sheffield LP of all time, but it had a profound effect on my music tastes as a 16-year-old. That alone makes it stand out for me, but their Western Works Studio was also at the same location that I now work.

Andrew Tattersall

Cats:For:Peru

Attack of the Pitching Machine
Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation

The five-and-a-half years I spent in Sheffield are a collection of bittersweet memories. For all the great bands I was blessed to witness, I think Cats:For:Peru’s only full-length summarises life in the steel city.

Why? Because the city, as diverse as it is, comes through in this multi-genre album, a potluck of cultures represented by a lovely, harmonious cocktail of sounds. From heavy metal to ambient, from indie to dance, Attack of the Pitching Machine has them all.

Two examples. The neurotic urgency found in the intro of ‘Love in a Lift’ begets a dance indie breakdown that cascades into post-rock. ‘Slight to the Right’, the finest example of Cats:For:Peru's cerebral pop, handles some heavier lyrical themes while still making it very palatable, in a hummable ditty that mixes camaraderie and empathy.

Then there’s that biting British humour - understated, dry and curt. For all the genre-mashing that the band deftly weaved through their short career, they were well aware that you can’t make it in this world if you’re too serious. Just watch their Hostel-rrific video for the introspective ‘Answers’ to see that humour was an intrinsic part of Cats:For:Peru.

Cats:For:Peru were never an award-winning purebreed - Callico here, with bits of Siamese and Burmese there, maybe a tabby bit yonder. Their spectrum of influences created a diverse catalogue, and Attack of the Pitching Machine is a kaleidoscope of sounds of a multicultural city.

Sam J Valdés López

DSL

5 Brothers of Death
Free via Bandcamp

For a release titled 5 Brothers of Death, it’s fitting that DSL’s debut EP contains songs named 'Shinigamu Realm', 'The Omen', 'Red Eklipse' and 'Embedded'. More importantly, the tracks sound exactly as they are presented - raw and consistent.
The titular track is a blend of oriental sounds and grime that almost feels like it shouldn’t work, but it does, and it’s a good way to start the instrumental half of the EP. On the second half, 5 Brothers of Death becomes the instrumental for 'Loud N Vodka', where Row D provides a solid chorus and ironically rhymes: “They don’t give a shit about lyrics / They just want to sing this hook.”

'The Omen' is one of the most memorable instrumentals due to its eerie sound, in direct contrast to 'Shinigamu Realm', an almost jarring listen that is layered with enjoyable energy. 'Red Eklipse' features dialogue from grime heavyweight Big Narstie and is the only instrumental not to have an MC cover it, but it stands up by itself.

RD and Mr X's vocals on 'Omen' don't let the quality of the instrumental down and it's one of the best tracks on the EP, while the 'Shinigamu Realm' instrumental becomes 'Embedded', featuring Forca. The combination is a vicious one and the instrumental sounds more forceful with Forca’s controlled delivery. Jaemann turns 'Exo D' into 'XO' for a perfect finish to the EP.

DSL’s debut isn’t just proof that there are talented individuals within grime in Sheffield. It's a satisfying release and one that will have listeners keeping their ears open for more from DSL.

Akeem Balogun

The Long Blondes

Someone To Drive You Home
Rough Trade

Starting a band in a city with a particularly large looming spectre of musical history must be a mite intimidating. The Long Blondes dealt with it by sprinting full-tilt at their influences. Not only did they quote Cabaret Voltaire's 'Nag Nag Nag' and reinterpret Jarvis's charming lech through the lens of weary siren Kate Jackson as frontwoman, but there was plenty else besides in their orbit.

Foregoing the era's fashion for Gang of Four-inspired guitar lines, they looked instead to 60s countercultural figures Edie Sedgwick and Anna Karina, garage rock, and Carry Onfilms, all 'quoted' in their music. Their debut album's sleeve is adorned with a painting, by Jackson, of Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde.

It took a while for Someone To Drive You Home to be set down on wax, following a sell-out series of singles on small indie labels, but itwas worth waiting for. Despite male guitarist Dorian Cox writing all the songs, The Long Blondes felt like a proper girl gang in a mid-noughties indie landscape that was disconcertingly male – something which, sadly, hasn't really changed.

Jackson's Debbie Harry-alike vocal style is utterly in tune with the kitchen sink melodramas concerning flirtations, jiltings and lust, which rocket along at a fair clip with guitarist Reenie Hollis, bassist Emma Chaplin and drummer Screech Louder providing a soundtrack and back-up yelling. So much more than the sum of their parts, and sorely missed.

Tom Baker

THE PICCADILLY TEARDROPS

DIED IN YOUR EYES
FAMILY OF GHOSTS RECORDS

When I reviewed this album for this esteemed publication in December, I was possibly too harsh. Even then, I called it “a solid effort”, particularly seeing as it was The Piccadilly Teardrops’ first full record, but as with any good album, it’s grown on me a lot since then.

Died in Your Eyes touches on several genres – pop, dance, ballads and their self-defined ‘nu-dystopia’ – and you sense the next release will be more focused, narrowing in on one of these influences. The range is vast, from the experimental ‘Scream’ to the creepy, spoken-word eponymous fourth track, via more accessible and catchy efforts like the singles ‘Struggle’ and ‘Got Your Back’.

It’s the dystopian element that’s most attractive about this album, with a heady mix of apocalyptic beats and lyrics and gritty Sheffield realism. It’s easy to see how that came to be the standout theme when you learn that the record was recorded last winter in the basement of Portland Works, “with just a bottle of vodka and the cold, damp air for company”.

The Piccadilly Teardrops, a collaboration between local artist Kid Faces and renowned producer Dean Honer, represent a promising new sound on the Sheffield scene. Standout tracks ‘You’re Never Mine’ and ‘Pollen’ deserve more attention, but perhaps this album, described by Kid Faces as “unrelentingly miserable”, is better off as a well-kept secret.

Dan Rawley

Pulp

His ‘n’ Hers
Island Records

Pulp’s breakthrough album is one that saw them fully move away from Sheffield’s indie scene to the comparative glitz and commercialism of London and Island Records, a transition that had them suddenly lumped together with the likes of Suede, Oasis and Blur as 'Popular Bands Who Write About Stuff That Happens In Britain'.

None of those acts would match Pulp’s astute take on the country’s national condition. More so than on its follow-up Different Class, or indeed on Suedeor Modern Life is Rubbish, His ‘n’ Herswas a record that captured both the optimism of the 90s and the mundane angst of the decade that preceded it.

Crucially, Pulp weren’t from anywhere cool like Manchester or London. Sheffield had been decimated by Thatcher in the 80s, and her cruelty had left the city with very little. Britpop wasn’t only founded at Goldsmiths University or in the remnants of Madchester. Its wry humour had to be found in something far more ordinary. His ‘n’ Hers offers a rare insight into the glamour and humdrum of post-industrial Yorkshire, a world of Acrylic Afternoons and Lipgloss.

You can visualise Sheffield’s terraces in the opening strains of ‘Babies’, its factories in the pulsing beat of ‘She’s A Lady’, its smut in ‘Pink Glove’. Nothing until Arctic Monkeys’ debut a decade or so later, or anything before it, has evoked Sheffield so vividly, and Cocker’s masterful storytelling and deft grasp of irony is something that feels unique to it.

Pulp would become pop stars as a result, more Groucho Club than Graves Park, but their legacy is one that would remind the nation that there’s more to music than the cities with the most A&R executives per square mile. The real gems are often found on the periphery.

Jon Clark

TODDLA T

WATCH ME DANCE
NINJA TUNE

Since the early 2000s, Toddla T has maintained an unfaltering reputation as Sheffield’s top party DJ and Watch Me Dance should feature on everyone’s party playlist. A cacophony of clubbable tracks, an outstanding array of vocal collaborators and a carnival vibe all make for an album of endless positivity.

The title track begins rocky, tinged with the electronic sultriness of a Prince tune. The recognisable voice of Roots Manuva on ‘Watch Me Dance’ segues nicely into the most popular track on the album, 'Take It Back'. Featuring the super smooth vocals of Shola Ama in a UK garage context, the track sends shivers down the spine, before the album changes direction once more, sailing into 'Cruise Control'.

A siren signals the introduction of prominent Moloko collaborator Roísín Murphy on 'Cherry Picking'. Toddla T’s cherry-picking has resulted in an ideal party selection which really gets going on 'Streets So Warm'. The bassy carnival vibe keeps you warm and the temperature is set to rise, eventually causing 'Badman Flu'. Symptoms include attention seeking and crazy dancing.

Humour turns to sexiness with Cassie-like vocals on 'Body Good'. The album continues in a simple, heart-warming vein whilst upholding that raucous party sound. If you have listened from start to finish, you really will feel like you can fly by the end.
Watch Me Dance is an album for open-minded music lovers, wanting and willing to give anything a try.

Jennifer Martino