Who Rocks Harder?

KlaxonsPhoto: Courtesy of Andy Cotterill

Ever since the emergence of the Ramones, the impact of New York music has been keenly felt in London,” says Paul Rees, the editor of the English music magazine Q. “Horrifyingly, Duran Duran were the last band who seem to have had a similar effect in the opposite direction.”

That’s not entirely true. While the U.S. as a whole reliably ignores the latest London sensation, New Yorkers will dutifully pack the Bowery Ballroom to see what it’s all about (like Bloc Party, Kaiser Chiefs). They just can’t be counted on to get too pumped up about it—when Klaxons came to New York, they were shocked by the crowd’s impassivity. “People stood there, arms folded, like they wanted to be impressed,” says Klaxons’ Jamie Reynolds. “I thought New York is one of those places where people let go.”

Sorry you hadn’t been warned, Jamie. Unfortunately, what’s true of New York crowds tends to be true of our bands too. Few have the courage to be truly reckless. Or, as Kid Harpoon, a London folkie known for bizarre acoustic ditties, puts it, “In New York, you will see some really good bands playing really tightly and professionally. In London, you get a lot of sloppy bands that have weird and wonderful ideas.”

In London, too, there is genuine danger. Grime, a raunchy dance-hip-hop hybrid that’s currently the inner-city soundtrack (Lady Sovereign was a cleaned-up, Jay-Z-sponsored version of it that fizzled here), has become a prime target of the London police. Every club that caters to it has been busted. “All we have left of this vibrant, incendiary music is pirate-radio stations and shows 200 miles outside London,” says music writer Dan Hancox. New Yorkers, of course, pine for the days when music here could get everyone so riled up.

The U.K. Acts That Should Be On Your iPod

They say they’re not “new rave,” so let’s just call them London’s hottest party band of the moment. Playing the Bowery Ballroom in April.

Patrick Wolf
A theatrical character whose songs manage to be catchy and still feel arty and expansive.

A wicked rapper and a mainstay of the London grime scene.

Amy Winehouse
London’s answer to Norah Jones, but 10,000 times dirtier and more original.

Slick, falsetto-y pop that channels Wham! and Queen. Cheesy, yes, but kind of irresistible. Download “Grace Kelly.”

Field Music
Quirky, ambitious indie rock tailor-made for the college crowd.

Larrikin Love
Spirited sixties rock that owes a big debt to Ray Davies.

Air Traffic
Young kids with a major deal and major chops—intricate melodies and pitch-perfect vocals.

Kid Harpoon
Folkie, lo-fi antidote to the “new rave” colossus.

Who Rocks Harder?