R13 has recently covered the NME Tour featuring The Cribs, Joe lean and the Jing Jang Jong, Does It Offend You Yeah? and The Ting Tings. For many this will have been nothing more than a fun night out, but having admired the line up on offer in recent years, and attended the 2007 version where the overall quality on show was a lot higher, there’s a part of me that’s wondering are we in danger of revisiting 1997? This was when the post Oasis/Pulp/Blur/Supergrass excitement saw quality control substituted for a race for the prize with any old pants getting 5 out of 5 in the press. A check of my review of 2007’s Camden Crawl will show that this isn’t the first time I’ve wondered about the general quality of the current Indie side of alternative music.

Aside from the Ting Tings, who were very impressive at last year’s V Festival, the rest of the line up for this year’s NME Tour had a definite “take or leave” feel about it.

Now I’m not about to pretend that a tour sponsored by the NME is the new music vehicle that the rest of us should map out our musical plans for the next year by, for a start when Kerrang! are taking the mighty Coheed and Cambria on the road there’s only one winner in the battle of the magazine headliners, but naturally you do look at it as a gage of what’s about to go places. To their credit, the NME have in recent years secured plenty of UK bands speeding towards the crest of a wave. I’m thinking Arctic Monkeys (who by the way didn’t even headline), Maximo Park (who did that same year), The View, Klaxons, Franz Ferdinand and Kaiser Chiefs. I, like you, prefer some of those over others, but the point that cannot be argued is, they all went on to sell bucket loads of records and cross over into mainstream radio land, putting British alternative acts at the heart of the popular music world.

I’m not convinced that any of the four on this year’s tour will do the same, and herein lies my problem. It’s possible, but unlikely, that the NME might have been going for a less commercial angle in 2008, but they’ll be the first to scream from the rooftops if Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong get a top ten success in either the album or singles chart. No, it’s that I can’t think of any alternatives for who could have played the role of The View, Automatic or Klaxons this time out. To make matters worse, all four bands are already enjoying hype that far outways their potential, and this is where my mind drifts back to the late nineties.

People have short memories and are quite happy to enthuse that before Oasis there was a big black hole in UK alternative music. They are of course overlooking the Manic Street Preachers, Radiohead, The Charlatans, Blur, Suede, The Verve, James and Pulp who were all bubbling under nicely in 1993, but the “Oasis changed the face of music” tale doesn’t have quite the same effect when that’s pointed out. That said, the ‘Definitely Maybe’ period was one of the most exciting times to be discovering new music (I was 14 on the album’s release day - August 30 1994), and did feel a degree of envy for those experiencing the same thing when Arctic Monkeys released their debut album in 2006.

The comparison with Brit Pop and the rise of bands like Kaiser Chiefs, Hard-Fi, Razorlight and the Arctics was, not unreasonably made. What happened immediately after the Brit Pop explosion was a clamor to be the first to find the next Oasis, which saw a mixture of perfectly enjoyable but average, and frankly totally shite bands given exposure and acclaim that at best piled on the pressure and at worst, meant that terrible bands were shoved in our faces and portrayed as being brilliant. Returning to 2008 for a moment, I’m getting that “we’ve been here before somewhere” feeling.

On the one hand this was annoying, with an Emperors’ new clothes mentality kicking in, but on the other decent bands weren’t allowed to develop at their own pace, and others were simply overlooked because they didn’t make the right noise. If we consider Ash for example, they went massive in the mid nineties, and by their own admission didn’t match ‘1977’ by releasing a below par second album and were written off as failures. ‘Shining Light’ saw them claw back some radio plays at the start of 2001 and the show was back on the road with Ash outliving many of their contemporaries. At the same time, Feeder were enjoying their breakthrough with ‘Buck Rogers’, but they too hadn’t just appeared from nowhere as many casual observers might have thought. The magnificent ‘Echopark’ album was in fact their third (forth if you include mini album ‘Swim’) but, because they didn’t fit the glove, they were left to their own devices to an extent.

At the height of Brit Pop, a compilation CD series called ‘Shine’ came out, and a look at any tracklist gives plenty of “who the hell are they?” and “God they were crap!” moments, not to mention the occasional “I’d forgotten about them, they could have been massive given the chance”. A few names to get the nostalgia trip going, you can decide for yourself which band goes where in the previous sentence: Men’s Wear, Gene, Marion, Long Pigs (who I saw support U2 at Wembley Stadium, an interesting thought for the next time you’re listening to a Richard Hawley track), Bluetones, Northern Uproar, Shed 7 and Cast.

It’s perfectly likely that someone reading this will have a flashback titled ‘Chasing Rainbows’ (Shed 7), ‘Fine Time’ (Cast) or ‘She Says’ (Long Pigs) and recollect that they weren’t half bad, but the fact remains, none of the bands above rose to the level that press releases at the time would have stated they were a certainty for.

Just as it’s rubbish to claim that before Oasis there was nothing, it’s also bollocks to say that all things were a write off thereafter until Parva changed their name to the Kaiser Chiefs and kids started spreading the Arctic Monkeys around Myspace. The problem was that it was difficult to lump every new band into one box. As well as the afore mentioned Feeder and Ash, Muse, Placebo, Doves, Super Furry Animals, A, Stereophonics and Travis were all doing their bit for a different corner of guitar music and, with the exception of the last two on that list, daytime radio wasn’t interested because their songs didn’t help sell double glazing in the same way that ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ did. The press also weren’t able to call it all Brit Pop.

Although it’s frustrating when the rest of the world doesn’t seem to like something you think is brilliant, the redirecting of the spotlight away from British alternative music maybe wasn’t a bad thing. Looking back it could be argued this was a breathing space for the music industry to flush out the stale end of Brit Pop, allow the New Metal bands to move in from America for a year or so, and give the new guard something to aim for, a piece of the action that wasn’t being occupied by a band whose shadow they would walk straight into. Bands like Biffy Clyro, who had they been releasing their first album in 2008 would have been hyped the minute they ventured out of Ayrshire to a place where the press bother to visit, have had time to develop as a unit and are unquestionably an act who could go on for as long as they want. Whereas The Pigeon Detectives and The Enemy are playing football stadiums on the strength of one album, Muse grew over a much longer period of time, and have reached a level far higher than either of those bands will achieve.

Let’s get this straight, being in a band is not simply about playing the biggest venues you can, getting your music played on Capital FM or Virgin, or simply being the next, well, anything, but ambition is no bad thing. If you’ve the sound to fill a big venue, and the quality of songs to fill a set rather than one big hit that justifies the ticket prices that Carling Academy-sized places demand then good luck to you. Sadly there seem to be too many bands that are elevated to that status too quickly that don’t. Foals for example left me somewhat cold at Leeds 2007, and it doesn’t take too long to find hype tipping them as the band to pick up the baton and run with it while Klaxons are looking in the other direction.

Then there’s the bands who, in order to satisfy demand, tour, tour then tour some more, meaning that they don’t have the time to properly focus on recording something new, let’s call it ‘Be Here Now’ disease. Returning to this year’s NME Tour, The Cribs are a classic example of a band that seem to have been waiting round every street corner for years.

And it’s this familiarity that’s at the heart of my apathy towards so much of what the popular “indie” scene is throwing up right now. The Arctic Monkeys and Bloc Party are great bands, fact. We don’t need another twenty like them. It would be nice if those with more power to make or break would take notice of the countless interesting and imaginative bands this country has, allow me to offer up King Blues to get the ball rolling.

The media landscape is very different from a decade ago. This means that there’s even more opportunities for the same old same old to be pushed. It also means that the gap between landmark albums like ‘Definitely Maybe’ and ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ should be a lot smaller than last time round. Are we returning to 1997? In short, probably not, but a bit of honest, realistic appraisal for emerging talent would be very welcome. Are they the new Arctic Monkeys? Of course not, because the Arctic Monkeys weren’t the new Oasis, and Oasis weren’t the new Stone Roses, nor were the Stone Roses the next Smiths, and Morrissey and co weren’t…you get the idea. Great bands come along all the time, let them reach the level they’re supposed to and be judged for what they are.