The Camden Crawl festivals of 1995 and 1996 were great excuses to inebriatedly stumble around the town's streets and music dives for a few blissful hours, ogling the tastiest indie newcomers as they flaunted their stuff. Such a great excuse, in fact, that it's been expanded: RIP Camden Crawl, long live Intercity Crawl. The number of participating bands has nearly doubled, but, as ever, a few big names will help pull in the punters for the fledgling outfits.
The US's Tanya Donelly and Sweden's The Wannadies lead the pack, but the first ever Welsh Crawl merry-makers are Topper. This trio indulges in a bit of frayed-edge, psychedelic pop mischief for Angst Records, former home of Super Furry Animals and Gorky's Zygotic Mynci. "I'm a bit stoned at the moment," admits a dishevelled voice belonging to vocalist/guitarist Dyfrig Evans, on the phone from a Welsh studio.
While decoding 19-year-old Dyfrig's heavy Welsh accent, black humour and brilliant lapses into mocking Cockney jibberish, it is just about possible to make out that Topper's year so far has been, well, top. A February EP, the four-tracker Arch Noa, led to a Peel session and a learning- curve tour with labelmates Ectogram. Their seven-track album, Something To Tell Her inspired frothy reviews from NME to Mojo, but they hope the new, "not so jolly, more personal and intense" material will help kill off the "Gorky's crossed ith Super Furries" tag, which ruffles their feathers a bit. Certainly the Crawl is the ideal way of proving that Dyfrig, his bassist brother Iwan and drummer Peter Richardson are nothing like their Welsh brethren.
And, in a funny way, one Topper face is already quite well known. Dyfrig's daytime job is acting on a youth programme, a sort of Welsh equivalent of Byker Grove. Given the Ant & Dec route to pop stardom, it is little wonder he is slightly embarrassed about it. "I like the money but not the actual thing," he insists. "The band is my own."
Other top tips for wannabe Crawlers are Mouse on Mars, Lo Fidelity Allstars, Pecadiloes, Midget, Silver Sun, Third Eye Foundation and Ulstrasound. Phew.
EYE ON THE NEW Saccharine-flavoured hardcore from Third Eye Blind, currently enjoying top- five status in the US with their single "Semi Charmed Life". With the right corporate rock shove, Third Eye Blind may follow in the footsteps of No Doubt. But only if the vocalist is fanciable enough.
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