Total Babes: Like, Totally. Yeah?


I was just about to write, “Total Babes’ Like They Always Do is unashamedly joyful, arrow-straight buzzsaw pop,” which, when you re-read it – usual music journo descriptive cobblers aside – raises one glaring question.

Why ‘unashamedly’?

What’s the perceived shame in writing, recording and performing songs that don’t feature trite use of ironic keyboards, or non-ironic sax lines, or 1500 layers of FX to make the song uncharmingly obtuse? And where, oh where, is the Witch House remix?

Too much exposure to too many bands trying too hard, that’s what’s done the damage.


And that meant that, when presented with Total Babes‘ spazzy, lo-fi, free-for-all, pre-ironic  sound, my brain flashed up the mental equivalent of the Blue Screen Of Death, unable to compute parameters that don’t exist.

So clutch Like They Always Do close to your bosom, as it’s both a deliriously fun relic of the naive past, and an indicator of the blissfully unindulgent future.

It’s a song – and they’re a band – free of bullshit, and full of simple enjoyment. That doesn’t mean they’re Ocean Colour Scene faux-authentic. It means they’re normal people with an extraordinary aim. Great.


D/Wolves: Righting The Rudder

ANBAD has been awash with gauche pop, ragged electronica and smothering lo-fi rock recently.

This, of course, is a Good Thing, but occasionally the rudder needs to be righted back to a neutral position, else the good ship ANBAD starts drifting in aimless circles.

Enter D/Wolves, the corrective prescription for our – and your – ills.

This is not to say that D/Wolves are peddling dull average-rock: it’s just that they have eschewed aural histrionics in favour of the more daft ‘n’ direct approach to their songs.

Tell Me Why is, in that sense, almost timeless in its construction, relying on – GASP! – songwriting craft to push its point quietly and insistently home.

Wait – did I say quietly? Because Tell Me Why builds insidiously to the kind of thunderous climax that Radiohead once specialised in, before abandoning such practices for esoterica.

No matter – for now, D/Wolves have their craft under full control, allowing splashes of mutant noise in and out of their songs at will. Great.


MIDWEEK MIXTAPE // 27th July 2011

On the ANBAD Twitter feed, I called for short reviews of Noel Gallagher’s debut single.

The breadth of results were sensational – from, ” It’s basically just ‘the importance of being idle’ mk II,” to, “Sounds like ‘The Importance Of Being Idle”.

Desperate to get to the bottom of the mystery, ANBAD assigned, as always, Lt. Drebin to the case.


FIRST! The Mirror Trap have either managed to make a pop song sound bowel-clenchingly creepy, or made a creepy song a bit more colourfully pop-tastic. Whichever way is correct, Lavender Hands is a tiny bit of one and a tiny bit of the other, with a great big void in between. Excellently strange.

SECOND! Boffo Bear  The Modests are all under 16 years old, and so are guaranteed to make you start checking your temples for grey hairs. They make songs like Don’t Hold Back, which are exactly the kind of simple straight-up/straight-down pop songs all young men should make. Keep your eyes on them.

The Modests // Don’t Hold Back

THIRD! Cranium Pie are possibly named after that bit in Hannibal where Anthony Hopkins eats Ray Liotta’s brain. Or not. They do, however, produce trippy, calming, bizarro-nursery rhymes like Drying in The Sun which remind me of trippy, calm days on the beach in Wales. Sweetly retro-now.

FOURTH! With a name like All The King’s Blood, our last band should definitely be a speed-metal band, but they’re not – and we can probably be semi-grateful for such quirks. Flesh Sucker, however, is – get this – a hugely fun monster jerk-rock anthem, and for that, we can gratefully swing our long rock hair in time. POW!


Spectres – Wafer Thin/Endlessly Broad

What makes a song not work?

An example: listen to Noel Gallagher’s new solo single, and experience a song with ostensibly all the right ingredients which results in an unpalatable dirge.

So it goes – apparently the difference between genius and MOR/FM Rock is very slight indeed.

Songs like Spectre‘s Sister show how wafer-thin that gap is – especially between, say, full-blown My Bloody Valentine pure-noise-throb and Snow Patrol‘s reedy blandness.

Inevitably – and thankfully – Spectres are firmly lodged at the MBV end of that scale, their crushingly dense wall of noise alternately crunchily brittle, then all-encompassingly balmy.

Sister starts with a smash, ends with a bang, and soars through clouds of silvery feedback for three minutes in between.

Spectres have discovered a rich seam of textures and noises with which to carve their sonic shapes, and they have mined it to its fullest.

The danger always present here is that the noise begins to mould the song, and not vice-versa – but Spectres‘ songs are arcing, lucid: essentially pop songs buried under sonic rubble.

Attending their gigs must be like being punched by a wall of sound that has been punched by a wall of sound. Gently heavy.


Pregnant – Minimally Vague

It’s a sign of the times that music-making is becoming democratised at a quicker rate than some dubiously-run countries.

And now musicians have the freedom they’ve always wanted, they can move onto dealing with the next step – getting them heard over the white noise of everyone else doing the same thing.

In the meantime, let’s appreciate the wonderful advantages of this democratic system: artists like the distant, airy Pregnant.

Maybe Pregnant‘s subtly constructed wonder-pop is a sign of the conflation of the old and the new that you’d expect to have happened sooner.

Gentle, careful and dreamy, Pregnant’s Letter To A Friend is just as influenced by the never-ending momentum of the drum machine as it is by the wistful folk and cloudy psych that is eventually most prominent.

This artificial drive doesn’t allow the song to drift into self-indulgence, and so we are all winners, left with a song that is taut and minimal whilst billowy and vague. A blissful bridging of the gaps.

The View From… A Small Town

Alex Webster is nowt but a youngster: one who’s just finished his exams and is probably spending the summer mugging grannies to get money for Miaow Miaow or whatever it is that kids in small towns do for fun these days. 

Anyway, before he went about his crime spree, he was kind enough to jot some words to shine some light on the inner workings of a small-town music scene – namely Dorking in Surrey, UK…

Dorking is a sleepy town nestled in the heart of South-East England and, while placed in the centre of sleepy country living, its proximity to London and Brighton provides the potential and setting for a surprisingly vibrant music scene.

Many familiar faces are seen nursing a pint around the pubs at each (and often every) open mic providing a supportive atmosphere for those testing the water before taking to plunge in the nearby capital.

Several young talents have emerged from them, most notably Kate Ross, a regular at The Star open mic, she produces melancholic and moving acoustic music with a sly wit.

The Lincoln Arms has one of the longest standing Dorking music nights, now becoming well established as a venue, once open to 16 plus (a blessing in a dull town on a Friday night) but now unfortunately 18 plus.

The Lincoln is organised by many people in and around Dorking but two stand out bands/artists are: Springtime Radio, who provides a exciting and emotional pop-punk/folk crossover, and straight up punk band with a historic twist – Wegrowbeards.

Another Band heard in and around Dorking is Finest Minds (previously mentioned on ANBAD) who combine a plethora of styles in their genre spanning You Are Here EP.

The proximity of Dorking to London also creates a fair selection of electronic artists considering the size and nature of the town.

Dubstep producer Brett Heaslewood a.k.a Hiloxam a young producer with the talent to ride the dubstep wave right to the top. Dark//Tides is a young producer showing great potential in his bedroom productions.

Another electronic musician found in Dorking is the DJ-turned producer Finlay Reid with only a few productions under his belt yet each is as awesome and playable as the last listen to Mellow Memories.

Motorboater – Pillowy, Billowy

Is soft is the new noisy?

There certainly has been a glut of custardtextured music recently, and hopefully it signals a shift in mindsets from lazy posturing and faux-intensity to music that is a little more measured.

Motorboater‘s music, reminiscent of lazy summer days flooded with sunshine and drowsy with heat, is nestling weightily in the pillowy-soft bracket.

As Kevin Love Song’s title suggests, the Motorboater are not deathly serious, but are fixated on making songs that accentuate feeling through subtle sound.

The multifarious  pleasures of multi-layered, warm sounds reveal themselves keenly in this one song, and working out who draws the most enjoyment from it – us or the band – is part of the fun.

Flickering with late evening light and pockmarked with scorchmarks, Kevin Love Song is easy to love and hard to leave alone. Dreamy.

Rough Fields – Drowned In Feathers

Associating ‘visceral’ with ‘abrupt’ is one of humanity’s great Common Artistic Errors.

We do it all the time: want your leather ‘n’ sweat rock music to pop out of the speakers? Make the choruses LOUD and the verses quiet.

The desired effect is achieved in kind, but in a different way to that expected.

And what if you edited out all but the soft bits? What if your songs were without any aural-shock-value whatsoever?

Rough Fields took this concept as a starting point and, with Abu Dhabi, smoothed the edges until what remained is a song so stiflingly soft that each listen is akin to being drowned in feathers.

Rough Fields // Abu Dhabi

Imagine every painting you have ever loved being recreated in wet watercolours, or your favourite suit lined with cotton wool, and you’re close to the feeling of blurry, blissful confusion that permeates Rough Fields‘ blunt and sodden songs.

Abu Dhabi is dense. It’s also madly warm and almost too rich. Almost, but not quite. The most beautiful white noise you’ll hear all month. Fabulous.


MIDWEEK MIXTAPE // 20th July 2011

Lt. Drebin has been making hugely significant headway in the phone hacking scandal, since last weeks endeavours.

He’s gone straight to the top, and rounded up both Murdochs, and  Rebekah Brooks.  Photographic proof of his glorious success is to the left.

Oh, and amidst all this devastatingly nimble satire, here’s this week’s mixtape:

FIRST! Howth sounds a bit like Nick Drake. There, I said it. Needles and Pins combines melancholy with rousing, crackling rock. Oh, and each CD is deliberately stained with tea. Talk about bang for your buck. Really, impressively, lovely.


SECOND! (Hooker) are a band without compromise, and are easy to love. You’ll have to click here to listen to their angular and gutsy femme-rock, but if you like that kind of thing, it’ll be the best quarter-inch movement of your right index finger you’ll make all day. Bold, brash and deserving of much more attention.

THIRD! Thick Shakes – the allure of the fuzz pedal overwhelms every single guitarist at some point in their lives. Fortunately, this Fuzz Hysteria neatly overcame Thick Shakes‘ guitar player just as they were recording a bunch of trashy, straight-up, straight-down rock songs that demanded exactly that kind of grimy noise. Lucky, huh?

FOURTH! The Magic Lantern prove that something as simple as a hand-clap can transform a song from a suggestion of feeling to a rousing and warm folk-stravaganza. And therein is the beauty of all pop music: the seemingly insignificant proving to be the most important. Sweet and invigorating.

Hookworms – Complicated Combinations

Imagine if a gritty, grey city like Leeds was always bathed in Lisbon’s bright sunlight. How would it affect the look of the place, the attitude of the people?

Or what if the bands Leeds produced – typically gritty rock bands – were actually schooled in the exoticisms of Krautrock, and jammed their way to swirling aural excess?

Hookworms are the latter, of course. Krautrock – misnomer it may be – is such a winningly hypnotic brand of music that Hookworms’ specific charms may be missed on the first listen of the momentum-fuelled Teen Dreams.

So listen again, try to resist that deliriously fulfilling drum groove for a moment – and let Hookworms‘ optimistic and obscure world-view scratch through.

Teen Dreams may be founded on a rigid sonic template, but this framework allows the billowing psych-pop, stadium rock and muddy swamp-blues to spring forth and intermingle.

Pop songs that clock in over six minutes rarely justify their length, but this is no normal pop song: heavy, orange and misty. Hookworms prove to be both unusual and addictive – a complicated combination.