Hunger Anthem, Chad Krueger, Famish and Fuzz

Looking back now, the early 90s Grunge period seems something of an anomaly. Who would have thought that a cluster of hard-edged, anti-commercialists like Nirvana, Mudhoney and Dinosaur Jr. would actually make it, let alone make it big?

But make it big they did, and as a reward, the sludge-rock bands that they opened the door for first overtook them, and then consigned them to history.

It’s a shame that the influence of Dinosaur Jr. et al is not felt more widely, but it’s not, and I think it’s entirely unfair (and, QED, entirely reasonable) to blame Nickleback for this.

Hunger Anthem have ignored the alluring drab meat ‘n’ veg rock path that Chad Krueger has plodded, and instead greedily feasted on the crunchy remains of Grunge’s fuzzier corners.

Hunger Anthem – Desire

Desire is aptly named: ravenous, lusty and direct. Buzzing noise is their tool and simple chainsaw-pop is their goal. It’s slack in execution and taut in intent: guitars chop not with aggression, but impatience.

The band clamber through the bluster and slice to the heart of the song, emerging bloody, triumphant and richer. Quick, sudden, painless – stripped down and lean, Hunger Anthem are a short, sharp reminder of when rock was allowed to be solely about the song, the buzz, the feel.

Something Beginning With L and Manda Rin

You know, rummaging around in the grubby dustbin of Indie is undeniably an act of escapism both for its practitioners and followers – and so when a dose of real life crawls up your trouser leg and grabs you by the delicates, your head spins that bit faster.

An unwelcome example: Manda Rin from fabulously carefree 90’s lo-fi Teen C heroes Bis has Multiple Sclerosis. She blogged about it a couple of weeks ago, and it’s a sobering, uplifting read: blunt, bold, positive.

I loved Bis then, did when they reformed for a few gigs a while ago, and still do now. All cynicism, archness and snobbery is set aside today: Manda, we sincerely wish you all the best.

Perhaps it would have been apt to feature a band today that owed something to the scurrilously upbeat influence of Bis, but it wasn’t to be. What do you want, sincerity and thoughtful structuring in one day?

Something Beginning With L’s Say does hark back the the very mid-90s, but owes more in its slouching attitude to Elastica: the casual sneer, the guitars that are sharp but fuzzy, the ominously rumbling bass, the louche female vocals.

They find that same fuzzy sound/even fuzzier minds groove and work into their own gully, forming a song that’s familiar yet brand new.

Something Beginning With L – Say

Say is an excellent song – angular but not clichéd, disenfranchised but not sloppy, apathetic but still fierce. It’s exactly the kind of song that is tempting, and yet so hard to do –  seemingly effortless, drawling, four-square rock.

Something Beginning With L get it right, parcelling up all that they want – and all that we need – into a satisfying package. Great.

>Erland and The Carnival: A (Very) Northern Soul

How weird. Feeding a Spotify addiction is a delicate task, and this time it was via nostalgic meandering around some youthful favourites. Rediscovering The Verve‘s druggy, droney, sprawling A Northern Soul was a thrill, and it sounds as happily wasteful, internal and expressive as ever.

And then here’s Erland and The Carnival – and look who’s listed #1, primetime and centre, on the list of band members: hello, Simon Tong, from The Verve. It’s an understandable decision – people will recognise his name over that of Orcadian Erland Cooper’s – but it’s Erland who perhaps ought to be taking just as many plaudits.

The songs he sings are sweet, gentle and kind, like the distant uncle you’ll make annual chit-chat with over Christmas. Songs like Was You Ever See have the soft, strange and remote feel of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci‘s nicest songs. Was You Ever See finds a golden, warm moment of life and commits it to song; fragile, thin, lovable.

Erland and The CarnivalMy Name Is Carnival (UPDATE: Changed at record company’s request)

Songs like these are fairly rare – mainstream enough to connect, quirky enough to sate the defiantly left-leaning. There’s a lovely lightness of touch on their recordings – Simon Tong’s influence, maybe. Gorky’s almost made the leap to the big time, but were just that little bit too out there to entice the general public any closer. Maybe Erland & co. can land feet first. Here’s hoping.

>Turncoat, And Britpop Rears It’s Ugly, Pretty Head

One day, 90’s Indie music is going to be rediscovered by a new and enthusiastic set of youthful scavengers, and we’ll be plunged back into a world of Union Jack guitars, grand, empty choruses and second albums with lots of orchestration.

For now, the memory of Britpop’s eventual excesses is still too raw, and any hint of a Britpop re-imagining is accompanied by fearful shudders and nightmares of Kula Shaker reunions.

But there are shoots of 90’s endeavour emerging – and just look at Turncoat‘s 90’s-scented list of influences. Ride, Gene, and Trashcan Sinatras are all present, and for them to be there is somehow mildly daring.

Brighton Blanks isn’t Britpop. Let’s be clear about this. But is there a hint of that wide-eyed belief of the scrappy Indie bands who were good Britpop in there? And look: the song is a good one too. Power chords, ooh-ooh backing vocals, an actual lead guitar – it’s a large step away from the Twee Indie Pop that’s cluttered our lives for a while.

Turncoat – Brighton Blanks

Despite all its associated horrors, the ebullience of Britpop was alluring at the time, and still is now. If Turncoat lead the charge for one more splash in Britpop’s murky waters, it wouldn’t hurt… would it?

>No Flash, and Liam Gallagher’s Flowery Shirt Conundrum

You too can meet Oasis’ Liam Gallagher! But only if you buy something from his new clothing range – then you can meet the surly, set-jawed man himself, in Manchester, next week. Parka-wearing gents, form a disorderly queue.

Now, I like Liam Gallagher. He’s one of the last proper rock stars – not despicably pious like Bono, not a bit wet like Chris Martin. He was a rock star who drank, swore, hit people – often his own brother – and sneered at all before him (ie us, who paid money to watch exactly this).

But there’s a logical problem here. On one hand, I would like to meet Liam, but then this anti-rock ‘n’ roll meet-your-hero promo makes me not want to meet him in any way. What is one to do when faced with a conundrum like this?

In the end, my concerns were decided for me, fiscally. “I’m not in it for the money,” Liam said of his fashion line – and I, for one, believe him. The £675 that some of his coats cost is just to cover the overheads, right?

No Flash are a Manchester band, just like Liam’s was. They sing rock ‘n’ roll, like Liam did. In songs like Officer, they sing of their misdemeanours. Perhaps they have a lot in common. If they do, then in Officer they’ve gone to lengths to disguise it – this song has the urgency, vim and youth that Liam hasn’t displayed for a decade.


Magic In The Moonlight, despite having a Toploader-scented title, has howling guitars, a near-charming melody, and ambition to spare.

No Flash are the kind of band you hope will succeed because they connect directly to a section of the public that want the visceral thrills of primal rock ‘n’ roll. And as far as I’m aware, have no clothing range lined up for the immediate future. Phew.

>Wonderswan and A Critical Re-Appraisal Of Toploader’s Legacy

There’s a lot more to be said about band names – though any serious conversation rarely gets beyond the the early-naughties’ monumentally awful, ear-bothering, ooh-look-at-us-aren’t-drugs-naughty fatuousness of Toploader‘s moniker.

They were endorsed by Jamie Oliver, for heaven’s sake, a folly of such magnitude that the repercussions went full circle, beyond the ‘unparalleled idiocy’ category and into the public’s affections.

And the worst news of all? Toploader are reforming. It says so on Wikipedia, so it must be true. Start stocking up on tinned goods now – the apocalypse is nearly upon us.

Some past new bands have chosen more acceptably outré names, producing musical hat-tippings to obscure Japanese videogame consoles – see Golau Glau’s Virtual Boy, and the entire output of fuzzy bleep specialist Kezzie Beat – but Wonderswan are the first to actually name the band themselves after one.

The fact that they produce delightfully grainy rock instead of the 8-bit Chiptune bleeping you’d expect means that extra kudos is to be swivelled towards Wonderswan. Then heap even more on them as you revel in the 90’s Americana lo-fi sounds of Furrrpile, a whining and crunchy song so slack that it is almost anti-rock.

And before you ask, yes, there are great big dollops of Pavement in their sound, but no lo-fi band can avoid that trapping. But songs like Curve step daintily away from Malkmus and co, occupying their own, shoegaze/lo-fi (Shoe-fi? Lo-gaze? Shlo-Faze?) space – cranky, broad and fuzzier than a teenage boy’s chin.

Wonderswan are from Leeds, but could have stepped straight out of the bare, dusty midwest landscape that I (wrongly) picture all US lo-fi/hi-brain function bands to be living in. If their presence is a blast from the past, it’s a very welcome one.

PS: Pavement are reforming too. Look out for the Pavement/Toploader double-header tour.

>Today’s New Band – Sparky Deathcap

I’m now at an age where indulgently nostalgic activities can be excused, and so yesterday I spent a few happy hours playing the early 90’s Sega Megadrive game Toejam And Earl. The game is still fun – as any game featuring jet-pack Santa Clauses and randomly scattered hula-girls is – if aged, but its best features were, and still are, the 80’s MTV visual stylings and the jazzy P-funk soundtrack.

For a such a determinedly odd game, it was right on the button, time-wise, when it came to music. Did the game steal its sounds from Dr. Dre or was it the other way around? I like to believe the latter, and picture him playing a game featuring three-legged aliens speaking in mock surf-slang as an idea for global musical domination forms slowly in his mind.

If the game was made today (which it wouldn’t be, because it’s too much fun, and doesn’t feature enough gun-toting gangsters/marines) it’d have a soundtrack to reflect today’s sound. But what would that be in such musically fractured times?

The internet has made everyone a semi-expert on every type of music, like, ever, and now every man and his dog are making songs that blend 90’s lo-fi with 80’s electro coupled with a sprinkling of 00’s ‘glitch music’. In fact, Today’s New Band might be a better bet.

Sparky Deathcap has all the right ingredients: strange name; colourful imagery and even more colourful sounds; miserablist themes; and obscure influences. Oh, and glockenspiel, natch.

“Make your own luck/Send it to Oslo,” sings R Taylor, implausibly, whilst a delightful smattering of ooh-ooh’s, handclaps and lazy pluckings brawl in the background. These are songs that bloom into slick, clever and shimmering nuggets of pop despite their clunky, rough-around-the-edge roots.

Winter City Ghosts is another case in point – the forefront clattering of the drums and the phone dialling tones are steps that most musicians would baulk at taking. Sparky Deathcap confidently strides; confident that a beautiful, thoughtful song would emerge from the confusion, like when you walk around an Anthony Gormley tubular sculpture and suddenly a figure appears from the mass of pipes.

Sparky Deathcap is a musician for today, and all that that entails. Offers to score bewildering funk-surf video games may or may not follow. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – Bleech

>ALERT – ANOTHER ART BRUT ARTICLE: those who despise irreverent indie-obsessed scrap-pop look away now. There was an interview with everyone’s favourite rabble-rousing, love-’em-or-hate-’em rock troubadours Art Brut in the NME recently.

Their new album is make-or-break, it said. The band is in fine spirits, is still knocking out fine tunes and is still largely ignored in their home country, it said. Five long years have passed since they first sang about wanting to be on Top Of The Pops, it said. The article was positive and sympathetic, but there was a suggestion that The ‘Brut’s life cycle might be reaching its natural conclusion.

I’m not sure – I chatted with the (very friendly) band at a gig recently and they seemed positive, though a little bit weary. To be honest, the gig itself was similar – highly enjoyable, ace tunes, and more energy than a thousand Scouting For Girls gigs – but I detected a wobble for the first time from their usual Über-confident, diffident, deliberately contrary nature.

Like Art Brut, Today’s New Band, Bleech, have a palpable affinity with 90’s Britpop. The very idea is so deeply unfashionable that Bleech might have found a path to prominence. Surely the britpop revival will dawn any time now.

Is It True That Boys Don’t Cry is clearly deep-fried Britpop. Even the most fervent denier can hear it. The song is by a shoutier Salad, an emphatic Echobelly, a punchier Powder. If this song had been released in 1995, £500,000 contracts would have been shoved under their noses.

Flowerhands reveals a band who know that songs need to have catchy choruses and sing-a-long verses. These twin ideas were the twin tenets of Britpop’s musical make-up. Maybe Bleech are 15 years too late, or maybe they’ve arrived at just the right time, with the melodies that have been missed for so long. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – The Black and White Years

>Just like any other teenager, my bedroom walls were purely a space demanding to be filled with posters. And amongst the Britpop fare that adorned the area next to my bed was a page torn from Select magazine, featuring Donna Matthews from Elastica.

I can’t find the exact image on the internet, which pains me a little, because, for my teenage, hormone-riddled self, she was achingly cute, and more sexy and down-right exciting than all the girls I knew at school. She looked like the kind of girl who’d let you buy her a drink and then tell you to fuck off, just to be contrary. I’d have given anything for that to happen.

Now imagine the surprise when, in the process of trying to find that picture and relive the surge of teenage lust, I found this article on, er, Donna Matthews, the gorgeous hellraising indie bleached-hair bleached-mind beached-morals rock ‘n’ roll Donna Matthews, has got God.

Now, I’m not belittling Christians, or people who find peace in religion. But this is Donna Matthews, for crap’s sake. My latent teenage rock ‘n’ roll fantasies wilted with bewilderment at this theological U-turn.

Funnily enough, Today’s New Band, The Black and White Years, have a song called Power To Change. It’s a lithe, thudding song that twists, turns and jabs a finger at believers and non-believers. “Terrified and strange…Still I believe in the power of change,” they sing, winningly. This song alone contains enough tasty hooks to snare anybody into signing up for any type of change you like.

Other songs, like Broken Hand, will leave you swooning at the deft lyricism, sweet intent and sashaying tunes, even before it bursts into skittering life, bounding with enthusiasm and intent.

Donna says: “I love music because it has the capacity to bring me into God’s presence.” Well, good. But I love music like The Black and White Years’ specifically because it shoves me further away from ever understanding the complexities of human creative brilliance. I don’t want connection with a greater force than that. Sorry, Donna. Listen here.

Photograph by Cory Ryan

>Today’s New Band – Projekt A-Ko

>So, one of your favourite noisenik bands from the 90’s falls to bits and then slowly builds itself up again, like possessed Lego, into something new, but of the same constituant bits. Does the new band constitute a ‘new’ band, or not? Are we allowed to ramble quasi-coherently about them or not?

Such complex philosophical demands are placed upon the bewildered ANBAD staff all the time. In the spirit of exploration, let’s just go with it and see. Today’s New Band are Projekt A-Ko, are named after a Japanese cartoon, and make ace clanky lo-fi indie. They used to be the ace Urusei Yatsura, who were named after a Japanese cartoon, and made ace clanky lo-fi indie. So far, so Naughties ‘brand reboot’, right? Well, no – that’d be almost entirely unfair.

Of course, there’s a smattering of Urusei Yatsura-ness about them, but Supertriste Duxelle is entirely, excitingly, its own band’s beast – shuddering, skittering and crashing along, with a charming tune and a lovely chorus.

Here Comes New Challenger! ought to take you straight back to your childhood days spent in the arcade at your local bowling alley. If it doesn’t – congratulations, your early teenage years weren’t wasted after all. Still, when the song hits its considerable stride, it rains sonic blows on you in the same way that Eddie Honda from Street Fighter II did when you played your mate Dave, who really should have found something better to do with his life.

Possibly the best compliment to pay Projekt A-Ko is that memories of their previous incarnation don’t register when you’re listening to their lovely Lo-Fi songs. Proof then, that moving on, in the forever backward-looking world of RockNPop, is possible. Good work, Projekt A-Ko! Listen here!