>Today’s New Band – Chungin & The Strap-On Faggots

It’s been the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester this week. Don’t worry, that’s as far as I”ll dip our collective toe into the murky world of politics. Still, the main outcome of it all is: well, it’s been a bit of a pain getting round town.

Even once you’ve negotiated the massive security barriers everywhere – vast concrete lumps that make you feel like an extra on the set of Children Of Men – you end up being continually harassed by dowdily-suited Tory leafleters, apparently tricked into believing that a career in politics is just a four-day flyering campaign away.

Having politicians swarming the streets has the same dreary effect as tipping 10,000 gallons of beige paint over the city. At a glance, the average iPod of these people would contain:

  1. James Blunt (lovely man, ex-soldier)
  2. Coldplay (ooh, edgy)
  3. Starship (non-ironically)
  4. 10 hours of David cameron podcasts

It’s terrifying. Looking for Today’s New Band became a mission to find the definitive Anti-Tory-Conference Band. In the Estonian three-piece Chungin & The Strap-On Faggots, I think I found them. Don’t think too hard, just feel the politico-tension as songs like Cats of Destiny and Dogshit City trouble your ears.

They’re not the student joke-thrash band you might think: The Professional Skinny Girl is a neat slice of power-pop-punk. It’s short, sharp and dancable, as is Victor, which starts with a battered drum, and, if played at your local indie club, will end with clobbered toes from all the pogoing you’ll do.

Chungin & The Strap-On Faggots: perfect for terrifying C/conservative politicians. I bet they didn’t anticipate that when they first got together. But don’t dismiss them because of that – they’re a fun, garage-with-a-small-‘G’ punk band. Finally, the sound of youth’s political apathy. Listen here!

Photograph by Jarmo Nagel

>Today’s New Band – The Paraffins PLUS! "And now, we return to the classics"


Do you know what the best thing about Lou Reed‘s Transformer is? No, not Walk On The Wild Side. Nor that Mick Ronson and David Bowie’s mucky fingerprints are all over it like a cheap, sleazy suit. Not even that the backing vocalists were called The Thunderthighs.
The best thing about Transformer is the first ten seconds of Vicious, the first track, up to the point where the guitar squeals for the first time, just after Lou has drawled his first languidly wired lyric.

It’s possibly the most direct, hit-the-ground-running start to any album, piercing into your mind like a diamond knitting needle. Everything you need to know about Transformer‘s wide-eyed and paranoid brilliance is in those first ten seconds.

If the rest of the album was full of clunkers (and duff songs like Make Up try hard enough), the wonderful statement of intent that is Vicious would still make the album a dazzling classic. That some of the most dreamily gorgeous songs ever written – try to listen to Perfect Day or Satellite Of Love without welling up -accompany it make the album a pristine moment of joy, crystallised forever.
But if it had only had that one opener, it’d still be beautiful. That’s why hearing a new band with only the one good song in their armoury is still reason for celebration. Compilation CDs are full of bands who’ve had one really good song and then never quite managed to best it. Hit-and-miss merchants like Lou Reed should give prospective bands encouragement. He also made Metal Machine Music, remember.
Today’s New Band, The Paraffins, have a couple of good songs, so they’re already ahead of the pack. They’re from a small village in Scotland (with a surprisingly large Wikipedia entry) and create songs that seem to have been scratched together with scraps of this and that, which then suddenly take on a life of their own and become much more than the sum of their parts.
Cardboard Cutout, after a few minutes of increasingly clever polyrythmic staggering, suddenly pops its own bubble and splurges with happiness; allowing itself a few final seconds of unhindered noise.

Guest Haus is another slowly building, give-and-take songs that splits from itself into a house-like keyboard riff-driven songs, albeit one played on a melodica. Mobile phone interference completes its electronically haunted feel.

Something Good bounds along in the manner of an excited puppy, at love with everything and everyone at once. It might even hump your leg if you stand too close.
The Paraffins surprised me. Most bands with their resolutely DIY ethic try hard and end up sounding eager, but often end up falling short because the tunes are missing. The Paraffins have them and know how to use them too. A cut-price ‘n’ classy way to end the week – listen here!

>Today’s New Band – Joe Gideon And The Shark PLUS! ABBA Confessional!

>It was my birthday the other day, and when you grow up, you become increasingly less bothered by what others think of you. For proof of this, casually ask your grandparents for their views on immigration. I think I’ve reached an age where honesty about various musical preferences become easier. So here goes. Deep breath.

ABBA are… OK. Actually, no, not just OK – songs like Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight) have melodies that worm into your brain so deep that they’ll never leave without a Spandex-clad fight; melodies every other band would sell their grandmothers for. ABBA‘s best songs – and there aren’t that many, honestly, but Waterloo is one of them – are songs that could punch you between the eyes with the sheer force of their choruses.

It’s not all fun, of course. Looking now, with our cynical eyes, at the sheer, gleeful awfulness of their clothing – which may or may not have bankrolled the world’s satin jumpsuit industry – we can see that ABBA have not only been sullied by their own hand, but also by 70’s theme bars, lazy nightclub DJs and local radio stations, whose reliance on their hits borders on the criminally insane. And a lot of their ‘most loved’ songs, like Dancing Queen, have been bashed viciously into the ‘Horrible Disco Nonsense’ category by one too many Hen party.

Still, any band aspiring to success could do a lot worse than to take ABBA as a starting point. If Today’s New Band crowd around their Dansette in the evenings and listen to Voulez-Vous, they’ve hidden it well, because Joe Gideon and The Shark are crashing, guttural and bloody in the exact way that ABBA aren’t.

As brother and sister, they are a rare commodity in rock. Whereas in the pop world, sibling relationships are a lot less unusual, here, the music jars hard against their shared blood, and is all the bettor for it.

DOL creeps up on you, chanting menacingly, drawing you into its uneasy world with hypnotic repetition. It’s no simple blues-lite knock-off though, revealing itself to be an urgent, suspicious, love-song/warning. Civilisation tells the tale of “learning the ways of man”, a young man’s journey of discovery, told with the hormonal sneer of youth, and the tale takes the twists of success, failure and griminess that most young men’s lives take.

Grinding, raw, direct and shorn of rock pleasantries, Joe Gideon and the Shark are a fantastic grubby stab of clunky rock. Listen here!