>Today’s New Band – Screaming Maldini PLUS! Smell!

>Unresearched Glib Pop Music Theory #235680: the act of hearing music has a closer resemblance to the act of smelling than any other sense. Perhaps this seemingly ludicrous claim should be qualified a little. Smell is almost indescribable in any terms other than other smells. Wines, for example, smell of freshly mown lawns, tarmac melting on hot days and hedgerow blossoms.

Melted chocolate smells wonderful because it smells of melted chocolate. It’s self-referential. So is music, cutting, as it does, to the pin-prick centre of your mind/heart/soul – wherever you feel like your most base feelings are housed.

I saw this demonstrated when my 70 year old grandfather, a calm, placid soul if there ever was one, leapt from his chair and danced like a carefree youth on his old orange and yellow living-room carpet, when an old 45 of Mockingbird by Charlie and Inez Foxx was slipped onto the record player. It was like time travel for me – a glimpse of the man he once was – clapping, stamping and hip-swivelling and all. Only a few of our senses can do that, when triggered.

So what will click in you when you hear Today’s New Band, Screaming Maldini? They make the kind of pop-driven tunes that shimmer breezily and also have enough nous to make them several quirky notches above the bland MOR purgatory that such songs can sometimes inhibit.

Secret Sounds is deceptively complex, seemingly a swift jaunt through tinkling pop territory; a closer listen reveals a song that delights in folding in on itself over and over, until compressed into a rough indie diamond. The brass stylings of The Extraordinary casts an eye over its influences that is alternatingly suave and relaxed and then inquisitively scatterbrained. Monkey See Badger Do strikes out from the first squeak of its endearingly wandering melody, and is crazier than a box of frogs.

Orchestral, lush and endlessly inventive, Screaming Maldini stopped worrying about whether they were trying to do too much and just bunged it all in the mix. In doing so, they have hit upon their own magic formula and out has spilled a number of unusual pop songs. Great! Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – Still Flyin’ PLUS! Wry observations on early 90’s consumerist society!

>I’m reading Generation X by Douglas Coupland. I’m at the right age and frame of mind to being doing so: late twenties and almost wholly disenfranchised. The book popularised the titular terminology for the end-of-80’s-early-90’s generation of youth, and I’m finding it hard to read without thinking of check flannel shirts, nihilism and Nirvana.

Thinking of the music and those times now – when MTV was still a bit rough around the edges – mirroring the music – and comparing them with the media-savvy, always-on, always-aware, always-ready times of now will inevitably lead to you conclude that we were living in a much more innocent time then. Then again, it could just be latent nostalgia finally revealing itself, cackling at its control over your emotions.

In Generation X, the lead character decries the generation below him as being vain, air-headed and unconcerned with events beyond the end of their own nose. These are the same accusations levelled at 18 year olds today, by people like me. Perhaps the cavemen complained about the caveboys too.

Cycles, phases, waves: pop culture constantly regurgitates itself, like a snake eating its own tail. Today’s New Band is the positive result of the endless churning of pop culture past and present. Still Flyin’ are about the most hit-the-ground-running positive-start-to-the-week band as we’ve had on ANBAD.

Good Thing It’s A Ghost Town Around Here is a good song make frantically happy by a stratosphere-soaring chorus that will wheedle its way into your brain and stay there, drumming it’s fingers on the steering wheel of your mind. It’s so much fun, I can picture custard pies being flung around the studio by specially hired clowns while it was being recorded, possibly on a fairground ride.

Dead Memory Man, shouty, punchy chorus and all, reaches up your trouser leg and insistently secures your attention. Clattering and freewheeling like a tuneful runaway train full of cheerful deathwishers, and almost as intriguing, it’s a dizzying blend of all the instruments, ideas and melodies to hand, working against the odds.

Still Flyin’ are from San Francisco. If I could track down the band, watch them play, and whack an imaginary cow bell along to their music, I just know that life, right there, would be good. Tap along yourself here!

>Today’s New Band – Friska Viljor PLUS! "It’s BAWWWSS TAAAIIIIME!"

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Someone sent me a link to the half-time entertainment from the Super Bowl. My knowledge of American Football began and ended in a bar in Haight in San Fransisco, where I watched a game whilst the myriad rules were explained to me by increasingly exasperated friends. Even though it seemed that my knowledge of the game decreased exponentially the more was explained to me, I enjoyed watching the nylon blur of colours trying to cripple each other.
This particular video began with an announcement – “It’s Boston!” which immediately caused an involuntary keyboard-stabbing recoil, in fear of the upcoming MOR onslaught. After a few seconds, it dawned that “Boss Time!” had actually been announced, and so I settled back to enjoy some only slightly less MOR rock.
Bruce Springsteen has an influence on modern rock that I suspect comes from many bands’ too-intimate childhood knowledge of parents’ record collections. Bands have learnt to drop in epic power chord choruses willy-nilly, and the result, ultimately, has been The Killers. The Boss has also become a nice easy comparison for music reviewers to sling at any band with a big, lush rawk tune in its armoury. Reviews of the last, hugely overblown Arcade Fire album were particularly guilty of this.
If there is a bit of The Boss in Today’s New Band, Friska Viljor, he’s hiding, or at least exploring a newly cute side. Shuddering inevitability out of the way first: they’re from Sweden, and so are typically tuneful, upbeat and unpretentious. Their songs are joyous, gentle and poppy – the antidote to almost all current rock music.
Songs like Arpeggio are so simple, kind and happy that only a determinedly awful person would not feel toes involuntarily twitching to the twittering beat. Choruses soar sweetly, without bloating or preening. Old Man is almost Ska-Pop, but not quite; this in itself is its saving grace – and its chorus rockets into the clouds, mindless and gleeful. Early Morning changes again, slickly rocking with stabbing guitar and metronomic drums, and then Gold grabs a big, loony, falsetto chorus from the Chorus Gods and shoves it at you madly.
Friska Viljor are rock magpies, nibbling this sound and that riff and producing music that flip-slops whichever way they fancy. Maybe calling their sound a musicial Smörgåsbord would be one glib Swedish reference too far, but damn it, it fits perfectly. Get your fill here!

>Today’s New Band – The Handsome Family PLUS! Beatle-mageddon!

>My theory on The Beatles runs roughly along these lines: their songs are music’s equivalent of the Bible. In my case, it means that I know all the songs, but never actually listen to them; similarly, I know all about Samson and Delilah, but the Bible-shaped space on my bookshelf is filled by 1000 Pinup Girls.

I don’t own any Beatles albums any more, not even Revolver. Last week I was sent a link to a site where one devotee had ranked every single Beatles song in order of preference. This kind of obsessive behaviour indicates that the author is a man, but I may be wrong.

You, like everyone else, will disagree with his list – Day Tripper is only the 147th best Beatles song? Really? – but anyone who has even a passing interest will get lost in it for hours.

It’s tough to truly assess their brilliance – everyone is told about their genius from an early age. But after browsing through the only the bottom 20-or-so songs, and identifying that half a dozen are near-perfect, it quickly dawns on you just how mind-bogglingly revolutionary they were.

It might seem a trifle unfair to now introduce a New Band, but we’ll do it anyway, because The Handsome Family won’t suffer from any latent comparison with the Beatles. This is chiefly because their creepy, isolated and dark American folky-country sound is pretty much the anti-I Wanna Hold Your Hand.

Bottomless Hole, about a man dropping into – yes – a hole in his garden, is rich, gloomy and pitch-black, and there’s a strange sense of happy liberation in its nihilism. So Much Wine is beautiful and soothing to the nth degree. You could easily miss the distressing lyrics – “But when you fell asleep, with blood on your teeth, I got in my car and drove away” – as you sway dreamily to the tune. In Weightless Again, they manage to form a wonderful, skewed love song that sells the idea of jumping from the Golden Gate bridge as an attractive life-choice.

Infused with death, love and a determinedly crooked view of life, The Handsome Family‘s songs are gorgeously out of step with anyone but themselves.

Brett and Rennie Sparks are husband and wife, and if their songs are any indication of life in the marital home, the conversations over dinner must surely be several fascinating notches up from the usual ‘And what did you do today, dear’ pleasantries. I’d like to listen in. Perhaps I already have.

>THE ANBAD END-OF-YEAR LIST FRENZY BEGINS!

>***A New Band A Day is taking a ‘well-earned’ break until the New Year, so no more new bands until then. BUT over the next week-and-a-bit there’ll be a whimsical (i.e. hastily cobbled together) look back over the Best Stuff of 2008! Best enjoyed with a plateful of Stilton, a glass of sherry and an overwhelming sensation of sorrow as you realise that Christmas used to be more exciting when you were a child***

Lists were promised last week, and so here they come: one today, one tomorrow, and then in the New Year – the Big One: ANBAD’s Top Ten New Bands of 2008. Today’s though is a bit more sedate, and, with an end-of-school-term impishness, has virtually nothing to do with New Bands at all. It’s…

The ANBAD Top Five Gigs of 2008!

As usual, these are in no particular order, apart from one which will be deemed ‘Best Gig’. So it is in some kind of order after all.

5) Art Brut, Stoke Sugarmill, February-ish

Here at ANBAD, we’re happy to admit that we’re massively biased towards Art Brut and would, in all honesty, proclaim their greatness even if they released an album full of Kenny G-esque jazz-lite numbers.

This is because they’re just about the most brilliant, consistently fabulous live band out there – great, rabble-rousing songs and a superb frontman in Eddie Argos, whose throwaway ‘n’ carefree attitude is outrageously refreshing. This gig was them at their absolute best and the audience responded by going bananas.

4) My Bloody Valentine, Manchester Apollo, June-ish

The band I’d always hoped would get back together, but thought never would, actually did, and it was a quasi-religious experience. Yes, they were stupidly loud. Yes, you had to wear earplugs. Yes, their songs sounded like you standing next to an passenger jet at take-off.

It was brilliant, jaw-dropping and overwhelming. It sounded like this: WWWWSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHH ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ GGGGGGGGGGGGGGGRRRRRRR RRRRRRRRRFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF and left normally sane people to say humiliatingly quaint things like, “that was like being reborn” (me).

3) Lethal Bizzle, Bestival, September-ish

Expected nothing. Got everything. Incredible. Loud, brash and brazen. Hyped the audience to the point of explosion, and then pushed harder. Fact: Lethal Bizzle are tougher, smarter and better than 99% of all live bands today. Almost Gig Of the Year, but not quite.

2) Hot Chip, Manchester Academy (& Bestival)

The band that were faintly nerdy electro-rock curios when I first saw them a few years ago finally mutated into the acid house-rock monster that they always hinted at becoming. Their live act is in turns charming, banging and air-punchingly fabulous.

Hot Chip are without pretence (see their fancy-dress costume-wearing performance at Bestival for proof) but are also full of humour and sincerity, and their gigs are electric. They’re pretty much the New New Order, and that’s high praise.

1) GIG O’ THE YEAR – PUBLIC ENEMY – Manchester Academy, May-ish

This was an easy choice. Public Enemy gigging the whole of It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back was either going to be awesome or terrible. It was the former, durrr. The best gig this writer’s ever seen, easily. Here’s what I said at the time:

A truly brilliant gig: angry, brutal, and winningly political, inevitably, but the actually important stuff – the songs – were astonishing to hear live. Poundingly brilliant, terrifyingly funky and thrillingly loud – the crowd went berserk as they rolled out each grandstanding song. Flava Flav proved he was much more than his appearances as latter-day reality TV bizarro-fodder, geeing up the crowd until the sweat ran down the walls. Chuck D charged between his twin assaults of his brilliant lyrical polemic and delivering his powerful political beliefs, insistent and sincere.

It was hard to have left without feeling that the world needs Public Enemy today more than it ever has before. Shockingly, brain-rattlingly good.”

And I stand by every overwrought, garbled word.

>Today’s New Band – Photons PLUS! Reunions! Youth! Money!

>If you live in the UK, you’ll have heard all about Blur re-uniting for a few huge gigs next summer. This was a bit of a surprise to everyone, seeing as Blur‘s main protagonists, Damon and Graham, apparently hate each other; that the drummer now seems to be getting on with a career of repeatedly failing to become a Labour MP; and Alex the insufferable bassist is now an insufferable cheese-maker.

All those enlivening inter-band foibles aren’t my gripe with this reunion, and neither is the awful, recession-mocking £45 ticket price. It’s the fact that, now they’re back together and might even make a new album, they are putting themselves in direct contravention of one of the main Laws Of Rock: Stop making music when you hit 40.

This isn’t an ageist rant – just look at the facts: would you really be any poorer if the combined discographies of Paul McCartney, Paul Weller, Oasis or the Rolling Stones suddenly ended at the point where the songwriters hit 40? Nope, not really. Even – whisper it – David Bowie – hasn’t done anything really good since his mid 30s. If Blur do record a new album, I hope it disproves this rule. But I hope even more that they don’t go near a studio at all.

A band that deserve to be spending more time in the studio are Today’s New Band, Photons. They’re from San Fransisco and, having spent too long now looking out of a window into the Manchester rain, this fact alone is enough to make me mad with jealous rage.

The problem is that Photons are far too lovable to ever focus any mindless hatred at. Their songs are dreamy, happy and sweet; the sound of the eight band members shunning worry, despair and all the other frivolous anxiety that is associated with modern life, and choosing glee instead.

Goodbye For Now is a festive Indie sea-shanty, inventively and rousingly clomping into a big, happy chorus. Cease and Desist is a rollocking clatter, both wild and focused together, and finding time to pop in another big chanty chorus. It’s imbued, possibly unknowingly, with more human feeling than most songs ever manage. Something Left To Live For is much more upbeat than the title suggests a plink-plonking melody gleefully dripping through the whole song.

The Photons are rousing, positive and inventive. Are these youthful traits, put into song by people too young to be corrupted by cynicism to think of money-spinning reunions? Who knows, but try to figure it out for yourself by listening to their ace songs here!

PS – The ANBAD eBook is being downloaded like hot cakes. Mix your metaphors too, and get yours here! FREE!

>Today’s New Band – Nicholas Stevenson PLUS! Booze, More Booze and Burlesque Dancers!

>Having spent the last five nights ‘entertaining friends’, I’m now in the unenviable position of starting the week feeling exhausted. Beer, wine, tapas, dim sum and a surprising diversion to the middle-class realm of Pimms and lemonade are to blame for my malaise, and spending last night compering a Burlesque show just about finished me off, in a blizzard of nipple tassels and discarded stockings. I suppose if you’re going to have a blow-out, you may as well do it properly.

Having slowly come to the realisation that I’m getting on a bit now and can’t party quite as wholeheartedly as I could when I was 18, I’m feeling pathetically sorry for myself. Feeling fragile, I turned to music for some sort of comfort, or at least empathy. What I got was Today’s New Band, Nicholas Stevenson, who seems to be as fragile as I am.

Perhaps fragile is the wrong word. His songs would fall to bits, just for the hell of it, if they wanted to. They’re sweetly crazed and unusual, sometimes chilling, and sometimes plain odd. Either way, they seem to be formed out of something that might crack apart at any moment.

Anything You Like has as catchy a hook as you’re likely to hear, and an acoustic guitar that is, for want of a better description, crunchy. Ponies is as tender and cosy as a nursery rhyme, albeit one that ends in death and horror. Never in New York‘s yummy, carefree melody is the platform for Nicholas’ fabulously inventive lyrics to skip around.

Nicholas Stevenson‘s songs could have been written to lull children to sleep, but I wouldn’t recommend pushing much babysitting work his way unless you want your child to wake up confused or clammy or screaming. The upside to his aborted childminding career is that us grown-ups can feel our skin creep listening to them.

Even at his most sugary – and his songs do sound delightful – there’s the feeling that the musical sweets he’s offering you are laced with poison. And while that feeling remains, he’s a true (slightly worrying) treat. Listen here!

P.S. – Has the credit crunch left you looking for cheapo Christmas gifts? Give the gift of a printed out PDF of the ANBAD eBook! It’s free AND colourful!

>Today’s New Band – Run Toto Run PLUS! ‘The New Oasis’ – again!

>Yesterday, in the Guardian, Alan McGee claimed that Liverpudlian band The Grants were, “The best unsigned band in the world.” Alan McGee has a habit of making big, provocative statements, and it’s reasonable to imagine that this is another of them.

I think most people are willing to put up with these near-biennial claims, seeing as he’s the guy that signed Oasis and Primal Scream, bankrolled My Bloody Valentine to the point of personal/financial breakdown and had the nerve to release Kevin Rowland‘s My Beauty.

So, are The Grants the best unsigned band in the world? Or the next band to be lumbered with the ‘New Oasis’ tag? Well, pop over to their Myspace page and judge for yourself. To me, they dally somewhere between those other Liverpudlian greats, The La’s and Echo and the Bunnymen.They sound big, expansive and masculine but a bit tender with it. Oasis were like that too, when they were good. Perhaps Alan’s onto something. He’s been right before. But then Alan McGee is good at raving about bands. Time will tell.

If The Grants are The Best Unsigned Band… In The World!, then where does that place all the unsigned bands that have sloshed around A New Band A Day these last few months? There have certainly been a few bands that have made me more excited, more happy and more keen to pogo around my bedroom, but then we at ANBAD aren’t really in tune with the section of the public that buys U2 and Coldplay records.

For the rest of us then, here’s Today’s New Band, Run Toto Run, who have never been labelled anything by Alan McGee, and perhaps are all the better for it. Run Toto Run are unlike The Grants in so many ways – they have a neat line in delicate and fragile folky songs, which are serious and carefree all at once.

Your Face has the temerity to rescue the recorder from Primary School Hell and use it (sparingly, mind) in a way that doesn’t induce instant migranes. It’s a simple love song, unknowing, unpresumtuous and uncool. It’s lovely because of all those things.

Something To Say wafts into your life, backwards and confusing, charms you to your very core, and then drifts out again, fluttering eyelashes at you coyly. If that sounds similar to what it must be like to be seduced by Russell Brand, perhaps it is, except much less faux-Dickensian.

Something To Say is the best example of Run Toto Run‘s ability to create cute ‘n’ sincere folked-up love songs, and if it doesn’t leave you a bit dewy-eyed with happiness, then it’s time for a long, hard look in the mirror. And then listen to them, here!

>Today’s New Band – Juno PLUS! Picking Up Bad Vibrations!

>Hilariously, there are workmen working directly above where I’m typing this. They are using power tools that resonate with the exact frequency that:

a) makes everything in the room vibrate unpleasantly, including my eyeballs
b) makes the sound you’d expect to hear if you were one of the trees in a Woody Woodpecker cartoon
c) is so deep and resonant that it may cause spontaneous bowel evacuation (I’ll keep you informed about this one)

I always contended that there was no sound that was so awful that some sort of pleasure couldn’t be derived from it if arranged properly. Look at the Drillcore scene and some of Aphex Twin‘s more esoterically ‘difficult’ music for ideas. However, I now realise that I was being wildly optimistic and probably a bit tree-hugging-peace-and-love to boot. There is, it turns out, such thing as irredeemably bad noise, and it’s currently being vibrated into me at about 100 decibels.

The weakening effect of the noise has shaken out a confession: I should have picked up Today’s New Band, Juno, a good twelve months ago. Shocking isn’t it? In an attempt to put a positive spin on such a poor showing, I’m convinced that this is purely because there is so much good new music around at the moment that they just never got through.

Juno should have popped up on my radar almost instantly because of their association with Manda Rin, of Bis fame. She pops up here and there on their songs, puncturing the noise hyperactively and as idiosyncratically as ever.

On Party Music, the lolloping relationship between the guitar and drums reminds me a bit of Happy Mondays, and this can only be a suitably happy comparison to draw. Jet Set Juno is a weirdnik Teen-C/electro-rock squash-up that sounds like it belongs as the theme song to the imaginary TV show featuring the cartoons you used to doodle at the back of French Class at school. These Boys Are Athletes has been rattling around for a year, but it’s still as much of a chant-along futuro-pop monster as it was a year ago, all power chords and carefree bleeping.

It’s always a joy to hear a band that are clearly drawing a huge amount of fun just from being in a band together. Juno are like that. It’s an even bigger joy when the band in question make music that’s just as much fun to listen to as well. Juno are like that too.

Juno‘s songs would go down just as well in an Indie disco as in a roomful of sugar-buzzed 8 year olds. That’s about as happy a recommendation as you’ll get. So check them out here!

>Today’s New Band – Thomas Tantrum PLUS! 80’s Reminiscing AND Yet More Confusion

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Pitchfork, the music review website that is both pleasingly with it and, occasionally, maddeningly snobbish all at once, recently published a review of five re-issued versions of New Order‘s albums. It’s a review which, for once, succinctly captures exactly what was so wonderful about them.

In contrast to The Charlatans (see yesterday’s post) who failed to gain heroic status despite years of straining, New Order leapt there instantly without, seemingly, either trying or wanting to be there. I can’t think of many bands who were so delightfully haphazard, arty and contrary, without any of those qualities being excruciatingly embarrassing. The only embarrassment present in New Order‘s case was the sense of awkwardness the band displayed when they suddenly realised they were, for a while, the most excitingly brilliant band in the world.

Unassuming, quiet and haphazard in their approach, they still managed to produce some of the most touching, belligerent and powerfully ecstatic music ever written. No posing, no pondering on how to achieve importance (hi, Bono!), just a heads-down approach to pushing boundaries and having a good time.

If you’re like me, you’ll already be scrolling through iTunes to find Power, Corruption and Lies, but before you take that trip back to 1983, how about Today’s New Band, Thomas Tantrum?

Perhaps reminiscing about one of the greatest ever British bands immediately prior to introducing a new one is a bit unfair, but it doesn’t really matter, ‘cos Thomas Tantrum are great. Moreover, the rigid beats and polymedlodies of their super song Rage Against The Tantrum owe a bit to New Order, so perhaps it’s all a neat circle. Rage Against… made me think of The Popguns a bit, which is enough to make these jaded ears prick up with joy.

Whether they’re veering here and there on Warm Horse, or making the most disorientating pop music of all time on What What What, Thomas Tantrum are a true treat. They pull together the oft-disparate strands of noise rock and sparkly pop with true aplomb, and even find time to inadvertently bait the BNP with the swirling, heady Why The English Are Rubbish. Brilliant. Get confused in a kind of cute, pleasingly disarming way here!