Bern And The Brights – A Telepathic Influx Of Cheer

You wait, you hope, and then it appears. Sometimes it feels as though there’s a gap – a hollow – an absence – and waiting for the jigsaw piece to fall back into place is the hardest part.

Bern and The Brights were there when I needed them most. Isn’t it strange how music can do that? How did they know?

The whys, wheres and hows are unimportant – I needed that certain lift, a deft yank from the fug billowing around my mind. Right on cue, Bern and The Brights sidled up, slipped a dainty arm around my shoulders and hugged tight.

The song was Sleepless Aristotle, silky but trembling, and its gentle caress did the trick all right. It glistens with early-morning vim; energised, happy but wistful.

Bern and The Brights // Sleepless Aristotle

Bern and The Brights describe themselves as Danceable Romantic Nerd Rock, but don’t let that put you off. They have a singer with a voice of scuffed antique silk, and musicians who can keep it simple and, most importantly, keep it affecting.

Some songs have the ability to lift crowds to their feet, and others lift spirits when ambition is faltering. Perhaps Sleepless Aristotle can only do it for me. Maybe it’ll perform the same trick for you too.

Calories – Note: Review Contains No Dreadful Food Energy Value Analogies. Sorry.

Sometimes I wonder why bands even bother.

I look at my bulging inbox, filled with suggestions of new bands, and I wonder this, because it’s almost impossible to conceive how any band can be heard through the white noise of ten thousand new, hungry bands all playing their buzz-saw guitars at once.

And then a band comes along that makes me realise: “Ah – that’s why.” The thought pings into my subconscious as one band peeks stridently through the weeds like a stubborn dandelion.

Bands do it because the rewards are so great – the feeling that you and your friends are on the cusp of something new, something pleasurable to all and sundry is like nothing else on earth.

Calories have discovered this, have grabbed it lustily, and on the strength of songs like FFWD are running away with it.

The old days were better…” they muse, yelpily, and I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing before realising that I’m right either way.

Calories ‘FFWD’ from Calories Band on Vimeo.

FFWD is a rollicking romp of lung-bursting, tongue-twisting proportions. More is crammed into the first verse and chorus than Oasis managed in two albums.

The bassline is so bouncy that whoever drew the short straw of playing it must now be suffering from exotically-named illnesses like Carpel Tunnel Syndrome or Vibration White Finger.

As far as ridiculously enjoyable songs go, FFWD can be ranked alongside all of your guilty-pleasure songs that you might not tell others about for fear of embarrassment. Except Calories are so good that you’ll want to share them with everyone. That’s why they do it.

Friendly Foliage; Donkey-Bestiality and Tenuous Links

Sometimes a crock of comedy gold just falls into your lap.

Sometimes it is a hairy, confusing crock. For instance: the news story of a man who has been sneaking into a farm and having sex with a horse and a donkey.

I don’t know at which point buggering a donkey just doesn’t cut it any more and the step up to having sex with a horse is the only remaining option, but this man passed it with brazen certainty.

Regardless – a man having sex with animals isn’t funny, right? No – but the funny thing is the penultimate paragraph in the resultant local newspaper article:

“The defendant does not have a stable address…”

Wonderful. Someone buy that sub-editor a pint, quick.

So the link to today’s new band? Well, Friendly Foliage could well have been used by said donkey-buggering gent to gain the gentle beasts’ trust. And that, dear reader is the most tenuous of all the many tenuous links that have graced the pages of ANBAD.

Friendly Foliage // Masonic Meadows

Masonic Meadows is exactly the kind of drop-dead gorgeous, burblingly beautiful song that I would happily have soundtracking every move of my life from here onwards.

This kind of music – that is, the sort that meanders, grows and organically weedles its way into your head – is rare. Anyone can make drawn-out, self-indulgent soundscapes (just visit any modern art gallery).

But to create something that glistens with dewy, sun-drenched beauty is outrageously difficult; and yet Friendly Foliage have done just that. Masonic Meadows is truly wonderful: calm, earthy, real. From donkey-rape to this. Yum.

Song issued under CC license (BY-NC-SA) via Bad Panda.

>Today’s New Band – Pouff

>It was a public holiday over the weekend and so I camped with my girlfriend on a beach in west Wales. The sun blazed, and slowly sank over the sea, turning everything a deep, rich orange. We dozed and crisped up in the heat, had a barbecue and a bonfire, and then slept some more. It was heaven.

It’s funny how, in a world where material goods are pushed more than ever as the solution to all our problems, that a camping trip, a barbecue and a good snooze – with a combined cost of less than a couple of CDs – could still trump any fleeting buzz of happiness brought on by buying a stumping up for a new shiny black plastic gadget.

Music can be grouped in the same ‘less is more’ bracket – music can be as cheap or expensive as you like, but get it right and it’ll give you more joy than just about anything. Today’s New Band know a lot about joy: Pouff (for it is they) crank out musical fun with carefree abandon.

If songs like Peanuts and Ice Cream were piped into commuter trains, then we’d have a world of dementedly happy office-drones, instead of the miserable ones that alight every morning at the station. Listening to the song is like being rhythmically slapped in the face by a clown, bouncing with manic glee.

Wisely choosing not to deviate to far from the ‘Keep It Stupid, Stupid’ template, Butt Kiss hammers, howls and echoes with crazed spontaneity. And does Chicken Farts sound like windy poultry? Well, yes, frankly it does – funky, gaseous fowl.

Pouff: happier than Happy Hardcore, dumber than a bus-full of Premiership footballers and as springy as a pile of mattresses. Deliriously daft FUN. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – Leroy McQueen & The Gussets

>I said that Yesterday’s New Band, Liechtenstein (see below), ‘owes a little to Jesus and Mary Chain‘; this wasn’t a criticism, but I suppose it could be interpreted as such. A large proportion of bands are eager to distance themselves, sonically, from the past, as if this in itself is innovation. It isn’t – and it often results in bands that might well tick the ‘new’ box, but is a million miles from the one marked ‘fun’.

Grabbing a bunch of sounds or attitudes or ideas from the past isn’t to be frowned upon. It makes sense if you want to have a good time, all the time. Today’s New Band, Leroy McQueen & The Gussets has a great name and a sound you’ll know and feel happy slipping into, like an old pair of slippers.

Leroy McQueen & The Gussets make a land grab for the grimy, punchy fuzz-blizzard of The MC5 and Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, and then proceeds to wring as much enjoyment out of the straight-into-the vein excitement as possible. Boomtown City is so heavy with crunchy sound that it may collapse in on itself and form a rock ‘n’ roll black hole.

It’s not ‘new’ – even Shakespeare wrote lyrics about wanting to go out and party all night – but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a big, friendly slap in the face from a leather-coated, tobacco-and-booze-smelling hand, and I’ll find it hard to believe if you don’t want to go out all night long after listening to it. RAWK! Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – Everything Everything

>Last night, I saw Pete And The Pirates* at Moho Live in Manchester. Since I first saw them two years ago, and then again six months ago, they’ve steadily got better – more charming, more interesting, more likely to become the huge success they deserve to be. If their fabulous new songs are anything to go by, their next album will be a corker.

We took a decidedly old-school approach to the gig – blagging our way in for free (“But the band promised we’d be on the guest list”), and smuggling in a hip flask o’ booze for surreptitious topping-up of cola. As we persuasively nudged our way to the front of the crowd (sharp elbows), the difference between a support band and the headliners became a little clearer than before.

Where the support band that we saw (I forget their name, but imagine a swing and a miss at Stone Roses-style Über-confidence and you’re there) tried to fill every moment with noise, P&TP had the confidence to allow ebb and flow, quiet and loud. It lulls the audience in as opposed to battering them with a wall of fudgy noise.

Today’s New Band also have this skill – and it is a skill – so be thankful for Mancunians Everything Everything, whose songs are cute, sharp and unusual.

Suffragette Suffragette is a clicking, polyrhythmic example of their finely-honed approach to songwriting. It weaves and bobs, dashing from choral, harmonising vocal over-indulgence to pared-down calm – which serve to push their superb weirdness to the fore.

Single Photoshop Handsome grabs a wild chorus by the ears and rides it hopefully, wrestling it to fit into their idiosyncratically off-the-wall framework. It yelps, shouts and chirps – but not for the sake of it – and then slips confidently into a huge, pounding, synth finale.

Everything Everything are now getting the radio play they’ve deserved for a while, and this is purely because they’re punchy, innovative and crafty. Lovely. Listen here.

*My amigo Martin said that they sounded like the Strokes had collaborated with 90’s pop-nobodies Eternal, which wins my vote for most ludicrous description of any band, ever.

>Today’s New Band – Ganz Anders PLUS! Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


Having written in breathless, lusty fashion on Lou Reed‘s Transformer a few days ago, whilst visiting the record shop over the weekend, the cranky rocker was foremost in my mind. A chain of events had been initiated that were too all-encompassing, too powerful and too spookily ordered to resist.
Drawn, magnetically, to the ‘R’ section, I click-clacked the CDs until I found the Reed, Lou tab. It was there. It fluttered its cracked-jewel-case eyelashes at me. It was a paltry £3. It accompanied me straight to the till. It was the album I had always wanted, but was never brave enough to buy. It was Metal Machine Music.
Has another album has inspired so much negativity? In the true spirit of the awkward, deliberately obtuse music fan, there are as many web pages describing how bad it is as there are proclaiming its genius. Here’s what it actually is: an hour-long album of guitar feedback. No, that’s not an abject attempt at wry witticism – it is literally just that, guitar on guitar, howling and feeding back on themselves.
So is it really that awful/great? Well, I listened to it, and… enjoyed it. At the ten minute mark, mild agony sets in, but those brave or dumb enough to stick with will find that it eventually transcends sound itself, and the noise seems to sync with your brainwaves. Like when someone keeps telling the same joke and it eventually becomes funny again. It’s clearly an experiment, taken beyond its logical limitations, and I warmed to it for those exact reasons.
Today’s New Band, Ganz Anders, can take heart from the fact that all they need to do is produce something other than 64 minutes of white noise, and they won’t be hated as much as Lou Reed circa 1974. Ganz Anders make big, long, clunky house music. They’re from Holland, and if you’ve ever been to Holland, you’ll know that a) everyone seems a bit too tall, and b) they know how to have a good time.
Broken is big, grubby, and heavy, like a Victorian steam engine. It sounds along those lines too, intimidating one and all with its unusually hearty beats, pulses and squawks. In the middle it collapses under its own vast mass, before finally clambering back to it’s rightful, relentless pace.
Bells has a section that sounds like one long, extended fart, and yet still has serious house chops – it’d slip into a 1988 setlist at The Hacienda with ease. Autospeck maintains that careful balance between the breakdown and the hands-in-the-air transcendence that all good house music needs.
So Ganz Anders also make abstract noise when they want to. Perhaps Lou Reed was aiming for this, and just got lost on the way. Or wasted. One of these options may be truer than the other. Ganz Anders stayed focused and are having a hell of a time. Rave on!

>Today’s New Band – The Gospel According To John – PLUS! Modern Art!

>I have a theory about modern art, which has come from studying art myself. No, wait! Come back! There’s a New Band angle on this, I promise. My theory is cynical, and born of frustration, but I think I’m onto something.

Here it is: the complex, philosophical meanings attached to modern art are just tacked on at the end after coming up with the idea of image/object, to justify cutting a sheep in half and submerging it in formaldehyde.

When Rachel Whiteread filled a house with plaster and then removed the bricks and mortar, in effect making a giant, house-shaped plaster jelly, what was her thought process? Did her initial pondering on the unseen resonance of negative space lead to the final product, or, did she suddenly blurt out to her friends during a blurry night at the pub, “would it be ace to fill a whole fucking house with plaster or what?” and then worry about the meaning later?

Artists used to be ‘mere’ craftsmen, and now they’re our most highly-regarded thinkers. I don’t like thinking. This is probably why I’m now writing about skinny indie janglers instead of lying through my teeth to gallery curators.

So here’s Today’s New Band, The Gospel According To John. In fairness, their skinniness is only an assumption, but they are definitely jangly, and one of these usually leads to the other in the Indie world.

The Gospel According To John aren’t great thinkers either. This is a compliment. Unburdened by theory, philosophical coherency or dazzling insight into society’s ills, they are left with the desire to make great tunes. This, really, is how rock music should be – dumbly unaware of the real world and concerned only with Having A Good Time All The Time.

Their bouncy song Say Yes To Strangers is so dizzily carefree that even the use of words isn’t much of a concern. Instead, a smattering of sax and a good guitar line is thrust centre stage for us all to dance to. Maybe it’s because they’re revolutionary anti-thought pop stars, or maybe it’s that they’re all about 16. Who cares.

Art Brut say that modern art makes you ‘want to rock out’. The Gospel According To John would disagree. Disappointingly, none of the band is named John. This is only a minor failing. Their songs are full of life. Refill yourself here!

>Today’s New Band – Die, Chihuahua Die PLUS! T-T-T-T True Confessions!


In late December (or maybe January – it all seems so long ago already) you all frothed like crazies at the ANBAD Best Gigs Of ’08 list. It was a little heavy on the old bands-side, what with both Public Enemy and My Bloody Valentine receiving monster, dizzy praise, but at least it was honest, right?
Here’s a small confession: I left another gig off the list so that it wasn’t skewed too far towards bands from the previous decade. The gig in question was Bis, on a short, ill-fated reunion tour. Bis, for the uninitiated, were Scotland’s premier* Teen-C power-proto-J-pop-trio. Their gig at Satan’s Hollow in Manchester was super-duper acers – the guys looked a bit older, but singer Manda Rin looked just the same as ever, and they sounded just as good as they did when they ground out homemade C90’s back in ’95.

*pretty much the only
Quickly overcoming any dumb attempts at maintaining a distant coolness at the back of the audience, I found myself at the front, pogoing along to the saccharine brilliance of Icky-Poo Air Raid and Kandy Pop. Fast forward a bit to the compiling of the end-of-year gig list, and I remembered two important things: that this gig was actually a year and a half ago, and that my memory is clearly destroyed by idiocy.
A straightforward story of stupidity, simplicity and honesty, then. You might recognise some of those qualities in Today’s New Band, Die, Chihuahua Die!, who play big, simple, stoopid-fun rock ‘n’ roll. Rightly identifying thoughtful musical complexity as namby-pamby nonsense, they’ve plumped for NOISY GOOD ROCK TIMES, and have pulled it off with panache.
Die, Chihuahua Die! have a song called Brian Maiden. We all know Puns=Top Marks at ANBAD. The song is ‘right up in your grill’, as the kids say, and doesn’t let up until you creep away, whimpering.

Happy Song grinds along, its riff clobbering you over the head, nicking your wallet, and running off to buy MORE cheap cider. Action Fuck Action starts at 100 MPH and keeps accelerating, dementedly, towards the wall marked ROCK DESTINY. Meet them there, right here!

>Today’s New Band – The All New Adventures Of Us PLUS! Hair!

>I snuck into one of the local university’s end of term parties last night. It’s been a while since I was a first-year Uni-botherer. This is what I learned about 18-21 year-old Film and Media students:

  1. The more swept-across your fringe is, the higher your social status. Some fringes started just above the ear. Men appear to have the monopoly on hair-straighteners now.
  2. The Youth are fat. I was nudged by one student who was so rotund that it felt like I was hit by a milk float.
  3. The songs that filled the dancefloor were by MGMT and Kings Of Leon – but you probably guessed that already.

The upside to all this is that, apart from having a good time at someone else’s party, I left feeling more masculine and slim than I have for a long time. It felt like I’d hopped over the dividing line between us men who hit their late teens at the turn of the century, and those doing it about now, in a flurry of careful coiffures.

What will happen when the same young women, currently enjoying the empathetic sensitivity of these men, decide they want shelves putting up, but don’t fancy doing it themselves? You can’t put an Ikea sofa-bed together with nail buffers and eyebrow tweezers.

Today’s New Band, The All New Adventures of Us, also apparently cross great divides – to rehearse, though – as for them, ‘home’ is listed as Northampton and Dundee. There were about 400 miles between the two cities last time I looked, which must make those weekly meetings in the pub to discuss the fine details of the liner notes for the next single just that bit more complicated. (A note to the band: Barrow-In-Furness is about your half-way meeting point – and they have a nightclub on a boat, complete with pole dancers and intimidatingly pumped men. Ah, good times.)

Still, all that supposed trundling up and down the M6 must give them plenty of time and cramped space to write their nicely bitty pop songs. And for the second day running, there’s have a song with horns driving the melody – the bouncy Firetruck Doki Doki, full of vim and gentle rhymes. It scores extra bonus marks for having a kind of double false ending – biggest and best rock trick in the book. St. Crispin’s Got Our Backs is expansive and large, but TANAOU still manage to keep their indie-ness intact.

Maybe The All New Adventures Of Us are a band for today – young, sensitive and wide-eyed – but without the mindless hair fixation or flab. Listen here!