Thunder Buffalo, Hitler and Hip-Wriggling

photo by Jodi Kaufer

You can tell a lot from a name, rightly or wrongly. It’s a very human response – there’s a reason that the man who devastated half the world in the 1930s and 40s changed his name. Even desperately poor Germans couldn’t take Adolf Schicklgruber seriously.

And so what type of music do you think Thunder Buffalo make? Ten points for those of you who correctly guessed ‘grimy rock’, but minus ten points for those of you who thought that predictable song titles like Be-Bop Sing-A-Long means that their songs are dull good ol’ boy rawk.

Thunder Buffalo Be-Bop Sing-A-Long

Fact: while Thunder Buffalo chew up stubborn guitar riffs, clobbering drums and fuzzy vocals like countless other bands, the resulting songs bely a deft touch and blaze with a hip-wriggling sexuality that few can match.

It’s not throwback rock: Black Cat Rising is the sound of a band who know their sonic palette and their sound’s structure – and start bending it into more interesting places.

Riffs are taken to repetitive extremes – just a bar too long here, a drumbeat too many there – and a strangely hypnotic drone-garage hybrid emerges. A surprising, yet homely band. Test accepted conventions and enjoy.

(Purchase their songs here)

>Cousins, and Julian Casablancas’ Tinsel Fetish

Ow, this is hurting my head. Now, on one hand, I love novelty Christmas songs, especially camp, blatant, tinsel-strewn ones from the 70’s. On the other hand, the words ‘Julian Casablancas’ and ‘Christmas Song’ seem so oxymoronic that a pine-scented vortex might open up in space-time if they are sincerely placed next to each other.

And yet, here’s I Wish It Was Christmas Today, a fun seasonal romp, complete – nay, replete – with jingling bells, good old-fashioned excitement and cheerful brevity. Initially, I thought it was a Strokes parody song – here’s a serious band doing a fun song!! Hurr, hurr, geddit? – but then it slowly dawned on me that it was too good and too, well, sincere in its playfulness to be a joke. Gosh.

And speaking of sincere, here’s Nova Scotia’s Cousins, a band whose solemnity firms the groundrock on which a series of bare, stripped-down songs are built. Around Their Waists grunts and growls as it lollops a pretty, bittersweet journey through life and love.

Cousins – Around Their Waists

At first it seems that their songs are too bleached plain – but it quickly dawns that the songs are so for good reason. Cousins make songs that are distant, pure and clear in both intent and direction. Their sound is basic because the most important things in life are too – and we’re left with a feeling of warm introspection. Cosy.

>Duzheknew? And other pertinent questions – answered!

Duzheknew? Thank you, Adam O’Reilly (for it is he) for creating the band name which writes it’s own headlines.

But past-tense befuddlement aside, Duzheknew seems to have a firm handle on what he’s doing. His songs are… well, just right. They are sharp and acidic and tart. They are focussed and have all the fat cut off. This bodes well.

It Came Out The Other Side, OK trembles with nervous ambition – a jittering, jerky song. It’s a bloodletting, an easing of tension, that shows Duzheknew to be an artist of some ability. The song shines and fades, gives and takes – and we hang on every word, eager to experience the climax.

Duzheknew – It Came Out The Other Side, OK

When it comes, it’s not the explosion anticipated, but a more economically restrained finish. After the building and building, we are buzzing too feverishly to feel let down by such teasing, and too pleased by the preceding sounds to care.

Duzheknew gingerly cribs a snippet of Talking Heads and a sliver of Pavement, but has a swivelling eye scouring everywhere else for ideas too. It’s tough to predict anyone’s path in any instance, but if Duzheknew keeps going, something interesting will happen. Perhaps he knews this already. Sorry, knows. Good stuff indeed.

>Ribbons, Brooklyn’s Mysterious Proliferation and Deeeeep Green

This is getting silly. Half of the bands I review now are from Brooklyn. Perhaps it’s a lot bigger place than I thought – or maybe there really is a raft of great new bands all emerging at once. I hope it’s the latter.

Ribbons are the latest Brooklynites to emerge, panting, from the mad cluster of bands that presumably forms the social make-up there. They have a loud, simple stripped-down sound – rock cut to Ribbons, if you will.

No Clouds‘ guitars peal quasi-automatically, a half-mechanical, half-alive looping chime of hypnotic beauty. Drums plod perfunctorily, the guitar drones and a flat lyric repeats: and really, it’s all that’s necessary – when the song finishes, the sadness felt over its passing is real and quite lovely.

Ribbons – No Clouds

And if Love Is Mysterious states the obvious in the title, the song doesn’t. A fade-in/fade-out, quick/slow, scattergun-drummed dash to the bleakest indiepop of the early 80’s and back again, it yearns and longs in the exact way most songs don’t.

If Ribbons were a colour, they’d be the very deepest of greens: dark, gloomy, but with the slightest, but entirely tangible suggestion of life. A band of direct beauty.

Image courtesy of

>Ghosts (No, Not *Those* Ghosts)

Now that the unholy trinity of The Laptop, The Internet and Garage Band allows every man and his dogged devotion to Dubstep to become a band, there’s an increasingly common problem.

Actually, there’s a whole raft of new problems, most of which stem from the astonishingly asinine nature of the majority of these half-hearted efforts which seem to be created purely to allow another sequin-T-shirted goon to boast to his ‘peeps’ in the pub that he’s, like, a musician, yeah?

But I digress. The main problems are the band names themselves. Even though English has over a million words to choose from, the same words keep getting chosen for more than one band, and thus squabbling ensues.

So Ghosts aren’t the same as these Ghosts. Or these Ghosts, these Ghosts or this Ghost. Lawyers: on your marks, get set, SUE! Today’s Ghosts in question are nothing like any of the others, which will at least help you to differentiate between them when confusion arises on iTunes.

Ghosts‘ music is, well, ghostly. No Lake is all thick mist, throbbing murk and swirling sonic fog. Don’t be shocked if you experience both a sudden chill and visions of a dead body lying twisted beneath icy water.

Ghosts are smart enough to extrapolate this sound into songs that have more soul – and Young Ghosts is the result: a rusty two minute pop song. It hisses and pops like a 1900’s wax cylinder discovered in a time capsule, and drone eerily, all the while maintaining a simple pop sensibility.

Ghosts are a band swamped in fuzz, enveloped in age and washed in sepia. They are from another, indefinable age – not tomorrow, today or even yesterday. Their sound is fresh but rotted, pure and dirty like a bloodied wedding dress. Nice.

>Today’s New Band – The Steppouts

Right now, I’m a one-man phlegm-factory. Thick, evil wads of the stuff. My head feels like it’s in a vice, and not even in a moderately entertaining way like in Casino. I caught this cold from a baby. Babies always have the worst colds.

The only weapon against this kind of aggressively omnipotent mucus is – and this is true – very spicy food, black coffee, neat whisky and noisy music. If you’re unsure, follow this simple rule: all the things that sanctimonious 1950’s public service films warned you about are your go-to weapons of choice.

Today’s New Band, The Steppouts are from Texas, so probably know all about being told that their favourite leisure activities are morally corrupting and offending The Jesus. And, supplying the loud musical dosage I need, their songs are broad, rough, raw, rock.

Tiger prowls into a strut, ends as a stomp, and takes an uncompromising rock route – “I can quit any time, but then I’d have to stop.” Funnily enough, Venison Stew is a hearty, rich and satisfying concoction; bluesy, naked, and tough.

If this kind of testosterone-drenched description makes The Steppouts sound like the sons of Ted Nugent, then I apologise. They’re not crass or blunt at all. They’re actually sensitive and thoughtful. It’s just that they can only explain their feelings via the medium of gutsy, crunchy, pared-down rock.

If they were a meal, The Steppouts would be a rare, gristly steak, with another, even rarer steak on top. They’re man music for modern men – the kind who’ll play their songs whilst chopping wood, and then rub a Scandinavian hand cream into the blistered palms. Mmm, supple. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – The White Noise Supremacists


Unable to resist taking a trip for the umpteenth time to the Fountains Of Pun, we valiantly returned with Today’s New Band, The White Noise Supremacists. Like me, you’re probably unable to shake the image of skinhead thrash metal from your minds. Good – their music will do that for you.
So, the unexpected: These Walls Will Burn and Splinter, sweeter and softer than marshmallow, is a bit tender, a bit gentle and a bit lovely. Meant To Be is similarly sad, drowsy and raw, coasting easily along a line that is often abused too create bland rock, and instead making something pure and good. She’s Soft Inside is tough and brittle and rounded.
The White Noise Supremacist’s name is part funny-ha-ha, part stroke of genius; jilting your expectations so hard that when you actually hear their songs, it’s with the freshest of ears. Clever devils. Listen to them here!

>Today’s New Band – 5 Turns 25

>Music/Life Synchronicity Moment #24986 took place this morning, and this time it featured an early 90’s ambient classic and, er, a road sign.

It was one of those electronic roadsigns, intended to flash up “Sorry for the inconvenience”, and yet, ironically, was inconveniently performing its best impression of a ZX Spectrum loading screen.

The important thing was that the flickering, when not giving epileptic drivers a few anxious moments, seemed to harmonise beautifully with Little Fluffy Clouds by The Orb, a song, remember, that found meaning in clouds. I suppose it’s not too big a leap to then find equivalent beauty in a spasmodic sign, which I did. It was a curiously relaxing sight.

If I’d been listening to Today’s New Band, 5 Turns 25, similar confusion may have ensued. They make music that is almost beyond ambient – only one step beyond the sound of a band warming up, and one step behind true coherency.

Elephant Platform aches with the rhythm of an iron lung, sucking and blowing ennui-filled sighs. New Hand, Same Brain twinkles with warm sunshine and summery delight, marshmallow-soft; welcoming but obtuse. Effects Of Colours is hearing shards of a song played far away, and caught only when the wind changes.

5 Turns 25‘s music is a beautiful, organised jumble of sonic texture, thoughtful clutter and deliberate, precise disjointedness. They’ll yank you, gently, from your daily grind/worries/chores, and you’ll emerge, 20 minutes later, in a fug of serenity. Yum yum yum. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – Delay Trees!

>’This is it,’ he kept repeating in his child-like voice, ‘this is really it.’ And so with that, Michael Jackson resorted to the oldest trick in the rock book – the LAST EVER TOUR. He’s playing at the Millennium Dome in London for what seems like eternity, milking ever drop of cash from his demented devoted fans. Here’s a video of some of those fans, by the way. See if you can spot the chubby man nearly wetting himself on the front row.

Inevitably, he’ll then do the same thing in every big city worldwide, for the rest of his life, until Vegas comes calling and he can see out his final days in garish non-dignity. Final shows, come backs and yet more final shows are par for the superstar musician course.

It’s easy to sneer at it all, but then I was first in line to see The La’s on their ill-fated ‘comeback’, which was possibly done for tax reasons alone, a few years ago.

Sneering is something that I doubt Today’s New Band, Finland’s Delay Trees, ever do. They seem far too nice to be cynical about anything. As dull as it is to keep highlighting how northern European bands and beautifully bright guitar-pop songs seem to go hand-in-hand, Delay Trees are another lovely example of that rule.

Songs like Tarantula Holding On, sweet and unassuming without being bland, manage to avoid cliché or dullness and engage on a simpler, gentler level. About Brothers takes a well-trodden route of jangling guitars, tinkling percussion and harmonised vocals, but ends up leaving you in a comforted heap of relaxed muscle.

Their songs are brighter and breezier than a children’s TV presenter, and about as threatening, but are so innocently enjoyable that you’ll feel instantly removed from the arch, art/fashion-rock that is the miserable norm. Zen out and listen here!

>Today’s New Band – Pop Fosters

>After musing on Monday about the difficulties of finding band members with a similar musical outlook, here’s an example of a band who, I think, fell happily together in a flash. They’re Pop Fosters, they’re Today’s New Band, and their initial conversation went something like this:

Sara Pop Fosters:Want to form a band in which thrashing sounds from the drums and guitar form the limits of our complications?”

Richie Pop Fosters: “Well… I can play the guitar REALLY LOUD and can YELP with the best of them…”

Sara Pop Fosters: “Let’s ROCK, sunshine”

And lo, the band was born. Listening to them is to hear the music that every rock band member secretly wants to make – yes, even Thom Yorke – but doesn’t dare to. Primal, base, no-frills: dress it up how you want, but songs like Your Music Is Shit will pull you down to their level and club you into normality.

Utilising the age-old techniques of splashy drums, raw guitars and even rawer vocals, Your Music Is Shit is Pop Fosters’ perfect calling card – a short, sharp, buzzy shock, pulling you back to what rock music is really about: noise, fun and not caring about what YOU think.

Songs Myopic and Self Health use the same trick in different ways, and to the same thrilling , crunchy effect. I remember Keane – the very blandest of bands, remember – getting excited because they had hooked up a keyboard to a Wah-Wah pedal. For them, this was progress.

Pop Fosters deride this as frippery and pretence. They are an antidote to the arrogance of bands who think that thoughtfulness=progress. Switch off and listen here!