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.

>Today’s New Band – Pooch

>Living out of a rucksack has a myriad of inconveniences – the primary being all those creased clothes – but on the whole, it’s a fairly charmed and streamlined existence. Happiness arrives through lack of possessions; a state of being almost diametrically opposed to usual life.

With the complications stripped away, living an almost care-free existence becomes the norm. It’s a bit like being a child again, except without your mum calling you in for fish fingers and chips at five o’clock.

Perhaps this is why so many people live an on-the-road life – bands, on the whole, love touring (though I bet Bono still wishes his mum would call him and those nice boys The Edge, Adam and The Other One in for tea now and again. Even tiny, monster-ego’d rock superstars need a bit of mothering now and then).

Pooch – Today’s New Band – are a bit egg-and-chips-for-tea in some ways. They’re simple, tasty and satisfying, and their songs go straight for the singin’ and dancin’ jugular.

Killing Me is a grubby disco thrash, and leaves boring stuff, like subtlety, to Radiohead. Pooch want you dancing, now, until you collapse in a happy, sweaty heap.

Spade is a more gravelly, grunting version on this theme, bassily shoving their wares under your nose, but demanding you to move, all the same. They perfect this DANCE, NOW! ideology in Fashionista and French Kiss.

There’s no shame in ‘just’ making music to dance to, though people will tell you it’s a dumb, pointless exercise. Don’t listen to them – if being intelligent and worthy was as much fun, then everyone would be doing it already. The rest of us can have our fun cake and eat it. Listen here!

Photograph by Stephen Edgar

>Today’s New Band – Ono Palindromes!

>Unfathomable Human Brain-Wrongs Number 23,445: I can remember the number plate of my parent’s car that they had when I was seven (CRE 887K), but I just can’t begin to scrape useful information out of my woolly head – is Mother’s Day this month or next? What is my best friend’s phone number? When was Kung Fu by Ash recorded?

Actually, I can answer the last one – it was written on Boxing Day in 1994, and it took five minutes. It was recorded the next day. I read this information from the CD inlay, and it has stuck, forever. Such is the information-absorbing power of the music-obsessive teenage mind. From the excitable sounds of Today’s New Band, Ono Palindromes, they might have similar stories from their own youth.

Their songs are drenched with the love of rock music past and present. This sounds a bit glib – all bands love music, durrrrrr – but there are bands who love music for the beauty of the sound and how it makes you feel, and then there are bands who love music because it allows them to look moody and indulge in dubious sexual encounters in dingy dressing rooms. Ono Palindromes are firmly in the former camp, but I imagine would welcome some of the more mucky outcomes of the latter. Hey – they’re only human.

Or are they? Their songs are precise wafers of dreamy rock. Surely there’s a computer programme that can do this now. Kitty Magic has the sound of your whole record collection distilled into one furiously exhilarating yelp, and when you’ve stopped blurting out the great songs it sounds like, you’ll realise it’s actually an ace song itself.

The End is a coiling, swishing and foggy dive into the kind of wide, expansive rock sound which rarely works satisfyingly, but Ono Palindromes find the way to make it perky and lush. Beautiful Noise is a song whose title sets itself up for a fall, but struts on fearlessly, starting with a chorus, before launching into another one, and then another, all over a melody that is almost to chirpy for its own good.

Ono Palindromes have just changed their name from Young Sensation. I prefer the new name, for what it’s worth – which is very little, as the only thing that really matters is that Ono Palindromes are a band that’ll make your ears buzz with delight and your mind melt into a warm slurry of happiness. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – Kezzie Beat

>Deep breath, and straight in: Today’s New Band, Kezzie Beat, makes music that is nerdy, obscure, almost incomprehensibly repetitive and mainly of interest to a selected few who consider early 90’s videogames to have the Best Music Ever. For these reasons alone, we should laud bands like this as a precious commodity.

To take a Gameboy or a NES as a starting point from which to make music isn’t really as unusual as it may seem. Limiting your sonic options in this way is akin to a band picking the same combo of drums, bass and guitar as a million other bands have before. Kezzie Beat starts with her limited palette in an attempt to create something more than the sum of its parts.

It’s a success – and here’s where she differs from many of her peers in the Chiptune/8-bit/whatever scene: where most songs produced in this way can be admiringly described as “the soundtrack to a videogame you’ve never played,” Kezzie Beat‘s songs step gingerly away from the obscure-Japanese-videogame-composer template. Her music takes hesitant steps towards life, love and happiness – you know, the big things that don’t involve cheat codes, mid-level-checkpoints or CONTINUE Y/N?

In songs like Evaporating An Ocean, she attempts to inject as much life as possible, flailing to get out of the end-of-level boss rut with some satisfyingly tactile, fuzzy grunting sounds, a manically bleepy melody and atypical rhythms. 233 is joyously smart, bright and wide-eyed – almost touching. Not quite – the sheer mechanical nature of the 8-bit computer sounds have a defiantly inhuman sound – but almost.

Kezzie Beat: where the videogame bleep nearly held hands with human emotion. That’s close enough. Listen here!

>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 – 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!