>Ugly Megan, and Alexandra Burke’s Sincerity Vaccuum

Over two nights, I’ve seen two awful gigs. This will not do. The first band I will not name; they were young and new, and will surely improve.

But in the meantime, I will offer this nugget of advice: it’s fine to swagger about the stage like Ian Brown and Liam Gallagher‘s proto-lovechild, but only if you can back up your cocksure braggadocio with, you know, good music.

Oh, and never introduce another mindlessly drab U2-lite number with the words, “This one’s a fucking tune! Come on!” unless you enjoy the sight of a roomful of people raising quizzical eyebrows.

Still, at least they were sincere, unlike last night’s ear-harassment from X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke, who turned up in Manchester to pick up a large cheque and switch on the Christmas lights.

Insincerity made flesh, she actually used the, “Manchester is my favourite place to perform” line – and the crowd lapped it up. It was so embarrassing I didn’t know where to look. Then she ground out both her hits, offered a few more scripted blandishments and exited stage left.

As she did, she pretended to spot someone in the audience, pointed, performed an oh-my-god-can-you-believe-it! wave and then finally expunged herself from our drab lives. Sadly, the collective sigh of relief was conspicuous by its absence.

For all those who are recovering from similar half-hearted celeb-showpieces, Ugly Megan are the antidote. Gentle beyond measure on the surface, but unexpectedly steely and sexy beneath. “I really like your trousers but I’d prefer them on the floor,” sings Kathi on the delightfully nice ‘n’ sleazy One Night At My House.

Ugly Megan – One Night At My House

The template – guitar, cute female vocals and tinkling xylophone – has been used to death, but not in such an genuinely sweet, lusty way. And in Kathi and Orlando’s Revolution, their soft/barbed coupling makes even more sense.

Ugly Megan have also found a whole new niche: in covering Snoop Dogg‘s What’s My Name, they’ve – believe it or not – successfully melded twee pop and gangsta rap.

No, it doesn’t make sense to me either. But it works well, doesn’t seem to be a bad joke and sounds good. The opposite of Alexandra Burke then.

Photography by Deen O’Saurus

>Today’s New Band – Dirtblonde

>Is there anything wrong with simplicity? For anyone who considers Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band‘s complicated time signatures, endless multi-tracking and finger-wrecking chord changes as the pinnacle of human musical achievement, the answer would probably be ‘yes’.

The others who thing that The StoogesRaw Power is dumb fun done right would probably disagree, but they’d be too busy pogoing to even think about such complications. Today’s New Band are Dirtblonde, and they know the truth in unassailable Rock ‘N’ Roll Fact #1: a loud guitar is better than a quiet one.

The Hangman whistles and howls into your personal space, roughs you up and saunters off. “Yeah, I’m so wasted, and I’m sorry I ruined your life,” they offer by way of explanation, in the song of a similar name.

Listening to Call It Art, it occurred to me that I could barely remember the last time I heard a song where a chunky guitar and vocals were the only sounds to trouble the listener. No synth washes, drum machines or bleeps to fill the space, no lush engineering tricks, nothing other than tape hiss and a song. In a time when even the newest, greenest bands equate good ‘production values’ with success, this is welcome respite indeed.

They’ve just played the South By South West Festival (sorry, ‘SXSW‘, for you super-cool types), if that matters to you. It shouldn’t, really. They have no Myspace page. I like that. Their songs can be downloaded – for free! – at their website here. I like that too. Listen to Dirtblonde and revel in simplicity itself.

>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!

>Today’s New Band – Ghost In The Water – CENTENARY SPECIAL!!

>Almost astonishingly, today we publish the 100th band to appear on A New Band A Day. A Centenary! A Double Golden Jubilee! This is a (very) minor achievement of sorts, considering my attention span is comparable with that of the proverbial goldfish, and the transient nature of the Tubular Interwebs. However, it’s a happy occasion I suppose, even though I didn’t receive a telegram from the Queen.

Like truculent teenagers though, we don’t want to celebrate this too much, and would prefer to remain sulkily opposed to convention, whilst secretly longing for participation in it. Thus, Today’s new band was going to be, appropriately, one that embodies ANBAD‘s core ethos. Then it became clear that this would mean the appearance of a band that is anxious, annoying, deliberately obtuse, and with dubious personal hygiene, it was decided to just stick a good band on, like usual.

So with none of those things in mind, here’s Today’s New Band, Ghost in the Water, and they’re probably just about right if you’re interested in, you know, having a good time, whilst reflecting on life’s foibles. Hallucination is another one of those great songs that is the product of a lifetime consuming as many different types of music as possible.

It’s the song you’d want on at your wedding, pleasing everyone equally. Your uncle will dig the 70’s grooves, your stuck-in-the-Eighties cousin will crack his hip breakdancing to the synth squelches, and even your 16 year old Nu-Rave, ex-Emo, waiting-for-the-next-big-craze nephew will be fake-reminiscing about the Second Summer of Love in no time.

If this makes Ghost in the Water sound like one of those semi-generic French electro combos that seem to be genetically predisposed to grind out BANGIN’ CHOONZ and BANGIN’ CHOONZ alone, you’d only be half-right. The 4Traks remix of Cardinal Red is a weird splicing of folksy yearning, 80’s poodle-rock soloing and Bambaataa keyboard stabs. Even more weirdly, it works.

It’s a risky business, stirring all those discrete elements into one big melting pot, but thankfully Ghost in the Water have got away with it. Find yourself playing ‘Spot the Musical Influence’ here!

>The Seedy Seeds – Today’s New Band

>A New Band A Day is, apparently, indulging in Americanophilia at the moment. Over half of last week’s super-duper new bands were from the USA (scroll down for more, pop-pickers!), and guess what – today there’s another one cluttering up your ears with sweet sounds. An astute reader can draw a few conclusions from this.

Firstly, that A.N.B.A.D. band choices are entirely arbitrary and dependant on the whim of an easily bored writer, desperately looking for new things to listen to, whilst quietly sobbing. Secondly, A.N.B.A.D.‘s geographic knowledge is severely limited – last time a single continent was ‘explored’ for music, it became the needlessly localised and gimmick-y “Northern European Road Trip” , whereas I couldn’t identify Cincinnati on a map if a gun was held to my head and/or groin.

Huge apologies, then, to Today’s New Band, The Seedy Seeds, who, predictably, are from Cincinnati. They’re not content with writing unusually catchy bites of poppy indie, but even have the brass neck to squeeze a Kazoo solo into the joyous The Little Patton. Its zappy keyboard riff is so charming that the big broad chorus that follows it is a huge, lovely surprise. Earned Average Dance America, proudly flaunting its obtuse name, is a great him-her lyric over the hybrid banjo/Bontempi keyboard/accordion melody you’ve always been waiting for.

The Seedy Seeds are a great band, make no mistake. Their songs are cuter than Brad ‘n’ Angelina’s twins and similarly simple and compact. Listen to their super songs here!

>Today’s New Band – Transmittens

>Rock ‘n’ roll depends on surprises for its excitement. Just look at Coldplay and their plodding snooze-rock as an example of how predictability ruins any attempts of thrills. This is why Chris Martin, who is, remember, signed to a multi-million pound record deal with the multinational company EMI, writes Fair Trade slogans on his hand, and names his children after fruit. No-one seems to have pointed out to him that a simpler way of appearing ‘edgy’ would be to record some songs that don’t sound as if they are explicitly written for car adverts.

Today’s New Band, Transmittens, are all about surprises. Their name and music pops a big, happy, colourful clown’s balloon in front of your face, and because of that it’s easy to miss the glumly sung lyrics while you’re happily running around in the subsequent glitterstorm. Transmittens are a little bit like a down-tempo Bis. Not only is their sound reminiscent of an acoustic, less Japan-o-frenzied approach, but their cuteness is similarly tweaked to a more introspective level. That’s of course, assuming, that introspective cuteness is even possible.

Up All Night isn’t a tale of rock ‘n’ roll excess at all, but a story of someone not being able to stay up, even thought they’d like to. In Our Dreams the nursery-school melody disguises lyrics as grim as “Why oh why did we come all this way to say goodbye? Because dreams don’t come true – but we thought maybe they do,” and Saturday Socks is so stupidly upbeat that the glum lyrics get missed because you’ll be happily shaking your head like a 1960’s Top of The Pops audience member.

So, as such, Transmittens are a lovely mind-melting band, coating gloomy lyrics with so much sugar, you’d be happy to gulp them down all day long. Listen to their great songs here!

>Today’s New Band – Emi & Sophie

>Just like clichés involving buses, waiting and bewilderment at two arriving at once – you wait for one German band for ages, and then lo and behold, another follows almost instantly. A few days ago, Like A Stuntman wowed us as our New Band of the Day, and now – look! – here’s Emi & Sophie, just as Germanic and, stereotypically, just as efficiently great. They’re a duo – a bit like Roxette, but happily without the BIG HAIR and stadium pop tunes.

In some respects, it must be head-throbbingly frustrating being in a German band. Germany has it’s own thriving musical scene, yet to the rest of the world, Kraftwerk loom large over the whole damn thing, and every band that sounds vaguely electronic is condemned to comparison.

As such, it would be a shame not to continue in that vein. It is hard not to reference Kraftwerk’s stark electronic sounds when listening to Emi & Sophie. Help Me on their MySpace page www.myspace.com/mondwasser does all the bleeping and blooping you’d expect, but in such a winningly simple home-grown way, it will leave you feeling mildly joyful. In all, the songs sound like they’ve been knocked up on a Bontempi keyboard and will always continue to be – but like that’s a bad thing. Emi & Sophie are the sound of the German Bedroom Electro Scene* and all the more likeable for it.

*A real scene, honestly, Scenesters.