Douglas Firs. No, *This* Douglas Firs. Not That One.

It turns out there’s quite a lot of bands named after Douglas Firs. Who would have thought? In the interests of fairness, let us list them all:

  • The Douglas Firs – a ‘Jam Funk’ band, influenced by – yikes! – Ben and Jerry’s favourites Phish;
  • The Douglas Firs – a contemporary acoustic duo with ‘thought provoking lyrics’ who probably don’t know who Phish is (lucky them);
  • The Douglas Fir – tantalisingly singular, and in possession of a song called I Think I Loathe You;
  • Douglas FirsBelgian Ryan Adams-a-likes drop the definite article for a zany twist on the theme.

There’s more. I could go on, but Christ, I won’t. After reading the same band name over and over and over, the words start to lose their meaning, my already shaky grasp on the English language starts to loosen and I’d quite like to finish this article thank you very much.

So what is it about this tree that generates so many identical band names? I have done no research whatsoever, but am prepared to offer this explanation: all of the bands were founded by vain men called Douglas who wanted to see their names plastered across poorly-photocopied flyers for grimy gig venues the world over.

Here’s the Douglas Firs that I’m interested in. Funnily enough, this Douglas
Firs is the most unusual sounding of them all. Go figure.

Douglas Firs // Soporific

I’m all for self-explanatory names – as both A New Band A Day and Bad Cover Versions testify – and so wholeheartedly approve of the thought process behind the naming of a song which creeps in almost agonisingly slowly, mutates a few times and just as quietly slips out again.

At times echoing Radiohead at their most sedate, the song moves restlessly and rewards you for repeated listens. I’m not sure how many of the other Douglas Firs have songs about which that can be said. But do feel free to find out.

Inlets, Not Islet. Repeat: Inlets, Not Islet.

When I was sent a link to today’s new band, I thought, in my new-band haze, that I’d been sent a speckle of actual gold – the link to the fabled Islet Myspace page.

Islet, for all of you who are clearly uncool, are the ‘underground’ band de jour. So underground that until very recently they had no website, no digitised music, and indeed no online presence at all, leaving enthusiastic fans to do it for them.

It was either a lovely strategy, tilting in the face of convention, or a cynical attention-grabber that worked. I hope the former is true.

Of course, you can only fight the inevitable for so long, and now they have a very homegrown-looking site that, sadly, was made by professionals and maintained by a PR company.
**NB- Mark from the band Islet sent me a very polite email to point out that this was, in fact, totally untrue – he made it and runs it himself. This makes me very happy, and I hope Mark and Islet accept my apologies for stating rumour as fact!**

But anyway – I was sent the Inlets link, and any chance of an all-time ANBAD exclusive perished. Fortunately, Inlets are an equally fascinating proposition, blending silky smoothness with off-kilter quirk:

Inlets // In Which I, Robert

In Which I, Robert wrenches the low-end piano clunking from 70’s cop movies and bolts it to a lugubrious, yet jaunty melody. It’s a juxtaposition that works effortlessly – a prodding and dizzying song sung by a man who, for some reason, you’ll need to listen to.

It’s a shame, really. Inlets are just as worthy of home-made fan pages, breathless forum-chatter and ‘industry buzz’, and heck – now they have to do it all for themselves, just like every other new band. The world is not fair.

Photograph by Kristianna Smith

Son Capson, Tetris, Grand Unification Theories

Just how does a band simply vanish?

Death In Vegas: remember them? Four excellent albums, each largely different to the one prior; each accessible, but uncompromising; arty but not awkward; each tapping into the emotional core of the listener, yet capable of soundtracking a party.

It only took one badly-received album for them to disappear. Well, not quite – it was one badly-received album, some tantalisingly promising but aborted recording sessions with Oasis and the onset of Landfill Indie that cast them into the Great Lost Bands Desert.

Try googling them now – they don’t seem up to much, which is further proof that the Rock Universe operates on broadly different, confusing rules that seem especially so when compared to, say, common sense.

Never mind scientists attempting to find a Unifying Theory for this Universe, how about one that could ally prudent thinking to Rock ‘n’ Roll?

Speaking of which, I have the feeling that Son Capson will resist any attempts to integrate common sense into his songs.

The proof resides in When I Close My Eyes I See Tetris, a song that manically toys with the freshly dismembered remains of folk, acid-rock, acid-house, acid-acid and sea shanties, all the while cackling brightly.

Son Capson // When I Close My Eyes I See Tetris

When I Close My Eyes I See Tetris is the song that The Joker whistles along to whilst soaking in a deep bubble bath. Normality flounders helplessly as the dementedly springy beat squirts technicolor poster paint in every direction.

Son Capson‘s music is a vicious, yet necessary assault on normality, and a blisteringly crazed vindication of intuition and opposition of convention.

The Zookeepers: Gazing Into The Void, Laughing

Imagine the internet – all the insanity, all the zillions of disparate thoughts, all the ridiculous fetishes – condensed into song, and you will have an idea of The Zookeepers. Perhaps they’re among the first bunch of real Internet Bands: shaped not by the content, but its buzzing, ever-altering nature.

The Zookeepers craft a shuffle of too-short songs and spun-out ideas, each a statement of sorts. It’s all held together with love and sticky-tape, and songs like Chicken are blistering examples of exhilarating Pop – albeit Pop that’s been smashed up and reassembled with demented genius.

The ZookeepersChicken

Fat Tax hammer its blunt beliefs home with even blunter riffs. Ballin Outrageous spurts blood, horns and splashing cymbals – all manically, all at once.

Sometimes they sound like generic teen-punk, sometimes they use that ridiculous vocoder-autotune effect, sometimes they croon like the whitest, slickest boyband. Often all these feats are achieved in one song.

None of these songs means nothing, though some manage to touch that blank void, before skipping away laughing. Brilliant, in a very real sense.

The lack of a new band yesterday was due to excess sex ‘n’ drugs ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll*. Apologies.

*Actually, it was an internet problem. But that sounds dull, in all honesty.

>Twinkranes and Discrete Molecules Of Simultaneity

“Unless a person passes through some Great Experience, that person’s life will have been for naught. Such an experience doesn’t have to be explosive or murderous… often a quiet life of loneliness can be its own Great Experience.” – Douglas Coupland, Girlfriend in a Coma

This rule is applicable to bands too. There are legions of bands who were good enough to make it, but for one reason or another, didn’t. I wonder if they still consider their experience a Great one? Or whether the lack of fame and money fundamentally stunted their trip?

These thoughts will cross Twinkranes‘ mind at some point too. Will Twinkranes‘ experience be Great? Who knows? But their music is far enough outside of normality to rank it as an interesting one. Their music is psychedelic in the truest, most right sense, and songs split, suddenly, with swathes of noise that crawl and slither.

When lyrics do appear – as in The Market Of The Bizarre – they jar gracefully against the sounds, shimmering and scooting like mercury above the music: alien, seductive, there for a reason you can’t quite place.

Twinkranes – The Market Of The Bizarre (Sample)

Twinkranes’ music also brought Keith Tyson’s Bubble Chambers: 2 Discrete Molecules of Simultaneity to mind. Dual universes, chance happenings, the random nature of life. Twinkrane touch on these mind-boggling topics, clever, quiet and calm. Great Experiences for all.

>Today’s New Band – Turquoise Cats

Sometimes there are bands on ANBAD that trample all over convention: ideas like song structure, composition and ooh, I don’t know, sound itself. In truth, these bands are my favourites, regardless of whether the results of their innovation are actually pleasant to listen to or not. It’s the daring and disregard for conventional wisdom that’s the thrill more than the listening experience itself.

For this divisive reason, I try to keep these bands to a minimum, in an attempt to avoid driving readers away in droves, but I allow myself the occasional moment of self-indulgence when it’s clear that a band is thoroughly loopy but still producing good music.

Thus: Today’s New Band, Turquoise Cats, defiantly odd producers of peculiar music. And a sense of humour too, if song titles like OMGLOLWTFBBQ are anything to go by. OMGLOLWTFBBQ trembles terrifically; then rises, menacing and angry, throbbing and flailing.

The Beastie Boys said that Hello Nasty was influenced by, amongst other things, Boggle, and maybe a similarly dice-based family game determined the outcome of Turquoise CatsYahtzee, a song that bubbles and burbles. Crazed clapping, musical boxes and demented clicking all find a home here, and whtfltpttrns/mgphrrstrs is, frankly, an exercise in summoning up eerie sounds, which force your skin to crawl confusedly.

Reviewing bands like Turquoise Cats isn’t easy because there’s so little that actually makes sense to go on. What this does mean though, is that the listener isn’t allowed any connection with the music other than those allowed by the music makers, and the devolution of power is a nice feeling. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – Golau Glau

Mystery is a vital component in a musician’s armoury. The less that is revealed to eager rock journalists, the more teenage fans fill in the gaps with wild imagination, mentally spiralling the band to mystical levels.

In which case, Today’s New Band, Golau Glau, must be ranked higher than The Beatles in the minds of their fans. They are reticent in the extreme. This is the email I received from them:

“”Golau Glau” are two of our favourite words that go well together. We like Wales and cats, and whales but not Cats.”

And that was it. It left so many unanswered questions: What does Gloau Glau mean? Why Wales? Which Cats do they hate? Stevens? Deeley? I replied, breathlessly, but only received more cryptic emails in return – and the only confirmations were their status as an ‘anonymous collective’ that no longer live in Wales and that the Cats they hate is the musical (a reasonable stance).

Thus, we are to deduce all from their music, just as they intend. So: Placer Hush is a dreamy clatter, hissing angrily and throbbing with monster synth stabs, over vocals that vanish into the swirl. Virtual Boy is a polyrythmic paean to Nintendo’s failed vomit-inducing console, a skitter of drums occasionally, and usefully, interrupted by computer noodling and bleeping.

With so little else to go on, we can all make definite and confident statements about their music: Golau Glau aren’t going to stick their heads above the parapet to disagree. All of which means that you can shape them any way you desire, and in these days of strictly designated band cool, this is a treat. So feel free to disregard any analysis I have made above, and make up your mind for yourself.

>Today’s New Band – March On Moscow

>One of the real joys of running A New Band A Day is finding a band or artist right at the embryonic stage, where the qualities that seep out of their songs are nothing more compolicated than raw talent, hope and amateurism. Those three attributes are, together, a thrilling proposition – and just as likely to result in disapppointment as much as novel pleasure.

Today’s New Band , March on Moscow, is ‘boxfresh’, as a sneaker-fetishist might say, but has a spark, a barb – something indescribable, triggering the desire to listen again, more intently. At the time of review, MoM has one song to be heard – Several Times – and it’s a wild, intense, multiple-identity song that revels in instrumental dabbling, driving onwards into the self-made darkness. It’s an inventive past/future/present melding of sounds.

So March on Moscow can be a case study of newness – a young man throwing caution to the wind, doing something that he loves, and praying that it works for others too. It does. Good luck, March on Moscow. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – Sleepy Sun

>I woke up this morning with a sore head and a note with a code-number on it, written in my handwriting. I was in a room I didn’t recognise and, looking out of the window, in a part of town I didn’t know.

As the memories of the previous night’s celebration with some Spanish Barcelona-supporting friends slowly returned, I pulled on my clothes, realised the code was needed to get through the security gate out of the apartment block, and tried to figure out how to reach ANBAD Towers.

Taking a wild directional gamble, I travelled across the city on a completely alien route. I passed legions of grey-suited officinistas clutching onto cardboard cups of sweet coffee for dear life; young lawyers wearing double-breasted suits, desperate to disappear amongst anonymous legal peers; nervous men in their best clothes queueing outside the army recruiting centre.

My decision to sleep on the floor of friends (Gracias Alex, Diego and Victor) allowed me to see Manchester with new, if bleary, eyes. Bleary, you say? How about Today’s New Band, Sleepy Sun, who are the aural equivalent of a slow, hungover morning in bed.

Song Sleepy Son lurks, the guitar leering and growling. The songs lurches, creeps and surges with the fuzzy confidence drawn from that morning-after-a-successful-night-before feeling. New Age is 50% feedback-shriek and 50% feline prowl.

Sleepy Sun are appropriate for hungover times, come-down times and dreamtimes. Cosy, awkward, glancing backwards, forwards and drifting with considered aimlessness, if they don’t slide slowly into your day, nothing will. Listen here!

Photograph by Brett Wilde

>Today’s New Band – The Love Kevins

>The second gig I ever went to was to see Manic Street Preachers in 1996. They were just post-Richey, pre-Big Time and were noisier, angrier and more intelligent than anyone I had ever met growing up in Stoke on Trent. I pushed to the very front and spent a happy hour crushed against glum, milk-white girls wearing kohl and leopard print.

The Manics’ primary attraction is their wilful perverseness; actively encouraging people to dislike them, releasing hit-and-miss albums that confuse the unsuspecting. They have veered, in deliberate disorientating fashion, from smooth rock to grating punk to electro-flop and back and forth and back again as and when they like it, not us. And all the while not caring, growing stronger, tighter, feeding off the anger, hate, bewilderment.

Now they’re releasing a new album, produced recorded by another man who doesn’t give a shit – Steve Albini. It prises open the past, using Richey’s lyrics, and deliberately treads over fan/media fetishising of 1994’s The Holy Bible. Perhaps it’ll be great, perhaps it won’t be. It doesn’t matter. That’s the point.

Today’s New Band, The Love Kevins, have songs with titles whose themes might have interested the Manics a decade or so ago. Oh, and just take a second to fully appreciate the minor brilliance of The Love Kevins’ name. Continue.

You’re going to die, you’re going to die alone,” is the chorus We’re All Going To Die, a song whose sweet melody that couldn’t vary much more from the vocal sentiments. Plain, bare and calm, it’s the sounds of objective lushness. Stop Being Perfect passes quickly and quietly before you realise how enjoyable it was.

The Love Kevins are from Malmo in Sweden, and – surprise – have the Swedish way with top pop tunes, and add to it a dollop of strange, unexpected perverseness. Perhaps the Manics would like them, in secret. You will – listen here.