The Vaccines Are Not Wu Lyf But They Might* Know A Man Who Is

“Who are The Vaccines?” we are supposed to ask, for here is another band merrily ploughing the Anonymity Furrow that has proved so useful and controversial for the mysterious Wu Lyf. (Just cast a lazy eye over the glut of indignant and barely literate conjecture on the Pigeon Post)

Still, it works. I want to know more. And so the exploration begins.

If You Wanna // The Vaccines

Their website gives nothing away, save for a selection of nicely cropped photos, and one avenue that we can confidently close off is the suggestion that they are purveyors of Seattle crunch-punk: these Vaccines certainly aren’t the same Vaccines that wrote Git Fucked Up, hearty and thrilling as that song may be.

So we’re left with the song to go on: alone, fragile, vulnerable – just what they wanted. When I covered Wu Lyf a while ago, I made no mention of the band’s music – a lame, quasi-Situationist jibe at their unknown status.

This was a cheap jibe, yes, and one I won’t repeat here, because If You Wanna is a delicious slab comprised of half-60’s vibe-pop and half juddering drum clout. It’s so fun, slick, skyscraping and confident that it needs talking about.

It’s also all we’ve got, all they’ve given, and all, frankly, I want at the moment. A face or two would spoil my mental image. And overcoming that hurdle is their next big challenge. But between then and now, we can simply enjoy the song. You know, the important bit.

Begin breathless exploration here, and excitedly post any discoveries below…

*or might not.

>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.

>Ninjastep, Hyper-Criticism and Dreadful Tightrope Analogies

> I usually pay little heed to a band’s name. Atari Teenage Riot, for example, is truly ridiculous, though frankly, ATR fans were too busy getting mental with the thrash/punk/d’n’b/speed-metal insanity to ponder the minutiae of the band’s moniker.

So if the name ‘Ninjastep’ seems a bit… daft and rubs me up the wrong way, who cares? And if the band members are actual ninjas, then all is wholeheartedly forgiven (and please don’t silently slice me up in my sleep).

Ninjastep have forced a selection of sounds together that are often incompatible, and present to us, the endlessly bewildered listener, with bass-heavy, slow-beat songs that are too tough for ‘chillout’ (yuk) and not fast enough to disappear into the ever-present miasma of mentalist dubstep.

See Blow Me as proof: a song cobbled together from strange found-sound vocals, instrumental segments that normally would be out of place, and throbbing bass to shatter earwax.

Ninjastep – Blow Me

Production Line is a song that transmogrifies a muted trumpet and forces it into a echo-drenched dub-tinged stomper with a bowel-loosening bassline. Songs like this are notoriously difficult to pull off with aplomb, and always flirt with the dangers of sounding like a school choir trying something ‘edgy’.

Ninjastep have got it just about right, tip-toeing down that tightrope that has idiocy on one side, depressing normality on the other, and a baying audience all around. Unusual and new.

>Squinancywort – Anonymity Rules

You know what to expect from modern leftfield electronic music by now. Made as a one person/laptop hybrid operation, the creator will hide behind a bank of deliberately obtuse sounds, strange imagery (musical and visual) and a series of curious song and artist names.

So far, so predictable. What makes returning to these seemingly identikit bands worthwhile are the songs – each invariably packed with more original sonic ideas than a lifetime of indie jangling.

They might not make you hum along, or think about poverty, or chew your Subway footlong in time (that’s Coldplay’s job), but if you’re an audio magpie like me and just want to hear something shiny and new, you’ll keep going back and back and back for more.

Squinancywort: see? That’s the spirit. Odd name, anonymous creator, pictures of flora and fauna on the Myspace page. According to the Basic Rules, all these signifiers are to be ignored, so let’s do just that and get to the music, yeah?

An Exultation Of Skylarks, vast, ominous and throbbing, sounds almost random in its composition, but grows in a way that could only be through the interference of a creator (divine or otherwise). Gorgeted Puffleg is a similarly spiralling, all-consuming affair, and is the kind of music that could lull you to sleep or keep you awake depending on your circumstances.

Squinancywort makes sounds that hum, whistle and devour themselves in one relentless forward motion. Success here is defined by the distance the songs put between themselves and normality, and on that basis, Squinancywort is a strange, winningly creative curio.

>In The City Special: Ou Est Le Swimming Pool

At a music convention like In The City, rumour and hype swirl together to form a noxious fog that can engulf even the most seasoned and cynical new band seeker. Avoiding bands surrounded by hype is one of the basic rules of following rock music, and yet I willingly traipsed along to see two of the main ‘buzz’ bands, drunk on a few begrudging words of encouragement from a middle aged A&R man.

The club was packed on both occasions. One of these bands was actually cheered onto stage before they had even played a note, and yet when their guitars were actually plugged in, they were disappointingly risk-free, and average at best. So when I found myself in another crush of haircuts and PR sweat, I expected little. Half an hour later, after Ou Est Le Swimming Pool had finished, I still wasn’t sure if they were the best or worst band I’d ever seen.

On reflection, I realised that this was the best reaction I could have hoped for. Even ignoring their linguistically challenged of-the-moment name, the band is crammed with weird, admirable anomalies.

The two keyboard players looked like a before-and-after picture of a Pet Shop Boy who’d drunk a pint of LSD. One was in a geography teacher’s grey suit, and the other sported a moustache, vomit-coloured shirt, and a vividly coloured scarf wrapped around his head. They both played thrillingly big music; stabbing chords and huge drumbeats.

Contrast them with the two singers who emerge from the shadows, one a Burberry-clad Simon Le Bon mini-me, the other a boyband escapee. They both sing with a sincerity and passion that jars hard against a band set-up that is so post-ironic it has become pre-irony, and thus sincerity. Clever.

The response from everyone who saw them was the same: bewilderment and then a creeping realisation that Ou Est Le Swimming Pool were the most memorable band of In The City.

I could describe the songs to you as usual, but for once, I don’t think words could do them justice. Listen for yourself and feel a band more polarised than a trucker’s Aviators.

>Today’s New Band – Hudson Mohawke

Two brain-fudging mentalism bands in two days? Surely not – that would be unrestrained madness! And yet it’s true: after yesterday’s mind-Boggling (that’s a monstrously weak joke that you’ll ‘get’ after reading the post) band, here swaggers along another, leering contemptuously at your sanity.

So, cower in fear before Today’s New Band, Hudson Mohawke, whose pun-tastic devotion to lame 90’s action-comedies warrants them a place on ANBAD. Hudson Mohawke won’t damage your eyes, like the movie will, but the unrestrained, crazed weirdness of the sounds might worry your eardrums.

ZooO00ooO00oO0m sounds like a computer linked to a radio telescope that’s registering every strange, possibly alien, sound arriving from outer space with a differently pitched bleep. There’s no real order to the bleeping, but it sounds like it may all be connected in some way you just can’t quite understand.

Ice Viper staggers around a seedy nite-club, gropes at 80’s synth-funk, touches it inappropriately, and shoves it out into the back alley to slump, confusedly. Still On It thumps and quivers, an acid-drop-soul smooch to woo and unease in equal measure.

Hudson Mohawke is a pop merchant with a huge, bizarro twist. Slick, and cranky, like an alcoholic 80’s soap-hunk. 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.