Sunglasses: Mercurial Noiseniks; Awkward Comparisons Ahoy!

The World Cup is one week away. One week! I’m so excited about the World Cup that I’m beyond the joyful constant-vibration stage and well into the much darker, more worrying “buy any associated merchandise within grabbing distance” phase.

The best thing about the World Cup – after the football itself – is the crud that surrounds it.

Crud like this tie-in dirge-song, which, astonishingly, is Serbia’s official World Cup anthem. Or maybe more grouchy, neurotic and home-spun crud like this surprisingly risible effort by Mark E. Smith from The Fall. This kind of hit-and-hope tosh clings magnetically to big football tournaments, and in all honesty, the world is a much better, if less tuneful, place for it.

Multi-rhythmic, expansive and arty: Sunglasses won’t be making a desperate football tie-in song any time soon.

Sunglasses // Stand Fast

Perhaps they ought to, because their international, whirling sound reeks of dizzy hustle and bustle. Songs like Stand Fast are so dense and multi-layered that other bands could construct a whole album of songs from the contents.

There’s a strange, and seductive, contrast within their songs: lush, creamy sounds jutting roughly against the lo-fi so-what ethics of the composers. Stand Fast sounds like it was put together hap-hazardly, with all the faders pushed up and all fingers crossed for good luck.

This might ring true if it wasn’t for the fact that all their other songs are just as daringly assembled, and just as successful.

It would of course be hugely glib to make a comparison between Sunglasses and a footballer to round off the whole article, but hey, this is ANBAD, not Time magazine.

So: Sunglasses would be 1994’s surprise top-scorer Gheorghe Hagi: left-footed, mercurial, obscure, brilliant.

Trash Kit, Tribute Acts, Forest Analogies

All music recycles the past – it has to in order to generate new ideas, just like any other art form. But it’s safe to say that, within the realms of guitar music at least, this retrospective thievery has become the ends and not the means.

‘So what?’, you might say. But when bands steal ideas, attitudes or sounds from the past and fail to add their own splash of colour to the mix, then we’re all being short-changed, and the bands become, essentially, tribute acts.

And if I want tribute act, I’ll brave the onslaught of weak puns and  go and watch AB/CD or The Smyths. The real bands we all want are those that figure out their own sound, or at least have a go at it.

Trash Kit are trying to find a new route through the dense forest of tedious plod-rock. So far, they’re making exciting, white-light excursions into the darkness, and emerging, triumphant, with songs that practically vomit with breathless excitement.

Trash Kit // Cadets

Cadets, frankly, is as stimulating and energetic a song as you could hope for on a Monday morning. Jittering, restless and crammed with texture; waif-like, needle-sharp and blisteringly brief – this is a song from a truly confident band.

Cadets is a song that could only exist right now; Trash Kit having ground up a dozen old songs and formed something new and exciting. And when they make it big, I have first dibs on the following woeful tribute band names: Flash Kit, The Trash Kids and Australian Trash Kit. Back off.

Not Squares: Well Weapon, Yeah? No.

Expectations: quashed. Norms: avoided. Head: scratched. Not Squares use cowbells, ‘dirty synths’, tight double-speed drums and disco basslines, and yet the band is not instantly hateful and their songs are not the kind of generic ADHT nonsense found on mobile phone adverts. So what gives?

Call me a naive, old cynic, but what drives me up the wall is when a two-bit band scrabble aboard the most fleeting of bandwagons, whelp out a truly woeful, turgid two-bit song and make a success of themselves, all because they were bright/stupid enough to harmonise with the two-bit musical flavour du jour.

In truth, and to fully labour a metaphor, this doesn’t just drive me up the wall, but over it, down the other side and power-slides me all the way to Madsville.

So Not Squares leave me at a puzzling mental impasse: any other band making music like this would make me howl with rage, but I just can’t be angry – they’re having too much innocent fun in the frantic buzz-saw fluctuations that make up Asylum.

Not SquaresAsylum

For all I know, Not Squares could be identikit Nathan Barleys, and Asylum might have been mashed-up on their Wasp Speechtools, but I don’t think so. Youth, breezy youth, all crammed into one gleeful song – and all this delicious naivety is there to offer hope for us all.

>Mike Yes Yes Ersing, and Lunacy – The Spice Of Life!

Everyone has a song that, when heard, will whip them up and away to a moment in their past. Mine is the title track of Spiritualized‘s Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, and only the opening space-shuttle bleeps are needed for an involuntarily reliving of heady art college days – the tacky plastic smell of cheap acrylic paint, the groping of strange art concepts and stranger art students.

Now Ladies And Gentlemen… has just been re-released, with the obligatory extra discs of new material, in an exciting black variation of the original’s pill-popping packaging. For once, the extra odds and ends aren’t superfluous, but, through long blasts of a capella gospel choirs and ambient guitar wobbles, fully explain the creative journey of the album.

Similar explanatory evidence might de-tangle the tortured complications of Mike Yes Yes Ersing‘s work. Whether the songs would dreamily evoke days gone by, or simply leave a ribbon of burnt-out synapses is another matter. For Mike Yes Yes Ersing has created a body of work that is nuanced as it is crazed, as utterly creative as it is head-spinning.

His songs are short, razor-sharp and playful in the way that a toddler who’s just found a nailgun is. Some songs, like A Priori Insistence Teething are dreamy, beautiful and ethereal – as angelic as anything you’ll hear all year. Others, like Mood Dependant Retrieval, are close to having been plugged straight into the mind of a schizophrenic.

Mike Yes Yes Ersing – A Priori Insistence Teething

Mike Yes Yes Ersing‘s songs scream to be heard. Menace, lunacy, happiness, desire – it’s all in his waif-like song-slivers. Each delivers a surprise, varying manically from the last. A true, thrilling original.

>Today’s New Band – Basketball

When I was in France, while the Tour de France was snaking its sweaty, wild-eyed way through the countryside, my tent was pitched high on a hill, which in turn was overlooked by Mont Ventoux. It’s a huge, imposing lump of a mountain, undulating, steep and bereft of trees and other life near the summit. The penultimate stage of the Tour finished on the top of it, where presumably the riders fell straight off their bikes into a huge heap of cramping limbs and destroyed will.

In the next tent was a crazy Norwegian. Most Norwegians are slightly crazy, in a winsome and carefree way, and Thor – that was his name – was no different. He was visiting to see the tour and pootled off each day on his bicycle, returning looking as fresh as a daisy in the evening. Frankly, I wondered if he rode as far as the local bar, and spent the day sipping a Pastis or two, watching Le Tour on Eurosport.

At the end of the day when the cyclists passed through, he returned, puffing at bit as usual. ‘Did you see the Tour?’ I asked him. ‘Yes, yes, it was super nice,’ he replied. Then I asked him where he’d spectated. ‘Oh,’ he said with a sniff and a nod towards the vast mountain, ‘at the top of Ventoux.’

He’d cycled some 100Km, up the mega-hill, to catch the official riders finishing. ‘It got a bit cold up there,’ he said, ‘ so I found some newspapers and stuffed them under my shirt.’ Norwegians are crazy.

Bands that have a similar waft of lunacy about them are the ones worth listening to. They go the extra, mile without even realising. Take today’s New Band, Basketball. They say that they’re from Vancouver/Split/Barcelona. For a band that needs to rehearse, chat and you know, be a band, they aren’t making things easy for themselves.

That fresh lunacy slops freely all over their grubby, bouncy sound, hoovering up ideas and scrabbled bits of sound from here, there and everywhere, and spitting out an all-new, all-cracked hybrid. S.I.E.M.P.R.E gibbers, shudders and wobbles bassily, flipping from one sound to another, an exercise in orchestrated over-productiveness. It’s a thrilling soundsmash, the frequent changes of direction proving an exciting virtue, not a gimmick.

Journey To The End Of The Night incorporates the feel (but not the sound) of the currently fashionable-again Afrobeat feel – possibly by accident, such is Basketball’s free-wheeling direction. It’s no gutter-level stab for prescience, but is appropriately and deftly interpolated into a shimmering, bright and alive song.

Interweaving the sound of many cultures into one new sound is a practice fraught with po-faced, disaster-hued hazards. Basketball avoid this easily. They are a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-faceted motley crew, who’ll tickle your fancy, and leave you bewildered by their cunning. A wild and unexpected treat. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – Crashing Humous

>I watched 20 minutes of The Da Vinci Code movie. The book was stupefyingly bad and guess what – a clunker of a book became a clunker of a movie, too. It seems commendably perverse when you consider how many good books are butchered into poor movies.

Anyway, I watched it all the same, knowing I’d hate it. Experiencing something in the knowledge that it will be unpleasant in order to see just how bad it is must be a trait unique to humans. It would certainly explain Phil Collins’ career.

I didn’t think I’d like Today’s New Band, Crashing Humous. The jokey name, the seemingly-ironic synths, the semi-serious rapping all pointed towards a student time-filling joke band. Inevitably, I liked them.

Bus Dance Feat. Dave and In Town flit with in-jokes, stabs at humour and musical parody. That these attempts didn’t always work doesn’t matter – their songs are a swift glimpse into the lives of a bunch of mates who want to have a band, and have made one. It’s their angle, their song, their lives – warts and all.

Songs pass in tight bleeps, washes of sound and whispers, and in Uphill Mountain, Crashing Humous have a song that nearly exceeds the tight boundaries imposed on it. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – Apple Eyes

>Innovators in pop are very rare. And when there is, a familiar pattern emerges: Proponent of new sound gets minor fame through aforementioned newness of sounds. Others quickly pick up new technique/style, and due to further innovation become even more famous. Then everyone else follows suit, and charts are flooded with dreary watered-down nonsense. Bad times. Such is the self-consuming nature of pop.

Like everything in pop music, the laptop ‘n’ traditional guitar-band combo is nothing new. But it was once. Today’s New Band, Apple Eyes, have grasped this idea and, with sticky fingers and mucky palms, squeezed a new shape from it – their shape.

Wild Beasts stands out by a country mile; a song of rare invention, an evolution of ideas and a candyfloss chorus on top. Bleeping and shimmering like an electronic song but infused with an old folk feel, giving warmth and humanity, it’s an example of making a song that is more than the sum of its parts.

Apple Eyes are new – duh – but that means even more is coming. If they can maintain this standard, we’re all winners. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – In Grenada!

>Having seen Oliver Stone’s JFK for the first time, here are my considered observations:

  1. After three hours of a movie, both my buttocks go numb
  2. Back and to the left back and to the left back and to the left ZOMG BLACK OPS!!1!!!1!!
  3. If any film was destined to be identified as a ‘dizzying tour de force’ by lazy journalists and film students everywhere, this was it.

It’s hard not to be entirely in thrall with such a brilliant assembly-job like JFK. It pulls so many different strands together with such intelligence and coherence, it doesn’t really matter if the story itself is bananas or not.

Today’s New Band pull off a similar trick, I suppose. In Grenada have created a dense, warm, attractive sound by fusing the old and the new, the grand and the slight.

Broken Castle
is what the Arcade Fire might sound like if they weren’t so humourless – it’s a cheery, clobbering romp. Beating Heart, suitably pulsating, throbs with drive and determination. In these songs, they sound world-weary and happy to be alive all at once.

Whatever it is that their songwriter eats for breakfast, I want some, because all of In Grenada’s songs are urgent and confident, piledriving their folksy melodies into a bigger rock template. Need vim? Need vigour? Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – Now

>If you ever want a reminder of the power of pocket money and a taste of its indiscriminate, bewildering influence on all our lives, just take a look at the pop charts. There is always, without exception, a heavily promoted, quasi-‘urban’ pop band that makes teenage girls weak at the knees, teenage boys boisterous, and the rest of us stunned at the stupidity of humanity.

Check out R&B/Hip-Hop/Mentalist act N-Dubz. Once you get past the sheer awfulness of their name, brace yourself for the utter lunacy involved in their being – a whirlwind of ‘street’ posturing, ridiculous hats and faux-sincerity. And that’s before you even consider the music. ‘The kids’ lap it up feverishly.

The good news is, that given time, they’ll move onto better music. Hopefully, this will include Today’s New Band, Now. They make music about as far removed from N-Dubz as is possible, and with songs like Splurge, have a neat line in niggling melody, self-descriptive song titles, and weirdness.

Now are defiantly unusual, not attempting to cater to any specific audience, not caring what others think. It’s the good side of the generic “we make music we like and if anyone else likes it, it’s a bonus” rock interview cliché. And so, when Ethnik Snack explodes in a maelstrom of cheeky sitar and tabla, it’s a welcome injection of fun, inventiveness and pace.

Likewise, when Everything Is Inout reveals itself to be a shuffling, soft bob along a river of rose-petal-melody, you’ll be swamped with easy calm, and not questioning any sudden departure from prior songs.

Now are buzzing with invention, charm and class. Listen to Now here, now!

>Today’s New Band – We Fly Ships PLUS! Hatred!

>NB: Since publishing this post, Julian and I have conversed via email. Julian’s actually a good guy whose frustration with the music industry’s reluctance to give bands time to develop got the better of him, and I was just the person he vented his spleen to on the spur of the moment.

I don’t blame him for his frustration – I share it – so happily, him and I have the same basic ideas and views on music, and all is well. However, the core points of the post remain important, so I’m keeping it up, though with this caveat.


I got my first hate e-mail the other day. It was from a man called Julian Deane, who apparently runs a company called Raygun Music Management. He manages a few decent bands. Julian said that ‘most of the bands on ANBAD are shite’ and that ‘any idiot can post a Myspace address every day‘.

Hate mail is rewarding in so many ways – it means that something I’ve done has riled someone enough to actually spend time letting me know how they feel. Hate mail has as much impact as the praising emails that I get, in that it further confirmed that ANBAD is on the right track – by aiming not to please all of the people all of the time.

I’ll happily admit that not all the bands on ANBAD are as ‘good’ as the others, but only if you define ‘good’ by, say, the likelihood that lots and lots of people will like them, which in some people’s eyes also translates into ‘potential for record sales’.

ANBAD isn’t about taking part in some sort of dick-swinging contest, desperately trying to find the next big band before anyone else. There are loads of websites doing that. We just want to find bands which sound like something we haven’t heard before. That’s the only criteria, really. If a band does go on to bigger things, just like early ANBAD alumi Dinosaur Pile-Up appears to be doing, we’re more than happy.

With all that in mind, maybe you’ll like Today’s New Band, or maybe you won’t. Hopefully, you’ll think that We Fly Ships sound like something that you haven’t entirely heard before. We Fly Ships are perfect week-ending material, half relaxing and half bangin’, just like all good weekends should be.

Sometimes they manage both of these opposing feelings in the space of one song – World in Reverse spends the first, loopy, misty minute threatening to explode, and then transforms into something big, fuzzy and enveloping. Listen to it and try to resist being groped by its tempting grooves and luxurious melody. You’ll wish that you could be listening to it a lot louder in the same way that Orbital‘s albums are never quite as earth-shattering as their live, loud counterparts.

The Bears Are Dead is, frankly, a wonderful mixture of warm synth washes, clattering drums and manic dog-barking. Yes, it’s verging on the boundaries of sanity, but that’s usually a good thing. It sounds like an early Spiritualized song remixed by Adrian Sherwood which is then remixed again by, oooh, Mr Oizo.

We Fly Ships are as warm, loving and intimidating as getting a hug off someone who’s E’d up to the eyeballs. Snuggle up to them here – maybe you’ll be enraged enough to write me a stroppy email. And then read ANBAD – The eBook and work yourself into a frenzy of righteous anger.