The Shondes and The Descent Into Middle Age

I can’t even remember how I discovered today’s new band. I will tentatively claim that I received an email from a rapt fan about them, but frankly it could have been from anyone via any medium. It could have been a psychic visitation for all I know.

I’m going to blame old age for forgetting. The truth – that I’m too disorganised to really remember – is the greater of the two evils.

This forgetfulness may well signal of the Beginning Of The End, the descent into premature Middle Age that I’ve always feared. Hey ho. When I start pootling in a potting shed, then I’ll know the transformation is complete.

Fortunately, The Shondes – the band that has unwittingly initiated all these fears – also manage to assuage much of the damage with songs that are morose and elating in equal measure.

The Shondes // Make It Beautiful

Make It Beautiful, jumping between stylistic flavours as if on a musical trampoline, is a skewed and folksy ode to pleasure and – yes – beauty. At times it threatens to shuffle down blind alleys – an almost breakbeat drum roll appearing here, a guitar crunch slipping in there – and it’s all part of the song’s charm.

This genre-forgetfulness is the song’s strength, lifting it to exciting and charming heights. And whilst I consider that commendable in many artistic ways, it’s mainly just pleasing to find out that such memory loss might actually turn out to be useful. Phew.

Calories – Note: Review Contains No Dreadful Food Energy Value Analogies. Sorry.

Sometimes I wonder why bands even bother.

I look at my bulging inbox, filled with suggestions of new bands, and I wonder this, because it’s almost impossible to conceive how any band can be heard through the white noise of ten thousand new, hungry bands all playing their buzz-saw guitars at once.

And then a band comes along that makes me realise: “Ah – that’s why.” The thought pings into my subconscious as one band peeks stridently through the weeds like a stubborn dandelion.

Bands do it because the rewards are so great – the feeling that you and your friends are on the cusp of something new, something pleasurable to all and sundry is like nothing else on earth.

Calories have discovered this, have grabbed it lustily, and on the strength of songs like FFWD are running away with it.

The old days were better…” they muse, yelpily, and I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing before realising that I’m right either way.

Calories ‘FFWD’ from Calories Band on Vimeo.

FFWD is a rollicking romp of lung-bursting, tongue-twisting proportions. More is crammed into the first verse and chorus than Oasis managed in two albums.

The bassline is so bouncy that whoever drew the short straw of playing it must now be suffering from exotically-named illnesses like Carpel Tunnel Syndrome or Vibration White Finger.

As far as ridiculously enjoyable songs go, FFWD can be ranked alongside all of your guilty-pleasure songs that you might not tell others about for fear of embarrassment. Except Calories are so good that you’ll want to share them with everyone. That’s why they do it.

Timothy Cushing, and Liam Gallagher’s Hair In “Boring” Shocker!

Funny, the power our idols have over us. If I unceremoniously deposited a lock of my hair into your outstretched palm, you’d probably call the police, wash the offending hand in bleach and take out a restraining order.

However, if I told you that the bristly bundle belonged to a certain truculent, microphone-lobbing rock star, the excitement would be so great, you’d not know whether to update your Facebook status or Ebay listing first.

Such otherwise mundane occurrences punctuate a normal life with the dazzling white-hot glare of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and when @SkinnyGirlWho, one of the tremendous ANBAD Twitter followers, tweeted to let me know that she was once in the possession of Liam Gallagher’s hair trimmings, only one response was appropriate. Did she smell it?

The answer was, of course, yes. Who wouldn’t? Further probing uncovered that it was – and I quote – “incredibly brown, and, dare I say it, unexciting”. So there you have it: Liam Gallagher has clean, dull hair. Like a choirboy. Shocking.

Such deviant behaviour, and subsequent judgements, await the follicle snippings of Timothy Cushing when he makes it that big. This is the price of fame.

Timothy Cushing is crafty – in every sense: his songs are both sneakily insidious and subtly constructed to give the air of quickly cast-off folk-rock. In reality, of course, songs like Dandelion Wine have been sweated over and refined more times than a bottle of expensive vodka.

Timothy Cushing // Dandelion Wine

Dandelion Wine‘s guitars chime, the lazy beat shuffles, and while Tim relays a story of half-shrugged melancholy, it’s hard to deny that all is just A-OK in the world.

It’s a song you’ll be sure you’ve sung along to before, but can’t remember when or where. This is because you haven’t, and is also the reason why it is such a good song.

From a cursory glance, I can make these judgements on Tim Cushing’s hair: it’s brown – though not ‘incredibly’ – and it may be harbouring pockets of excitement. The smell, alas, is so far unrecorded. This information is not hankered after yet. But with songs like Dandelion Wine in his armoury, it’s just a matter of time.

>My Awesome Mixtape, and How Faux-Nostalgia Never Had To Press Pause/Play Between The Fade In/Out

I’m old enough to remember actually making mixtapes and feel slightly aggrieved at the spasms of faux-nostalgia that accompany their mention now.

There’s a reason no-one’s made a mixtape for about 15 years, and I don’t recognise their creation being the winsome TDK C90-flavoured labour of love that’s bandied around now.

For anyone under the age of 18 who would like an accurate portrayal of the grim reality of the task; imagine a Spotify playlist, and then imagine spending about three hours to compile and record it, to write down the songs on a minuscule rectangle of card, and then to present it nervously to a girl who doesn’t even like you anyway.

So, when faced with a band called My Awesome Mixtape, I’d expect a C86 – Twee Pop Lo-Fi throwback band too. And, not for the first time, I was wrong. Playing songs called Me And The Washing Machine apparently confirms any bedroom-Indie preconceptions, and yet My Awesome Mixtape make shiny, luxurious pop.

Me And The Washing Machine

A song that ponders such mundanities as ‘you and me and the laundry’ does dip a toe into fey Indie waters, but this navel-gazing sits at odds with a manically bouncy Euro disco beat which courses through the song like a day-glo spinal column.

And How The Feet Touch The Ground yearns, hopes and swoons – an untainted, charming peek at love, and hope, and worry.

My Awesome Mixtape are from Bolognia, and so are inherently touched with the wonderful chaos that permeates Italian life. Their songs try to run in half a dozen directions all at once, clutching on the way at cute pop, Euro-disco, and sharp Scandinavian folk. Perhaps that Mixtape moniker isn’t that ill-founded after all. Delightful.

Apologies for late post today – ANBAD’s web server (Dreamhost, FYI) died for a while

>No Flash, and Liam Gallagher’s Flowery Shirt Conundrum

You too can meet Oasis’ Liam Gallagher! But only if you buy something from his new clothing range – then you can meet the surly, set-jawed man himself, in Manchester, next week. Parka-wearing gents, form a disorderly queue.

Now, I like Liam Gallagher. He’s one of the last proper rock stars – not despicably pious like Bono, not a bit wet like Chris Martin. He was a rock star who drank, swore, hit people – often his own brother – and sneered at all before him (ie us, who paid money to watch exactly this).

But there’s a logical problem here. On one hand, I would like to meet Liam, but then this anti-rock ‘n’ roll meet-your-hero promo makes me not want to meet him in any way. What is one to do when faced with a conundrum like this?

In the end, my concerns were decided for me, fiscally. “I’m not in it for the money,” Liam said of his fashion line – and I, for one, believe him. The £675 that some of his coats cost is just to cover the overheads, right?

No Flash are a Manchester band, just like Liam’s was. They sing rock ‘n’ roll, like Liam did. In songs like Officer, they sing of their misdemeanours. Perhaps they have a lot in common. If they do, then in Officer they’ve gone to lengths to disguise it – this song has the urgency, vim and youth that Liam hasn’t displayed for a decade.


Magic In The Moonlight, despite having a Toploader-scented title, has howling guitars, a near-charming melody, and ambition to spare.

No Flash are the kind of band you hope will succeed because they connect directly to a section of the public that want the visceral thrills of primal rock ‘n’ roll. And as far as I’m aware, have no clothing range lined up for the immediate future. Phew.

>I Come To Shanghai, The Fall, and The Mark E. Smith Fingers/Pies Interface

As well as watching the Worst Band Ever, last week I also finally managed to catch The Fall, the finest grumpy band in the world. Singer Mark E Smith has been puzzling, delighting and be-grumpifying audiences for decades now, armed only with a perculi-ah! singing-ah! style-ah!, an endless supply of black leather zip-up jackets and a band line-up that rotates, frequently, and at his whim alone.

Needless to say, all the worthy praise you’ve ever read about The Fall is true – defiant, odd and thrilling- and make songs that are timeless by virtue of two things: their genuinely weird, outsider status, and the clattering brilliance of the songs themselves. All of this is held together by Smith, cracked ringmaster extraordinaire, the laser focus fuelled by beer, ego and more beer.

All of this has been roundly ignored by I Come To Shanghai, a band whose smoothed-off sound and shimmering brightness is miles away from grimy post-punk nihilism. Pass The Time is a yearning, pretty sigh; lazy, candy-coloured and wrapped up in its own semi-happiness.

Your Lazy Eye is a sky-shooting delight, and the breezy, bright pop couldn’t be further from The Fall’s… wait – or are they? There’s a sneaking suspicion that The Fall is still influencing new bands even now, possibly without either party knowing.

I Came To Shanghai – Lazy Eye

Having hung around for so long, rambling at all and sundry, telling them what to do, that, like the old drunk in the pub, you begin to take some of it in. And in I Come To Shanghai‘s sweet, clanking guitars, off-kilter view and taut drums, The Fall are there, insidious and sneering. The band just don’t realise it yet. This might be a very good thing.

>Today’s New Band – Radio Spectacular PLUS! FEAR! (The)


Do you know who’s at number one in the (UK) single charts today? I used to listen to the Top 40 countdown on Radio 1 religiously when I was a callow youth, but who really cares now? To answer the first question – it’s Lily Allen, with her ominously-titled song The Fear.
The song itself is, you know, OK; it’s quite difficult to dislike Lily Allen, and The Fear’s lush, semi-serious pop won’t change that. Anyway, the song further fuels my theory that all British recording artists, after going through the ‘making it big, partying a bit too hard’ phase, suddenly get all introspective and release a song called The Fear.
Pulp, Travis and Ian Brown are all guilty of this, with varying results. Pulp’s stab at it was an atypically glum, downbeat, overly dramatic druggy song from Jarvis’ ill-fated cocaine days; Ian Brown‘s was pretty much the same thing; and Travis‘ doesn’t really bear thinking about.
I can see why writing a song called The Fear is so tempting, conjuring as it does images of Vietnam vets thousand-yard-staring into the distance, sniffing bravely. Pop stars are narcissistic enough to draw parallels between their own boozy miseries and soldiers with post-traumatic stress.
Today’s New Band, Radio Spectacular, wouldn’t write a song about The Fear. They’re not self-absorbed enough, and besides, are too busy writing songs with names like Nina And The Sonic Rainbow to worry about cocaine psychosis.
Writing songs as softly LOUD and exciting as Good To Me probably negates the need for soul-searching. Pounding, detached and yet still enough of a love song to give teenagers enough of an excuse to both kiss and grope on dancefloors, it’ll scrub your brain clean of lethargy, leaving you alert and alive.
You Light Me Up clicks and clacks, finding itself in the spaces in between the sounds. It’s fun enough to make a chorus of “la-a-a-a-a eh-eh-oh” work perfectly. Ghosts and Ghouls isn’t as fiendishly frustrating as the early 90’s video game of almost the same name, but is just as addictive. It’s bouncy, clattering pop with throwaway lyrics like “He thinks he’s really fit, he thinks he’s the shit, the girls are lining up for him,” all over the most insistent rolling piano riff you’ve heard for ages.
Radio Spectacular are from Adelaide, and so may not be touring in my hemisphere any time soon, but my loss is Oceania‘s gain. Based on pure guesswork – which for ANBAD is almost comparable to scientific proof – I’m willing to gamble that their gigs are a riot of pop colour, fun and (hopefully) the aforementioned teenage necking. Get a lovebite with them here!

>Today’s New Band – Ivan Campo PLUS! Killing wildlife!

>There have been a few songs that, on the first hearing, the sudden realisation that what I was listening to was so good, so head-spinningly wonderful, so new, that I’ve stopped whatever I’m doing just to listen, in a happy music-coma. Off the top of my head, five of the songs that have lead to this are:

Temptation by New Order
Common People by Pulp
Bigmouth Strikes Again by The Smiths
I Love You ‘Cause I Have To by Dogs Die in Hot Cars
Leg End In His Own Boots by Ned’s Atomic Dustbin

OK, the last one’s a joke. But the rest are about right. When I first heard Temptation, I had to rewind the tape after three minutes because I’d enjoyed it so much, and I couldn’t wait to get to the end to hear it again. I was driving through country lanes when I heard I Love You ‘Cause I Have To, and after almost distractedly running over a pheasant, had to pull over to safely drum along on the steering wheel.

I’m willing to pin the blame for such rank behavioural idiocy onto the dizzying qualities of such stupendously good music. Therefore, perhaps A New Band A Day should have a small yellow and black warning sign, similar to ones in factories that say ‘Do not operate this machinery under the influence of alcohol’.

Today’s New Band, Ivan Campo, might not make your car hurtle towards game birds, but – WARNING – foot tapping may spontaneously occur. They’re named after the impressively-curly-haired footballer who has played for wildly differing teams. There are not many players who have pulled on the shirts of Real Madrid and Bolton Wanderers.

In this respect the band share some similarity with the man, as their songs are sweetly cute one minute (The Curse), and breezily folky the next (The Lotus Eater). Darling Diva is a rambling love song that takes the musical equivalent of a happy stroll down a beach with its loved one, but as the song is punctuated with the bleeping of a digital watch, it occurs that something isn’t quite as rosy as it seemed – “Something just doesn’t quite add up/I smell a rat…”

Ivan Campo‘s band logo is a bastardisation of the one for Malibu rum. Despite coming from dreary Preston, their sound is also summery, warm and intoxicating. Mmmm, easy-going. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – It’s A Dragon PLUS! Christmas Panic!

>What’s happening to A New Band A Day? New features and new writers? It’s almost as if more effort’s being put in all of a sudden or something. Well, a pre-Christmas frenzy has overcome us all in ANBAD Towers, that’s what. In an effort to forget that we haven’t bought a single Christmas present yet, at all, and-oh-crap-it’s-only-two-weeks-til-Christmas, we’re listening to more ace new bands than ever before. Not that that will be an acceptable excuse to our nearest and dearest on the 25th.

So before we start having spasms of anxiety, let’s cut to the chase: Today’s New Band are the jangly guitar pop-slingers It’s A Dragon, and, with an inevitability that is becoming almost terrifying, they’re from Sweden. I’m no scientist, but at a rough guess I’d say approximately 97% of the world’s jangly pop is made in Sweden at the moment. If Jangly Pop was worth as much as oil, it’d be Swedish record exec bosses instead of Sheiks that would be splashing obscene sums on Premiership football clubs.

It’s A Dragon, or Mats as he’s know to his mother, has rustled up a bunch of sunny love songs that hit the ground running and scamper towards the setting sun, possibly shedding clothes with excitement on the way. Onwards and Upwards is so stupendously upbeat, with insistent horns and twanging guitars, that tapping your feet or drumming pens against your keyboard is practically a formality.

Everything Reminds Me Of You, like all of his songs, is characterised by its simplicity. It’s about a girl, love and rejection, like most pop love-songs; musically, he doesn’t try to squeeze in anything that doesn’t need to be there. This streamlining just makes it easier for the song to weedle its way into your brain, via your heart, and stay there.

It’s a Dragon‘s songs are without hype, faux-emotional depth or forced cool. Just simple, sweet songs; good, pure fun. They’re from a man who knows his way around a tune and can craft them effortlessly. Why is that? ANECDOTE ALERT

On his Myspace page, Mats says, “When I was 12 I nicked a tape from a friends big sister. On the A-side was the Smiths‘ “Strangeways Here We Come” and on the B-side, The Cure‘s “Head On The Door”.” That’s a fortuitous start to your musical life. He’s now creating beautiful pop songs.

My first tape, when I was 5, was Eliminator by ZZ Top. I now have a 3-foot long beard. Go figure. But first, listen to It’s a Dragon, right here!

>Today’s New Band – Nicholas Stevenson PLUS! Booze, More Booze and Burlesque Dancers!

>Having spent the last five nights ‘entertaining friends’, I’m now in the unenviable position of starting the week feeling exhausted. Beer, wine, tapas, dim sum and a surprising diversion to the middle-class realm of Pimms and lemonade are to blame for my malaise, and spending last night compering a Burlesque show just about finished me off, in a blizzard of nipple tassels and discarded stockings. I suppose if you’re going to have a blow-out, you may as well do it properly.

Having slowly come to the realisation that I’m getting on a bit now and can’t party quite as wholeheartedly as I could when I was 18, I’m feeling pathetically sorry for myself. Feeling fragile, I turned to music for some sort of comfort, or at least empathy. What I got was Today’s New Band, Nicholas Stevenson, who seems to be as fragile as I am.

Perhaps fragile is the wrong word. His songs would fall to bits, just for the hell of it, if they wanted to. They’re sweetly crazed and unusual, sometimes chilling, and sometimes plain odd. Either way, they seem to be formed out of something that might crack apart at any moment.

Anything You Like has as catchy a hook as you’re likely to hear, and an acoustic guitar that is, for want of a better description, crunchy. Ponies is as tender and cosy as a nursery rhyme, albeit one that ends in death and horror. Never in New York‘s yummy, carefree melody is the platform for Nicholas’ fabulously inventive lyrics to skip around.

Nicholas Stevenson‘s songs could have been written to lull children to sleep, but I wouldn’t recommend pushing much babysitting work his way unless you want your child to wake up confused or clammy or screaming. The upside to his aborted childminding career is that us grown-ups can feel our skin creep listening to them.

Even at his most sugary – and his songs do sound delightful – there’s the feeling that the musical sweets he’s offering you are laced with poison. And while that feeling remains, he’s a true (slightly worrying) treat. Listen here!

P.S. – Has the credit crunch left you looking for cheapo Christmas gifts? Give the gift of a printed out PDF of the ANBAD eBook! It’s free AND colourful!