Reviews Roundup/Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The Bordellos, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea has released countless recordings over the decades with his family band of hapless unfortunates, and is the owner of a most self-deprecating sound-off style blog. His most recent releases include The Bordellos beautifully despondent pains-of-the-heart and mockery of clique “hipsters” ode to Liverpool, the diatribe ‘Boris Johnson Massacre’ and just in the last couple of months, both The King Of No-Fi album, and a collaborative derangement with the Texas miscreant Occult Character, Heart To Heart. He has also released, under the Idiot Blur Fanboy moniker, a stripped down classic album of resignation and Gallagher brothers’ polemics.

Each week we send a mountain of new releases to the self-depreciating maverick to see what sticks. In his own idiosyncratic style and turn-of-phrase, pontificating aloud and reviewing with scrutiny an eclectic deluge of releases, here Brian’s latest batch of recommendations.


Bunny And The Invalid Singers ‘The Certainty Kids/None Of This Happened’
(Bearsuit Records) 31st October 2020

A new release from Bearsuit Records is always a thing to look forward to. This time we have a new single from Bunny and the Invalid Singers, taken from their new forthcoming album due for release in January 2021. It is what you expect from Bunny and the Invalid singers and indeed Bearsuit Records itself: two tracks of sublime beauty that you could imagine turning up on the new James Bond soundtrack, or more like an old James Bond soundtrack, as both tracks are blessed with a 60s shadowy seduction but are very of this time, and are two examples of beautifully experimental pop at its finest.

I would love to hear the instrumental bliss of Bunny and the Invalid singers work with a vocalist of the caliber of a Matt Monroe or Scott walker: that would be a thing of artful sophistication indeed. Maybe they should see if Dan from Beauty Stab/Vukovar/The Bordellos is free. But these two tracks are as ever as near perfect as one could ever wish for. I look forward to the album.

See also…

Bunny & The Invalid Singers  ‘Fear Of The Horizon’  (Here…)

Two Tribes ‘Cruel Sensuality’

I like this track for many reasons there is the strange otherworldly kind of Balearic beat to it and the haunting lady vocals [yes haunting lady vocals are a thing and one to be enjoyed], but the main reason I like this is it reminds me of my favourite TV detective Colombo, why? Well it reminds me of the episode when he outwits the bad night club owner who buries his ex-business partner under the fish tanks that are in the floor of the dance floor [he indeed was sleeping with the fishes]. This track could well have featured in that episode and if it is good enough for the mighty Colombo it certainly is good enough for me.  

Peter Cat ‘A.S.M.R’
(MoFi Records)

Peter Cat is a fine name for pop star – a cartoon pop star anyway  -, and Peter Cat is an ideal wannabe cartoon pop star. I like the way he takes his not being serious about this pop lark really seriously. I can imagine he takes it so seriously in a non-serious way: seriously I really do. There needs to be people like Peter Cat in the world of pop music as he understands how truly ridiculous pop music needs to be sometimes; sometimes pop music should be all popping balloons on the floor whilst perv-y camera men try to zoom up the ra ra skirted audience members legs and thighs in true 70s TV pop tradition.

There are far to many bands falling into the trap of being the next Joy Division without having the guts to go and hang themselves. This track is pure silly disposable pop, part cartoon time Primal Scream ‘Rocks’, part Divine Comedy at his most arch like and part Black Lace ‘We’re Having A Gangbang’, a song many will not take seriously and seriously that is the point.

Subcult ‘Medicated’
29th October 2020

Ah, jingle jangle alternative guitar rock, never the most original of things, you know what you are getting within the first few bars and indeed you do with this the new single by Subcult. And that is not such a bad thing really as what you get is a couple of minutes of melody and youth filled enthusiasm: and we all need that in our lives. A fact about Subcult that made me smile is they list a few bands they have supported, one of the bands being called Crywank. Who on earth would call their band Crywank? There is certainly nothing wank about Subcult. They can use that quote on their posters and advertisements…no need to thank me.


The Left Outsides ‘Are You Sure I Was There?’
(Cardinal Fuzz (UK) and Feeding Tube (USA)) 13th November 2020

The Left Outsides are a rare thing, a married couple that is in perfect harmony: and what beautiful harmony it is. Songs that tilt and wilt and seduces one’s ears in the psych folk rhapsody of a young Nico and has you bathing in the pastoral feel of Sandy Denny. In the hands of The Left Outsides the F word is one of friendship, fortitude and fluorescent finery, where the songs float and soothe and leaves one longing to rekindle the magic of true love and romance.

This really is a beautiful work from viola to acoustic and electric guitar and the chime of church bells to the beautiful merging of the two voices as one leaving us; the listeners enrapt in the tales of Autumnal romance both lost and found taking us down the slightly off kilter psychedelic paths of the almost Coral like ‘November On My Mind’ or the Jefferson Airplane ‘My Reflection, Once Was Me’ would fit lovingly on Surrealistic Pillow.

Are You Sure I Was There is a fine album and one I would recommend to lovers of psych-folk, folk or the psychedelically inclined. Or, anyone who wants to warm themselves with the sound of Autumnal romance on the oncoming cold Winter nights.

Tiña  ‘Positive Mental Health Music’
(Speedy Wunderground) 6th November 2020

As anybody who reads these reviews or even heard my records knows I am a sucker for slightly Syd Barrett/Television Personalities influenced psych, so of course I’m going to enjoy this album. It has all the qualities one wants from their pop music; beguiling melodies, keyboards that swoon, and curtsy guitars that go from jangle to jangle: ‘Rooster’ even has a ‘Be My Baby’ drumbeat. It has all the boxes ticked; the lyrics of a quirky netherworld poetic, and the vocalist has a pleasing voice that has the right amount of cracking and whine in its timbre, the kind of voice one believes has had its heart broken at least twice in its life but has the good sense and fine enough black humour to get over it.

On the whole this is a mighty fine pop album and is really nicely produced. In fact, the kind of production that could tempt me from my bedroom and my beloved old tape four-track, and everyone knows that is indeed high praise. Another one to add to the list for the end of year “best ofs”, the music industry so loves.

The Loved Drones  ‘Conspiracy Dance’
(Freaksville) 30th October 2020

I love listening to albums by artists who actually love music. You can always tell when the artists have a more than passing interest with the history of rock n roll as these bands/artists normally let their many influences flow through their own art. I am pleased to be able to say The Loved Drones are one of these bands.

The album starts with ‘Lights’, a storm of backwards guitars lash into a space rock John Fox hybrid of originality and a forerunner and tempter of what is to come, and what is to come is a musical journey through the sometimes dark sometimes magical but always entertaining world of the Loved Drones.

Yes my dear readers what you get is an album that has you remembering moments from your youth when the days when the radio was your best friend the days when you would tune in and hear songs of great individuality; when the likes of M’s ‘Pop Music’ would both grace the charts and the hearts of the general listening public. ‘My Name Is Sky’ would have been a worthy follow up single and would have saved the poor M from being forever known as a one hit wonder. But this is music for today an album that straddles the history of rock and pop, sprinkling fairy dust over the turntable as it spins and weaves tales of magic and wonder, telling us the story of The Cramps guitar icon on the ‘The Day That Bryan Gregory Died’, a story that needs telling and tell it they do with a hurl of twanging guitars, or songs predicting the takeover of the world by aliens (‘Headhand’).

But as we know all the best bands have the slightly away with the fairy’s quality, always one step away from the mad house, and the Loved Ones have that quality in spades alongside their other important qualities like song writing talent – both lyrically and musically – and as previously mentioned, a love of rock n roll history. So you get a wonderful mishmash of influences from the psychedelic through synth pop and prog to pure pop magic and post-punk glory.

This is an album that would make the world a better place by every household owning a copy; an album that emits love, humour and joy, and one that should be played in schools to describe the phrase “the magic of music”.

See also…

The Loved Drones ‘Good Luck Universe!’  (Here…)

‘Conspiracy Dance’  (Here…)

Will Feral ‘Bad Kids’
11th October 2020

If incidental soundscapes influenced by 80’s horror films is your thing this will be just right up your street: preferably one inhabited by serial killers and ghosts and ghouls or even Trump supporters if you are in the USA or Boris Johnson fans in the UK; the closest thing I suppose we have to Zombies in this day and age, both brain dead with no feelings for other forms of human life. Now then, what we have here is 8 shortish tracks of DIY synth spookers part John Carpenter part Deliea Derbyshire, and each track ideal for a evening of Halloween social distancing and trick or treating face masks of course should be worn at every opportunity. And no doubt will. This is an enjoyable atmospheric little album, so treat yourself and download and help to soundtrack the 31st of October and beyond.

The Dandy’s Boutique ‘Delightful Weird’

I know nothing of The Dandy’s Boutique, an artist I came across being played on the excellent Graham Duff radio show on Totally Radio; the track being the rather wonderful ‘Stay Away’, which has a bass riff and a half part “Girls and Boys”, part grab your handbag put it in the middle of the dancefloor and boogie: Is there anything quite as life affirming as a DIY disco ditty?!

Anyway ‘Stay Away’ happens to kick off this rather lovely album; an album that combines synth-pop, dance and indie-pop to great effect, and is indeed greatly affecting, especially on the synth ballad ‘Don’t Let Go’. And goes on exploring the virtues of having humour, originality and talent; ‘Pitter Patter’ being a fine instrumental, reminding me what the Great Joe Meek may have done if left alone with a synth for an hour or so. What I like most about this album is the overwhelming atmosphere of melancholy even on the upbeat dance tracks like ‘Passing The Time’. There is a certain feel that I find quite refreshing. I think Dandy’s Boutique might not quite realize how good they actually are, as this is a fine album indeed and people should give it a listen.

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

Dominic Valvona

Vukovar ‘The Colossalist’
(Other Voices Records) 15th November 2020

Death’s morbid shadow looms large over the spoilt Gothic and postindustrial romanticisms of Vukovar. Once more indebted to the influence of the late underground malcontent cult figure, and much-troubled, Simon Morris (of Ceramic Hobbs infamy and more), who’s tragic omnipresence can be heard (literally) ringing out in a vaporous elegiac homage on the final curtain call of the band’s eighth and newest grand opus, The Colossalist, Vukovar reels in mourning after his suicide late last year – the album is being released to coincide with the anniversary of his death. If anyone was in any doubt of his profound loss, they could read Vukovar co-founder Dan Shea’s candid poignant piece (which the MC published; see bottom of this review) on his former confident and foil.  Morris, alongside Holy Hero of Smell & Quim, worked with the band on their 2019 totem, Cremator, and was more or less becoming part of the lineup going forward. In a wispy hazed rewrite of the indie-psych Galaxie 500’s ‘Hearing Voices’ Vukovar wrap Morris’ voice and words up in a act of remembrance: a kind of communion codex, soundtracked by an imaginary team-up of OMD and The Fall.

Spirits then, loom large from the ether across this latest installment in the band’s history; a constant spooky, eerie gloom that prevails against the bruised and mentally fatigued New Romantic wide-eyed-boy soul led plaintive heartache of the vocals and narration. It is a marked death in the sense of the former incarnation of Vukovar  – a name pulled like a sharp reminder of death and atrocity on the borders of the EU, in the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s – disbanding. And so with the deathly spine-tingles of inevitability also comes a “rebirth”, as the next chapter of this Northwest of England troupe announce a second, third, fourth (I’ve lost count) coming, framed as the “NeuPopAct”.

If you haven’t been following my six-year long progress report, then in short this is a band prone to break-ups and fall outs – not all of their own making. Apart from Dan Shea, only Rick Clarke remains as stoic warden of the original inception. Constantly imperiled by their own actions and ennui, and by a stone-cold refusal to compromise, plus a lack of, well…realizing their potential, they’ve picked countless fights, jumped a Pearl Harbour’s worth of sinking ships and released far too much great music without a plan.  Eight albums proper with EPs, singles and stand-alones in that brief window, it’s not easy to keep up. It also doesn’t help that they’ve constantly changed labels and platforms in that time. For this colossus they’ve once more reunited with the caustic home of dark forces, esoteric and experimental music, Other Voices Records, for what is promised to be their most ambitious project yet: a Brueghel sonic synth-pop triptych of albums called Eternity Ends Here, the inaugural part of which is The Colossalist. In a continuation of their work with the acclaimed cult illustrator Andrzej Klimowski, who recently provided the illustrations for Clarke’s entombed surreal horror The Great Immurement (which the MC also published in serialized form), one of his hued pencil drawings adorns the cover of this chthonian pop mire.

Vukovar have always extended the cast of collaborators with each enterprise, working with post-punk vixen Rose McDowall on a number of recordings, and with Current 93 avatar wizard Michael Cashmore on the 2018 oeuvre Monument. Here, it seems (and it is enough) just the spirit of Morris enters the pentagram. Morris would no doubt have been a sparring partner if things had turned out differently, and played a major part on this newest album.

The men who haunted themselves, this latest incarnation once more embody a lamentable, macabre golden dawn; a world in which Prospero and Crowley waltz in the embers of the crumbling edifice we call Western civilization in 2020. Not so much political, as a despairing divine comedy of mental and physical exhaustion, the results of a 24 hour newsfeed of dread and anxiety. The effects of this climate and the idiosyncratic bullshit mating rituals that passes for love, drain and cause a not always encouraging concentration of the mind: Regrets, self-delusion, addiction, recovery and survival all resonating in a mass of conflicting truths. Sorry to get all profound, but it’s important to try and contextualize the half-sung, half-spoken in the shadows, poetic, and often romantically (that word again) despondent lyricism. Often it’s ripped from a rich Tarot card liturgy of Wiccan, Pagan and dark arts. At other times, it’s heartfelt, sad and crushing.

Musically continuing a signature sound of both industrial and post-punk synth singles and more experimental soundscape passages, Vukovar can sometimes soar with New Romantic dreaminess and allure. The opening trudge, ‘There Must Be More Heaven Than This’, balances the introductory spindly guillotined piano wire dance of something approaching hope with a menacing military tattoo of Teutonic ghosts and a morose of throbbing daemons and strained plaints, on a song that sounds like a communion of Death In June and Coil. The very next aura sees OMD on a downer, crying despair on the shoulders of Numan’s Tubeway Army and The Go-Betweens. Dan seems vocally shadowed by a higher aria like apparition on a track that screams single potential: And what do you know, it is. The album’s first of two such singles in fact – the B–sides don’t appear on the album, so that’s some more fresh material to catch-up with. This is the “neu-pop” in Vukovar’s sound; one that swings between an embrace of dark melodious pop and a more morbidly curious strain of experimentation. A musical landscape steeped in esoteric pilgrimages to the underworld, through portals into the ether and apocalyptic wastelands. This same landscape varies in its degrees of bleakness, with piques of Gothic heroism and candid anthems of vulnerability allowing some kind of light.

Songs like ‘A Danse Macabre’ strip it all away for a pitying soulful voice, cooing over a metallic arpeggiator and hiss of white noise rain, whilst other tracks, like the denser mono-like self-referential ‘Vukovar (The Double Cross)’, offer wooed lament in a ghostly veil of the Pale Fountains, Kate Bush and Martin Dupont. One of the most surprising unholy orders is the pastoral haunted ‘In A Year Of 13 Moons’, which reimagines Warren Ellis in collaboration with the Hifiklub, performing in Wender’s 80s Berlin.

A devilish work; a full-on enigmatic experience of Gothic soul and pop, Vukovar’s latest overhaul, refresh still maintains a connection with past triumphs, yet seems even more heavenly, strung out in the void of wide-eyed despair. Honed to a point and as curious as ever in skulking the inferno and dank specter of preening cloaked magik, this album offers a therapeutic release for its creators (and perhaps us); for it is a murky but resigned romantic escape that by timely accident marks the stresses, uncertainty of the pandemic. The statuesque Greek mythological vague connection entitled eighth album in the Vukovar cycle is another imaginative totem from a band with little sign of flagging; the ideas just keep flowing down the cerebral canal that resembles the River Styx.

With the loss of Morris it can only be conjuncture as to what the future could have sounded like, and in what direction the band would have moved. And this is a worthy elegiac to a presence that, by the sounds of it, continues to inspire.

The Colossalist I’m glad to confirm is another quality expansive work of art from one of the country’s most criminally underrated bands. Not that validation is needed; this (in the words of Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea) should be all over the bloody radio. And if you don’t agree with my enthusiasm for this album, there will be another one along very soon.  

See also…

Vukovar ‘Cement & Cerement’  (here…)

‘Cremator’  (here…)

‘Monument’  (here…)

‘Infinitum’ Premiere (here…)

Rick Clarke ‘The Great Immurement’ Serialization  (here…)

Dan Shea (Guest Post) ‘Notes from the Psychiatric Underground, or Why I Miss Simon Morris’  (here…)

Dan Shea’s Lockdown Jukebox  (here…)

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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