Reviews Galore/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 diatribe ‘Boris Johnson Massacre’ and just in the last couple of months the King Of No-Fi album, a collaborative derangement with the Texas miscreant Occult Character, Heart To Heart, and in just the last 24 hours a double-A side single, ‘Shattered Pop Kiss/Sky Writing’. 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

The Singles/Tracks/Videos

Bloom De Wilde ‘Flying Carpenters’
(Dream Society Records)  Song released 22nd February 2021/ Video Released 1st March 2021

The word bewitching was invented to describe not just this utterly beautiful song but also the lady herself. This is a song of hope and loss; a song to be embraced by all the outsiders: those who venture their own way through life, who will be called strange, called weird by all those who dress the same and like the same records and the same films because they are told to do so and are so scared of being themselves they do not know who they really are. This is not a call to arms for all the so-called weirdoes out there but a lullaby to sooth them gently to sleep, and when you hear Bloom sing the line, “When the morning rises up above, and I know that I’m alone, just a weirdo”, they know they are not alone. This is song of purity stripped down to the bone; a melancholic heart beating for you as your heart breaks.

New America  ‘Hong Kong Free Press’
26th March 2021

I like this. It reminds me of when Paul Weller had spunk running through his veins in his days of the Jam and then it goes all Dinosaur Jnr on us. It has a rather wonderful melody and fine lyrics as well. This is so British sounding without the Rule Britannia bollocks and takes me back to the days of releasing politically motivated singles were not seen as a bad career move: How I miss those days of Costello and Bragg and the Redskins telling us how it is. New America should be congratulated for shooting a bit of oomph and passion into the sadly ever more beige sounding guitar band scene of today.

The Albums/EPs

Various ‘The Sound Of Northern Star’
(Northern Star Records)  1st March 2021

This is the first Northern Star Records compilation since 2014’s Live Revolution, and it’s the second release since the label made its comeback with the excellent Cult Of Free Love‘s Visions album – which actually made the Monolith Cocktail’s Choice end of the year features.

As one would expect from a Northern Star release this 15-track compilation takes you through all things psych tinged; such as the Ride like pop of The Nova Saints ‘Sugar Coated’, which has guitars that chime and a melody that reaches out to the stars, calling out to be played on your radio as you drive through the hills in your open top convertible; a song that gives you hope; perfect guitar pop if you like. And this album is worth getting for that track alone. But no, there are other gems among the 15 tracks, such as ‘Daydreamer’ by the Youngteam, a track that all you shoegazers out there will bop their merry heads off to: if Shoegazers allow themselves such frivolities. Or, the blisteringly harsh psych punk of The Electric Mainline a track so hard, dirty and hot it will both peel the skin from your ears and blister your walls; a song worthy of the genre Psych porn if such a genre existed.

This comp is certainly worth your investigation; and I haven’t even mentioned the feedback drenched Mary Chain like rock of The Lost Rivers or the country-tinged psych of The Carousels with their beautifully melodious ‘My Beating Heart’. There is not actually a bad track among this lot, and you will admit that is quite a rarity with comps on the whole. The Sound of Northern Star is released on the 1st of March and is free to download, and is a must have album to soundtrack your days as you wait for the day when lockdown is lifted, and after it is lifted, an album to give normality a touch of psychedelic bliss. I also may add this will not be available on Spotify so get your downloading boots on and do yourself a favour.

A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen ‘2 PCS Chciken – Live In Staines’
(Jezus Factory) 1st March 2021

I will be honest with you, I can live without guitar freak-outs on the whole; I find them self-indulgent in the extreme, so when this album kicked off I thought here we go again technical proficiency over the lost art of melody, charm and originality, but I admit I was wrong: I actually quite enjoyed it. It does have guitar wig outs and is not the most original thing one will hear this year. I think everybody out there has heard The Fall and Nation Of Ulysses and the Birthday Party and all the rest; being someone who listened to John Peel throughout the 80s I have heard it all before, but if that is what you want to sound like, you may as well do it well and A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen do it well indeed. And I know a whole lot of people who will love this album, so if this is your want…want away and enjoy.

The Salem Trials  ‘No Waving’/‘File Under Concrete’
(Metal Postcard Records) 16th February 2021

The Salem Trials are a fine band. They could well be the finest guitar band in the world today. They are indeed a band well worth discovering. Last year the Trials released eight albums, so it comes as no surprise that they have decided to release two on the same day. As ever these two wonderful albums capture what is so magically strange about the band/duo: I previously described them as sounding like they are both of having separate breakdowns but in the same room and that still stands. It really is a bewitching experience, they really do not sound like they give a shit what the other is doing; Andy Goz with his fretboard wizardry, part Tom Verlaine part Keith Richards ploughing blink Erdly on, kicking up memories from post punk England and the no wave adventures of pre 80s New York whilst nailing a squirming jogger to a burning cross, and vocalist Russ spouting his sublime off kilter beat poetry like a modern day Don Van Vilet with a mouth full of cough sweets and a migraine.

These two albums have more of a live feel than the previously released eight; they have a great taped rehearsal/demo quality about them like they were recorded whilst waiting to be released from John Peels cellar where they have been surviving on remembered memories of rock n roll past whist waiting for the great man to let them out not realising the saint of alternative radio is no longer with us and is in fact channeling his past show playlists through the lips and hands of the chosen saviours of  alt guitar land…so just another two albums of wayward post punk genius then.

Armstrong ‘Beechwood Park (​*​*​FREE​*​* demo songs)’
16th February 2021

Armstrong aka Julian Pitt is one of the great undervalued pop singer songwriters of today; anybody who loves Prefab Sprout or Aztec Camera or the Beach Boys really need to get their listening gear onto this undervalued pop prince. And what we have here is a free to download comp of 4-track tape recordings that show off Julian’s talent for writing such beautiful heart tugging melodies. And the warmness of the tracks are added by the beauty and subtle warmness that recording on tape provides.

This eleven-track album is a lo-fi pop delight, from the guitar jangle of ‘The Sweetest Girl’, The Smiths like ‘Im Not Angry’, to the Blur meet Mary Chain sultry pop strut of ‘Slow Down’, to the beautiful ballads ‘Miles Away’ and ‘4Am Thoughts’. Beechwood Park is indeed a must hear album for all the lo-fi lovers out there.

Dare Above Nemo  ‘Mimic’ EP
15th February 2021

If upbeat indie synth pop is your thing you could well like this fine three track EP, which at times takes me back flowing to the days of the 80s when music was the lifeblood of the teenager, songs oozed and flowed throughout their days highlighting the ups and downs: not a fucking phone in sight. Yes, this lovely three tracker is a fine release indeed. At times reminding me of Win other times the Human League. What the songs lack in length more than make up for in catchiness and melody. Who wants long pop songs anyway.

Chris Church  ‘Game Dirt’
(Big Stir Records)  27th March 2021

The new album by Chris Church is an album of mature guitar-based pop like that of Crowded House before all the success, and Chris does it very well especially on ‘Fall’ which sadly is not an ode to the no longer with us band led by the also no longer with us Mark E Smith, but we will not hold that against it as it is a beautifully written ballad and those of all ages sometimes need to lose themselves in well played hummable odes to the sadness in one’s life. And this album is filled with the melancholy blighters, with ‘Gravity’ and ‘Trying’ also ploughing the same field of love and regret.

But all is not empty bottles of red wine and subdued flickers from the TV screen casting shadows of fallow worship to the great lady of the no longer with us, there are also songs of cartwheeling bar rock goodness that Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds use to deal out with alarming regularity in the late 70s early 80s. With friends Rockpile the opening track ‘Learn’ being a prime example, and the countrified ‘Smile’ being another. Game Dirt is an album of well-produced well-played and well written guitar songs that lovers of such will indeed want to add to their album collection of well-produced well played well written guitar songs.

Futurafter ‘Ep A’
(Shoredive Records) 16th January 2021

If synth drenched dreamy pop music is what you are after well look no further, we have the very thing here supplied to us by those lovely chaps at Shore Dive Records. Yes, three beautiful slices of synth pop tinted shoegaze that the likes of Sarah Records occasionally served up via the Field Mice. These three tracks are interspersed with a communist quote in Russian, Macedonian and Albanian, which you may agree makes a welcome and unusual change, and as the say variety is the spice of life, which I guess they may also say in Russian, Macedonian and Albanian but with a more eastern European accent.

Fatherfigures ‘Any Time Now…And High Time To’
(Self-Release)  21st February 2021

I like this album, it takes me back to my alt 80s days, it has that certain intense life is shit let’s do something about it feel that at times reminds me of the wonderful JD Meatyard in his Levellers 5 days. It has the dense dark atmosphere of Joy Division and early Sister Of Mercy but without being Goth, just hinting at it, just at times having the same frivolities the same guitar peddles but also at the same time reminding me of the wonderful arch obscure angular guitar shenanigans of Cud/Wedding Present, even Carter. And the album screams, “Lets commit peaceful agro”. I can imagine being very entrained by these back in the day and probably now as well.

The Fatherfigures are a band that will certainly appeal to those once fond of going to their local venue bathing in the aura of stale piss and spilt beer. The good old days when we thought bands could change the world and to a certain extent, they did change many people’s world: mine included.

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com 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 https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

Words: Nicola Guerra

The Monolith Cocktail has been exchanging posts with our pen pal partners at the leading Italian music publication Kalporz for the last two years or more now; an exchange that continues unabated in 2021. This month Nicola Guerra introduces us to the Italian band A MINOR PLACE; a group who it seems leave smiles on the face with some well-chosen eclectic covers.

A MINOR PLACE  ‘It’ll End In Smile’
(Self-Released) 29th January 2021

Sad songs to be happy, happy songs to sink into a miraculous nostalgia. It sounds simple in words, but who can really do it with notes? I have a short list, but it would be misleading in approaching It’ll End in Smile, the new double self-produced effort by the Teramo band A MINOR PLACE.

Let’s start from the end; in this double disc there are covers of Vic Chesnutt, Tom Waits and the Marine Girls songs (and two others that I won’t reveal): that’s ‘Splendid’ by Chesnutt, ‘In the Neighbourhood’ by Waits, and ‘Second Sight’ by the Marine Girls. How much happiness can you store in just three songs? I still cry with Chesnutt, but the tears have happiness written all over them between water and salt.

What about nostalgia? You may say, we have more right to be nostalgic now, thinking back to our disfigured normality. But here nostalgia is overloaded with love; the songs do not live in the present but neither do they regret the past. They are simply suspended, they are a snapshot immortalized in a precise historical moment, which each of us has been lucky enough to experience at least once in our lives.

Here comes ‘Love’ and we are reminded why we always need POP; why we need the soundtrack that will make us nostalgic for having been happy tomorrow. And that’s the secret; listening to songs that give you the feeling of being stuck in a timeless bubble, capable of bringing a smile to your face even when the situation doesn’t call for it. This is A Minor Place’s skill: distilling pure joy in three minutes, cutting out the essence and sticking it on posters that remind you that your happiness may not last long, but if you carry it with you it can replace any medicine.

Songs flow like credits and when you listen to them again you are almost moved, as if you were really the protagonist told in sunny songs like ‘Sunglasses’, romantic ‘Christmas in Summer (Greetings from Aldo and Derna)’ (one of my favourites, with doo-wop-like choruses and electric guitar to unhinge certainties at the end); or just perfect because they are tinged with strings and colours, as if it were the simplest thing in the world ‘Total Football’. But what is simple is only the ability to be a band that really believes in it. These days, believing in something is fantasy. To believe that a smile can change the world is something magical.

Ah, I’ll tell you; the other two covers are ‘For a Spanish Guitar’ by Gene Clark and ‘Capricci’ by Ban-Off (a garage-punk band from Teramo). You already have a smile on your face, don’t you?

ALBUM REVIEW/DOMINIC VALVONA

Various ‘La Ola Interior: Spanish Ambient & Acid Exoticism 1983-1990’
(Bongo Joe) 5th March 2021

“The inner wave”, La Ola Interior is a welcome survey of Spain’s post-Franco explosion in underground experimentation; the kind that soaked up Jon Hassell and Eno’s collaborative “possible musics” game-changer peregrinations on the cusp of a new decade, as opposed to the nosier, more industrial and provocative generation X screams of Alex Carretero’s curated Spanish Underground Cassette Culture compilation, released back in 2018.  Both “waves” were lo fi, diy, and released in limited numbers, usually on cassette tapes, but one pontificated year zero intent, the other, opened itself to Hassell and Eno’s “fourth world” possibilities of amorphous ethnic-cultural blending.

As with that other redundant term “world music”, the fourth world title turn tag for a fecund of geographical sonic collages is, by perhaps those who are a little to sensitive, frowned upon for its connotations of post-colonialism: looking at anything outside the Western sphere as the “other”, “exotic”.

There’s a certain amount of that on this double album spread, put together for Bongo Records by Loïc Diaz Ronda. That is, weaving exoticism into the early development of post-punk electronic and ambient music. Some artists on this comp do that rather subtly; others bathe in its influence. And some do it rather well (sublime even), whilst others not so convincingly.

Mostly the preserve of the cultish and obscure, “Musica discrete” (as it’s referenced here) did also snare some iconic names, such as the ethno-transient trailblazers Finis Africae (probably one of the only names most people will be familiar with on this collection). Their utterly beguiling, entrancing and dreamy Popol Vuh mystical choral voices meet Talk Talk ‘Hybia’ and amorphous rain dance ritual ‘Hombres Lluvia’, are both borrowed for this sonic travelogue. Finis seemed much richer, more inventive as worldly musical travellers in an era when not many people could afford the luxury of physically visiting such exotic locations. Many artists made do with the traditional instruments of these cultural influences instead, bought in flea markets and such: used to various degrees of success on these interpretative and dreamt-up versions of seamless acid exotica.

Chronicling a movement that spring up in the dying embers of Franco’s regime, Ronda’s compiled world buffet of experiments features examples of early looping and sound sampling: sampling it must be said much of the sonic territories Hassell had already transformed on his own body of work. In that respect, tracks such as the compilation’s most fleeting vignette by Mecánica Popular (surely a twist on, or a knowing wink at the Teutonic sonic ensemble Populäre Mechanik) breathes in Hassell’s vague atmospheric blows across ambiguous map coordinates. Yet there’s also various Kosmische style riffing going on as well: Camino Al Desván, one of the only female sonic explorers to be featured in a male-dominated scene, oscillates mirror-y projections of Sky Records on the oft-trippy ‘La Contorsión De Pollo’ (or in translation, the rather odd “Chicken Contortion”); though her second contribution couldn’t be more different, ‘Fock Intimida A Gordi’ breaks out the industrial chemist set on a paranormal broadcast of neo-classical hauntings and static.   

Notable mentions on an exhaustive collection (linear notes included) are as follows: The Conny Plank proto-acid flash, zaps and laser-bouncing ‘Última Instancia’ by Orfeón Gagarin (more early Techno experiment than “ethnic” traverse); the Jules Verne oceanic submersible iron-lung ‘20000 Lenguas’ by Victor Nubla; the filmic, timpani bounding Arabian drama ‘Sheikh’ by Esplendor Geométrico; and the Popol Vuh (them again) Andean haunting ‘Flu’ by Eli Gras (the only other female to feature).  Bamboo music, garbled vague suggestions of gamelan, contoured bird-eye views of Morocco, flighty fluted soars and Indian swirls can also be heard, woven into ambient, trance and post-punk synthesised renderings on an album full of untapped forgotten traverses.

La Ola Interior is a well-researched and interesting compilation that fills in yet more of the electronic music story; especially in Southern Europe during the 80s. A worthy showcase of geographical transcendence and transformative immersions that deserves this curated effort.

You may also find the following posts from the Archives interesting:

Spanish Underground Cassette Culture

Notes From The Spanish Underground

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com 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 https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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