Compiled by Dominic Valvona
Graphics Gianluigi Marsibilio 

For all our friends and followers alike in coronavirus lockdown, let the Monolith Cocktail ease some of the doldrums and boredoms of quarantine with another Social Playlist (the 43rd edition in fact). The blog’s imaginary radisohow (or podcast if you prefer) brings together tracks from across time, genres and the globe to take the listener on a musical odyssey of discovery.

For those of you without access to Spotify, we’ve chosen a random smattering of tracks from Youtube.


Evie Sands  ‘I’ll Hold Out My Hand’
Clarence Reid  ‘Along Came A Woman’
Urbano de Castro  ‘Urbanito’
Marva Whitney  ‘What Kind Of Man’
The Scruffs  ‘Go Faster’
The Cake  ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’
The Koobas  ‘A Little Piece Of My Heart’
Eternity’s Children  ‘The Sidewalks Of The Ghetto’
Armando Trovajoli  ‘I Love You’
Ziad Rahbani  ‘Raksat Tahiat’
Eris Van Bloom  ‘Forget Me After’
Yasuaki Shimizu  ‘Lebon Lipon’
The Clientele  ‘I Had To Say This’
The Plastic Cloud  ‘Shadows Of Your Mind’
Grapefruit  ‘Yesterday’s Sunshine’
Moses Gunn Collective  ‘Mercy Mountain’
3Ds  ‘Evocation Of W.C. Fields
The Exploding Hearts  ‘Throwaway Style’
Rockin’ Ramrods  ‘Willie’s Plastic People Factory’
The Fe-Fi-Four Plus 2  ‘Pick Up Your Head’
The Pazant Brothers  ‘Dancing In The Street’
Anthony Braxton  ‘G-647 (Opus 23H)’
Sonny Sharrock  ‘Bailero’
Crispy Ambulance  ‘Chill’
Big L  ‘Devil’s Son’
Ramson Badbonez  ‘I Got Dat Sting’
Tuff Crew  ‘Show Em Hell’
Sonny & The Sunsets  ‘Ghost Days’
Moonshake  ‘Mugshot Heroine’
Lungleg  ‘Punk Pop Travesty’
Thee Headcoats  ‘The Messerschmitt Pilot’s Severed Hand’
The Intelligence  ‘My Ears Are Dust’
Jeremy Steig  ‘Home’
Weldon Irvine  ‘Turkish Bath’
Bembeya Jazz National  ‘N’Lanyo’
Bongos Ikwue  ‘Ella’
Seamajesty  ‘Abacat’
Acid Arab  ‘Electrique Yarghol’
Pan Ron  ‘Pros Reang Yeh Yeh’
Benkadi International  ‘Kelou Na’
Dzyan  ‘Light Shining Out Of Darkness’
Green On Red  ‘Drifter’

For Youtubers 

All Selections made by Dominic Valvona

Words: Dan Shea

Probably the most candid and personal post the Monolith Cocktail has ever posted, Dan Shea pays a special tribute to the late co-founder of the Blackpool punk and miscreant diy experimentalists The Ceramic Hobs, Simon Morris, who went missing on the 7th December 2019. His body was later found in the River Wyre on 20th December.

Leaving an indelible mark not just musically on Shea (the St. Helens musical polymath plays in a myriad of cult, influential bands, from The Bordellos to Vukovar and Beauty Stab) Morris helped him, in his own fashion, deal with the trauma of being raped. It’s an often difficult, unsettling read, potted with dark comedy, insights and anecdotes. An essential read I’d say.


It all began with a smirk edging across that kind fuck’s face as it dawned on him I wasn’t taking the piss with this patter.

“I’ve been into Ceramic Hobs quite a lot recently. I listen to Psychiatric Underground by them almost as much as I listen to Teenage Snuff Film by Rowland S Howard.”

Preston eccentric twenty years before you were born Mad “Mad” Tony wasn’t there to save me from my faux pas and stop me dribbling on about Ceramic Hobs to the guy whose band it was. He was busy chatting to Rose MacDowall about something mad people talk about. Simon didn’t correct me and I met him a further three times before he admitted that he WAS Ceramic Hobs, disappearing to Kate Fears car to give us some copies of a single he’d been aggressively handing to people.

You know, I didn’t know what he looked like. He’s not a Popstar or a pop tart (he definitely was a bit of a tart though – that’s a quaint way of saying he was a slut for anyone unaware, I know pot kettle etc.). I’m glad I didn’t because if I’d known who he was I would have had to wait for Rick to approach him or bully me into doing so – he’s good like that. He’s been the making of me, that guy.

Our unholy union was cemented with a round of “Whitehouse karaoke” over the sound of a malfunctioning white reggae bands malfunctioning sound behind a tent at a beer festival in Preston that Vukovar had been playing. As enquiring minds need to know I should specify the Whitehouse song was A Cunt Like You. This was the sound of being alive, cunt.

I know that this sounds ridiculous but I was incredibly nervous the first time he invited me to come to his house. I remember leaving Marilyn’s flat in Manchester and talking to him on the phone, nervously, about Kanye West. I remember every moment of that day, remarkable considering how much was drank. I won’t kiss and tell you can buy his book Sea of Love for the sordid details.

When we were sat in his living room finishing the wine the following morning, all nervousness had faded. He held me while I had a quick nap stroking my hair. Then when I awoke resumed his customary “conversation as blood sport” of scurrilous gossip; references to Oi! bands, dead porn stars and obscure high proof liquor you can only get from fucking squeezing a squids bell end dunno; genuine affection through insults and mockery through compliment. Walked me to the station in one of his fucking awful sleeveless t shirts and neither one regretted a thing.

I left Vukovar for a while and Simon, taking time off from pretending to be winding down Ceramic Hobs, good as replaced me. It was his presence was a major factor in bringing me back into the fold. I fondly recall a lot of silliness and moments of utter wonder.

I think of him bellowing his way through deranged country songs he may have invented as the lovely Gea Philes tried to sleep. I think of the camp, haughty way he’d begin a sentence “you know….” pushing his glasses up his nose and pursing his lips. I think of him winding Rick up by going on and on about his dad making a book for him when he was a kid called The Retarded Faggot’s Bumper Book of Willes.

I think of him referring to me for a whole day only as “the twink”. I think of us being sat in a pub in Preston talking about how his dad met Sleazy from Coil, and him suddenly deciding that I should be interested in a man across the bar and trying to introduce me to this poor timid guy (who was actually quite cute to be fair but I wasn’t in the frame of mind). 

He showed me Salo for the first time with a terrible American accented dub that turned it into a John Waters esque black comedy. He introduced me to Ramleh, Skullflower and lots of bands of that ilk. When I was in the pain of torments real and imagined he’d calm me down. He also introduced me to the idea of fish sticks.

The last time we spoke, after accusing my best friend of being a cop and having arranged for me to be raped at knifepoint, he went on to enthuse about Shane MacGowan’s solo records and the lesbian cult film Times Square that Marilyn, staying over with their now husband, had shown me. His last words: “you’re a gorgeous kid and I love you but you smell funny.”.

Does it hurt, Simon, turning luminous?


Mad Pride Worldwide

When someone gives you that hackneyed “it’s okay to not be okay” speech look at them with the pity they deserve and treat it the way you would the dribbling of a beloved senile relative.

It’s not okay. Some of us would give anything to feel clean again. It’s all fine til the illness starts manifesting itself in real, visceral ways like when I’m calling you at 5 in the morning all my windows and mirrors covered to stop them watching and asking you if you know when They started to conspire against me or when She or He sleeps with a knife next to her bed because of what They did to them. When all that we are dying to try conceals ways we are trying to die. 

It’s the scars and grotesque weight loss you look away from. It’s not socially acceptable. It’d probably scare your boss and your neighbours. And they should be scared but not for the reasons they think.

You know, when I was waiting on HIV tests following the worst knife point pain of my life we made a black comedy playlist for an AIDS reveal party. Lots of Queen, Infected by The The, Another Invented Disease by the Manics etc. I found out I was Negative and we were very happy. 

You still view schizophrenics as cackling caricatures from the Victorian asylum. You romanticise the diseases who take my friends and leave me a shambling drunken paranoid wreck. You who fetishise quirk and abhor weird. The words which describe our condition you use as insults.

You say I shouldn’t be ashamed just often enough for me to realise you don’t mean it. I’m a good whore who goes where he’s kicked – you’re ashamed of me but I’m fucking not. 

Hear the beauty of our Notes from the Psychiatric Underground (Dostoyevsky knew what he was talking about the old perv). This is why Mad Pride is so important: we all come into this world naked bloody and screaming and on occasion spend the odd weekend that way but it doesn’t have to be that we leave that way. We must not do this alone!

I think of him onstage with Smell & Quim naked but for an apron with a swastika on and looking like a Northern Leland Palmer. His onstage shout stolen from Consumer Electronics of “if you don’t behave Daddy won’t perform”. How he could have upped the tastelessness stakes by alternating it daddy for Maddy and wearing a Madeleine McCann mask. It’d fit perfectly with the Smell and Quim style I reckon. You should do it, Si!

Sleaze Daddy was a maddy but not a baddy. Sadly and madly went away.  It’s one hell of a sad long shadow to inhabit but I clutch at the void of his absence for warmth. Take comfort in the arms of women who knew you. It’s me, your little Venice bitch.


The Show Must Go On

It used to be I hated Queen. But through Simons love of them, and all manner of other stodgy classic rock it doesn’t behoove an art fag of my stature to even acknowledge, I’ve come to tolerate them.

I like that they are one of the bands UKIPPYBREXITCUNTS like but were fronted by an Asian queer who died of AIDS for one. For that reason alone they’re more subversive than a lot of people even if they did straight wash Freddie in the film about him.

I know I’ve not written about Simon’s music but I’m still not ready to hear his voice again. His voice was a sonic weapon, sculpted in Blackpool by years of booze, fags, screaming along to Whitehouse and drinking his coffee instantly without ever bloody waiting for it to cool down which used to go through me.

He loved it when I told him that Explosion in A Dustbin Factory ruined an amorous moment between me and a cute Korean guy.

Simon pointed out to me how much I Want To Break Free sounds like a coming out song and, now you mention it, there’s a yearning in that and Someone to Love of the hits that I do find very poignant. I don’t mind admitting that the first time I heard The Show Must Go On after his death I began to sob.

I’ve been doing a lot of crying since December, in varying states of sobriety. The day I found out I cried like I’ve never cried in my life. I miss that fucking incredible brain so much. I can’t believe I’m never going to think “Si, you daft bastard what have you done now”. I’m writing this at the stage of grief where I feel like part of me died with him. But another part was born, as every cradle is a grave.




My relationship with Simon Morris in chronology of song:

Love Letters Like Suicide Notes – Ceramic Hobs

Deep Water – Strawberry Switchblade

Absolute Beginners – David Bowie

Just Like a Cunt – Whitehouse

Explosion in a Dust Bin Factory – Ceramic Hobs

Final Solution – Lydia Lunch

Keep Yourself Alive – Queen

The Sound – Swans

Victoria Station Massacre – The Fall

Station to Station – David Bowie

Mr Brownstone – Flowers and Firearms

Too Drunk To Fuck – Dead Kennedys

Don’t Get AIDS – The Worried Well

Never Surrender – Blitz

Voices Seers Voices – Vukovar

The Wind Cries Mary – Jimi Hendrix

Mysteries of Love – Julee Cruise

Those First Impressions – Associates

Valentine – Sisters of Mercy

The Boxer – Simon and Garfunkel

Teardrops – Womack and Womack

Romeos Distress – Christian Death

Musette and Drums – Cocteau Twins

The Hanging Man – The Blue Orchids

Leave Me Alone – The Oppressed

Hope Is A Dangerous Thing For A Woman Like Me To Have – Lana Del Rey

Judas as Black Moth – Current 93

Heartworms – Coil

Double Heart – Robert Rental

Cement and Cerement – Vukovar

Summer in Siam – The Pogues

The Push – Consumer Electronics

Safe From Heaven – Ceramic Hobs

I, Supplanter

You can’t just emulate, Dan. You must fully replace. 

His body is dead but his influence is multiplying. Just as his books were all for poor sweet Calum Terras then everything I do from this point on, creatively at least, is for Simon.

want so much to impress you. It’s you it’s you it’s all for you. Notice me, Sleaze Daddy. I’ll even call you that for real without retching this time. It’s me your little Venice bitch.  

The thing is that I know everything you’d say anyway, the things you’d spew vitriol about but secretly enjoy and the things you’d say you loved to keep the image of the great contrarian (emphasis on cunt). I keep running into you in dreams and maybe that’s where our real lives are.

I think about recording your vocal to the Vukovar song Cement and Cerement. You crouching and howling with all your beautiful intensity, singing that painfully prophetic chorus over and over, then quietly asking “can I go back upstairs and watch my nonce hunter videos now”.

You’re safe and warm and home in heaven now: heaven for you a cheap hotel room with a constantly refilling fridge full of red wine and Morrisons garlic breads, and Jesus is showing you how to use incognito tabs cos he’s sick of getting recommendations based on the pervy shite you’re watching. It got a bit awkward when he read the phrase “stigmata handjob”.

Or are you walking among us? Eternally wandering, exploring. Are you watching me, like in Wings of Desire? You could be over my shoulder watching me write this as I sit in a bar: I struggle to write in my flat, I need the ambient sound of strangers conversation and music I wouldn’t listen to by choice. Several times people have come over to check on me because they can see the tears in my eyes. John, the barman, is telling them “he’s fine he comes here to write and he’s an emotional guy.”.

The grey eyeless world sighs, blood red and steeple dark. A shroud of rune cloud embeds his name in mine, in ours. I wish he was here with me. I wish he could help me write this. They say never meet your heroes and I disagree but with a qualifier: make heroes of those you know. Love them in their complicated, messy, infuriating ways. See their beauty when it’s there and please I entreat you to let them know. I just hope he knew how much I love him. Not past tense. He whistles through the defective circuitry of my soul.

Sometimes I forget you’re gone. Sometimes I send you messages or emails of things I know you’d have an opinion of. Is it that you read them in heaven, you’re just not allowed to respond? I’m forever grateful that I did actually get to tell you how much I love you before you go. 

I miss you every day, Simon.


Blackpool Pleasure Avalanche


Neglected in our own time

We leave on our own terms

This our final disagreement

Mentalist mentor

Artistic tormentor

Time will prove us equally wrong

What happens when the symbols matter?

What happens when the analogue signal fades?

Our culture likes its head cases

Safely beneath headstone

Reality the monkey on my back

Tearing at my eyes and veins

Endless red eyed arguments

And drunkenness on trains

Here comes the Blackpool



Another warm jet

Across your pages

Grimoires of dead desire

Grimoires of dead friends

You forced me to write the sequel

Rather than allow our inclusion

By extension prolonging my suffering






Blackpool. Pleasure. Avalanche

Dream on Texas lady

Of a future that sputtered out

An American red head girl

Who as a child taught her friends

How to masturbate

And some pissed up

Rape survivor twink

Looking out on the burning sands

You’re a long way from Kansas now

Twitched the man behind the curtain

Bringing them together

Closing some circles

Shattering others

Once rampant now estranged

Drowning in language

Your footprints will drown me

Before I am calcified





Does it hurt, when you turn luminous?

Related post from the Archive 

Dan Shea Rowland S Howard Article 

Vukovar Cremator Review

Beauty Stab Interview

Help support the Monolith Cocktail through Ko-fi (micro-donation hub)

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.

Words: Dominic Valvona
Images: Shida Masataka 

Tamikrest   ‘Tamotaït’
(Glitterbeat Records)   LP/27th March 2020

It’s been well over seven years since Mali was last thrust into the world’s media spotlight; the Nomadic Tuareg’s, or as they would rather be called, the Kel Tamasheq, age-old cause to gain control of an autonomous region in the country’s northwest border was abruptly hijacked by a less than sympathetic branch of al-Qaeda. Declaring an independent state, known as the Azawad, in 2012 the Kel Tamasheq were soon compromised by their far more radical destructive partners: their ambitions reaching far further with an insurgency that threatened to destabilize the entire country. In their wake these extremists reduced many historical and revered sites to dust, and imposed the harshest forms of Islamist rule wherever they went: much to the distress of the Kel Tamasheq.

Though this initial insurgency was more or less all-over within a year, the Mali government was forced to seek military assistance from the former colonial overlords, France, who stymied but never quelled the insurgency and uprising. They did however restore some stability to the west of the country and centers of government. In the last few years Islamist terrorist campaigns run alongside ever bigger and more terrifying sporadic and haphazard attacks. Government advice in the UK describes these as indiscriminate, going on to advise avoiding ‘…all large gatherings, including music festivals, sporting events and any public marches or demonstrations. The Festival au Désert in Timbuktu was cancelled in January 2017 and has not taken place since due to security concerns. Festivals in other parts of the country, such as the Festival sur le Niger in Segou, are also vulnerable to attack. There may be a heightened risk of attack during election periods’.

It’s a multifaceted conflict with many dimensions, and has subsequently spread from Mali to the neighbouring countries of Burkina Faso and Niger. This is all despite the presence of 4,500 French troops in the Sahel region (a colossal area between the Sahara, to the north, and the Sudanian Savanna, to the south) and a further 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping force.

The spiritually restless Kel Tamasheq population, trapped between a hostile government, armed militias loyal to al-Qaeda and the encroaching threat posed by global corporations eager to commodify their desert home, remain stuck in the middle.

Still without a homeland, though liberated from their draconian partners, they’re once again left, as wanderers in their own lands, the unofficial guardians and custodians of the Saharan wilderness. For now only a dream, best realized and protested through music, the rock’ n ’roll Bedouins Tamikrest emerge from the barren landscape with a message of “power and resistance and hope”. Exiled from the southwestern Saharan crossroad town of Kidal, home but also the birthplace of this entrancing desert rock band, the Tamikrest troupe lives between the bordering regions, Algeria and also Paris. They paid homage to that strategically and spiritually important cultural trading town on their last album, back in 2017; an album that exuded both the sadness and suffering of the dispossessed people who cling to the Saharan hub that is Kidal, a town which has seen its fair share of fighting. Fought over, conquered and reconquered over time, it remains a symbolic home: This is after all the town that nurtured them and where it all began.

Supposedly back with the most powerful statement since the group’s 2013 Chatma album, the message of Tamikrest’s fifth studio album is once again one of hope and reflection: a message that is literally reflected in the translation of the album’s Tamotaït title. Not that you’d know it from the poetically earthy longing vocals, but songs like the opening mirage-y gritty blues boogie ‘Awnafin’ are powered by a message of ‘defiance’, whilst the group’s percussionist and singer Aghaly Ag Mohamedine declares a message of a “revolution in the Tamasheq culture”, when discussing the sirocco Future Days (at its most heavenly and liquid) buoyed narrated ‘As Sastnan Hidjan’. For something so revolutionary in rhetoric, and born out of such a tragic upheaval, the latest album is mostly an articulately electrified soulful affair that lingers and resonates between the sand dunes and the cosmic. Despite some rough and fuzzed guitar and a rocking beat, Tamikrest articulate a sighed, almost hushed form of gospel blues; especially spiritually diaphanous and enriched when a chorus of sweeter male and female vocalists weigh in, as they do on the down-and-sandy slide guitar and drum tabbing yearning ‘Amidinin Tad Adouniya’, and with the gossamer Balearics camel-motion ‘Amzagh’ – which sways close the backing music of the band’s label mate, the Saharan siren Aziza Brahim.

Arguably always open to embracing sounds and music from outside Mali, Tamikrest find an affinity with the perfumed alluring coos and gauzy longing of the Moroccan singer/actress Hindi Zahra. Connected not just geographically but through the group’s transcendent guitarist Paul Salvagnac, who played in Zahra’s band for several years, the acclaimed siren – known for singing in both English and the atavistic Berber languages – casts a suitable spell on the album track ‘Timtarin’. So congruous and at ease with the setup, apparently she recorded her vocals without any rehearsal, on the first take. Her turn on this atonal dream sends the band on a wind across the Sahara towards Persia.

Tamikrest also find kinship with the traditional music of Japan. Whilst on tour in the Far East, Ag Mohamedine was drawn to the spindly threaded and quivered sounds of the three-stringed, plectrum strummed ‘shamisen’ and five-string ‘tonkori’: an odd looking instrument said to have been shaped to resemble a woman’s body, the strings are openly strummed with one hand, whilst the other hand plucks out individual strings. Guesting on the album’s closer, ‘Tabsit’, Atsushi Sakta and Oki Kano lend an Oriental resonance to the group’s desert shimmered guitar tones in a union between two very different worlds. It’s another congruous fit, one that transcends both.

Remaining true to the sound that has so defined them, Tamikrest have also continued to expand sonically across their quintet of albums. Roots music taken on a voyage of discovery to a myriad of compass points, Tamotaït once more transforms the lingered traces of desert blues and rock’ n ’roll to produce a richly woven tapestry of fired-up protestation and hope.

Related posts from the Archives:

Tamikrest ‘Chatma’ 

Tamikrest ‘Kidal’ 

Terakaft ‘Alone’

Glitterbeat 5th Anniversary Special 

Support the Monolith Cocktail via Ko-Fi

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.

A quick shifty, glance, a perusal of the mounting pile of singles, EPs, mini-LPs, tracks, videos and oddities that threaten to overload our inboxes this month by me, Dominic Valvona.

This week’s roll call includes the following picks: Gawd Status, Ghostwood Development Project, Adam Green, Irreversible Entanglements and Lunar Bird.

Gawd Status   ‘Admiral Byrd’
(Tru Thoughts)   Video/Happening Now

Taken from last year’s debut LP Firmamentum, the ether emanating Hip-Hop conspiracy hallucination ‘Admiral Byrd’ is the latest video to drop from the unholy Gawd Status union of leading UK rap architects King Kashmere and Joker Starr. Making our albums of 2019 features (picked by our resident know-all on the Hip-Hop essentials, Matt Oliver), the visionary psychedelic combo enter the sanctum of the tinfoil hat brigade to merge the real life exploits of the famed and heavily decorated American explorer, navel hero and aviator Admiral Richard E. Byrd with flat and hollow Earth rabbit hole lunacy. Byrd is notable amongst other things, for being the first to fly across Antarctica; a flight that may or may not of been sanctioned as a deep cover operation to find Nazis and UFOs in the uncharted frozen wastes. The mind boggles as a silver-suited adorned Gawd Status set out to unlock a truth.

Matt Oliver had this to say about them and their debut LP, Firmamentum, back in 2019:

‘When the Big Bang wiped everything out first time around, Gawd Status saw it as an opportunity, in which Kashmere’s Strange U spaceship nosedives into the jungle, moondust dementia still sputtering from its exhaust, and Joker Starr swaps the battle arena for the cannibalistic, kill or be killed lawlessness of the Firmamentum outback. The Gawd Status is a complicated one, seriously heavy at a skinflint eight tracks long (even in the current age of artists finally getting album length right, 28 minutes is a bit of a choker), fiercely standing up for itself in articulation of black rage and examination of conspiracy theories, and reveling in The Iguana Man’s thick doomsday fog. The event completed by some utterly bumping soul sisterhood from Fae Simon, its arrival at Tru Thoughts is a slight surprise. Nonetheless it’s a work of art that burns bright like a brilliant, tumultuous dream.’

Ghostwood Development Project Feat. Kool Keith   ‘Gulley’
(Nepotismo Records)  Single/6th March

Lazer guided, Lee Brunskjill hooks up with one-man cult Hip-Hop progenitor Kool Keith on his new electrified cosmic project the Ghostwood Development Project.

Dr. Octagon throws out a heavy-reference potted cosmology over a dialed calculating electrical field on the project’s inaugural single, ‘Gully’. Originally conceived after the pair met at Mike Patton & The Melvins curated chapter of All Tomorrow’s Parties Nightmare, all the way back in 2008, an initial spark was ignited over a mutual love of Sci-Fi movies, music and horror movie soundtracks.

This whole project has been a long time in the making, Lee was instrumental in putting together Leeds based Punk outfit Autopsy Boys and after they disbanded he went into social isolation to reevaluate his music and what it meant to him.

Lee rebuilt everything he’d known about music and self taught himself to mix, master and scratch and even built his own syths, which you can hear throughout this track.

By the time Lee had got his newfound skills on point he’d created ‘Gulley’ and found himself in need of a vocal and knew there and then that only Kool Keith would work. Having swapped numbers Lee contacted him, played him the track to which he said “This shit is hot!”. Lee remembers: “Within two days Kool Keith recorded his part and sent back his vocals. With that I set about mixing and mastering my first solo release. I wanted to announce my new project with something special but never imagined it would turn out this good.”

The Ghostwood Development Project moniker is a Twin Peaks reference as Lee explains:

“A few people have asked where I got the name from. It was a plan originally spearheaded by Benjamin Horne to build a country club on the location of Ghostwood National Forest. An intriguing subplot in Twin Peaks. Had this plot continued, I believe it would have revealed the imminent destruction of the town and elaborated on the evil spirits as well as the backstory of Bob, and his Lucifer-like nature. It also plays along nicely with the Twin Peaks‘ narrative of “evil in the woods.” The idea is to present my own personal experiences from an alternate timeline within the Twin Peaks universe where the project did happen and chaos was unleashed. My imagery, music, art, narrative and videos come from the area known as Ghostwood. “Stop Ghostwood” is a recurring theme throughout the saga. Naturally I adopted the term ‘Vote Ghostwood’ insinuating hell on earth has arrived.”

Irreversible Entanglements   ‘No Más’
(International Anthem/Don Giovanni)  Teaser/20th March 2020

The third of my recommendations this week is a tumbling and bowed untethered work of conscious jazz from the free-welding Irreversible Entanglements. Taken from the quintet’s upcoming album Who Sent You?, ‘No Más’ is a sublime rolling gauzy horns wafting teaser for what sounds like a beatified tapestry of poetic actions and contemplations.

Join Camae Ayewa (aka Moor Mother), saxophonist Keir Neuringer, trumpeter Aquiles Navarro, bassist Luke Stewart, and drummer Tcheser Holmes now on this political remonstration.

Lunar Bird   ‘A Walk’
Single/6th March 2020

Transforming vulnerability into something positively and celebratory spellbinding and golden, the psychedelic gauzy pop band Lunar Bird turn on the translucent diaphanous charm for their brand new single, ‘A Walk’. Valuing instead of diminishing fragility and all it entails, the Italian formed, but in recent years Wales-based, band wash away all the travails with a most radiant dreamy pop mirage that evokes ethereal and lush moments from Beach House, Stereolab, Diva Dompe and Deerhunter.

A reference to Joan Miró’s famous abstract bronze sculpture of the same name, Lunar Bird is a cosmic fantasy duo spearheaded by Roberta Musillami and Francis George, that on this particular gorgeous recording expanded to also include Eliseo DiMalto on bass guitar and Andrea Rizzo on drums.

A Walk precedes the band’s debut album, released sometime in the Spring.

Adam Green  ‘All Hell Breaks Loose (Misfits Cover)’
(30th Century)  Track/Available Now

A lot of homages going on in one place here, as the former Moldy Peach turn left banke troubadour Adam Green pays his respects to the Misfits’ towering influential instigator Glenn Danzig with a cover of the band’s Western gallop homage to Scott Walker and John Franz, ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’. Green corrals the talents of producer Loren Humphrey (who also played drums), James Richardson of MGMT (guitar, bass, piano, brass arrangement, brass), and Jesse Kotansky (string arrangement, strings) on this heightened dramatic sweep through the imaginative mind of Danzig, who as it happens is apparently releasing a new album next month of Elvis covers.

In short, this is a congruous cover version that wouldn’t look out of place on Green last nostalgic songbook Engine Of Paradise; an album that channeled Lee Hazlewood, Burt Bacharach, Harry Nilsson, Ian McCulloch, Jim Sullivan and Father John Misty to produce romantic and candid swooners, Midnight Cowboy like cocktail ruminations on love in the context of a society in the grip of an ever intrusive and alienating social media, and folksy ditties imbibed with strolls in the Greenwich Village.

Support the Monolith Cocktail:

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.

Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea joined the Monolith Cocktail team in January 2019. The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The Bordellos, 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 releases include The Bordellos beautifully despondent pains-of-the-heart and mockery of clique “hipsters” ode to Liverpool, and, under the guises of the Idiot Blur Fanboy moniker, a stripped down classic 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.

Catholic Action  ‘Celebrated by Strangers’
(Modern Sky)  LP/27th March 2020

I like this album; it has a fine arrogant strut about it. It’s an LP that caresses a love of not just Wire, Gary Numan, XTC but Donna Summer as well: an album that bathes in the music of the past whilst casting a eye and ear to the present and future.

I also love the overly enthusiastic use of handclaps and the rebirth of the Thin Lizzy twin guitar sound on “Yr Old Dad”. Celebrated by Strangers is an album of well thought out and subtle homages to the obvious love of their musical influences. I can imagine the mighty Marc Bolan doing a fine version of the sultry semi ballad ‘And It Shows’, and ‘People Don’t Protest Enough’ is a song worthy of slipping off the pen of Difford and Tilbrook .

I can safely predict that come the Spring many of the tracks from this fine LP will become over familiar after BBC 6 MUSIC decide that it is the best thing since the last commercial hook laden, slightly alternative guitar LP was released. Shall we call it the Bandwagon-esqe for the year 2020? I think we shall.

Proper Ornaments  ‘Mission Bells’
(Tapete Records)  LP/28th February 2020

Guitar music really does not grow old does it? Not when it’s done right anyway; may it be by Buddy Holly or The Beatles, The Velvets, Big Star or The Smiths or Teenage Fanclub. I was going to say Oasis But they’re a leaden dull thud of a band and show how disposable and uninteresting guitar music can also be.

But the Proper Ornaments I’m pleased to say fall into the first category, a band that write songs with verve, soul and power, a band that make timeless guitar music that will stand the test of time, and this new LP, Mission Bells, takes off were last years Six Lenins left off, and is another example of how to write songs with lyrics and melodies that will pull at the heart stings and not just rehash old Slade riffs and sing of bowling balls [the last mention of Oasis I promise].

This is a fine and interesting album and should be played to all youngsters who want to take up the guitar as a example of how it should and can be done, and if I was giving it marks I would add extra, for once again it sounds like a album and not just a collection of songs. A very good album indeed.

Piney Gir  ‘Puppy Love’
Single/14th February 2020

Ah another song released on Valentine’s Day extolling the joys and virtues of love, and why not there is not nearly enough love in this world. This song is a fine power pop jangle that the The Fountains Of Wayne would be overjoyed to have written [little known fact the Fountains Of Wayne debut LP might be one of my most played LPs…now you weren’t expecting that were you] [and do you care, it will hardly come up as a question on the chase…or will it]. Anyway back to ‘Puppy Love’ [which I might add is not a cover of the Donny Osmond classic, classic being used in the loosest possible sense of the word] but a lovely way to spend two minutes 48 seconds of your life. Pop music is a wonderful thing, as this single proves.

bigflower  ‘My Love’
Single/15th February 2020

As the passing of Valentines Day slides away for another year the excellent bigflower release yet another free to download track of melodramatic dark sweeping beauty, soaked in a melting reverb, distorted to the extent of your own personal god grinding his teeth. Once again a track one should be hearing seeping from your radio, but as there is no justice in this world you will just have to check it out yourself via Bandcamp.

The Lounge Bar Orchestra  ‘Pilot Episode’
Album/30th March 2020

What we have here ladies and gentlemen is the coolest hip swing finger popping LP of the year; music that takes you from the dire depressing early months of 2020 to a time when the sun always shone, when there were only three TV channels and half the time they were showing a test card with some little girl [who actually looked a lot like my wife] playing noughts and crosses with some strange cuddly toy. And this LP could in fact be the music playing that you listened to as you lost yourself in that test card, staring waiting to see if the girl would blink passing the time as you waited for Bagpuss to start.

This ladies and gentlemen is the sound of a variety shows of the late sixties early seventies when you had to name that tune and that tune could well be something off this mighty fine album. This could be the music as Anthe twirled and Bruce felt something move in the trouser department. The music I would imagine Parker played as he drove Lady Penelope around the countryside in the pink six wheeled Fab 1. For god’s sake this LP is cool enough to be the soundtrack for “The Man In The Suitcase” and let’s be honest it does not get any cooler than that.

Harold Nono  ‘We’re Almost Home’
(Bearsuit Records)  LP/20th March 2020

What we have here the rattle tattle of experimental pop music, the sound of one’s mind losing itself in the magical world of sci-fi movies and 60s spy movie soundtracks; an LP to be played whilst reading Beat poetry. This could have been playing in the car when Dylan uttered the immortal line “give the anarchist a cigarette!” in “Don’t look Back”. It is a collision of Neu, John Barry, John Coltrane and My Bloody Valentine, which Joe Meek has collected up and put into one great melting pot. It’s genre non specific as all great experimental pop music should be and this album is great, it captures the many moods of life from the hip swinging happy to the crestfallen beauty of the sad.

Bearsuit Records have once again released an album of true original beauty and if there is any justice in the world should be finding themselves in the best LPs of the year lists come the end of the year, and be a constant fixture on BBC6’s saving grace the Freakzone radio show, in the coming months. Another gem.

Void Vortex  ‘Everything I Am (Is Built From You)’
(Wormhole World)  EP/28th February 2020

This EP is a thing of beautiful experimental wonder; the sound and beauty of the lone piano blissing out and getting down in technological escapades of noise, a instrumental soundtrack to a land of wilting dance beats and robotic poetry and available for all to download on a pay what you want basis, so no need to wait for payday.

Toxic Chicken  ‘Live at Scaledown’
Live Performance/29th February 2020

There is something quite stunningly beautiful in this 15-minute live performance from the Toxic Chicken, recorded at Scaledown – described as London’s finest hidden event. This is the sound of the experimental underground at its best; electronica psychedelia and subtle humor merge into a bewitching hypnotic instrumental mantra one can lose and then re-find oneself in. Part 1967 era Beatles, Syd’s Floyd and the Aphex Twin this is really gripping stuff. A joy to behold.

Related posts from the Archives:

Proper Ornaments ‘Six Lenins’

Toxic Chicken ‘Uncomfortable Music’

Lounge Bar Orchestra ‘Washing Line’

Idiot Blur Fanboy ‘Oasis Are The Enemy’

The Monolith Cocktail Is Now On Ko-Fi

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

Idiot Blur Fanboy   ‘Oasis Are The Enemy’
(Wormhole World)   LP/6th March 2020

There’s that 70s interview between goading miscreant music writer Lester Bangs and his idol Lou Reed, the one where Bangs baits his subject, hitting on a nerve in taking a pop at the former Velvet darling’s current foil and champion David Bowie, who’s star was of course in ascendance, a consequence of which was reviving Lou’s solo career. Bangs however accuses Bowie, Nosferatu style, of bloodsucking on Lou’s creative life force for his own ends; at one point he opines that Bowie wasn’t even a good songwriter, and that he hadn’t written anything even as good or lasting as Sam The Sham’s ‘Wooly Bully’. Tenuous, but in the same ballpark, cult leader of the stalwart lo fi Bordellos and a myriad of sporadic side-projects, Brian Shea recently posted a series of charity shop bin-fodder and kitsch albums (from the early 90s cast of Coronation Street to Bruce Forsyth) he, as scornfully goading as Bangs and hoping for a similar rise, stated were better than Oasis’s grand opus, Be Here Now. He had a point.

Under the guises of the Idiot Blur Fanboy, Brian’s latest dysfunctional and despondent Tascam rubber-band four-track triumph Oasis Are The Enemy pours a bucket of cold sick over not only the sorry excuse for a Ruttles tribute band but their mockney middleclass rivals Blur. But this isn’t just an obsessive ranting diatribe – even if the George Formby meets Mark E Smith twat-gait breezy ‘Liam Gallagher’ ditty is an excuse to take a pop: “Walks like he shat himself, sings like a spud” -; more a title and lyric that encapsulates the sorry state of the music industry and pockets of fandom still living in a recent past. But at least Noel Gallagher and Damon Albarn have moved on musically, as uninspiring as they might be. Liam, stuck still singing the Wonderwalls and Supernovas his brother wrote 25 years ago, has a solo career that he seems to think is somehow truer to the spirit of rock’n’roll; knocking and pestering, squabbling constantly with Noel who he denounces for apparently turning his back on that myopic vision of rock music. Truth is Liam’s music and cockiness is dull as dishwater. Apart from the already mentioned cheap but hilarious turd delivered Liam track, the titular tune is the only other sneering polemic relating to this theme; ‘Idiot Blur Fanboy’, which originally had an even less PC title, is a chugging thumbed lo fi Jilted John distortion, a brilliant raving Britpop antichrist tango.


The rest of Brian’s ruminations and idiosyncratic observed, musical inspirations littered, diy poetry concerns love-lost resignation, electric-soup connoisseurs of lethal strong lager, wistful remorse, regret and even a tinge of that nostalgia. ‘Cabbage Patch Doll Kiss’ is in the melancholic romantic vogue; a cantering malady with some of the album’s best lines (and there are many): “My hat was a garden, now it’s a rubbish tip. You were the captain of my favourite bath ship.” –Syd Barret eat your heart out. That bastard ‘Rick Astley’ was playing on the radio during another breakup (“I longed for the dark, so I could cry under the killing moon.”) yet is credited with saving Brian’s soul. ‘In My Bed’ pulls the malingering humour into sharp focus however, as one of the album’s saddest profound heartaches, Brian touching upon his own mental health and its effects on a partner. Just as seemingly sad, ‘Guitars And Dust’ finds the middle-aged St. Helens maverick as the lamentable surveyor of his bedroom music empire, yearning that “I’m not the man I thought I’d be.” With a sort of bastardised slow ‘Band On The Run’ feel, Brian touches upon his family band’s underground status, devoid after decades of success. Brian pulls himself together for the final scour, ‘Oh Morrissey’. To a discordant buzz and lone electric guitar Brian has a go at an icon over a perceived betrayal; Morrissey lurching in recent years to the ‘right’. Always a contrary fucker at the best of times, but no calls for boycotts or much in the way of criticism over his vulgarities and cuntiness when he was supporting left wing causes, Morrissey has shown support for Tommy Robinson, sported a Britain First badge on US TV, but also (how dare he) been sympathetic to those who voted for Brexit. He is, as Brian puts it, a “twat”. But lets see it for what it is, a fading star stirring the pot and looking for attention. Still a boycott seems petty and full of false indignity: Be weary of false idols.


The wisdom of a St. Helens Daniel Johnston or Dan Treacy on the dole, the stripped down Idiot Blur Fanboy LP is a triumph of lo fi integrity in an age in which all the counterculture and underground ‘mutherfuckers’ have disappeared into mediocrity or under the fleeting caviler relationship of streaming: a flakey epoch and market place unsympathetic to musicians and artists. Someone care though, and for that they deserve your support and pocket money. Let’s see what we can do to keep such mavericks afloat.

Related from the Archives:

The Bordellos ‘Debt Sounds: Track by Track’

The Bordellos ‘Will.I.Am, You’re Really Nothing’

Brian Bordello’s Reviews Roundup

Dan Shea

The Monolith Cocktail is ecstatic and grateful to have coaxed a guest spot contribution from the impassioned and adroit musician/writer Dan Shea. Roped into his family’s lo fi cult music business, The Bordellos, from a young age, the candid but humble maverick has gone onto instigate the chthonian Vukovar and, with one part of that ever-shambling post-punk troupe, musical foil Buddy Preston, the seedy bedsit synth romantics Beauty Stab. An exceptional talent (steady…this is becoming increasingly gushing) both in composing and songwriting, the multi-instrumentalist and singer is also a dab hand at writing. His first time ever for the MC, Dan shares a grand personal ‘fangirl’ purview of major crush, the late Rowland S. Howard, on the eve of Mute Records appraisal style celebration reissue of his highly influential cult albums ‘Teenage Snuff Film’ and ‘Pop Crimes’.

Rowland S. Howard   ‘Teenage Snuff Film/Pop Crimes’
(Mute)   Remasterd Reissue Albums /27th March 2020

Teenage Snuff Film

“You’re bad for me like cigarettes, but I haven’t sucked enough of you yet”.

Curls of Morricone guitars, the ‘Be My Baby’ beat slowed to a kerb crawl as it is on every song on Teenage Snuff Film and a voice so soft it smashes stars.

Then in the middle, a spiraling surf guitar run; subtle organ chords in the background and the sort of strings I am contractually obliged to describe as sweeping. Teenage Snuff Film is an immensely important record to me, so important that I kicked a perfectly attractive possible suitor out of my flat when he described it as “boring”. Cute as he was you’ve got to draw a line somewhere and we have never spoke again.

The first time I heard Teenage Snuff Film I was sixteen and I think that’s the perfect time to hear a record like this. It all comes back to the beginning, conjuring up a world I was yet to experience. Now I have been there, watching the party end through a haze of smoke slumped insensible with my head on the shoulder of a femme fatale (of several genders), I can’t help but prefer what I had imagined.

Following ‘Breakdown (and Then)’ in which he writes his own epitaph (“Crown Prince of the Crying Jag”) there is ‘She Cried’. One thing he does a lot on this record is admit to his own cruelty and use this admission to gain your sympathy – it’s a lowdown, filthy trick and one I frequently find myself doing. ‘She Cried’ again uses a bastardised Hal Blaine beat and with his customary rusted, pealing bell guitar sound he lays waste to a perfectly pleasant 60’s girl group song. From amidst this wreckage The Horrors are conceived in unholy means.

‘I Burnt Your Clothes’ does the same thing as ‘Breakdown’ but more unpleasantly and lyrically, more violently and with the addition of frenetic horror movie organ vamping.

‘Exit Everything’ pivots around a propulsive bassline from the similarly dearly departed Brian Hooper that threatens to steal the show from Rowland S Howard: also listening to this record and in particular the sizzling hi hat patterns on this track, you can’t help but wish Mick Harvey would play drums more. There must have been some reason he took the drum stool in The Birthday Party besides Phill Calvert just being tired of everyone’s shit.

It’s at this point I have to revert to cliché and describe this album as cinematic: it’s a cliché Rowland clearly endorsed as the liners state ‘Written and Directed by Rowland S Howard’. With that in mind, I apologise for how flooded with spoilers this review / hagiography / fangirl diary is.

‘Silver Chain’, as co-written with Genevieve McGuckin who contributed the fantastically understated and slightly mad keyboards to These Immortal Souls records, is a thing of real beauty. I struggle to do things like this justice with my words because I am very aware as a musician myself that throwing a mixture of technically accurate adjectives and superlatives at something this heartfelt is just entirely risible. What I will say is that when it all builds to a crescendo, screeching violins and hymnal organ, as Rowland sings “I tattooed your name in a ring round my heart”, that invisibly in the act of singing this he tattooed his own on mine.

Then ‘White Wedding’. It’s got to the point now that whenever I hear the original, usually on the radio at work, I find myself wondering “Why are they playing that shit cover of a song off Teenage Snuff Film?”. Somehow he discovers a deep and primal longing in this song, recasting it as if it were an ancient folk song he found under a rock or in Nick Cave’s basement.

The final three tracks of the record are, for me, where the record’s heart is: any noir director worth their salt knows that it’s the climax you’re talking about on the way home. ‘Undone’ is the kiss-off of all kiss-offs: that trademark shower of splinters rhythm guitar approach most obviously spotted on the title track from The Birthday Party’s Junkyard is back but so are Bernard Herrman strings and the fastest drums on this record. He accentuates his filthy Valentines with scything one note atonal guitar fills until the carnival organ escapes from Cave’s ‘Your Funeral, My Trial’ and propels him to greater heights of loathing. The cruelty of the earlier songs on the record is still there but undercut with an obvious vulnerability, particularly in the ‘Coy Mistress’ quoting midsection.

‘Autoluminescent’ is just achingly sad: there is a reason they named the biopic after it. Another truly beautiful vocal performance: Rowland’s voice is not discussed enough. The focus is always, obviously, on his guitar playing but when I hear Rowland’s voice I hear one of the saddest instruments in the world. The only voice as sad and as beautiful as his for me is Billy McKenzie but obviously they sound nothing alike. While Billy masked his vulnerability (or tried unconvincingly to do so) through his technical expertise, Rowland takes strength from his. The result is the slurring, croak of a grievous androgynous angel. It’s the kind of sadness you experience when you’ve cried as much as you possibly can and you’re starting to smirk at your own ridiculousness.

What makes this song as heartbreaking as it is? It’s the way his voice cracks and frays as he slips into desperate, insane self-aggrandisement: “I’m bigger than Jesus Christ….I am dangerous, I cut like the sharpest knife” then settles again. Again I can’t do it justice and you’re just going to have to listen to the thing.

If you’ve heard of and enjoy Nick Cave, Swans, The Fall, The Gun Club, etc. and you haven’t already then why? Why not? For me Rowland S Howard is every bit Nick Cave’s equal, asides from in work ethic: Rowland penned and fronted four albums across three decades where Cave does that in three years plus umpteen soundtracks. Most of them haven’t been as good as this album but that’s alright because for me personally not much is.

Cooking Vinyl‘s track list of this record originally also included a version of ‘Shut Me Down’ after this, which I’ll be discussing in the Pop Crimes section. I see no reason whatsoever why this alternate edition should be absent from this record: The new deluxe edition with less material?

‘Sleep Alone’ brings this record to a tumultuous close with another utterly filthy Brian Hooper bassline and the most deranged guitar playing on this record. “This is my journey to the edge of the night, I’ve got no companions Louis Celine’s by my side”.

It builds, and builds until it ends with just that voice again sounding incredibly damaged and vulnerable but defiant and then there’s an outro of feedback skree and noise that could easily fit onto a Whitehouse record.

Making these things more accessible to more people can never be a bad thing: maybe next Mute can reissue the These Immortal Souls back catalogue so I can own a physical copy of Never Gonna Die Again without having to resort to prostitution. Given that Mute already issued these records in the first place there would be no reason to issue deluxe editions minus several tracks.

It is however disappointing that on neither of these reissues has there been made room for the original version of ‘Shut Me Down’ which makes the lachrymosity of the version on Pop Crimes sound like K-Pop in comparison; or Rowland’s heartbreaking cover of the Velvet Underground’s ‘Ocean’ which for my money (not enough for a deluxe double red vinyl edition) is an improvement on the original, this obviously not faint praise.


Pop Crimes

“My life plays like Grand Guignol, blood and portents everywhere”


Years of silence followed: make no mistake, in terms of gaps between records Rowland made Scott Walker look like Edward Ka-Spel or Mark E Smith. Then he produces a great album that is again annoyingly out of print, HTRK’s Marry Me Tonight. A wonderful album but I’m not going to write about it here.

A word of warning here: obviously the tenor of this piece has made it clear I am not writing objectively and these two records are very much a part of me at this point in time, so you may ignore this and I don’t blame you. Disclaimer aside, this album will break your heart and there’s no two ways about it.

‘I Know A Girl Called Jonny’ refers to Jonine Standish from HTRK and she sings on it in a voice that sounds almost exactly like his. Another languid, androgynous croon that makes you wish he’d reprised the Lydia Lunch ‘Shotgun Wedding’ record with her. It’s all pleasant and correct: Mick Harvey is playing a variation on the Be My Baby beat, strings are scraping, guitars are slashing and it feels like a warped girl group record. ‘Shut Me Down’ follows, and in this setting also has a 60’s pop drama: a French film embrace, black turtleneck clad lovers departing at fountains in the snow and knowing they’ll never see each other again. This time the chime of a vibraphone underscores what sounds like a Billy Fury record playing at half-speed. Then something interesting happens. Your heart just breaks. I won’t reproduce any lyrics because the ones that look the best on paper aren’t the ones that sound the best but it is another fantastic vocal performance.

Then comes his cover of Talk Talk’s ‘Life’s What You Make It’ and throughout this I have tried manfully to avoid dwelling on the biographical details behind these records: a great record should stand alone without them and I firmly believe this does. However, for a dying man to re-record ‘Life’s What You Make It’ bitterly recasts it.

When I first heard this record he was still with us: I had no idea that the man was dying. I bought a copy in Liverpool’s Probe Records, spotting the name and that incredibly distinctive face looking back off the cover. Birdlike, broken boxer’s nose, otherworldly and androgynous swathed in red light. “At long last, the lazy fucker”.

Maybe the hints were there, but Rowland was singing and writing about death since he was a teenager. On Pop Crimes, which reprises the previous track’s angular, extended lope with regular lead guitar breaks and a descended bassline akin to ‘Exit Everything’ on the previous record there are several turns of phrase that catch my breath: “open heart surgery kiss” and the phrase Pop Crime itself. Several friends of mine, some collaborators, have latched onto this phrase and shamelessly half-inched it. I in particular have stolen a lot from Rowland.

‘Nothin’’ is another cover version this time of a Townes Van Zandt song. This one isn’t such a stark transformation but it’s a fantastic song well suited to his voice and turned me onto the artist’s work: which I guess is another useful function of the cover version. Inviting you into the artist’s living room rather than throwing you out of it because you were disparaging of a genius.

‘Wayward Man’ compels me to use the word swagger and I don’t like that, I absolutely hate that word. It’s the only one that fits: there’s something sexy about it. It struts about all over the place in spite of itself. There’s a particularly nasty descending guitar riff Rowland plays at several points which takes me aback almost every time.

Again it’s the record’s climax where I really have to wax lyrical. ‘Ave Maria’ is another fantastic lyric: it’s all in the delivery but when he sings the phrase “History led her to me” it carries with it the grim inevitability of what happened next. I’m finding myself welling up simply imagining the instrumental bridge towards the end, which sounds simply like the ascension of a soul. Distant vibraphone again, a gentle surge with JP Shilo‘s violin pulling us all skyward. An overhead shot of the moment of rejection as it happens then we’re back to ‘Be My Baby’ drums slowed to a drunken heartbeat crawl. The final verse takes us into the final track on the album, and the final song we heard from the great man.

The Golden Age of Bloodshed’ from which my header quote to this section was drawn is, again, shorn of biography incredibly moving but with full context it’s just…fucking hell. A walk to the gallows rhythm serves as a backdrop to some of Rowland’s best guitar playing: all the shower-of-splinters chainsaw noises, pealing bell single notes and fuzz tantrums you can fit into the song’s short runtime. There’s a mordant black comedy to these lyrics, with their Schopenhauer references, “Catholic girls with Uzis” and a “harsh new brand of aftershave that gives you a thousand yard stare”. There’s even a “take my wife” joke any Northern standup would be proud of:

“I’m suspicious of my wife, I suspect she left long ago

I recall my finger on the button of the ejector seat

But I can’t recall letting her go”

This sounds intensely alive and vital in the shadow of death. Then it all comes to a climax with a final burst of noise trailing off into nowhere: a fade-out, a ticking rhythm disappearing off into the fog of the world. The credits roll. I am not merely dragging this cinematic metaphor to its brutal end I am again paraphrasing the liner notes that list Rowland as the director.

Cherish these records: it’s a shame he’s not around to enjoy the plaudits or the financial reward with which he may not have died skint and we may have had more to enjoy by him. I am a fervent believer that we should cherish the angels that walk among us before death beatifies them, ironing out the creases and possible unpleasantness that did not allow us to properly revere their beauty while they were alive. But sometimes it’s not possible, so allow these records into your heart and home; hope, a dangerous thing, but hope that it continues to inspire and enflame.

Related posts from the Archives

(Author) Beauty Stab Interview

(Author) Vukovar ‘Cremator’ Review

(Author) Vukovar ‘Puritan’ Review

Mick Harvey ‘Four (Acts Of Love)’ Review

Mick Harvey Live Report

The Monolith Cocktail Is Now On Ko-Fi

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

Hallelujah!   ‘Minipony’
(Maple Death Records)   Video

Assaulting our ears recently with their partially ironically entitled caustic synth punk album Wanna Dance, the disruptive Verona misfits Hallelujah! have recently pawned their lead guitar for a Korg MS20. The results of which sound like a retro-synth scuzzed chaos, fit for the dungeon dancefloor; a remolded sleazy spasm of Mute Records, DAF, Peter Kernel and The Pop Group.

Taken from that same album, released at the end of February, the erratic megaphone hailed fuzzed-up and bleeping abused ‘Minipony’ has been granted an equally diy style video. Directed insanely by Andrew Tee, this dog’s dinner of a weird set-up tells the tail of the love between one man and his canine pal – though it does seem to all intents and purposes as if the protagonist is actually ‘picking’ up the said dog from a bar. Fun and japes ensue from a trio of noiseniks that seem to have an obsession with animals.

Related posts from the Archives

Wanna Dance Review

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.

Words: Matt Oliver

Gunshot  ‘Burn Cycle’
(Underground United)  Single/28th February 2020

Responsible for scene-defining material as ‘Patriot Games’ and ‘Battle Creek Brawl’, London roughnecks Gunshot brandished the best of Britcore classification at a time when UK hip-hop was the most niche of homegrown genres. Since their 90s heyday they’ve been largely dormant, though a whiff of ‘Sulphur’ caught the nostrils of Rapture & Verse in the summer of 2018, championed for provocatively resonant lyricism as if they’d never been away, to the sound of all hell breaking loose, scrambling capital city helicopters as they rose with a Godzilla grip.

In these times where strife spawns from every angle, there’s no better time for Gunshot to recalibrate their crosshairs with new track ‘Burn Cycle’. Featuring turntable assistance from DMC champion DJ Woody and engineered by Scratch PervertsPrime Cuts, the fire in which Gunshot burn stews in ‘Sulphur’ residue. Monstrous disaster movie horns and danger zone strings threaten to burst from your megaplex and grab you by the throat, and vocals matter of factly ride out the maelstrom, reveling in the fatalistic thrill of the chase in telling Satan to get behind them. Gunshot haven’t lost their volume, and ‘Burn Cycle’ leaves scorch marks across speakers in a thoroughly old skool, guts and glory fashion; released on Underground United, and marking Judgment Day as February 28th.

Of interest from the Archives

Gunshot ‘Sulphur’ Review (August 2018)

Golden Age of UK Hip-Hop

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/Brian Shea/Matt Oliver

The behemoth Quarterly Playlist Revue is now more! With a massive increase in submissions month-on-month, we’ve decided to go monthly in 2020. The February playlist carries on from where the popular quarterly left off; picking out the choice tracks that represent the Monolith Cocktail’s eclectic output. New releases and the best of reissues have been chosen by me, Dominic Valvona, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea and Matt Oliver.

The full track list is as follows:

A Journey of Giraffes  ‘Into The Open Air’
Graham Costello’s Strata  ‘Cygnus (Edit)’
Calibro 35 ft. MEI  ‘Black Moon’
The Four Owls  ‘Honour Codes’
Juga-Naut  ‘Jackson Pollock’
Chassol  ‘Rollercoaster Pt.2’
Dream Parade  ‘Adderall’
U.S. Girls  ‘4 American Dollars’
Piney Gir  ‘Puppy Love’
November Bees  ‘Pot Called Pan’
Joss Cope  ‘Indefinite Particles’
Slift  ‘Hyperion’
Martin Mansson Sjostrand Trio  ‘Overkilghetsflykten’
Bob Destiny  ‘Wang Dang’
Dueling Experts  ‘Dark Ninjas’
TrueMendous  ‘That Don’t Mean’
Confucuis MC  ‘Look Deeper’
Lewps Hekla  ‘Rose Gold Ruger Pose’
Pulled By Magnets  ‘Gold Regime People Die’
The Dream Syndicate  ‘The Regulator (Single Edit)’
Mai Mai Mai ft. Maria Violenza  ‘Secondo Coro Delle Lavandaie’
Sad Man  ‘Door’
Pongo  ‘Quem Manda No Mic’
Ranil  ‘Cumbia Sin Nombre’
Nordine Staifi  ‘Zine Ezzinet’
Adebukonla Ajao And Her Group  ‘Aboyin Ile’
Mazzi & Tac  ‘Brackets’
Dillion & Batsauce  ‘Self Medicated’
Elaquent & Chester Watson  ‘Airwalk’
A Journey Of Giraffes  ‘Poet’s Muse’
Jimi Tenor  ‘Lassi Laggi’
Seu Jorge & Roge  ‘Sarava’
John Howard  ‘It’s Not All Over Yet’
Birgitta Alida  ‘Closely’
Anytime Cowboy  ‘Story Of Skin Island’
King Krule  ‘Comet Face’
Brian Bordello  ‘Liverpool Hipster Set’
Postcards  ‘Dead End’
Zinn  ‘Diogenes’
Mazeppa  ‘The Way In’
Vivienne Eastwood  ‘Hanging Gardens’
Village Of The Sun, Binker & Moses  ‘Village Of The Sun’
Simon McCorry  ‘The Nothing That Is’