REVIEWS ROUNDUP
Words: 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. Each month we send him a deluge of new releases and await to see what sticks.

Lark ‘Blink’
(Wormhole Records) 16th August 2019


An LP of darkness; an LP that emerges from the post-punk sound of the early 80s. Discordant guitars and twisted bass back beautiful songs of lyrical wordy beauty – it is a delight to hear songs with wonderful lyrics instead of them being treated as an afterthought.

At times this reminds me of the recent work of Babybird, a man who ploughs his own path through the music industry and also writes songs with melody darkness and humour. It also brings to mind the Southern Death Cult and Nick Cave, and early New Order.

Originally released in 2014 now available on very ltd cd from the wonderful Wormhole World label, I would snap one up while you still can as this is an album to soundtrack the oncoming Autumn and Winter of our discontent.





Asbestos Lead Asbestos ‘Nature Of Feline’
26th July 2019



When an LP starts with a flurry of “fuck yous” and goes into indie pop strum along, and then goes into more “fuck yous”, I know I’m going to enjoy it. A clamour of glamour and toss pot glitter shillyshally into the mists of swollen lo fi beauty, it reawakens memories of dreaming of the girl you can only dream about whilst listening to Bongwater: the band not water from a bong.

If I wrote for the music blog Get Into This, I might describe this LP as being “boss scran for thought”, as it jumps from chaos to chaotic hipster speak to dirty yearning for the fucked and fuckable. Acoustic guitars drift through electronic distortion to unveil yet another great album for 2019, and when that same album has a song called ‘Motherfucker Won’t You Pass The Marimba’, how can it not be worth investigation.





bigflower ‘The Look Of Love’
4th August 2019 



If a sparkling dark beautiful rendition of one of the most perfect love songs ever written is what you are after then look no further as bigflower, the musical gift that keeps giving, has supplied us yet again with another guitar gem: this time not a self composed number but a rather wonderful version of the Bacharach and David classic, ‘The Look Of Love’. And what a sensual dark version of the original it is too; a track that is crying out to be used in the next Hollywood blockbuster.

Record labels are you deaf or just retarded?!! Another gem.





The Cigarettes ‘You Were So Young’
(Optic Nerve Recordings) 20th September 2019



There nothing quite like the sound of young rebellion. If you are in agreement then this new comp of the classic underrated band from Lincoln, The Cigarettes, is just what you need. It includes their wonderful singles compilation tracks, their legendary John Peel session, plus previously unreleased tracks.

For all lovers of golden age punk this is a must have; The Cigarettes showing that they matched the Buzzcocks and the wonderful Subway Sect on the melody front. In fact, it is a bit of a mystery how they weren’t become better known and received, all the boxes ticked, songs of teenage troubles, life slashing buzz saw guitars, catchy choruses, one string guitar solos, all in all, perfect pop.

Maybe with the release You Were So Young they will finally get their full due and the recognition they deserve as one of the great lost bands of the punk/post-punk era.





Unwavering ‘Freeze,Thaw, Chorus’
16th August 2019



Do you ever challenge yourself to do something you don’t like? It could be opening your eyes in the morning and breathing; it could be cleaning out the cat litter tray or, in this case, listening to an LP that has been sent to you to review that has described itself as shoegaze. For shoegaze is one of those genres that cry out, “I am really uninteresting. I have all the pedals but no songwriting talent. I have ambition and ego but not the talent to match.” So a word to the wise, unless you are one of those unfortunates don’t describe your music as such as you are doing yourself a great disservice especially when your music is a wandering lo fi folk that happens to use the electric guitar a little like a more wayward Red House Painters.

Unwavering dispatch a fine dark melancholy, awash with many layers of guitars with distant slightly reverb vocals at times that remind me what a Stone Roses LP may have sounded like if they had left Mani and Reni at home and where more down for it than up. This is a quite beautiful album; melodies melancholy and a bewitching scenic beauty weave a hypnotic spell. A band/artist I think one should keep an eye out for in the future.






Repo-Man ‘I Can Live With It If You Can, Son’
(Stolen Body Records) 6th September 2019



This is real free form rock n roll. It reminds me of the wonderful Wigan-based band The Volunteers from the late 80s, who brought out a classic mini LP called Bladder Of Life. A wonderful LP by a wonderful band, and like I said, this reminds me a lot of them. Captain Beefheart like madness connects with their inner Fall to unveil a magical projection of psychedelic whimsical John Cooper Clarke poetry. It is indeed a treat to hear a band that attempts to go their own way in their twisted art flow instead of following the old melody of verse/chorus/verse/ chorus/guitar solo/middle 8, have a smoke of trendy class arsehole drugs and point their chins in the right way so the camera can capture the unnatural good looks of yesterday’s poster boys.

I really like Repo-Man, they are fun, they have the quality that they are probably hated by other bands from the same town because they dare to be different and probably could clear a room of punters from any pub they play: like all great bands can at will.

So I would say I Can Live With It I You Can Son is a must have album; an LP of sonic aural dyslexia. A true gem.





Occult Character ‘National Razor’
4th August 2019



Another new song from maybe the finest songwriter in the USA today, the wonderfully eccentric Occult Character; a man who takes both hip-hop and lo fi folk to new extremes; a man who writes beautifully about the madness engulfing America under the Trumpster and the common everyday problems like never being able to find what you want in a full fridge: a true musical maverick.

This new free to download track is Occult wearing his hip-hop hat, a two and a half minute swagger of humor and strangeness and a forerunner to his forthcoming LP on the smarter than the average label Metal Postcard. It’s free, so get downloading.





Rose McDowall & Shawn Pinchbeck ‘Gem’
20th September 2019



The sound of Autumn is upon us. Gem is the stolen sway of a shimmering distant light, a parchment of lost memories kissing the hem of the garment of your long lost loves’ smile. Gem is a beauty of a single recalling the dark sultry eloquence of Paul Giovanni and Magnet’s Wicker Man soundtrack; a truly beautiful and haunting piece of musical wonderment. One of the songs of the year no doubt.





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REVIEWS ROUNDUP
Words: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

Toxic Chicken - Monolith Cocktail



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. Each month we end him a deluge of new releases on his virtual desk to see what sticks.

Toxic Chicken ‘Uncomfortable Music’
21st July 2019


I don’t apologise for writing another review of Toxic Chicken, as this is his 3rd LP in as many months, and this like the other two is a work of pure maverick pop genius: and not just because there is a four second track called ‘Brian From The Bordellos’ on it!

This LP has everything that I love about the magic and joy of music. It has humour and a madness that at times reminds me of the great Syd Barrett and the wonderful White Noise Electrical Storm LP. It is eccentric pushed to the extreme. Songs with the subject matter of eating politicians and love songs for cats and for Mother Nature and what is bad about England, but that track only being under two minutes long does not quite manage to list everything.

Uncomfortable Music is certainly an enjoyable and rewarding listening experience, and at times, the subject matter does live up to its title. But this album is a pay-what-you-want to download, so is well worth a listen. Another great album from a great artist: And I mean artist. And the track ‘Little Snail’ is the best dance track I have heard all year.





Snapped Ankles ‘Stunning Luxury’
1st March 2019



The whirring and exciting sounds of post punk circa 2019 coming at you like a extravagant wholemeal piece of chiffon scarred alternative disco meat; the sound of Devo fucking the brains and beats out of the B52s whilst the horny ghost of Mark E Smith watches on making cutting asides whilst stomping on the hopes and dreams of the not yet born love child of David Byrne and Lena Lovich.

This LP is one big extravagance of dark dance and post punk joy, the sort of album to soundtrack your wildest night out ever: sordid clubs, cheap drinks, hanging out with girls and boys who really should know better, the best musical electro porn one could ever hope to gorge oneself on.

Stunning Luxury is dirty, it is funky, it is experimental, it is blistering rock ‘n’ roll. A luxury indeed. One that should be enjoyed by all.





Anton Barbeau ‘Berliner Grotesk’
(Beehive Records / Pink Hedgehog Records) 19th July 2019



There is a dark playful melancholy I love about this LP, not the weeping into your hanky kind, or, the “oh I feel so sorry for myself kind”, but the, “I am middle aged and looking back at my life through the good and bad the happy and bad” kind. There is hope in the future kind, the kind of melancholy that Martin Newell thrives at writing. Even the cover of the Beatles ‘Love Me Do’ is enriched with a sadness the original misses; this version overcomes the familiarity by transforming it into a slightly electro reggae beauty.

But not all is sadness and tears there is also fine pop of the power variety: the sort Jellyfish so excelled at releasing. The Bowie Mott and the Fabs influences of course shine bright bringing a lovely old time Englishness that is so often ignored in modern music of today. This LP is a finely crafted pop album, with enough quirks and twists to make it a very enjoyable listen.





Simon Waldram ‘Into The Blue’
27th July 2019



Simon Waldram made one of my favourite LPs from 2016, the wonderful self released Insolation, an LP that dipped and swayed, taking in JAMC one minute and the next, beautiful swathes of psych folk. This, his new album, Into The Blue, takes off where that album left off, but is a slightly more subdued affair: Songs of darkness, love, depression and hope merge into a quite beautiful collection.

In these days when the acoustic guitar has taken over the electric, sales wise, there is certainly a market for LPs of softly strummed melancholia, and Simon does it far better than most; bringing to mind at times, the beautiful slowcore shimmer of Low (especially on ‘Breaking Waves’), at other times, recalling the magic of the Go Betweens and The Smiths.

The highlight for me though is the beautiful psych folk instrumental ‘Sea Turtles’: a few moments of total bliss.

Into The Blue is a fine LP and with the right backing and a bit of luck could well fight its way to the top of the overcrowded melancholic brigade, and could find favor on many late night radio shows. An album of real beauty and sadness and hope.





Moody Mae ‘Throwing Rocks at John E. Road’
2nd July 2019



Indie pop from Sweden is on the whole a wonderful thing indeed, and this EP/mini LP from Moody Mae keeps within that wonderful remit. Beatles like ‘Martha My Dear’ piano, lovingly could not give a toss female vocals, ba ba bas and lofi psychedelia join forces to force music lovers to nod their heads and grin like grinning idiots. And to think that this was recorded in 2005 and has taken 14 years to see the light of day. I think it may be time for Moody Mae to reform and record a full length waxing. For when a band has the gift of pure pop wonderment it is a shame not to share that wonderment with the less fortunate. A treasure of a release.




Radio Europa ‘Community Is Revolution’
(Wormhole) 19th July 2019



It seems like a weekly event that Wormhole Records release a new underground LP of chilled out darkness. This weeks release is by Radio Europa and is an LP of chilled out darkness with the odd offering of a glimpse of light appearing through the cracks of the drawn heavy curtains called life: The beam of light showing the particles of dust exploding and hovering around the thoughts of insolvent tomorrows and the broken promises of yesterday.

Gentle soft spoken vocals lilt into the wave of dark synth and drum beats that blanket you in the warmth of the cold that whispers sweet nothings whilst grinding a worn down stiletto heel into your vacant soul.

Community Is Revolution is an album to soundtrack these uncertain times; an album to close your eyes and let the music sweep over you and take you to the dark recess of your mind where devils and angels juggle with the happy/sad of your life.





bigflower ‘Night And Day’
13th July 2019


Another week another fine free to download single from bigflower. An explosion of post punk guitars do battle with horns and a bass riff so mighty it would make Jean Jacques Burnel want to call it a day and to take up flower arranging. When oh when are this mighty band going to be picked up by some label. For this is far to a fine a track to slip under the radar yet again. Blogs, djs of the alternative variety should be ramming this down people’s throats instead of some acoustic guitar charlatan whining on about how twee their girlfriend’s vagina is [like they have saw their girlfriend’s vagina! They saw an egg box and let their imagination take hold]

Bigflower are one of the most exciting underground bands around at the moment and we at the Monolith Cocktail will keep ranting on about their majestic take on modern life until the less with-it blogs catch on. Blogs, djs, record labels for God sake get your fingers out.





Why Sun ‘Frugte’
14th June 2019



Softly strummed guitars and deeply crooned vocals kick start this beautiful five track EP of softly strummed guitars and deeply crooned vocals; songs that bring the joys of Galaxie 500 and the Wild Swans oozing into my mind, and lovers of those bands and the many bands of that ilk should enjoy this. So give it a listen especially if you are hung-over or on the verge of doing fuck all.





REVIEWS
Words: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea



Dubi Dolczek  ‘Voyage To The Cat’s Paw Nebula’
(Stolen Body Records)  16th August 2019


Well what’s not to like? Anyone who does not like twangy guitars and Joe Meek meets The Bonzo Doo Dah Dog Band experience of rock n roll should be injected with the space dust of nostalgia and force fed the meanderings of a Larry Parnes managed faded dream failed pop star.

All that glitters is not chrome as this album sparkles with a delight that can only be found in vintage sci-fi comics. Dan Dare discovers that the Clangers were indeed more than cute and cuddly aliens but in fact reverb soaked 50’s bikini clad Theremin wielding mother fuckers who enjoy nothing more than dancing the night away at the local space hop. Who would have thought that soda pop space dust and doo-wop would be just what the doctor ordered in 2019.







Anthony Reynolds ‘A Painter’s Life’
(Rocket Girl) 26th July 2019


I liked both Jack and Jacques so there is no good reason I wouldn’t enjoy the new LP, A Painter’s Life, from Anthony Reynolds – an LP that at times brings to mind Lee Hazlewood and Japan. This LP is influenced by Reynolds growing up in the Cardiff ghetto Splott [his words not mine], and to make the place sound beautiful in which he indeed does, he embellishes it will echoes of Scott Walker: Splott Walker if you like.

Synth pop, cinematic strings and Welsh county collide in a wash of stray beauty and kitchen sink drama on an album that succeeds in capturing the down at heel glamour of South Wales. I spent a number of years living in Pontypool and spent many a day/night in and out of rehearsal rooms in Newport and Cardiff and this record actually brings back images of those wonderful days.

An LP I hope will gain the attention that Jack and Jacques deserved but never really received, A Painter’s Life is both a fine and rewarding one.







Ray Kosmische ‘Anti-Litterbug’
7th January 2019


If lo-fi psych folk is your bag well fill it with this, an LP of Slip Spence OAR like misadventure, tin pot percussion and moaned and whispered vocals, weaved together with a magical effect. Acoustic guitars and whistles journey together to the land of Summerisle via the greyness of the Manchester skyline; a car journey past the terrace houses of the north west, sending out the subliminal sounds of my childhood. An LP, as I am listening, I feel myself becoming a little obsessed with.

The oddness, strangeness and beauty of Anti-Litterbug is a weary, welcoming thing indeed.







Bigflower ‘What You Get’
26th May 2019


Bigflower consistently releases music of the highest quality but has somehow slipped under the radar, and this song his latest of many one off bandcamp single releases, is no different: A five-minute slab of post punk psychosis. It is a wonderful skyscraper of a guitar track, which comes as no surprise when you hear that Bigflower is none other than the latest carnation of Ivor Perry, former guitarist with Manchester indie legends Easterhouse and the man chosen to replace Johnny Marr in The Smiths. How Morrissey could do with this standard of tunesmithery now as he stumbles from bad album to an even worse taste in badges, this track is so fine it could resurrect the deadest of careers.

I insist that you give this bandcamp page a visit. You will not be disappointed: am I ever wrong?!







Scandinavia ‘Premium Economy’
18th April 2019


Power pop is alive and well and living in the hearts of Scandinavia, from the opening track guitar chime of the Ash like title-track to the closing chiming guitar riffage of ‘Pax Americana’. You are treated…yes, treated to melodies galore. Melodies that bring the golden days of power pop back from the late 70’s and the early 80’s. Anyone out there who has swooned to the beauty of The Motors Airport will indeed enjoy Premium Economy. Anyone who has wrapped their ears around Danger Games by the Pinkees will be in ecstasy.

An LP that demands to be played loud whilst the sun is shining; an LP that deserves the sun to be shining. It is a shame Power Pop music is now often ignored and derided. This album proves that music does not have to evoke images of the dark side of the psyche to be worthy of appraisal. Premium Economy is a fine record of pure guitar pop, and for that Scandinavia should be congratulated.

Premium Economy is available on bandcamp but also as a CD, and I would advise anyone out there to splash-out and buy the physical version, as it really should be enjoyed as a piece of power pop art.







Toxic Chicken ‘Wormhole’
(Wormhole) 7th June 2019


I reviewed Toxic Chicken last excellent eccentric LP earlier in the year. His brand new release Wormhole has just appeared as a new release on the label of the same name. Once again an eccentric foray into electronica, not quite as bat crazy as his last release, this has more subtle eccentricity about it.

This is Toxic Chickens pop album if you like, an album to lie back and let the obscure catchy melodies flow over you, my fave being ‘Drinking Coffee With Norwood Grimes’, which I can imagine as the kind of track Joe Meek might have created if he was alive and experimenting in electronica today, a Gameboy frenzy of duet misgivings, a lovely left turn of leftfield precision.

I would certainly recommend this to anyone with a yearning for something slightly different in the field of electronica.




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