Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea’s Reviews Roundup

The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The BordellosBrian ‘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 King Of No-Fi album, a collaborative derangement with the Texas miscreant Occult Character, Heart To Heart, and a series of double-A side singles (released so far, ‘Shattered Pop Kiss/Sky Writing’, ‘Daisy Master Race/Cultural Euthanasia’ and ‘Be My Maybe/David Bowie’). He has also released, under the Idiot Blur Fanboy moniker, a stripped-down classic album of resignation and Gallagher brothers’ polemics.

Each month we supply him with a mixed bag of new and upcoming releases to see what sticks.


Seaside Witch Coven  ‘A.E.O’
16th July 2021

I like this: Well obviously or I would not be arsed writing about it. But I like how it captures the days of Newport when it was being called ‘The UK’s Seattle’, and my days of rehearsing in the Disgraceland rehearsal rooms, and going watching bands at the Legendary TJ’S, and also how it reminds me of the wonderful, should have been more successful, wonky ALICE – maybe the finest band ever to set foot out of Oldham.

Yes this track has a genre jumping magic about it; punk rock psych with a melody one can hum while you lose yourselves in memories of your youth; back to the good old days when your body worked and you still believed you could change things with a guitar and a pen and a melody. And you never know, Seaside Witch Coven may succeed where I failed.

Bloom De Wilde  ‘Garden Of The Sun’
23rd July 2021

The Fabulous Bloom De Wilde is back with a summery light pop ska tinged single to brighten up our daily lives. Once again shedding love to the masses through melodies sublime and her wonderful voice – a voice that could melt the hardest of hearts. How we need Bloom to weave her romantic musical magic on the world, to put a spring into our collective steps and spread joy. She is a true to life cartoon character that should be embraced; a throwback to the times when pop stars where otherworldly; when we thought Marc Bolan was a glam prince from a Tolkien novel and Bowie was from another planet.

‘Garden of The Sun’ is a brief glimpse into a shimmering sun; an explosion of innocence and purity of pop. It even finishes with the sound of a child’s laugh and nothing is as pure and innocent and magical as that.

Emily Isherwood  ‘See You Go’
(Breakfast Records)  16th July 2021

There is something of the Harriett Wheeler about Emily Isherwood. She had the same melancholy clarity in the vocals; the same as their voices soar, their hearts break, sound of baring souls and feelings in her art. And ‘See you Go’ is a beautifully performed and written song: and really one could not ask for more. It’s not a song that kicks you between the legs but one that gently tugs on your forelocks and whispers in your ear.


Various  ‘The Rough Guide To The Best Country Blues You’ve Never Heard Volume 2’ 
(World Music Network/Rough Guides)  30th July 2021

In some ways I should be showing thanks for being sent so much unexciting bland generic new music to review over the last few weeks or otherwise I would not have listened to this fine 26 track compilation of old country blues music; a music steeped in soul heartache and dark humour. Plus it also appeals to my lo-fi loving soul and is filled with a certain magic music really does not quite capture as much these days. Why is that I do not know as we’re certainly living in troubled times. Maybe a microphone placed in front of a talented songwriter/performer is frowned upon, but there is something special about hearing an artist open his soul without studio trickery and sheen. Maybe it’s the way forward.

These 26 tracks are all brilliantly written, performed with, as I have already mentioned, deep soul and a fine grasp of beautiful simple melodies. Tommie Bradley‘s ‘When You’re Down And Out’ being a fine example: a song with a melody so sweet it could make a statue weep. And there is something that makes you warm inside hearing an out-of-tune harmonica and nonsensical stream of lyrics pouring forth from a cheap acoustic guitar toting Bogus Ben Covington, who’s ‘It’s A Fight Like That’ is just one of the many highlights on this beautifully entertaining compilation; an album that asks maybe it’s time we turned our back on tech and relied on pure song writing talent instead.

Graham Domain  ‘Without The Darkness…The Stars Could Not Shine’
(Metal Postcard Records)  9th July 2021

The wonderful unique sound of Graham Domain is back. And he’s back with his best album yet; nine songs recorded in last year’s lockdown that capture the uncertainty and sadness and madness of the times.

Graham takes his love of tinkling piano hand held percussion and string synths to a new level on Without The Darkness…The Stars Could Not Shine. At times the slightly deranged beauty of Graham’s songs is really quite heart stopping, dark, mysterious but with a subtle musical humour: ‘Limbs Of Loneliness’ reminding me of how the soundtrack of Bagpuss might have sounded like if written and performed by David Sylvain. But as I have already said, Graham Domain is unique. You can hear his influences (Scott Walker, Japan, Marc Almond/Soft Cell) but he adds his own strangeness; adding an almost layer of lounge based homemade psychedelia: If Syd Barret had not done acid and played a Casio keyboard he might have sounded like this. And you can tell that Graham is a huge Motown fan as ‘Giving Up On Heartache’ is a wonderful soul song, and you could easily imagine Smokey Robinson crooning it quite beautifully – and is also my favourite track on the album, a gem of a song. And that is what so magical about Graham Domain, a man with a love of music in its many genres in which he soaks up and releases in his own unique way.

Without The Darkness…The Stars Could Not Shine is a fine album and deserves to be heard by a larger audience.

Corduroy Institute  ‘Eight/Chance/Meetings’
21st June 2021

I like artists who try and make pop music interesting; they should be rewarded by people taking notice of their endeavors, and that is what attracted me to this LP: an album with a sense of adventure and trying to keep things interesting.

I could have easily chosen to write about another quite good album with guitar and bass and drums with songs about girls and love and such, but why waste my time when there is an album of sublime beauty and depth to listen to. And Eight/Chance/Meetings is such an album; an album of ‘Pure Improvisation’ and cut up lyrics, and at times it reminds me of Bowie/late Scott Walker and the Talking heads with a touch of the David Sylvain’s about it. So yes it is arty, but music is art: probably the greatest artform. 

It won’t appeal to the Oasis fan on the whole, but anybody who loved one of the best albums of last year Sum Total Of Insolent Blank by the Santa Sprees will absolutely adore it, and with very good cause because the album is adorable. It has wit, adventure, darkness, and has so much style I feel I should be wearing a velvet smoking jacket whilst listening to it. Yes, one of my albums of the year I feel…an album of experimental pop grace.

Snowcrushed  ‘A Frightened Man’
21st July 2021

The Debut album by Snowcrushed is a wonderful thing; the sound of a soft and slow descent into slumber only to find nightmares waiting to taunt and poke you in the ribs and call you a cunt when you arrive into a land where Alice would buy her dream home only to find that all the other inhabitants are lesser cardboard mortals who spend their days in a constant merry go round of drudgery and conversations of what happened in last night’s episode of Coronation Street.

A Frightened Man is a rare and magical thing, an ambient album that embraces melody, an album that softly sucks you into its vacuum and tells of a story of being trapped by your imagination and the lack of other peoples. I think I may have stumbled onto something special here, maybe the new star the new kid on the block in the strange world that is the ambient music scene: maybe the new Beatles in that genre. I think after hearing this the excellent Submarine Recordings and Wormhole World records might be giving themselves an almighty kick at not having the chance to release this.

A frightened Man is an album that is both haunting and beautifully rewarding.

Various  ‘Summer Sampler #8’
(Howling Banana Records)  16th July 2021

What we have here my little cockylorums is a free download sampler from the wonderfully named Howling Banana Records, and it is an album that skips from the Ramones like fun of Johnny Mafia, whose track ‘TV & Disney’ is a sunshine ice cream split of punk adventure, to the country-tinged Glama Rola of The Da Freak’s ‘Coco Cola’, through to the Shoegaze pop of Pop Crimes’ ‘There Were Smiles’.

Yes, this is an album for the lovers of the indie guitar; an album that will please and caress the earlobes of those who seek pleasant strum-along indie guitar in its many forms: all melodies and tuneful meandering. An ideal soundtrack to your days in your garden or beach soaking up the sun.

William Carlos Whitten  ‘My Life In Cinema’
(Wormhole World)  23rd July 2021

William Carlos Whitten has a bit of the early 70s Bowie’s and Lennon about him, which is certainly not a bad thing. And he certainly knows his way around a catchy melody and how to write an old-fashioned pop song, as this album is full of them: You cannot go wrong with home recorded synths drum machines and homespun melodrama.

I can imagine Williams’ bedroom wall being covered with Mott The Hoople posters and him owning at least one copy of every Lou Reed 70s album. This is an album that deserves an album review by the late Lester Bangs, but as he is dead I expect one shall not be forthcoming, unless of course he is channeling me as I write this. But I somehow doubt it, unless one loses 90 per cent of your talent from the other side.

This is a rather splendid album that is worthy of Charles Douglas and the more I listen the more I wish I had heard about it before the ltd cd had sold out. But that I am afraid is the joy of being on a tiny label. But cannot one speak higher praise than to say that I would have paid hard earned cash to add this cd to my large collection, as would have you if you had heard about it. A lovely pop gem that is authentically lovely with a touch of sleaze.

Girl No. III  ‘High-Five For Five/Four’
(Illywacker Records)  30th July 2021

The unusual sound of disturbance; an unbalanced tray of musical disco fanny; a subdued look into the mind of a psychotic zookeeper, or, the heart of a beating living mechanical tombstone. Yes, this strange avant-garde journey through Jazz and spiritual invention game-playing tomfoolery is one worth listening to, but not if you have a headache or in need of space for quiet reflection, as this gem of invention is all over the place and best listened to on headphones unless you want the death stare from other family members.

This is an album for lovers of alt jazz or more experimental works of synth wielding Coltrane fanatics.

Sorrows  ‘Love Too Late’
(Big Stir Records)  13th August 2021

Not to be confused with the classic 60s British beat band The Sorrows, led by Don Fardon, but the late 70s early 80s American power pop band Sorrows, who are back with a brand-new album, or in fact a rerecording of their second album, which they were never happy with on the label that spills forth power pop goodness on it seems like a whim: Big Stir Records.

So, you know what to expect: jangling guitars, melodies sublime and songs of love and girls and all things power pop songs are about. No surge into the mists of dark wave or outpourings of contempt for the powers that be; no rapper appearing mid-way through the song extolling the virtues of a big booty then pissing off again. No, what we have are eleven songs of well self-written guitar-based pop – well 10 actually, as there is also a decent cover of the Kinks ‘Tired Of Waiting For You’. 

They make no attempt at hiding their love for mid-sixties Beatles, especially on the Lennon like ‘Rita’: although it is not mentioned whether she was lovely or not. Sorrows obviously love the power and magic of rock ‘n’ roll and are entrenched in its spirit: If you cut them I’m sure they would bleed 12 string guitars, the power chord and melody.


Reviews/Brian ‘Bordellos’ 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.

With all live gigs and events more or less quashed for the foreseeable future, buying music (whether it’s physical or through digital platforms such as Bandcamp) has never been more important for the survival of the bands/artists/collectives that create it. We urge you all to keeping supporting; to keep listening.

The Legless Crabs ‘Be A Sadist’
LP/Available Now

If you remember a few weeks ago I reviewed a single from The Legless Crabs declaring them the future of rock n roll. Well they have just compiled a free to download LP of all their singles and EPs, and released it as a free to download compilation.

Essential is the word dear readers, essential! The early Mary Chain meets the Shaggs with a touch of Daniel Johnson and Pussy Galore thrown in, it’s dark and it has guts and a do not give a fuck attitude. It is a shambolic noisy stew of noise but with wonderfully written melodies and lyrics. The best band to come from the USA since the Banana Splits: no doubt about it.

No Exits ‘No Exists EP’
Available Now

The 80s post punk sound really is making a bit of a re-emergence, and why not, as when it’s done well it’s a fine thing indeed: and No Exits do it very well indeed.

Their music takes me back and has me thinking of very early Dead Or Alive and Theatre Of Hate with a touch of Soft Cell, and something about it really reminds me of Theatre Of Sheep (maybe its their guitar sound), but very entertaining nonetheless. So if the 80s post punk swirl is your thing you should really enjoy this fine EP.

The Loungs ‘Hey Brain’
(Fresh Hair Records) Single/Available Now

It’s nice to have those St Helens Psych Monkees The Loungs back after a far too long a layoff since their gem of a third LP, the 2015 baroque flavoured Short Circuit. And this little beauty carries on where that fine album left off. ‘Hey Brain’ being a quirky short stroll through the Summery psych of one’s past, recalling the woozy delights of the Super Furry Animals with a hint of the Zombies and Cat Stevens, but with a charm of their very own. A true delight, which could of only been better if it was called, “Hey Brian”.

DeathDeathDeath ft. Lomi MC ‘Love Is A Construct’
(Numavi Records) Single/Available Now

I love this. It’s rather quite beautiful and whoever says they don’t make pop music as quite magical as they used to do should be made to listen to this on repeat until they admit they are wrong. It has a wonderful warm quality about it that takes my aging mind back to the wonderful music of Jane and Barton. A soft summer aural seduction that I advise music lovers of all ages should allow themselves to be seduced by. They won’t be sorry.

Graham Domain ‘Waking World’
(Metal Postcard Records) EP/Available Now

What we have here is another EP from one of Manchester’s greatest hidden musical secrets. Yes, there is something quite engrossing about the music of Graham Domain, a certain quiet dignified subtle madness that completely beguiles. It has a dark seductive charm from the tinkling piano and synth strings and jazz bass that lures you into the textured dream of the songs, and as it pulls you in and you begin to lose yourself in the magic you then notice the beauty of the lyrics and the phrasing: nobody quite sings like Graham Domain anymore. I’m sure that somewhere along the line the quiet genius of his music will find a audience and hopefully the large one it deserves, plus on the track ‘What Love Means’ there is the best crazy synth solo one can ever hope to hear.

Bloom De Wilde ‘The Heart Shall Be Rewarded By The Universe’
LP/Available now

If only life could be as wonderfully magical as this album. Bloom De Wilde has an aura about her that emits a certain belief in the beauty of life, with her songs of nature and love, she gives one hope in these times of backbiting misery and disease that music and love can be the answer. Maybe we all need to return to the spiritual freedom of 1967 and not be wrapped up in the junk and social media that clouds up our minds and hearts, for this album casts a mighty spell that is bewitchingly hypnotic, that slowly seeps through the layers of self doubt mistrust and ego and has you smiling again, has you laughing, has you counting your blessings and looking forward to living your life and making the most of it as you only have one life so why not make the most of it. The Heart Shall Be Rewarded By The Universe is one of those rare albums that is made with pure love and should be treated with pure love: a shimmering delight.

Drew Davies ‘Drew Davies’
(AD1) LP/Available now

Is the good old 80s the new 60s? I wonder as I’m getting sent a load of music that is so influenced by the decade. This LP by Drew Davies could have easily been released in that decade – if I hadn’t known better I would have thought this was a reissue of some album that slipped under the radar at the time.

Drew Davies obviously worships at the altar of David Bowie, which indeed is no bad thing. He could have worshiped at the altar of Stefan Denis, and do we really need that. Instead we are treated to the kind of album a major label would have released in the 80s pretending that it was an indie. It has the same polished Alt rock glamour and choruses that has the audience punching the sky while keeping one eye for the queue at the bar to thin out so you can send your girlfriend. It is in no way the greatest LP you will hear this year or any year from the 80s but you will certainly hear worse, and any fans of Billy Idol or 80s Bowie or even John Moores Expressway [remember them] will certainly enjoy this album as I did, as melodies and glamour do not age.

Dog Paper Submarine ‘Slippery Satellites’
(Small Bear) Album/Available Now

So we finally get the final LP by Dog Paper Submarine, two years after it was recorded, and it was indeed worth the wait as it is as always fine indie rock: part dEUS part Pixies, but all Dog Paper Submarine.

Clattering guitars, instrumental surf basslines, melodies that prod and gouge and caress are all one wants from their indie rock. To be honest I’m not a huge indie rock fan, I find it incredibly dull mostly these days, which again from a personal point of view makes this album and Dog Paper Submarine even more impressive, as this is a album I will play and enjoy, and that should be enough for any music lover.

Salem Trial ‘Head On Rong’
(Metal Postcard Records) Single/Available Now

I love this. From the start the explosive wall of Thin Lizzy like double lead guitars leap out at you and joyfully throttle you ears to death in the nicest possible way, whilst Beefheart like vocals and a melody catchy enough to hook yourself make for a whopper. It’s a song that has me yearning for the wild and drunken nights at the Royal Alfred in the late 80s, while being entertained by the wonderful local band The Volunteers, who made one mini album of sublime Beefheart frenzy called Bladder Of Life. This song reminds me of those days. That’s high praise indeed believe me. ‘Head On Rong’ is a must have for music lovers old and young alike.

It’s Karma It’s Cool ‘Woke Up In Hollywood’
Album/Available Now

If your thing is music with sparkling guitars and joy filled melodies then this album is for you. At times recalling Lloyd Cole with his Commotions and maybe a poppy REM after overdosing on the sun, songs shimmer and cast shadows of one string Rickenbacker guitar solos, the kind that The Bangles would embrace and comb their hair to whilst kissing posters of Gene Clark.

Woke Up In Hollywood is an album that exists to take one back to the golden days of the California sounds from the mid 60s through to power pop of the early 80s; from The Byrds to The Tremblers, even at times reminding me of the English Beat.

If you like, this is an album that should come with a large cut-out sun to hoist up into your room as the heat and pure light emerges from your stereo or laptop.

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 recent project, Roi (with John McCarthy and Dan Shea, of Beauty Stab and Vukovar infamy) debuted recently through Metal Postcard Records with the paean to local record shop single, ‘Dormouse Records’. They’ve also just released their seasonal dirge, ‘Christmas Morn‘.

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.

Bloom De Wilde ‘Atlas Cassandra’
Single/ 29th November 2019

2019 has been a hell of a bad year, maybe the worst I can remember, but one of the only bright spots has been the wonderful new music I have been sent to review for Monolith Cocktail, and a highlight, a godsend in fact, has been the music of Bloom De Wilde. This is her third single of the year, and in fact her three singles are up there as being in the singles of the year; all three sprinkled in the strange life affirming pop magic that great music provides.

Kill Your Boyfriend ‘Elizabeth’
(Depths Records) Single/29th November 2019

This is metallic sounding; it has throbbing bass and screaming vocals, so what’s not to like. Imagine PIL in a bad mood covering Sigue Sigue Sputnik and you will get close to what it sounds like. If that appeals to you give it a listen if not still give it a listen as I could be completely wrong, it might sound like the Carpenters having a massage whilst having sexual thoughts about a buzz saw.

Ringfinger ‘Pressure’
(Other Voices Records) Mini LP/25th December 2019

If moody synth is your thing this could well be just what you are looking for: a mini LP of cold wave ambiance and 80s dark synth pop that will have you reaching for your debit card to order this very limited cassette [only 30 copies] from the extremely fine Other Voices Label.

Memories of Aha, Sisters Of Mercy, The Passage and The Wild Swans are brought to mind; dark sultry but with a pop aftertaste; the sort of songs you would occasionally be lucky to glimpse on Top Of The Pops all those years ago.

The release day for this is the 25th of December so I would advise you treat yourself or your 80s synth obsessed friends to a late Christmas gift and see the New Year in with some cold wave and maybe a glass of Babysham.

bigflower ‘The Other Place’

Dark metallic guitars sweep over you, taking you to a new and frightening place, a place where only the talented do not fear to tread. Yes another fine release from bigflower. Another gem that recalls the halcyon days of post punk and late 60s psychedelia; a track so powerful it could have easily replaced any number of tracks from Bowie’s Scary Monsters opus. Yes it is that good.

As wonderfully cool as ever, and even cooler because it can be downloaded for free.

Modesty Blaise ‘Natalie Vendredi’
(From Lo-Fi To Disco!) Single/ 22nd November 2019

A sublime sugar lump of a single; a song that captures what is great about charming English pop. Part c86 part 67 psych pop, a beautifully written slice of nostalgia that captures and brings to mind images of what England never was, apart from in Carry on Films and in the minds of Brexiteers: tea cakes and rainy days at the seaside quiver under the urge to rub shit into the gurning face of Nigel Farage. A splendid thing indeed – the single that is, not rubbing shit in the gurning face of Nigel Farage. Oh alright then that is also splendid.

The Kanz ‘Carpe Diem’
Single/6th December 2019

Ever thought of what a knees up thrown by Green Day and The Coral might be soundtracked by? Well here is your answer; a strange epiphany of punk rock and the skifflitus [no such word but you know what I mean]; a song to make the sleeping dog awaken have a smile a dance a chew on the old man’s memories of the organ solos of The Stranglers and how Madness could have been a decent band if Suggs was not such a cunt. Give it a listen they may well be onto something.

Cascade Lakes ‘For The Record’
(Affairs Of The Heart) Single/2nd December 2019

A sonic spoonful of dark sugar, fuzz guitar and songwriting savvy erupt in this single of Pavement/The Silver Jews like wonderment; the kind of song you used to hear in the evenings when Radio was not a joke: and what a unfunny one it has become. The good old days’ when songwriting was an art form that paid and was appreciated. Thank god there are still bands like Cascade Lakes creating their art.

Pocket Knife ‘The Archipelago EPs 3’
(Olive Grove Records) EP/29th November 2019

As the year draws to the end, the release of fine music is not slowing up. This EP by Pocketknife features five tracks of indie pop bliss humour, catchy basslines simple one finger organ riffs and off kilter lyrics that offer a delightful venture into a musical land where pretty much anything goes as long as it is off kilter and as joyfully catchy as a hell. A lovely place were musical petulance prettiness and pettiness is king. A fine EP.

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