ALBUM FEATURE/REVIEW
Dominic Valvona

Brian Bordello ‘Cardboard Box Beatles’
(Metal Postcard Records) 11th February 2022

Declaration of interests, yes, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea is a regular contributor to this esteemed blog. And so, in an act of what could be deemed as “pop eating itself” I’m going to somehow balance friendship with critical analyses.

Who am I kidding?! Brian is the best. And anything I’ve written or will write about both his idiosyncratic solo work and his music with the creatively dysfunctional family band, The Bordellos, will probably go unread by the masses, who should really be celebrating this St. Helens lo fi poet-of-the-people: if by people you mean despondent middle-aged white blokes learning to come to terms with their fates; ignored by all and sundry; not quite old enough to prove invaluable, yet too old to start over.

The Les Miserable of the North, Brian’s wit and aphorism one-liners make all his resigned lyricism more palatable. No one quite sums up life in an almost ungovernable modern Britain like our Brian. Yet there’s always a sullen but achingly heartbreaking fragility, delivered on Brian’s second most popular theme of romance: unrequited love; a love lost; a love undeserved. Regrets…he’s had a fair few. But listening to the lo fi (so lo fi as to barely register; making even the late Sparklehorse sound like a flash git) stripped of artifice recordings of this “nowhere man” (A Beatles reference which we shall come back to later) is never a slog.

Across the decades, shovelling away with a kid’s cheap plastic spade – left over from a northern beachside holiday many moons ago I envisage – at the music industry’s coalface, Brian has released his proclamations and wry wisdom in various guises and on a myriad of obscure labels. His latest album is for Metal Postcard Records (no strangers to this site; the “postcard” bit of that imprint the closest a fandom Brian will ever get to the original iconic Scottish label he adores) is about as basic as it gets: just an acoustic guitar, Brian’s wistful soft rasped voice and the hum and slipping rubber band of what sounds like a Tascam four-track.

Cardboard Box Beatle as a title does little to prepare the listener; the Cardboard title-track couldn’t be further from a Beatles homage, sounding like a St. Helens bedraggled Kurt Cobain unraveling his life, baring his soul to the disinterest of everyone else. Instead, the box in question can be seen as a metaphor for a cheap recycled life of low achievement; 50 plus years summed up in a box you might drop off at a jumble sale when someone dies, or leave for the local charity shop: leftovers, mementos, cherished low monitory valued memories deemed worthless. The charity shop will be something Brian is all too aware of, after like many of us, struggling to keep or losing their job in the Covid pandemic.

It’s also, no doubt, a descriptive name for the cheap knock-offs, those who still pray at the altar of a band that spilt up over 50 years ago. Whilst Brian himself wears his influences on his mothball, untangling sleeve, he berates the lack of ingenuity, freshness, zest, protest and, even, fun in most new music. As a reviewer for my site, he’s more than used to reading umpteen thousand press releases, and the eye-catching, dumbed-down use of “soundalike” references. Whilst the 90s to the most recent generation breaking through is the 60s to us 80s kids, there’s still such a hunger to sound, copy the music of their grandfathers and mothers. Brian’s own nostalgia doesn’t get in the way of championing the contemporary artists/bands that are trying something different. He’s sung of a pantheon of “motherfuckers”, from Scott Walker to Gene Vincent; Julian Cope to Dave Gedge; artists he feels gave the bird finger to compromise, or were just one-offs, never to be repeated.

Disparaging catcalls aside, the industry’s reliance on back catalogues is proving destructive to newcomers: Brian can be heard banging his head against Flyod’s brick wall. None more so than on the album’s almost flat, despondent opener ‘Yes, I Am The New Nick Drake’; a low-end wistful jeer no doubt at the production line of acoustic troubadours in awe of the fateful legend: but only in copying the adulation part, the young life cut short bit of that legend being a step too far to copy.

As far as The Beatles go there’s an air of melancholic Revolver on the disarming but pleaded ‘Please’; also hints of a Mogadon induced Wedding Present and The Las in the melody and strumming. It must be said that the low quality of these plaints, laments and maverick observations feels more like eavesdropping than a performance: as if Brian sits all day playing these often candid, cathartic but also piss-taking jibes to himself, and that we’ve just stumbled upon him and decided to secretly press record.

In the romantic, knockabout sentimental vogue, Brian exudes a Northern Syd Barrett (another hero of our Brian’s; forget Floyd after that though) trying to catch a free-spirited ‘Flowerchild’; grumbles about his bland perpetual Autumn wardrobe as a metaphor for lost love and mortality and lockdowns, on the “all my summers have gone” “dododoing” ‘Seasons Change’; languidly strums Catholic metaphors about a muse on the Dan Tracey-esque ‘The True Meaning Of Love’; and on what is a deeply offensive, but all the better for it guilty laugh, ‘Here Comes Eric With His Dead Child Song’ (contender surely for best title of 2022, if not ever), in drudgery, bemoans his own sad existence and behaviour to those held dear. 

But as I have mentioned already, this is the unraveling of an artist on the “scrapheap”; a moment (say a year in Covid lockdown) captured of mental fatigue, alienation, defeat. Songs like ‘Catfood On The Floor’ epitomize a modern “nowhere man”; a generation X life boxed-up with nothing worth keeping other than the trinkets that marked personal euphoria against a disposable, unwanted collection of CDs ripped from the covers of NME and Mojo: a summary lament of the emptiness that so many of us felt, experienced during the last two years. Brian even measures himself up for an “Instagram” friendly funeral on the ode to a ‘Salamander Fruit Fly’; a poignant, though well obscured in tune, song about death, mental health and the banality of narcissism seen through the vaporous lifestyles and validations of social media.

Brian takes it all in with an acidic, often witty pun(ing) amusement; even the most depressing moments magically dark in humour and self-depreciation. Never has so little musically evoked such reams of thought; a simple, slipping and warping because of cheap apparatus, guitar and voice denouncement of modern life spent under the cosh of Covid, Cardboard Box Beatles is more than the sum of its cheaply recorded parts.

Coming back round to that Beatles title, the album (as so many of Brian’s releases are) is released on the anniversary of the Fab Fours Please, Please Me recordings; a link back to nostalgia and love for the band that still influences legions fifty-nine years later. Because at the heart of Brian’s diatribes about our reliance for nostalgia, he still can’t quite escape it himself. But then, can any of us truly cut ties with the past and a so-called “golden age”. Perhaps it’s that age’s mysticism, the secret alchemy that Brian so cherishes – a life without 24/7 newsfeeds and Twitter accounts -, a complete opposite to today’s all too knowing show and tells and the relentlessness demystifying commodification of the art form. Striped back to the essentials, Brian encapsulates an array of displeasures like no one else can. Let’s just hope his music reaches the wider audience it deserves.

Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea’s Reviews Column

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’‘Be My Maybe/David Bowie’ and All Psychiatrists Are Bastards / Will I Ever Be A Man). He has also released, under the Idiot Blur Fanboy moniker, a stripped-down classic album of resignation and Gallagher brothers’ polemics. His latest album Atlantic Crossing, a long overdue released collaboration with 20th Century Tokyo Princess’s Ted Clark, was released last month. Plus a new album entitled Cardboard Box Beatle will be released next month by Metal Postcard Records.

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

The Singles.

The NoMen & The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies ‘The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth’
(Self-Release) 1st January 2022

The ideal start to the year is a tribute to the great Joe Meek with this two-sided wonder of Meek like madness from The NoMen and The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies; tracks that are filed with wonky guitars echo filled joints of smoked black fountains. Two tracks to make you feel that 2022 is not going to be that bad after all. Roll on the coming 12 months, and one can only hope it will be as magically wonky as this fine single.

bigflower ‘Bang Bang’
(Self-Release) 26th December 2021

bigflower is back with another cover. Yes, a dark and dense version of the 60s Cher classic ‘Bang Bang’. Once again Ivor Perry drenches the melodious with a swamp of becoming darkness that calls out to be used in some enigmatic black and white foreign subtitled film that one loses themselves in occasionally in the early hours of a Sunday Morning; a track that breaks hearts whilst stoking the embers of half remembered love affairs. Ivor’s bigflower is a band with a mission, a mission to cover this world with the magic of his spoken softly whispered beautiful guitar washes: a mission we should all encourage him in and publicize.

The Jazz Butcher ‘Running On Fumes’
(Tapete Records) 4th February 2022

This track my lovely cherubs is the first single taken from the new and posthumous album by the sadly no longer with us Pat Fish aka the Jazz Butcher, a band I loved and listened to a great deal in my indie pop loving late teen years. Yes, I soundtracked many a romantic interlude to the dulcet tones of the Jazz Butcher, their Live in Hamburg album was a particular favourite of mine, and I’m both pleased and saddened to say even after all these years Mr Fish never lost his way of writing a catchy melodious piece of guitar pop loveitude. He will be sadly missed by myself and many others: a great and talented songwriter.

treesreach ‘How it Seems’
4th February 2022

‘How It Seems’ is a lazy hazy piece of American indie rock with a lovely mixture of Sweet Jane guitar strums and an indie Boston like explosion of AOR melodeon tomfoolery: a rather lovely way to spend a few minutes. So I suggest you give it a listen.

The Albums And The EPs..

Colonial Skyway ‘Evening On Earth’
(Submarine Broadcasting Co.) 14th January 2022

The silent hum of a city landscape keeping its dark secret from the prying eyes of the solitude, the indifference of the praying masses awaiting redemption from the cold bloodied imaginations of the dearly departed only a hop skip and a jump away from the black bird soaring high through the now clear skies as the empty factory puffs the ghost of the smoke from god’s great ash tray into the remembrance of the sky. This album is an aural sweep stake of memories yet to happen a delve into the subconscious a brief awakening of the dot in the centre of an old tv screen saying goodnight one last time.

Salem Trials ‘Something PRETTY DRASTIC’
(Metal Postcard Records) 10th January 2022

Oh, the post-punk joy this 4-track EP emits is tangible, it is eatable, you can catch the magic in a net and rub your face in it; it is pure spell binding: the opening track ‘Table Turning’ sends goosebumps down my arm. It’s like it’s a missing track from Orange Juices mini–LP Texas Fever: it’s pop in its purest form.

This four tracker is the sound of The Salem Trials at their most commercial: I can imagine every track at one point coming from the radio stuck on BBC 6 music after 7pm. As readers of the Monolith Cocktail know I am a huge Salem Trials fan and I will tell you why. It’s because I have good taste. And if there is any justice in this world it should take something pretty drastic to stop Something Pretty Drastic haunting your radio.

K. Board & The Skreens ‘Langue EP’
(Metal Postcard Records) 28th December 2021

Metal Postcard Records, the record label of 2021, kick of 2022 with another fine release; a five track EP that has one scrabbling around in early new year frenzy thinking where on earth have I put my Syd Barrett CDs. Yes, a five track EP that covers the Syd like ditties in electronic 8-bit bedroom magic, all funky whirls and drumbeats. 2022 style modern-day dance meets the magical past to explore the inner workings of musical deep thinking. Sci-fi minds, maybe a work of an evil Bond villainy…who knows or cares when the music is this much fun and original sounding.

Chris Church ‘Darling Please’
(Big Stir Records) 21st January 2022

An album that kicks off with the sound of Quasimodo having a wank is not a bad way to start off an album of radio friendly guitar pop; it gives the album an air of darkness which I greatly appreciate. It is much better than being sugar-coated in platitudes of esteemed Mojo lite political correctness by jean wearing bingo hop bunned men who really should know better than to try and listen to his record collection of likeminded backward thinkers whilst his wife is not out scanning the racks of Sainsburys for the butter her mother’s best friend swears by.

Yes indeed, Chris Church has released an album of well written guitar pop rock that lovers of Mathew Sweet and the ilk will love and dream of being spoon-fed by Anthia from the Generation Game all those years ago: how did Brucie catch such a dish of the day we ask, and if we are not asking, we certainly should be…and as Brucie once said give us a twirl and I advise you guitar lovers give this album a twirl as it is not half bad.

Claptrap ‘Adulting’
(Un je-ne-sais-quop) 28th January 2022

Claptrap by name but not by nature. No indeed, what we have here is an enjoyable a free-thinking adventurous album of original pop songs, an album that I expect the great Paddy McAloon might enjoy with its Prefab Sprout like sense of playfulness – especially on the opening track ‘The Rewrite’. And the playfulness continues throughout the album, recalling the days when music could and should be fun; an album that takes electronica, psych and eyebrow twisting like McCartney Ram era pop and invention to quite wonderful heights.

Adulting is an album that proves that here we are in 2022 and pop music can still be as a rewarding an experience as it was 50 years ago when everything was fresh and exciting, all that is needed is a fresh and exciting outlook on your art. Nice one Claptrap.

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

Reviews
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 at the end of 2019 through Metal Postcard Records with the paean to local record shop single, ‘Dormouse Records’. They’ve also 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.


bigflower   ‘Sound Of Silence’
Single/1st January 2020

How apt that my first review of the year is a cover of the Simon And Garfunkel classic ‘The Sound Of Silence’; a song associated with the mid sixties when the world was full of hope and revolution of peace and love; a beautifully written and recorded folk rock classic. This version by the brilliant bigflower is quite the opposite. This is a dark piece of nihilism a psychotic and slightly psychedelic sleazy lounge lizard rendition, a version that soundtracks the lack of hope we have for the future new decade as we exist under the cloud of hate poverty and despair.

As ever, this shows the world just what it is not getting to hear as it’s force fed smart phone pop (or should that be pap on radio and TV). In these times of unease we should be hearing the call of revolution of high art; we should be letting the kids enjoy the feeling and exhilaration their parents and grandparents felt when they turned on the radio. There are bands artists out there who are just as capable and talented as the bands of yore. Just that they are not being given the chance to shine. Come the revolution – and believe me it is only a matter of time – bigflower will be leading the way.




Pintandwefall  ‘Your Stories Baby’
(Soliti Music) LP/17th January 2020

 

Ah rock n roll I gave you the best years of my wife. The not so subtle sounds of garage punk and well-written pop, of which I have grown very fond of in my 53 years on this planet. This is a little gem of an album; nothing outstandingly different to many other indie garage punk pop albums, but this has enough quirkiness and more importantly it has a soul and immaturity that many other bands can only wish for. A band that has been touched by the hand of pop suss; a band that sounds like it has been force fed 60s girl group records followed by post punk hits for their afters: twangy guitars, one fingered keyboard riffs, “na na na” choruses and synths that whiiirrl. Perfect imperfect pop: and what is more perfect than that.




Sunflowers  ‘Endless Voyage’
(Stolen Body Records) LP/14th February 2020

 

This is a concept LP I’m led to believe, and on the whole I’m not a great fan of them as they normally play out as a way to release an album with shit lyrics, and try and con the listener that it’s more important than it actually is. Normally it is a cabbage like thing dressed up as full salad with relish and everything. It’s a sign of a band that is getting bored with itself and is running out of ideas and have forgotten how to write good songs, but not in this case. On the whole Endless Voyage is a very enjoyable album with screeching guitars, twonking synths, and is mostly instrumental: hence the lack of shit lyrics. The instrumentals are the better tracks on the LP; the tracks with vocals are the least interesting – reminding me of Blur when they where going through their American art rock phase but without Blur’s pop suss. If the Sunflowers had made it a wholly instrumental album I feel it could have been something pretty special instead of the just pretty good album we have here.




Shadow Show  ‘Silhouettes’
(Stolen Body Records) LP/14th February 2020

 

Any LP that kicks off with a wonderful blast of The Beatles’ ‘Taxman’ riffery (‘Charades’) is fine with me. Sparkling sixties jangle tangle with melodies not heard since the last band decided that The Beatles are not such a bad thing, and if you are going to be influenced by anyone why not the greatest band ever.

Silhouettes as I have already mentioned in a few reviews of other new releases already this year, isn’t the most original of albums but it is a damn fine listen, filled as it is with great catchy guitar pop tunes. And Shadow Show is better than most at plundering the wonderful musical sounds the decade of the 60s produced. When it comes to the end if 2020 I wouldn’t be surprised to find this LP being one of my most played and loved of the year.




Bruce Hendrickson and The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies  ‘Any Sunny Day’
Single/24th December 2019

 

‘Any Sunny Day’ is poetic stroll of Sparklehorse like beauty, softly strummed guitars and eerie synths that takes you on a journey to the psych of a perfect day; a soundtrack to a long lost black and white photo of happier times. The b-side or second track if you like, ‘Roll End Credits’, is what the Velvet Underground might of sounded like if they were obsessed by Hank and his Shadows and produced by the great Joe Meek. Please tell me that there is going to be a album, as this is magical.




Stovepipe  ‘Born to Jive/Never Surrender’
(Jezus Factory) Single/21st February 2020

 

Is Garage Rock the new garage rock? Is it making a bit of a comeback or has it never gone away, as I’m certainly being sent loads of it to review. This single/EP is a five track (three of which are bonus tracks) treat for lovers of loud guitars and garage rock organ sounds. Once again nothing ground breaking but it is garage rock. It’s what it says on the tin or the label in this case, and lovers of 60s tinged frenzy and pre-punk pub rock – even occasionally slipping into post punk psych as on ‘I Wanna Be Your Favourite Pair Of Pajamas’ – will no doubt enjoy it and will want in their record collection.




Floodlights  ‘Backyard’
(Spunk Records) EP/21st February 2020

 

What I like about this EP is how Australian it sounds – a bit like the Hoodoo Gurus meet the Triffids -; four songs that recall traveling across the wilds of Australia. Not that I’ve ever been there, but I imagine Backyard would make a wonderful soundtrack if I were ever lucky enough to. It also reminds me of early 80s Kinks around their time of the ‘Come Dancing’ hit, which again can only be a good thing as Ray Davies is certainly no slouch at the old song writing lark. So all in all a very impressive EP.


Review Roundup: Words: Brian ‘Shea’ Bordello




Delicate Steve ‘Till I Burn Up’
(Anti/ Epitaph) 1st March 2019


Well this LP by Delicate Steve is a music publisher’s dream, if I had handed this into my publishers they would be performing cartwheels and my back would be bruised from all the backslapping. Nine well written well performed instrumental works that are catchy without being annoyingly so commercial, without being overly commercial. Tracks that will be played on both FM and alternative radio shows; instrumentals that one can be imagined used in adverts and TV shows of all genres, Sci-Fi, spy, romantic dramas, tunes being played behind the days sporting highlights.

This LP is ideal for soundtracking your daily routine without interfering too much in it. The music goes from having a modern day vibeness funk of Daft Punk, ‘Selfie Of A Man’ to the wonderful opening track ‘Way Too Long’, which if anything is way too short: With its squonky Synths and Robert Quine like guitar this is the kind of track you would have run home from school in the 70s for.

My personal favourite track is the royally majestic procession of a thing, the synth driven beauty Purple Boy, a song if not named in tribute to the sadly missed wonder that was Prince should have been.

It’s an LP that is well worth investigation.





Mozes And The Firstborn ‘Dadcore’
(Burger Records) 25th January 2019




An LP that wants to be a mixtape, a very good idea; an LP that is a love letter to rock music is music to these ears. Anyone who knows anything about my band The Bordellos loves such concepts, and know all-too-well how we go for things like that: Our How To Hate Friends And Influence No-one was a hate letter to the music industry and how bland it was becoming. I can happily report that this LP is in no way bland or boring but is a fine power pop album: All Glitter band drums, Raspberries guitars and melodies you could float on.

Songs that mention radio in the lyrics is always a good guide, whether the band have pop nouse and can be trusted with your pop heart, and any band that rips off The Beat’s ‘Save It For Later’ (or should I say is influenced by it) is alright with me as one should also try and rip off the best.

The opening title track is a fine example of what The Clash performing the Bay City Rollers ‘Saturday Night’ might sound like, if you ever wondered. Any lovers of The Eels and Fountains Of Wayne will no doubt embrace this LP; it has all the right chords in all the right places, it has its heart in its art; it has the right amount of darkness – as we all know when the darkness meets the light magic can happen and it does happen on a number of occasions on this LP.

It’s also nice to see that Burger Records can get things right occasionally (they turned down the chance to release a Bordellos LP (I’m not bitter, just a little twisted) but I do not hold grudges, even if I did I would still say this is a worthy addition to any lover of guitar pop collections.





Bibi Den’s Tshibayi ‘Sensible’
(Pharaway Records) 14th February 2019




This album is a gem of Ivory Coast Funk, kicking off with ‘Africa Mawa’, a wonderful mixture of jangly guitars and post-punk-funk like Synths; if it wasn’t for the vocals you could imagine it fitting nicely on Orange Juices’ Rip It Up album: A great way to start an LP. It is followed by the quite lovely ballad ‘Djwa Yango’; again of its time, this LP being recorded in 1983, it has the 80s synth sound but a wonderfully repetitive haunting synth riff.

Track three started and it sent me spinning back into the past: I was all of a sudden 18 again listening to the wonderful John Peel show, as he so very often filled the airwaves with quite wonderful African funk and the Sensible title track is indeed wonderful African music – maybe my favorite track of this four track album, quite marvelous in fact. Chanting vocals, funk guitar and incredible drumming, a song that puts the fun into funk. Then the final song comes all to soon the only fault I can find with this LP that at just over twenty five minutes on length it is over all too soon. I have not heard an album this joyful in a long time. In fact I’m going to put it on again.





Sir Robert Orange Peel ‘Turn That Bloody Racket Down!’
(Metal Postcard Records) 31st January 2019




Another LP from the wonderful Metal Postcard Records; this label releases so much wonderful music that is wrongly ignored. I am here to put that right.

This LP is a fine example; any LP that starts off with a wonderful farting synth and proceeds to erupt into a fury of lo fi funk before going on to a sample of telephone scammers over a slow drumbeat (slow very funny and very strange) is what the world is crying out for; music that deals with everyday life but with a dark smile on its face.

Who else would take a 70s sample of Mastermind the TV quiz show, when the persons specialist subject was the Sex Pistols, and just put a simple drumbeat behind it?!! As I have already said, insane but brilliant, the whole LP carries on in a similar vein and conjurers up both feelings for the nostalgic days of the past and the horrors of the world today.

I will not go into the subjects of all the tracks, as I do not want to spoil this wonderful eccentric dance record for you. GO AND DOWNLOAD IT AND CHEER YOURSELF UP!





Words: Brian ‘Shea’ Bordello

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