PLAYLIST: Dominic Valvona/Matt Oliver/Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

The monthly recap and chance to catch up with all the most eclectic music that the Monolith Cocktail team has been listening to over the last four weeks (with a few additional tracks we missed back in August). Chosen by me (Dominic Valvona), Matt ‘Rap Controller’ Oliver and Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea, the September 2021 edition features a truly global lineup of the best and most interesting Hip-Hop, Electronica, Jazz, Nu-Soul, Krautrock, Post-Punk, Experimental, Pop and beyond, with musical waves from Africa, the Med, Americas, Europe, Far East and of course the UK.  

TRACK LIST:::

The August List  ‘Seams’
Monsieur Doumani  ‘Astrahan’
Ex Norwegian  ‘Thot Patrol’
The Speed Of Sound  ‘The Day The Earth Caught Fire’
Motorists  ‘Go Back’
The Crystal Casino Band  ‘Waste My Time’
The Felice Brothers  ‘Jazz On The Autobahn’
Timo Lassy  ‘Orlo’
Blu  ‘Everyday Blu(e)s’
DJ JS-1  ‘Spaghetti Park’
Lukah  ‘THE WAY TO DAMASCUS’
Jazzmeia Horn And Her Noble Force  ‘Where Is Freedom?’
Kondi Band  ‘Everything That Sierra Leone Has’
Los Camaroes  ‘Esele Mulema Moam’
Mopes  ‘Facts Machine’
Solem Brigham  ‘Couple Towns’
Gift Of Gab Ft. Vursatyl, Lateef The Truthspeaker  ‘You Gon’ Make It In The End’
Gotts Street Park  ‘Diego’
Hiero  ‘Soil’
Showtime Ramon Ft. Illecism  ‘Julius Erving’
Viktor Timofeev  ‘Portal Of Zin II’
Variet  ‘The Ancient Of Seconds’
Faust  ‘Vorsatz’
Vilmmer  ‘Fensteraus’
Late  ‘Verbal Introduction’
King Kashmere & Alecs DeLarge  ‘Soul Caliber’ Robert & SonnyJim Ft. Rag’n’Bone Man  ‘Porridge’
Niklas Wandt  ‘Lo Spettro’
Badge Epoch  ‘Galactic Whip’
Dr. Joy  ‘No Deal’
Ulrich Schnauss & Mark Peters  ‘Speak In Capitals’
Psycho & Plastic  ‘Wunsch, Indianer Zu Werden’
Sone Institute  ‘Forget Everything’
Steve Hadfield  ‘Ascension’
Headboggle  ‘Skip Pop’
Forest Robots  ‘Every Particle Of Water Understands Change Is Essential’
Wish Master & Illinformed Ft. Datkid and Gaza Glock  ‘Chefs Recipe’
Dceased, Telly McLean and Unlike People  ‘Rainey Day Relapse’
Nukuluk  ‘Ooh Ah’
Boohoo  ‘Forever’
The Legless Crabs  ‘A Saucer Is Born’
Bordello & Clark  ‘Dreams Of Rock And Roll Stars’ Santa Sprees  ‘Save Yourself’
Birthday Cake!  ‘Retrospect’
Salem Trials  ‘No York’
Helm  ‘Repellent’
Will Feral  ‘The Minx’
Sun Atoms  ‘The Cat’s Eye’
Simon McCorry  ‘Flow 04’
Group Listening  ‘Sunset Village’
John Howard  ‘Dreamland’
Andrew Heath  ‘The Healing Pt. 1’
Tara Clerkin Trio  ‘Night Steps’
Color Dolor  ‘Underwater’
Gina Birch  ‘Feminist Song’
Esbe  ‘Amazing Grace’

WORDS: Dominic Valvona/Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

Self-promotional time now as the Monolith Cocktail celebrates the release of our very own Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea’s long awaited album partnership with 20th Century Tokyo Princess’s guitarist/singer Ted Clark: conveniently entitled Bordello & Clark.

Joining the blog a few years back with his own reviews column the erstwhile malcontent Brian Shea is the defacto leader of the lo fi, still believing in the power of rock ‘n’ roll, family band, The Bordellos, but also releases various humdrum aphorism’s under his own name. After various travails and hold-ups, the Think Like A Key label has somehow ended up releasing the much-delayed communion between the two nostalgically melancholy artists. I say nostalgic, but not in the watery-eyed sense of missed opportunity, rather disgruntled at how the 21st century has sucked out all the joy, muthafuckerness and humour of rock ‘n’ roll; leaving nothing but a pale imitation or join the dots karaoke pastiches. For this is a wistful contrary delivered songbook of obscured romanticisms, lost love, and the idiosyncratic measuring of time passing by; whether that’s through the lens of Brian’s overgrown garden of metaphors or the bygone kettle whistled tours of rock’s back pages and famous sites (‘Memories Of Denmark Street’) and the straggles of becoming a famous rock star.

Making Sparklehorse sound like a flash git, accompanied by ELO, the lo fi in this partnership’s observational love letters is about as sparse and minimal as it can get. Except that is for the Mekons spaghetti western like homage to The Wedding Present’s stalwart David Gedge, which seems a big score in comparison: a wistful one at that.

The ‘Mersey Beat’ sound is wallowed in the waters of Joe Meek’s cellar for the jingle-jangle sound of a past age; a mindset that rambles through the broken promises of memorabilia, the 2i’s café’s jukebox and a pile of C86 era tapes. This is a conjuncture in which you hear how the J&MC may have sounded with Spaceman 3 era Jason Pierce fronting it, where Del Shannon met Greg Boring decided to hang out together. This is a reimagined TOTP’s slot that drove The Bordellos and 20th Century Pop Princess to the topper most top of the pop charts. An album of such brilliant lyrical sadness and irony that yearns for the mythology of rock ‘n’ roll and glory of what could have been if the likes of Spotify and their ilk hadn’t been invented, and music really meant something: nothing less than a complete absorption.

Borrowing some familiar riffs from the 60s garage, post-punk, ramshackle outsider music, Atlantic Crossing brings two distinct yet wholly congruous lo fi seers together on a mostly magic album of loss and longing that channels the spirit of a bygone age.

We asked Brian to guide us track-by-track through the new album, which was released on the 24th September 2021.

Jingle Jangle is a song of remembering your childhood and all the innocence that goes with it, mixed with memories of old friends and lovers that you no longer see, and an ideal way to kick off an album with songs filled with regrets, hopes, and love lost and found.

Memories of Denmark St is what it says on the tin. A song about memories of holidaying in London with an old girlfriend, looking at the guitars you want but cannot afford, dreaming, thinking it is only a matter of time that some record company will snap you and make you a star. “I wanted a Gretsch, I wanted a vox, I wanted to be on Top Of The Pops” could well be the most heartbreakingly honest line I’ve ever written. This album is full of heartbreak and lost love and unfulfilled dreams and probably the album with most self-biographic songs I have released.

The Girl with Cadbury Purple Hair. I saw a girl when I was sat on the bus out of the window and she looked like she owned the world; she looked like the most self-confident person I have ever seen. She was in her late teens, had charity store clothes and had Cadbury Purple Hair, and radiated sunshine from her being. I only saw her for about thirty seconds and not seen her since. Maybe she was just a brief daydream and I imagined her? So I wrote a song of sex, lust, hope, and the magic of being young based around the sighting of this super being. Ted (Clark) did a fucking amazing job on this song making it sound like Marc Bolan preening himself in the mirror 

Sunshine Rain Girl. A song about being in love with someone with problems and those problems bringing bigger problems, but in between the problems are moments of pure magic and underneath the darkness lies the hottest and brightest of suns. This was recorded as a ballad but Ted sped it up and gave it a strange George Formby like vibe. A strange pop track and if ever recorded as a ballad could be a big hit.

Handsome Jaques. Ah…memories of sexual shenanigans from ones past mixed with fuzzy framed nostalgia and advice to the youngsters out there. A song I originally wrote for Cilla Black to sing: and it would have been a right rum do if she had.

Dreams Of Rock N Roll Stars. I feel this is the finest song I have written, the centrepiece for the whole album, a song of looking back at the things you never achieved but recorded in such a magical way by Ted that it makes like regret has never tasted so good. Like Joe Meek doing a soundtrack of a Walt Disney film starring Woody Allen and Tony Hancock, and the perfect pop song. I always imagine the video to this being set in a beatnik bar with a party happening or a happening party, with cartoon French men shaking maracas.  

Holy Love. Quite simply a short love song to an old dear friend who I have not seen in many years hoping that he has found the love and companionship he so craved and deserved.

Sixteen. A song celebrating first love and memories of it: all love, romance and soft tinted lust and regret. A chocolate box of a song.

Gedge. Entitled after the singer of The Wedding Present, this is a song filled with both lust self-hate and a yearning to reach the stalking like levels of writing that David Gedge has mastered. This is by far the most lo-fi recording on a very lo-fi album. The vocals I sent to Ted were distorted to hell and I am amazed he was able to salvage it and make it into probably the most difficult song to listen to on the album. But actually one of my favourites on it. 

Lonely Henry. One of the catchiest and lively songs on the album inspired by a lonely old man who used to wander around my hometown of St Helens, who did used to carry a baby doll in his bag for company. The rhythm guitar on this track is quite spectacular, which I do not remember it being this good when I sent it to Ted, so I have the feeling Ted redid it. 

Wrong Country Song. Quite simply, a simple pop song in an indie American pop sort of way. I could imagine the Mouldy Peaches or some other American indie pop act doing it. The sort of song that could have been on the Juno soundtrack. Very simple then, it’s made by Ted’s rather beautiful xylophone solo.

Watching The Garden Grow is maybe the darkest song on the album; a song about being saved unknowingly by your wife and children, dragging you back from the abyss of depression. A sad yet hopeful song.

You can find and purchase the album here

ALBUM REVIEW/Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

Santa Sprees ‘Fanfare For Tonsils’

There have been some pretty stunning albums released this year and Fanfare For Tonsils is one of them; an album that is both experimental and great pop music, and as I think I mentioned when reviewing last year’s excellent Sum Total Of Insolent Blank, they are the closest thing we have to the weird 60s Beach Boys:  they have the same magic, the same on the edge of madness and sublimeness that few have the genius to pull off naturally.

Anthony Dolphin is quite simply one of the finest songwriters making music today. A man who wraps beautiful melodies to some simply stunning lyrics, writing about such strange characters and subjects and engulfing them in pure experimental musical wonderfulness that hints at their influences. Tom Waits, The Fall, Half Japanese, folk, soul, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll are all captured in their truly original sound. For the band take their influences and bend them into something refreshing and beautiful until it sounds like no one else but the Santa Sprees. Fanfare For Tonsils is simply unique in this day and age as it is the sound of a band not giving a damn. A band that knows what they are doing is truly magnificent: heartbreakingly magnificent. And there are few who can match their brilliance. This is the true sound of the underground. The soul and heart of the underground. This is the sound of the Santa Sprees.

REVIEWS ROUNDUP/Brian Bordello

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.

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

Singles/EPs.

Iron Maiden  ‘Stratego’

There is something quite comforting in that Iron Maiden are still releasing music, and that there is still a market for old fashioned Metal as you very rarely see metal fans wandering around the towns in their leather jackets and ripped denim with the name of their favourite band lovingly scrawled somewhere on the jacket, or the latest single by Wasp or Twisted Sister hogging the video jukebox in your local boozer. Yes, this single brings those days of myself and my indie loving friends cursing that The Smiths did not make videos, so would sit pint of cider in hand, our teenage years being soundtracked by ‘Bring Your daughter To The Slaughter’. This single brings all those wonderful days spinning back, so I would class this song a huge success; a song that will appeal to the old and maybe young metalheads out there.

Santa Sprees  ‘Run Wild When I’m Gone’

I love the Santa Sprees. I think they are one of the handful of bands I consider to be equal to my own band The Bordellos (as being one of the best bands currently making music today). A little like how Brian Wilson was influenced by the music of the Beatles pushing him on to greater heights, I feel the same way about the music of the Santa Sprees and the genius songwriter that is Anthony Dolphin. This, the opening single from the forthcoming new album, is a track of pure beauty and is quite simply one of the finest tracks I have heard this year. There is a lump in the throat tear in the eye sadness about ‘Run Wild When I’m Gone’ that is really quite bewitching. It is a rare thing, a song that carries a somber grace that both Nick Cave and Tom Waits would sell their soul to have written.

Ex Norwegian  ‘Thot Patrol’
13th August 2021

I love this single. The new release by the wonderful Ex Norwegian has an unusual air of darkness and fine elegance and eloquence and cleverness that most bands can only dream about. It has a quality that gets under your skin after a few listens and makes it its home; a song for the late summer months and one that promises great things for the album.

Birthday Cake ‘Methods Of Madness’
6th August 2021

On the whole I’m getting a little bored with straight ahead guitar music. It might be my age, in my mid 50s, and heard it all before, but I like this. It has melody and fine lyrics and is well written, and there is nothing not to like, with echoes of The Smiths and even Orange Juice, and the second track has a wonderful woozy feel to it, which is nice. In fact the whole EP has a lovely warm comfort to it which one can wrap around themselves and soak in the pure indie guitar magic Birthday Cake perform so well.

Albums…

Flowertown  ‘Time Trials’
(Paisley Shirt Records)  20th August 2021

If I’m not mistaken I’ve reviewed Flowertown before, saying how much I enjoyed the lo-finess and the boy/girl vocal interaction. And once again, I will repeat, I enjoy Flowertown’s lo-finess and the male/female vocal interaction. I also mentioned that Flowertown are almost bloody perfect and this album is not going to change my opinion as Flowertown have this softly strummed Velvets/JAMC/Mazzy Star lark down to a fine tee, and Time Trials is a fine album filled with songs that lovers of the three aforementioned bands will indeed cherish and hold close to their beautiful lo-fi filled hearts.

The Legless Crabs  ‘Reno’
(Metal Postcard Records)  23rd August 2021

The slabbed-out farce of human existence is hauled over the coals of a tortured soul. Indie guitar mutterings caught on the hop by the sound of a band with vision and cunning, vile style and cut out feedback drones, haunts the summer breeze that flows through the empty unblocked narrow escape of an ex-lover’s phony, pleased to make your acquaintance, smile. The Legless Crabs are back with their own brand of guitar menace. Reno is an album of sublime alternative guitar originality: the Mary Chain and Sonic Youth dipped in the Shaggs vagina juice. This album dips and swerves with sex, humour, and originality. Reno is an album of lo-fi like musical love; it is an album that pinpoints genius. It’s a sleeveless shirt in a shop full of winter coats. It is the coolest thing. It has the most Fall like instrumental ever recorded not by the Fall, and that is called ‘Trinidad weed Boom’, and the track is even better than the title. So how cool is that.

This is an album hipsters wished existed and now does. So if there is any justice in the world Reno will be toping the indie world top ten. This album is worth listening to whilst looking lovingly at your Beach Boys box set or wanking over the thought of the forthcoming Let It Be 5 disc set, for Reno is far more important, as it is new music and contains all the rock ‘n’ roll spirit of Adventure that both aforementioned bands had in spades.

Speed Of Sound  ‘Museum Of Tomorrow’
(Big Stir Records)  17th September 2021

A new album released by Big Stir Records is always a welcome thing, as this always guarantee melodies fine guitars riffs and well-written songs. And this album from Manchester’s The Speed Of Sound is no different; apart from the usual power pop goodness has been replaced by a more chaotic post punk psych-tinged folk cauldron calamity of la la choruses and pure pop. Pure pop that has been bottled shaken and opened with great gusto at an all-night party covering the party poppers in a thick sweetly tasting potion of seduction, melancholy and want. Museum Of Tomorrow to my mind alongside the excellent Armoires album is my favourite release on Big Stir Records, and saying every month I am praising a release or two from Big Stir records shows how enjoyable this album is. Lovers of Kirsty MacColl and John Peel favourites Melys, and the touched by the hand of genius, The World Of Twist, will adore this album as much as I do. Is this I wonder the sound of Big Stir moving to the next level? An excellent release; an excellent album.

Salem Trials  ‘Something Beginning With’
(Metal Postcard Records)  30th August 2021

The twisted sound of the Salem Trials has never quite sounded so twisted and beautiful, and bloody sexy and life affirming. If there is any justice in the world this will be the one to break the Salem Trials, the one to move them to the radio playlists of BBC 6 Music. ‘U’ is a radio hit if I ever heard one, the sound of a young scantily clad Poison Ivy twisting at an all-night bar.

This is the sound of a fine band at the top of their game; an album full of strangely commercial and commercially strange songs that bring the golden days of alternative music to the present day. The Salem Trials once again mining their vast array of musical influences but sounding like no one but the Salem Trials.

There is a wonderful New York No Wave feel to a number of the tracks; the outstanding ‘1979 Part 2’ and ‘Climb A Tree’ benefiting from a stray discordant sax: the sound John Coltrane having belligerent sweet nothings hissed into his ear by the one-off vocal styling’s of vocalist Russ.

Something Beginning With is an album that once again proves that the Salem Trials are indeed the finest guitar band currently operating in the UK (as I have said many times). And I apologise to any members of other alternative guitar bands in the UK, but I’m afraid you are just going to have to up your game to reach these heights.

PLAYLIST SPECIAL/Dominic Valvona/Matt Oliver/Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

Unapologetic fans of California’s favourite sons, The Beach Boys, this month’s imaginary Monolith Cocktail radio show playlist features a hell of a lot of tracks from the Feel Flows box set, which came out today. Some of which, are choice tracks that have lain dormant for decades.

Joining them is a fine selection of new music from the MC team (that’s me Dominic Valvona, our remote contributor and hip-hop selector Matt Oliver, and the maverick troubadour lo fi rock god turn critic Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea) that includes bloomed pop loveliness from Bloom De Wilde, respectful nods to prog rock icons from Uncommon Nasa, Homeboy Sandman slurping on the dairy, the brand new Fiery Furnaces mellotron bellowed plaint, and some mad dashing mayhem from Girl No. III. Plus plenty of greatness from Pons, SonnyJim, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Brandee Younger, Ephat Mujuru and Liz Cooper. 46 tracks to soundtrack your weekend.

Tracks Listing:.

The Beach Boys  ‘It’s A New Day’
Gabrielle Ornate  ‘Waiting To Be Found’
Bloom De Wilde  ‘Garden Of The Sun (Jstar Remix)’
Ester Poly  ‘Pressés’
Flowertown  ‘The Door The Thief The Light’
SLONK  ‘Erstwhile’
Julia Meijer  ‘Borta Från Allt’
Seaside Witch Coven  ‘A.E.O.’
Liz Cooper  ‘Slice Of Life’
The Beach Boys  ‘It’s About Time – Live 1971’
Brian Jackson, Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed Muhammad  ‘Duality’
Uncommon Nasa  ‘Vincent Crane’
Tanya Morgan ft. Rob Cave  ‘Tanya In The Sky With Diamonds’
Homeboy Sandman  ‘Cow’s Milk’
Creatures Of Habit  ‘The Devil’s Hands’
Bronx Slang  ‘Clock’s Ticking’
Lore City  ‘Once-Returner’
Your Gaze  ‘Black Afternoon’
Sølyst  ‘Flex’
Ephat Mujuru & The Spirit Of The People  ‘Mudande’
Ballaké Sissoko  ‘Simbo Salaba’
The Beach Boys  ‘4th Of July (2019 Mix)’
Sorrows  ‘Rita’
Lisa Mychols & Super 8  ‘Pet Sounds (Story)’
Makoto Kubota & The Sunset Gang  ‘Bye Bye Baby’
Brandee Younger  ‘Somewhere Different’
Ryuichi Sakamoto  ‘Mountains’
The Beach Boys  ‘Forever (2019 A Cappella Mix)’
The Fiery Furnaces  ‘The Fortune Teller’s Revenge’
Graham Domain  ‘Limbs Of Loneliness’
Corduroy Institute  ‘An Interpretation Of Our Own Story’
YOUNGMAN  ‘GALACTIC LUV’
Celling Demons Ft. Zarahruth  ‘Silver Birch’
Kid Acne Ft. Jaz Kahina and Vandel Savage  ‘Transistors’
The Mouse Outfit & ayiTe  ‘Don’t Stop’
Girl No. III  ‘Wales’Whales’Wails At Weyl’
Pons  ‘JOHNNY PERSUASION (HABITAT 67)’
Sebastian Reynolds  ‘Crows (L’Étranger Remix)’
CMPND  ‘WEAINTPLAYIN’
Lee Scott/Hyroglifics Ft. Black Josh  ‘Sacrificial Goat’
Sonnyjim  ‘Mr Singh’
Sweaty Palms  ‘The Dance’
Weak Signal  ‘Barely A Trace’
Xqui X SEODAH  ‘Timete’
Giacomelli  ‘Phaze II, Pt. 2 (Bonus Track)’
Shreddies  ‘(no body)’

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.

Singles/Tracks.

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.

Albums/EPs..

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.

Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea’s 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.

Singles/One-Offs/Tracks/Videos

Lauran Hibberd ‘Bleugh’

I like Lauran Hibberd. I think she might have something interesting to say, and she has a true-life observant humour in her lyrics that is both refreshing and entertaining: something my dear friends that all music should attempt to contain. It also contains a wonderful two chord guitar riff that has been used so many times, and I am certain will be used many more times in songs, because it is a great two chord guitar riff and all indie glam garage rock songs at least should attempt to use it.

Yammerer ‘Tell Me What the Ancient Astronaut Theorists Believe’
(Restless Bear Records) Available Now

Yammerer are from Liverpool and remind me of the kind of band I used to go and watch all those years ago in the 80s, in the clubs and venues of Liverpool and Merseyside. A wonderful time with some wonderful venues with some wonderful bands, and Yammerer would have fitted well into those times as there is revolution in the air, fuck the Tories, fuck unemployment, the future is now, we have a voice and we are going to use it. Yes, Yammerer are an enjoyable force of nature, reminding me of The Levellers 5 and the much missed A House. Can you pay a band a higher compliment than that? No I do not think you can.

bigflower  ‘Hanging On’
Available Now

So, for the latest release from the masterful bigflower we have a rather fetching and warm moody romantic guitar drenched version of the Supremes‘You Keep Me Hanging On’. To my mind one of the greatest pop songs ever written, and this version brings to mind the sun scorched sky, a tear in the eye, and lips full of quivering regret etched onto a scratched vinyl copy of Neil Youngs’ Decade, which was the last LP she ever played of yours before departing into the night to destroy somebody else’s life…yet once again beautiful.

Brian  ‘Cycle Super Highway’
(Time For Art Records)  Available Now

I really like this. It has a beautiful shimmering summer quality about it, like if The Beach Boys were young men and just starting out today. Eloquent harmonic vocals float and drift with electro synths and drum machines to supply us with a four-minute plus aural treat. The subtlety slowly washing over the listener pulling us into a state of blissed out dreamland like heaven.  

Albums/EPs

Anton Barbeau ‘Oh The Joys We Live For’
(Big Stir Records)  16th July 2021

There is something quite beautiful about this album. There is a beauty in the way Anton describes life with a slightly outsider eccentric point of view. This is an album of perfect domesticity, an album that takes the mundane and every day and makes it magical. The final track for instance, the Beatley ‘I Been Thinking Of You’, beneath the chiming guitars and perfect beatastic melody lies a song of love, wanting, escape and the mundane (“I am a teenage man in a minivan squeezing milk for an old cup of tea”). And that is a special talent to have: not squeezing milk for a cup of tea, although that does indeed come in handy, but being able to take the everyday and paint a velvet wash of lyrical surrealism that is based on everyday life.

Anton Barbeau has that special lyrical knack/talent of doing so, a little like what the great Julian Cope also does, and can draw a warm smile on the listeners face with his words of poetic delight. The music and melodies that wrap around the fine lyrics are drawn from a love of folk /synth pop and psych and a little dose of experimental guitar pop; in fact some of the songs could be described as synth folk: ‘Cowbell Camembert’ being a perfect example: squelchy synth, a simple disco drum machine beat and chiming 12 string guitars; as if Roger McGuinn had joined the Legendary Pink Dots for an evening. ‘Oh The Joys We Live For’ is an album of love warmth and humour, and like this album is something we all need in our life.

The Poppermost  ‘Hits To Spare’
30th July 2021

The Poppermost is one-man band Joe Kane, who is a raving Merseybeat fanatic who loves all things Fab Four, and this fine album is his tribute to the music from those swinging days. This is not just a whitewashed Beatles album that so many power poppers have recently forced on us, with shit lyrics, second hand melodies and Beatle mop top haircuts. Joe is actually a very talented songwriter who would not have seemed out of place emerging from a transistor radio, the dial set to Radio Caroline or one of those other legendary pirate radio stations.

What makes this album even more impressive is that it actually sounds like a band, not just one-man in his home studio painstakingly layering down very authentic 60s riffs and harmonies. There are so many highlights, from the opening track ‘Egg and Chips’, which you could imagine the Big Three performing in the Cavern, to the very Beatles like ‘Yes It’s True’ being an unreleased track from The Hard Day’s Night album, and the very Jimmy Campbell-esque ‘One Of The Gerliss’.

This is an album of beautifully written and performed sixties inspired beat pop songs. Anyone who has ever sat and got misty eyed over Billy J Kramer’s Best Of album (which I admit to), this is certainly a must buy album and another fine release from the wonderful Think Like A key Label; an album that deserves to be top of the hit parade pop pickers.

Daniel Vujanic  ‘Paramnesia’
(Submarine Broadcasting Co.)  Out There Right Now

To shy away from experimental music and to just listen to guitars and drums and bass and vocals is foolhardy for many reasons: one being that you are obviously emotionally and artistically stunted with little outlook for adventure and sublimity, and another, you are missing out on this fine musical journey into the world of genre hopping eccentricity, part Faust part Miles Davis part Silver Apples. Yes, an album of eight mid to longish instrumental leaps into the unknown; eight tracks to lose and find yourself and re-find yourself in only to discover at the end of the album you are not who you thought you were in the first place. A beautiful work of aural art.

Rob Majchrowski ‘Summer 2021’
Available Now

I like Rob Majchrowski, he seems like a bit of a character, and the kind of chap who I think I might like to spend an hour or two chatting in a pub to. I enjoy his homemade music. He has a wit and charm and down at heel glamour and romance, and is a fine songwriter; and as you know, anyone who knows or reads these little reviews, I’m rather fond of fine lyrics and Rob M certainly writes some fine lyrics. “Out for sex but finding fights,” says it all; a perfect description of this seven track excellent album.

Musically it has the same feel as early Pulp with a touch of Beck and Grandaddy/Mercury Rev, and deserves to find a wide audience, as it really is rather splendid stuff indeed. It can be download on a pay what you want basis from his Bandcamp and I would certainly suggest you do.

The Telephone Numbers ‘The Ballad Of Doug’
(Paisley Shirt Records)  Available Now

The Telephone Numbers The Ballad Of Doug is a lovely jangle pop of an album. An album full of melodies, charming harmonies and chiming guitars; one that takes you back to the halcyon days of when the likes of the June Brides and the Chesterfields and the Go Betweens would share mixtape space as you strummed along on your recently bought and recently just learned how-to-play Fender copy guitar.

Yes, an album that captures the never grow old charm of a lovingly written ode to love, music and everyday life, and the Telephone Numbers write and perform their aural magic very well indeed. The Ballad Of Doug is an album that captures all that is good about guitar pop.

Occult Character  ‘The Song Remains The Stain’
(Metal Postcard Records) Available Now

A new album from my friend and fellow Metal Postcard Records label mate Occult Character is always a welcome thing as I think he is a bit of a fine songwriter: in fact one of the finest. A man with originality and dark wit who raises his middle finger to life in the USA, who lyrically hits his targets with the accuracy of a sniper’s bullet. 

The Song Remains The Stain is an album made up of 27 shortish songs, and on this one ignores his guitar to give us a guide in how to make an alternative electro album. So this is an album of electro throbbing synth bass, chiming drum machines and wonderful mechanical ice cream like melodies, and of course his wonderful lyrics and vocal styling: part Lou Reed, part Roky Erikson, part deranged robot.

Occult Character is indeed a one off and will one day be seen as one of the greats. And The Song Remains The Stain is an enjoyable and rewarding listen; an album filled with originality wit and intelligence. 

Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea’s Roundup

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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.

Tracks/Singles…

Paragon Cause ‘Disconnected’
18th June 2021 (Taken from the duo’s upcoming album Autopilot, released 13th August 2021)

I like this track it has an aura of pop songs from the past like Jane Weilden’s ‘Rush Hour’, or one of those other fine breezy pop songs. It has the wind in its sails and floats like a bobcat with the ear of the bank manager’s fond final digressionary wish ringing in its typecast high school jinx way. Trust me it is a lovely joyful pop song and I for one cannot get enough of those. And my dear readers I have the feeling that you cannot either. And if you can get enough, you are reading the wrong blog…go and stroke your chin to the Quietus and lose yourself in a nose flute extravaganza box set.

Salem Trials ‘Head Full Of Stinging Bees’
Available right now

A slice of alternative guitar magic from Britain’s greatest current guitar band. Yes indeed, the Salem Trials are back with a scratchy almost Goth like vignette with Scary Monster era Bowie guitars and Russ ranting as only Russ can. Just over two minutes in length and it sounds like no one but the Salem Trials. ‘Head Full Of Stinging Bees’ can be downloaded for free from their Bandcamp page, which I urge you to do or you will be ever known as a twat who likes to preen yourself in front of a Shane Richie poster circa his days in the Grease Stage show.

Mega Bog ‘Weight Of The Earth, On Paper’
(Paradise Of Bachelors) Out there right now

I like this; it has an air of a post punk hippy commune getting together to make an enjoyable romp through the pages of a musical that should have been written but for some strange reason never was. It could have been Hair for the balding generation. I can imagine this band drinking green tea and driving badly due to their minds being somewhere else…yes, I enjoyed this.

Eamon The Destroyer ‘My Drive /Silver Cloud’
(Bearsuit Records)  Available Right Now

I am a huge fan of Liverpool based guitar wonder extremist bigflower and ‘My Drive’ and ‘Silver Shadow’ have the same appeal. Both of the songs have the same melancholy, the same scorched by the sun lost in a desert atmosphere a place where the neglected go to dream bittersweet dreams of a past memory not knowing if it truly happened or not. These two tracks are lost in a world of their own and will certainly appeal to lovers of Mercury Rev and the Flaming Lips as they plough the same furrow. I’m looking forward to their forthcoming album, which should be a rewarding and interesting listen going off the excellence of this debut single.

Albums/EPs..

Synthetic Villains ‘Obstacle Navigation’
Available right now

Obstacle Navigation is actually a very good listen; ten tracks of mostly synth instrumentals that use old Analogue drum machines and synths with electric and acoustic guitars processed via violin bows, ebows and various effect pedals.

The tracks take in moody synth pop but have more than a tinge of psychedelia: ‘Sunbeam Flyer’ could easily slot onto Primal Scream’s Screamadelica without much fuss, even borrowing the ‘Loaded’ bass line, which of course the Scream themselves borrowed, and ‘Wander Off Wondering’ reminding me of the early Shaman before they struck it rich with ‘Ebenezer Good’.

This is an inventive and very relaxing album, and as with all good instrumental albums does not have one waiting for the vocals to arrive. It will take you on a soothing and rewarding journey to the centre of your own psyche.

Foreign Age ‘Understanding Animals’
Available Right Now

The three B’s, The Beatles, Blur and Barrett seem to be the order of the day with Foreign Age. Pure pop for nostalgic people, all descending Beatle guitar chords and vocal harmonies, the sort of album The Bees used to release with little commercial success in the early noughties and I expect this album to achieve the same fate. I’m not saying that this is a bad album, for it is not, it is a very enjoyable album, but the days of “ba ba ba” choruses are no longer the order of the day sadly. But Foreign Age does the artier side of Brit pop very well. And the album is well worth investigation.  

The Early Mornings ‘Unnecessary Creation EP’
Available right now

Jerky rhythms and slandered guitars are always a joy to behold with one’s ears and The Early Mornings are indeed a joy. It’s like the Slits if they were a cartoon band guesting on The Banana Splits. The Banana Slits in fact: what a perfect description. Yes, The Early Mornings are one of those wonderful post punk bands who have a talent of having melodies float from their scratchy guitars and performing well written songs of teenage lust and teenage problems even if the band themselves are not teenagers. The kind of band who makes one wish they were young again: and believe me that is always the sign of a good band.

Cathal Coughlan ‘Song Of Co-Aklan’
(Dimple Discs) Available Right Now

I always loved Fatima Mansions, one of my fave bands from the 90s, so was pleased to see this in my inbox as Cathal is a fine songwriter, a gifted lyricist, and has a voice like spiked honey, and as angry as a box of shaken Bees. And I’m pleased to say his new album has all the aforementioned in great quantities, and I’m not disappointed at all.

He always had a way with the written word Cathal; a little like his hero Scott Walker whose music and song writing is an obvious influence in they both dwell on the darker side and darker characters of life, and like Scott, Cathal knows his way around a melody and how to paint such beautifully dark and sometimes comedic images with his lyrics. And after listening to the track ‘Owl In The Parlour’, I ask why has Cathal never been asked to record a James Bond theme for he certain could give Matt Monroe a run for his money.

Song Of Co-Aklan is an album of dark adventure; an unfurling of one of Music’s great mavericks; a reminder of just how great a songwriter this often-ignored artist truly is.

ALBUM REVIEW/Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

The Polyphonic Spree ‘Afflatus’
16th April 2021

The sun is currently out and shining as I type this, and it gives you that inner glow that Summer is on the way, and what an ideal way to soundtrack that inner glow but with the brand-new album by The Polyphonic Spree.

It’s an album of covers in fact; an album where they attempt to cover the likes of The Rolling Stones, Abba, Daniel Johnston, even, Barry Manilow and others in their joyous life affirming magic. And in most parts they manage it.

The Stones’ ‘She’s A Rainbow’ adds nothing to the original but takes nothing away either from it, but their version of the Bee Gees ‘Run to Me’ is beautiful and gives one the Goosebumps with its heartfelt smoothed magnificence, and their version of The Monkees ‘Porpoise Song’ although not touching the original masterpiece does still do a good job of supplying us the listener with a piece of fine pop psych. Their version of Manilow’s ‘Could It Be Magic’ is again not quite matching the heights of the schmaltz of the original but still better than Take That’s’ version; having a more laid back approach than the lads from Manchester, giving it a melancholic edge. The highlight for me is their version of Abba’s ‘The Visitors’, which they cover in a wonderful harmony filled prog pop way. And on the whole this collection of ten covers is a lovely way to spend a relaxed sunny afternoon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The Bordellos, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea has released countless recordings over the decades with his family band of hapless unfortunates, and is the owner of a most self-deprecating sound-off style blog. His most recent releases include the 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’ and ‘Daisy Master Race/Cultural Euthanasia’). He has also released, under the Idiot Blur Fanboy moniker, a stripped-down classic album of resignation and Gallagher brothers’ polemics.

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.

Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea’s Special Review Roundup

The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The Bordellos, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea has released countless recordings over the decades with his family band of hapless unfortunates, and is the owner of a most self-deprecating sound-off style blog. His most recent releases include the King Of No-Fi album, a collaborative derangement with the Texas miscreant Occult Character, Heart To Heart, and a double-A side single, ‘Shattered Pop Kiss/Sky Writing’. He has also released, under the Idiot Blur Fanboy moniker, a stripped down classic album of resignation and Gallagher brothers’ polemics.

Each week we send a mountain of new releases to the self-depreciating maverick to see what sticks. In his own idiosyncratic style and turn-of-phrase, pontificating aloud and reviewing with scrutiny an eclectic deluge of releases, here Brian’s latest batch of recommendations.

Singles/Tracks.

Occult Character  ‘The Song Remains The Stain’
11th April 2021

The first new track from Occult Character in four months, which I think is the longest he has gone without releasing anything, and what a gem it is. To break his silence a song that lasts just over one and a half minutes and a song that asks the question what is the best lyric you have ever heard, and in the one and half minutes all the magic and genius of The Occult Character is put on show; the devil be damned nonchalance of tossed away brilliance that has not been witnessed sing Errol Flynn wore a feather in his cap and rocked a pair of green tights: pure swashbuckling excellence.

Albums/EPs..

BMX Bandits ‘Star Wars (30th Anniversary Edition)
30th April/ Vinyl 4th May 2021

Is it really 30 years since this lovely album first entered into the musical planet? This being the 30th year Anniversary edition I assume it must be. I have always liked this album; it takes me back 30 years to 1991 the year I met my long-suffering wife. So this album has all the magic of the first kiss, the first time you held hands got drunk together and much more first times, but this being a family musical publication I will not proceed any further. But this LP has the advantage of the magic of nostalgia on its side. Not that it needs nostalgia to make this a magic album the opening track itself, ‘Come Clean’, more than enough covers that with the guitar jangle and the pure pop poetry lyrics, “What’s so wrong with loving your body when I love you so much inside”:true poetry.

There is a warmness and charm about this album that can only be described by listening to it, but if you need any encouragement to do so it has ‘Disguise’ on it, a song that demonstrates the hidden art of call and response on record, and not just has that it also has handclaps and has a rock n roll twin guitar solo on it that is not by Thin Lizzy and so not shit: how rare is that? It also has ‘Students of Life’, a song that Jonathan Richman should have written but somehow did not, and the pure pop splendor of ‘Do You Love Me’, and if it was a drink of pop it would be fizzy and make you giddy for drinking too much of it. Yes throwaway pop writing at its finest. And that is what so special about this album the true magic of throwaway pop. It is an art form that many try and many fail to do, but the BMX Bandits had it mastered and down to a fine art and if you want further encouragement the title track would have not been out of place on The Beach Boys finest album The Beach Boys Love You.

Salem Trials ‘Refuse To Die’
2nd April 2021

When an album kicks off with a ‘Kool Thing’ like guitar riff you know you are going to have an enjoyable half an hour or so of enjoyable alt rock hip swaying ahead of you. And when that album is by the masters of alt rock guitar weirdness the Salem Trials, you defiantly know what is ahead: angular riffs and angular singing. Russ the singer really is the missing link between Mark E Smith and a head full of stinging bees, the man is truly a one off and is part of what makes the Salem Trials so special, the other part is the incredible musicality of Andy, a man who can combine the influence of his huge record collection into six strings of wonder.

This album of course is there lord knows how manyath album of the last 18 months: a band that makes Guided By Voices look like lazy bastards. And like Guided By Voices they manage to keep it interesting by making every album bloody good, the only difference being that Salem Trials are much better.

Refuse To Die is available to download from the Salem Trials Bandcamp and can be downloaded for free so why not do it and then investigate their many other albums: be warned they have another one on the way released through Metal Postcard Records so get this. You will not be disappointed at all.

Toxic Chicken ‘Gamelan[d] 2’
7th April 2021

Gamelan[d]2 is an ice cream van ride of magical adventure taking in psychedelia, whimsy, electronica and experimental wonder. A fairground amusement arcade of beats and pure nostalgia flood the heart and beats down the door to your inner senses, which reveals nothing but the crazy workings of a tender soul. Toxic Chicken is back, and back with vengeance; a true musical maverick in a musical world full of weight watcher Beatles and second hand Goths betraying the tick it sentimental darkness of a rehashed Coil box set. If the Aphex Twin was as good as people say he might sound like this.

Toxic Chicken never lets me down; he takes me to a world I truly wish existed. And for that I will be forever grateful.

Various ‘Big Stir Singles: The Ninth Wave’
(Big Stir Records) 10th April 2021

This album is a comp of all the A and B sides from the Big Stir Records download single series, released from the end of August to the beginning of October 2020, and as you can imagine the comp is full of all the power poptastic joy that Big Stir are renowned for releasing. From the opening track by Dolph Chaney, ‘Be My Old Fart’, which I’m pleased to say is a fragrant smelling piece of guitar poppery, to the final track by Athanor, ‘Approximately Eternity’, which is a Smithereens like voyage to the planet 60’s influenced psych pop, you are treated by melodies galore. In between you will find finely crafted songs of skill, style and panache from the likes of Rosie Abbot, with the La laid back 70’s seduction of ‘Hold on’, to a rather splendid cover of Gilbert O Sullivan‘s ‘Alone Again Naturally’, which may be one of the most heartbreakingly true to life brilliant songs ever written, and covered with some style by Nick Frater.

This is a comp that is so listenable; one of the few that you are tempted not to skip tracks on. It’s like a bag of audible Jelly Babies all being different colours of sweet tasty chewing goodness that once you have started you have to finish, but unlike a bag of jelly babies you will not feel violently sick after consuming them all. In fact you want to put the album on again, and how many times can you say you have come across a compilation CD that is better than a bag of Jelly Babies? I will tell you…not often.

The Forty Nineteens  ‘The New Roaring Twenties’
(Big Stir) 24th April 2021

If a quiet night in with some gentle music, fine wine and a book were what you after then I would give this LP of fun garage rock a miss. But if you are in the mood to party and dance the marimba with the partner of your choice, then this is could be the album for you.

Songs with clashing guitars and “na na na” choruses really never grow old; songs about radio’s, fast cars and fast women abound. There is even a slightly camp Elvis Presley impression on ‘We-re Going To Vegas’ that Freddie Starr would have been proud of. This is not an album that the Quietus would write about: in fact this album is an anti-Quietus record. An album highbrow serious scholar might dismiss as throwaway frivolous rock ‘n’ roll fun, not quite grasping that rock ‘n’ roll should be frivolous throwaway fun and that in dismissing this album of great rock ‘n’ roll they’ve missed one of the best old time pop songs I have heard this year, ‘Time Marches On’, which is all Motown bass riffs and Partridge Family melodies and chiming guitars.

The New Roaring Twenties is an album of very well written garage rock/pop with a touch of the early Elvis Costello’s about it, and is another album that should be clutched to the bosom of rock ‘n’ rollers of all ages everywhere.

Special Interest ‘Trust No Wave’
(Disciples) 14th May 2021

This is a reissue of Special Interest‘s 2016 demo tape, and very good it is as well. The sound of sifting through the charred remains of the after taste of punk rock, screeching guitars feedback drenched noise ridden ramblings of the forbidden poet, the sound of shoegazers wearing pit boots, sonic monologues bathed in bathos pathos apathy and the bewitched meanderings of the furloughed pitchfork killer. Yes, it is all here all, everything one can ask for from short slabs of heart-breaking agro. A ripped party dress of an album and on ‘Ill Never Do Ketamine Again’ you know they are lying.

Mark E Moon ‘Old Blood’
2nd April 2021

If camp bombastic Goth is your thing I could well be writing about your new favourite album. Sisters like guitar merge with synths not heard since Ultravox was singing about Rigsby’s cat, but this album by Mark E Moon has so much more going for it. It has a rather wonderful euro disco beat running throughout tracks like ‘Animals’ and is worthy of Dead or Alive “at their “Youthquake” best, and ‘I Robot’ is a track that easily could slip onto BBC 6 MUSIC playlists – all Robert Smith guitar lines and the early noughties American alt rock that Interpol so excelled at.

Obviously, any Goth music at some point has to betray a slight influence of Sisters of Mercy and Mark E Moon does not disappoint with the entirely enjoyable ‘The Falling’ and the title track ‘Old Blood’, which has a drum machine that sounds like it is nailing a solidified nail of vitriol into the remains of your once caring soul.

Old Blood is one of the most enjoyable albums I’ve heard this year. It’s an album that beautifully merges pop alt rock and Goth into a wonderful collection of radio friendly alt pop.

Lark ‘The Last Woman’
(Wormhole World) 30th April 2021

The drunken drawl of a velvet voiced lounge lizard immediately drew me to this album; distorted fuzzy guitars and the sound of a man’s heart breaking into many pieces always manages to somehow draw me in.

Lark have that wonderful ‘I have lived what I am singing about’ atmosphere to their tracks, whether it is the wonderful Fall like ‘John Berger’s Wild Shirt’, with lyrics being spat out with wild abandon (“the gift horse has no mouth” line is pure Mark E Smith), or the slow down gothic trawl of ‘Night Club’, which paints images of dark nights in the sordid part of town (all neon lights and tomorrow’s hangover), or my personal favourite track, the honey voiced almost Orange Juice like ballad ‘Nothing’. This is an album that will appeal to many and is available as a very ltd cd release, so alternative music fans who like their music in a solid format you will have to get a move on if you want this album of tossed away down at heel sleazy glamour.

Flowertown ‘Flowertown’
23rd April 2021

This is a beautiful album; it has all that is good about recording on a 4-track tape recorder: the tape hiss, the warmth, the soul and believe that recording on tape provides; it has no fakery all that glitters is gold. And this is indeed gold; a treasure trove of Mazzy Star like seduction and Mary Chain ballad tenderness. Slightly distorted guitars and the rattle of the tambourine have never sounded so sweet: this is true lo-fi.

There is just something so romantically perfect about this album. I admit I’m a sucker for male/female duets, especially when they are so charmingly and shyly performed and on ‘RCP’ they have the great taste to rip off ‘Can’t Seem To Make You Mine’ by The Seeds, which is one of the greatest songs ever written. But Flowertown can get away with it, as they are just so bloody perfect. This really is a lovely album of lo-fi perfection, the sound of two lost hearts finding a soul mate.

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