TRIBUTE
Words: Dan Shea





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

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


NOTES FROM THE PSYCHIATRIC UNDERGROUND, or Why I Miss Simon Morris

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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





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

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

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

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

Does it hurt, Simon, turning luminous?

 

Mad Pride Worldwide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Show Must Go On

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Playlist 

 

My relationship with Simon Morris in chronology of song:

Love Letters Like Suicide Notes – Ceramic Hobs

Deep Water – Strawberry Switchblade

Absolute Beginners – David Bowie

Just Like a Cunt – Whitehouse

Explosion in a Dust Bin Factory – Ceramic Hobs

Final Solution – Lydia Lunch

Keep Yourself Alive – Queen

The Sound – Swans

Victoria Station Massacre – The Fall

Station to Station – David Bowie

Mr Brownstone – Flowers and Firearms

Too Drunk To Fuck – Dead Kennedys

Don’t Get AIDS – The Worried Well

Never Surrender – Blitz

Voices Seers Voices – Vukovar

The Wind Cries Mary – Jimi Hendrix

Mysteries of Love – Julee Cruise

Those First Impressions – Associates

Valentine – Sisters of Mercy

The Boxer – Simon and Garfunkel

Teardrops – Womack and Womack

Romeos Distress – Christian Death

Musette and Drums – Cocteau Twins

The Hanging Man – The Blue Orchids

Leave Me Alone – The Oppressed

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

Judas as Black Moth – Current 93

Heartworms – Coil

Double Heart – Robert Rental

Cement and Cerement – Vukovar

Summer in Siam – The Pogues

The Push – Consumer Electronics

Safe From Heaven – Ceramic Hobs





I, Supplanter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I miss you every day, Simon.

 

Blackpool Pleasure Avalanche

 

Neglected in our own time

We leave on our own terms

This our final disagreement

Mentalist mentor

Artistic tormentor

Time will prove us equally wrong

What happens when the symbols matter?

What happens when the analogue signal fades?

Our culture likes its head cases

Safely beneath headstone

Reality the monkey on my back

Tearing at my eyes and veins

Endless red eyed arguments

And drunkenness on trains

Here comes the Blackpool

Pleasure

Avalanche

Another warm jet

Across your pages

Grimoires of dead desire

Grimoires of dead friends

You forced me to write the sequel

Rather than allow our inclusion

By extension prolonging my suffering

“Endless

Endless

Endless

Endless”

Twat

Blackpool. Pleasure. Avalanche

Dream on Texas lady

Of a future that sputtered out

An American red head girl

Who as a child taught her friends

How to masturbate

And some pissed up

Rape survivor twink

Looking out on the burning sands

You’re a long way from Kansas now

Twitched the man behind the curtain

Bringing them together

Closing some circles

Shattering others

Once rampant now estranged

Drowning in language

Your footprints will drown me

Before I am calcified

Blackpool

Pleasure

Avalanche

 

Does it hurt, when you turn luminous?




Related post from the Archive 

Dan Shea Rowland S Howard Article 

Vukovar Cremator Review

Beauty Stab Interview


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

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog 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.

ICON SPECIAL
Dan Shea





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


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



Teenage Snuff Film

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 





Pop Crimes

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

I recall my finger on the button of the ejector seat

But I can’t recall letting her go”

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





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


Related posts from the Archives

(Author) Beauty Stab Interview

(Author) Vukovar ‘Cremator’ Review

(Author) Vukovar ‘Puritan’ Review

Mick Harvey ‘Four (Acts Of Love)’ Review

Mick Harvey Live Report


The Monolith Cocktail Is Now On Ko-Fi

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog 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.

Interview: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea




Beauty Stab are Dan Shea and Buddy Preston, two former members of the, highly tipped at one time, Goth rock industrial folk band Vukovar, who left to share their love of post punk, disco and 60s/70s/80s pop to the world. Their current three track EP has been one of this year’s musical highlights a stunning release bringing back the much missed and much needed glamour, heartbreak and bedsit seediness to the pop world.


Why did you leave Vukovar? 

Buddy: For the love of music and art, we needed a change of scenery. For a while, I fell out of love with producing music and was finding myself feeling so emotionally detached from it. Upon leaving Vukovar, I initially didn’t want to do music anymore and concentrated instead on other artistic ventures for a while. But music is where the heart is.

Dan: I’ve no desire to dwell on that or air dirty laundry. All that needs to be said is that I did.

 

What made you form Beauty Stab? 

B: The need to carry on pursuing making art and music with a close friend. I know that anything Dan writes is genius and I hope he thinks that my contributions do them some justice. Whilst in Vukovar, I wanted to record Dan’s rejected songs because I always saw something in them in a way I knew I could make them work.

D: The current landscape musically is devoid of sex and danger. Our society is moving backwards at a frightening rate. Even though we are at present operating on a very small scale, I really want to one day be to some confused queer kid living in the middle of nowhere what Marc Almond or David Bowie was in years past (or John Balance from Coil was to me). I am queer in both senses – I am gay but more crucially I am fucking Weird. Our homos should not be homogenised. We are not milk, although Harvey was. Queer is not just about sexuality – I’ve been lucky enough to know straight people with very queer sensibilities and cursed enough to know gay people who are cripplingly pedestrian. There are others doing this at the moment – SOPHIE would be one that’d spring to mind, she made my favourite singles of 2018 (It’s ‘Okay to Cry’ which is a beautiful song and ‘Ponyboy’ which is just sheer filth).

But no one is doing it in the field we operate in. It’s full of hopelessly glamour-less people with beards who make the right noises and have the right political opinions but they’re making sexless facsimiles of records made by people who, shock horror, listened to stuff by people who didn’t look and sound exactly like them. Or maybe they are but I’m not meeting them. If you’re out there please get in touch with me through the obligatory Beauty Stab social media because lord knows I need a friend. If you’re not already doing it, put some makeup on however badly, wear some nice patterns and poke at a synth ineptly and I would love to share a bill with you. I’m into the idea that left-wing politics doesn’t have to be austere and devoid of joy. Bronski Beat strike a chord with me far more than some dullard with an acoustic guitar telling me what I already know in a way I don’t want to hear.

I know it’s also an ABC reference but Beauty Stab is a powerful combination of words. A shard of luxury you don’t actually have to be able to afford because we’re there, you’re here, it’s now and this is the only time we have. In my current crop headed state, Buddy’s the Beauty and I’m the Stab. Bad news from a pretty mouth.

 

 

What are your influences?

B: Life experiences, tales of old, people we appreciate. Musically, whatever we’re listening to at that moment. We’re creating mixtape style playlists for various streaming media to let people know what we love right now, and maybe we can enlighten some people.

 

Dan: Quote Clothes – “girl group hymns and jackboot disco”.

Different movements really. Musically, all the people listed in England’s Hidden Reverse with Coil being the best. We like lots of Italo disco and Chicago house and Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, Prince, etc. Those people were emulating. We’re also massive, massive fans of Rowland S Howard and pretty much anything he touched. Then there’s all the obvious Bowie, Iggy, Roxy, Lou Reed. Then there’s girl group records and by default anyone who has the sense to plagiarise them.

Then we’re also influenced by how shit everything is, and also the ethos that riot grrrl bands and people like Crass had even if the artwork and the ideas are invariably more interesting than the music which is a bit sonically conservative and paint by numbers.

 

 

You worked with many established artists with Vukovar, have you any plans to collaborate with any with Beauty Stab? Or are going to rely on your own talent?

B: We’ve played with some people that have really inspired us as artists; so to call those friends now is incredible. I wouldn’t want to rely on those with an already established fan base, we wouldn’t say no to the right people, of course.

D: That’s a bit of a pointed question isn’t it? We’ll see what happens. There are people I’d love to work with but whether it was as Beauty Stab or part of their project or something else entirely is another consideration. We’ve both got a very definite vision and aesthetic for what we’re doing and that may morph over time but anyone who we did work with would have to fulfil two criteria.

 

  1. If we can do it, we do it. If we can’t then we’ll bring them in.

 

  1. This ship has no passengers. I only want to work with people who have ideas of their own and can contribute to the creative process: not a glorified plug in we’re scripting or trading on the value of the name of. An example of someone I’d love to work with would be Karl Blake. I keep asking him. He’s not released a record in decades. Mick Harvey plays on about half of my record collection but that’s never going to happen. We’re obviously going to collaborate with the Mekano Set because they’re our friends.

 

 

Are you going to stay as a two-piece or have you any plans to expand the line up?

B: We plan on having quite an interchangeable line up depending on what type of gigs we’re attending. For now, we’re using all sorts of machines, synths and tapes to help us get the live sound we want. But in the future, we would love to play our songs with a full band.

D: I’m open to ideas.

 

 Any gigs planned? Plans for the near future?

D: Our live setup is mostly composed of broken equipment, also utilising drums and sequenced bass tracks played off a tape recorder a la OMD. As such there are no dates to announce – we are in talks with several different venues and I’m looking forward to making everyone of any gender in the audience pregnant solely through the means of my voice and dancing. If that doesn’t work Buddy is categorically the best looking man in the world so there’s always that. I can only imagine that even blind and deaf people could develop a crush on him.





The recently released Beauty Stab EP, O Eden, can be downloaded from all usual outlets or from Metal Postcard Records bandcamp.


Words: Brian Shea


Single Review: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea




Beauty Stab ‘O Eden’
(Metal Postcard Records) 8th March 2019

 

So this is the debut single from the new pop duo Beauty Stab; a duo that has the talent to bring some excitement, sleaze and glamour into what the staid machine of the music industry has become. Words cannot do justice to just how good this single and two B- sides are, well actually I will call it triple A-sides as the two extras are equally as special as the triumph that is the lead off track, ‘O Eden’.

So I will start with ‘O Eden’ a song that is the closest we will get to the Walker Brothers this year or any other year. Dan Shea is probably the finest pop singer in pop today, he has the melodrama the heart and bedsit seediness that has not been heard in pop since the golden days of Soft Cell, he has the same qualities as the early 70s Bowie: The “I am a pop master you are just pretenders; sit back and see how it really should be done”.

‘O Eden’ is plainly just a beautifully written pop swoon of a ballad, if when the chorus sweeps in, if it doesn’t bring a tear to your eye and a lump to your throat you should get someone to check your pulse to see if you are still in the land of the living. Majestic is the word.

The second track ‘Need You Around’, sang by another member of Beauty Stab, the pop pinup in waiting Buddy Miller, is a song again blessed with a otherworldly beauty that you just do not sadly, very often, hear in pop today; part Blur’s ‘To The End’ sang by a young Morrissey in his Smiths days, bathed in echo, it is a drop dead beaut of a song, and when a new duo has two such fine singers, haunting is the word.

The third track ‘Clothes’ shows the other side to the mighty Beauty Stab, the sleazy sordid side. This is all Bowie Scary Monsters guitars Walker Brothers Nite Flights darkness: “Your girlfriends clothes looks better on me, your skin looks better on my skin”. A song with so much cut dead gutter sex it is dangerous. Raunchy in a word.

So the words majestic, haunting, and raunchy have all been used in describing this three-track single perfectly. I would also like to add, Major record labels get your cheque books out, I think there might be a bit of a bidding war on.





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