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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REVIEWS
Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea



Thirty Pounds Of Bone and Philip Reeder ‘Still Every Year They Went’
LP/ 29th November 2019

This is a bewitching LP of old sea shanties recorded on a working fishing boat at sea; a wonderful idea and quite stunningly performed. There is a beauty in the loftiness which captures the dark magic romance of the sea and also keeps alive some quite genius beautiful old folk songs.

Acoustic guitars blend beautifully with the sound of crashing waves and sea birds weaving a spellbinding web of sound. In this day and age of here-today- thrown-away-tomorrow it makes more than a refreshing change to hear a album that you will keep and play and be a mainstay in your music collection for the rest of your days: a truly beautiful collection.




Lark ‘Bleeding Songs’
(Wormhole World) LP



This is the fourth LP by Lark, originally released in 2014 and now re-released by the wonderful Wormhole World label – available as a limited edition CD release and download. Once again we find Lark soundtracking the darker side of the psyche with their alternative guitar sounds that at times remind me of the Spear of Destiny and Theatre Of Hate and early Nick Cave. Songs that bark and whirl and reach for the stars, grabbing and devouring the nighttime sky, spewing out reams of beautiful poetical bile. An album that lovers of late 80s early 90s alternative music will take to their black and decaying hearts.




New Art School ‘The Chosen Ones’
(Metal Postcard Records) Single/ 25th October 2019



The magic of a Stones like riff really cannot be underestimated; there is a beauty to it, there is a certain life affirming quality that really cannot be denied. This the third single in as many months from New Art School is as essential as the first two. ‘The Chosen Ones’ is a song that once again captures the vim and vigor of youth, a remembrance to the days when music really did matter and the radio and a 45” single was your god.




Pieter Nooten ‘Se Dire Au Revoir’
(Rocket Girl) LP/ 22nd November 2019



Music like time is a great healer, and this is an album of exceptional instrumental beauty; an album to help heal yourself, with music to lose yourself in, to wrap yourself in the memories of total forgiveness; a sound solid state of lost rapture and misunderstandings, the aftershock of melancholia and sadness colliding to leave the etched image of the birthmark you will no longer stroke and caress; the semi drunken smile of a semi drunken lover you will no longer have the honour of taking for granted, watching them walk away for the last time, the streets forever stained with the holy image of your regrets. Music like time is indeed a great healer.




TROIA = Pascal Deweze + Helder Deploige + Sjoerd Bruil ‘S​/​T’
(Jezus Factory) LP/13th December 2019



This is actually quite a commercial sounding album; not what I was expecting at all: funk, retro spy theme craziness interspersed with chopped up backward piano and atmospheric melancholia Sci fi wonkiness and Krautrock sensibilities abound.

Available to buy on a ltd edition cassette, only 50 copies, or on download I would certainly recommend to anyone with a taste for the unusual or anyone wanting to dip their toe into the slightly avant-garde before submerging themselves into the joy of the madness, as this LP really does have some fine melodies. A wonderful little adventure of a record; like watching a split screen TV showing Bagpuss and The Clangers.



REVIEWS ROUNDUP
Words: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea




Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea joined the Monolith Cocktail team in January 2019. The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The Bordellos, has released countless recordings over the decades with his family band of hapless unfortunates, and is the owner of a most self-deprecating sound-off style blog. Each month we send him a deluge of new releases and await to see what sticks.

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


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

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

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





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



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

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





bigflower ‘The Look Of Love’
4th August 2019 



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

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





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



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

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

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





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



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

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






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



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

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

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





Occult Character ‘National Razor’
4th August 2019



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

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





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



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





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