REVIEWS ROUNDUP/Dominic Valvona

Singles.

Japan Review ‘Kvetch Sound’

I like this single. It is tuneful with an undercurrent of melancholy and soft noise, which is always a winner; the sort of song you would play to soundtrack yourself watching your lover knowing that as beautiful as they are it is all going to come to an end soon and you will be awash with guilt heartbreak and only half your record collection. A lovely song.

Aliens ‘Liberation Road’
(Metal Postcard Records)  1st October 2021

The debut single from Aliens and they have the good taste to release it on Metal Postcard Records, a label that has currently three of the five best bands on the planet on its roster: The Bordellos, Salem Trials and The Legless Crabs. It only needs The Santa Sprees and Schizo Fun Addict and it would have a clean sweep. The Aliens single is a fine well-crafted guitar pop song; the kind of thing a major record label would release in the 80s when it was pretending to be an indie label. This song could do very well radio wise as it is very radio friendly, and even has a “na na na” refrain: so how could it fail. I look forward to the album.

They Might Be Giants  ‘Part Of You Want To Believe Me’

They Might Be Giants are back with a fine catchy song that is both annoying and equally sublime in a way They Might Be Giants singles normally are; part a day trip out to the local Pre-School trampoline championship, part lets go to the asylum but let’s call for some ice cream and chocolate fingers first. There is only one They Might be Giants and for that we should be eternally grateful for both good and bad reasons.

bigflower  ‘It Won’t Be Alright’
16th October 2021

Ivor Perry is back under the guise of his bigflower with another three minutes of mighty guitar shenanigans, once again proving why the man is a guitar legend with a Tom Verlane slice of pop wizardry. I have said many times life would be much more bearable if I tuned into BBC 6 music and heard this emitting from the speakers instead of some Generic Johnny and his indie guitar [normally a Fender Jaguar or Jazzmaster], fine guitars but not when placed into the hands of placid wallpaper people, singling songs about how they are broken-hearted over some girl/boy. Why not just have a wank and get over them? Probably too clean cut. Anyway, off track again…all I can say bigflower is a national treasure and deserve’s a statue in the centre of Manchester or a least a gold plaque on a park bench where people can go and sit and think about the days when guitar music meant something.

Albums/EPs..

Good Morning  ‘Barn Yard’
(Polyvinyl)  22nd October 2021

Sometimes music can sooth you, can make you turn off and let life’s worries slowly drift away from you and leave you in a state of pure blissful melancholy. That is the effect Good Morning have on me. Barnyard is an album of sweetly written songs that pull and pluck at your heartstrings; melodies dip and swoon skywriting sweet nothings to everyone and nobody in particular. It’s an album of country indie and pure slacker jawed brilliance. Any fans of Wilco and Pavement should go and snap up a copy of this album as Wilco have not made an album as good as this in years.

The Swansea Sound ‘Live At The Rum Puncheon’
19th November 2021

I love the Swansea Sound. I love that they sing about music. They’re obviously in love with the power of rock ‘n’ roll and all the complexities that this love has on one’s life and life in the present when music doesn’t have the same effect on people that it once did, but long to revisit the past and the sadness of never quite getting the acclaim they deserved.

The band by the way is made up of members of The Pooh Sticks (one of my fave indie bands), Heavenly and Death In Vegas, so obviously know a bit about this subject. All three bands deserved much better.

There are songs that both remember the effect of falling in love with music, and this album in itself is an album that could toss a salad and set fire to a flaming tomato without a blink of an eye. Yes this is the kind of album John Peel and Dandelion Radio play would play incessantly as it’s indie guitar pop that is all three of those things; it’s indie in heart and in spirit; guitar in the lovingly jangled fuzzed and away-with-the-Fairies way; and pop in its purest nature, full of sublime hooks and melodies.  A lovingly made album reminding us old folks just how joyous music can be; an album that could open a tin of sardines through pure melody alone.

This Heel ‘Invisible Space’ EP

The Kings of lo-fi sci-fi space surf rock are back with a splendid six track of guitar adventures. Yes, six tracks of mischievous indie rockdom that will have people from a certain age nodding their heads nostalgically to the days when guitar bands mattered; those days when Nirvana and the Pixies through to the Dandy Warhols were all visiting the charts on a regular basis and people still cared what the NME had to say.

This Heel brings those days flooding back better and with more style and verve than most; even evoking the magic of Elliot Smith on my favourite track of the EP, the beautiful ‘Gutted Angel’. Yes a six tracker that is certainly recommended; and its nice to hear a guitar EP not spoilt by generic indie production. This one has soul and space to breath and dance.

Various ‘V4Velindre’ Compilation
1st October 2021

What we have here is a 50 song download compilation with all the proceeds going to help the much-unfunded NHS. A worthy cause I’m sure all would agree, and also a very fine compilation album, there being 50 tracks and all. I have not the writing space to mention all 50 but it includes tracks by the likes of the Wedding Present, who offer a stripped-down version of their indie classic ‘Brassneck’, and a new track by one of Britain’s finest pop songwriters Armstrong, with a song that is worthy of the Lovin’ Spoonful and well worth the £7 pound download price in itself: ‘Yesterdays Over’, you just do not hear pop excellence like this everyday. Also there’s Simon Love and his simply charming sweet ‘Broken Love’, and a track by the legendary Nightingales. So what more could you ask for. Dig deep and help out the NHS and get hour’s worth of fine music in return.

Bunny & The Invalid Singers ‘Flight Of The Certainty Kids’
(Bearsuit Records)  15th October 2021

More musical tomfoolery from the genius that is the Bearsuit Record label; the place that electronica and 60s spy movie soundtracks collide; a place where rock ‘n’ roll seeks sci-fi wizardry, where glitter band drumbeats generate memories of the greatest hits and misses of Dr Who – which the track entitled ‘A Snipers Heart’ achieves.

Once again Bearsuit Records with this Bunny &The Invalid Singers album skips through the mystical years of rock ‘n’ roll pop culture’s past to supply us with what the musical future could hold, snatching pieces of Nirvana like grunge to the burning turning wheels of the tragic death glow of Marc Bolan, not in sound but in otherworldly saintly hood. Yes this is the bar that Barberella would slowly pole dance for a shaken but not stirred James Bond. When people yearn for the lost art of cool seduction they should just check into the sexual art of Bearsuit Records, sit back, close their eyes and imagine life is as exciting and interesting as this Bunny & The Invalid Singers album.

Legless Crabs/Salem Trials ‘Legless Trials EP’
(Metal Postcard Records) 16th October 2021

Members of the Legless Crabs and The Salem Trials have joined forces to record this fine five track EP, and it actually sounds like what you would imagine an EP would sound like if the two aforementioned bands got together to record. Chiming, squalling post-punk guitars that jive and dive in New York late 80s no-wave funk, slightly distorted vocals, part Lou Reed/part Rocky Erickson, and lyrics that swarm over, that both amuse and abuse the sensibilities of the art nouveau that lies hidden in all of us.

This fiver tracker is a must have and shows just how special and important the two bands are to the current musical underground: splendid stuff indeed.

Reviews Galore/Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

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 Bordellos beautifully despondent pains-of-the-heart and mockery of clique “hipsters” ode to Liverpool, the diatribe ‘Boris Johnson Massacre’ and just in the last couple of months, both The King Of No-Fi album, and a collaborative derangement with the Texas miscreant Occult Character, Heart To Heart. 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.

The Singles/Tracks/Videos Section

Kipper Gillespie ‘No Sunshine’
(Big Richards Records) 12th February 2021

‘No Sunshine’, well actually this is a sunny delight, a rip-roaring voyage back to the days of the 4th Velvet Underground album Loaded: and this is loaded with wide-eyed loose-limbed slack jawed pleasure. It’s like Jade Fair after having too much fizzy pop and made to jump up and down in a sexy way. It’s a nostalgic romp to the golden age of alternative radio. Yes this is very good indeed. I think Kipper Gillespie is one to watch. All together now, were all having a good time together…

The Albums/EPs Section

Wedding Present  ‘Locked Down And Stripped Back’
(Scopitones) February 26th 2021

What we have here is the Wedding Present beating off the boredom and frustrations of lockdown by revisiting tracks from the back catalogue and recording them in a stripped back way; recorded live via the magic of Zoom or whatever bewitchery the modern life throws at us. These live performances can be seen on the Wedding Present YouTube channel by the way, and these newly recorded versions are actually all very good indeed, offering a lightness to the darkness of the original versions and pushing to the fore David Gedge‘s knack of writing beautiful melodies and lyrical tales of relationships’ ups and downs like a one man middle aged Shangri-La’s, and I’m sure Shadow Morton would have been pleased to offer his girls any of these gems: the thought of the Shangri-Las doing a version of ‘My Favourite Dress’ is making my head spin – can you imagine Mary Weiss half singing half talking the line “Jealousy is an essential part of love”, how heavenly would that be!

This album would in fact make an ideal starting point for someone wanting to discover the magic of the Wedding Present; a gentle entry into their world of loves’ rights and wrongs, an entry into the pinpoint lyrical outpourings of heartache of indie rocks silver fox. A fine album.

Fat Francis ‘Breakfasts For Losers’
January 22nd 2021

Fat Francis is a shit name. If I was him I’d change it, as it does the chap no favours. You expect jokey punk rock, the ‘I’ve been reading Viz type character type of music’, but what we get instead is a marvelous album of very well written and performed DIY slacker folk tinged indie lo fi-ness, with melodies and lyrical treats galore.  At times reminding me of Skip Spence’s OAR album, other times a slightly with-it Pete Perritt without his Only Ones, or, Big Stars’ Sister Lovers, or on ‘Blankets’, a young Marc Bolan. This is really quite wonderful stuff indeed. And one of my fave things I’ve heard this year. I know it is only January, but I have heard a lot of music already and it makes it worthwhile when you come across something as good as this. Very recommended.

The Legless Crabs ‘Onions’
(Metal Postcard Records) 1st February 2021

This is the Legless Crabs third album in less than 12 months but their first this year, and what an album it is. Pure undiluted rock n roll: nothing more, nothing less. If only the Mary Chain was still as good as this.

As I mentioned when reviewing their last album I declared that The Legless Crabs were the best rock n roll band in America and this album just nails the point: distorted guitars, distorted vocals and songs that scream protest at the way the modern world is spinning out of control. Onions is so perfectly named as it’s an album of many layers and the more you peel the more you want to cry at just how special the Crabs are. They take their love of rock n roll and the hatred of current American life and mould into an album of rock n roll humour disgust and delight.

Orphelia Bruuce ‘Psychodelia Volume 1’
(Carmelite Records)  10th January 2021

If blissful psychedelia is your thing then you could do worse than checking out this marvelous album of sun dizzying heights by Orphelia Bruuce; an album that will convince you that we’re not stuck in the middle of a pandemic but in fact on a magical ride of adventure sun and love. Throbbing bass lines, backwards guitars, whispered vocals and psychedelic chants take you back to the time when Nirvana were chasing rainbows; when the Hole in Your Shoe was indeed letting in water. For Psychodelia Vol 1 is an album that, if not knowing better, I’d have thought was one of those lost classic psychedelic albums from the late 60s; the sort that Cherry Red and Sundazed Records like to release at annoying regularity. Yes, Orphelia Bruuce have indeed mastered this psychedelic lark and do it so much better than most bands past and present, and as I write you can download the complete Carmelite Records back catalogue for a bargain £4.50 that is 90% off I think Christmas 2021 has come early.

Last Victorian Death Squad ‘LVDS’
(Shore Dive Records)

This is how major label alt rock used to sound like in the 80s, big and shiny and gleaming with razor sharp melodies normally sang by lead vocalists with razor sharp jaw lines and loud and chiming guitars, and it always had an air of beautiful big stadium escapism about it. This fine EP brings it all flooding back. Last Victorian Death Squad have the strange sound of early My Bloody Valentine with the commercial edge of Simple Minds before they decided they were Irish and the one hit wonderism’s of Then Jericho: but we will not hold that against them. An enjoyable EP and a band we could be hearing more from I predict.

Dolph Chaney ‘This Is Dolph Chaney’
(Big Stir Records) 20th February 2021

This is Dolph Chaney, the sound of power pop (yes that again). I have been hearing quite a lot power pop lately; I think the appeal of the chime and the crunch of guitars maybe on the rise once again. Maybe the old art of song writing is again popping (or power-popping) its head from the undergrowth, and that can only be a good thing when the songs are as enjoyable as they are on this album.

I can hear an early 90’s alt rock influence waft through these tracks, especially on ‘Now I Am A Man’, which had me wondering where I put my copy of Sugars Copper Blue album, as well as the usual 60s/70s influences, which believe me is not a bad thing: If you are going to be influenced by pop music there are no better decades. But Dolph has much more to offer than rehashes of decades past; he takes his influences and weaves songs of great beauty. ‘Sideless World’ is a lump in the throat, tear in the eye gem and ‘Pleasant Under Glass’ has all the fun charm of McCartney when he is being both fun and charming – it also happens also to be my fave track on the album.

Yes, This is Dolph Chaney is another pop diamond of an album to add to the crown that is Big Stir Records.

Luke Russell ‘Upbeat Downbeat’
(Half A Cow Records) 5th February 2021

Another release from the excellent Sydney based Half A Cow Records label and another album filled with fine melodies and lyrical wit. This being a compilation of the best tracks from Luke Russell‘s previous five albums, it’s an album of songs that jangle and chime with the best of them. C86 lovers will love this, and at times it reminded me of the Brilliant Corners (remember them?), but also at times it has a goodtime folk influence (‘Up Beat Down Beat’), or a country soul feel (‘I’m Giving You One More Chance Boy’, ‘New Dress New Lover’ and especially ‘I’m Never At My Best’, which is a beautiful ballad, a song worthy to have dripped from the pen of the mighty Elvis Costello). These are all well written songs and any fans of well written mature guitar pop could do worse than check out Luke Russell and his tales of love found and love lost.

The Crushing Violets  ‘A Dream Without Color’ January 8th 2021


This is a very warm sounding album. It must be said, a very well produced one, which I feel very appealing, and looking at the album credits I notice it was mastered at Abbey Road which makes complete sense as The Crushing Violets worship at the altar of late sixties psychedelic tinged rock, and so I’m sure would have jumped at the chance to tread in the footsteps of the fab four.

They have managed to capture some of the naive spirit of the late 60s, successfully bringing the warmth and yearning of peace and free love to these Covid-19 ridden times. This seven-track album is one I’m sure lots of the retro brigade will no doubt find a very rewarding listen, and will be cursing that it is not available on vinyl. But it is an album I would certainly recommend to all those wishing for a time machine journey to breath in the aura of 1967; it even has a cover of ‘A Groovy Kind Of Love’ on it: what more can one want, free love beads and a Kaftan.

Ocelot ‘Unelmoi’
(Soliti Music/Playground Music Oy) 12th February 2021

Ocelot are from Finland and have a very interesting way about them: now, what a way to start a review! No they are and they have a lovely warm coolness about them. They sway and groove like polite motherfuckers, the kind to have a sly lick of your lolly when you are not looking, but feel guilty about it afterwards. For they are cheeky more than dangerous and that comes out in their music: polite experimental pop songs with more going on in them than your normal run of the mill indie waxing.

They have a late night lying on your bed feeling the summer breeze gently caressing your radio dial type of vibe about them. They have this pop malarkey well sussed no doubt about it; soulful melodious and beautiful.

Reviews Jamboree
Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

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 Bordellos beautifully despondent pains-of-the-heart and mockery of clique “hipsters” ode to Liverpool, the diatribe ‘Boris Johnson Massacre’ and just in the last couple of months, both The King Of No-Fi album, and a collaborative derangement with the Texas miscreant Occult Character, Heart To Heart. 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.

Sturle Dagsland ‘Kusansgi’

A track that is as mad as bats is something that should always be celebrated, so here I am celebrating this mad as bats track that is a lovely strange experimental cut up joy of alternative pop; not a song that many people will choose for their first dance as a married couple, but wouldn’t it be great if it was. A song that would bring tears to the eyes of many Aunt Agnese’s, and not one’s of joy. There is always room for the strange in this wonderful world of pop.

Baits ‘What’s On Your Mind’
(Numavi Records) 13th November 2020

This is a gem of an alternative guitar track, one that fizzes with some aplomb, screeching purring like a alley cat with carnal thoughts occupying its waking hours. This song sounds like a pure release of pent up energy and aggression, and a band that can capture that magic is one to watch. A rock ‘n’ roll treat.

Albums/EPs..

Toxic Chicken ‘Uniquely Dancing Into Babylon’
4th November 2020

There is something truly marvelous about the music of Toxic Chicken, it is a wonderful intoxicating blend of found sound, electronica and dance, mixed with a element of the true spirit of psychedelia; it is not just music to lose yourself in but also music to find yourself in and then lose yourself all over again in. There is something just so uniquely special about Toxic Chicken’s music ‘Contracts Are An Illusion’ could well be the music pocket calculators dance to a night out boogieing with their retro digital watch friends: all flared trousers and LED lights. There is a track called ‘Signing Tonnes Of System-Orientated Papers Without Reading Them’, and guess what the track lives up to if not even surpasses expectations. With an inventive foray into the mind of a cartoon Yellow Submarine Beatle the whole album is one of true adventure.

See also…

Toxic Chicken ‘Uncomfortable Music’  (Here…)

Toxic Chicken ‘Fun’  (Here…)

Toxic Chicken ‘Wormhole’  (Here…)

Helen McCookerybook and Rotifer ‘Equal Parts’
(Gare du Nord) 4th December 2020

This six track EP is a beautiful stroll down the paths of gentle guitar strum bliss; songs filled with sixties sunshine and pop filled love and romance; a wholesome semi jangle of heartfelt innocent seduction. Yes the kind of record to listen to when you need to escape the mundanities of everyday life with songs exploring the inner turmoil of everyday life with humour, love, and even whistling on ‘Sorry’. Helen McCookerybook‘s and Rotifer‘s vocals blend together beautifully on these six tracks of slightly quirky indie pop and makes one long for a full album, But leaving one wanting more is surely always a good thing and this EP is a very good thing indeed.

Allyson Seconds  ‘Bag Of Kittens’
(Big Stir Records) 14th November 2020

What we have here music lovers is a reissue of Allyson Seconds debut album, originally released in 2009, all the songs being written and produced by the extremely talented underground cult artist Anton Barbeau. And what a fine album it is as well; songs of melody and sunshine pop psychness that explode in a mirage of delight and wonder: West Coast pop at its finest.

It has all one wants from a sunshine filled pop album. It has “ba ba ba” backing vocals, twanging guitars, melodies dealt from the heart and perfect pop vocals from Allyson: part seduction part sass, part not quite little girl lost, but little girl finding herself and liking what she is finding. This is a true treat for all who have a liking for 60s/70s influenced West Coast pop perfection; a ray of sunshine for the cold winter months ahead.

The Legless Crabs  ‘No Way No Wave’
(Metal Postcard Records) 3rd November 2020

The greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in America at the moment is no doubt the Legless Crabs. You can argue with me if you want, but you would be wrong because they are, and this is their 2nd album of the year or their 3rd if you include the album of EPs and singles. And it is exactly what you would expect from the Crabs: turmoil humour, disgust spat out in a mish mash of distortion, clattering drums, half spoken vocals like Lou Reed with an abscess poking the inhabitants of The USA with a big stick telling them on the whole how stupid they are and to prove the point how stupid they are. Why are the Legless Crabs not on the cover of the Rolling Stone; why are they not blasting out of every radio in America.

The Legless Crabs are America’s best kept musical secret; they are the closet thing they have to the Velvet Underground at the moment: alternative music that is both alternative and music that’s not just some cut and paste facsimile. There might be just a little too much intellect and adventure on show to appeal to the masses, but the underground should take them with open arms and hug the crap out of them. Pure rock ‘n’ roll genius.

See also…

The Legless Crabs ‘Be A Sadist’  (Here…)

The Legless Crabs ‘One People One Mind One Death’  (Here…)

Trouble Tracer  ‘AutoFahrt’
(Crow Versus Crow) 13th November 2020

The garbled outpourings from a drunken Bagpuss maybe or even a blindfolded tour of all the hot spots in a bin man’s lorry, or whatever else you can imagine being off kilter but strangely enjoyable that is what we have here, It’s the kind of release I’m surprised is not on Wormhole World records; the kind of release I would have loved to play to drive my Bruce Springsteen loving brother out of our shared bedroom, whilst growing up. Yes, this is not to everyone’s taste I am sure; strange noises and strange noises made with one’s mouth with the occasional rattle and bang of some kind of pan or saucer, so not music as such, just audible art. And I find it very relaxing and amusing. 21 short tracks of audible insanity cannot be a bad thing. An ideal Christmas gift for the uncle you do not know what to buy for.

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