Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea’s Roundup
Unless stated otherwise, all releases are currently available to buy.

SINGLES:

Schizo Fun Addict ‘Fate Chaser’

Schizo Fun Addict are one of the Magnificent Seven; one of the most important bands in the underground today: one of the seven bands that are making music as good as anything released in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.

Music wise they are a jack-of-all-trades and master of them all. They take musical genres and mix them with a cunning ease and panache that other bands can only stand with mouths agape wondering how they achieve such beauty and experimental originality. With this their new single they dip their toes into the magical myth that is the Laurel Canyon of the late 60s, and produce a song of supreme summer jangle. This is the sound of Michelle Philips combing her hair; the sound of Arthur Lee preening himself in front of a full-length mirror in the castle. This is pure nostalgia, a song of the summers we no longer seem to be blessed with; a tear stained memory of teenage romantic yearning.

bigflower ‘The Pill’

The dark world of bigflower once again is upon us with a lovely strange voyage of psyche and psychosis; an off-kilter journey where not everything seems to be where it should be, but strangely fits together perfectly. A song that strangely could and should last longer, which is indeed a very rare thing; an aural journey of a song with shuffling drum beat and beautifully simple strummed electric guitar led astray in a wave of vague drone solitude. Another winner from Ivor Perry.

Borben Dallas & His Filipino Cupids ‘Too Convenient’

I love this single. It starts off all scuzzed-up rock ‘n’ roll and dank and pringy and urgent, then in the middle goes all experimental and almost Beach Boys like. It gives one the impression that Borben Dallas has just found god or at least a God substitute. The post-finding-God section of the song goes back to the first but with an added pringiness that one can only bow their head or even shake it in a Status Quo like manner to. A spellbinder of a single. Originality is not dead it is alive and well and living in the essence of Borben Dallas and His Filipino Cupids.

Martha and the Muffins ‘Save It For Later’

The man who wrote this song is actually a bit of a fan of my band The Bordellos, calling me the natural successor to John Cooper Clarke. Maybe he meant I too am skinny and wear all black, but sadly my hair has long gone the way of my hopes and dreams completely out the window. But that man be the wonderful talented songwriter Dave Wakeling who of course was and is frontman of Ska Beat legends The Beat and this my dearest cherubs is a cover of their classic ‘Save It For Later’, and it’s not a bad version. It’s all post punk jangles and a melody no doubt one would hear emitting even echoing on a beach [see what I did there] from a tiny transistor radio this summer. Martha And The Muffins have indeed done a pop delight of a cover and has managed to put a smile on my face and a skank to my hips. [Please do not take that image to bed with you, I beg of you].

James Howard ‘Baloo’
(Faith & Industry)

As I sit mid Sunday morning writing reviews, this is pretty perfect listening; a song that takes and pulls in the art of traditional songwriting and wraps it around ones heart, squeezing tears and hope from your now moistened eyes. A track of pure beauty; a song I can imagine the great Elvis Presley performing with such gusto and panache extinguishing all the previous night’s demons.  James Howard could well be one to watch and I await an album with my breath somewhat baited. A true beaut of a song.

Fast De ‘Miss Trutti Finally Found Her Gem’
(Bloomer Records)

A lovely instrumental surprise of fuzzed-up pop grandeur, fuzzy synths get off my tail eloquence, and a sweet, so sweet scuzzy melody that it will not just rot your teeth as you chew on it, getting all the juicy goodness from the track, but your grandmas and her twice removed wannabe lovers teeth as well. Yes indeed it is times like this one can only sit back and enjoy the taste of adventure in music.

Pineapple ‘Trials’
(Metal Postcard Records)

Pineapple is a fruity little dish of a band, taking in post punk and talking in post punk sensibilities. It’s an EP of nostalgic splendor; one that takes me back to the days when the local punk band had to compete with the jukebox in the down at heel pub venue, we of a certain age all have played/frequented at some time in our lives. Yes, this is an EP of enjoyable guitar punky scrunge that takes in Billy Childish, Julian Cope and The Fall in equal measure, and ‘Snake & Ladders’ is one of the best songs about football I have heard in many a year.

Linn ‘Happiness is Real’

I love this track. I have listened to it a number of times in a row, and found it a song that is both utterly bewitching and quite disconcerting: imagine Jane [‘Its A Fine Day’ fame] being swallowed whole by early My Bloody Valentine on the sunniest yet saddest day of the year. I hope Linn has an album coming out soon as I think I’m ready to be seduced.

ALBUMs/EPs

Faust ‘Punkt’
(Bureau B)

Punkt is the lost album by Faust and everybody loves a good lost album. But in honesty many lost albums actually deserve to remain lost and never be found. They are lost for a good reason normally, the reason quite often being it is not very good, but years later are looked through rose-tinted nostalgic eyes and held to one’s collective bosom as a work of previously unreleased genius.

But there is always an exception, and like Shacks masterwork Waterpistol, Punkt is that exception. 

Punkt carries on where Faust IV left of, with a brief ear turned and tuned into melody where the industrial noise is swamped with psych-tinged song writing skill and invention. ‘Morning Land’ sounding very much like what Einstürzende Neubauten would make years later with great success. ‘Knochentanz’ is indeed a Chinese burn of a track, taking jazz and electronic noise to new extremes; like a melting corpse dripping into the eyes of the soulful bugler at dawn wondering whether alcohol will taste quite the same again, it is almost funky and after many spirit enhancing drugs could well be danced to and even at the length of 11.45 it never outstays its welcome. ‘Fernlicht’ follows as a short psychedelic interlude, again covering the noise and drone with a quite becoming melody. And that is a fair summing up of the album actually: the normal Faust invention of drone and noise but with a covering of instrumental beauty, as the quite breath-taking journey of a track ‘Schön Rund’ proves: the sound of Elton John slowly sinking into the ocean; a treat indeed.

So as a lost album this is indeed a found again treasure; one that all lovers of Krautrock will enjoy and stroke the chins over a martini to [or other tipples of choice]. 

Jelly Crystall ‘ILY’
(Smuggler Music/PIAS) 3rd June 2022

All said and done this EP is rather beautiful. The opening track reminds me of the beautiful Paul Quinn and the Spirit of Independence albums, which is indeed high praise. There is such a romantic 50s early 60s magic that those periods in time oozed with, and Jelly Crystal have captured the magic without being too retro.

This is music to be heard coming out of your radio whilst you slow dance with your significant other in the darkness, in the park with the cool evening breeze whispering sweet nothings…truly magical.

Alas The Sun ‘Wild Honey Inn’
(Taxi Gauche Records)

The beautiful sound of summer is what we have here; jangling guitars beautiful harmonies and well-written songs with heart and soul. Everybody who reads these reviews of mine knows I am a sucker for bands with boy/girl vocal duets, and Alas The Sun are indeed blessed with such a thing; both voices blending into a soft honey dew like substance that melts and makes you feel all warm inside.

Whether it be the jazzy ‘Distant Drone’ or the subtle ‘White Rabbit’ soft shuffling beat of ‘Love At Twenty-Two’, which is almost Prefab Sproutish in its texture and feel, Wild Honey Inn is an album of laid-back beauty; an ideal record to soundtrack sheltering in the shade on a too hot summer’s day, when lazing about relaxing is all one needs in life.

Black Monitor  ‘Snake Of My Heart’
(Ikarus Records)

Snake Of My Heart is an album full of tuneful joyful psychedelic pop, and lovers of such will indeed enjoy it. To be honest, there is nothing not to enjoy about it, as it is vibrant, wide space music made to fill the wide musical space in your life; an album taking in the influences of Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett, the Brianjonestown Massacre, early Blur and many other fine pop bands touching on c86 jangle, especially on the Sarah Records like ‘On A Wire’. But there is a slight difference as Black Monitor has a slightly dark edge to the music, a slight uneasiness that many bands that produce music of this ilk do not quite manage to achieve.

There’s a slight appealing wonkiness and depth to the songs that I think will draw me back to and explore more and more over the coming weeks, a quality that many fail to produce with alt radio friendly songs. This a quite lovely and rewarding listen.

Super Hit ‘Pocket Rock EP’
(Metal Postcard Records)

There is a beauty in lo-fi jangly guitar music that I cannot resist, and this seven-track mini album is full of the beautiful little blighters. Any one of the seven songs could quite easily fit onto the compilations Sarah Records released in their all too brief existence. Songs that beguile and charm in equal measure, songs soaked in DIY bedroom lack of glamour but steeped in a yearning and heartache and pure charm that really is hard to beat, and Super Hit is an artist deserving of more attention.

Spiral Of Silence ‘Landmark’
(Jezus Factory)

This is Spiral Of Silence’s first release in 20 years, a band I have not come across before, and described as the Belgian Joy Division – probably because they are from Belgium and have that Peter Hook/Cure bass thing going on and are quite dark and gothic. And despite all that I still enjoyed the EP.

It is nothing I have not heard before, but The Spiral Of Silence do the Joy Division thing very well and cover their darkness with layers of radio friendly melody, and I can see it appealing to the long black coat brigade [if they still exist].

Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea’s Roundup
(Unless stated otherwise, all releases are currently out there)

Pussy Riot And Slayyyter ‘Hate Fuck’
(Neon Gold Records)

This is quite wonderful. A fine blast of smart phone pop that is dark, dirty, sleazy and dangerous. Why can’t all modern pop be this rewarding. I know, because of the title it is not going to be played on daytime radio, which is indeed a shame as that is where it deserves to be as all great pop music deserves.

Boycalledcrow ‘Wizards Castle’
(Waxing Crescent Records) 6th May

I nearly didn’t bother reviewing this because I always spell Wizard wrong, and it really annoys me. But I’m glad I did, and overcame my laziness of fixing my bad grammar, for this album is an enjoyable foray into a land where squelchy synths and atmospheric gentle frenzy collide to supply us with a magical sea of splendour.

This darn rooting touting adventure of an album set me thinking where on earth is my copy of Joe Meeks I Hear A New World album. And in fact did I own a copy, or was the copy my son’s, Dan, who now has left home and taken Joe’s Jewel of 60s sci-fi magic with him. Anyway, I digress: see how an album of total instrumental brilliance can set one’s mind racing and heart a pounding, as boycalledcrow really has managed to succeed in capturing the same magic Joe Meek captured with his masterpiece. 

This album is a thought rewarding jewel that glistens and dips and swoons taking in electronica and experimental instrumental pop and ambient, and leading it into a direction that few can as the Wizards Castle is a magical spell-inducing treat.

Amoeba Teen ‘S-T’ Out Now
The Walker Brigade ‘If Only’ 27th May 2022
(Big Stir Records)

Big Star (the first two albums), The Beatles, Jelly Fish, Squeeze, Wings, Fountains Of Wayne, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, The Cars, Sweet, The Raspberries and Blondie. If you like these bands there is more than a good chance you will enjoy this.

Another album of tuneful songs about love lost and found, with melody and crunchy guitars and guitar solos and “ba ba ba” backing vocals in all the right places. Yes, everything is in the right place and if you enjoy albums of everything being in the right place and well written and tuneful, then this album is for you.

The sun is in the sky so maybe it is the right time to be listening to an album of summery sounding LA guitar pop rock, new wave, songs that evoke memories of X and for some reason a punk-y Fleetwood Mac: which is surely not a bad thing, is it. For music is a stunning thing, a mystery of intense contradictions. One can lose themselves in the heartbreak of an overly aggressive guitar chord played with the ferocity of a diced ferret whilst reading about the face of a phoney cavalier.

Yes music can cause ones mind to go into overdrive as the melody kicks about with your few remaining brain cells. And this album does just that: one minute you are sat in your hometown, a dying slum of a place filled with fond memories and streets now patrolled by ferule youths on bikes way too small for their wiry ill-informed bodies, and the next you are taken away to a smoke-filled room full of heaving bodies all jumping together in unison to a band willing to sell its soul for the elusive hit single. The Walker Brigade is that band; a band that takes the riffs of the Stooges and covers them in a sunny delight and the hopscotch beat of a willing slave to the rhythm. This is a band that makes you want to venture out and taste the live action of rock ‘n’ roll again. A band that will never reinvent the wheel, but the wheel does not need reinventing, and neither does the Walker Brigade for they are fine as they are.

Bithammer ‘Minimum Style, Maximum Effort!’
(That’s Entertainment/Apollon Record)

Lo-fi garage rock when done well is so life affirming. And that describes this wonderful album: life affirming.

Recorded on a smart phone with a cheap drum machine, distorted garage rock guitar riffs explode and swirl like a long-lost treasure chest of forgotten garage psych gems. The version of The Seeds ‘Pushing too Hard’ is one such gem; a song that has been covered many times but has it ever been covered with such vigour, throwing in “you really got me” riffs and Crystal Ship organ tomfoolery.

Minimum Style, Maximum Effort! is an album of lo-fi rock ‘n’ roll abandon, and we all need a bit of that in our lives. An enjoyable blast.

Ralph Of London ‘Yellow Sky Highway’

Ralph Of London’s debut EP is an enjoyable 5 track of pop alternative guitar pop, if you like, with melodies and everything else you would expect to hear on an EP of pop. But it does have some rather attractive 80s sounding keyboards on the second track ‘White Bred Blues’, which are fairly nifty – which is probably an underused descriptive word in music reviews, one that would not probably be used in The Wire or another respected stroked chin of a mag/blog. I’m not saying that the Monolith Cocktail is not for the well educated; for we are jack-of-all-trades and masters of most. But once again I go off track.  

Ralph Of London’s EP is a very entertaining one, at times reminding me of both the Charlatans and The Bluetones, but without at all reminding me of either. Maybe it is the inoffensiveness of the music that makes me think that, but pop should not offend it should put its arm around you and befriend, which this lovely EP certainly does.

Cryptic Commands ‘Long Distance Call’
(Numavi Records)

With 90s alt/indie rock sound currently the flavour of the day, with the over hyped Wet Leg, I can see Cryptic Commands doing very well with their catchy take. Are they the new Breeders, the new Beatles I wonder?

Long Distance Call is a 10-track album of well written and performed indie rock; no more or no less at times reminding me of the aforementioned Breeders, even reminding me of Placebo on ‘Devil’ and ‘Elemental’. But I won’t hold that against them, as on the whole this album is an enjoyable listen and ‘Eyes Like Teeth’, apart from being a great title, is a long summery breeze of a track all “Old Friends” guitar chords and bewitchery.

Salem Trials ‘Love Joan Jett’ & ‘Vegaland’
(Former Self-Released, the latter, Metal Postcard Records)

Another week another album from Salam Trials, this time only available on a pay what you want basis from their Bandcamp. And do you know what, this is supreme rock ‘n’ roll. Its as dark and dirty as anything you will hear this year: maybe as both members where suffering from the effects of Covid when it was being recorded.

As ever channelling the spirit of the Fall Gang Of Four and your local down and out after drinking 4 litres of white lightning cider straight from the plastic bottle, they have the knack of knocking out off-kilter melodies that only true rock ‘n’ roll lovers can, and weaving them into an accident in progress. There are so many moments of pure magic and madness on this album, ‘Skin In The Game’ being a favourite, coming across like Southern Death Cult with stomach-aches. As I have said an album of magic and madness from one of the five most important bands in the underground at the moment, leaving all the other bands with not having a Wet Leg to stand on. Pure guitar genius.

The second album in a week from the Salem Trials, this one not self-released but on the best record label of last year, Metal Postcard Records: and the way it is going, the best record label of this one as well. The second album in a week: just how much madness can this man take in a week! Well, actually, I can take as much as the wonderful Salem Trials can offer. I could live in the crazy musical world of Russ and Andy. They never disappoint.

It’s a world where Captain Beefheart is the minister of culture, and breakfast adverts show Mark e Smith eating Tom Waits for breakfast. Yes, this is the crazy world of the Salem Trials; this is where Keith Richard joins the Fall for a jam and the streets of New York circa 1979 are rained on by the poetry of a psychedelicized Bob Dylan after watching reruns of the Banana Splits.

Yes, this is the strange angular sounding world of the Salem Trials; a world in years to come BBC4 will have a documentary about, on which John Robb will appear claiming to have discovered them inside his towel whilst washing his hair in Blackpool.

Adam Walton ‘Afal’
(The Immediate)

I recently reviewed Adams Cloudburst EP and said any fans of Elliot Smith or Paul McCartney circa acoustic White Album days should give it a listen. Well, after hearing the album that still stands.

A full album of beautifully melancholy acoustic musings is a fine way to spend 40 minutes or so. This is a gentle refined album, an aural equivalent of picking flowers on a summer’s day and slowly watching them slowly die. As this album has an underlying layer of sad melancholy and an underlying layer of anti swagger. Afal is one of those albums that captures the magic of those great forgotten about psych folk albums from the late 60s early 70s that ooze peace and love. An album that captures images of faded lost innocence a snapshot of the beauty in sadness.

Sophie Sleigh-Johnson  ‘Nuncio Ref!’
(Crow Verses Crow)  6th May 2022

The sound of being a naughty child in the 70s, sent to bed in the early evening after receiving a spanking from your angry dad for shooting piss from your water pistol at passing neighbours and strangers. And as you lie there with moist eyes and a throbbing backside you lose yourself in the collective sound of life in a terrace street in Northern England.

The sound of your neighbours chatting over the back yard walls. The passing cars with the sounds of summer blaring from the radio. Your dad sipping tea whilst channel hopping on TV: of the three available channels. Your mum baking with the radio on, half listening to the Radio 4 play, half listening to your younger sister chat about her day at school, all the time whilst telling your dad he is not a bad lad just a little misguided. The football beats out a rhythm on the wall out front, and how you wish you where adding to that beat instead of listening to the soundtrack of your pre teen years acted out in living black and white. The crackle of radio Luxembourg turned low under the covers. The discovery of life, love and family. The etched heartache and the memories this beautiful work of art emits, and what you would give to return to those days for just an hour. Memories of a  real kitchen sink drama unfolding on a D90 tape.

Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea and his cult dysfunctional family band The Bordellos currently have a ramshackle bets of compilation out on Metal Postcard Records: I Hate Pink Floyd Without Syd Barrett.

ALBUM FEATURE/REVIEW
Dominic Valvona

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea’s Idiosyncratic 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 last album Atlantic Crossing, a long overdue released collaboration with 20th Century Tokyo Princess’s Ted Clark, was released last year. A new album entitled Cardboard Box Beatle will be released in February by Metal Postcard Records.

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

SINGLES/TRACKS.

Super Hit ‘Believe’
(Metal Postcard Records) 18th January 2022

I have no idea why this reminds me of Christmas but it does. Not that it matters what it reminds me of but all that matters is that this is a wonderfully whooshed beautiful version of the Cher classic. I really like it. Could be what Mercury Rev might sound like if they were down and outs and had too much cheap sherry and slept in a launderette with only memories of old top 40 hits for company. This really is quite a beautiful little number; I’m now excited at the thought of an album. 

Mermaid Avenue ‘Prisoner’

I like this single. It reminds me of the Rolling Stones when they wanted to be Gram Parsons; it has all the reaching for the sky trying to shake hands with God quality: The kind of song Primal Scream have attempted many times but not quite got there. It’s not as good as Cliff Richard’s version of Jesus but to be fair not much is. Yes indeed, a rather lovely scraping the stars from the sky track.

Tony Valentino ‘Barracuda’
(Big Stir Records) 4th February 2022

Tony Valentino from the 60s garage band legends The Standells has rerecorded the bands’ famous ‘Barracuda’ and issued it as a single on Big Stir Records. And a fine single it is as well. As you expect, it’s full of 60s garage rock goodness with psychedelic guitars, 60s garage rock organ, and is a total blast of fun and freedom that puts younger artists to shame: reminding us that music can indeed be fun and ‘cambunkishush’, a word I have just made up. But why the hell not? It is the perfect word to describe this fun filled action packed piece of rock ‘n’ roll.

Ghosts Of Torrez ‘The Wailing/ The Legend of Billy The Whale’
11th February 2022

This is rather beautiful; it is like floating on a cloud made up of memories from a time when you wanted nothing but a kiss from the girl/boy you once loved’s lips; a slow-moving nostalgic stroll down the riverbank of dreams. Yes, indeed this is a rather lovely candy floss track of a single and should be swooned over now.

ALBUMS/EPs…

Armstrong ‘Happy Graffiti’
(Country Mile)

The long-awaited album by Julian Pitt aka Armstrong is upon us, and as you expect from a man who has melody oozing, yes, oozing from his pores, it is a tuneful delight. As I have mentioned many times in past reviews, Julian is one of the finest songwriters in the United Kingdom at the moment and has been for many years: one of music’s best kept secrets in fact.

Happy Graffiti is his third album proper not counting comps and reissues, and anyone with the good taste to have his other two excellent albums will not be disappointed. Songs of love, hope and heartbreak are dispatched with some aplomb; Bacharach and David, Jim Webb, Roddy Frame, David Gates eat your breaking hearts out! These are songs that should be drifting from radio 2: ‘Eyes Wide Open’ a song of pure heart-breaking beauty, and ‘In A Memory’ a piano ballad that has me thinking of the sweetness of the Zombies mighty opus Odyssey And Oracle.

These are songs that are wrapped in a comfort blanket of familiarity, even if you’ve never heard them before; ‘This One’ being stuck in my head even after just one listen, and Happy Graffiti is full of these tuneful blighters: ‘Rock Star Rock Star’ and even the piano instrumental ‘Days turn Into Months’ is melody ridden. 

So, Happy Graffiti is an album of melodious delight, an album to soundtrack the days and months as winter turns to Spring and hope and loss merge into beautiful memories.

Sky Diving Penguins ‘S-T’

The Sky Diving Penguins album is one joyous pop thrill; an album that takes its Beatles, Nirvana, Zombies influences and makes an album that could have been released anytime over the last 50 years. Timeless is the word I’m looking for. Melodies float and quiver, at times reminding me of the Rentals or Fountains Of Wayne.

Sure, this is not the most original and ground-breaking albums that will be released this year and there will be hundreds if not thousands released that tread the same ground that wander the same Weary path, but I doubt I will hear as many as good and enjoyable as this. So, recommended to all you power poppers and lovers of sixties influenced pop, and anyone who’s god is George Harrison, should indeed investigate.

The Conspiracy ‘Sword Of Damocles’
(Metal Postcard Records) 14th January 2022

Do you remember the days when guitar music was the be all and end all in your life? I do, but then I’m of that age when all parts of your body start to lose its appeal, but your memories stand firm and wrap themselves in a mist of melodies coveted by nostalgia, which one dips and makes themselves open to the grace of growing old. And this five track EP has the same magical effect: Guitar songs that are well written and played and wrap themselves in a time when guitar songs could change your world or even just make it a more enjoyable place to exist or even live sometimes. An EP to cherish and hold close to your aching old heart.

Pulco ‘Crustacean Theory’
14th February 2022

If experimental art pop is your thing, you could do a hell of a lot worse than treating yourself to the new Pulco album; an album where poetry, discordant synth, occasional Fall like guitar and bass riffs collide with The Shaggs brilliance to upturn an already upturned apple cart, to set fire to an already burning building. This is the sound of a man stretching his art to new and extreme levels of bewitchery; a man arguing with himself knowing both sides of the argument being right: knowing that this album is an off-the-cuff work of pop poetry that will not break through the stagnant stench of so called alternative music scene.

For Pulco is a one off and people really do not appreciate one offs: they scare people you see. This is an album of real life, of dreams of nightmares of walking through a picturesque country landscape to see trees full of hanging Swans  dripping with a deathly decaying beauty, which again is a perfect metaphor for this wonderful eccentric work of aural art.

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’‘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.

The Single.

Dead Rituals & Francis Moon  ‘Tangled Up’
10th September 2021

This is actually quite a beautifully written pop song, and actually overcomes the awful bland production a lot of these indie pop songs have nowadays, the kind of production you hear on a song being played on an episode of Catfish when the person being catfished discovers that the hunk they thought they were talking to is in fact their best friends 80-year uncle who had a penchant for dressing like Touché Turtle and thrusting his pork sword at any passing stranger. This is a lovely well-written ditty and one if it came on the radio I would not turn off.

The Albums..

Hits ‘Cielo Nublado’
(Paisley Shirt Records)  17th September 2021

Why am I listening to so much indie pop this week?! Not that I’m complaining when it’s made with so much charm, melody and melancholia as this album by Hits; an album that brings back the golden days of K Records and the charm and beauty of a Sarah Records release back into my life, but with an added spice of sex and darkness which I am very taken with, especially on the slightly discordant ‘Flat Horizon’, which I have been listening to on a loop for far too long now for one’s own good and mental sanity.

But this is an album I think could well soundtrack the soon to be with us autumn evenings and bus rides to and from work. It has a certain feel like an old friend you have not seen in a long time giving you a hug and in that instant all those memories of what you shared between yourselves come flooding back, which you momentarily bathe and lose yourself in. Guitar jangle has not sounded so Revolutionary in such a long time, and not moved me so much in such a long time. Just guitar, bass and drums: Buddy Holly did not die in vain. This is an album to buy and cherish. And C+, it has a musical tribute to Alan Vega, which is short charming and catchy: as all indie pop should be.

ONETWOTHREE ‘ST’
(Kill Rock Stars)  15th October 2021

ONETWOTHREE are a three-piece post punk trio made up of three lady bassists from Switzerland, and the album is indeed a groovy post-punk delight. Obviously bass heavy with dashes of synth, guitar and a freshness that is welcome in this day of thawed out pre-frozen indie nonentities.

Instead of heart stopping originality and pop sass we are having music forced on us by those incapacitated with a grapefruit ear, but I’m happy to report that ONETWOTHREE have both a subtle originality and sprightly pop sass that has one sassing everywhere with indie pant shenanigans. They have tunes, melodies and a vocal charm that asks one the question, ‘why are we not hearing this on the radio more often?’ We need music with subtlety, charm and simple naive sexiness to soundtrack our daily life; the sort that ONETWOTHREE offer us.

Equinox x Xqui ‘External Combustion Tension’
5th November 2021

Music is an art form and this album by Equinox and Xqui is a work of art. It’s an album that takes poetry, spoken word and atmospherics into an almost sci-fi territory. Ambiance abounds, if ambiance can do such a frivolity. Imagine John Cooper Clark gusting gushing and guesting on an album by a stoned tired Add N To X.

This is an album to wipe away your afternoon contemplating life and losing yourself in the beauty and intelligence and humour, sadness and anger. This well written and produced original album offers you all this. It offers you so much, and it’s quite refreshing to listen to something not influenced by Chuck Berry and his duck walk, and something that is not scared to stick out its well stroked chin and make an album that screams out: “art is nothing not be afraid of”. And to adventure your way into a new listening experience is indeed not a bad thing, like growing as a human being is not a bad thing: one can never learn too much.

This album could be an antidote to the mediocre music that lacks originality soul and art that so spoils our radio. Oasis fans should be locked in a room and force fed this record through large speakers and then see if they have grown as human beings or at least learned to walk like one.

Hanrath & Way  ‘Prismatic Illusions’
(Submarine Broadcasting Co.) 23rd August 2021

Another album of experimental atmospheric tomfoolery from the dyed in genius label that is Submarine Recordings; an album that is soaked in humour sex and repeated listening. Each listen is repaid with another view of life seen through an unwashed wine glass; experimental jazz-tinged vignettes of cinematic explosion rubbing shoulders with long journeys through the artic coldness of synth led melodrama: an album of illicit kisses of soiled and melted hearts drawn in the snow.

Junk culture and blindfolded Art viewing where the sunken ships are just the follies of the mediocre, this is an album of reawakening’s and unmissed opportunity, an album I recommend whole heartedly.

Sun Atoms  ‘Let There Be Light’
1st October 2021

Once again I mention Wonky Alice in a review as this is what this album reminds me of, which let me tell you is a compliment as Wonky Alice were one of the finest psych influenced bands doing the rounds in the late 80s early 90s, and this album screams of late 80s early 90s guitar-based psych. And as an early twenty something I would have loved this album. Even as a 54-year-old I’m still enjoying this album for all the same reasons I expect, but I suppose with the added attraction of nostalgia attached. Not that this is an album of nostalgia, but an album of well performed songs that hover around the Psych genre, but with a touch of Leonard Cohen drama and dry humour strangely emerging, popping its head above the pulpit waving a floppy hat casting peace signs to the embers of a dying sun. Yes, this is indeed an enjoyable well produced well thought out pop listening experience with dashes, dare I say, of its own togetherness and originality.

Will Feral ‘Hellweb’
(Metal Postcard Records) 4th September 2021

Hellweb is a rather marvellous instrumental album, one that would make one hell of a horror film soundtrack. Will Feral could be the natural successor to John Carpenter, and one could imagine this easily being the music to the next Halloween movie, but one stuck sometime in the future in a nightclub maybe.

It is also an album that draws on past horror classics like The Sphinx, reminding me in parts of The Omen soundtrack, and at times the music from the already mentioned Halloween movies. John Carpenter is defiantly an influence. But also so is Moroder as there are definite electro dance vibes going on in some of the tracks without ever venturing into rave territory.

Hellweb is an album I would recommend to film score aficionados even if it is not a movie soundtrack. All this fine album is missing is a movie to soundtrack itself. And if this album was released on vinyl would sell like hotcakes.

Single Review
Words: Dominic Valvona



Roi ‘Dormouse Records/Straight Outta Southport’
(Metal Postcard Records) 25th August 2019


Though it’s never stopped anyone else, and most music writers’ side hustles include making music and PR, it would still seem incredibly self-promotional for our maverick-in-residence Brian ‘Bordellos’ Shea to review and publicize his own record. So I’m going to do it for him instead.

Dropping singles, albums and miscellaneous detritus like the most candid, cynical of therapy sessions, Brian, as patriarchal cult leader of St. Helens’ most ramshackle miscreant underground heroes The Bordellos, wages a daily battle with the music industry and, well, society in general. He does all this of course shadowed by an extended cast of Shea family members and anyone stoned, deranged or bored enough to have happened across one of the impromptu legendary late night recording sessions. With a gift equally as spot-on and part of the cultural fabric of shitty Britain as Half Man Half Biscuit, Brian and his troupe have found profound wry humour in the darkest of subjects. True outsiders, they’ve forged a career out of misery with a lo fi ascetic that makes The Fall sound as if they’d been produced by Phil Spector.

Of on one of his many tangents, Brian teams up with long-suffering bandmate and offspring Dan (doing grand and promising things with Vukovar and the burgeoning Beauty Stab) and John McCarthy to create his newest project, Roi. The first single from this new turn salvages both a lost Bordellos plaint from the brilliant (one of our albums of the year) 2014 LP Will. I. Am, You’re Really Nothing, and hones a slurged dissonance to a mate’s record shop. The latter of those, ‘Dormouse Records’, is a deranged paean to the vinyl stockist of Brian’s dreams. Memories, inconsequential to some, and rites-of-passages are marked by a litany of favourite records as Brian wistfully rummages through the racks of a less cunty, less surly version of the High Fidelity record store vision. It often sounds like two completely separate tracks/ideas playing simultaneously; the intermittent synthesized rumbles and noise bleeding into the main jangly melodic rhythm of the main song.

Almost as a sort of grudge against Bordellos stalwart Ant, a new version of the 2014 kiss-me-quick, misty-eyed ballad to love in a Mersey seaside town, ‘Straight Outta Southport’ replaces Brian’s sibling’s original parts with those of McCarthy’s. Losing none of its lo fi heart rendering beauty in the process, there’s perhaps a slightly more distorted and forlorn edge on this recreation: Roi covering The Bordellos as it were; truly pop will eat itself.

Even though 6Music, The Guardian, uncut and their ilk talk and feature/pick-up on what the Monolith Cocktail was already raving about months ago, The Bordellos remain a cult, but very influential, missive waiting to happen. They’re too good for us anyway; we don’t deserve them. But some recognition wouldn’t go amiss in the wider press and industry (I make apologies to similar sized-ventures and radio shows that have been championing them like ourselves). Roi is just another example of that unassuming, unaided-thoughts aloud talent.




REVIEWS 
Words: Brian Bordello




Beef Gordon  ‘ABC’
Out Now


The first single taken from Beef Gordon’s upcoming debut LP is a whimsical ditty about the joys of S&M. Sounding not unlike a young Jarvis Cocker performing a song for children’s television, you can imagine Brian Cant doing a lovely off kilter little dance whilst being whipped by Floella Benjamin, whilst Big Ted and Humpty dry hump Jemima, and little Ted looks on in voyeuristic delight through the square window. There really is not enough sex in music these days.

This is a lovely Casio inspired pop romp which makes me look forward to hearing what delights Gordon will conjure up with his long player [ooh err missus!!].





Colossus ‘Ynys Môn’
(CEG Records) Out Now


The sun is out, it’s nearly summer, so what do we need? We need this! A wonderful romp of a summer pop song, the kind of song you used to hear blasting out of your transistor radio in those halcyon days of the radio 1 roadshow, the days when the DJs spoke nonsense but it meant so much more.

The 80s was a great decade for mainstream pop and Colossus has tapped into the whole era’s feel bringing the fun element back into pop: And this is pop; pop is not a dirty word, pop is something that when done well can remove the drudgery of your life for the length of the magical song. So lie back close your eyes and soak up the sunshine that emits from ‘Ynys Môn’.







Graham Domain  ‘Love And Sadness EP’
(Metal Postcard Records)  20th May 2019


So here we have the latest release from the wonderful singer songwriter from Manchester, Graham Domain. You may remember, or not, that I reviewed his full length LP earlier in the year, Cold Moon Harmonics. This new release is a six-track mini LP. Mini in size but not in quality, this carries on were Cold Moon Harmonics left off: beautifully written songs of heartache and betrayal the sadness that can be found in existence.

There is something strangely magical about the weirdness of the musical world Graham Domain lives; a throwback to the days of the 80s when Japan and Black skirted around the regions of the hit parade; a soothing charade of yesterdays bedsit clothes and art school glamour songs to lose yourself in; to bathe in the afterglow of a pure sadness; an LP to soundtrack falling in and out of love to and an LP to fall in love with.







Gisli  ‘The Skeleton Crew’
24th May 2019

I really like this LP. A fine pop LP in fact; any album that starts with the fizz pop explosion of the Super Furry Animals eating a sherbet dip, like they do on the opener ‘Tidal’, and then goes on to sing of love and romance and its many highs and lows in such a fun filled manner but with the wonderful undercurrent of darkness gets my vote.

At times reminding me of that other fine lyricist E from the Eels with a such a marvelous turn of phrase as “I would not say it is giving up, just a sweet surrender”, from the beautiful ‘Sweet Surrender’. It is rare that you hear such fine offbeat lyrics attached to beautiful melodies. It is becoming something of a dying art. Remember, natural strangeness is a virtue, not put on strangeness, as nobody likes a try hard or a fake but this has a natural pop charm with an eccentric tilt. And anybody who can combine handclaps and fuzz guitar as beautifully as Gisli does on track two, ‘Broken Arm’, should be cherished and treasured as this is a great LP filled with many pop gems.



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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