REVIEWS/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. His most releases include The Bordellos beautifully despondent pains-of-the-heart and mockery of clique “hipsters” ode to Liverpool, and, under the guises of the Idiot Blur Fanboy moniker, a stripped down classic 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.

With all live gigs and events more or less quashed for the foreseeable future, buying music (whether it’s physical or through digital platforms such as Bandcamp) has never been more important for the survival of the bands/artists/collectives that create it. We urge you all to keeping supporting; to keep listening.

Princess Thailand  ‘And We Shine’
(À Tant Rêver du Roi and Luik Records)  Album/Available Now


If the swooning sound of post punk is the thing that swings your swinger then this fine album by Princess Thailand is the thing for you. Siouxsie and The Banshees attitude and early Cure like darkness melts over the proceedings like a black-hearted vamp of loneliness offering you one last grasp of togetherness. Guitars and sultry vocals merge with the feeling and memories of 80s post punk and, dare I say it, Goth to bring together an enjoyable flange filled half hour or so of dark sparkle angst.






Sir Robert Orange Peel  ‘Are You Mod Enough’
(Metal Postcard Records)  Single/Available Now




Welcome to another musical history lesson from Sir Robert Orange Peel; this time teaching us all about the mod culture fashions from the 60s: myself being too young to remember such a thing, but old enough to remember the late 70s revival. The joys of being a rockabilly in the early 80s, leather jacket winklepicker boots and huge Stray Cats like quiff surrounded by the be-parkered ones at a early 80s Kinks gig: and what a gig it was.

This is a joyful hipster swing of a track; one you could imagine Michael Cain sipping on a whisky and coke to, wearing horn rimmed glasses whilst watching the mini skirted beauties shaking their tail feather and there long lank hair swaying to this organ led beat happening at the London groovy discotheque.







Sir Bobby Jukebox  ‘Friendship Gift’
(Already Dead Records)  Album/22nd May 2020




Is there anyone out there old enough to remember the early 90’s and the wonderful joyful happy sounds of the Frank And Walters, who mastered in releasing catchy indie pop with melodies that caressed all the parts you wanted caressing by joyful indie music whilst hiding the dark underbelly of sadness.

Well if you do, this could well be for you. It has the same magical qualities but with the added spice of diy everything but kitchen sink woozy psychedelia, the injection of a “nah nah” chorus rush frenzies, and the Postcard era jangle of guitars – especially on ‘the has Edwyn entered the room’ ‘You Only Dance’. A joyful sugar rush of an album.






Bigflower  ‘Hold You In Place’
Single/Available Now




Another day in lockdown and another slice of dark wonderful distorted searing guitar from the equally wonderful bigflower, an artist that should be celebrated not ignored: if this was the 90s when people still gave a shit about new music bigflower would be all over late night radio and in the serious music press. As this is Monolith Cocktail, and one of the only remaining serious music blogs still standing [no clickbait 10 songs about making tea from us] it is our duty to review and to publicize such a serious talent.

If dark beautiful guitar music that you can dive into and totally submerge yourself in is your thing, bigflower is certainly the man/artist/band for you. Get downloading: it’s free. And tell your guitar loving friends to do the same.







Palavas  ‘Centerpiece’
(Wormhole World) Album/Available Now




Discordant noise merges with electro soundscapes that paint a sweeping aural picture of dark beauty, sometimes verging on the slightly psychedelic industrial sound that Throbbing Gristle used to thrive in producing; and I would advise any fans of Throbbing Gristle to give this festival of noise [noise in the best way] a go as I think they could well enjoy and be intrigued by this sound wash of danger. Once again Wormhole World Records produce the goods.






Salvatore Baglio ‘Sonic Doom: A Lo- Fi Home Companion’
Album/Available Now




Lo-fi is what I do best musically, so when I’m introduced to a 25-track album of such lo-fi beauties I’m indeed like a pig in muck. Recorded in various places on various recording equipment over the last 20 years by Salvatore Baglio, and compiled into this gem of a release.

Songs that makes one think of XTC, Guided By Voices, Cleaners From Venus, Clinic, and The Beach Boys at their crazy best amongst many other, what these songs have are invention, melody and tongue in cheek humour, and a great amount of songwriting talent.

There is the wonderful warmth that one gets from using cassette tapes to record that this album and these songs benefit greatly from; the warmth most of these songs, if not all of these songs, couldn’t be improved upon by using a state of the art 64 track studio, for what people do not quite grasp is that to succeed in making truly great lo-fi music you have to be a hugely talented songwriter with a inventive mind as you cannot hide behind 32 tracks of synths or millions of overdubs and get some producer to cover up some of your weaker tracks with studio trickery, and this album really does not have any weak tracks.

From the experimental instrumentals to stunning guitar pop all are polished gems. Some achievement that over the 25 tracks one does not find their minds wandering or wanting to skip songs. This really is a album all music lovers need to dive into and lose themselves in; a truly wonderful album and a masterclass in songwriting.







Nightingales  ‘Four Against Fate’
(Ting Global Productions)  LP/22nd May 2020




The Robert Lloyd warble is a thing of punk and post punk beauty, and here we are still in 2020 still enjoying the lyrical dexterity and humour of the great man: and long may it continue. As always songs of post punk verve leap from the speakers drenching you in memories of late night glories of listening to the much-missed John Peel; it really is like the last 35 years have not happened.

This album is simply timeless guitars jangling and twisting and distorting – as all great post punk guitars should do. Melodies reach out and throttle you while gently pulling on your heart strings reminding you no matter how bad things seem to be getting their are wonderful bands and characters like the Nightingales making enjoyable discordant pop songs full of wit adventure and wonder.





Xqui  ‘Microchasm’
(Wormhole World)  LP/15th May 2020




Found sounds or found zounds if you want to be funky, and I’m in a funky mood, the kind of mood where I feel like listening to cut up sounds welded together to make music with or without melody, the kind of thing you may find attractive whilst cutting a garden hedge or two. You can imagine Fred Astaire walking down a staircase whilst surrounded by beauties in fine gowns in black and white photos, whilst some guy is annoyingly recording the clip clop of his feet and making a strange trance like dance track from the aftertaste of the be-swathed one.

Found Zounds as I am now fond of calling them are something to be admired and beholden in a fashion not known by man, or men depending how many there are, or women even – let’s not be sexist about this. If you want to start and experiment into making found zounds you could not do worse than giving this a listen and losing yourself in the found zound wizardry of Xqui.






Simon Klein ‘Cat’
(Gare Du Nord) Single/Video/15th May 2020




Ah at last I was just beginning to despair of finding something I liked enough to be kind to in a review when this bountiful in bounce beauty came into my email box; a song that flounces with a fine subtle rockabilly beat, the kind of song that one twists to in their kitchen whilst waiting for the kettle to boil. And did you notice I wrote song and not track for it has lyrics and melody and everything. It is a song you can both dance to and stroke your chin to: hurrah!






REVIEWS
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 pile a deluge of new releases on his virtual desk to see what sticks.

Duncan Lloyd ‘Outside Notion’
(Afternoon In Bed Records) 7th June 2019


Duncan Lloyd is of course from Maximo Park, a band I really paid little attention to although my son was rather fond of them in his early teenage years. And so this came as a bit of a surprise as I wasn’t expecting the melancholy shifting breeze of the opening track ‘Historic Elements’, or the dark soft mellowness and beauty of the tracks that followed – bringing both Beck in his Sea Change days and the Beta Band to mind and even Chris Rea on ‘Planetarium’ -, but this shows that the LP is no cut and thrust of indie rock but a more mature and sedate affair; an album of well crafted songs filled with love and tenderness that comes with the passing of summers. There is also a wonderful Nick Drake like instrumental that would not have sounded out of place on Bryter Layter in the track ‘Journey B’.

Duncan is not quite ready for the retirement home yet, though the Neil Young come Dinosaur Jr guitar merriment that explodes on the excellent ‘Young Dreams’, and the lovely male/female duet ‘Outside Notion’ are the two poppiest and most commercial songs on the LP.

Outside Notion is a delight of an album, and one that will hopefully get the attention this well written collection of songs deserves.





The Martial Arts ‘I Used To Be The Martial Arts EP’
(Last Night From Glasgow) 5th July 2019


An EP of pop splendor, four songs of enriched sunshine to melt your ice cream and to ruffle your tail feather, songs that bring back memories of the halcyon days of 70s pop and the indie sounds of the early 80s, songs that would not look or sound out of place on Shang-a-Lang or one of those other beautiful works of TV pop art from the 70s.

What is quite strange about this EP is that the weakest track, ‘New Performance’, is actually the first. I’m not saying that the track is weak – it’s actually a very good pop romp – but that it just shows the strength of the other three tracks, especially the glam of track two, ‘I Used To Be’, which is a wave your tartan scarf in the air wonder.

A must have EP for all lovers of that crazy magical thing called pop.





Palavas ‘Played’
(Wormhole) 5th July 2019


Another fine release from the excellently weird Wormhole Records, a LP they describe as dream folk and a might fine description it is as songs melt and purr and drift through a sea of tranquility, whispered vocals, softly strummed guitars and synth strings evoke images of a better place, a place where God exists, a place where there is not only beauty but a place of sadness, for sadness is not sadness at all without the image of beauty to watch over and to wipe the tears away.

This is a LP to load up onto your listening device and go for a long walk through the countryside, or, along a desolate beach holding hands with the ghost from your yesterdays and finding solace in the dying embers of the sun. This LP is simply heartbreakingly beautiful.





The Top Boost ‘Dreaming EP’
(You Are Cosmos) 24th June 2019


Chiming guitars and harmonies flow into this summer strum of a three-track single that recalls the beauty of the Byrds, Big Star and Teenage Fanclub. If you like your pop with ba ba ba’s this EP is almost certainly for you.

The A side, ‘Dreaming’, has me thinking what it might have sounded like if a young David Cassidy had replaced Gene Clark in the Byrds; a joy filled three minutes of a pop song: a Dream indeed. I can almost feel the sand between my toes and the annoying kid with a Frisbee getting on my tits. But this single is worth it; only a melted ice cream away from being pop perfection.






Armstrong ‘Under Blue Skies’
(Country Mile Records) 12th July 2019

Julian Pitt, aka Armstrong, is one of the finest songwriters to emerge from Wales in recent years; a man who has been blessed with the gift of melody that can be comparable to McCartney, Wilson and Jimmy Webb. Yes, he really is that good.

This is an expanded reissue of his first LP, which was originally released as a limited edition cdr, one that I played constantly. Thankfully it’s getting a much-deserved official re-release from The Beautiful Music label.

Julian has the gift to write melodies that should be gracing the nations radio, songs that explode the myth that pop music is dead. ‘Crazy World’ and ‘Baby You Just Don’t Care’ for example are both upbeat and summery, in a Aztec Camera kind of way, but he comes into his own with a ballad, ‘Sorry About Lately’, a drop dead beaut. The real killer on the LP though is the wonderful ‘The Things That Pass You By’, one of those rare songs that can bring both goosebumps and tears to your eyes, a song most songwriters would sell their soul to have the talent to write, and the thing is this album is filled with them.

I am so happy this great lost LP has finally got the release it deserves; it is no longer lost just simply Great, one of the finest pastoral pop LPs you will ever hear.


Quimper ‘I Am An Italian Souvenir’
27th June 2019


Wonky pop and the flow of a sea dive melody erupt beautifully from this four track instrumental dream of an EP. The kind of thing 4AD might have released in the days when the label meant something, and not just Beggars Banquet in an artier form.

Batman bass beats and 60’s sci fi imagery weave like a speed injected butterfly soundtracking Kraftwerk getting their ends away; a baroque stab at sexual solvency, a master class on how to make music interesting original and fun to listen to. A pay what you want to download, I would advise you download and let it be a part of your summer.





Paper Hats ‘Tearing’
(No Funeral) 21st June 2019


I love small indie labels the are the lifeblood of the music industry, without them the industry would be one big rotting corpse of mediocre wannabees all perfectly in tune and smelling like roses, but beneath the sheen, be boring as hell, and who wants to be in a industry like that? So thank the lord for labels like No Funeral for releasing such fine music as this. Music they describe as math rock but myself being English I have no idea what math rock is. If it is this wonderful angular experimental pop art that The Fall thrived at, I want to spend my middle-aged years submerged in the glorious off kilter whimsy.

This five-track gem of an EP by the Paper Hats is all that I wanted it to be. It is fun, it has discordant guitars, it has mumbley vocals alternating with shouts -anyone out there who remembers John Peel faves Mazey Fade will love this -; it brings up so many memories of my youth when venues let such wonderful disarray perform their outpourings to the kids who soaked up every wonderful discordant note.

This is available on a limited edition cassette. I would advise you to check it out and snap one up as it is a fine release indeed.





Babybird ‘Photosynthesis’
19th July 2019


How pleased was I to see that I’d received the new LP by Stephen Jones, aka Babybird, to review: a man much after my own heart; a man who has been following the same path as myself and my merry band of Bordellos, though obviously with much more critical and commercial success than myself.

What I love about Stephen Jones, aka Babybird, apart from his wonderful songwriting talent and his dark humor and his obvious love of music and its many genres, is that he has so much soul. He has so much love for music in fact that he makes music not just because he may make a decent living from it but because he has no choice, he has to make it like he has to breath to stay alive. He has to create music, create art, he has to experiment with the magic of melody and write such beautiful songs, and Photosynthesis is an LP full of dark beauty and such bloody good songs.

Drum machine beats and synth strings cradle the twisted musings of the anti escapism of real life songs that make you want to get up in the morning just to remind you how shit life is, and this soundtracks it so, so, beautifully: heartbreakingly beautifully.

A small dark masterpiece, a masterclass in songwriting.





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