REVIEWS ROUNDUP
Words: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

Toxic Chicken - Monolith Cocktail



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 end him a deluge of new releases on his virtual desk to see what sticks.

Toxic Chicken ‘Uncomfortable Music’
21st July 2019


I don’t apologise for writing another review of Toxic Chicken, as this is his 3rd LP in as many months, and this like the other two is a work of pure maverick pop genius: and not just because there is a four second track called ‘Brian From The Bordellos’ on it!

This LP has everything that I love about the magic and joy of music. It has humour and a madness that at times reminds me of the great Syd Barrett and the wonderful White Noise Electrical Storm LP. It is eccentric pushed to the extreme. Songs with the subject matter of eating politicians and love songs for cats and for Mother Nature and what is bad about England, but that track only being under two minutes long does not quite manage to list everything.

Uncomfortable Music is certainly an enjoyable and rewarding listening experience, and at times, the subject matter does live up to its title. But this album is a pay-what-you-want to download, so is well worth a listen. Another great album from a great artist: And I mean artist. And the track ‘Little Snail’ is the best dance track I have heard all year.





Snapped Ankles ‘Stunning Luxury’
1st March 2019



The whirring and exciting sounds of post punk circa 2019 coming at you like a extravagant wholemeal piece of chiffon scarred alternative disco meat; the sound of Devo fucking the brains and beats out of the B52s whilst the horny ghost of Mark E Smith watches on making cutting asides whilst stomping on the hopes and dreams of the not yet born love child of David Byrne and Lena Lovich.

This LP is one big extravagance of dark dance and post punk joy, the sort of album to soundtrack your wildest night out ever: sordid clubs, cheap drinks, hanging out with girls and boys who really should know better, the best musical electro porn one could ever hope to gorge oneself on.

Stunning Luxury is dirty, it is funky, it is experimental, it is blistering rock ‘n’ roll. A luxury indeed. One that should be enjoyed by all.





Anton Barbeau ‘Berliner Grotesk’
(Beehive Records / Pink Hedgehog Records) 19th July 2019



There is a dark playful melancholy I love about this LP, not the weeping into your hanky kind, or, the “oh I feel so sorry for myself kind”, but the, “I am middle aged and looking back at my life through the good and bad the happy and bad” kind. There is hope in the future kind, the kind of melancholy that Martin Newell thrives at writing. Even the cover of the Beatles ‘Love Me Do’ is enriched with a sadness the original misses; this version overcomes the familiarity by transforming it into a slightly electro reggae beauty.

But not all is sadness and tears there is also fine pop of the power variety: the sort Jellyfish so excelled at releasing. The Bowie Mott and the Fabs influences of course shine bright bringing a lovely old time Englishness that is so often ignored in modern music of today. This LP is a finely crafted pop album, with enough quirks and twists to make it a very enjoyable listen.





Simon Waldram ‘Into The Blue’
27th July 2019



Simon Waldram made one of my favourite LPs from 2016, the wonderful self released Insolation, an LP that dipped and swayed, taking in JAMC one minute and the next, beautiful swathes of psych folk. This, his new album, Into The Blue, takes off where that album left off, but is a slightly more subdued affair: Songs of darkness, love, depression and hope merge into a quite beautiful collection.

In these days when the acoustic guitar has taken over the electric, sales wise, there is certainly a market for LPs of softly strummed melancholia, and Simon does it far better than most; bringing to mind at times, the beautiful slowcore shimmer of Low (especially on ‘Breaking Waves’), at other times, recalling the magic of the Go Betweens and The Smiths.

The highlight for me though is the beautiful psych folk instrumental ‘Sea Turtles’: a few moments of total bliss.

Into The Blue is a fine LP and with the right backing and a bit of luck could well fight its way to the top of the overcrowded melancholic brigade, and could find favor on many late night radio shows. An album of real beauty and sadness and hope.





Moody Mae ‘Throwing Rocks at John E. Road’
2nd July 2019



Indie pop from Sweden is on the whole a wonderful thing indeed, and this EP/mini LP from Moody Mae keeps within that wonderful remit. Beatles like ‘Martha My Dear’ piano, lovingly could not give a toss female vocals, ba ba bas and lofi psychedelia join forces to force music lovers to nod their heads and grin like grinning idiots. And to think that this was recorded in 2005 and has taken 14 years to see the light of day. I think it may be time for Moody Mae to reform and record a full length waxing. For when a band has the gift of pure pop wonderment it is a shame not to share that wonderment with the less fortunate. A treasure of a release.




Radio Europa ‘Community Is Revolution’
(Wormhole) 19th July 2019



It seems like a weekly event that Wormhole Records release a new underground LP of chilled out darkness. This weeks release is by Radio Europa and is an LP of chilled out darkness with the odd offering of a glimpse of light appearing through the cracks of the drawn heavy curtains called life: The beam of light showing the particles of dust exploding and hovering around the thoughts of insolvent tomorrows and the broken promises of yesterday.

Gentle soft spoken vocals lilt into the wave of dark synth and drum beats that blanket you in the warmth of the cold that whispers sweet nothings whilst grinding a worn down stiletto heel into your vacant soul.

Community Is Revolution is an album to soundtrack these uncertain times; an album to close your eyes and let the music sweep over you and take you to the dark recess of your mind where devils and angels juggle with the happy/sad of your life.





bigflower ‘Night And Day’
13th July 2019


Another week another fine free to download single from bigflower. An explosion of post punk guitars do battle with horns and a bass riff so mighty it would make Jean Jacques Burnel want to call it a day and to take up flower arranging. When oh when are this mighty band going to be picked up by some label. For this is far to a fine a track to slip under the radar yet again. Blogs, djs of the alternative variety should be ramming this down people’s throats instead of some acoustic guitar charlatan whining on about how twee their girlfriend’s vagina is [like they have saw their girlfriend’s vagina! They saw an egg box and let their imagination take hold]

Bigflower are one of the most exciting underground bands around at the moment and we at the Monolith Cocktail will keep ranting on about their majestic take on modern life until the less with-it blogs catch on. Blogs, djs, record labels for God sake get your fingers out.





Why Sun ‘Frugte’
14th June 2019



Softly strummed guitars and deeply crooned vocals kick start this beautiful five track EP of softly strummed guitars and deeply crooned vocals; songs that bring the joys of Galaxie 500 and the Wild Swans oozing into my mind, and lovers of those bands and the many bands of that ilk should enjoy this. So give it a listen especially if you are hung-over or on the verge of doing fuck all.





REVIEWS
Words: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea



Dubi Dolczek  ‘Voyage To The Cat’s Paw Nebula’
(Stolen Body Records)  16th August 2019


Well what’s not to like? Anyone who does not like twangy guitars and Joe Meek meets The Bonzo Doo Dah Dog Band experience of rock n roll should be injected with the space dust of nostalgia and force fed the meanderings of a Larry Parnes managed faded dream failed pop star.

All that glitters is not chrome as this album sparkles with a delight that can only be found in vintage sci-fi comics. Dan Dare discovers that the Clangers were indeed more than cute and cuddly aliens but in fact reverb soaked 50’s bikini clad Theremin wielding mother fuckers who enjoy nothing more than dancing the night away at the local space hop. Who would have thought that soda pop space dust and doo-wop would be just what the doctor ordered in 2019.







Anthony Reynolds ‘A Painter’s Life’
(Rocket Girl) 26th July 2019


I liked both Jack and Jacques so there is no good reason I wouldn’t enjoy the new LP, A Painter’s Life, from Anthony Reynolds – an LP that at times brings to mind Lee Hazlewood and Japan. This LP is influenced by Reynolds growing up in the Cardiff ghetto Splott [his words not mine], and to make the place sound beautiful in which he indeed does, he embellishes it will echoes of Scott Walker: Splott Walker if you like.

Synth pop, cinematic strings and Welsh county collide in a wash of stray beauty and kitchen sink drama on an album that succeeds in capturing the down at heel glamour of South Wales. I spent a number of years living in Pontypool and spent many a day/night in and out of rehearsal rooms in Newport and Cardiff and this record actually brings back images of those wonderful days.

An LP I hope will gain the attention that Jack and Jacques deserved but never really received, A Painter’s Life is both a fine and rewarding one.







Ray Kosmische ‘Anti-Litterbug’
7th January 2019


If lo-fi psych folk is your bag well fill it with this, an LP of Slip Spence OAR like misadventure, tin pot percussion and moaned and whispered vocals, weaved together with a magical effect. Acoustic guitars and whistles journey together to the land of Summerisle via the greyness of the Manchester skyline; a car journey past the terrace houses of the north west, sending out the subliminal sounds of my childhood. An LP, as I am listening, I feel myself becoming a little obsessed with.

The oddness, strangeness and beauty of Anti-Litterbug is a weary, welcoming thing indeed.







Bigflower ‘What You Get’
26th May 2019


Bigflower consistently releases music of the highest quality but has somehow slipped under the radar, and this song his latest of many one off bandcamp single releases, is no different: A five-minute slab of post punk psychosis. It is a wonderful skyscraper of a guitar track, which comes as no surprise when you hear that Bigflower is none other than the latest carnation of Ivor Perry, former guitarist with Manchester indie legends Easterhouse and the man chosen to replace Johnny Marr in The Smiths. How Morrissey could do with this standard of tunesmithery now as he stumbles from bad album to an even worse taste in badges, this track is so fine it could resurrect the deadest of careers.

I insist that you give this bandcamp page a visit. You will not be disappointed: am I ever wrong?!







Scandinavia ‘Premium Economy’
18th April 2019


Power pop is alive and well and living in the hearts of Scandinavia, from the opening track guitar chime of the Ash like title-track to the closing chiming guitar riffage of ‘Pax Americana’. You are treated…yes, treated to melodies galore. Melodies that bring the golden days of power pop back from the late 70’s and the early 80’s. Anyone out there who has swooned to the beauty of The Motors Airport will indeed enjoy Premium Economy. Anyone who has wrapped their ears around Danger Games by the Pinkees will be in ecstasy.

An LP that demands to be played loud whilst the sun is shining; an LP that deserves the sun to be shining. It is a shame Power Pop music is now often ignored and derided. This album proves that music does not have to evoke images of the dark side of the psyche to be worthy of appraisal. Premium Economy is a fine record of pure guitar pop, and for that Scandinavia should be congratulated.

Premium Economy is available on bandcamp but also as a CD, and I would advise anyone out there to splash-out and buy the physical version, as it really should be enjoyed as a piece of power pop art.







Toxic Chicken ‘Wormhole’
(Wormhole) 7th June 2019


I reviewed Toxic Chicken last excellent eccentric LP earlier in the year. His brand new release Wormhole has just appeared as a new release on the label of the same name. Once again an eccentric foray into electronica, not quite as bat crazy as his last release, this has more subtle eccentricity about it.

This is Toxic Chickens pop album if you like, an album to lie back and let the obscure catchy melodies flow over you, my fave being ‘Drinking Coffee With Norwood Grimes’, which I can imagine as the kind of track Joe Meek might have created if he was alive and experimenting in electronica today, a Gameboy frenzy of duet misgivings, a lovely left turn of leftfield precision.

I would certainly recommend this to anyone with a yearning for something slightly different in the field of electronica.





Reviews: Brian ‘Bordellos’ Shea




Every other week we ask Brian ‘Bordellos’ Shea, of the legendary St. Helens lo fi cult that is The Bordellos, to accelerate through a mixed bag of new releases for the Monolith Cocktail, offering opine, vitriol and words of wisdom. This week he runs through a trio of oddities and madcap releases from the Guerssen hub, has chemical induced fun with a Toxic Chicken, and finds the Gang Of Four’s latest a drag and disappointment.

Susana Estrada ‘Amor y Libertad’
(Espacial Discos) 18th April 2019


This LP was originally released in 1981, and is a fine early 80’s Italo disco/funk album that really couldn’t of come from any other time.

The opening track, setting you in the mind to get down and boogie, is all Chic guitar riffs and ‘Good Time’ bass, the rapping of Susana Estrada recalling a girl who left her heart on the dancefloor of San Francisco, orgasm yelps and the faint popping of cheap champagne corks: a wonderful way to start any album.

The sign of a good disco or dance LP from the late 70’s/early 80s is that it should not just make you smile, but should also have the effect of a tidal wave of memories that wash you away, taking you back to those long summer nights of bad small town discos, you trying not to look too stupid with your slightly out of time drunk dance moves, trying to catch the eye of the pretty girl dressed in white with her not as attractive friend trying her best not to spill her drink whilst tossing her hair and wondering what time the chippy stays open till.

Amor y Libertad is not just a fine disco album but also succeeds in being a fine pop album of melodies abound, which is not always the case with disco LPs from this time – quite often just a couple of singles surrounded by extended dance filler. But this really is a well-written, well-performed, well-played, disco funk pop album; worthy of investigation by anyone with an interest in Italo Disco.






Mcphee ‘ST’
(Sommor) 18th April 2019




Mcphee were a psych rock band from Australia, this album being originally released in 1971 and described as one of the rarest albums from that country, which is maybe why I have never heard of it before – as I do have a love for psych rock.

This is a fine LP of the genre, riff heavy, wailing Hammond organ and Jefferson Airplay like vocals and with all the great Psych rock nonsensical lyrics, “Sunday Shuffle of the freedom kind”, but when have lyrics really ever mattered in Psych rock, they are feel good preaching peace kind of songs.

The group’s limited songwriting ability may explain the inclusion of some covers; the version of Neil Youngs ‘Southern Man’ is indeed a fine version and gives the chance for the guitarist to show off his no doubted ability. There is also a cover of Spooky Tooth and a strange ill advised slowed down almost stoner rock rendition of ‘I Am The Walrus’ which needs to be heard to be believed. And also, they do a more than good version of the Leon Russell/ Carpenters ‘Superstar’; in fact it is rather beautiful, even the sax solo does not destroy the moment.

The real highlight of the album is the 10 minute plus final track, ‘Out To Lunch’, a song that takes you on a trip that starts off all fab lounge music then leads you into the blues and then the Jazz rock of the Mothers of Invention: But I’ve always been a sucker for a heavy wah-wah workout. All in all a very enjoyable album and another great reissue of a lost out there classic.





Thomas Hamilton ‘Pieces For Kohn’
(Mental Experience) 18th April 2019




I find writing about music sometimes as hard as writing about sex. Not that I actually write about Sex; I’m no Jackie Collins, but to try and capture the passion music evokes is sometimes very difficult without sounding clichéd.

Pieces For Kohn is a case in point, an LP that was originally released in 1976 by Thomas Hamilton on his own label Somnath records, based around a series of electronic noises and spaced out beeps. And so, not the sort of music you can sing along to in the bath or something you would play whilst getting ready to hit the town in a wild night out unless you are R2 D2. Not something to turn the lights down and get ready for love, it isn’t exactly Barry White, it is as I said a series of spaced out beeps and electronic noises after all. Saying that, I find these four long instrumental pieces very enjoyable, they have a certain treasure in their strangeness; I could quite happily sit alone to this record and lose myself in my thoughts whilst sipping on a glass of red.

Not an LP to everyone’s taste I’m sure [but what is], but anyone who enjoys the workings and experiments of such doyens as Delia Derbyshire could well find this a rewarding listening experience.





Toxic Chicken ‘Fun’
6th April 2019




There is a genius in this LP that can really only be described by listening to it. Generic indie bands should be injected with this album, it may spark some sense of wild abandon and make them realise that there is more to life than dreaming about playing Glastonbury and getting a badly written review in a clickbait blog by someone who thinks Oasis are the be all and end all of rock n roll.

Fun is a emotional breakdown of a album; there is just so much happiness going on it is like a psychedelic children’s party, there are jelly riffs with fondant icing, a game of musical chairs when all the competitors are on speed, or their fizzy pop shaken to the extent of a eruption of volcanic LSD proportions.

Please do yourself a favour and give this album a listen, even if it’s just the once: you might be only able to listen once as the happiness might rot your brain. I do love eccentrics; there are just not enough of them. Toxic Chicken should be cherished.





Xqui ‘Settlers EP’
(Wormhole)




I am currently a little obsessed with the record label Wormhole, and I make no apologies for it, for they currently release some of the strangest, more out there, music available and it needs some praise and people writing about it or otherwise how are people going to hear about it and want to investigate the total mind expanding hipness. After all if the Monolith Cocktail don’t feature it there are not many other blogs brave enough to.

This latest release is a 5 track, more mini LP than, EP, as it lasts over 25 minutes and it is by Xqui, the Beatles of found and manipulated sounds if you like. He manages to find sounds and expand their strange and wonderfulness to new and strange heights, taking a low drone and turning it into a Bittersweet symphony. On ‘Biff’ he starts off with just a low hum and over the 11 minutes takes you on a slow relaxing trip towards heaven.

‘Suppose’ is a backward walk through snow; an aural delight of ignoring the scream of a MJ wannabe; starting something from a found sound dance of monks, a striptease nun licking the blood off the cross, on, what is, the shortest track on this entire EP. Settlers finishes with ‘Eye’, a Philip Glass like silent explosion of experimental pop. One might hope to hear the title track itself on the radio, if music like this got played on the radio: are you reading Stuart Maconie?! Get it on the Freak Zone.





Gang Of Four ‘Happy Now’
(Townsend Music) 19th April 2019




It must be hard being punk/post punk legends as obviously you have a history to live up to, but Gang of Four make it sound oh so easy with Happy Now. Maybe it’s because Andy Gill the legendary guitarist is the only remaining original member, but there’s a freshness that I wasn’t expecting to be honest.

It sounds like a new modern BBC 6 Music friendly band, making commercial easy on the ear guitar indie rock/pop with an occasional nod to dance. You can hear influences of bands that Gang Of Four themselves influenced: Nine Inch Nails in their poppier moments, Franz Ferdinand, even LCD Soundsystem.

Not everything is perfect; the lyrics are sometimes, shall we say, on the poor side but are covered up well with the ultra smooth production.

Happy Now is a well-produced modern sounding radio friendly album that would make an ideal soundtrack to your drive to work or to drop your kids off to school. There is a place for an album like this; an easy on the ear undemanding steering wheel tapper.





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