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.

Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea’s Review Roundup

The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The Bordellos, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea has released countless recordings over the decades with his family band of hapless unfortunates, and is the owner of a most self-deprecating sound-off style blog. His most recent releases in the last 18 months include The Bordellos beautifully despondent pains-of-the-heart and mockery of clique “hipsters” ode to Liverpool, the diatribe ‘Boris Johnson Massacre’ and 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. And he is still (yes, still) trying to get a label release for his fabled Bordello And Clark album.

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.

Wedding Present ft. Louise Wener  ‘We Should Be Together’
(Scopitones)  Out Now

Now then, I’m a bit of a Wedding Present fan and in fact they’re probably the band I have seen the most live: in fact, I think Dave Gedge is one of the finest lyricists to come from Britain in…well, to emerge from Britain. ‘My Favourite Dress’, ‘Cat Girl Tights’, ‘Dalliance’ are just three examples of that great pop lyricism, and there is also a track called ‘Gedge’ on my not yet released Bordello and Clark album (I’m sure there is a record label somewhere out there in the great divide for it) in tribute to Mr Gedge. So it will be no surprise that yes I do like the new single and in fact I think it actually sounds more like his other band Cinerama than the Wedding Present. Maybe that has something to do with the added extra of Lousie Wener featuring on vocals. Is there anything in fact more poptastic than a male female duet? I have been hooked on them since the days of my childhood years and hearing Terry Wogan play ‘Hey Paul Hey Paula’ by Paul and Paula: now there is an idea for David and Louise, an album of cover versions of great duets from the past. But I digress. This single is a fine jangly summery pop song of radio tingling seduction and in an ideal world would be blasting out as one tucks into their cornflakes in the morning; the kind of song that will make your Special K very special indeed.

Falcon Jane ‘Heaven (Romshii Remix)’

This is a rather fluffy cloud of a single; a cloud that carries a pop like charm that if exploded could outshine the sun with its certain naive charm: a charm that all the best future pop stars songs somehow possess. It’s like seeing Paul Daniels naked: not terrifying but somehow strangely rewarding. It’s a song that will tinker away in your brain when you are trying to think only serious thoughts. Yes, this is a nice and polite way to start a New Year.

bigflower ‘Medicine’
2nd January 2021

A new year and a new track by bigflower, maybe the artist I wrote most about last year, and with good cause, for two reasons: one being that he/they release so much stuff, and two, and most importantly, it is always of the highest quality. Let’s be honest, Ivor Perry the man hiding behind the moniker of bigflower is no slouch on the guitar, Easterhouse being one of the great Manchester bands of the 80’s. Morrissey thought he was the man to replace Johnny Marr in the Smiths, and do you know what? For once Morrissey was right. But for whatever reasons it never came to be and Morrissey went on to make a career of releasing some good albums and much twaddle as well. Ivor on the other hand went on to make some great music – anyone out there remember The Cradle and Parchman?

He must have also made some enemies in the biz, as that can be the only reason bigflower are not being raved about by the music press, and Ivor not being spoken of as being one of the most gifted guitarists of the last 40 years. And this latest track, the beautiful and beguiling ‘Medicine’, is a thing of drop-dead gorgeousness, featuring the vocals of his daughter adding a touch of fragility to this undeniable gem of a track. And once again can be downloaded for free.

Black Twigs  ‘Devils Please Be Gone’ (Soliti)  15th January 2021

This is a lovely warm sounding single: catchy great guitar riff, well-sung, good lyrics and a fine melody. What more can I say apart from give it a listen. Unless of course you do not like any of those points, and in that case, fuck off you dumb cunt.

Cromwell  ‘My Darkest Hour’
(Jezus Factory) 18th January 2021

Sultry is the word. Yes, sultry. My dear friends this is a fine single; it reminds me of something that fine underrated band from the early 90s The World of Twist might have delivered; it has the same layered quality of not just being sultry -have I mentioned that this track is sultry?!-, but is also dark and mysterious. It has some marvellous whooshing synth or swishing even – yes, swishing like a young D’Artagnan with a want-away look in his eye – and also has a rather delightful use of handclaps. I like this track so much so that I’m going to give it another listen. A wonderful debut from Cromwell.

The Stan Laurels  ‘There is No Light Without The Dark’
(Big Stir Records) 23rd January 2021

The melodies flow and float like a bullet from a popgun. Remember them popguns? The toys I mean, not the c86 band. Well this is exactly the same but instead of firing a cork on a string it shoots beams of songs filled with melody and grace and harmony. Yes, The Stan Laurels are loaded up to the back teeth with the blighters; they are in fact the Magnificent 7 of well-written slices of guitar pop, power pop, or jangle pop or whatever you want to call it. I will call it blissful, for that is what it is.

The Stan Laurels might not be the most revolutionary of bands and they wear their influences on their sleeves, like a lot of the music the excellent Big Stir Records release the songs /albums might not change the world but they have that pop magic to make you feel differently about it for the spell inducing minutes the music plays and for those minutes the world is a magical place full of love, peace and pure harmony, and I really do not think one can ask for more.

Vapour Trails ‘Underneath Tomorrow’
(Futureman Records)  15th January 2021

Those who are all there with their cough drops might remember I reviewed The Vapour Trails second album Golden Sunshine last year describing it as an album full of melody and catchy guitar lines and a love and understanding of what makes great 60s inspired music so inspiring, and this 7-track mini album is no different; containing all the qualities Golden Sunshine possessed in spades and in fact maybe even more 60s inspired. The Byrds, The Leaves and Buffalo Springfield all spring to mind, casting shadows of the halcyon days of love beads and miniskirts, and on my favourite track ‘Can You See What I Mean’ might give clues of what the Hollies might have sounded like if Graham Nash had not left and Stephan Stills and David Crosby had joined the Hollies instead: it is a psychedelically tinged gem of a track.

Underneath Tomorrow is a complete triumph of skilled crafted pop songs with chiming guitars and beautifully performed harmonies, there are many 60s influenced guitar bands out there [too many in my opinion] but the Vapour Trails are one of the rare breed who are very well worth investigating and no doubt could have held their own on a bill with The Byrds and Love. An album of pure enjoyment.

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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