Saturday, September 30, 2023

It's Starts With a Birthstone - Albums For December


It Starts With a Birthstone - Songs For September


Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 426 The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead


Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 156 The Kinks - The Kinks Are Village Green Society


Albums of the Year # 89 Mandy Indiana - i've seen a way.

A record that I listened to a couple of weeks ago and took a while to get back to. It's getting a bit like this these days. So much quality product. Not enough hours in the day.

So anyway, better late than never. Mandy, Indiana, (and that's a great name for a band for starters), are a fourpiece from Manchester, England. They genre hop in remarkable fashion on latest album, i've seen a way.

They kick the record off as if they're really, really into Leftfield, Circling rhythms, mounting atmosphere. So far OK. Things start to get really interesting though when vocalist Valentine Caulfield joins the fray. She sings in French and her voice is muffled and stricken. She sounds like an announcer at Gare De L'Est in the middle of either a terrorist of panic attack.

It's a novel approach anyhow. The band create a fascinating patchwork of beats and rhythms for Valentine to blurt free form associations across. I was slightly bemused by the end of the record but bowled along by the experience anyhow. Most of all it was a lot of fun.

Song(s) of the Day # 3,514 Fat Spirit


Not my any means for the first time and I imagine not for the last, it's Darren Jones to the rescue. After the rather dispiriting experience of listening to the latest Modern Nature album early this morning, this suggestion of his of an alternative to listen to popped up among my comments on It Starts.

When Noel Redding left the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1969, he formed a band that delighted in the name of Fat Mattrass. I found a copy of one of their records in my favourite record shop one time and lifted it out of its rack and raised it to Rich, the most amiable shop assistant I know.

Rich smilingly, (he is always smiling), said it was really surprisingly good. But I'm afraid I'm a snob of a foolish kind and refuse to buy a record by anyone who has chosen to call themselve Fat Mattrass.

So I approached this album, EGG by Fat Spirit with some caution. But Darren, as he generally is, was completely right. It's excellent. Fat Spirit hail from Richmond, Virginia but sound for some reason, (which I cannot quite pin down), distinctively British. Their artwork and songcraft have a strangely medieval bent. I cannot explain why that is. I just think that it has. It makes the record mightily intriguing.

And certainly Independent. Rather than just Indie. That's become a sadly reductive term these days. Their songs rise and build with purposeful melody and grit and resolve themselves with no little endeavour. They sound ultimately, like themselves. If you wish to discover more, I suggest you explore this record for yourselves. Thanks as ever Darran. You shouldn't have. But I'm very glad that you did.

NOT SONG(S) OF THE DAY !!! Modern Nature - No Fixed Point In Space


Up early this morning. It's my birthday. Though that's not the reason I'm up. I just had a slightly restless night, I thought I'd give this a listen. The new album from Modern Nature called No Fixed Point In Space.

Modern Nature is a rather portentious or else bland name for a band, and No Fixed Point In Space certainly a portentious name for a band. Frankly it reeks pretension is you have a supicion radar for this kind of thing. 

The band are built around Jack Cooper who has an interesting CV, hving worked in The Beep Seals, Mazed and Ultimate Painting. On Modern Nature's website, no mention is made of these projects indicating they wish to be considered on the basis of their own achievements.

According to this site, 'they blur the lines between folk music, composition an improvisation.' Well, err OK. Listening to the record this morning I was waiting for each track to get started and none of them ever did.It felt as if you were listening to the bands that Nick Drake and Tim Buckley worked with warming up for a very log time before not bursting into song as you expecte them to but falling into deep sleep instead.

I've cared for a lot of Cooper's work previously but I didn't really care for this much. Occasionally they'd establish some kind of momentum but generally I found it an exercise in chin stroking. I'm afraid I won't be back.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 425 Peter Gabriel - So


Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 157 Arcade Fire - Neon Bible


Wilco - Cousin


Wilco are one of my favourite bands. They always have been since I saw them for the first time playing Outtasite in the wonderful promo in the late Nineties. They represent eternal American verities. They seem to have existed always. Like The Band. And my own particular favourites. The group that set me off. R.E.M.

Some people prefer different phases of Wilco's career. Different albums. Not me. They have incredible quality control and I generally like everything I hear. They plot their own course. They also have remarkable continuity in terms of band members. It seems once you sign up for Wilco, you sign up for life. They're a family. Theirs seems to be a higher cause. A noble one.

Latest record Cousin seems to favour quietness and space. This seems to be their way of working these days, which may not seem to utilise the talents of one of their greatest weapons. Those of their potentially explosive lead guitarist Nels Cline. But that's a misleading impression. Nels is up to plenty on here as he always is. Each band member is. You can follow whatever you like. They're craftsmen.

It's a layered record as is generally the case with Wilco. Produced by Cate Le Bon this time round which makes it an interesting listen on that basis alone. You'll need to invest fully if you hope to read the full reward. Take your time, you won't regret it. Of course Wilco are built primarily to voice the concerns of their plump diminutive Captain and guiding pilot Jeff Tweedy. An amiable but occasionally irascible Ahab. Or Pugwash, if you prefer.

He generally seems to be in amiable mood here, Certainly reflective. The songs here follow similar structures but have varying dappled surfaces of different textures and hues. It's an Autumnal record. It's Autumn after all. If you like Wilco you'll like this.

Albums of the Year # 90 RVG - Brain Worms


 RVG have long been a Melbourne band of a slightly different stripe and accumulating repute. They're onto their third album now, Brain Worms. It's a record that should only see their star ascend further because it resonates immediately, even though its themes are not always what everyone seeks out for listening pleasure.

They map the trials and tribulations, the failings of the human heart. RVG have been compared to The Go-Betweens plenty since they first appeared, but it's Grant McLennan's soul at its most tortured they resemble rather than Robert Forster's quirky but as things turned out, slightly more robust worldview.

The other artist I was constantly reminded of by Brain Worms was Mike Scott of The Waterboys. Band leader Romy Vager's voice is strong. But it's also strained and unmistakably pained, as was and is the case with much of  McLennan and Scott's work. Everything it seems is at stake in every second of every song.

On first play on Saturday, this was rather too intense and anguished for me. Maybe I wasn't in the mood to have my nerve-ends dragged over hot coals. Listening again on Sunday evening I was obliged to acknowledge how highly accomplished the record is. How damned good these songs are.  This may not be everybody's go to record, as it demands engagement from the listener, but it's a rather formidable and admirable one. Certainly in terms of its bravery. And its tunes hold up too.

Song(s) of the Day # 3,513 Another Michael


Another Michael are a rather odd band as is their lastest album Wishes to Fulfil. They're fom Philadelpha, Pennsylvania and nobody seems to have told them that is no longer the early Seventies.

Their singer Michael Doherty has a clear cut sugary vocal style that reminds me of all those High School graduation films which seem to be so much a part of the American mindest.

Wishes to Fulfil is a record made by hippies with excellent teeth, perms and acoustic guitars. It;'s a pleasant record if you like those. It's not hugely memorable but it made me want to watch The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family as records like these often do. After a few songs I decided to listen to the new Wilco album which is much better.

What I Did on Tuesday. - Do Nothing & Humour at The Cluny


I've taken something of a break from gigs in this extraordinary year of mine which seems in many ways quite unlike any I've ever lived in my life thus far. Every year of your life really should be different from the one that precedes itself and the one which lies ahead. But sometimes, inevitably, we lose track of the overall picture and weeks and months even years become something of a blur. We can be said to have lost the plot. 

I think it happens to us all although I can only speak with any authority about myself. It certainly happened to me. Anyhow I've managed somehow to readjust my gears and horizons and seem set for a period of clear driving on an open road where I know where I'm heading. At least for the time being.

So Do Nothing. A Nottingham band that are generally labelled Post Punk. They're not alone. Almost every band that comes out of the traps is labelled a Post Punk band these days. Every single one. They often seem to label themselves this. It seems to offer advantageous career paths being a Post Punk band. Slots on good stages at Glastonbury, favourable articles and reviews in Mojo. I find something slightly depressing and repetitive about this state of affairs. Anyhow, I'm getting ahead of myself. I'll tell you about my day which had much to recommend it then come back and whinge some more. If you're still with me,

I'm having a quiet week this week which allows me to surface at a reasonable hour and breakfast at leisure in my dressing gown as if  I were actually Noel Coward and I'd chosen being a general man about town rather than teaching English for Academic Purposes to earn my living. Anyhow it allowed me the luxury of listening through to a couple of records in their entirety as I like to given the chance most mornings.

My flat is full of vinyl records, probably the best part of 1,000 or maybe more. I'm sorry, I'm sad but not sufficiently sad to actually count them, just so I can tell you. So every morning I choose something to listen to which suits my mood, then photograph it and share a few photos of its sleeves and related artwork on social media. There I told you I was sad, but this I'd maintain is a mild form of sadness.

Today I choose Radiohead' In Rainbows and Naima Bock's Giant Palm. They put me in a mellow mood and then I go for a swim and sauna which made me increasingly mellow and then I wander into my workplace. Best to show my face. In my workplace there are currently waves of terror flowing. It's something akin to Soviet Russia in the thirties if you're interested in a cultural analogy. Anyway that's all you need to know on that front for the time being. I'll save the rest for my memoirs.

I thought I'd head down to Rosie's, one of my old haunts and probably the pub I'd choose to die in, if I had to die in a pub. Given the amount of time I've spent in pubs in my adult lifetime it's probably a good place for me to pop my clogs as anywhere when that time eventually comes.

I've gone off Rosie's in recent years. It has a regular barman, Urry Up 'Arry who I actively despise and many of  my favourite people don't go much anymore. But Amy was there today and I like Amy and it was free Jukebox Tuesday, so I could hope for no more.  I chose a few New Wave classics, Stranglers, Only Ones and settled into chat with her.

Not unnaturally we talked about Decca, one of the true regulars and true characters of Rosie's. Decca is Derek, everybody has a nickname if they're working class and Geordie, they wouldn't allow them into the place otherwise.

Decca is in his mid Seventies and an ex-servicemen. He'll happily regale you to bawdy tales of one legged whores on South Sea islands who entertained the lads on shore leave if that's the kind of bar chat that lights your pipe. 

He's a very funny guy. Particularly when accompanied by his best mate Davy Green. At their best they can drive me to tears of uncontrollable laughter with their unbelievable blue and deeply profane banter..

On Sunday Decca went for a bit of fresh air twenty minutes into the match. The rest of us were sitting at our tables with our drinks. He collapsed suddenly as if poleaxed by sniper fire from the open window of the third floor flat above the bookies across the road. 

Cue general disorder inside the bar. Urry Up 'Arry stampeding gracelessly like a rhino shot with a poisoned dart. Other friends rushing to the scene which soon resembled Turner's Death of Nelson.

Decca was not given smelling salts but he was revitalised and returned to a stool at the bar and fed sugar. Amy says he's OK. Another bar room drama to change the subject from football for a moment. A few days later I have heard that Decca has recovered and is currently beginning his training for the Steeplechase at the next Olympics. So you can relax. Watch this space.

A couple of hours later I leave my flat and take the short walk from there to the Quayside. Past the bearded and paunchy beggar outside the Royal Station who always greets me with 'Could you spare me some change...' and 'Have a nice evening...' when it's generally two o'clock in the afternoon or 'Where's your hat?' when I'm not wearing a hat. 

Then to the actual New Castle and opposite it The Bridge Hotel. One of the greatest bars in Europe, never mind Newcastle. If you disagree, you haven't been there long enough or entered its doorways. It has everything that makes a pub great. You'll have to take my word for it. I'm not listing them now. I'm not even going in.

Instead I descend the slope to the Quayside. I'm hungry and fancy something filling. As I come down a different slope to my 58th birthday, and I'll get there tomorrow morning when I wake, I like to eat out whenever I can. I like it more with company but its fine when the bowl of risotto is quite as good as the risotto I eat at Babucho, a classy Italian diner I visit for the first time this evening. It's opposite The Crown Posada  if the picture of my risotto above whets your appetite.

Now the walk down the Quayside. I always enjoy that, if the weather's fair. Anyhow I'm in a good mood..The weather is great and I'm thinking things like 'This moment will never ever happen quite this way ever again' and stuff like that. Maybe I should give Jonathan Livingston Seagull a go. I'm at the end of the worthwhile bit of the Quayside now . Up the stone staircase to The Free Trade, another of Newcastle's finest bars, with the best view of the Quayside and Newcastle's signature bridges in Toon. 

I always hope that Billy and Chris are here and often Billy is. But not tonight. Never mind. I'm in such a good mood that I'm not to be discouraged. It's my favourite time of year, the setting sun is casting great shadows across the walls. My evening is coming to its reason for being.

I see a middle aged guy sitting on a table against the wall opposite me. I don't know him but he's wearing a great Velvet Underground t shirt. The front cover of the Loaded album cover. I wish I was wearing it. I go across and tell him and there's a look of recognition between us. Like a secret handshake. Words are unnecessary. In a way the Velvet Underground sum up a lot of the best things about life if you're a music lover. A culture to live by.

Anther pleasant stroll. The descent to The Ouseburn Valley and The Cluny. I've managed my time well today. I still have forty five minutes before support band Humour are due. Plenty of time for another beer at The Cumberland Arms.

So I'm off again like a duracell bunny. Up another stone staircase, this time an overgrown one and in darkness and I watch my step because I don't want to stumble, I get my beer from a guy in Trotsky glasses the kind of spectacles I started wearing when I was 18, and turn into the backroom bar.

The ukelele orchestra of the backroom bar of The Cumberland Arms is in full flow. The ukelele orchestra of the backroom bar of The Cumberland Arms seem to play this place every time, every single time, I ever come here. A set of beaming radiant fifty, sixty and seventy faces strumming ukeleles or close variations on them, sometimes vaguely in tune. 

The ukelele orchestra are always very friendly. They welcome you into the room, put your bag on the back of your chair, smile at you. The lead lady and it's always best if a random collective has some kind of leader, bursts into Amazing Grace and then Will The Circle be Unbroken and they all join in with great gusto. It feels like a truly celestial moment. They should really get those flittering angels wings you see in films.. 

I thank them and leave. Time to drain the rest of the beer before Humour are due onstage down in the valley . I sit in the garden enjoying the rest of my pint. Turning back to the pub I see a highly recognisable silhouette. I'm straining my eyes, they're not what they once were. But it's him. It's Steve. Mr Steve Drayton. With his partner Helen.

I go and greet them. I love Steve, and Helen is equally great. There are some people you just like bumping into. Steve is a local celebrity of sorts, A man around town who always spreads good vibes. He set up and hosted the wonderful Record Player nights which started soon after I arrived here and which made me feel a part of the local community. In turn this led to be reaffirming the importance of my record collection and primarily my vinyl collection to me, just as I was reunited with it. It introduced me to great local characters like Chris and Billy. Eventually it led me to start writing this blog. For better or worse.

Five minutes in Steve and Helen's company is great. But my time running out and anyway we've agreed to meet in a week or so. Back down the slope. I arrive to a reasonably full but hardly heaving venue  just as Scots Humour shamble onstage.

The rest of the evening is not as purely enjoyable as my day has been. You can't win them all. It's still memorable in its way. It's a Post Punk Evening. Of the sort happening up and down the country every night of the week these days.

Humour hail from Glasgow. There are five of them. They come across as characters. Characters, a band indeed, from the pages of This is Memorial Device, the fabulous novel about the original Post Punk years by David Keenan.

They favour jittering, paranoid rhythms and baying disturbed football chanting, if football chanting was Daddaist, which the four front players on stage join in with in impressive abandon. I enjoy it but long for a chorus and choruses are clearly not a currency they deal in. The currency they deal in is rather too commonplace these days. Wherever you go.

I had higher hopes for Do Nothing. Their debut album Snake Sideways has been one of the more intriguing debuts from a young guitar band that I've heard in recent years, It reminded me of the mostly forgotten but singular Furniture and the lead singer made me think of the early Kevin Rowland. They're Midlanders themselves, from Nottingham and have some of that part of the world's sullen down to earth resignation about  them. 

But once they appear onstage they sound like the mass of bands plying their trade these days. Onstage they lose the nuance of their recorded output and produce noise. A lot of it. They're ordinary. Those around me seem mightily enthused but I'm left cold. 

Meanwhile the singer, who on record reminded me of Kevin and was capable of beguiling narrative now makes me think of .... Mark E. Smith. Smith's Fall and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds seem to be the gospel chapters these days. The New Canon. Along with Gang of Four and Joy Division. I love the originals. But this is no longer original. I dread the prospect of years of nights out of  this sort to come. I think I'll need to be more selective.'s all part of my ongoing education. I'll be back for more. Once I've turned 58. I'll be back for more on Tuesday to be precise. French Motorik Groovers En Attendant Ana. At the Cumberland Arms again. One thing I'm fairly sure if. They will not sound anything like The Fall or The Gang of Four. I look forward to hearing what they do sound like.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Covers # 207 Soccer Mommy


One of my favourite Pavement songs. In many ways a song apart for them. One where they allow them to feel without necessarily having to show us all how clever they are at each and every moment.

Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 424 The Bulgarian National Radio & Television Chorus - Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares


Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 158 Green Day - American Idiot


Albums of the Year # 91 Jeremy Tuplin - Jeremy's Discotheque


At university, way back in the Mid-Eighties during the first term of  my second year, I had a rather singular seminar Literature tutor named Jeremy Tambling. He guided us with expert care through a course about the Nineteenth Century Novel, still for me the absolute peak period of this wonderful artform.  On the way, he introduced me, and several others within the class, to the joys of Post-Structuralism. To Foucault, Althusser and other critical titans. To Bakhtin as well. I'm eternally grateful to him. He taught me a lot that I've fed on ever since.

Rather less fortunately, his class, to my eternal shame, led to my head being turned to the considerable charms of a sweet American brunette in the group named Lynn. This is turn led me to damage and badly bruise the heart of my lovely girlfriend at the time, for which I have no excuse, and still upbraid myself all this time later. I try not to think about it frankly. I shouldn't have done that to her. I just shouldn't. I was a proper bastard. 

Fortunately she forgave me and took me back. And we went on to have a number more happy years together before we eventually were virtually obliged by circumstances to go our separate ways and brave the world without each other. Something we both found very difficult in different ways for a number of years

But focus, Bruce. Because this post is not about Jeremy Tambling, Lynn, the cute American brunette, or indeed about my first and dear true love and how I hurt her. It's about Jeremy Tuplin and his new album Orville's Discotheque just outI've made acquaintance with this Jeremy too. He played the Cobalt Studios in Newcastle, the last live gig I witnessed back in February 2020 before the curtains were closed and the doors shut, and I was obliged, along with much of the rest of the world, to retreat into isolated existence in those incredible  Lockdown months. That world and character and perspective changing experience from which we are only now emerging, if we ever really will.

I spent a lot of time with Jeremy and his band that evening. They couldn't have been friendlier or more accommodating to me and they played a blinding set. I don't take this friendliness and approachability for granted with musicians if I go up to them before or after they play their sets. I'm naturally slightly shy myself and they've, not unnaturally, got other things on their minds apart from talking to people they've never met. But Jeremy and his band really couldn't have been nicer and I found the chats we had that evening really instructive. 

For Jeremy is one of those best of things. A young man with wisdom, far, far beyond his years. This is  quite clear from any  exposure to any one of his records. He's got something to say and he says it very eloquently each and every time he puts out a record. 

It sometimes takes me a while to warm to them and fully clutch them to my heart, because they're dense, like a good novel or a set of short stories. But I'm generally determined to do so because I like the guy so much and think he's such a talent. Orville's Discotheque is his fourth album and it strikes me as Jeremy becoming more his own man and transcending his influences in a similar way to how Baxter Dury has over the course of his career in a similarly determined fashion.

At the time I met him and chatted to him in 2020, he was fresh from the recording of his second album Pink Mirror . His approach to his art struck me as persona driven. This is one of the great British Pop traditions and I saw him at the end of a line that contained such greats as Ray Davies, Marc Bolan, Kevin Ayers, David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Jarvis Cocker, Brett Anderson and Luke Haines. Phew!  He didn't seem to mind. I also mentioned Jack Thackray and he didn't seem to mind that either.

That's a pretty daunting and remarkable list but I didn't feel it out of place to place him there because he had all the louche charm, talent and intelligence to deserve comparison it. He deserves it still. Orville's Discotheque is as fine a record as Pink Mirror but it's one that's content to inhabit its own skin in a similar way in which Seventies celebrity impressionist Mike Yarwood used to say at the end of each show, 'and this is me.'

There's something rather wonderful about his transformation like a butterfly boldly chipping its way from its chrysalis. To do the record full justice I can do no better than quote the man's Bandcamp page, which describes the nature of the end result far better than I can. It's a literary one but goes back way further in time than the Eliot, Bronte and Dickens novels, we discussed in my University days under Tambling's tutelage while I, devoid of shame and decency, tried to attract the cute brunette's attention and admiration. Wanker!

Meanwhile, thirty five years and more down the line in Orville's Discotheque, something is stirring. The record is best listened to from the start as I just mentioned, to cotton on to its concept, and refer to that Bandcamp page for it's narrative thread: 'An Orphic Tale,  Orville's Discotheque and its multitude of characters - Orville (loosely Orpheus, Eugenie, (loosely Eurydice), Hermes, Hades and Persephone, - takes inspiration from Greek Mythology, but is also very much a story unto itself. Set in a world slightly left of reality, the record tells the story of a flawed disco-enthused anti-hero and his romantic travails. Possibly taking place in the 70's. the 80s, present day or maybe far into the future, Sad disco, dark disco, devilish dico, whatever he chooses to call it.  Orville's Discotheque is a quirky underworld, or dancefloor, for you to step on the dancefloor and slide through.'

Jeremy is there on the cover, resplendent in his Disco gear. Like some dancefloor Lothario, dancefloor Jesus. It looks great on the wall of my local record shop. This is the kind of record we need in 2023. One that allows us to dream. He is the kind of Pop Star we need. One who dares to. Come back to Newcastle Jeremy. So we can have another chat. Your imagination and bravery are something else. All power to that imagination, that bravery. And those elbows. 

Song(s) of the Day # 3,512 Eartheater


        'I don't wanna be like everyone else. That's why I'm a Mod see...' Jimmy, Quadrophenia

There's a certain uniformity of expression in terms of much music coming out on 2023. Certain strands are emerging and replicating themselves to a slightly diquietening degree. There are angry Post Punk bands. There are waif like young female singer songwriters. There is the Trans / AI discourse. The future happening now.

I find a lot of the records in each of these strands really exciting. But I find the replication of theme and sound slightly disturbing, and dare I say it, dull. Couldn't people say different things occasionally? 

A record that I've been listening to in the third of thes strands,  Powders by Eartheater is a case in point. It's a weird androgynous otherworldly record. Not unlike the soundtrack of a new Avatar movie.

Eartheater is a Queens based artist and the music is different to categorise even if the sentiments espoused on latest album Powder are very recognisable and even commonplace' 'Mutated dance music, unadorned folk balladry, trip hop and torch song pop songcraft' are descriptions from an otherwise somewhat fanciful and convoluted Spotify bio which might help.

It's an interesting record anyhow with an artist pictured coming across as an android Ursula Andress ascending from the waves in Doctor No. One to watch.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 423 Anita Baker - Rapture


Albums of the Year # 92 Will Sprott - Natural Internet


Will Sprott,is a 'Song and Dance Man' apparently. He plays with Shannon & the Clams and Shana Cleveland and now he's here to entertain you on his own terms with his own record, the altogether lovely Natural Internet.

It's a record full of laidback wonder. Will Sprott and his lilting, slightly C&W drawl and acoustic guitar. His swirling fantastic world spinning around him as the record opens like a flower with nonchalant wonder.

Not a million miles away from the sensibilities of Allah Las Pedro Siadatian, Wes Anderson, Jonathan Richman and Juno and Paulie Bleeker. Courtney Barnett's Milk! label. Homespun DIY warmth. It pushes no envelopes but then we hardly need to push envelopes on a daily basis. Where would be the fun in that.

It's all modest indie workmanship. Craftsmanship nonetheless. On Strange Lines the harpsichord solo from In My Life is beautifully replicated. There are countless, similar tricks elsewhere. Sprott has a wonderful sense of scale and humility and its a record where everything works. l'lI certainly make room for this on the countdown of records of the year.

Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 159 Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral


Song(s) of the Day # 3,511 Al Menne

Al Menne, (he/ they) formerly of Seattle based Great Grandpa has just released debut solo record Freak Accident. Like so many albums in these fragile yet turbulent times, it's a statement of quier self assertion.

Conventionally framed with jingling guitars and padding drums, its a gentle record which spotlights a quicksilver lead vocal and tender Indie rhythms that seem very much of these times..

As a half hour it makes no attemp to reinvent wheels. It's content to stay within its space rather than invade others. It's there if you want it. Meanwhile, I put on a Belle & Sebastian record, because the moment and mood seemed to warrant it.


Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Will Sergeant - Echoes # 14 Tomorrow


 Back of Love is awaiting release. Bill Drummond sets up and odd tour on the Northern most peak of the Scottish highlands. Will returns to Liverpool to find a young Courtney Love has move there in pursuit of Julian Cope.The book comes to a close.

Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 422 Robert Cray - Strong Persuader


Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 160 The War on Drugs - Lost In The Dream


Albums of the Year # 93 Do Nothing - Snake Sideways

 Going to see this lot tonight...

In terms of young, vibrant engaged bands the UK seems to have been sold somewhat short in recent years. Unfortunately for me there's been a general lack of ambition, a uniformity, almost careerism, a sticking to a given script which pales by comparison with what's happening, in Australia certainly, but also in some parts of the States, and elsewhere in Europe in terms of quickening the pulse.

There seem to be a default fallback position from the much heralded raft of so called Post Punk bands centered around the Brixton, Windmill scene. The likes of IDLES, Black Midi, Dry Cleaning, Black New Roads et al. Not new roads at all. Old ones. Back to The Fall, Gang of Four, Joy Division, Nick Cave and Free Jazz without the thrill of the new that made all of those things very, very good things first time round.

There was much more to the original Post Punk than this. Just look at the cornucopia of bands and new musics celebrated and itemised in Simon Reynolds history of that original scene; Rip it Up & Start Again. This was an open ended scene. Multiform - defying categories and restraint.

Nottingham fourpiece Do Nothing have an experimental spirit and brio on long awaited debut Snake Sideways that's unusual these daysThey don't really remind me of the usual suspects listed above but seem intent on charting their own co-ordinates which is incredibly heartening.

Snake Sideways is a record that I've listened to a couple of times now and it didn't remind me of anyone really though it acts out its dramas in the recognisable theatre of the arty leftfield alternative rock moves, Vocalist Chris Bailey has something of the projection of the young Kevin Rowland about him and I thought about Eighties cbscurities Furniture, though I don't know Furniture too well.

Anyhow it instinctively avoids the obvious and that in itself is laudable. Do Nothing are coming to my neck of the woods in the autumn and this fascinating and intrepid record inspires me wander down when they do.

Song(s) of the Day # 3,510 Lydia Loveless


Lydia Loveless' latest album Nothing's Gonna Stand In My Way Again is old school New Wave C&W, Rachel Sweet and Exene Cervenka meet Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn at the crossroads heading out of town.

What you have here is a thirty minute blind date with Thelma out of Thelma and Louise. Half an hour with one of those tough as tough dames from Texas or Arkansaw who doesn't bend with the breeze and is getting where they want to, regardless of what stands in their way.

These are certainly New Wave AOR Radio guitars. You've heard this many times before but don't pretend for a moment you don't like it. Loveless has a lovely yearning vioce and it sounds like she's mopped up the last of her tears just before stepping onstage and the only way on offer is her way..

Monday, September 25, 2023



Songs About People # 1,371 Ali MacGraw


Teenage Fanclub - Nothing Lasts Forever


Sometimes when you start liking things you continue liking them. This goes for many things in life. For people. For places. For seasons. For times of day. Even god forbid for some kinds of work.

I loved Teenage Fanclub straight away. Their name. Their look. The name of their record label. The way that their sound quickly transitioned from something slightly discordant to something classic and immediately recognisable, where Everthing Flowed.

I like them now when they're thirty years and more from where they started. In some ways they haven't moved very far really. Perhaps from a club for flaming groovies in Glasgow to a camping holiday for spouses and kids in the Scottish Highlands.

Nothing Lasts Forever is their thirteenth album depending on how you count them. They've already had an album called Thirteen oddly. A title inspired by an in-joke from the band early on. Given that they'd been labelled as crass Big Star plagiarists early on. Thirteen of couse is the name of a great Big Star song.

Big Star were undoubtedly cornerstones of their early sound. As were other 'B's' Byrds, Beatles, Beach Boys, Badfinger. They loved the classically crafted, easy melodies, obvious rhymes. Harmonies. Harmony.

Nothing much has changed on Nothing Lasts Forever though key and core band member Gerard Love has left. Love generally wrote my favourite Fanclub songs but strangely his departure has not proved a great loss.

Because as Love has left. Raymond McGinley has grown. McGinley I always thought, was the weakest of the three core Fanclub songwriters but he has matured with time into the equal of either Love or Norman Blake, who early on rather dominated the band visually and sonically but has been happy over the years to stand back and allow the band as an ensemble to really come into their own.

This is probably my favourite record of September this year as it reaches its end and my birthday beckons on its final day, as of course it always does. It's an Autumnal record as many of Teenage Fanclub records are. A time to hunker down and prepare yourself for the oncoming nights. The darkness. It ends wonderfully with one of their greatest songs. The seven minute love song I Will Love You, an instant classic which might bring a tear to the greatest cynic's eye. All these years down the line Teenage Fanclub remarkably, endure. They're not done yet.

Will Sergeant - Echoes # 13 Sex Pistols


Holidays in the Sun indeed. Italy, where a riot nearly ensues. Then back in the studio to record a new single. The Back of Love which will take them into the charts and onto Top of the Pops.

Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 421 Shaun Davy & Rita Connolly - Granuaile


Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 161 Nirvana - MTV Unplugged


Albums of the Year # 94 Levyosn - Levyosn's Lullaby


I graduated in 1990, and running away from fear of a job in an office, motored off to Czechoslovakia with my brother and sister in law in Autumn 1990. We drove through fairytale Prague and grim Bratislava, and successively grimmer Slovakian fields, towns and villages, to a couple of teaching jobs in a town in Southern Czechoslovakia, namely Komarno, a bordertown on the Danube, between Slovakia and Hungary.

I was made very welcome there by my teaching colleagues and students but it was a strange year of personal experience. The Berlin Wall had fallen and the Soviet soldiers departed, having sold their guns to the local gypsies, leaving a momentary political void. The Gypsies seem to have rushed to fill the economic vacuum that existed there too. I had my name spray painted on a wall. There wasn't much to do there.

Nobody would come to the Gypsy bars with me after work. The best entertainment, and food that Komarno seemed to offer was at The Europa Hotel, in the heart of town, near to the bridge over the Danube to Hungary. I'd go to the hotel for my cigarettes, sold in the kiosk in the front foyer by a middle aged woman with blue hair and a mouth full of gold fillings. The gypsies hung around everywhere in the hotel, opening wallets crammed with banknotes whenever they got the opportunity. 

The meals served in the Europa's restaurant were pretty damned good. Chicken stews, schnitzel and goulash. A glass of red wine. There was always an excellent Gypsy band playing there and the violinist would prowl the carpet floor to lean over your table  and play solos for you. Thirty years and more on, it remains a vivid memory.

Listening to the Levyosn album Levyosn's Lullaby yesterday morning shook these memories loose. It's a fabulous evocation of Eastern European history and memory. The record is actually a product of Boston's Yiddish music scene. But the thoughts of appalling historical experience listening to it are inevitable. It's a wonderful if rather painful spin. I must go back to Komarno . The Europa Hotel, looking at it now on Google has been seriously upgraded and is barely recognisable from what it once was. I imagine that goes for the whole town.

Song(s) of the Day # 3,509 Human Colonies


The ongoing tale of Shoegazing's milleninial rennaissance continues, Like a little seen comet's never-endingtale. On Saturday I reviewed Plenamente's latest. An incredible eulogy to My Bloody Valentine's lasting testimony.

This led to Darren Jones' bringing Italian band Human Colinies',remarkable new record Kintsukuroi to my attention. It's a better record. Not so deeply in thrall to one vision, more evidence of the lasting indelible influence of that set of bands. The scene that famously celebrated itself.

 It's a rush of mangled sound. Not one you'll be singing along to, as in the best traditions of this immediately recognisable sound, you won't be able to discern a single word. The record goes past in a blur. A gloriously multicoloured one.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Will Sergeant - Echoes # 12 Echo & the Bunnymen

The relentless touring continues..

Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 420 Jesus & Mary Chain - Psychocandy


Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 162 Rolling Stones - Beggars Banquet


Albums of the Year # 95 bdrmm - I Don't Know


bdrmm, out of Hull, the room where you sleep, without any vowels, are back. New album I Don't Know, following 2020's eponymous effort, (though that had vowels in its title), twists Shoegaze and slightly gloomy New Wave into fresh, dark, but poppy shapes.

So Cure meets Slowdive and Reading somewhere in Humberside. This stuff, born in the Home Counties at the end of the Seventies and Eighties, relocates almost seamlessly to one of the most cut off parts of England and the 2020s. It's forty minutes of kohl eyed ennui. Just like they used to make them.

Sitting on a park bench with your sad mate, a well thumbed Penguin classic in your coat pocket smoking roll ups from a tin, discussing the essential meaningless of existence. bdrmm know the lines of their script well and stick to them. Someone, somewhere is turning sixteen any time now and will embrace their gloomy theatrics with a clammy hug

Song(s) of the Day # 3,508 Will Butler


Arcade Fire are in disarray now. Their overweening hubris and insatiable ambition eventually tearing them apart. Will Butler, the younger brother of the ludicrously named Win saw the oncoming iceberg and abandoned ship a while back/ Now he's returning to the Pop fray with Sister Squares and an eponymous album.

It's full of that early Eighties Pop Gloss that Arcade Fire favoured throughout ther career with slightlt variable results. Will was born in 1982 but this sounds as if it was in the charts then.

I was coming of age in that year. I didn't really go for it to a hyge degree then, much preferring Echo & the Bunnymen's bristling guitars to Blue Zoo or the slimmed down Thompson Twins linn drum artificiality.This is an exercise in nostalgia essentially for something that wasn't real in the first plce in much the same way as Stranger Things is. It's not really my party. It will be for some.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

What I Did on Wednesday - Canterbury Rock


I've just been down to stay with my parents as I always do between teaching terms. They live in Canterbury while I'm in Newcastle and as I've taken to travelling down and back by coach in recent times, those stays are bookended by a considerable journey across the best part of England which takes twelve hours door to door.

My mum and dad are both of considerable vintage now. Mum is 88 and Dad turned 89 while I was down in the last fortnight. They've lived incredible lives which set off on the thirties and the wartime years. They met in Oxford somehow, in the mid fifties. My dad went to university there and I think my mum was doing some christianity related work there. Perhaps it was actually in Edinburgh where she was at university. Maybe he made his way there. I'll have to check. They fell in love, largely because they made each other laugh. They still do, although my father has used up his five jokes now and won't be learning any more.Five jokes is generally enough for most dads.

They married in 1957 and took a liner to South Africa with suitcases packed with virtually all their worldly possessions. To explore new territories, end the Apartheid mindset that occupied white minds and start a family. They succeeded in the latter if not the former design, having five children in South Africa and Rhodesia over the next 15 years before returning to England in 1972 as civil war between blacks and whites bubbled to boiling point in Rhodesia and it eventually became Zimbabwe.

We lived in Nottingham, then West London, before  mum and dad retired to Canterbury in 1996. I've spent a lot of time with them since, never having married myself. I worked abroad for many years before returning to England in 2008 and settling in Newcastle now which I think of as my permanent home.

I love being with them. Despite the issues which advancing age naturally brings with it, they still clearly love each other very much and make the most of their days together. This last fortnight was a particularly pleasant and memorable experience for me; helping them with houshehold chores and shopping and joining them in the living room for their evening televisual feasts as well as catching up with friends and spending my days walking around Canterbury and visiting shops and public houses. It's a great city for that.

As this blog attests, I'm never happier than in a record shop. I have a couple of regular haunts where I always make my way in town. Vinylstore Jr. at the end of Castle Street, which has been around for about 10 years now, where Nick the affable propietor is always happy to pause and chat at length. This time I didn't buy vinyl, but did purchase several boxes of Robert Forster's excellent muesli Spring Grain. Nick invested in several and deserves to have his entepeneurial purpose recognised. He's doing this so we can enjoy it rather than just for monetary gain.

The other shop I frequent is Sound Records in the high street. The owners are record store's odd couple. My mate Paul who can best be described as taciturn. Downcast but deeply funny. Like me a hat wearer , but unlike me, I suspect someone whose glass may be half empty. Lovely bloke anyway. The other guy's a professional Mancunian who tends to call me 'bro' much to my discomfort and regale all and sundry with non-stop tales of how well he knows Paul Oakenfold and the like.

On Wednesday I ventured further afield than I generally do. I didn't have any shopping to do for mum and was free to wander where I chose. So I decided to walk to Canterbury Rock which is some way from West Gate Tower, tellingly on the Whitstable Road, past the station.

I'd only been here once before. A few years back when I'd coveted a copy of Jilted John the album which I found there, and not bought. A word to record collectors. If you see something you want, buy it. You'll only regret it otherwise. I imagine you know this anyhow.

I'm immediately pleased I've decided to come here. The shopkeeper Jim is getting on and has an unkempt beard and very unkempt hair. Of indefinite age. I'd say he's in his 70s. I say hello and give a brief background story. How I've been in Canterbury and not been here as much as I should down the years. I know of the shop's reputation. How long have you been here.

He immediately turns suspicious. Why do you want to know? His brow furrows. Fair enough. What is it to me. I smile and say fair enough, turn to browse. I immediately fall for the place. I've been before but it had felt a bit messy and unloved the previous time. Now its shelves are orderly.

And I'm immediately sold. There are lots of records I could buy immediately. A Melanie album I haven't seen before. Several others by different folk. A cared for soul section with Four Tops and Jr Walker albums that take my fancy.

I realise my cuteness but I'm a certain breed. It's important which records you choose to buy on these occasions. Not that I'm trying to impress Jim but the conversation you have when you buy a record in places like these is important. Buying records for me is an act of downpayment in memory as much as a purchase of songs and sounds.

We have a great chat. He realised he was a bit snappy earlier. I say it's no problem. He had every right. Anyway he's recognised me as a kindred soul by now as if I've passed some initiation test. I'm a fellow traveller. Not a tourist. I asked about the wonderful knick knacks which decorate the wall and shelves behind him. Fabulous original Beatles merchandise, a Hendrix coathanger with Jimi's face and chest on cardboard. I wish I remember more. They're not for sale he tells me. Any more than he is, the unspoken implication.

For the record I bought a Duke Ellington album And one by Buffie Saint Marie which Ry Cooder and Neil Young play on and Jack Nitzsche produced. Buffy and Nitzsche actually got married a few years down the line.

 I'm back in Newcastle now and have played  both my purchases and they were both good buys, For the experience as much as the objects I bought to remind me of it. I'll be back to buy another memory next time I'm down staying with my parents again..