Saturday 31 December 2016

Red Gold & Green #13 - Prince Buster

And so finally, finally, this turbulent year draws to a close. A year in which so many thousands of innocent people around the world lost their lives in horrific circumstances, the balance of political power shifted to a terrifying degree and where the grim reaper's scythe laid waste to unprecedented swathes of the entertainment industry. As a rule, I like to draw a line beneath what's gone before and stride forward into the new year with a renewed spirit of optimism, though this time around, like many of us I suspect, I'm struggling to muster any positive feelings at all for 2017. Let's hope we're all wrong.

One music industry loss that slipped by almost unnoticed this year, at least by the mainstream media, was that of the mighty Prince Buster, in September at the age of 78. His influence and legacy are virtually incalculable and certainly too far-reaching to summarise in a mere few hurried lines. So I'll stick to doing what I do best and play some music. This song seems a particularly apt one to go out on.

Happy new year everybody and thanks for stopping by over the past 12 months.

Prince Buster - Enjoy Yourself, It's Later Than You Think

Wednesday 28 December 2016

Albums Of The Year 2016 - Part 2, 1-10

So to my favourite 10 albums of 2016. In truth, some of the positions on this list (and on Part 1 here) could be interchangeable, depending on my mood - the Top 5, however, is set in stone.

10) Julia Jacklin - Don't Let the Kids Win

 An extremely strong and assured debut from this Australian singer/songwriter. Highly recommended.


9) Heron Oblivion - Heron Oblivion

The pastoral folk of Meg Baird from Espers, meets the crunching electric wig-out of Ethan Miller and Noel Von Harmonson from Comets on Fire. Like Sandy Denny jamming with a full throttle Crazy Horse.

8) Hintermass - The Apple Tree

Jon Brooks (from The Advisory Circle and Pattern Forms) and Tim Felton (from the much missed Broadcast) concoct an album that combines big dollops of pastoral loveliness with occasional splodges of gentle blippy weirdness.

7) Nick Cave - Skeleton Tree

Stark, beautiful, devastating.


6) David Bowie - Blackstar 

If I'm lucky enough to still be around in 20 years time and am questioned, by an as yet unborn whippersnapper, about the defining music of 2016, I'll simply whizz over to my hologramic record collection on my trusty hoverscooter and play them 'Blackstar'. And even in 2036, I've no doubt I'll still break down in tears when 'I Can't Give Everything Away' kicks in.


5) Community Radio - Look Now You're Cursed 

The third of four Australian acts in my Top 10. Hats off to Brian for introducing me to these guys. 'Look Now You're Cursed' is chock full of superior guitar pop. I'm running out of superlatives - listen to it and buy it here!


4) 75 Dollar Bill - Wood/Metal/Plastic/Rhythm/Rock 

Much like the Our Solar System album mentioned in Part 1, I can get lost in this one for hours. Swipe me, it's fantastic! Essentially a duo, 75 Dollar Bill move freely between Malian desert blues, Indian drones, Mississippi delta stomps plus all points in-between and either side. I'm delighted to see 'Wood/Metal/Plastic/Rhythm/Rock' turning up on so many end of year best-of lists - all thoroughly deserved accolades. (Sample the whole LP here)

3) Chook Race - Around the House 

I've been banging on about 'Around the House' for the last few months to anyone who'll listen. Even if no-one's listening, I still bang on about it. Check out this poptastic lo-fi jangle-fest for yourself (here) and you'll fall in love with it too. (Please come and tour the UK guys.)

(.........and there's nothing between the top two, so..... )

=1) Alasdair Roberts & James Green - Plaint of Lapwing 

Alasdair Roberts' work may be rooted in the folk tradition, but actually extends far beyond mere genre limitations. 'Plaint of Lapwing' is a collaboration with James Green of The Big Eyes Family Players and is released on Clay Pipe Music, a London based label run by illustrator Frances Castle. This album sits easily among Alasdair's finest, the warm analogue feel of the record belying the file-sharing nature of its creation. Never one to stand still, in 2016 Alasdair also contributed to 'Wild Hog', the lovely second album by The Furrow Collective and already has a new solo collection, 'Pangs', prepared for release at the end of February 2017.

=1) David Thomas Broughton - Crippling Lack 

When you fall under David Thomas Broughton's unique spell (as I did in 2005 with 'The Complete Guide To Insufficiency'), you're in it for the long haul. Broughton is part superb singer-songwriter, part avant-garde performance artist - his sonorous baritone, guitar and various electronic gizmos are looped, dissected and reassembled to inject sometimes spontaneous elements to each individual performance. 'Crippling Lack' is a huge undertaking for both artist and listener. Three slabs of vinyl weighing in at a hefty 100 minutes - featuring guest turns from the likes of Beth Orton, Rachael Dadd and Aidan Moffat - though crucially, not a single second is wasted. A towering work. (Check out the full album here.)


Saturday 24 December 2016

Red Gold & Green #12 - Christmas Special

Here's trio of seasonal tunes to set you up for the festivities. Have a happy, peaceful Christmas, however you choose to spend it.

Frank Cosmo - Merry Christmas (1963) 

The Kingstonians - Merry Christmas (1967) 

Jacob Miller & Ray I - Deck the Halls (1978)

(While Frank Cosmo was doing his thing, here's a reminder of how I spent Christmas in 1963)

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Albums Of The Year 2016 - Part 1, 11-20

In 2016, for the first time that I can remember, I reckon I listened to more old records than new. If you knew me, you'd know what a tough thing that is for me to admit. Is it my age or a reflection of the terrible year we've endured? I don't know. What I do know is that, judging by a few of the other year-end round-ups that I've been keeping an eye on, I've missed out on some good stuff. Rest assured though, they're all on my never-ending list - I'll get to them, eventually.

So anyway, here's the first part of my album rundown - I'll put the Top 10 up between Christmas and New Year.

20) King Creosote - Astronaut Meet Appleman

One of three albums issued by KC in 2016 (I featured a wonderful song from another of them here). Whatever the quantity, the quality never drops.


19) Teleman - Brilliant Sanity 

An album that revealed its charms to me gradually. I was unsure about 'Brilliant Sanity' on release. How wrong I was.


18) Ette - Homemade Lemonade 

A fine pop record that, for me, just pipped 'Say It All With a Kiss', by Carla's other band TeenCanteen, also released this year. I'd be very happy to see either or both bands undertake proper UK tours in 2017.

17) Marisa Anderson - Into the Light 

A solo album in the truest sense, with every instrument played by Anderson who describes the LP as ' imaginary soundtrack to a science-fiction western'.

16) Meilyr Jones - 2013 

A rumination on a tumultuous year that saw the end of his band, Race Horses, and his personal relationship. Baroque flourishes jostle with big pop songs - and pop songs don't come much bigger than one I featured in an earlier post (here). Here's another one.


15) Leonard Cohen - You Want it Darker? 

One of two incredibly dignified musical exits this year, though of course the other was a great deal more shocking to us all. 'You Want it Darker?' is almost unbearably poignant, showing an artist at the peak of his powers until the very end.


14) Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression  

The surprise of 2016. 20 years after the last Iggy record of any substance, this terrific LP came out of nowhere. A full artistic rebirth or a full stop? Time will tell.


 13) Kikagaku Moyo - House in the Tall Grass 

A comparatively recent arrival, discovered via a comment on a post over at Is This the Life and rarely far from my reach since then.
12) Ryley Walker - Golden Sings That Have Been Sung 

I found myself a little underwhelmed with this album to begin with, though something kept pulling me back to it again and again - seeing Ryley transform the songs in a live setting no doubt helped me appreciate the bigger picture. Remember the days when we gave every new LP in our collection this much time and how richly we were rewarded for our efforts?


 11) Our Solar System - In Time 

Brooklyn's marvellously named Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records have put out some extraordinary records this year, though none has been played to death by yours truly quite so much as 'In Time' by Stockholm's Our Solar System. Consisting of two long pieces, we're talking 'interstellar jazz-rock' here if you believe the blurb, though that description doesn't begin to do the music that this band makes any justice at all. It's the sort of album that could see you overshoot your destination should you choose to play it in the car - I know, I've done it.

Friday 16 December 2016

The Tracks of My Year 2016

Over the past few weeks, a succession of time and brain-space constraints did their utmost to put the kibosh on my attempts to pull together a 2016 end of year round-up. As a consequence, the LP re-evaluation process was a lot less thorough than I would've liked and some worthwhile stuff will have no doubt slipped through the cracks. Before moving on to my albums of the year though, I'll kick off with ten individual tunes (11 actually) that I've returned to time and again in 2016 - these are either stand alones or (spoiler alert) taken from albums that finished just outside of my Top 20 of the year. In reverse order, natch.

10) Slow Club - In Waves

 A well thought of band that I've never really got to grips with until now. 'One Day All of This Won't Matter Anymore' is a very good LP and 'In Waves' is irresistible.


9) Ultimate Painting - Bills 

 Low key, yet insistant lead track from the band's third LP, 'Dusk'.

8) William Tyler - Highway Anxiety 

The lead track from his third solo album, Tyler has also played with Silver Jews and Lambchop. A marvellous tune that stretches out like a wide open, erm, highway. If it isn't picked up for a major motion picture one of these days, then someone is seriously missing a trick.


7) Vanishing Twin - The Conservation of Energy 

Formed in 2015 by members of Fanfarlo, Neon Neon, Broadcast and Floating Points, Vanishing Twin make a warm and inviting pop noise, tweaked with a gentle hint of esoteric psychedelia. Their videos are very cool too.


6) Meatraffle - One Track Mind 

It's been a year of consolidation for Meatraffle following 2015's fantastic 'HiFi Classics' LP. In 2016 they put out just two tunes (that I'm aware of), 'The Bird Song', a limited edition Speedy Wunderground 7" and 'One Track Mind', which appeared on a various artist Trashmouth Records EP for record store day. One of my favourite bands out there right now.

5) The Blackeyed Susans - The Good Life Never Ends

'The Good Life Never Ends' was written by the late great David McComb of The Triffids for his final band Costar, though his recording has never received an official release. The song clearly means a lot to The Blackeyed Susans, as they previously recorded an intense live reading of it in 2008, for a David McComb tribute album.

4) Teenage Fanclub - I'm in Love

The album is good, but 'I'm in Love' is a song right up there with their very best.


3) Sleaford Mods - TCR

Along with Meatraffle, Sleaford Mods are my favourite British band of recent years. As serious as your life and funny as hell.


 2) Palms on Fire - Sword and Shield

A cracking tune, recommended to me by more than one of my blogging chums. An absolute standout from 'Where Are The Grey Clouds Going?', released back at the start of 2016. Pop perfection.

1) Girl Ray - Trouble

Very possibly the best pop song about 'apathy and hating yourself'.....ever! If the bassline doesn't move you, you seriously need to get your ears syringed. I'm expecting big things from this lot in 2017.


My most played track of 2016 was actually a reissue, so not technically eligible for this rundown. I've enjoyed the song so much this year though, that my review wouldn't be complete without it. My sincere thanks go out to blogging chum Brian for introducing me to this absolute nugget.

Hipflasks - A Lovely Scar

(The Hipflasks album is available to order here)

Monday 12 December 2016

Above and Beyond

On this day 36 years ago, I was laid low with a nasty case of the mumps - eating, drinking and even breathing with considerable difficulty. In the evening, my best mate unexpectedly knocked at my parents' front door and we stood for a moment, one of us at each end of the hall, about 10 feet apart. I was in no condition to hold a conversation, so few words were exchanged and I was puzzled as to why he'd chosen to put his health on the line to visit me when he could've just picked up the phone to find out how I was. He reached into his backpack, pulled out a record in a carrier bag, crouched down and slid it along the floor, the length of the hall. 'I thought you'd want this, however rough you're feeling', he said. I picked it up and took the record from the bag. It was 'Sandinista' by The Clash, which had been released that very day. A brief nod of gratitude was all I could muster in my fevered state. He turned, opened the front door and was gone.

The Clash & Mikey Dread - If Music Could Talk / Living in Fame

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Version City #56 - Damien Jurado & Richard Swift sing Relatively Clean Rivers

Initially only briefly available as a download back in 2010, Damien Jurado & Richard Swift's informal album of covers, 'Other People's Songs, Vol. 1', has this week received a belated official release via Secretly Canadian. On the record, Jurado & Swift re-imagine an eclectic mix of tunes from the likes of Kraftwerk, Yes, Chubby Checker, John Denver and the cast of Oh Calcutta! Here's their lovely reading of 'Hello Sunshine', originally released in 1976 on the self-titled LP by Relatively Clean Rivers. The Relatively Clean Rivers album has itself had the full reissue treatment in recent years, bringing down the price accordingly, though if you prefer your vinyl to be of the vintage persuasion you should head over to Discogs sharpish, where a mint original awaits you for a mere £1763. Can anybody lend me a fiver?

Damien Jurado & Richard Swift - Hello Sunshine 

Relatively Clean Rivers - Hello Sunshine 

Saturday 3 December 2016

Nev Cottee

In September I tentatively started re-listening to my 2016 purchases in preparation for the inevitable end of year retrospective bonanza, but for one reason or another, I didn't get very far. Now, with only a few weeks to go, I find myself woefully unprepared. It's time to buckle down, but a relatively recent discovery, released in 2015, is completely hogging my head-space at the moment. Step forward Manchester's own Nev Cottee and his 2nd LP 'Strange News From the Sun'. Think Lee Hazlewood. Think Alan Tyler. Think Richard Hawley. In fact don't. Just listen to the sheer quality of 'If I Could Tell You', then check out the whole album here. It's seriously good stuff.

Thursday 1 December 2016

Red Gold & Green #11 - Gregory Isaacs

Gregory Isaacs, the Cool Ruler, reached the peak of his popular success with the 1982 LP 'Night Nurse' and the following year's 'Out Deh!', both on Island Records. He released dozens more albums before his premature death in 2010, but never hit the same creative heights again. Retrace Gregory's career before 'Night Nurse' however and virtually anything he touched is worthy of investigation. Take 'Ba Da' for instance. Recorded in 1974 and produced by Winston Holness (aka Niney the Observer) - it's crucial stuff.

Gregory Isaacs - Ba Da

Monday 28 November 2016

Revolt Into Style

Be-Bop Deluxe's 1978 LP 'Drastic Plastic' was Bill Nelson's attempt to embrace the UK's burgeoning New Wave scene, but the group's fanbase appeared less than impressed. As a result of this relative failure, Nelson disbanded Be-Bop Deluxe, retaining just keyboard player Andy Clark for his next venture. In the event, Bill Nelson's Red Noise released just one LP, 1979's 'Sound-On-Sound', after which Nelson commenced a prolific solo career that continues to this day. 'Sound-On-Sound' contains some great moments though, not least the band's second and final single 'Revolt Into Style'.

Bill Nelson's Red Noise - Revolt Into Style

Saturday 26 November 2016

Steve Wynn

Charity Chic's weekly 'Dylan Covered' series pitches an original Bob Dylan recording in direct competition with another artist's version of the same song, leaving the reader to cast a vote for one performance or the other. Most of the time (see what I did there Bob aficionados?) this doesn't pose a problem for me. I've spent more hours of my life listening to and thinking about Bob Dylan than is probably healthy for a man of my age, so Bob will usually get the nod. He's far from infallible though and I'm happy give credit to a good interpretation where it's due. But Charity Chic has twisted the decision making knife a little further on a couple of occasions, by pitching Bob directly against another of my favourite artists. Already in the series I've had to mull over Dylan vs Robyn Hitchcock (see here for the result of that encounter) and this week, Dream Syndicate's fabulous reading of 'Blind Willie McTell' is up for the popular vote against Bob's sublime original (here). I've been a fan of The Dream Syndicate since 'The Days of Wine and Roses' in 1982, which seems an awfully long time ago now that I come to think about it. The band split in 1989 and I've continued to follow Steve Wynn's busy career as a solo artist in the years since. I'm slightly horrified to note the paucity of Steve's music in my back pages, so by way of recompense, here's the title track from his 1999 LP, a personal favourite and a song which was the highlight of a concert I caught around the turn of the century.

Steve Wynn - My Midnight

Friday 25 November 2016

Nine Years Gone

When I was a very young child, I lived in constant fear that after my parents had come in to my bedroom to say their goodnights, they would leave the house, never to be seen again. Dad was always the last to try and settle me. Very early on, I was unhappy with the actual word 'goodnight'. To my young brain, it sounded too much like 'goodbye' - too final. If he accidentally uttered 'goodnight' while tucking me in, tears of panic would ensue and it would take some time to calm me down. Eventually, after much trial and error, he found some words that I was okay with. 'Nighty night for now', he'd say cheerily, as he switched out my light. My infant logic determined that Dad's calming phrase contained a firm promise that the night was only temporary and everything would be as it should be come the morning. I slept easy.

Nighty night for now Dad.

Thursday 24 November 2016

The Good Life Never Ends

Well wouldn't ya know it. Just a few weeks after I bemoaned the lack of any recent music by The Blackeyed Susans (in this post), along comes a brand new EP - hopefully the precursor to a full length album in 2017. 'Lover or the Loved' is scheduled for release on December 2nd, though one of the EP's four songs is already available to enjoy - and what a stunner it is. 'The Good Life Never Ends' was written by the late great David McComb of The Triffids for his final band Costar, though his recording has never received an official release. 'The Good Life Never Ends' clearly means a lot to The Blackeyed Susans, as they've previously recorded an intense live reading of it in 2008, for a David McComb tribute album. Here are all three versions.

The new Blackeyed Susans EP 'Lover or the Loved' is available to pre-order here

David McComb & Costar - The Good Life Never Ends (Demo)

The Blackeyed Susans - The Good Life Never Ends (Live 2008)

Friday 18 November 2016

Girl Ray

Mrs S & I returned from our London odyssey a couple of days ago (she exhibiting her ceramics on the King's Road, me odd-jobbing for my elderly Aunt in East Ham) to a world without Leonard Cohen, Robert Vaughan, Leon Russell & Mose Allison and where Donald Trump will soon be the most powerful man on the planet. Donald Trump. I'm still reeling. Since we got home, I've been doing my best to catch-up with as many blogs as possible. It'll take a while, it's been quite a week. Swiss Adam has the right idea - fight the darkness with 'up' tunes - melodies to make you whistle and hum. In that spirit, I humbly submit 'Trouble', the forthcoming Moshi Moshi 7" single by North London band Girl Ray. It may be a song about 'apathy and hating yourself', but my goodness, what a great pop song it is. 'Trouble' is released in a limited edition of 300 on November 25th. Order it here, but be quick about it.

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Kikagaku Moyo

One Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks back, I spotted a comment on a post over at Is This the Life by a reader by the name of Iano1, recommending an album by a band I'd never heard of. The post in question was one of the stops on TheRobster's brilliant World Tour series. The recommendation by Iano1 was for 'House in the Tall Grass', the third LP by psych-infused Japanese band Kikagaku Moyo. I'm always intrigued when I get a recommendation on the back of something I already like, so without further ado I checked out 'House in the Tall Grass' on their Bandcamp page. Rather good it is too. Thanks Iano1.

Saturday 12 November 2016

Nine Horses

The one record I own by David Sylvian is a 2005 album entitled 'Snow Borne Sorrow', which is credited to Nine Horses, a collaboration between Sylvian, Steve Jansen and Burnt Friedman, with assistance from Arve Henriksen, Stina Nordenstam and Ryuichi Sakamoto. 'Snow Borne Sorrow' is an icily beautiful thing. I admit that I know little about Sylvian's work in general, but I can't imagine he's ever put his name to anything quite so sublime as 'The Librarian'.

Nine Horses - The Librarian

Thursday 10 November 2016

Red Gold & Green #10 - Vin Gordon

Here's one that sometimes causes a bit of confusion. The mighty 'Heavenless' has long been credited to Don Drummond Jr & The Skatalites, although in reality, the trombone on this Clement Dodd produced Studio One scorcher is the work of Vin Gordon. I only own this classic tune on CD, though I'm pleased to note that Soul Jazz Records have recently reissued it on 12". I have to say that I'm extremely tempted.

Vin Gordon - Heavenless

Monday 7 November 2016

Opposite Sex

Mrs S has been beavering away in her studio for the past couple of months, fashioning as many ceramic delights as possible for an event taking place in London in a couple of days time. We're heading off to the smoke tomorrow morning and won't be back for at least a week. I've had to up my game in the real world while she's been in full-on creative mode, which means I haven't had much time to prepare posts to cover my absence, but I now find myself with a couple of hours to spare, so I'll see what I can achieve when the pressure's on!

Here's something that dropped into my in-box over the weekend. The band is called Opposite Sex and they hail from New Zealand. The phrase 'New Dunedin Sound' has been bandied about in relation to Opposite Sex, though they possibly wouldn't thank me for repeating it. They've described what they do as 'an absurdist-logico mix of Euro pop, Beat poetry, and subterranean lo-fi adventuring'. Their second album, 'Hamlet', gained a limited self-distributed release last year, but has recently become more widely available. From it, this is 'Oh Ivy'. If you're intrigued by what you hear, check out the whole album. See you in a week or so.

Saturday 5 November 2016

Version City #55 - Visqueen sing Jacky

I first heard Visqueen's spooky interpretation of the popular 1968 TV theme 'White Horses' on an episode of Andrew Weatherall's 'Music's Not For Everyone' radio show back in the summer. This oddly disturbing reading of a seemingly innocent little song has just been released on a compilation, 'Easy Listening Vol.1', through Must Die Records. The tunes on 'Easy Listening Vol.1' emanate from the Tse Tse Fly multimedia art cooperative in Dubai and range from the mildly haunting to the frankly terrifying. None are what I'd necessarily think of as easy listening. If the sound of 'White Horses' whets your appetite, you can check out the whole album here - if you dare.

Wednesday 2 November 2016

The Myrrors

These days, we all have the technical capability to prepare individual playlists to suit every specific occasion - the shower, the school run, the morning commute, the gym etc etc. I must admit that I usually just stick to old fashioned, unthemed compilations, though were I pressed to put together a playlist to accompany me as I stood on the central reservation of the M25 during rush hour, 'Entranced Earth' by The Myrrors would be the first tune on it. 'Entranced Earth' is the title track of the Tucson band's third LP, which was released earlier this year. It's relentless, claustrophobic and more than a little unsettling - and, to be perfectly honest, I'm also finding it a bit addictive.

Check out the whole album here.

Monday 31 October 2016

Bring Me The Rest of Alfredo Garcia

Alyson over at What's It All About, Alfie recently published a post about 'Flaming Star' by Elvis Presley, the title track of the first LP she ever purchased - a great song, too often overlooked. An early, lyrically darker, version of 'Flaming Star', unreleased until the 1990's, was titled 'Black Star' and was thought to have been a reference point for David Bowie's song of the same name. But I digress. Alyson's post got me thinking about the band who presumably took their name from Elvis' hit, when they formed in 1994 - The Flaming Stars. I've got the first two Flaming Stars LPs and they're great, so it's a bit of a mystery to me how I allowed them to slip off my radar around the turn of the century. To date the band have released seven studio albums plus a double compilation of John Peel sessions and, only in the last few days, returned to the stage following a period of hiatus. They've been described as being ' a fistfight between Jerry Lee Lewis and the Voidoids...', though I seem to recall recommending them to one of my own customers many years ago, as a cross between The Jesus & Mary Chain with a sense of humour and The Godfathers. Frontman Max Décharné certainly has a keen turn of phrase. See what you think.

The Flaming Stars - Bring Me The Rest of Alfredo Garcia

The Flaming Stars - The Face on the Bar Room Floor

Friday 28 October 2016

Floyd Tillman

Back in March, Frank Jive (over at the always excellent Blues All Kinds blog) posted 'Slippin' Around' by Floyd Tillman and it was quite the revelation to your humble author's ears and eyes. Firstly, the song itself is a doozie. A hit in 1949, it was subsequently covered by all manner of artists from Jerry Lee Lewis to Perry Como. In the same post Frank also linked to a slightly later filmed live performance of 'Slippin' Around' and this is where it gets really interesting. In my experience, most country music singers on TV from this period stood stock still, permagrin in place, showing no actual real emotion, while he or she sang of heartache, tragedy or disaster. Floyd though, lived every word. Check this out.


What a performer! Since Frank's post I've been tracking down as much of Floyd's work as I can find and have my eyes on a rather splendid Bear Family 6 Disc compilation, but at £100 it's a bit out of my reach (though if you're reading this Santa Claus, you know where to find me). Floyd Tillman died in 2003 at the ripe old age of 88. Here he is at a sprightly 76, with the fabulous 'I Am Music'.


Monday 24 October 2016

The Triffids at Islington Assembly Hall

In April 2010, 11 years after David McComb's tragic early death, the surviving members of The Triffids reconvened for a concert at The Barbican to salute their fallen leader. In spite of my best efforts I was unable to make it that night, but asked a friend who was going to text me his thoughts after the show. At around 11.05 that evening his three word review came through - 'Grown men wept'.

In Islington on Friday evening, The Triffids reunited once again, this time to commemorate the 30th anniversary of 'Born Sandy Devotional'. ''s the best thing we’ve ever done, there's no question about it...' said McComb of the album soon after its original release. The core line-up of the band was bolstered by the great Chris Abrahams from The Necks on keyboards, with Rob Snarski (from The Blackeyed Susans), JP Shilo, Simon Breed and Toby Martin sharing the vocal duties. This time around, in spite of my current lack of a car, I made it to the show - a full 27 years since I last saw The Triffids in concert. It was akin to a reunion with old friends. And yes, grown men wept.

(A couple of years ago, I wrote a little about my history with The Triffids here)

(Recorded a couple of nights earlier in Amsterdam)

Wednesday 19 October 2016


Our next door neighbour is everything that I'm not - young, fit and a DIY enthusiast. He's currently halfway through insulating his own roof and very kindly offered to do ours while he's at it, all we've had to do is pay for the scaffolding. It will save us an absolute fortune. Actually, it's very unlikely that we could ever have afforded to get this particular job done and we would've simply continued to put up with the draughts and leaks in our bedroom at the top of the house.

With the scaffolding in place, Mrs S & I realised that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to strip and repaint the fascia board of the gutter that runs off of the roof and along the length of the building. While our neighbour races up and down the ladder with roof tiles over his shoulder, a bag of tools in one hand and mug of coffee in the other, I ascend at a snails pace, sweating profusely, clinging on for dear life and, when I'm up there, have to fight the urge to faint. It's a three story house - the views across the marsh are spectacular, but it's a long way down. Eventually, I knuckled down to the task in hand, completing the first of three coats late on Monday afternoon (remembering not to step back and admire my work) and was rewarded with a glorious sunset for my efforts.

Holy - Rooftops

Monday 17 October 2016

Viv, Rat and Brix

On Saturday, the Norwich Sound & Vision festival put on a series of interviews with three punk and post-punk legends. First up, Viv Albertine was quizzed by musician and journalist John Robb, who teased a fascinating series of anecdotes and memories from her. She talked frankly about The Slits, her 'lost' years, the cancer that so debilitated her and her artistic rebirth via the 'Vermilion Border' LP and essential memoir, 'Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys'.

Next, Rat Scabies was interrogated by close friend Christopher Dawes. Rat discussed his Damned (and pre-Damned) career, spoke very fondly of Marc Bolan ('...he would've produced the next Damned album...') and chillingly about how close he came to drumming for his friends the Eagles of Death Metal at Le Bataclan last November, hinting at the great trauma the band continues to struggle with following the tragic events at the concert. Dawes and Scabies also talked at some length about their other shared passion, as detailed in their co-authored book 'Rat Scabies and The Holy Grail'

Brix & the Extricated

Finally, Brix Smith took to the stage for a Q & A hosted by Adam Buxton. Brix has had quite a life - one minute living in a Prestwich mid-terrace with Mark E Smith in the creative eye of the chaotic storm of The Fall, the next hobnobbing with royalty and football millionaires on the arm of Nigel Kennedy. More recently she's suffered a breakdown, which happily seems to be behind her now. As the interview drew to a close, Buxton invited questions from the audience. I stuck my hand up and asked Brix to talk a little about The Adult Net, her on/off side project during the Fall period. The Adult Net lasted for the best part of five years, though produced relatively little music, one LP and a few singles, but I loved them then and still do. Brix appeared chuffed at my question and gave a proud rundown of the various line-ups, which at different times included members of The Fall, The Smiths and Blondie. She also took this opportunity to remind everyone that releases are imminent from her new band, Brix & The Extricated. The group (featuring fellow ex-Fall stalwarts Steve and Paul Hanley) recently played a blinding session for Marc Riley - I'm looking forward to the new material already. Meanwhile, here are a couple of Adult Net corkers.

Addendum.... I should also mention that Brix's recently published memoir, 'The Rise, The Fall, And The Rise', was warmly recommended by Buxton as a 'rollocking page-turner'. It's on my list.

The Adult Net - Take Me

The Adult Net - Spin This Web

Wednesday 12 October 2016

Red Gold & Green #9 - Karl Bryan & The Afrokats

We received our house insurance policy renewal details last week and had a pleasant surprise. This week marks the end of our 5th year in (what I still think of as) our new gaff and as we're right on the edge of an ancient floodplain, the premiums have always been pretty high. I assumed it would remain forever thus, but much to our delight, this year's premium has plummeted by £300! I still had a spring in my step from our good news when I dropped the car off for its MOT on Monday. It cost a small fortune to get it through last year, but since then it's run like a dream and given us no trouble, so I was optimistic of a cheaper result this time around. The small family run garage I use often takes 48 hours to do the MOT and carry out any bits and bobs of repair or renewal required, so I was somewhat taken aback when they called me at home just 40 minutes later. The news wasn't good. Not only was the car going to fail the MOT, chassis corrosion was so severe that it would have to be scrapped completely. Ouch.

Luckily we hadn't already made any plans for our unexpectedly spare £300. For a start, there's an original 1972 Jamaican pressing of Burning Spear's  'New Civilisation' 7" available online right now, which would set us back £260 if we were so inclined! (£260!!!) The flipside of the single, by Karl Bryan & the Afrokats, is far more appropriate to our particular circumstances at the moment though. A 'Money Generator' would certainly come in handy.

Karl Bryan & The Afrokats - Money Generator

Monday 10 October 2016

Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation

A soupçon of psych, a hint of kosmische grooviness and a dollop of woozy pop. Anyone who knows me will appreciate just how far up my particular street the music of Sweden's Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation is. Their videos are far-out too. Here's a tune from their new LP 'Mirage' (out on Friday) and a couple from last years 'Horse Dance'. Listen to more here.

Friday 7 October 2016

Denomination Blues

Between 1927 and 1929 Washington Phillips recorded the mere 18 songs that comprise his entire body of work - six of those were the first and second parts of three long songs, four were unreleased at the time and two are lost altogether. 'Denomination Blues' originally stretched to over five minutes in length, so was divided into two separate recordings issued across either side of a 78rpm single in 1928 and is, amongst other things, a plea for tolerance and respect across religious divides. 'Well denominations have no right to fight, they ought to just treat each other right, that's all.' Nearly 90 years on, the more things change the more they stay the same.

I first heard 'Denomination Blues' in the late 1980's, via Andy Kershaw's Radio 1 show, though it took me a few years to track down 'I Am Born to Preach the Gospel', a compilation of Phillips' recordings, released on the Yazoo label. A more recent Yazoo collection, 'The Key To The Kingdom', is the one to go for these days.

'Denomination Blues Part 1' - Washington Phillips 

'Denomination Blues Part 2' - Washington Phillips 

The song has been covered many times over the years, most notably in 1972 by Ry Cooder on 'Into the Purple Valley'. Sister Rosetta Tharpe used significant elements of 'Denomination Blues' in the two versions of 'That's All' she cut in 1938 and 1941. Here's a fantastic live performance of it from the 1940's.

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Stewart Lee in Aldeburgh

'I'm post-laughter' says Stewart Lee. Expanding on this statement, he imagines an audience member's conversation the morning after the show. 'Did you see that Stewart Lee last night?' 'Yes I did.' 'What did you think of him?' 'Well, I didn't laugh much, but I agreed the fuck out of him.' In reality, on Saturday night in downtown Aldeburgh there was no shortage of laughter. He had the entire audience in stitches from his opening few lines, during the course of which he described the beautiful Suffolk coastal town, in typically deadpan style, as a 'white supremacist fishing village'. I laughed so hard that at one point I seriously thought I'd pulled a muscle in my chest. In the seat behind me, another man laughed equally loud and long. It was Alexi Sayle - and he knows a thing or two about stand-up comedy.

The performance was billed as a work in progress, which essentially gives Lee carte blanche to read freshly written material straight from the page when necessary, as he fine tunes his new touring show. He explained that trialling new material in the age of mobile phones and YouTube is usually a fraught process, but in Aldeburgh he was confident that being so far from civilisation, no word would ever reach the outside world. The new tour, 'Content Provider', begins in earnest in November and will continue throughout 2017 and into early 2018. On Saturday evening he talked (amongst other things) about Brexit, Game of Thrones, Bake Off and the differences between folk sex and jazz sex - some or none of these topics might make it to the finished show. I've already got my 'Content Provider' ticket booked for February, so I'll let you know.

Here's a recent Quietus interview with Stewart Lee, where he talks at length about writing, performing and being a music fan in the 21st Century. Even if you don't like his stand-up, he's a fascinating bloke and this is well worth a listen.

Sunday 2 October 2016

Lives Well Lived

My cousin's mother-in-law died back in January at the age of 83. In a full life she'd been a wife, mother, grandmother, college professor, business administrator, a long-time women’s rights activist and co-author of three books. She was also a force of nature. In her last 16 years alone she underwent 13 major surgeries for cancer of the lungs, neck and brain, eventually having one lung and part of the other removed altogether. Throughout this period of unimaginable suffering she remained positive, gregarious and very active.

Her husband, my cousin's father-in-law, passed away last week at the age of 94 after a long degenerative illness. In a life no less remarkable than that of his wife, he was decorated by his country with both the Flying Cross and a Purple Heart after being shot down twice in World War II, became an Emmy Award winning television producer for NBC, a successful CEO and co-author of a respected book on business. He was also a music lover and a very warm and funny man.

Several years ago, during one of my trips to New York, I spent a memorable long weekend with both of them while my cousin and her husband were otherwise engaged. They were the perfect hosts. We finished one particularly eventful day by watching a video of the 'Buena Vista Social Club' documentary together, into the wee small hours of the morning. When I crawled off to bed, they were still totally engrossed in the film. They loved Cuban music and whenever I've heard any since that night, I've thought of them.

The last time I saw them was in 2010 at a family celebration in New York, where, in spite of their physical frailties, they danced enthusiastically and joyfully hammed it up for my camera. They were on fine form that night, making the most of every single moment. That's how I'll remember them.

Rubén González - Chanchullo

Thursday 29 September 2016

Version City #54 - The Blackeyed Susans sing Tina Turner

The Blackeyed Susans draw from the fertile pool of talented Australian players, featuring a floating line-up that has included members who have also served time with The Bad Seeds, The Triffids, Ed Kuepper, The Dirty Three and The Surrealists. The origins of the band stretch back as far as 1989 and they still play shows today, though have released no new music since 2003's 'Shangri-La'. In 2001 The Blackeyed Susans issued 'Dedicated to the Ones We Love', an album of covers. Much of the source material for the project was unsurprising - Big Star, Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley etc - while other selections were less predictable. Take Mark Knopfler's 'Private Dancer' for instance. A hit for Tina Turner in 1984 and here given an effective New Orleans jazz funeral style arrangement.

Monday 26 September 2016

Rachael Dadd & Will Newsome

After a short mid-season break, I was back on the gig circuit just before the weekend to see Bristol based musicians Rachael Dadd and Will Newsome. Rachael collaborates extensively with artists such as Francois & The Atlas Mountains, This Is The Kit, and Rozi Plain and also has a clutch of releases under her own name, the most recent of which, the beautiful 'We Resonate', featuring among my favourite albums of 2014. On Rachael's current tour her collaborator is her sister Betsy, an animator and film maker. As Betsy's 30 minute film plays on a screen behind the stage, it's accompanied by a live uninterrupted suite of songs from Rachael at the piano. At the outset Rachael explained that this was something very different for her, which indeed it was, but it was nothing short of a triumph - I was completely lost in the presentation for the whole half hour. I asked her after the show if she had any plans to document the audio/visual performance at some point and she appeared very keen to do so - I really hope it happens. Following the film portion of the set, Rachael played a few songs from 'We Resonate' in a more familiar style, accompanying herself at various times on guitar, banjo and ukulele, before calling support act Will Newsome to the stage to duet on 'On We Skip', from an album the pair made together in 2008.

Will Newsome's solo supporting set was every bit as compelling as Rachael's. He plays the kora, an instrument I've been fascinated with since picking up Toumani Diabaté's 'New Ancient Strings' album in 1999. The kora is an unfathomable instrument to me - it faces the player who usually appears to be keeping a half-a-dozen tunes going at once, in spite of barely moving their hands. As if that wasn't enough to keep him occupied, Will sings too. His set was a treat and the performance of 'Not a Dead Bird' was particularly memorable, featuring an intricate extended instrumental passage. Here's Will introducing an al fresco version of that very song, followed by the 2014 video for Rachael's 'Strike Our Scythes' and finally the two of them together on the original studio recording of 'On We Skip'

Saturday 24 September 2016

Vanishing Twin

Formed in 2015 by members of Fanfarlo, Neon Neon, Broadcast and Floating Points, Vanishing Twin's debut LP, 'Choose Your Own Adventure', should've already been with us by now, but has apparently been delayed until next Friday. The band make a warm and inviting pop noise, tweaked with a gentle hint of esoteric psychedelia. Their videos are very cool too.

Wednesday 21 September 2016

An Ear Inflamed On My Dog Chain

                                  The 2016 Small Wonder mock-up                                   The original shop

(Continued from the previous post)

After leaving the British Library, I jumped onto a Victoria Line train at Kings Cross and took myself over to Walthamstow, where, in an empty unit at the top of the High Street (just a couple of hundred yards from its original location), a mock up of the old Small Wonder record shop frontage has been created as part of the Punk Waltham Forest series of events. Stepping inside revealed a virtual continuation of the Punk 1976-78 exhibit I'd visited an hour earlier, with displays of flyers, posters, photos, sleeves and other memorabilia relating to Pete Stennett's hugely important shop and record label. While browsing the collection I fell into easy conversation with two other visitors of a similar vintage to myself, who had dropped in on their way to the British Library's exhibit. We sat for a while and exchanged our individual memories of the punk and post-punk years in general and Small Wonder in particular. It turned out that in spite of having been loyal mail-order customers in the late 70s and early 80s, neither had ever been to Walthamstow before in their lives. After half an hour or so, we all shook hands and went our separate ways, they on to the British Library and me off down memory lane, because unlike them I know Walthamstow very well, or at least I used to - I spent the first 15 years of my life in the place.

My family moved out of London in 1975, one year before Small Wonder opened, though initially I returned regularly, to visit friends and also to buy records from Pete. The last time I crossed Small Wonder's threshold was probably late 1981, a couple of years before it closed down. Gradually my trips to Walthamstow became less frequent, until they stopped altogether - in fact before last Monday, I hadn't walked around the old home town in over 30 years.

One bitterly cold winter day in early 1978, I dropped into Small Wonder and, after a bit of a rummage through the racks, approached the counter with a couple of singles. Pete smiled at one of my purchases and paused as he was about to drop it into a bag. 'Do want him to sign it?' he asked, gesturing to a shivering figure sitting on the floor next to an old two bar electric fire. The record in question was 'Safety Pin Stuck in My Heart' and the man trying to warm himself was Patrik Fitzgerald.

Patrik Fitzgerald - Safety Pin Stuck in My Heart 

(Buy 'Safety Pins, Secret Lives and the Paranoid Ward: The Best Of Patrik Fitzgerald 1977-1986' here.)

Monday 19 September 2016

Silence is a Rhythm Too

Last Monday, I headed over to the Euston Road to check out the Punk 1976-78 exhibition at the British Library. It's a small, but often fascinating exhibit, surprisingly heavy on ephemeral items, flyers, fanzines and posters - things that one might have thought would've been lost over the past 40 years. Among the other items on display are a couple of original Malcolm McLaren & Vivienne Westwood t-shirts from the Sex boutique on King's Road, the original cassette of The Clash's first interview for NME and the only known document in existence to be signed by all five Sex Pistols - Glen Matlock's official resignation letter from the band. I personally lingered longest at the wall of punk 7" sleeves - surprised at how many I still knew after all this time and how few I failed to recognise.

Overall, the exhibit rightly gives time and space over to some of the important female artists of the period (Slits, X-Ray Spex, Siouxsie etc), though somewhat surprisingly, the blurb on the poster at the entrance overlooks them altogether, singling out only the Pistols, Clash and Buzzcocks by way of introduction. Fortunately when Viv Albertine of The Slits visited the show she remembered to take along a felt tip pen. I took a quick snap of her handwritten thoughts on this glaring omission. (Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Here are The Slits with a fantastic tune that actually falls outside of the exhibition's timeframe (it was released on a split 7" single in 1980), but it just doesn't get an airing often enough.

The Slits - In the Beginning There Was Rhythm 

(Punk 1976-78 is on at the British Library until October 2nd, admission free.)

Saturday 17 September 2016

British People in Hot Weather

We're back home in Norfolk after a week down in olde London town. What was that bloody weather all about? Temperatures in the mid 30's with ridiculously high humidity does not make The Swede a happy boy. I had a big wobble on Monday and genuinely thought I was going to pass out while I was on the Tube, even though I'd kept my water intake high. To top it all, the car's electric windows jammed shut on Tuesday and have refused to open since - there's no aircon, it's been utterly stifling. As I type this though, it's 19° and raining steadily - absolute bliss. Time to start catching up with what's been going on while I've been away.

The Fall - British People in Hot Weather

Wednesday 14 September 2016

Ultimate Painting

Ultimate Painting, the band formed in 2014 by James Hoare of Mazes and Jack Cooper of Veronica Falls, return with their third LP, 'Dusk', on September 30th. The first taster from the album is the insistent and ever so gently kosmische, 'Bills'.

As a bonus, here's one for our pal Jez over at A History of Dubious Taste. His heavily interactive version of Radcliffe and Maconie's 'The Chain' must give him a few sleepless nights, but the resulting feature is fast becoming totally addictive - long may it run. As you read these words I'm still out of town and so may miss out on making a weekly link suggestion for the very first time. Here's hoping that this doesn't break the chain.

Sunday 11 September 2016

Plaint of Lapwing

Much as I thrive on stumbling across and sharing new names, previously unknown record labels or unearthed half-forgotten treasures, there is a select bunch of singers, songwriters and bands about whom I could happily blog to the exclusion of all others. These are artists whose restless creativity has woven itself into the very fabric of my life, with every release being warmly welcomed like a new addition to the family. One such artist is Alasdair Roberts, a man whose work may be rooted in the folk tradition, but actually extends far beyond mere genre limitations. His latest LP, 'Plaint of Lapwing', is a collaboration with James Green of The Big Eyes Family Players and is released on Clay Pipe Music, a delightful London based label run by illustrator Frances Castle. Each release on Clay Pipe comes in carefully conceived limited edition packaging designed by Frances, with 'Plaint of Lapwing' being no exception. The packaging, of course, would mean nothing without content and this album sits comfortably among Alasdair's finest. It's also one of his more accessible for the casual listener, the warm analogue feel of the record belying the file-sharing nature of its creation. Find out more here.

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