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Reviews – tMx 19

LP Of The Month:

British Sea Power – “Open Season” (Rough Trade)

British Sea Power are the most enigmatic rock’n’roll group this septic isle has given birth to in many a dull year: atmospheric, clement, literate & impressively intelligent, “Open Season” is the undisputable truth (if any were needed) that 2003’s “The Decline Of British Sea Power” was no accidental occurrence. Fashioned from wood, foliage, feathers, braid & sinew, BSP records are like bird’s nests: one would even wager you could predict the outcome of a forthcoming summer by their height in the treetops.

Recorded somewhere between Kore in West London & Rockfield in South Wales, “Open Season” was mostly mixed by Mott/Pistols/Clash veteran Bill Price - & it shows. The final mix is as expansive as BSP’s native Cumbria, as deep as the North Sea & as incandescent as Sirius in a clear autumnal night sky. Crisp as newly laundered sheets. Dripping with integrity like hot buttered toast.

The sound of “The Decline Of British Sea Power” has expanded exponentially on “Open Season” – the join is seamless – the sense of progression innate. Augmented by viola, cornet, string arrangements & a miniature Italian greyhound, “Open Season” is almost noire. James Elroy to the also-ran’s Elmore Leonard. Who says you can’t teach a salty old sea dog new tricks?

Opening with leading 45, “It Happened On An Oily Stage” – a song of extremes: height/depth, joy /despair, epiphany/hell, sobriety/oblivion – the bar has been raised substantially & BSP are over it at the first attempt. The drop & build at 3.35 says everything about BSP’s newfound sense of space. “Be Gone” rolls along in it’s wake, effortlessly tranquil, yet forceful with it. Inspired by vocalist Yan’s dream of Joan Baez singing Kurt Cobain – its nocturnal recollections are only partially obscured by the presence of sleepy dust. “How Will I Ever Find My Way Home?” is written & delivered by Yan’s brother, Hamilton, over an insistent chug that eagerly plots a course for the distant shores of Only Ones Island. “Like A Honeycomb” was written in Willesden during recording sessions for “Decline”. It’s subject matter - imaginary conversations with female graveyard statues – is one few contemporary British groups could pull off without much smirking from the cheap seats. Needless to say – there isn’t a crooked mouth in the house. “Please Stand Up” features a mouth-watering guitar intro & the biggest chorus of the LP so far. Hairs stand up on the back of the neck, tears fill your tired eyes. “Please Stand Up” reeks of regret & missed opportunity. Recorded in Wales in 2004, it deals with the restless nature of homesickness & the inherent pointlessness of urbanity. A country boy song at heart, I suspect. It’s the towering pinnacle of BSP’s achievements thus far. “North Hanging Rock” builds on a gently picked intro & grows before your ears into a soundscape of perfectly formed natural beauty – glacial, panoramic & endangered. “To Get To Sleep” documents the power of sedatives on the weary soul & features the tuneful barking of the aforementioned studio pet, named Axl - the bridge at 0.52 has all the splendour of the Pont Neuf. As you pass beneath its expanse all you can do is look up & marvel. “Victorian Ice” shuffles along on a bed of rockabilly salad drizzled with French dressing. “Oh Larsen B” is one of the very few love songs dedicated to an ice shelf (currently coming our way, flood fans. ETA? Mmmm, we’ll get back to you on that one) A song as big as it’s subject. The two songs that close “Open Season” are again written by brother Hamilton - “The Land Beyond” is a viola drenched pearl that quietly demands (petitions?) to be a future 45 – whilst closer “True Adventures”, is an electrical storm in a fragile eco-structure. The LP closes with the sound of distant seagulls.

Fed up with carefully honed angst? Pastoral caring? “Open Season” could well be the intimacy you miss so glaringly. Like a carefully tailored suit or a masterfully cobbled pair of brogues, British Sea Power have fashioned yet another matchstick galleon from England’s Glory. Have no fear for marauding foreign vessels – with British Sea Power patrolling our costal regions – Britain’s never, never, never will be slaves.

Guy Debored – tMx 19 – 03/05

Kid Carpet – “Your Love” (Tired & Lonesome)

Kid Carpet wins this issue’s award for ingenuity, originality & perversion hands down. Kid Carpet makes Kiddy Disco Punk – or Shit Hop to you & me. He makes it out of plastic instruments, toys & a sampler. Like the bastard offspring of Kid Koala & Mike Skinner – with DJ Shadow & Dominic Masters as Godparents – Kid Carpet doesn’t give a flying fuck.

“My Love” is basically a list song: the Kid has your love stuck in his eye, shut in the door. He got your love for less than a £1 – from just mucking around – from kissing a stranger – from sifting through bins. Now your love is cooking him dinners, writing him letters - & he’s got the bruises to prove it. He got your love & a parking ticket from under a bus. He’s wearing some other kid’s jeans by mistake. He picked up herpes from one of his mates. “We love you”, goes the sample.

“Little Atomic Bomb” is junior Shadow boxing that has Josh on the ropes, whilst “Bristol Carpet Factory” is under one minute of the funniest things you’ll hear all year (worth the admission price alone). Kid Carpet looks set to deliver on of the freshest LPs of 2005. Be a leader – not a follower.

Mike Twat – tMx 19 – 03/05

Gold Blade – “Rebel Songs” (Captain Oi)

Gold Blade have one brothel creeper firmly placed in the heady polemic of Punk Rock UK 1977 - & the other unavoidably stamped on Punk Rock 2005 – their stride covers all territories in between. As sharp as Sean Bean, as anthemic as “The Clash”, as politically motivated as Crass - & as out of control as Captain Beefheart on a skateboard ramp. Gold Blade still believe in the power of rock’n’roll (Gold Blade leader, John Robb, has been manning the Punk Rock barricades since the formation of The Membranes & the publication of ‘Blackpool Rox’ fanzine in 1977).

The demographic of a Gold Blade audience stretches from pre-teen all the way to Punk Rock veteran. There’s no time for senility or cynicism, though, & by way of illustration, Gold Blade are equally loved by both Morrissey & Franz Ferdinand (pity it doesn’t rub off on their music – Ed). “Rebel Songs” is their 4th & most fully realised effort yet. Inspired by the political nightmare that is the 21st century – “Rebel Songs” is a rousing collection of anthems.

From the irresistible swagger of opener (& former 45) “Phsyco” all the way to closer “Sick World”, John Robb barks, guitar solos explode, choruses threaten to take your windows out, drums pound like smart-bombs & the bass pins it all to the floor like an unwilling participant. “Out Of Control” kicks the fuck out of “Stepping Stone”, “(War) Not In My Name” promises to make Blair & his cronies pay the highest price for their ‘indiscretions’, “Black Sheep Radical” rocks the terraces & makes them think at the same time, “All We’ve Got Is Rebel Songs” calls & responds to its hearts content, “Stereo Gangster” refuses to be intimidated as “Cops & Robbers” speeds past.

In a world of fakers, rattlesnakers & melody makers, Gold Blade stand resolutely alone. Their three-guitar-heart beats as one finely honed unit conducting a search & destroy mission on complacency. Don’t let them catch you not paying attention. It could be the biggest mistake you ever made.

Harrison Bored – tMx 19 – 03/05

Julian Cope – “Citizen Cain’nd” – (Head Heritage)

Cope’s first new LP in the best part of a decade is a thoroughly “Nuggets” affair – steeped in the lineage of US garage Punk, the MC5, the stooges & the Dolls. Many years in construction & often in danger of slipping away altogether, the very fact that “Citizen Cain’ed” has finally made it to disc at all is cause for celebration (even if it is only available from the Head Heritage website). Split into two discs to replicate the feel of a traditional double vinyl LP (although it would have fitted on to one disc), “Citizen Cain’nd” is Cope’s most consistent stab at immortality since “Jehovakill”.

“Hell Is Wicked” saunters in like Black Sabbath after a crash diet & immediately proceeds to eat all the pies. Cope sounds frazzled – like Ozzy on a good day – except without the clarity. “I Can’t Hardly Stand It” opens with the intriguing lines: “The train coming in at platforms 2, 3, 4 & 5, is coming in sideways”, before descending into a riot of noise that doesn’t just sound like the Stooges – it sounds like it was recorded in the same sessions as “Funhouse”. “I’m Living In The Room They Found Saddam In” is not only the title of the year so far – it’s also song of the year so far, too! Based around an aching cyclical riff, Cope delivers the hilarious lyrics as if through some kind of filter. His voice sounds disembodied, spectral – almost as haunting as the thought of spending a night alone in that place (“yeah, that room”). “Gimme Head” splices an old Generation X riff to Alice Cooper’s “Elected”. “Dying To Meet You” does for the Dolls what “I Can’t Hardly Stand It” did for the Stooges – including the genius kiss off line, “When I say I’m dead you best believe I’m dead. D.E.A.D.”

“World War Pigs”, “Homeless Strangers” & the utterly amazing “The Living Dead” keep the pressure on through a slightly subdued second disc – the distortion remains the same but the distain is lowered slightly. By the time you arrive at “Edge Of Death” you’ll be surprised how much you want to do it all again. Straightaway.

Cope has triumphed once again. “Citizen Cain’nd” is a record that sits comfortably between “The Modern Antiquarian” & “The Megalithic European” – as pregnant with import as the stones themselves.

Jean Encoule – tMx 19 – 03/05

M.I.A. – “Arular” – XL Recordings

M.I.A. – Missing In Action – is the work of Maya Arulpragasam – a native of Sri Lanka – whose relocation to London Town has resulted in her stunning debut LP, “Arular”. Notice that M.I.A. was a talent to be reckoned with was first posted in late 2004 by M.I.A. & Diplo’s now mythical “Piracy Funds Terrorism Vol.1” mix-tape. Despite that collection’s legendary brilliance, “Arular” supersedes it with comparative ease. Mashing up old-skool reggae, old-skool dancehall, old-skool electro, old-skool hip hop & old skool Punk rock social awareness, M.I.A spits enlightenment, criticism & concern over pulsing bass lines, rim-shots, steel drums & turntable efficiency.

“Arular” is a truly stirring & admirable achievement: a soundtrack for a world on the back foot, a conscious political party in motion - awake & aware. 13 cuts/40 minutes of tip top entertainment – foxy, sussed, sassy & inspiring. Teenage prostitution, economics, global expansionism, consumerism – M.I.A.’s targets are legitimate.

“Pull Up The People” rumbles along with a defiant air of militancy - propelled by a filthy sub-sonic bass line: ‘Pull up the people, pull up the poor’, demands M.I.A. – she’s got the biz to make us bang – so who are we to argue? “Bucky Done Gun” retains the heavy manners motif: London, New York, Kingston – ‘shut the fuck up’ – M.I.A.’s on the mic. “Amazon” burns through the jungle terrain like a flamethrower, ‘hello, this is M.I.A – can you rescue me?’ “Bingo” features “Sandinista” style steel drum rim-shots & even a Westway-shaped chorus. “10 Dollar” drips verbal dexterity – question: ‘What can I get for $10?’ – answer: ‘Anything you want’.

M.I.A. – authentic, eclectic & acerbic.

The Katestar – tMx 19 – 04/05

Rudi – The Radio Sessions 1979-1981 – (Wizzard In Vinyl)

Rudi were Ulster’s premier Punk Rock group (see Encoule’s Brian Young/Rudi Q&A elsewhere in this issue) & this release collates their four radio sessions recorded between 1979 & 1981 (Belfast’s Downtown Radio (1979), Radio 1’s Mike Read & John Peel Shows (1980/81) & an RTE Dave Flanning broadcast from 1981).

Featuring vibrant takes of Rudi classics like “Time To Be Proud”, “The Pressure’s On”, “Who? You!”, “When I Was Dead”, “Crimson” & “Tigerland” – this is an essential Rudi purchase that demands it’s place on any self-respecting Punk Rocker’s shelf.

Copies available for £10 plus p&p from:

Brian Young,
32 Castleview Road,

Marquee Smith – tMx 19 – 04/05

The Long Blondes – “Appropriation (By Any Other Name)” – Angular Recording Corporation

The 3rd 45 from Sheffield’s Long Blondes is yet another dripping Popsicle of rapidly melting reservation. Featuring embellishments from Russell Senior (Pulp) - & an alleged blessing from the Archbishop of Canterbury – The Long Blondes are held together by glamorous glue without the merest hint of tackiness.

“Appropriation (By Any Other Name)” is snappy, self-knowing & quite possibly going out with someone else behind your back. It’s a temptress of a 45 – a siren – wanton, yearning & duplicitous. I wouldn’t trust it as far as I could throw it (which, being the reigning National Highland Caber Tossing Champion of Rewfrenshire, may be some considerable distance).

The Long Blondes deserve your attention, encouragement & financial support.

Gordon Brownlove – tMx 19 – 04/05

Mike Watt – “The Secondman’s Middle Stand” – Easy Action

Mike Watt has played bass for one or two substantial groups in his time – you may have heard of some of them: Minutemen, fIREHOSE, The Stooges. That’s right. Mike Watt is a legend!

Following his recent conquering tour of Europe with Iggy, Ron & Scott – Mike Watt is back to promote “The Secondman’s Middle Stand” with his first live shows in seven years. Recorded during the early months of 2004 at Karma Studios in San Pedro, “The Secondman’s Middle Stand” is a collection of 9 songs comprised of titles such as “Puked To High Heaven”, “Pissbags & Tubing” & “Boilin’ Blazes”.

Watt plays the slightly-reserved-hell-fire-Baptist-preacher delivering his bruised sermons over the swell of his own bass, Pete Mazich’s swirling organ & Jerry Trebotic’s minimal kit. The sound they achieve is fractured, disconcerting - & not a little unnerving.

This is uncomfortable music for uncomfortable people.

Guy Debored – tMx 19 – 04/05

Hookers Green No.1 – “On How The Illustrious Captain Moon Won The War For Us” – Snowstorm

Hookers Green No.1 are named after an alluring shade from a watercolour paint-set. They live in small holes on the peripheries of Aberdeen & are called NHG, J.Turgenev, Dan Lovely, Joe Hearty, R.S. & Niall Slater, respectively. Raised on a strict aural diet of Ivor Cutler bootlegs & DJ Shadow mix-tapes, Hookers Green No.1 have wasted little time in realising all their ambitions during one recording session.

“On How The Illustrious Captain Moon Won The War For Us” was born out of a love of DIY & a mutual admiration of geography. Like a nightclub in the morning or a recently disinfected shithouse – Hookers Green No.1 are clean round the bend. Imagine Thom Yorke fronting the John ‘O’ Groat’s District & Righouse Brass Band - & y’re absolutely nowhere near. Close yr eyes & envisage a decapitated Kate Bush backed by an armless string quartet (who’ve left their conductor on the bus) - & y’re still some distance from achieving the maximum pretension levels required to make music of such mind-numbing tediosity (e.g. - the kitchen sink solo on “Love Ballad Reprise”).

Hookers Green No.1 probably consider themselves to be thoroughly interesting chaps ploughing a particularly stubborn field. If your idea of excitement is watching paint dry – you may well want to join them.

Marquee Smith – tMx 19 – 04/05

Angel Racing Food – “Ketchup Money” – (ARF)

Angel Racing Food are the new group from the ‘weird one’ out of Swell Maps: Mr Jowe Head. Angel Racing Food embrace garage-Punk, Latin-Americana, mutant blues, exotic scales & psych strangeness.

“Ketchup Money” deals with the negative connotations of filthy riches at full tilt with blaring saxophones, muscular guitars & an insistent beat. Critical & ironic, yet amusingly droll, “Ketchup Money” is as hilarious as it is brilliant. “Ravenous Scavengers” considers the primitive-modern human condition. Predator or pray? You decide. “Clockwork Sparrows” champions the plight of mutant urban wildlife, ‘on your vinyl lawns, hopping on your astro-turf’. Described elsewhere as both ‘unhinged chamber pop’ & ‘mental home pop music’, Angel Racing Food are as eccentric as Jowe Head but still strangely accessible.

“Venus Big-foot”, “World Turned Upside Down”, “Film Buff” & “Dead Man’s Shoes” remain in the pipeline – so expect an LP from Angel Racing Food anytime soon.

Harrison Bored – tMx 19 – 04/05

Jowe Head – “Merman Blues” – (Toplers)

Another glorious release from the equally glorious Toplers Records – “Merman’s Blues” is a dysfunctional sea shanty by the ever-perplexing ex-Swell Map, Jowe Head. Coupled with the equally enticing “Baby Bounce”, this exquisite 45 is strictly limited – so head for the URL at the foot of this review with little or no delay. Both songs were recorded by Graham Hullett in Camden Town in 2004 & feature artwork based on ‘Pincer Movement’ – a painting by the obviously multi-talent Mr Head himself. Exemplary entertainment.

Marquee Smith – tMx 19 – 04/05

The Sack-O-Woes – “Baby, I’m Born Old” – (Loop Rekords)

This Dutch trio lead the way in the Punk Rock 7” 45 race this issue with a blistering rant against the relevance of age. Joost, Niels & Robert bash the fuck out of everything within hitting distance to create this unholy row of a record. More ‘Proto-Punk’ than ‘1234 Shout’, “Baby, I’m Born Old” bristles with authenticity & rattles with integrity. As meaty as Motorhead jamming with The Heartbreakers & twice as dissonant, Sack-O-Woes fly the flag for Dutch Punk Rock & ask some serious questions about the rest of the world’s commitment at the same time.

The Katestar – tMx 19 – 04/05

The Pathways – “Productivity” – (RIYL Records)

The Pathways are a four-piece ‘art pop ensemble’ from Brooklyn, NYC, who count Orange Juice, The Feelies & The Go-Betweens as influences. Although The Pathways have been in existence since the late 90s, “Productivity” is their first 45 - & what a belter it is too. As scratchy, janglesome & ethereal as their influences suggest, “Productivity” is tender swoon on eight legs employing 28 strings, a handful of drumskins & two highly complementary voices. The best example of its genre since Pavement’s “Summer Babe” - & that’s (really) saying something. On funny coloured vinyl, too!

Evan Halshaw – tMx 19 – 04/05

The Fugue – “Four Corner Races” – (RIYL Records)

The Fugue are 5 further reprobates from NYC who deal in agitation on demand. The Fugue have arrogance, attitude & attrition in equal measure. They are opinionated, reactionary & thoroughly loveable. The guitars squall & skronk whilst singer Joe Somar caterwauls his convictions. With further titles like “Dude, I Hear Jesus Knocked Up Yr Sister With A Flamethrower” & “I Don’t Give A Shit If Yr Mom Got An Abortion, I Still Need A Ride To The Tony Danza Appreciation Festival”, The Fugue look set to capture your attention one way or another. Pressed on piss coloured vinyl for accentuated annoyance. Admirable sentiments.

Mike Twat – tMx 19 – 04/05

Steve Hooker – “Boptown” – (On The Hill Records)

Steve Hooker earned his stripes playing guitar with garage thrashers, The Shakers, & has worked with Boz Boorer (Morrissey) & Wilko Johnson. In his time he’s shared stages with Chuck Berry, Johnny Thunders & Robert Gordon & thrilled audiences all over the world with his dextrous six-string ability.

“Boptown” is Hooker’s latest collection of original compositions featuring collaborations with Boz Boorer, The ST’s & Tetsuji & Hiroshi – with able bodied back line support from Terry on bass & Eddie on the drums. This is rockabillybluessoul of the highest pedigree - & considering the combined age of the genres to hand - Hooker makes a surprisingly contemporary fist of proceedings. Dirty, compulsive & downright authentic, “Boptown” could feasibly make mincemeat of many a pretender. Peppered with samples & nods to technological advancement, “Boptown” is a treat from beginning to end.

Evan Halshaw – tMx 19 – 04/05

Scritti Politti – “Early” – (Rough Trade)

Green Gartside, Nial Jinks & Tom Morley convened late in 1977 to form Scritti Politti. Leeds art student & ex-Young Communist, Gartside, formed St Pancras Records to facilitate the release of their debut 45, “Skank Bloc Bologna”, in November 1978, before the group were eagerly picked up by Rough Trade in 1979.

“Early” documents the group’s formative years comprehensively, collecting the debut EP in its entirety & all their Rough Trade recordings up to & including the break-through hit, “Sweetest Girl”, & it’s B-side, “Lions After Slumber”. The early material is murky & frail – the sound of a new genre being born (post-Punk) – but one which Gartside himself was already tiring off by the recording of “Sweetest Girl”. His voice throughout is a hybrid of Robert Wyatt’s falsetto whiney & Paul Weller’s inner city growl. Ironically “Sweetest Girl” eventually featured the mercurial talents of Robert Wyatt on keyboards & significantly less members of the original line-up than had started out in 1977 (The Link between Soft Machine & Punk Rock still refuses to be ruled out, eh Captain?)

“Sweetest Girl” turned out to be the crossroads where Gartside sold his soul to the devil in exchange for a decent crack at the ‘proper charts’ - & Scritti Politti were duly consigned to the footnotes of history – a rather fine idea compromised by ambition. Now where have we heard that before?

Jean Encoule – tMx 19 – 04/05

Eastern Lane – “The Article” – (Rough Trade)

Berwick’s youngest return bubbling on the back of recently successful singles action to deliver their next instalment in Long Player format. Often cited by over eager weeklies as ‘the next big thing’, Eastern Lane have a collective age of about 18 & really don’t need that weight of expectation hanging around their tender necks.

The pressure shows, tellingly, & “The Article” is far from finished as a consequence. Composite, pedestrian & far too American for its own good, Eastern Lane are destined for obscurity before too long - & that – probably - is a damn shame. “I Feel Liberated” is the perfect example of ambition over ability – attempting torch-song intimacy at this stage of your ‘career’ is tantamount to anti-commercial suicide - & ill advised to say the least.

Considering the wealth of truly interesting ‘noises off’ on the contemporary UK scene right now - it is rather disappointing that Rough Trade, that UK bastion of ‘alternative’ thinking, should invest so heavily in something so non-descript.

Mike Twat – tMx 19 – 04/05

Various Artists – “I LOVE NX – Raw & Unplugged In New Cross” – (RAR Records)

Ever since the release of the “Walpole Acoustic CD 2003”, interest in the New Cross acoustic scene has been at a healthy premium. “I Love NX” collects 22 exponents of the art form & masterfully splatters them across a single disc.

Featuring eclectic performances from such luminaries as The Sly Ones, Art Brut, Redroute, Nebraska, Anna Vincent, Evi Vine, Ceri James, The Gemma Ray Ritual, The Dirty Pins, Ollie & Moose, The Crowd, Alexander, PI & Draz, Steve Morrison, Bobby Birdi, Ian Brzozowski, Oggie, The Moon, Samano, Daniel Renouf, Realtime Thrill & State Of Dillusion, “I Love NX” is smokey, tokey & quite probably pig in a pokey.

New Cross has witnessed the birth of Skiffle, Punk Rock & Acid House over the years – so fuck with its groundbreaking credentials at your peril. This collection is a beautifully clear aural Polaroid of a new intention reasonably close to its inception. All you have to do now is sit back & see if it catches on.

Harrison Bored – tMx 19 – 04/05

The Mars Volta – “Francis The Mute” (Universal)

The Mars Volta are back! This time with 5 ‘movements’ – entitled respectively, “Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus”, “The Widow”, “L’Via L’Viaquez”, “Miranda That Ghost Just Isn’t Holy Anymore” & “Cassandra Gemini”. If you felt “De-Loused In The Crematorium” was pretentious – get out the thesaurus – “Francis The Mute” makes it’s predecessor sound like “Nevermind” by comparison.

Cedric & Omar continue their twin Led Zep/Santana obsessions without the merest hint of irony to deliver another slice of conceptual progression. My first listen to this was conducted late at night. I awoke around 10am the next morning - & it was still playing. With guitar solos longer than many group’s songs, vocal dexterity bordering on the operatic - & employing the editing skills of a deaf dyslexic, “Francis The Mute” is more ambitious than Jordan & twice as inflated.

“The Widow” is the closest thing to a ‘song’ present here: Jeff Buckley on mescal, lost in a Latin maize of Spanish guitars & trumpets – but even that breaks down into a cacophonous interlude that would probably like to think of itself as ‘jazz’ but in truth is nothing more than the self-obsessed noodling of the self-absorbed. Thank God for the shift key. Elsewhere The Mars Volta show off their multi-lingual abilities by singing in Spanish – sounding vaguely like a Catalonian Queen tribute act in the process. The goodwill built up by the often engaging “De-loused” is gradually eroded until terminal boredom becomes the listener’s only friend. After several hours of tedium, torture finally drove me to press ‘stop’ & end the waking nightmare. Omar & Cedric have lost the plot. I’ve lost the will to live. The Mars Volta have left the universe.

On paper & in the flesh this should work – sadly it fails spectacularly. Omar & Cedric need a week or two in an ETA training camp. They’d be advised to trade a little Latin flamboyance for some Basque brusque.

Marquee Smith – tMx 19 – 03/05

The Fog Band – “The Law Of The Sea” EP (Purr)

The Fog Band come from Bath & have been around since 2001. The press release says: Neon Boys, MC5, Captain Beefheart, The Who & early Yardbirds. The Fog Band respond by sounding casually comfortable & quietly confident in unison. There’s a mod vibe in the area & a healthy respect for traditional rock’n’roll structure.

Mike Twat – tMx 19 – 04/05

Various - “Dance To The Radio: Leeds” (Dance To The Radio)

The first thing you should note about “Dance To The Radio” is that it’s free! The second thing you should note is that there are only 500 copies being made. Bearing that in mind, you might want to hit the url below while there’s still a glimmer of hope.

Dance To The Radio is both the label & the LP’s title. Featuring 18 groups from the vibrant hotbed of eclectic talent that is the Leeds underground, “Dance To The Radio” takes the collective approach the original post-punk generation found worked so well for them & nails it to 2005.

This Et Al, The Sunshine Underground, O Fracas, The Scaramanga Six, The Terminals, Buen Chico, !Forward, Russia!, The Lodger, The Lucinda Console, Robochrist, Napoleon The 3rd, Baby Food, The Old House, Being 747, iLiKETRAiNS, The Somatics, I Love Poland & The Rebellion Threat Kills.

18 slices. 18 flavours. 18 brands. 18 songs. A million ideas. All going off at once. The compilation is king/queen. Independence is the way forward. We did it once. We can do it again. Make the majors scared.

You’ll find wildly different genres present on “Dance To The Radio”. It’s not about definition. It’s about self-sufficiency. It’s about not being told you can’t do something. It’s about self- belief. Being 747, The Scaramanga Six & Wrath Records have been chipping away at the coalface for years. Now a whole fucking city has joined in.
Every city deserves a “Dance To The Radio” of it’s own. Make it happen. You owe it to yourselves. Why except corporate bullshit like “Future’s Burning” at £12.99 from HMV when you can have the real deal for fuck all.

Marquee Smith – tMx 19 – 04/05

Brakes – “Give Blood” – (Rough Trade)

This just flew in from Rough Trade bereft of any details other than track listing – so please excuse my ignorance & bear with me.

“Give Blood” features 16-cuts of stumblebum US back-porch pop – none of which is longer than 3.39 (with 4 cuts clocking in at under the 1 minute mark) - with more than a dash of Pixies. Erudite, lush & expressive – Brakes are concise where so many exponents of what could be loosely termed Americana seem to ramble aimlessly.

“Ring A Ding Ding” could be Nirvana doing Roxy Music. “Heard About Your Band” has a healthy contempt for coked up arseholes: “you’ve got a lot of friends in the industry”. “What’s In It For Me?” prowls with mistrust. “Cheney” is 10 seconds long: “don’t be such a dick”. “All Nite Disco Party” sounds very contemporary NYC. “Hi How Are You” is my favourite, however – 38 seconds of questions that ends with: “why don’t you shut the fuck up? I’m just trying to watch the band.” Priceless.

Brakes are not scared of speed. Brakes are good friends with brevity. Brakes tell it you like it is - & in these days of waffle & spin – you can rarely ask for more than that.

Mike Twat – tMx 19 – 03/05

The Violets – “Mirror Mirror” – (Angular Recording Corporation)

Bristling with post-punk intent, The Violets are a female three-piece throwing similar shapes to The Long Blondes. Love songs for black hearts. Seven years bad luck & a multitude of fractured images.
Strictly limited to 1000 7” vinyl copies, “Mirror Mirror” reflects burning honesty & a vision far grander than pure ambition.

Harrison Bored – tMx 19 – 04/05

Help She Can’t Swim – “I Don’t Need You” – (Fantastic Plastic)

Boy/girl pop-shaped shoutyness of the enigmatic variety. Delicate & raucous within the same verse/chorus/verse - 1.52 of antagonistic angst. Deception v realisation. How long has this been going on? Taken from their acclaimed LP, “Fasionista Super Dance Troupe”, Help She Can’t Swim take lo-fi US artPunk bloody mindedness & shoe horn it into an ill-fitting pop sensibility. Surprisingly, it works.

The Katestar – tMx 19 – 04/05

Towers Of London – “On A Noose” – (TVT)

Dirk, Stig, Nasty & Barry Tourette cease back-combing their big hair long enough to lift the opening bars of Blondie’s “Sunday Girl” for “On A Noose”. Ray Madman Hedges & Dougal Drummond have been studying Chris Thomas’ production techniques & Steve Jones guitar sound with a fine nit-comb but all they can come up with is a puzzling hybrid of These Animal Men & The Anti Nowhere League. “I Lose It” takes the Pistols parodies one step further & falls helplessly from the shelf marked ‘pastiche’ directly into the Bunker wastebin. We live in increasingly desperate times & Towers Of London are indicative of that total & utter desperation. These boys make the Kaiser Chiefs seem sincere. Pathetic.

Jean Encoule – tMx 19 – 04/05

The Cult Figures – “Live At The Cedar Club 6/4/80” – (Topplers)

The Cult Figures were mates of The Swell Maps, releasing 45s on both Rather Records & Rather/Rough Trade in 1980 & ’79 respectively (yes, perversely the Rather/Rough Trade 45 came out before the Rather one). “Zip Nolan” even went so far as to employ various Maps in the backing group & remains one of the great forgotten Punk/DIY 45s. This release, from the totally admirable Topplers Value Line series, captures the ragged guitars, 60s sensibilities & Birmingham accents of The Cult Figures live supporting GBH at Birmingham’s Cedar Rooms in April 1980.

The audience reaction throughout is muted, to say the least. Wrong group, wrong venue, wrong time. You can feel the simmering tension between songs as The Cult Figures toy with the idea of asking the entire audience outside for a fight to decide whether or not Punk is in fact dead. At one point someone shouts, “Jah Wobble”. What’s that all about?

The Cult Figures deserve their place alongside Swell Maps, TV Personalities & their ilk. This LP can’t fail to appeal to both fans of Billy Childish & students of where ye olde Punk Rock went next. Clue: it didn’t move to Stoke!

Topplers Value have loads more DIY Punk, folk-punk, Krautrock & other stuff you may like . . .

Guy Debored – tMx 19 – 04/05

The Dickies – “Stukas Over Disneyland” (Overground)

The Dickies were the acceptable face of Punk fun. Formed in 1977 in California, they majored in 100mph versions of treasured ‘classics’ like “Paranoid”, “Eve Of Destruction”, “Silent Night”, “Banana Splits”, “The Sound Of Silence” & “Nights In White Satin”. They recorded two LPs for A&M Records – “Incredible Shrinking Dickies” & “Dawn Of The Dickies – before entering the studio in September 1980 to begin work on “Stukas Over Disneyland”. Sadly, guitarist & keyboard player, Chuck Wagon (b. Bob Davis) committed suicide in 1981 & A&M subsequently dropped The Dickies. “Stukas Over Disneyland” was completed with the aid of Jerry Angel (Wierdos) & Laurie Buhne (Fear) in January 1983. It includes a romp through Led Zep’s “Communication Breakdown” at the obligatory speed & is a fitting footnote to a remarkable story.

Evan Halshaw – tMx 19 – 04/05

Emetrex – “Wish Me Dead” – (Seriously Groovy)

Boston’s Emetrex return with their second LP & the plaudits of Steve Lurpack, Rough Trade & the BBC! It seems that the ‘industry’ is unanimous that Emetrex are the ‘next big indie band’. What, like the Brighouse & Rastrick? A band is a bunch of brass & woodwind instrumentalists dressed like Billy Childish or Pete Doherty marching up & down a high street near you at the merest hint of an impending anniversary. A group is a bunch of kids with guitars & attitude. Emetrex have have far more in common with the former than the latter. It must be Kurt Cobain’s birthday, or something.

Marquee Smith – tMx 19 – 04/05

Heart Sweat – “Demos” – (

Heart Sweat are a three piece from LA. The Jam meets California. Formed in 2004 – the trio of Peter, Dave & Brit singer, Cherry – fashion Punk-scented pop-sussed rock’n’roll from memorable riffs, strident beats & bruised melodies. Blondie, VU, The Beach Boys & The Ramones are all cited as influences but Heart Sweat transcend them all to produce something uniquely their own.

The Katestar – tMx 19 – 04/05


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