The Tiers of a Clown

Wiltshire Council outlined what the new restrictions mean for us yesterday. I have copied and pasted it for your reference. Although some parts were accidentally deleted so I had to fill them in, as best as I remembered it reading. Apologies for any slight inaccuracies, but it’s Monday, alright?

The actual report can be found here: https://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/news/wiltshire-covid-high-category but, yeah, it was basically this, or very similar:

The Wiltshire Council local totalitarian area has been confirmed to be in the Government’s Tier 2 ‘let’s get high’ category, which will replace national put a pillow on your fridge day on 2 December.

This is a different Tier that the county was in prior to the current national restrictions and it means that from 2nd December:

• People must not socialise with anyone they do not like or who is not in bubble wrap, in any indoor sitting area, whether wrapped at home or in a public place.

• People must also not socialisitate group sex, with people or gnomes, outside, including in a garden in outer space.

• Businesses and emus can remain open in a COVID secure manner, other than those which are closed by law, bankruptcy or eighties electronica band Blancmange.

• Pubs in cars must close, unless they are operating as restaurants which sell sausage rolls.

• Hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals or drug deals to politicians. A Scotch egg is not a substantial meal unless you are Nicola Sturgeon, but vodka jelly is.

• Hospitality businesses selling food or drink for consumption on their premises are required to serve table tennis players only. In premises which sell alcohol, they need to close between 11pm and 5am as those are past covid’s bedtime, with some exemptions to large chain businesses who’ve slipped Bojo ten grand, and stop taking orders over 10p.

• Education settings remain open because kids are rocking through the herd immunity scheme.

• Council services such as leisure centres, libraries, deporting Jamaicans and throwing disabled residents out of their homes will be able to open their doors again.

• Weddings, funerals and conservative tainset enthusiasts can go ahead with restrictions on numbers of attendees – 15 people can attend wedding ceremonies and receptions, 30 people can attend funeral ceremonies, and 200 conservative train enthusiasts can attend meetings about making a Lego station on the Lydeway.

• Outdoor street markets will be able to sell full a range of cheese, not just cheddar, provided they only shout their pitches in a non-chav accent.

• Places of worship, except those for pagans and druids remain open, but people must not attend, or socialise inside them to have sex with goats, unless there’s a legal exemption or bonafide fetish exemption card.

Earlier in the week, the Prime Minister Bojo the clown waffled about something or other, partly in Latin, partly in gibberish; thought you might like to know we love the ground he wobbles on, and if he shot his load onto his thighs Wiltshire  council would gladly lick it off.

This week, the Government also confirmed that regardless of Tier, three wise men can form a Christmas bauble between 23rd to the 27th December. Once this bauble has been formed, it can be changed at Whitehall Garden Centre only.

Cllr Phil “poppa” Yellowhead, furher of Wiltshire Council, said:

“It is disappointing, I had the Urch-funk crew rocking up for a Christmas sesh, but surprising, that we find ourselves in a Tier higher than before, being we’re all filthy rich, least I am. We have been planning for such an eventuality with plastic Paw Patrol characters and we want to reassure residents and businesses that we have no idea how to get through this.

COVID-19 is still very prevalent and will be here for as long as Christmas Only Fools & Horses specials, so I advise everyone to keep social distancing, listen to Cliff Richard, have a good hand shandy, wear a mask or reindeer boob jumper, and self-masturbate when required to do so. If we maintain that behaviour and everyone plays the fart game, then there’s no reason why we can’t move the entire county to the Scilly Isles in the lowest Tier, and then eventually get to the other side of this with only Brexit left to wreck the economy.

Anyone can access the Wiltshire Well-hung mo-fo Hub who may be struggling to find prawn crackers during this convenient time to enforce total control. This may include those who are self-masturbating and don’t have a support network, 3G, or fluffy bras around them or know where to get help and disco lights. Let’s rock this lockdown and have a jolly good time, for Father Christmas was born on this faithful day, or close to it.”


Top Twenty Local Music CDs For Christmas

Bag yourself some of our recommended long players for your friends, family or even yourself this Christmas and help a local musical talent.

Look at him, Grumpus Maximus, slouching on his sofa-throne investigating the inside of his y-fronts with one hand and clasping a tinnie with the other. He’ll need Google maps to find his local watering hole when things return to normal, and if he has to endure Kirstie Allsopp for one more half-hour episode he’ll threaten to relocate to his shed for the yule. What do you get for someone like pops this Christmas, or anyone who’s lost the will of independent thought due to the modest inability to enjoy the odd fellow and guitar down their pub of choice, for that matter?

How about this suggestion; buy a CD from a local hero? Because not only will you cheer the old bugger up enough for him to consider shaving once a week, but you’ll be putting your hard-earned shekels into the hands of a local independent creative sort, who, without revenue from standing in a draughty pub alcove singing the blues, really needs some pocket money right now.

It’s not my idea, I say let them scavenge for dead flies on their filthy windowsills while insanely mumbling a ditty about minute pixies invading grassroot venues. Thanks to our reader, George for this suggestion. Of course, this is the 21st century, or so I’ve been informed, and nowadays next to nothing is physical. Much as we find the online format or download accessible, you can’t wrap an online stream up with a pretty bow and put it under your tree. So, our list is restricted to the ones putting out a CD copy; that’s a compact disc to youngsters, or even, dare I say it, vinyl, you know, some archaic listening format.

But how, ye cry. I’m going to provide links where I can, but another shot is your local indie record store; for if they care one iota for music, they’ll stock a range of locally sourced sounds. If they don’t tell them to, without swearing.

Here’s an ideal template to use: “the brilliant, one and only Vinyl Realm Music Store in old Devizes town stocks many local artist discs, so I suggest if you want to be half as good as them, you’d consider it.” And that, is one good place to start; open the yellow door on Northgate Street, turn to your right and by the window there’s a stand with some local outpourings on. If you get lost ask one of the owners, they bite but not hard. I know, shopping is beneath you, be aware they have an online service and will deliver, cos they’re nice like that.

Am I waffling now? I tend to tangent, like to, did you come here for that, or are you looking for some music options? Very well, sit quietly, or stand noisily if you like, and I shall begin…. hopefully before Boxing Day. But oi, bear in mind this isn’t a top twenty countdown, I just used that as the title for clickbait. I’ve not put these in any kind of hierarchy or rank, just listed alphabetical by artist name, to prove I know my A, B, C!

Billy Green 3: Still

Released at the beginning of this year, Devizes post-Britpop trio produce a beguiling sound that could’ve come straight from indie’s finest hour. It’s scooterist, with a taste of mod and soul, but it’s passionately scribed and delivered proudly. Review. Buy@ Vinyl Realm.

Chris Tweedie: Reflections

Affectionately reviewed at the beginning of the month, Melksham-based monarch of chill, Chris Tweedie has produced a mind-blowing album. If you like Mike Oldfield, Crosby, Stills and Nash, or George Harrison, you need to check this one out. Review. Buy.

Cracked Machine: Gates of Keras

Hometown space-rock has never been so good. This is the outfit’s second album, and its journey of spacey rock like no other. Fans of Pink Floyd or the Ozrics will relive every minute of their misspent youth and clamber to the loft to find their fractural posters and chillum! Review. Buy.

Erin Bardwell: Interval

This year, without his Collective, Swindon’s rock steady keyboard virtuoso blessed us with this unique lockdown inspired bundle of distant memories over sparse two-tone and reggae beats. If you think this genre can be samey, you’ve not heard Erin Bardwell. This album is one of a kind. Review. Buy.

George Wilding: Being Ragdollian

Let the arguments begin, this 2013 EP is the definitive George Wilding. One not to collate tracks to an album, the EP may only contain three songs, but their brilliance makes up for at least ten mediocre ones. You can grab this at Vinyl Realm.

Joe Edwards: Keep on Running

Whilst it’s had glowing international reviews, locally I feel this is severely unacquainted. Though I did say at the time of review I’ll be hard pressed to find another ‘album of the year,’ back in May, this still stands. This is melancholic Americana played out with utter perfection, and I will never tire of its authentic and sublime stories. Review. Buy.

Jon Amor: Colour in the Sky

Though we fondly reviewed Jon’s latest album just yesterday, like I said, that’s one which is only on download at the moment. Take his 2018 masterpiece of quirky electric blues as red, red as his telephone; this is the must-have album for every fan of local music. You can buy this in Devizes Books as well as Vinyl Realm, or you can buy online. Here’s a review from all those heavenly years ago, when Devizine was funny.

The King Dukes: Numb Tongues

Out in 2018, if you like your music with a taste of old-timey soul and blues, The King Dukes of Bristol do this with bells on. Numb Tongues is lively and memorable. Review. Buy.

Little Geneva: Eel Pie

Freshly produced and lively sixties mod-blues-rock done supremely, Little Geneva are Bristol-based but the Docherty brothers have the Devizes connection, enough to debut this down the Bear’s Cellar Bar a few years ago, and boy, was it a sweaty and memorable night! Buy.

Mr Love & Justice: Watchword

Mr Love himself, Swindon’s Steve Cox’s 2009 album is a must, a classic, even though I haven’t reviewed it, because it’s dated, its gorgeous acoustic goodness extends beyond atypical country-rock sounds and branches into many genres, even bhangra at one point. You can find this in Vinyl Realm for a mere fiver.

Mr Tea & The Minions: Mutiny!

Oh my, this chunk of energetic Balkan-ska influenced Bristol folk is breathtakingly good. I reviewed it last year, haven’t gotten over it yet! Review. Buy.

Paul Lappin: The Boy Who Wants to Fly

Breezy Britpop acoustics shine throughout this ingeniously written debut from Swindon’s Paul Lappin. Highly recommended and all-round good vibes. Review. Buy.

Phil Cooper: These Revelation Games

Trow-Vegas legend, Phil Cooper really gives it some with his latest offering, rocking out the lockdown. Review. Buy.

Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue: Live at the Louisiana

No list would be complete without a bit of Ruzz Guitar and the gang; guitar by name and nature. This album captures his skill where he does it best, live. Rock n roll the night away as if you were there; this is a must have album for blues and rock n roll fans. Review. Buy.

Sound Effects: Everyday Escapism

Self-penned Irish-fashioned folk at it’s most divine, Swindon duo Cath and Gouldy classic here. This is sweet and thought-provoking. Review. Buy.

Strange Tales: Unknown to Science

I’m unsure how old this is, but I do recall Pewsey singer Sally Dobson running back to her car to get me a copy at the long-lost Saddleback Festival. With Paul Sloots, Strange Tales are a wonderful if occasional electronica gothic-rock duo, and Unknown to Science is a spookily glorious album. Review. Buy or at Vinyl Realm.

Talk in Code: Resolve

True, Swindon’s darlings of indie-pop have come along way since this 2018 album, fashioned closer each time to retrospective eighties electronica, Resolve stands as a testament to their dedication, but more importantly highlights their roots in indie-rock. Review. Buy.

Tamsin Quin: Gypsy Blood

Man-about-Devizes, surely, you’ve a copy of this already? Tamsin Quin’s debut 2018 debut album is something kinda wonderful, eight self-penned nuggets of goodness introduces you to the now one third of the Lost Trades and personifies anything that was awesome about our local music circuit. A local classic. Review. Available in Vinyl Realm, or online.

The Lost Trades: EP

When three of our most loved local musicians officially bonded, debuting at the Pump just prior to lockdown, it was clear all their talents combined into this one project and could only ever be a winner. We highly anticipate the debut album, but for now, this five track EP will whisk you to a better era of folk harmonies. All original songs, there’s a taste of Phil, Jamie and Tamsin’s song writing talents, though each track wouldn’t look out of place on the Oh Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Review. Buy.

Ya Freshness & the Big Boss Band: Knockout

Boots and braces time, get skanking to the loud and proud ska sound of Ya Freshness and the Big Boss Band. This is joyful, fun and chockful of ska and rock steady riddims from 2018. We eagerly await a new double-album promised from these Bristol misfits of ska, but for now, this is great. Review. Buy.


No way is this list exhaustive; I’ve basically run this off adlib and will no doubt suddenly think, “oh bugger, I forget this or that.” But I’ve nailed it down to twenty, which was tricky. Do feel free to add a comment on something I might have overlooked, and apologises if I did. Remember, it should be available as physical copy. This is an interactive article!

Message my advice line if you’re still in the dark for a pressie for Dad. Helpful hint, look through his old records. If you see one of a pig floating above Battersea power station, or a plain black album with a spectrum shining through a triangle, try Cracked Machine. If you see lots of black and white chequered patterns or a naked girl’s torso with Tighten Up written across her abdomen, try Erin Bardwell or Ya Freshness. And if you see a rather splendidly busty woman carrying a hosepipe and various decorating equipment, try The Lost Trades; best of luck!


Jon Amor’s Remote Control

Pop is pop for a reason. Without sounding like a government soundbite, what I mean is, pop, as in the music, is popular for good reason; the catchiness often in the simplicity, which consequently sells. And if it sells, it’s pop, regardless of the many subgenres and youth cultures which an era carries pop along, it’s always continued this ethos. It’s only a particular “genre” for the time being. I use the term as loosely, then, as it should be used. Feel free to shudder at modern commercialisation, but that’s been building for decades and you shouldn’t let it put you off; you’ll miss something special because you preconceive its popularity is a hallmark from a polluted industrial mechanism.

The above annotation I write because I don’t want you to run off with the idea, I’m talking contemporary chart hits when I use the term pop. Out of the assortment Devizes’ legendary bluesman Jon Amor offered on his last major album two years ago, Colour in the Sky, I tended to cherry-pick those deviating from his traditional electric blues style, and they promptly became the standout tracks, Illuminous Girl and Red Telephone. He need not appease his devotees; they follow this modification with bells on. Because, fundamentally it’s more “pop,” in so much as it’s appealing for this beguiling ease.

This transitory, perhaps, shift for Jon was stamped on the last single, the incredibly addictive Peppercorn, a lively upbeat and Elvis Costello fashioned rock, without the leftist post-punk political angle of yore. Now the single has been followed up with an album, Remote Control, impulsively launched without the need for the usual pe-hype. All the tunes follow the aforementioned style of Peppercorn, the penultimate track on the collection. Dammit, this is good, but you knew it would be.

News of it literally arrived via Facebook post yesterday, “this year,” Jon posted, “I’ve been spending a lot of my weekends recording some songs, and I appear to have made an album.” And as if by magic, today (27th November) it’s a thing. So, was it as spontaneous as it sounds, a result of lockdown?

“I suppose initially it was the result of lockdown,” Jon replied, “yeah, I was working all week and had nothing to do at weekends!” If there’s only one good thing to come out of all this, I noted, thinking Erin Bardwell’s Interval album in particular, is that artists have had the time to write and create, and there’s good material flowing from all genres. Then I waffled some similarities in a piece I was reading about the great plague, where it modernised and revolutionized both folk and classical music, possibly gave birth to the renaissance.  

“I think a lot of people embraced the spare time and the isolation and turned it into a positive,” Jon added. “Now I’m picturing video conference calls and zoom quizzes in the 1600s…”

While Jon is clearly experimenting, dabbling this more pop sound with Remote Control, it’s also temptingly raw and punchy. There are some retrospective glances, the opening tune Song and Dance is a catchy three-minute Merseybeat blast, whereas If a Million is demarcated Curtis Mayfield funk. 03 57961 (That’s my Number) bounces like a quirky ZZ Top, whereas Robot Skin follows, using the guitar like white noise, overridden with a Gecko styled rap.

I’m intrigued now, wondering where this will take me next, and even if Next plays out the downbeat trip-hop style, akin to Portishead meeting Costello, it remains definitively Jon Amor. Just a Bomb booms power pop, with a singable chorus after just the one listen. We’re one track down before Peppercorn, you’d be mistaken by the title that this is locally-themed, Moonraker, is Bowie spacey and maybe a reference to the Bond movie rather than a Devizes pond fable.

Image by Nick Padmore

The finale rings with everything we’ve suggested at the start, this is poptastic for catchiness. Do Bop-Bop is staunchly irresistible. Exotic bongos, Californian beatnik surfer goodness; ideal daydream for wintertime locked down in England!

In conclusion, I need not convince Jon’s lifetime fans, they will buy it and love the fact they have. For others, this is an interesting progression with great prose, it’s joyful and quirky and explores styles without selling-out or shifting the central pivot point, which is Jon Amor, da man rocks! All the above basically adds up to; this is highly entertaining on the ears and persuasive on the feet to tap.

     


Beans on Toast Knee Deep in Nostalgia

If growing up in Witham meant Braintree appeared to be Shelbyville to our Springfield, I should go no further. The Prodigy are undoubtedly Essex’s finest musical export in the last three decades, next to Colchester’s Blur, and what did Witham give us? Olly Murs, that’s who.

Though if Jay McAllister’s hometown evokes my own childhood memories, his forthcoming album, Knee Deep in Nostalgia will for all. It’s released, as all his annual studios albums are, on his birthday, the 1st December. Yet whereas Braintree’s Prodigy were sovereigns of progression, there’s nothing particularly ground-breaking about Jay, from the same Essex community, who’s tongue-in-cheek stage name, Beans on Toast suggests. But it makes up for it in highly entertaining folk songs which doesn’t take themselves too seriously.

As with Frank Turner, who incidentally guested on and produced previous Beans on Toast albums, I jumped on the chance to review this on the endorsement from Sheer Music’s Kieran Moore, and just as before, perhaps more so, he didn’t let me down. For as a folk singer-songwriter I’d evaluate Beans on Toast isn’t Tammy Wynette, or Willie Nelson, of whom he takes a nod to in a song on this album, but he is the best thing at least since the sliced bread in his namesake. He is Beans on Toast, indefinitely, and I love beans on toast. you can add cheese, you can add little sausages, but as it remains, none matter, simplicity is key; just beans, on two slices of toast, it works.

Aptly, just as the dish, his style is simple but effective and immediately likable. He drafts songs from the heart, served with a side-order of cheeky Essex humour, the reason why he’s played every Glasto since his first, and Boomtown, recorded with and shared the stage with many legends, recorded in Kansas with Truckstop Honeymoon, opened for Kate Nash and Flogging Molly, and aforementioned Turner on his sell-out Wembley show. Why haven’t I cottoned on about his brilliance before? It’s an age thing; old dog, new tricks. But that, in a nutshell, is the theme for this album, as the name suggests, but not without both sentimental and humorous prose.

For this whippersnapper contemplates his looming fortieth, which, if I get the honour of you reading this, Jay, I’ll confirm it gets no better. And with it reminisces his past. One concerning the thrills and pitfalls of gigging in Camden, but most poignant are those which go back to childhood; being frightened on Halloween, inspirational teachers, family discos at a village hall, and one which ingeniously sums up the whole shebang of daydreaming about the past.

Knee Deep in Nostalgia isn’t going to wow you with technological advances in sound, it isn’t going to whisk you to a fantasy world. I’d even say there’s sometimes cliché with the subject matter, but when done it’s done uniquely, insightfully reflective. There’s ingeniously uncensored meagre material here, offering a range aside the general theme of nostalgia, particularly the upbeat and carefree Coincidence, which rings almost on a level of Madness for fairground joy.

The gem is precisely in its simplicity, Beans on Toast reflects and rebounds onto the listener, acknowledging their own life in his words. You may have known a crazy Australian dude, as depicted here, you may giggle at your own fondness for Finder’s Crispy Pancakes, or when the streetlights coming on was a signal to go home, and the other everyday juvenile cultural references. And for this, and more, I bloody love this album.

There is a particular nugget which knocked me head-over-heels, and it’s when Beans on Toast get sentimental. Reminiscing often spawns from watching your own children, and interacting with their joy and innocence at discovering the world again. Tricky to pinpoint why having kids is overwhelmingly fantastic, being they poo on your hand, launch their dinner in your face, cost you a king’s ransom, belittle you and grow to ignore your every word, but with a simple leitmotif Beans on Toast nails it. Again, even when semimetal, nothing is psychologically challenging, it’s just the premise of The Album of the Day, which touches the heartstrings; sharing a moment with his daughter, as with alongside other memorable doings, he temps her musical taste with choices from his record collection. It sounds sickly, but I promise you, as I did earlier, this guy can pull it off with bells on.

That said, kids grow, and the fragile years, when they’d take heed and listen to Bob Marley, Dire Straits, Paul Simon, or whoever inspired you, are too short. They’ll find their own way, and you have to allow them to, as your house turns into a bass funnel and you metamorphize into your own misunderstanding parents; it’s unavoidable no matter how you might think when they were inspired by your likes, and in this, is the brilliance of the song.

I mean my offspring, they don’t even like beans on toast, right, which I think is abnormal; all kids like beans, it should be enforced! Such should this album. And it comes with an accompanying album, The Unforeseeable Future, which I could only speculate about, as the title suggests, as they didn’t send that. On the basis of this one though, I’m musically smitten.

Knee Deep in Nostalgia is out on 1st December; Pre-order it here.


You Do You, George

A message goes ping from that George Wilding, he’s got a new single out since when we reviewed his band Wilding’s last outing. Are they building up to an EP? I asked, and got the reply, this is a solo one. Then, nought, despite saying if you send it, I’ll bless it with some words. That’s our George, never too hot on a press release, and if I criticise myself for being a technophobe, I’m Zuckerberg by comparison! So, I gotta go find it on these blasted streaming sites, but you know, and he does too, I’m going to, even if Dave Franklyn got in before me with a super review. Blinking Loreal; he’s worth it!

I take the chance not to read anything Dave has written prior to scribing something myself, if it’s on the same subject. Such an expert with words, my penmanship pales in contrast. Still, I got to say a little something, George being such a popular charismatic and approachable guy, aside his natural flare and virtuosity, musically.      

Encouragement and reassurance for a falling star, practically rather than spiritually, seems to be the subject for You Do You, a delicate resonance in such a fashion only George could execute. Perhaps the most melancholic yet, opposed to the bouncy country acoustic of some of his earlier classic bombasts, it contains no skilfully-placed vulgarity, it’s mellowed, inspired and stunning. It’s crying out for an emotional upsurge, yet whispered with sincerity, the key to a great song, and George nails it, unsurprisingly.

The kind if performed live it would suspend the whole venue in awe, as if time suddenly stopped and nothing mattered other than counselling this lone girl. Everything moral spells this character needs help, yet by natural testosterone, perhaps her beauty distracts; a perpetual cycle of bad karma. Like any truly-written masterpiece, there’s obviously a private connection with the author, yet the listener identifies by conjuring a similarity to a particular own experience, in this case be it a girl, your mind locates the ideal suspect. Yeah, I know that chick, you contemplate, least one too close for comfort!

Every need then, to check it out for yourself. George Wilding’s You Do You is out now, across all streaming platforms.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/3PQr8HIQjtQBv6f9WsC7hb


Tunnel Rat Refurb their Studio for Social Distancing Recordings

Unaware of their sound until now, but I’ve heard only good things about South Wiltshire duo Illingworth. Via this video you can hear their worth, a wonderfully executed rock power ballad, “Sing it.” High time to review their September debut album New Normal based on this, me thinks, but for now we’re here to mention the recording studio, as that’s what the video is promoting.

In a friendly, rural setting Tunnel Rat Studios is based in Haxton, near Salisbury, and only opened last year, but since had clients such as professional opera singer, Deborah Mansi, singer-songwriters Paige Dobson and Emma Burton, as well as aforementioned Illingworth. The news is though, they have just had a major refurb. “Is this to enable better social distancing measures?” I asked engineer and producer Eddie Prestige, one half of studio’s pair, with Jolyon Dixon, each of whom have over thirty years proven experience in the industry.

“Yes,” he replied, “it was mainly for social distancing measures. However, we have upgraded our equipment too.”

Tunnel Rat Studios can now offer fantastic quality recording in a larger, covid19 secure environment, with experienced professional engineers and session musicians available in house to help. There are separate performance and engineering rooms, with full line of sight between the two.

Their comfortable live room is plenty big enough for up to four people to play together. The control room, which can record up to sixteen channels of audio simultaneously, and have high-end outboard equipment, like the Manley Voxbox channel strip, and it’s accessed by a separate door. Containing a 2020 iMac, running Logic pro X with many of the latest software instruments and first-rate plug-ins, including Waves bundles and Celemony Melodyne studio 5, a Black Lion audio analogue to digital converters, mind-print DTC channel, and Kemper profiling amplifier, and Peluso 2247le (Tube U47 clone) Lauten audio Clarion (FET Condenser) microphones. There are a matched pair of Miktek C5 (small diaphragm condensers) and 2 MXL Lundahl edition R77 ribbon mics. They also have all the usual dynamic mics like shure SM57 (x2) shure SM91 (x2), and for monitoring they use genelec 8020 speakers and Event Opals.

Now, you see, that technical jargon is all double-Dutch to me, sounds good though and I’m certain if you’re a musician into getting sound production perfection, considering Tunnel Rat might be an option, they promise it’ll be an affordable one. They’ve even a unique Christmas gift package, a voucher for the aspiring singer or musician, offering studio time vouchers from as little as £125, valid for a whole year from purchase. Each voucher entitles the recipient to studio time at Tunnel Rat, and they encourage you to get in touch for more details or to discuss any special requirements you may have.

Here is their website.


Shiine Weekender Festival 2021

Imagine, a festival. Right now, imagining Joe Bloggs from the down the road clonking the ivory and singing a ditty down your local is wishful thinking. It’s hard to envisage an autumn a year away, and I accept, not ideal to invest in a ticket until you are sure this fiasco is blown over. However, if we don’t least assume it will have and buy advance tickets for events, there will be nought sorted for when we can and are itching to go out.

While festivals, for me, are something of a past reality, I just know I’m going to aching to get out as much as feasible. So, we have to tip our hats at those ambitious organisers trying to arrange bonza events on the hope things will return to relative normal. Here’s a blinding example, the Shiine On Weekender at Butlins Minehead. It’s not due until November 2021, when if it hasn’t blown over by then, I think we’ll be clinically insane! Check out the knockout line up.

The festival returns for it’s sixth year, with Feeder, Cast, Peter Hook & The Light, The Coral, Black Grape, Glasvegas and The Bluetones all headlining. Plus 808 State, Asian Dub Foundation, Sice Boo & The Radleys, Ned’s Acoustic Dustbin, Jim Bob, Chameleons, The Pigeon Detectives, Milltown Brothers, Neville Staple Band, and more. Ding dong, I say, tickets are on sale now.

The rest of this piece I’m copy and pasting direct from the press release, save a bit of typing! Go knock yourselves out.

Staking its place as a stalwart of the UK’s Winter festival scene, the Shiiine On Weekender returns for its sixth instalment on the 12th, 13th and 14th November 2021 and boasts an unbeatable crop of indie and dance as always.

Taking over Butlin’s Minehead Arena for a long-weekend escape of music and mayhem, the fest will be hosting a trio of legendary headline acts of the highest order…

Getting the festival underway in style, Friday night headliners FEEDER will see dynamic duo Grant Nicholas & Taka Hirose blasting through over 20 years of hits, from ‘Buck Rogers’ to ‘Just A Day’ and airing cuts from their revitalised comeback LP of 2019: ‘Tallulah’. Marking the 25th anniversary of their seminal ‘All Change’ album, Saturday night will see CAST top the bill with their electrifying live show to remind us just why they were crowned ‘The Who of the 90s’; expect a healthy dose of classics in a confirmed Greatest Hits set too. PLUS, closing-out the Shiiine On Weekender with a Sunday showdown of pure substance: PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT will bring a set brim-full of Joy Division and New Order’s very finest moments.

Giving plenty of reasons to get down the front early, there will be superior supporting sets across the weekend from some long-established festival heroes. Merseyside psych-pop sorcerers THE CORAL (Friday), Shaun Ryder’s rabble-rousers BLACK GRAPE, plus a long overdue return from Scottish shoegazers GLASVEGAS (Sunday), will throw down the gauntlet to the headliners each night.

And of course, the mainstage is just the tip of the iceberg. Revealing its full and complete billing today, the Shiiine On Weekender will pack the holiday park with incendiary indie acts from all eras….

There’ll be sets by Brit-Pop powerhouses like THE BLUETONES who will be arriving for an all-guns blazing greatest hits slot; PLUS, a Shiiine On 2021 festival exclusive set from SICE BOO & THE RADLEYS, which will see Sice reunited with the Boo Radleys rhythm section Tim Brown and Rob Cieka to ‘Wake Up, Boo!’ and their many dormant classics at long last. There will also be sets from The Seahorses’ CHRIS HELME, JAMES ATKIN (of EMF), REPUBLICA, BENTLEY RHYTHM ACE, MOLLY

HALF HEAD, THE CLONE ROSES, and THE SPACE MONKEYS will all be flying the flag for that seminal era of British music.

Elsewhere, 21st Century alternative torchbearers like HUMANIST, THE PIGEON DETECTIVES and GOLDIE LOOKIN’ CHAIN will be showcasing their own tried-and-tested modern festival anthems.

Showing the kids how it’s done, vintage indie veterans including: CHAMELEONS, NED’S ACOUSTIC DUSTBIN, JIM BOB (of Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine), THE MILLTOWN BROTHERS, and the JAMES TAYLOR QUARTET will be bringing timeless tunes and experience to the fest.

And with a packed programme of music day and night, the entertainment won’t stop when the mainstage lights go up. Throwing their doors open from 10pm – 4 am, the Shiiine On Weekender’s Centre Stage and Reds Stage promises to be the-place-to-be for top tunes late into the night. Full live sets from proven party starters inc. Acid House innovators 808 STATE, original rude boy NEVILLE STAPLE BAND (ex-The Specials), plus an unmissable closing party set from Electronic/Dub overlords: ASIAN DUB FOUNDATION. In addition, late-night slots from ALISON LIMERICK, DUB PISTOLS, SHADES OF RHYTHM, SUNSCREEM, plus DJ sets from SLIPMATT, JON DASILVA (Hacienda), RHODA DAKAR (Bodysnatchers), radio legends STEVE LAMACQ (BBC 6 Music) and CLINT BOON (XS Manchester / Inspiral Carpets) will ensure there’s good reason to keep the candles burning at both ends.

Announcing nearly 80 artists and performers today, the Shiiine On Weekender can also confirm a huge array of new and established acts who will also be making tracks for the seaside resort come this November. Across the weekend, look out for: ELECTRIC SOFT PARADE, DEJA VEGA, TOM HINGLEY, MARTIN BLUNT, ANDY BUSH, HOLY APES, MATT McMANAMON, THE WALTONES, SECTION 25, THE CHESTERFIELDS, MIDWAY STILL, THE CLAUSE, THE SHAKES, PSYCHO COMEDY, DERMO, DJ MILF, PHIL SMITH, LEO STANLEY, SHADER, UKE2, OASIS (UK), TAM COYLE, DIRTY LACES, CUT GLASS KINGS, THE ROOM IN THE WOOD, THE JACQUES, CROSS WIRES, THE IDLE HANDS, THE MALAKITES, GOOD MIXER, TRAPPSY, DAN FULHAM, WELSH LEE,  LEE HOWE,  DJ STARKEY, DAVID DUTTON, MISFIT MAN, ALEX LIPINSKI, NIRVANALOT, and STEVE ADJ; all of whom will be making the festival’s sixth edition its biggest and best yet.

It’s not all just about the bands either. The Shiiine On Weekender will also be throwing one big holiday park house-party to rival the best, crammed end-to-end with even more entertainment inducing: CLUB NIGHTS, POOL PARTIES, LIVE COMEDY, CINEMA SCREENINGS, a SOCIAL RECLUSE EXHIBITION and much, much more. 

TICKET DETAILS

Taking place 12th, 13th, 14th November 2021, tickets and packages for the SHIIINE ON WEEKENDER 2021 at Butlin’s Minehead Arena, Somerset are on sale now. All packages include 3 nights’ accommodation on-site at the Butlin’s Minehead Holiday Resort. (A deposit scheme is also available for customers who wish to pay by instalments.)

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE:

EXCLUSIVE EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT

** PLUS, early bird customers who use the promo code NCB10 will also be offered a discounted rate. This is an 18+ event only. For more T&Cs please visit the website.


1/2 Dove – 1/2 Pigeon with Micko and the Mellotronics

Had to chuckle to myself, trying to find this album stored on my phone I kept thinking about Mike & The Mechanics! Just, No, leave it; nothing of the sort, London’s Micko and the Mellotronics debuted last year with the single The Finger, the accompanying album 1/2 Dove – 1/2 Pigeon is due for release Friday (27th November.)

We’ve come so far since Television’s Marquee Moon, neo-avant-garde anarchism comes across cleaner this decade. You Killed My Father, now you must die, is a tune lesser aggressively executed than you might imagine from the lyrics. There’s a fairground, vaudeville style to Micko & The Mellotronics, wrapped in wryness, at times; which you don’t get with Sonic Youth, but unpredictably often spawned cringeworthy from the Velvet Underground.

Melancholic free, though; there’s nothing retrospective on offer, this is post art-punk, a distant cry from Talking Heads, feistier, it floors the vox, elevates to high-fidelity and fires on all four cylinders. At times it shadows Pulp, and at others Blur creeps in, but throughout, it’s fresh and exhilarant. Welcome to the eccentric and individual biosphere of Micko Westmoreland, actor and creative, hitherto renowned for solo releases and material as The Bowling Green.

The Mellotronics initially began playing out as a three-piece with founding member Nick Mackay (drums) and the enigmatic addition of Vicky Carroll (band “wicket keeper” and bass player). In 2018, the band were joined by revolutionary guitarist Jon Klein (Siouxsie & the Banshees/Specimen, and founder of the iconic Batcave club) who also adds his flare to their upcoming debut.

A stellar array of special guest musicians feature too, including The Specials’ bassist Horace Panter (a friend & collaborator who has worked with Micko on an annual charity record alongside Rat Scabies for the last 7 years), horn impresario Terry Edwards (PJ Harvey/Madness/Nick Cave) and alternative violinist in excelsis Dylan Bates (Waiting On Dwarfs/Penge Triangle), plus the late Monty Python/The Rutles/Bonzos great: Neil Innes. Early videos for featured singles ‘The Finger’ and ‘Noisy Neighbours’, have also seen the band working with actors Paul Putner (Little Britain) and Susy Kane (The I.T. Crowd, Gavin & Stacey) respectively.

½ Dove – ½ Pigeon is elated trialling, chockful of historical and philosophical references, palpably paranoid of a modern apocalypse and merged in citations to pop-culture, at times rocking, others a tad unnerving. But while power-driven guitar impediments contribute to the discomforting moments, off-kilter horns counteract it with this sardonic glee.

Contradictory this arrangement puts your defences up, akin to walking into a modern art gallery not knowing what to expect. I wanted at times not to like it, as tracks like The Fear does what it says on the tin, but Good Friend is having-it joyously and bought me around. If I remain undecided it’s due to my own personal preference, and have to tip my hat at the ingeniousness of the writing and composition. It took me some adjusting to fully appreciate, yet I feel those leaning harder to post-punk rock and emo-indie will take Micko & The Mellotronics as new idols.

This is especially true of the next single released from it, Psychedelic Shirt. A coming of age theme, eighties set, when the culturally cool was at loggerheads with Thatcherite careerism, and tribalism was rife on the dancefloors of the local disco. Micko sums his notions, “Psychedelic Shirt tells the story of venturing to an out of hours school disco in a dishevelled scout hut in Leeds. Where Top Man flick heads had seized upon my newly procured paisley shirt and sought about destroying it. I’d taken it off because I was too hot, left it on a peg in the boy’s loos. Later, I found the article, ‘mopped up in the fluid, screwed up in a ball’ on the lino floor as the song’s lyrics state. I was forced to make a choice between victimhood or empowerment but left contemplating shades somewhere in between…”

It’s one slick album, razor-edged rock’n’roll meets avant-garde pop-art meets satirical Edgar Allan Poe short story, but in a cracker of fun.

PRE-ORDER HERE: Facebook: Twitter:


You’ve Been Mangoed; With Mango Thomas!

Vast developments in the later days of breakbeat house saw a split in the blossoming rave scene. Techno-heads being directed away from the newfound UK sound found solace in a subgenre dubbed “happy hardcore,” whereas the trialling occurred in the dawn of drum and bass, or “jungle” as it was known at the time. Yet it was still underground and reserved for the party. No one considered a concept album, myself included, until I heard A Guy Called Gerald’s Black Secret Technology. I bought it on a memory tip-off, I loved the late eighties acid house anthem Voodoo Ray. It was like splinters of drum n bass over an ambient soundscape, and wasn’t for everyone, but while I was still gulping about it, Goldie released Timeless and the rest is history.

Creative outpourings too radical or experimental for the time are commonplace, and perhaps our necessity to pigeonhole excludes Manchester’s Mango Thomas. He emailed with a list of rejections from specific music blogs and radio shows, being if one part did, the rest of his new EP “Goes De,” out today (22nd Nov) didn’t fit their restrictive agenda. There’s part of me which says I don’t blame them, this is a hard pill to swallow, juxtaposed randomly at breakneck speed, it’s a roller-coaster alright; you have no control where it’ll take you.

Mango Thomas throws every conceivable psychedelic genre of yore into a breakcore melting pot, and pours you a jug; if you take a sip you might as well down the whole thing, for it works fast, it’s a trip and you’re in it for the duration. You have to be, if only to wonder what’s coming next. And in that, it has to be one the most interesting things I’ll review here for a while. Yeah, it uses contemporary breakcore, but at times nods back to drum n bass of yore, but it funks too, it rocks, unexpectedly, and if you thought you could be shocked no more, it even mellowly bhangras at the finale, as if Ravi Shankar wandered in.

There are so many elements to contemplate in this hedonistic frenzy of chaos, yet with crashing hi-hats, stripped down rhythms, sonic belters, echoes and reverbs, it primarily relies on dub techniques absorbing industrial metal and hardcore. Imagine an alternative universe where the Mad Professor is remixing Bootsy Collins, but in this realm Bootsy actually fronts a thrash metal band, and Frank Zappa peers over the mixing board putting his tuppence in; something like that, but more bonkers.

Picking it apart, at times you’ll contemplate Mango Thomas’ location and hear shards of the Madchester scene, other points will wobble you over to the Butthole Surfers, for if it is industrial hardcore skater, it’s done tongue-in-cheek. But it doesn’t come over dejected, as such a genre archetypically does, rather showy and egotistical like a funkmaster general. The man himself explains the effect will leave you “mangoed,” I’ve a tendency to agree.

It’s four major tracks with reprises and clippits between, often Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band fashioned, bizarre, amusing or deliberately belligerent to the mainstream, in true counter culture fashion. Do I like it, though, that’s what you want to know, isn’t it? Damn you and your demands, fuck, I don’t know. It’s always going to be something you have to be in the mood for, certainly not drifting Sunday afternoon music to take a snooze to after a roastie. A younger me would lap it up, as it twists so unexpectedly. Any psychedelia gone before doesn’t touch it for cross-genre experimentation, and for that, in my artier moods, I give it full points. A sensible somebody as I’d prefer to strive for might suggest it’s too far out there. But it entertained me for sure, so it has its place.

Can I suggest you throw caution to the wind, listen and see how long you can bear to hold out for? If you like Tim Burton, Zappa or Lee Scratch Perry you’ll be partly prepared. Try though, as the finale is something quite astounding and as an erratic mishmash it mirrors A Guy Called Gerald’s Black Secret Technology for pushing new boundaries, but it mirrors Sgt Peppers, the Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse and Bitches Brew too.


Arcana & Idols of the Flesh: Ambience and Chamber-Prog with Swindon Composer Richard Wileman

One portion my nostalgia rarely serves, and that’s my once veneration for spacey sounds, apexed through the ambient house movement in the nineties, but not comprehensively; we always had Sgt Pepper, Pink Floyd and Hendrix’s intro to Electric Ladyland. I’ve long detached myself from adolescent experimentation of non-licit medications, lying lone in a dark bedroom chillaxing to mood music, and moved onto a full house of commotional kids; progress they call it.

Incredibly prolific, Swindon’s composer Richard Wileman might yet stir the memories, if these headphones drown out the sound of a nearby X-Box tournament. Best known for his pre-symphonic rock band Karda Estra, there is nothing vertical or frenetic about his musical approach. Idols of the Flesh is his latest offering from a discography of sixteen albums. Yet far from my preconceptions of layers of decelerated techno, as was The Orb or KLF, or psychedelic space-rock moments of my elders, which our own Cracked Machine continue the splendour of, Richard’s sounds with Karda Estra bases more orchestrally, neo-classical, as if the opening of a thriller movie. Though, so intense is this sound you need no images to provoke you.

Idols of the Flesh is dark and deeply surreal, with swirls of cosmic and gothic hauntings which drifts the listener on a voyage of bliss. Nirvana is tricky to pinpoint in my household, but with my ears suctioned to my headphones I jumped out of my skin upon a tap on the shoulder, daughter offering me some sweets! Momentarily snapped back in the room as if I’d surfaced from a hypnotist’s invocation, but aching to fall backwards into it once again.

Agreeably, this is not headbanging driving music, neither does it build like Leftfield for those anticipating beats to start rolling after a ten-minute intro, it simply drifts as a soundscape, perhaps coming to its apex at the eloquently medieval church organed Church of Flesh, one of two named tunes out of the six on offer, the others given part numbers. Then, with running water, the final part echoes a distant chant of female vocals as if a wind blowing across a sea for another eleven minutes, it’s stirring, incredibly emotive and perfected.

Along a similar, blissful ethos Richard Wileman served up Arcana in September this year, a third album this time under his own name. While maintaining a certain ambiance, it’s more conventional than his Karda Estra, more attributed to the standard model of popular music. It’s an eerie and spectral resonance, though, with occasional vocals which meander on divine folk and prog-rock; contemporary hippy vibes, rather than timeworn psychedelia. Released on Kavus Torabi’s Believers Roast label, a sprinkling of Byrds and Mamas & Papas ring through with an unmistakable likeness to a homemade Mike Oldfield. When vocals come into effect, with one guest singer Sienna Wileman, it’s astutely drafted and beguiling.

Select anything from the bulging discographies of Karda Estra or Richard Wileman and you’re onto a mood-setting journey, composed with expertise and passion. If ambient house is lost in a bygone era, this is reforming the balance of atmospheric compositions with modernism, so mesmeric it remains without the need for intoxication. Now, where did I stash my old chillum?! Probably in a dusty box in the loft with my Pete Loveday comics and some Mandelbrot fractal postcards….



Rowde Villagers Rally in Support of Residential Centre Facility

Stop the closure of HFT in Rowde

Sign the Petition here.

It was a wonderfully professional-looking cake, we bought for a birthday of yore, from the residents of the nearby facility for adults with learning disabilities, now known as HFT Rowde. Making this a tricky piece to balance. While one doesn’t want to criticise a charity, as villagers and townsfolk of Devizes rally to get a decision to close the facility by the central office of the charity HFT overturned, there’s a notion this is not in the best interest of the residents.

HFT divisional director Emma Bagley explained they have, “been supporting people at our residential, day and supported living services at Rowde, which is a campus site, for many years.” It has, in fact, been running the facility for only five out of twenty-eight years it has been active. Furlong Close was first opened in 1992 as Care (Cottage and Rural Enterprises Ltd,) which was pioneered by Peter Forbes in the sixties. The site endorsed an “independent living” model, revolutionary at the time, consisting of four purpose-built bungalows, each with two associated one-bed flats and it was made possible by a generous £1.25m gift from Birmingham’s the Dofra Masonic Lodge.

The director outlined, “it has long been recognised that campus sites (group homes clustered together in the same site and usually sharing staff and some facilities) do not offer the best outcomes for most people. Our regulator, CQC, and Wiltshire Council do not support this model of care and a campus style site would not be registered by CQC, should a provider propose to set one up now.” Causing me to ponder, in which case, why did they take it over in the first place, if it’s so unsuitable?

Some background notes provided by a relative of one of the residents considered of the “airy, spacious, and homely” purpose-built homes, made to accommodate wheelchair users, and each with private outdoor space as well as free access to the grounds, “demonstrated the Gold Standard of what care for learning disabled adults should look like. That vision stands today, but is being systematically destroyed by regulation and drastic underspending on adult social care over many years and governments.” Irrefutably, the grounds are idyllic in a desirable location, with a central hall for social events, and a horticulture workshop, chicken runs, an orchard and even a sheep grazing area. Rumoured in the village, HFT attempted to sell part of the land some years ago. Herein lies my understandable concern, and if you mess with anyone who made me a cake, you mess with me!

It’s as if HFT perceive the site as “Craggy Island,” some barren garrison cut off from the mainland. Yet villagers know as well as the excellent facilities used by residents, for day service users and training purposes, Rowde is not far from town, and the residents of Furlong Close are known and liked in the village. They are welcomed here and valued, often taking jobs in pubs and cafes, or cutting the churchyard grass. This is not an isolated, campus style residential care home, rather it is home, which many residents have lived in since it was built.

HFT expressed, “HFT and Wiltshire Council are committed to finding services that follow best practice and support people to live as independently as possible in smaller, community-based settings where people have more independence, choice and control over their lives.” Now, I ask you, is there anything I’ve outlined about life in Furlong close which would make you consider it not meeting these conditions?

Furlong Close, Rowde; yeah, doesn’t fit the “model.” Looks kind of nice to me.

“For this reason,” they continue, despite the grey area outlined, “we have made the decision to close our service at Rowde. The targeted closure date is the end of June 2021 after a careful transition process has taken place to support people to find new support. However, this is dependent on all of the people living at Rowde successfully moving to their new homes. Wiltshire Council and other out of county commissioners will be consulting with the people supported at Furlong Close to conduct a detailed assessment of their individual needs, to secure them a new home and/or support in line with their assessed needs and best interests.” Consulting, yes, consulting is good. Did anyone think to consult the actual people living there, you know, prior to the decision being made? Might’ve been a thoughtful option.

HFT make a point in saying, they’re “working closely with local authorities to support the ongoing assessment process. In addition to this we are closely monitoring the impact of the closure on the health and wellbeing of individuals.” Described akin to livestock here, the bombshell was delivered to residents, their family, and staff in the form of a letter, dated October 13th, preceded by some phone calls. Could they pinpoint Rowde on a map?

I apologise if I am slamming a charity doing great work with disabilities, their website glosses a firm and assertively caring approach, though my comments asking why on their Facebook page were promptly deleted, but I cannot see it another way. It is cruel and inhumane, a content and settled community of extremely vulnerable learning-disabled adults, some elderly and suffering from underlying health problems and dementia, are being turfed out of their homes to be relocated at the cost of the Council; something is fishy here. Is HFT a charity, or a business with an eye on a right good earner for WC?

I’ve had a similar issue with an eminent charity when I wanted to donate profits from a forthcoming book project. I was told I had to guarantee them a fixed donation or I would be liable for the rest, under the guise they have a corporate identity to uphold. I expressed concern the book would not raise the thousands they asked for, and I left feeling uneasy and upset, being more like a business deal than fundraising. Villager Mandy Humphreys has initiated a petition to get this decision overturned. She says “it’s very hard in this climate to effectively protest, no marches allowed, no properly public council meetings.”

I put my suspicions to Mandy, “it seems to me, HFT may be non-profit making, perhaps not, but it’s almost as if it’s a ‘business in disguise,’ they use a charity status to their advantage, as do public schools who collect as a charity then run a simple outreach program and get a better tax deal.”

“Exactly,” was the short answer, others I have spoken to rebuked it, thus it becomes political. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, and need to focus on the issue in hand.

“My question is,” Mandy sustained, “if HFT think this is in the best interests of the residents, then why are they not closing all their campus-based centres? The residents are really upset, some have lived there since it opened and were told that it was their home for as long as they needed it. Just awful.”

And it is too, I ponder, as I receive a friendly “morning” from a passing villager off for his morning walk, in which it would seem he counts every step he takes. He is resident at Furlong Close. He takes the same route every day, he is pleasant, always stops to talk. Though I fear putting him off his count if I chat, he takes a mental note of the number and initiates the conversation! He continues on his way. He seems content, appears happy. Please, please, sign this petition, whatever the reasoning, and while it is not for me to criticise those decisions made from professionals, something about this whole affair feels inhumane and ill-thought out regardless of if cruelty was the intention, or profit is on the agenda or not.

Dirty and Smooth Seed to the Spark

That moment after a message from a local band, when you click on their Facebook page to find eleven friends already “like” them, and not one of them told you! Yeah, I’m talking, but I ain’t saying anything new; does everyone know Malmsbury’s The Dirty Smooth, except me?!

If not, you should. Since their debut single five years ago, The Dirty Smooth are no strangers to the festival circuit, gaining a reputation for playing original, anthemic pop songs. On top of numerous live appearances, they helped organise the Minety Music Festival in 2017. Shortlisted at the UK Festival Awards it has become a well-established festival, hosting acts like Toploader, Republica and Chesney Hawkes. Over the past two years, but setback by lockdown, they’ve been working towards a forthcoming album, Running From The Radar, due to be released in February. They’ve a very worthy teaser from it, a single you should check out, Seed To The Spark; it’s certainly convinced me.

With a sonic booming bass intro, it’s as it suggests on the tin; dirty. Yet it’s got that perfect pop blend in melody, which draws in many influences. Central vocal hooks of eighties rock, punky attitude, but beguiling backing female vocals and funky rhythmic grooves of soul-related pop, ah, the smooth part. I’m left thinking if Simple Minds met Deacon Blue, or Roxette. Though I’m contemplating they met today, for nothing is left completely to retrospection with The Dirty Smooth, there’s vibrant freshness to the sound too. Thing is, it’s aching with confidence and undoubtedly brewing with potential. The ingredients are all there and being unified by some musical Michelin star chefs, who clearly love their cuisine.

Few local bands aim for the stadium sound, knowing a pub circuit is more workable. Here, as with Swindon’s Talk in Code, is something which needs some big stage festival airing, it has that range, it has that wide appeal. As with the apt band name, Dirty and Smooth righty word their single, you get the sensation this is far from their opus-magnum, for if it is just a seed to a spark you’ll want to be there when that bomb drops.


Rocking Steady For Some Cosmic Shuffling?

Righty, a pop quiz question prior to today’s review, if you’re game? Look at the three people pictured below, which one of them influenced reggae music the most, A, B or C?

Answer: A. Did you guess right? Probably, because you know me well enough to know it was a trick question! C is Jamaican National team footballer, Allan “Skill” Cole, though as a close friend of Bob Marley he became the Wailers tour manager and was credited in co-writing some songs. And B is just Brad Pitt with a Bob Marley makeover for a biopic which has yet to see the light of day!

On the other hand, A is Sister of Mercy, Sister Mary Ignatius Davies, a teacher of Kingston’s vocational residential school, Alpha Cottage School, a school for “wayward boys.” A devotee of blues and jazz, she operated a sound system at the school and tutored many of Jamaica’s most influential musicians. As a musical mentor for graduates she dubbed “the old boys,” would later make up the backbone of The Skatalites, producer Coxsone Dodd’s inhouse band which shaped the very foundation of ska at Studio One.

The Skatalites in 1964

Here is the unrivalled benchmark of Jamaican music, as well as a plethora of instrumental ska classics, just like Booker T & the MGs were the inhouse band of Stax, The Skatalites backed more memorable singles from too many singers to sensibly name here, yes, including Bob Marley.

To suggest a ska band isn’t as good as Studio One’s Skatalites is not an insult, rather a compliment to even be mentioned in the same sentence. It’d be the rock equivalent of saying that guitarist isn’t as good as Jimi Hendrix. For all intents and purposes, Cosmic Shuffling are not a new Skatalites, but to find anyone to come close nowadays, you need not look further than Switzerland; yeah, you read that right.

Ska in Switzerland usually abbreviates Square Kilometre Array, the forefront organisation of fundamental science, with a mahoosive universe-scoping telescope. Yet I’ve discovered some stars of my own, creating some sublime ska music. While Skaladdin are strictly ska-punk, and the amazing Sir Jay & The Skatanauts are majorly jazz-inspired, there is a scene blossoming. Geneva based combo Cosmic Shuffling are ones to watch. With a penchant and dedication to the authentic golden age of Jamaican sounds, Cosmic Shuffling deserve a comparison to Skatalites more than anyone else I could roll off, even to note, they’re Fruits Record’s inhouse band.

After a few scorching singles on Fruits Records, Cosmic Shuffling release an album, Magic Rocket Ship, tomorrow, 13th November. Nine tracks strong, this is mega-ska bliss. Without the usual ethos of speed being the essence, this lends perhaps closer to rock steady, but prevalent horns give it that initial changeover between styles, when ska was slowing, due to curfew in Jamaica and a particularly sweltering summer. Rock Steady may’ve been short-lived but was reggae’s blueprint, ska’s successor and arguably the most creative period of Jamaican recorded music history.

If you’ve even a slight fondness for traditional ska and reggae, I cannot recommend this enough. At one point I felt the English lyrics slightly quirky, with wonky connotations perhaps lost in translation, albeit with a tune stimulated from a Dr Seuss character, namely The Cat in the Hat, I guess seriousness is not on the agenda. Neither are vocals wholly on show here, but the “tightness” of the band, making the composition of every tune simply divine. I can’t fault it, only jump and twist to it like it was going out of fashion! Which, by the way, in my world, it never will.

Magic Rocket Ship is both a tribute to Jamaican music and a breakthrough into the innovative world of the sextet. Recorded in the aesthetics of sixties sound; ribbon microphones, magnetic tapes and analogue saturation, by extraordinary Spanish producer Roberto Sánchez, it’s a delight to listen to. From it’s opening vocal title track, which doubles up as an explanation to the band name, to the fantastic instrumental up-tempo finale Eastern Ska, every tune is a banger.

Perhaps with Anne Bonny as the most subject worthy, Short Break the most romantically inducing, and Night In Palermo being the most sublimely jazzy, it’s clear with Magic Rocket Ship vocalist Leo Mohr, with Loïc Moret on drums, backing vocals and percussion, Mathias Liengme on piano, organ, backing vocals, percussion, Basile Rickli on alto saxophone, backing vocals, Anthony Dietrich Buclin on trombone, backing vocals and bassist Primo Viviani. With guest guitarists Roberto Sánchez, Josu Santamaria and Tom Brunt, Gregor Vidic on tenor saxophone, William Jacquemet on trombone and trumpeters Thomas Florin, and Ludovic Lagana, Cosmic Shuffling have set a new benchmark, mimicking those legendary Skatalites, without the help of a nun. At least, I don’t believe there was a nun involved!


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Shake a Leg this Christmas in Swindon with The Tribe, Showhawk Duo, and Brother From Another

With the beguling blend of hip hop and reggae, Swindon’s pride The Tribe are a force to be reckoned with. Always a lively show, they team up with a most original act you’ll see this millennium, the Showhawk Duo. Recreating rave classics acoustically, yes you read that right, they’re super amazingly awesome.

And not stopping there, local purveyors of funky reggae, the ever-entertaing Brother From Another are also invited to the Christmas Shake a Leg party at Swindon’s Meca.

It ’s been a crazy year to say the least and we all need a good ol’ knees up so we’d like to invite you to the Shake A Leg Christmas Party on 12th December.

This could be just what you need to liven up this terrible year.

Full production for the show; Amber Audio & Patch are providing sound, IC Lighting will be bringing the stage to life with a lighting show and OT Films will be streaming the event live.

Adhering to restrictions, there’s a limited capacity and table service for the show. Tables of up to five are £33. Over 18’s only.

Frank Turner and Jon Snodgrass; Still Buddies

Ten years ago, Frank Turner and Jon Snodgrass recorded an album that became a cult favourite among fans: ‘Buddies’. Here comes the long awaited follow up…

Right, I’m gonna try. Without Google, it goes: Hartnell, the guy with the black combover, Pertwee, Baker, Davidson, Sylvester McMonkey Mcbean…I think, Bernie Ecclestone, wee David Tennant, Matt Smith and erm, Forrest Whitaker.

Somewhere near close, I reckon. But when Davros, least the guy who played him, leaned over a table at a comic con and asked me what my favourite Dr Who episode was, I’m like, wha? I dunno, pal, you want me, what, to roll off an exact series and episode number like an overweight geek in a Buffy tee? I can barely recall all the actors, or what I just ate.

Similar to another occasion when a fanboy’s jaw hit the deck at a comic con upon my confession, I hadn’t read Maus. I have now, for the record, thinking my life might depend on it, but at the time, no, I hadn’t. I’m not Denis Gifford for crying out loud into a Millennium Falcon, I’m not intending to draft a history of comics. I was only there to punt my stoner comic, for want of a next meal. Still, I get narked by the expectance I’m supposed to know everything about everything, to have read every piece of literature in the developed world, to have listened to every album, and seen every film, because I write reviews. Especially being I’m partial to occupying a hefty percentage of my time daydreaming through a closed window.

Still I worry Sheer Music’s Kieran will kill me, or least tell big Mikey Barham, who’ll hunt me down, if I say I’ve a Frank Turner album to review, and this is the first time I have listened to him. It’s nothing personal, Frank, just an oversight on my part, I could apologise, but Davros takes priority.  Fact is prog-rock is not my bag, I slipped headphones on with only minimal caution, being Mr Moore hasn’t failed me yet. Prolific Hampshire punk and folk singer, Frank Turner begun as vocalist for post-hardcore band Million Dead, and pursued an acoustic solo career in 2005, after the band’s breakup, accompanied by The Sleeping Souls, his backing band.

Apparently, a decade past saw Frank team up with Missouri-born alternative-country musician, Jon Snodgrass of the Armchair Martian, Scorpios, and Drag the River bands to drink whisky and record Buddies, a 10” split album that became a cult favourite among fans. Written in four hours, recorded the following day, it’s an experimental project proved popular and now followed up with “Buddies II: Still Buddies,” out this Friday 13th November.

Under similar premise as the original, the sequel was written in just one day, albeit via the internet due to lockdown. I’m going in blind, but informed they were able to flesh out the album with more time on their hands, and recruited the aid of Descendents/ALL drummer Stephen Egerton and Todd Beene of Lucero, Chuck Ragan and Glossary, on pedal steel. Blind is good though, as I was pleasantly surprised, completely unexpectedly entertained. For it’s more podcast than album, they chat like a comical zoom meeting and bounce off each other while adlibbing their next song.

A musical Whose Line is it Anyway, where straight-man Frank, akin to Ernie Wise replaces Eric for Cheech or Chong, Jon sounding like the Californian beatnik, the guys amusingly chinwag on all manner of random subjects: having children, their travels across the States, and name-checking other songwriter “buddies” like they did on the original, but with lockdown prose. Musically it contrasts they desired genres, getting heavy and thrash at times via Frank’s ideas, or country with Jon’s, who often attempts to slip in a kazoo! Yet the opening tune, a parody theme tune sounding uncannily like Randy Newman’s Toy Story “You’ve got a Friend in Me,” is decidedly novelty ska-punk, and there’s a promise of a third Buddies album with the prospectus of an even funnier marine theme.

Frank explains, “lockdown has been such a blow to the music industry, and such a drag that we were all looking for things to do. Jon and I have been buddies a long time, and I noticed the 10-year anniversary of our collaborative album was coming up. Technology is such that we were able to reprise the writing method remotely, and indeed it turns out we’ve got a lot better at it in the intervening decade. I’m really, really proud of the record.”

And Snodgrass adds, “BUDDIES II was somehow even more fun to make. It even sounds better too! Frank mixed it & we enlisted Todd Beene & Stephen Egerton. So yeah, 2 more buddies. It’s twice as good, imo. I can’t wait until 2030! It’s gonna be three times better & we’re gonna do it at sea!!”

If improv Facebook feeds from novice jokers are becoming tiresome in these times, I believe many of the more memorable will become a testament to era, and Buddies is perhaps the best I’ve heard, but as an album it’s not what Turner fans might expect, but will be delighted by the variance. It entertained me, that is, I’m not about to be die-hard fandom, but it placed both Frank and Jon on ones not to be missed out again.

Out on Xtra Mile Recordings this cheerful reflection is out on Friday 13th  November. If unlucky for some, it’s certainly not for Frank Turner fans. Oh, and Patrick Trouton was Doctor with the black hair, and I can’t imagine how I ever forgot about Peter Capaldi.


Who Remembers our First Birthday Bash?

Proof you don’t know what’s around the next corner, I put off doing a second birthday bash last year as we’d run a few fundraising events, in favour for doing a mahossive one this year. As it stands any third birthday celebration for Devizine would constitute me, with a cup of tea, sitting at the computer. Two years ago, though, to the day, our birthday bash was monumental, personally, as it made Devizine feel actual, a real “thing,” so much more than me, with a cup of tea, sitting at the computer!

Still, I can reminisce and remember how so many of us come together at Devizes Conservative Club, made it such a fantastic night, and raised close to four-hundred smackers for the Devizes branch of Cancer Research. But it was down to a Facebook messenger chat with Dean Czerwionka, who now organises Devizes Family Club at The Cavalier. If memory serves me right, unusually, I was unable to draft anything, suffering a hangover. Rapping with da man, I merely suggested the possibility of putting on a charity event, and before I knew what was what, tickets were being sold online.

Such was the nature of the evening, throughout. Dean and Cons Club staff worked hard to make it such a great event. Those fantastic Daybreakers arrived early despite being the grand finale, and set up the system, organised the other acts. My wife prepared a buffet and son helped arrange it on the table. Ben Borrill’s mum Beverly, who had told me about her famous hamsters but neglected to tell me of her musically talented son, made a Black Forest gateau. Local poet Gail Foster entertained intervals between acts. Matthew Hennessy and Nick Padmore snapped the photos and Nick’s wife Joy made an effective bouncer on door duty! Even Resul of the Turkish Barbers gave me a free trim, and Tamsin Quin’s niece Erin rounded up everyone’s loose change for the bucket collection. All the while I swanned around talking toilet, propping up the bar and taking all the credit!

It should be bought to attention, now time has passed and any argument could be condensed to water under the bridge, that it wasn’t really Devizine’s birthday at all! I started it back in the September the previous year, it just took us a while to sort it out and get news out there. In that, it taught me a hell of a lot about putting an event on, all of which I now have…. erm, forgotten.

But it makes me proud to look back at our acts. Lottie J was only fifteen at the time, is now a star, off to music school, and producing some amazing pop. She jammed with the next act, the sadly disbanded Larkin, despite never having met. Sam Bishop of Larkin is studying music in Winchester, and has produced some great singles, solo, and with a new band. Martin of The Badger Set tipped me off he has something new up his sleeve. Then musical partner, Finely Trusler has since worked on solo projects, with his cousin as the duo The Truzzy Boys and now donned a Fred Perry and fronts the ever-awesome Roughcut Rebels.

We had, of course, our darlings, The Lost Trades, collaborating with each other, long before they were the Lost Trades. Jamie joined after an eleventh-hour cancelation, which I was overjoyed to have fit him in. Tamsin wasn’t feeling so good, but still performed to her usual higher than high standard anyway. Cutting her slot short, as things became quite a squeeze, Phil Cooper followed and really shook the place up. Still performing solo, but ever helping each other out, as The Lost Trades they’ve set a precedence on a national scale despite debuting just a week prior to lockdown.

Everyone’s favourite, George followed, with added Bryony Cox for a few numbers. After a move to Bristol, Mr Wilding set up a highly accomplished namesake band, Wilding, of which talents are boundless. Bryony continues working as a fine artist, with a penchant for landscapes.

Aching to get on and get everyone dancing, The Daybreakers did their lively covers thing. A change in line-up, they continue to do so today, composing their first original song recently. Yet really, they’re no strangers to writing and composing, Gouldy and Cath as an original duo are Sound Affects, and they sneaked in a slot at our Birthday Bash too.

It really was a great night in the end, if there was an end, I cannot recall, and I’m eternally grateful to everyone for their help, particularly proud to hear how much they’ve progressed and how far we’ve all come. It’s a crying shame we cannot yet replicate it, but I sure would like to when we reach that better day. So, look at for our fourth birthday bash, all things well by that time. Here’s some photos to get me teary-eyed.

Devizes Town Band Comes to You for Remembrance

Had everything gone to plan, Devizes Town Band would have been taking their places right now, to perform another sell-out Poppy Concert, raising funds for the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal.

Sadly, that was not to be.

We are in a second lockdown, so things are slightly different…

… As you can’t go to them, they’ll come to you!

Sit back and enjoy their latest video; a compilation of a recordings from their last rehearsal in the Wyvern Club and other pieces! Due to the social distancing restrictions on space, some of their musicians joined in via Zoom. Which I always marvel at the harmony of without timekeeping together in one place.

Our wonderful town band are still collecting funds for the Poppy Appeal; they would be very grateful if you would click on the link provided below to make your donation. The band give a huge thank you!

We Will Remember Them.

https://fb.watch/1FmaUORIFr/

Would you Rave Through Covid?

In view of recent illegal raves in Wigan and Bristol, I’ve a theoretical question which is twisting my melon, making me contemplate my past, my attitude at the time weighed against my moral judgement of adulthood.

My art college gave me an ultimatum, return at the end of the summer break having redone three pieces, and on their merit my application for the second year of the course will be based. My young life hinged on this challenge. But what was on my mind as I walked out of the meeting? I’ll tell you, it was, where this weekend’s party would be.

It was the summer of 1991, the peak(y blinder) of my rave honeymoon, partying was not a treat, it was a necessity, a way of life. If we had this pandemic, and consequent lockdown restrictions, would it have stopped me from going raving? That’s the conundrum sliding a wedge between the hypocrisy of my matured moral standards if I fancied following sheep and bleating on social media about youth attending recent events, and my own prerogative and carefree attitude during that era. I quiver at deciding if I should therefore blame today’s youth for their ignorance toward these modern boundaries, be they for safety or a judicious excuse for control.

And if I did throw caution to the wind, as I suspect the most likely, would it be possible to adhere to social distancing measures, given our brand of intoxication caused the type of enhanced euphoria one simply had to share? Effusive embraces were routine, sharing of accessories from hand-to-hand and mouth-to-mouth commonly accepted, hugging random strangers all part of the joyous moment.

Of course, it’s hindsight, and our generation should thank our lucky stars we didn’t have something along these lines to prevent us. Still, unresolved, I called to help opinions of members of a Facebook group, “DOCU: FREE PARTY ERA 1990-1994 – WERE YOU THERE?” Taking as red by its very title, affiliates were indeed there, when rave culture was at its peak in the UK, and by their want to join the group, might just be capable of recalling at least fragments of it!

In contradiction to my rampant hugging observation, one member figured social distancing was possible at a rave, provided there were no marquees. “Because free festivals and outdoor free raves never had singular big stages,” they pointed out, “there was always plenty of space.”

The overall consensus was, 79% said yes, they do think they would have still attended raves in spite of the pandemic, against 14% saying no, and 7% unsure. I requested thoughts rather than stats, and thus where grey areas and interesting points occur. I stated shouting “fuck yeah!” wasn’t really supplying constructive assessment, but many, I guess, are still partying too hard! Palpable comments flooded in, such as “I’d have given no fucks and partied on regardless,” “I’d have dropped everything an jumped in a motor if was going to Bristol party on Saturday but I’m sitting here feeling gutted, reading reports on news of what I’ve missed; I’m 56 by the way!” and “I wouldn’t of given a flying fuck,” which balanced against frankness I secretly wanted to hear, like, “to be honest, in 1991 I don’t think anything would have stopped me going out.”

Pop Quiz: where were you heading if you had one of these?

Some thoughtful estimations came with a twist or satirical stab, like “but hey, send ya kids to school, that’s fine!” and “I’ve seen three covid deaths; all had underline health issues. With that in mind I would’ve stayed at home until it was safe, however, it seems there are a few laws that pushed through that are total designed to stop the dance. If these total draconian laws aren’t removed after covid then I will be at the base of Nelson’s Column with 40k ready to fucking roll and dance, as this total gets my wick!” And therein lies a common accord, bringing the restrictions, or punishments into question, rather than prevention of spreading a virus. “Do I blame the kids? No. Do I think less of them for raving? No. Do I worry about them spreading covid? Yes. Do I think covid is a real issue? Yes. Do I think that the Tories are using it to their full advantage? Yes.”

By the early nineties’ businesses sought profit from legal raves, be clubs or outdoor events, but rave rose from the ashes of the free festival scene, its fundamental roots was illegal, many faced persecution from the law and anger towards authorities are imbedded eternally. It’s fathomable to question the motives of lockdowns. “As it was right in the middle of the Criminal justice act and freedom to party marches,” one said, “I’d likely have been full blown cospirytard and thought it all to be another way for the cops and government to stop us having a good time, would have gone anyway, stuck my fingers up and hoped it was fake, or that the amount of chemicals in my system killed Covid before it killed me!”

“They are not anti-rave laws,” one protested, “they are anti-people rules, temporary measures, as none of them have passed through a white paper in parliament so cannot be ratified by the Lords, ergo, NOT A LAW!”

Hunt Emerson shows us one method of social distancing; you need this comic in your life…https://largecow.com/

Others calmly suggested similar, without the need of caps-lock. “Seems to me they were brought in to stop raves, but had the benefit of also stopping other social gatherings with >6 people. Nothing the Tories do is ‘the will of the people’ – they just get on with shafting us whether we like it or not.” Adding, “my comment was only trying to express what a minefield this topic is, and that it is okay to have what might appear to be contradictory views because the whole thing is a mess.” I know, that’s why I’m raising it; always spoiling for a rumble! But let’s not forget here, no one is condoning the actions of the modern kids raving through a pandemic, merely pondering what they themselves might have done under the circumstances.

Ah, social distancing circa; 1991

And there were moments of conformed clarity, “lives are at risk here – the kids going to lockdown raves might not get any symptoms, but they could easily pass it on to somebody else who dies or suffers long-term damage. Kids will be kids and their thoughts are probably not with the greater good. I even understand that they just want to hang out with their mates and have a good time… but I still worry about what will come of their actions, and part of me thinks they could just hold off having 700-strong raves in warehouses for a little while.”

And others in denial, “I would’ve carried on going to free parties regardless of some non-existent virus!” Or completely oblivious, “I was tripping so much I doubt I’d have noticed, just presumed it was Sunday or bank holiday for 3 months!”

Some brilliantly imbalanced professionally considered thoughts with fond reminiscences, “we were the lucky generation. Would I have partied back then with Covid? Most certainly. I feel sorry for my teenage daughter and generation who aren’t able to know what freedom to party was all about. Hell, they can’t even have normal rights if passage anymore. We need to be careful, as there will be a generation growing up scared to go out into the world. It’s happening already. Working in mental health, I’m seeing already what could happen to a whole generation if this carries on for too long. My fear is, it will.”

And “after being locked indoors for months, young people are going stir crazy and I don’t blame them. At 22 I didn’t need to shield anyone and really only thought of my needs. My 50-year-old self however is sensible and won’t even go to the pub.”

So, the general mood was either, “I would like to think my younger self would be wise enough to not do raves in a pandemic, but I doubt I would have been. So, can neither applaud them or condemn them,” or “I would go, but I have never been very responsible.” With the added notion, “it’s very difficult for me to say whether that might have changed if someone I knew or loved died of the virus.”

….or maybe not….

Yet punters aside, there’s no party if there’s no one to organise it. Perhaps irresponsibly, the ten grand fine dissuaded organisers, rather than spreading a virus.  “Fines might have made me think twice about trying to put anything on,” one suggested. Back then, least post-Criminal Justice Act, police had powers to confiscate the PA, hence their point. “Losing your rig is one thing, getting stung for ten grand, is quite another.” Though another pointed out inflation, “a 10k fine in 2020 would’ve probably been about 2k in 1990 so the risk would’ve been different.”

Specifically, a shareware notion was given, “at RTS, Stop the City, CJB, police asked ‘who owns the rig?” The crowd reply they all do. A ten grand fine could be met if everyone put a percentage in. “Fight them at their own game…. with smarty pants on.”

Whereas an owner of a sound system professed more consideration, “as to whether I would have run a rave this year – no. I’ve chosen not to go to any events this year, although I think Bath and Branwen were ‘acceptable’ – they were outside of the main lockdown periods, they were outside, so ventilated, and people were able to social distance. I don’t think that Halloween or NYE indoor parties are a good idea, and in fact are pretty irresponsible in the current times and situation. But as was said, to lambast them could be hypocritical. We were all young once, and our irresponsibility levels probably exceeded what we like to think they would be looking back with our rose tints on.”

Another who begun their party outside Perth in the mid-seventies, proudly still going, “basically if there’s a party going on, we’re in the van, rig loaded,” still offered caution. “Now we’re in a whole different kettle of sardines. I know of too many deaths of this pandemic, so I ain’t partying anywhere indoors and, deffo keeping my distance if I do go anywhere, and wearing a mask. So those that went to the party at Yate, it’s only your loved ones you’re gonna hurt.”

In conclusion, maturity develops responsibly, we didn’t allow time for it in youth. Yet, there’s a notion these regulations are implemented deceitfully and with a tyrannical agenda. The point of suspending events and pubs who’ve gone to great lengths to ensure safety, when schools and universities remain open, despite the improved technology of providing online tuition, feels draconian to many, and consequently a backlash is a nature course.

There’s two ways of reacting to a pandemic. The archetypal social order of medieval Europe completely disintegrated during the Black Death. People felt death was inevitable, but had a unique way of handling it. Some desperately sought refuge, others braved the disease, laughed in its face, and partied. They cossetted themselves in the finer aspects of life, alcohol, music and, of course, disorderly parties, causing a flourishing new era of music and art, like the virelai, ballade, and rondeau.

Anyone got any Veras? The Dance of Death (1493) by Michael Wolgemut, from the Nuremberg Chronicle of Hartmann Schedel

One member of the group pointed out, “no one stopped partying during the 2000/2001 flu epidemic in the UK. The virus was ‘only’ killing old people and the medically vulnerable. Most people didn’t know it was happening. 22,000 people died in a very short period in the UK.” They also believed there was a pandemic going on during Woodstock Festival. Though this proved to be a slightly ambiguous urban myth by Reuters factchecker, who states, “Woodstock took place months after the first season of the Hong Kong flu had ended in the United States. Although there was to be a second wave in the U.S. the following winter, it is misleading to say it happened in the middle of a pandemic.”

and then this happened in someone’s back garden…. Castlemorton 1992.

What is clear though, no generation can be blamed for irresponsibly in youth, and the need to party is naturally paramount. Whether or not it is correct to do so under these conditions is debatable, but while you are, for many, the show must go on. Question is, can you blame them, if you once liked to blow your whistle and wave your hands in the air, like, I dunno, you just didn’t care?

Tuareggae; Bombino is the African Hendrix

In conventional record shops of yore, albeit some survived, you’d find the mainstream alphabetically presented, and it’d be a dare on to yourself to venture to separate genres. They were usually labelled thus; Reggae, Classical, Easy Listening, and World, perhaps Blues too. While some conveniently slip into a standardised genre, others must have had grey areas. But, surely the most diverse was “World,” as if every remaining country in the world except the one you live in, and probs America, sounds the same, and furthermore, you’d be some kind of beatnik pseudoscientist weirdo to even contemplate browsing there.

It’s all so vague, and without the music industry pushing, a minefield of guestimation. I was fairly young when I figured there’s a world of music we’re not exposed to, pop was the tip of an iceberg. I dipped my head under, but it was freezing with typecasts, impossible to know where to search to find something affable.

Today, and thank goodness, the internet is a universal reference library, there are no excuses for not thinking outside your geographical sphere. But with anything foreign to your ears, you need to unlearn your ingrained judgements, and listen with an open mind. Rarely something comes along so exclusive and diverse, but with a familiar element to comfort you.

On November 27th Partisan Records will release, Niger-born Tuareg guitar virtuoso Bombino’s first live album as a solo artist, Live in Amsterdam. I’ve had this unique marvel on play for a while now, and if you’re put off by the presumption any African music never relates to our rock music, this could be the introduction to a world outside said sphere.

The ingenious part of this album, other than the atmospheric quality of a live performance, and Bombino’s sublime proficiently with a guitar, is the rich musical palette. It rings with genres you’re accustomed to, shards of funky soul and reggae, which often come into play in African music, but the man, I swear to you now, is the African Jimi Hendrix, so bluesy rock is prominent.

Tuareggae is his self-penned, totally unique genre to define it. The “Tuar” part derives from his own people, the Tuareg people, a Berber ethnic confederation of nomadic pastoralists, which populate the Sahara in a vast area stretching from far southwestern Libya to southern Algeria, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. So, what we have here is principally a fusion of these accepted European and American genres with this brand of North African folk.

Just as a bhangra-pop hybrid now appeases western ears, Bombino has something which will placate any preconditioned aversion of African musical styles. In fact, the untrained ear might liken it something Eastern, or middle eastern at least, as it is spoken in Bombino’s native tongue. Note though, his on-the-record fans includes Keith Richards, Stevie Wonder, and Robert Plant, and if it’s good enough for them……

This album will not only challenge your presumptions, it’ll do so while drifting you on gorgeous a journey of musical greatness akin to any known bluesman. Bombino knows precisely what buttons to press to evoke a mood, it can drift down a river at times, it can explode into up-tempo funk, but its ambience is awe-inspiring throughout.

Recorded in November of 2019, while Bombino and his band were touring behind his acclaimed latest studio album Deran. Live In Amsterdam is dedicated to the loving memory of long time Bombino rhythm guitarist and vocalist Illias Mohamed Alhassane, who sadly and suddenly passed away in September. The recording, then, features Illias in his final performance with his ‘brothers’ in Bombino’s band. Yet, you need no background, not really, if you’re looking for something different, but with shards of something familiar, if you like either blues, reggae, rock or funk, or if you want to be taken on a musical journey beyond your usual perimeters, Bombino is your newfound gem. You don’t have to thank me, but you will; I’m here all week.


Chris Tweedie’s Reflections

With over three decades experience writing music and composing songs, Melksham-based Chris Tweedie acknowledges on his website he can sing, but disparages his ability to limitations, inquiring of other singers for possible collaborations. While timorousness is common when self-assessing the worth of your own output, especially for musicians, there’s an argument that no one can express your own words better than you. While the many who’ve taken on songs of Dylan, who let’s face it, isn’t the most accomplished vocalist, may well have manufactured a better sound, but lack the sincerity and emotion of the written word coming from its author.      

First impressions last, I’m only a few songs into Reflections, his debut album released yesterday, (6th Nov) and I’m drifting into its gorgeous portrayals, meditative and knowing his notion is modesty. The vocals are apt for this wandering, sublimely ambient twelve uniformed tunes. And anyway, Tracy Whatley’s beautifully grafted vocals with a country twinge feature on the one tune, Virtuous Circle, and the title tune is an instrumental finale to make Mike Oldfield blush. The rest are self-penned and executed with vocals, mellowly with acoustic goodness, reminding me of the posthumous Nick Drake.

With poetic thoughtful prose, these are exceptionally well-written songs, performed with passion and produced under the ever-proficient Martin Spencer at the Badger Set Studio. His website and the CD inlay has text of said lyrics, to pick one entirely at random; “You are the thousand winds that blow, You are the diamond glints on snow, You are sunlight on ripened grain, You are the gentle autumn rain,” taken from You are the Stars, are not the exception, they’re all this serenely stunning.

It’s Sunday sunrise music, sitting by a stretch of water, and we all need this once in a while. The album cover of such a scene sums it up in one image.

The relaxed attitude hardly drifts to anything of a negative narrative, perhaps with the exception of Slow Down, which suggests one’s life is moving too fast. The majority on offer is uplifting, perhaps reaching the apex at the seventh song, aforementioned You are the Stars, which is enriching, period.

“There are various musical influences that come through in my music,” Chris says, citing rock, pop, country and folk. “The direction this mix has taken my songs is still fairly mainstream with a leaning towards the West Coast path and an element of Americana in places.” I certainly agree, there’s hints of the Byrds, of Crosby, Stills and Nash, but majorly its definingly English, think George Harrison, not to hype but to compare the style of. There’s experimentation at work here, but the experience shines through, Chris Tweedie could chill out Donald Duck!

Buy Chris Tweedie’s Reflections here


Bionic Rats, Alive in Dublin

A superb new live album from Dublin’s finest ska-reggae outfit, The Bionic Rats….

There’s some wonky logic in the character Jimmy Rabbitte’s bemusing outburst in The Commitments film, “The Irish are the blacks of Europe. And Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. And the Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin. So, say it once and say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud!” Persecuted before the slave trade, there are some intelligible contrasts between the oppressed races.

Still, the thought of Dublin conjures rock legends to outsiders of every decade, be it from Thin Lizzy to Skid Row and U2 to The Script. Diverse as any city though, if you thought the idea of music of black origin was the stuff of films, think again.

Far from a retrospective regression going through the motions of a bygone Two-Tone era, The Bionic Rats are an exciting, energetic reggae and ska six-piece from Dublin with a building collection of original and stimulating material. Even their band name, I suspect, is taken from a Black Ark tune, Lee Scratch Perry’s renowned studio. Yesterday they released a dynamic album doing their thing where they do it best, on stage, in their home city.

In a conclusively roots reggae inspired track, Red Gold and Green, frontman, Del Bionic lays down a chorus not so far fled from the Commitments quote, “reggae is talking about the things I bear witness to, on and off the Liffey quays. I’m not Jamaican, Dublin born and bred, I don’t wanna be a natty dread,” Though a bulk of the material here is upbeat ska, if it relates to a modern ska era, it borrows extensively from Two-Tone, particularly for it’s no bullshit attitude and social commentary. A component definingly reggae, or correlated to any plight of poverty and societal righteousness in general. It rings out the enduring message, reggae is universal.

Reggae often takes on board regional folk roots, be it influenced by, or using traditional instruments of that area, the recent surge in Balkan ska for example. Yet, the only local element the Bionic Rats take is said Irish bitter repartee and attitude within their subject matter.

Their sound is beguiling and directed towards the very origins of Jamaican pop music, and skanks to any highest region! The very reason why they’re a force to be reckoned with, internationally, having shared the stage with their mentors, Madness, Bad Manners, Horace Andy, Israel Vibration, Johnny Clarke and their aforementioned namesake, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, also opening for Damien Dempsey and Imelda May. A hit with the crowds at the One Love Festival in Sussex, London International Ska Festival, they’ve made the frontpage of eminent Do The Dog Skazine, Doc Marten’s used their song Dear John for an online campaign and they continue to skank the crowd at Dublin’s longest running reggae night ‘The Sunday Skank’ in the Temple Bar.

Ironically the 2009 debut album was titled Return of The Bionic Rats, and since three more albums have followed. The good news is, wonderful as their studio albums are, we can all now pretend we’re in the crowd of a Sunday Skank with this beauty of a recorded live show, and boy, do they give it some.

The premise is simple, as it is with ska. Lyrics often minor compared to offbeats and horns. Subject matter slight; between girls, lust, dancing, record buying and being rude, the Rats offer sentiments on prejudges, tyranny and oppression, but seldom will romance be on the cards. You may not be enchanted by The Bionic Rats, who describe this release as “perfectly capturing The Bionic Rats in all their sloppy greatness,” but your waistline will get a darn good workout.

While we’re tempted by the simplicity of the upbeat ska sound in danceable tracks like Annie Oakes, the sweary Bad Garda and the particularly well grafted tale of obsessive record buying, Hooked on 45s, there’s roots, like aforementioned Red, Gold & Green, and rock steady numbers such as prejudice themed Dear John. There’s no end of expected banter and comical themes, such as the English Beat sounding Girl with Big Hands. Then there’s that contemporary third-gen fashioned ska-reggae but wrapped in a no-bars-held cussing, of which titles speak for themselves; Twisted Little Bitter Little Fuckers, for example.

Such is the expected acrimonious nature of an Irish ska band; lap it up, it’s refined rudeness. Done too, with experience, The Bionic Rats rose from the ashes of Dublin-based reggae band, King Sativa, who were active on the scene from 1998 until their breakup in 2005. Their guitarist Graham Birney, and drummer Anthony Kenny moved over to the Bionic Rats. Like them, or not, I’m convinced they probably don’t give a toss, but going on this superb live album, you certainly can’t ignore them.

Alive in Dublin, out now, here.

Singer, Del Bionic also does a live streaming set every Sunday from Facebook at 9pm (GMT) well worth tuning in to: https://www.facebook.com/thebionicratspage/live/


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Join me every Friday night from 10pm to midnight GMT for a fun two hours of ska, reggae and anything goes!

My Darling Clementine’s Country Darkness

My Darling Clementine’s new album Country Darkness vividly reimagines twelve hidden gems from the Elvis Costello repertoire, in the duet’s definitive, dark country-soul fashion with original Attractions keyboardist, Steve Nieve.

As a ska DJ you’d be forgiven for assuming the Two-Tone 7” rarity, I Can’t Stand up from Falling Down, would be my introduction Elvis Costello & The Attractions. Rather embarrassingly, the one-shot liable recording which was given away at his gigs was not, rather the one true comedic genius of Hi-Di-Hi was. Sue Pollard stood flustered but ever-spontaneous with odd shoes behind the stage at Live Aid. Interviewer Mark Ellen asked her if she’d seen Elvis. An expression of shock overcome her, as Ellen expanded with the performers surname. “Oh, I thought you meant Presley, I was gonna say, poor thing, resurrected!”

I found this amusing a kid, as most of her witticisms were. Yet, I didn’t know much about the man in question. Like a DC Thompson artist unable to sign his comic pages, I never knew who did R. White’s Secret Lemonade Drinker Elvis impersonation; Costello’s father, and young Elvis, or then plain ol’ Declan, as backing. Was it this which swayed Stiff Records’ Jake Riviera to suggest he used Elvis as a forename?

However it did come to pass, if his renowned namesake is the king of rock n roll, Costello surpassed him in at least one avenue, diversity. Beginnings as a new wave punk Buddy Holly, Costello stretched beyond pigeonholes and always strived to cross the streams, and country music was a mainstay. Take the derisive warning on his 1981 country covers album Almost Blue; “this album contains country and western music, and may cause offence to narrow minded listeners!”

As new wave as you thought he was, an American country ensemble residing in England, Clover, would attend his backing for the debut album. Members later joined Huey Lewis and the News and the Doobie Brothers. Costello would go onto record many a country cover and use the genre as a blueprint for his own song writing. His obvious love of country is bought to an apex by a new release today, 6th November, from My Darling Clementine, of which Royal College of Music dropout, Steve Nieve joins with familiar husband-wife pairing, Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish to vividly reimagine twelve hidden gems from the Elvis Costello repertoire, in the duet’s definitive, dark country-soul fashion.

But for want of prior knowledge of the songs, note, Steve Nieve dropped out of college in 1977, to join the Attractions as pianist. The man was there when Costello released his first major hit single, “Watching the Detectives.” Why is he called Nieve, pronounced naïve? You’d have to have asked Ian Dury.

While the first single released from Country Darkness, The Crooked Line is taken from the album, Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, Costello’s later folksy-era, the adaption is surprisingly electric and upbeat, a tantalising precedent for an album typically leaning more toward country, even if the track being revised is not originally inspired from Costello’s country passion. This intricate then is interesting, while My Clementine has judiciously measured the retrospective repertoire, taken on hidden gems throughout Costello’s career, including tracks from his Imposters and Attractions eras, solo efforts and his collaborations with the likes of Paul McCartney and Emmylou Harris, it doesn’t mean all tracks were selected because of their closeness to country.

While his Heart Shaped Bruise from the Imposters album Delivery Man, for example, is acoustic goodness the country tinge is slight, the Darling Clementine version leans heavier on the genre, is more gothic americana, outlaw folk. Whereas That Day is Done almost rings gospel on the original, there’s something definitively Nashville about this version. In such, you need not be a fan of Elvis Costello to relish the country splendour on offer here, rather a Tammy Wynette devotee.

The album is sublime, without doubt, akin to an artist stripping back to accentuate the attention of song-writing ability, the nimble expertise of narrative which flows through a country legend, like Wynette’s or Parton’s, can be seen, full-colour within Costello’s writing. Yet through the eyes of another, there is even more scope for alternative angles and interpretation.

“Making these recordings took me back to my 19-year-old-self,” Michael Weston King explained, “out buying a copy of ‘Almost Blue’ during my lunch hour. It was Elvis and Steve’s making of that album which set me, and I think many others of my generation, off along a country path to discover more about this form of music previously only viewed with suspicion. For me it became something of a pilgrimage, a vocation, even a ‘career.’ So, this feels like the completing of a musical circle of sorts; to record a selection of some of mine and Lou’s favourite EC country songs with the added thrill of performing them with Steve”.

Steve Nieve

The award-winning partnership of King and the awe-inspiring vocals of his wife, Lou Dalgleish is prevalent, they’ve scored four albums previously, co- written a stage play/audio book with best-selling crime writer Mark Billingham, played over 800 shows worldwide, and collaborated with a wide variety of major artists including Graham Parker, Kinky Friedman, The Brodsky Quartet, and Jim Lauderdale. Their harmonies reflect the strength of this résumé, making this a win-win for country music fans and Elvis Costello fans alike.

The Country Darkness album compiles all the tracks featured across a set of three EPs, released over the last year, with a bonus track called Powerless, of which I can find no reference to the original. To web-search Elvis Costello Powerless is to find recent articles plugging his latest album, in which he offers “I was trying to make a rock’n’roll sound that wasn’t like anything I’d done before,” and comments how he was “powerless” to prevent his young children viewing the horrors of news broadcasts. Yet they paint the picture of the once new wave, angry performer who rampaged through his youth, sardonically mocking imperialistic politicians, despotic fascists and firing expressive verses at punk fashionistas, as a now suave jazz and country music raconteur. But here with My Darling Clementine, the country side to Costello is bought to a western American mountainy summit.

My Darling Clementine’s Country Darkness will be available on CD and digitally on 6th November 2020, via Fretsore Records. https://mydarlingclementinemusic.co.uk/store/


Important Update From Wharf Theatre

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement Devizes’ Wharf Theatre has been forced to postpone their production of Adam and the Gurglewink which was due to open later this month. They have now rescheduled the show for the 18th and 19th December.

Suitable for adults and children this delightful and original pre-Christmas show tells the story of Adam, played by Karl Montgomery-Williams, who is planning to run away when he stumbles across The Gurglewink, a childhood toy who has come to life in the attic.  Reality blurs as Adam is whisked away to meet Rainbow girl who challenges him to a dangerous quest to travel to the end of the rainbow for a cup of magical golden dust..  Rainbow Towns survival depends on Adams ability to keep going…..

In addition the December production of The Grimm Tales has been postponed to the New Year and they will be contacting customers to arrange transfer of tickets.  Please continue to monitor the website for the latest details.

The Wharf were delighted to have been awarded the COVID-19 industry standard ‘Good to Go’ certification by Visit England and they are therefore hugely disappointed to have to re-schedule shows.  

However they remain determined to re-open as soon as possible and send strength and solidarity to everyone across the industry who is working tirelessly to bring theatre back.  Finally they want to thank the amazing community for your continued support.

30 tickets are available for each performance, in line with current guidelines.  They can be purchased by ringing 03336 663 366; from the website Wharftheatre.co.uk or at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm

 Whilst social distancing restrictions remain in place please continue to refer to the website for the latest details.


Dreamlands; New EP from Daydream Runaways

In fairness to you readers, I’ll come clean, the new EP from Daydream Runaways, Dreamlands, is a collection of three pre-released singles, Fairytale Scene, Light the Spark, and the latest, Crazy Stupid Love. Each of which if you click on, you’ll see I’ve reviewed already, here on Devizine.

So, what do those demanding guys want from me this time?! Except to say I can’t praise the band or these songs enough. Making the opportunity to announce the release imperative, suppose, but forgive me for not running back over the same notions in said reviews.

So, I figured I’d catch up with them, harass them for few more questions I overlooked when we interviewed them last. Notably, when Cameron Bianchi enlightened us that, “we brought back two older songs and reworked them, as they fit really well next to the lead single Crazy Stupid Love.”

Ah, cool ,this progressive young band have reworked them. I supposed it’s good to have the singles on one EP. “And those three are among our oldest songs so it felt right to release them,” Cameron continued. “Then Brad had an opportunity to record us for his Final Year Project at Uni and an EP seemed like a great project to take on.”

Out on the 13th November, the release’s title I was asked to keep it under my hat, for a ‘guess the name of the EP’ competition was to be announced. The title got me to pondering the name Daydream Runaways. So, I asked them how they came about it.

Frontman Ben Heathcote replied, “Cameron came in with the name suggestion after numerous discussions and almost instantly we knew that was it. It seemed to describe us and have a connection immediately to our sound. We all daydream and get lost running away in our minds, our dreams…”

Cameron added, “We spent quite a while trying to work out a name that suited us, actually. We were looking for something that sounded hopeful and had a sense of escapism about it. Ben remembers that I brought it to a practice one evening, I think I’d been reeling off loads of names that the boys didn’t love. Then one day my fiancée had been playing lots of Ben Howard and he used those two words in a few of his songs and I just liked the way the sounded when merged together.”

Shame, I adopted the guesstimation Cameron was the sort of kid at school who would rather stare out of the window daydreaming than pay attention to the lesson. “I know I was!” he confessed, “procrastination is my second favourite hobby…next to playing guitar!”

An apt name it is though, it relates to the band’s brand of dreamy, nostalgic and acceptable indie-rock, which has found them glowing reviews elsewhere. James Threlfall of BBC Introducing in the West, said of Fairytale Scene, “I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this band absolutely smash it live.” They’re favourites on Sue Davis’ show on Wiltshire Sound, but I was drawn in particular to a quote by Dave Franklyn on his Dancing About Architecture website, a man who does similar to what we do here, only better. He said Crazy Stupid Love, “has got that great Alt-USA feel to it; Fountains of Wayne style and early 00’s vibe.”

Coincidently I mentioned Fountains of Wayne yesterday when pondering the new EP from End of the World, Calne’s skater-punk five-piece. Here’s where I tip my hat to Freewheelin’ Franklyn, always able to view another angle. For in the way of comparisons, I spent nearly all my effort reminiscing classic eighties bands such as Simple Minds, perhaps U2. I wrote paragraph upon paragraph suggesting the Daydream Runaways songs would slip neatly into a John Hughes coming-of-age movie, when really, I needed only to rewind twenty years; it’s an age thing.

I asked them for their thoughts on this comparison to noughties US bands, all a bit skater punk. As all I know of Fountain of Youth is the one tune, and while the Daydreamer’s material has a coming-of-age type content, I couldn’t imagine them knocking out something as quirky as a song about fancying their girlfriend’s mum.

Nathaniel Heathcote confirmed, “yeah, it’s definitely reminiscent of skater punk, very 2000s with baggy jeans, spiky hair and a skateboard in hand!”

Cameron also clarified, “it’s kind of a weird blend of Indie meets Country meets 00s rock. Not that it started out that way. I think I was trying to write a riff like The Smith’s Girl Afraid.” Ah, mention of a band I know! Heaven help me, are we due a noughties comeback, I pondered, I guess it’s time, despite I’m still living in 1991.

“They seem to be!” Cameron figured, “I was listening to Machine Gun Kelly the other day and his sound is very 00s. We obviously inspired him…”

From here I teased about the possibility of getting a rapper in, if that’s the case. But Daydream Runaways has spent their few years really nailing a uniformed style, I hoped I wasn’t rocking the boat. There’s a question developing in that though, how far they’re willing to diversify?!

Cameron admitted, “Ben has floated that idea about actually, we always say we don’t want to write the same song twice or be bound to one genre. And I think that comes across in our music. It helps that each of our individual musical influences are quite different so that makes the song writing process quite fun and the songs are always a bit unexpected.”

“This is something we differ on in my opinion,” Ben interjected, “Cam enjoys the idea of a more consistent sound and style that is familiar, whereas I strive for an ever changing/evolving sound, dipping into varying genres.”

“So,” Cameron replied, “I think we balance each other out?”

Ben Heathcote got deep, “the world can’t exist without Ying and Yang.”

But I often rock their boat, probing their thoughts of an album, and they have differing opinions on it, but I’m always impressed how they stabilise it mutually; I do hope it’s a solid band, as this EP rocks and I always look forward to hearing some new from them. They even went as portentous to hint at an album’s possibility, but rather concentrate on the idea of a sequential set of songs on a running theme. There you go, Mr Franklyn, I surmise they’ll be writing the next soundtrack to a John Hughes rework!

If so, I get first dibs on the actress playing Molly Ringwald’s part, but probably not, though with this blinding new EP, it is fair to assume it’s only just the beginnings for The Daydream Runaways. The peak will be unimaginably awesome.


Very Brave or Very Stupid; End of Story

Very brave or very stupid, to suggest five-piece band End of Story are terrible, more so if I tell you they’re a bus journey away in Calne! Terrible is as terrible does, Forrest; a complimentary adjective in punk, like the magnificence of being spat on by Sid Vicious, it’s a term of endearment.

For End of Story are the localist epithet of skate-punk, they do it well and as it should be done. Their new EP of four original tracks titled thus, Very Brave or Very Stupid is terrible, if terrible means awesome. It’s raw, angry, energetically entertaining; the very blueprint of punk.

Through the passage of time, generations warped the tenure of the house of punk, and new subgenres evolved, their attributes far-flung from the roots. No wonder why I’m particularly picky about the genre, tending to steer away from modern takes. Be they aiming commercially, like power-pop, like Blink 182, or excessively overkill it, like skatecore. Principally I guess it’s predominantly youthful American, and I tick neither box.

I reserve my right to appreciate from afar, though, especially when procured with an amusing take, Back to the Future references, fancying your girlfriend’s mum, for examples. Or if there’s a clever narrative like Avril Lavigne’s Sk8er Boi. I even allowed myself to be dragged to a Bowling for Soup gig at Bristol’s 02 by my son, albeit a taxi service. I gulp and confess, didn’t stage dive, but it was alright. But, and this is a big but, my erroneous dejection; can’t help but feel it’s lost its raw way from my first love, Ramones, Pistols, Buzzcocks, et all.

Precisely why I find End of Story refreshing, skate-punk it may be, but with full beams blasting into original punk, shining the way, reminding me of Welsh punkers, Sally & Kev Records and punk-paste zines of yore. The four tunes are archetype skate-punk subjects, Sweet Sticky Kiss of Mary Jane the only stoner ballad, the others theme on disjected romance and broken promises. But it’s catchy with boundless rage, and as garage as punk should be.

Nosebleed perhaps the loudest, Shattered Earth perhaps the most interestingly grafted, and the finale, It’s not Him, perhaps the most commercially viable within the confounds of skater punk, but all equally beguiling. Top effort guys, highly enthralling, and it’s out today. Punkers, check it out:

https://music.apple.com/gb/artist/end-of-story/1535986645


Devizine Christmas Shopping Challenge!

Too early to even mention the big C? Yes, I accept, but needs must with four weeks of lockdown at our door. The gauntlet laid, the challenge: to seek out Christmas shopping items suggested by our Facebook readers within a two-hour limit, including an obligatory breakfast, by shopping in Devizes, using independent shops as much as possible. Can it be done, will I get a soaking, will I remain relatively sane?!

A Tuesday morning in earliest November, I’m confident and at a steady pace. It’s overcast but dry, the sun attempts to peak through, and surprisingly, there appears to be no rush or panic buying with three days prior to the lockdown sequel. Is there any point to all this, one may ask? Yeah, I said I was going to do it, despite my general loathing of shopping (retail therapy is an oxymoron to me.) We still have three days, and fingers crossed all will reopen next month. I did make a point of asking the relative shops about their online presence too. All is not lost, Devizes is a wonderful little place to shop, but million dollar question, can you get everything you want there?

This list then, lets have a look. I have only six items suggested, therefore added something of my own. Got to look after number one after all. So, added to the list is a new jumper, and a cuddly elephant; note I’m a grandad now, it’s not for me!

Items on the list as follows: Clair Goodwin Figes wants a spatula spurtle, of which I had to Google. Jenny Moore wants a tagine, yep, that too. Ema Waterman wants an electric whisk, or, failing that a bottle of whiskey. I guess with enough whiskey inside you an electric whisk is unnecessary. There seems to be a running theme of kitchen utensils here, but I was prewarned popping into Ma Cuisine and scooping the whole bundle in one would be frowned upon.

Other, non utensil items were a Galileo thermometer for Leannie Cherry, a specific album for Catherine York, Nine Below Zero’s Don’t Point Your Finger, and Teri Stout wanted some gouache paints; I hope you’re all on the good list ladies.

Result, I think, was fair. Did I manage it in two hours? Well, I didn’t get a parking ticket, let’s put it that way. Inclusive of laps around town trying to find a parking place, I was dusted well within the time limit, and survived to tell the tale.

First port of call I figured was easy, Teri’s gouache; there’s an artist’s shop in St Johns near the Vaults. Yeah, I govern my way around by pub names. In fact, as I do, I fail to notice changes to our shop fronts, and found a nice-looking tearoom come Chinese restaurant called the Mayflower. Though it was closed, I was like, oh, never seen that before. Much was the nature of my start to the challenge, as what I figured would be easy, was not. The artist suppliers kaput, who knew? A picture framer and décor supplier, Original Glory stood in its place. Not so original as its namesake, as it used to be an artist’s shop, and had been for as long as I can recall. They were however friendly and recommended Devizes Books.

It’s plastic gloves on at Handell House, and Jo there to great me. I could spend eons in this cathedral of all thing’s literature and art. Devizes Books is wonderful, always has been. Alas they only sold watercolours and pastels. I was diverted to WH Smith, in which doubtful about as it broke the rules, and anyway, they only had watercolours and acrylic paint. Sorry Teri, item one; failed.

Down Maryport Street I marched unperturbed of my failure. I spotted an electric whisk in Mainlys, Ema, that shop which has got everything hardware and a whole lot more; I took a snap through the window.

Detour Clothing was the destination to fulfil my own want of a new jumper. The only men’s clothes shop in Devizes has been on scene for twenty-four years, once situated down Swan Yard. The thing is, and I put it to the chatty shop owner, people drift by assuming as it’s breached a gap in the market, it must be pricey. “We get more tourists than young local people come in,” she explained. When really, prices are reasonable, there’s jumpers on racks, a steal at £15. The notion you need to travel afar to obtain new threads, guys, is proven wrong by this great little store.

Now, I did promise myself a breakie, I love a bit of New Society, you know that, and was recommended Brogans and Soup Chick in the Shambles. Time pushing on, I’m heading for the back of the Shambles for a sample of soup, but it was closed. “People shutting up early,” said a trader, “before lockdown.” A sign of the times, perhaps. Maybe they were simply out of croutons. 

Biddles it was, a warming and hospitable alcove of the Shambles, after the draft of the doors. Biddles supplied me with a mug of tea and a tasty bacon roll, cooked just how I like it, all in for £2.50. You’ll not get that in Costa. I’m not one for delicate a’ la carte when it comes to breakfast, I want good honest grub at a steal, job done at Biddles.

Refreshed, I’m on my way to sort Cath’s request out; rather like Highlander, there can be only one. Vinyl Realm, under their new roof in Northgate Street is just how you remember a record shop being. I dragged my daughter in just last week, flicked through vinyl and told her that’s how we made a Spotify playlist back in my day. Pete brushed his hand over his record deck, for people to use and try before they buy. “Kids come in and play the vinyl on here,” he smiled in reminiscence, “just how we did.”

They sold a copy of Don’t Point Your Finger not so long ago, but assured me they had other albums by Nine Below Zero; so, I half-met the agenda. Thing is though, I’m in there now, browsing, and could be some time. What Pete and Jackie don’t know about music you could write on the back of a matchbox, with space for diagrams. And they’ll happily chat about it till the cows on a Pink Floyd album come home. Man, I noticed an original Atlantic 7” of Wilson’s Picket’s In the Midnight Hour, for a mere fiver. But I spent my pearl on local band Mr Love & Justice’s 2009 CD, Watchworld. Pete and Jackie are dedicated to our local music scene and will sell unsigned bands’ wares in abundance.

But there’s more to the activities happening here in the yellow gem on Northgate Street. Pete showed me out back of his new digs, where I was greeted by a wall of sound, and a guitar lay on a desk ready for new strings. Whether it’s instruments or simply a band t-shirt, Vinyl Realm got it down, and PA hire to a vintage hi-fi, it fits any bill. What is more, lockdown is no worries, Pete explained he was still busy during the last one, as they have a website, ordering service and will deliver what you need if you ask them.

Time ticking I’m hopping out of there and down the Market Place. The Ginnel, that little pathway of ever-changing indie boutiques and tea rooms is a must. Tea Inc is bustling, but I’m on for a cuddly elephant here, I can feel it in my bones. Handmade gift shops are plentiful in town, Beezes is a beauty. Next door an extension for children, Little B’s is simply delightful, lots of crochet and knitted cuddlies, wooden toys and books await you there; a cute little elephant awaited me. For less than £13, he’s a steal and would warm any child’s heart. I took his mugshot on the desk; he deserves a loving home. Beezes set up a website last lockdown and so will continue to trade, they warmly informed.

But I’m still in the dark with all the kitchen utensils from the demanding girls! Oh, and Leannie’s Galileo thermometer; please, can’t I just go home now?

What the heck, Ma Cuisine it is. Never been in there before, but it’s a maze of kitchen goodies stacked to the ceiling. A small chain based in Bath, it’s glorious. I sauntered the aisles, assured I’d find them all here. Amidst spatulas a-plenty I couldn’t see a spurtle, but nothing was “man-labelled” and I confess, I didn’t have a Scooby-Doo what it looked like! Trouble is, I felt like a mere peasant in the Queen’s chamber, and scared for my month’s pay, to knock so much as a kettle off the shelf, I made a sharp exit.

Gloomy outlook, I failed, I spent too much time lapping up my bacon roll and gassing in the Realm. I’m homebound, grab some teabags from Iceland which is what I came out for. There’s the very misconception though; residents nip to town to grab a necessity, save a big shop for a larger town. But walking through Devizes is a delight, and though we may’ve not made the outlandish requests on the list precisely, there’s plenty to purchase here, and little need to venture elsewhere.

Example, and hole-in-one. On my trek to Iceland I pass through the Little Brittox. There, at number 3, is the Giving Tree. What a wonderful name for a gift shop, and so, as name suggests it, I give it a last go. Whoop bang wallop! No, I didn’t smash anything. The lady inside sprung to order when I told her the nature of my visit. I noted a fine wood spatula, that will have to do Clair!

A tagine, for Jenny, yep, right above it, she told me. I tried my luck and inquired about the Galileo thermometer for Leannie. “Yes,” came the reply, and she hurried to fetch this wonderful workable charm. Placed together it was the perfect ending; result! Three in one, done, thanks to The Giving Tree. And yep, just like the others, they trade online, and you won’t find customer service like this at a sprawling blot on the landscape retail park.

Even the name gets my goat up, honestly, “Retail Park,” “Shopping Village,” doesn’t fool me, call a spade a spade, it’s a shopping centre, nothing like a park or a village at all. You’ve been had by the name alone, how can you trust them further? Ak! Shop local!


Carmela’s Superhero Salvation Army Toy Appeal

Massive shout out to People Like Us member, Pip Phillips for getting his head shaved on Sunday in aid of Carmela’s Stand Up to Muscular Dystrophy. I told him he needs to join a ska band with his new skinhead look!

For those who don’t know Carmela, she has a very rare progressive muscle wasting disease which weakens all skeletal muscles, weakens the respiratory system and cardiac issues occur, and receives care from Julia’s House Children’s Hospice twice a week. You may recall the day I did my milk round in my Spiderman onesie August last year, when I was delighted Carmela came to help dressed as Wonder Woman.

Her love for Wonder Woman has become somewhat of a running theme in the fundraising effort, Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot recently donated over three thousand pounds when Carmela walked her own mini marathon in place of her father Darren, who was intending to run the London Marathon.

Superhero is apt though, to describe Carmela, she is a little fighter, determined with her physical exercise to stay as mobile and strong for as long as possible. More to the point though, I can vouch for her charm, you’ll never meet a more inspirational girl than six-year-old Carmela and everyone immediately warms to her natural magnetism.

The tables have turned for this venture though, as her determination is to put smiles on other’s faces this Christmas. November is a time when Carmela usually raises money for her cure campaign with Muscular Dystrophy UK. But she asked to help children have presents for Christmas, as she saw a TV programme about vulnerable families and wants to help.

So, Carmela will be taking part in a virtual 4-week physical challenge with http://www.superheroseries.co.uk called Winter Wonder Wheels, Race Around The World, and instead of asking for sponsorship she is asking for at least £5 unwrapped gifts for any aged child sent to her home address so they can take them to The Salvation Army, as one trip at the end of her event. Please privately message Carmela on her page for address. Precisely why we love Carmela! If you want to get involved, here is the Facebook event page.


Johnny Lloyd’s Cheap Medication

Coming from a more Tribe Called Quest angle than Johnny Lloyd, Dan White, Jim Cratchley and Miguel Demelo’s three-year stint under the banner Tribes, I’m trying to like Johnny’s new solo album Cheap Medication, but there’s no hope in forcing me to commit to say it’s more than mediocre. Soz, intent to say something, certain many readers will disagree with me.

I’ve had nothing but praise for the “indie” I’ve been sent recently, there’s been some great stuff, particularly on our local scene. There’s only a tenacious local link, being Johnny is going out with Swindon’s nineties teen heartthrob Billie Piper. This isn’t Hello magazine, though, least not the last time I checked.

The bulk of Cheap Medication is produced to a high standard, to be expected, but feels overall pretentious. Affluent celebrity blues amidst tunes like Oh Lord are unidentifiable to us commoners, ballads to his newfound love are somewhat conceited and wishy-washy. The tempo drags, sentiments are middling. Though Johnny has a key to winding emotion in his vocals and tunes, like Better Weather, which drifts like Radiohead, dreamy like Spiritualized. Not that I’m too keen on them, truth be told! Guess you could summarize, it’s not for me. Or am I just having a bad hair day?

I like the cover, given the brilliant Gecko used a photo from his childhood for his recent outing, a kid Johnny proudly shows off his Batman uniform in a Christmassy regular looking home. I like this approach, especially from someone already in the spotlight. Perhaps there’s more meaning in the image of a once proud superhero, from this rock luminary than there is hidden in the songs, or they’re too intricately hidden.

Tabloids quote smitten Johnny declaring he was lost before he met Billie, and in so much as hope and love, this album is personal and openly frank, though through the often too private bulk I couldn’t identify with where it wanted to take me. It’s like that infatuated associate who speaks of nothing else.  

In this World carries the twangy guitar of a country classic, acoustical goodness presides with Based on Real Life, an upbeat Simon & Garfunkel-eske tune, downbeat Heaven Up Here comes over all Morcheeba; credit where it’s due, it’s not all dull. There was one magical nugget, an uplifting track called Suze which breezes akin to Harry Nilsson’s Everybody’s Talking, so who knows, it might grow on me if I gave it time, but I’ve got to push on with lots more to review. For indie aficionados and leaden adolescents, this may agree with you; it’s out now, give it try.


MeTooMpls – Various Artists (album review by Dave Franklin)

Even up until about a year ago I was bemoaning the fact that, despite the way the world was turning, music still seemed to lack any political bite or social messaging, had forgotten what a great platform it had in favour of serving itself, was about the “me” rather that the “us.” Where was the […]

MeTooMpls – Various Artists (album review)

Longcoats in October EP

Further to their couple of singles since forming last year, Longcoats, Bath’s self -proclaimed indie pop “for nerds,” four-piece, released a four-track EP last week, pertinently titled The October EP. As launched at Moles last week. Not that there’s an EP in any other month, named after that month, and uncertain if there will be. Let’s move on and give it a listen, shall we? As I fondly plugged the singles within a piece centred around their frontman, Ollie Sharp’s social networking group, The Indie Network.

As said group’s name suggests, Longcoats are the youthful embodiment of gratifyingly saccharine indie, if indie is a genre rather than a favoured shortening of the word independent. Darn, too vague, sweetie? Okay, by saccharine I didn’t mean cloy, there’s nothing bubble-gum pop on offer here. I meant sentimental in themes, and the title track, October is the perfect example, with its hopeful romantic chronicle. The chiming backing vocals also arm it with amiability and all-round nice vibes.

But while there’s no fear of Longcoats going all Rage Against the Machine on us, it’s not drippy either, and I’d argue their own “nerd” label diminishes it’s worth, even if tongue-in-cheek. It comes over agreeable and congenial, and that’s coming from an indie window-shopper. That’s good though, isn’t it? Good it will satisfy non-devotees of the genre too.

The majority of indie jilted the rougher elements of its underground origins long ago, leaving any bitterness behind in hope to impress a mainstream, ergo I stand by my Longcoats are the embodiment of gratifyingly saccharine indie statement, just don’t take it as a negative in any hardy hooligan fantasy your ego might invoke. Find your yang rather than yin.

Last year guitarist Arthur Foulstone and drummer Kane Pollastrone added to frontman Sharp’s lone act, which bridged the gap between band and solo artist. The final piece of the puzzle came upon recruiting permanent bassist Norton Robey. With the assistance of producer Jack Daffin, Longcoats have created a beguiling and entertaining, instantly recognisable sound to wide appeal.

Prior to the title track the two singles start the EP off, there’s a trudging guitar riffin Used to Being Used, a blueprint of indie-pop with its theme of dejected ardour, yet it’s done with skill, catchiness and promising aptitude. The latter single, Drag, which came out in March takes a similar tempo, and cool attitude. But I think they left the best to last.

Plasticine is a beautiful song, taking an arbitrary metaphor like a heart of plasticine, it’s a tune of hope. In a nutshell it wraps up the direction of the EP, flowing and uniformed, subtle but uncommercial. Yeah, it’s a nice debut from we young band we look forward to hearing more of.


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