So, you’re planning to go out-out, the decision rests on music or a night of comedy. An unnecessary dilemma, no need for a crystal ball, tarot cards or Paul the psychic octopus, you can do both in the land of chips n ham. In fact, if you happen to own a psychic octopus, this will be right up your street.
I’ve been waffling on the subject of comical music of recent, reviewing release from Monkey Bizzle, Death of Guitar Pop, Mr B, and Scott Lavene, but here’s an evening not to be missed for your dancing shoes and funny bone alike.
Lord of whimsy himself, Brighton’s steampunk chap-hop artist Professor Elemental, who’s been in a friendly feud with the very same Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer, goes head-to-head with Calne’s nonsensical Real Cheesemakers, and the ref will be Chippenham’s own legend and Edinburgh Festival favourite Wil Hodgson in a night not to be missed or dissed.
One randomly selected lyric of Professor Elemental might whet your appetite, “this one’s for the crusty festivals and shows, where a fan tries to hug me and I get a dreadlock up my nose,” and honey, he’s got rhymes you haven’t heard yet. Expect hilarity at the Old Town Tavern on 16th October, demand trousers, horses and dinosaurs, tickets are eight quid, a brown one on the door. Facebook yo bad self, tell ’em you want in.
As spacey as Spaceman 3, I get a whopping chunk of cleansed retro Madchester with the opening of Holland Park, the new album from one of ‘Britain’s best kept secrets’, Londoners, Spearmint. The album drops tomorrow, September 17th, on WIAIWYA Records, and is produced by acclaimed journalist and musician Rhodri Marsden, known afor playing in Scritti Politti.
Story checks out, with there’s a clear Scritti Politti influence going on here, The Boo Radleys, Belle & Sebastian comes over in waves too. The follow-up to their acclaimed 2019 album Are You From The Future? This is one rich, uplifting record.
It mellowly plods but picks up with the third tune, Walk Away From Hollywood, only to be followed by a strings-based honour to Bowie, in a kind of Mike Berry’s Tribute to Buddy Holly. Shirley Lee, frontman of Spearmint explains the meaning behind the first single released from Holland Park, “Since Bowie Died isn’t about David Bowie, it’s about the rest of us. I remember hearing the news at the start of 2016: it didn’t seem real. Then as things came to pass that ear and since, I felt like our world had become a harsher place from that moment on, as though it had ‘opened the floodgates’. I know others felt the same way, so we wanted to capture this feeling in the song, but add some hope too.”
The spirit of Bowie courses through the record as a leitmotif, and hallmarks their typically sublime mellow brit-pop infused melodies. A record that “explores what it’s like to be in a band, what it’s like to have walked away from being in a band, what music means to all of us, and how it feels to lose your heroes.”
A concept album in the vein of the subject it depicts, Holland Park has a running theme of a seventies rock group who never quite hit the big time, based on the singer Shirley’s father’s band. It comes to its apex at The Streets of Harlesden, the following title track with an everyday chit-chatty quality, similar to Scott Lavene we reviewed yesterday, and a striking instrumental called Black Vinyl. All mood setting like a slumbering Who rock opera. There’s a dreamy but uplifting ambiance here, and it’s beguiling.
Once it winds back to the mellow Britpop for a few tunes, the penultimate is the oddity, a sudden blast of sonic punk, called She Says She Wants to Save the Pigs, and it returns with its hallmark for an uplifting romantic finale.
Spearmint plan to premiere the album live in London in November, followed by shows in Brighton and Bristol, with further gigs being planned for 2022.
A prestigious live music gig is being planned for Devizes. Top secret, if I spill anymore beans about it they’d be forced to shoot me, and I know you wouldn’t want that…..would you?
I thought not, not even if they just skimmed my kneecap with a spud-gun?
But what you can help the organisers decide is, what local non-profit charity would you want this event to fundraise for, should it go ahead?
I’ve added some worthy charities, but you can add your own if you wish. Please give us your feedback asap, takes a second, thank you! And yes, I’ll tell you all about when the time comes, just, like push me, man!
Little doubt Frank Turner is the top of his game, the prolific indie-rocker’s ninth studio album, “FTHC” is highly anticipated….
The previously released lead single, “The Gathering” only gives a small insight into the new direction of the record. Though Frank is not only able to feature guest appearances from Muse, Nine Inch Nails, Biffy Clyro and more, the supporting tour allows him to cherry-pick venues and promoters.
Frank will be doing a unique tour playing all thirty-nine English historic counties, plus nine districts of Scotland, eight counties in Wales, six in N. Ireland and a further eight counties in Ireland. The ambition is to reach all of his fans with his new record and play where most artists will not go.
Sheer Music is the obvious choice for the west country, and promoter, Kieran J Moore is delighted to have been asked. Frank has chosen The Forum in Bath for his Somerset date, which will be Friday 18th February 2022.
The beautiful art-deco Forum gave Frank one of his last shows from his previous album tour, just prior to lockdown. The venue remains a firm favourite with artists and fans alike. It will be Sheer’s first show at the historic venue, Mr Moore says, “it’s an opportunity we’re truly honoured and excited about being given!”
Given the nature of the show and the current climate, (it’s as if no one was allowed out for a year or more!) tickets will be snatched quickly, so a heads up for Turner fans, that tickets will be available in the following structure;
Album Pre Order for Pre-Sale: Tuesday, 21 September @ 5PM BST
Album Order Pre-Sale: Wednesday, 22 September @ 12PM BST – Friday, 24 September @ 12PM BST
Promoter Pre-Sale: Thursday, 23 September @ 12PM BST
We’ve had a spate of comical albums coming in for review, what with Death of Guitar Pop, Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer and now this, which is by far the darkest, consequently most poignant. Songwriter and raconteur Scott Lavene returns this Friday (17th September) with Milk City Sweethearts, an album of new material…..
There’s intelligent and thought-provoking arch-beat poetry chatted here, an amphetamine-induced self-evaluation of an ordinary Essex boy, delivered passionately with a witty edge you cannot ignore. Something of an oddity at times, random prose seemingly slotted erratically fall into place with a running theme of this hopeless romantic, as the album progresses.
Behind a variation of backbeats, often being post-punk, as is Scott’s roots, yet fluctuating through new romantic electronica and eighties mod revival, are honest and blunt chronicles of love, loss, coming of age, in effect making for a memorable kind of album, border-crossing Ian Dury with Sleaford Mods; a Mike Skinner of The Streets in the Bowie or Jam era, or a psychedelic Gecko.
Humbly wry, the observations of his imprudent past come back to haunt him, as he retells heartfelt autobiography. The Ballad of Lynsey being the particularly touching example, telling of a potential everlasting love, but lasting only year due to differences, with the revealing chorus, “I choose amphetamines over you.”
If I’ve made this sound despondent and somewhat depressing, while yeah there is that, Scott’s witty charisma teeters atop at even the gloomiest synopsises with clever wordplay and metaphors. And besides, not every track is quite so melancholic. In fact, it begins very much with the aforementioned mod revival style. Upbeat opening tune, Nigel, is especially comical, expressing the strangeness of individual’s choice of “kicks.” Likewise, The First-Time reels off an amusing list of first experiences with the annotation, “one day there’ll be a last.” It’s all very Essex lad Talking Heads, Phil Daniels chatting on Blur’s Parklife, etc.
Art-pop carries over when the mod revival moves over for a new wave electronica feel as the album progresses, by the third tune, The Earth Don’t Spin, it’s very much more Stephan Tintin Duffy than Weller. For all the credentials and comparisons mentioned, there’s no cliché, everything here is uniquely composed and written originally, and Milk City Sweethearts isa listener, not the sort of long-player you can pause and pick up again, you’ll be impelled to digest it one sitting.
A master storyteller astutely aware of when and how to evoke the correct emotions, and find unusual thoughts to everyday scenarios. The farewell to deceased finale, Say Hello to Zeus, is as Bowie, simply inimitable and inducing. Whereas halfway through gives us the laugh-out-loud Walk Away is Essex humour at its very best.
Closest you’ll get to see him to here is Bath’s Komedia on the 12th December, for now this masterful album, out via Nothing Fancy Records, is interesting, to say the least, an essential item for enthusiasts of the quirky and unusual, making the world seem that much smaller, and amusing, for lonely hearts.
I’m quite happy, thank you, but loved it nonetheless, cos it ain’t always been that way. And that’s it, right there, I figure it’s not only my association Scott is from my motherland, but there’s something I think anyone with a heart will identify with here, and that’s something really rather special.
Fancy a break from the serious side of life? Tired of bolshy reactionary keyboard warriors blotting facts and illogically splicing political car crashes into positives? Or maybe it’s just that bastard tap in the upstairs bathroom, dripping, and the only thing the bimbo at the call centre is filing is her fingernails.
You need some Chop Chappy time, a dose of which is available from Bandcamp. Some name-your-price craziness from Mr. B, The Gentleman Rhymer spawned yesterday, and chockfull of jolly, pythonesque hip hop lockdown cabin fever rejoinders, it’s what the doctor would recommend; the madcap scientist type.
Lessons from Double Dee & Steinski I’ll give you, but no album is going to wax lyrical Michael Palin fashion over the Grange Hill Theme, throwdown Grandmaster Melle Mel’s Message over the Charleston, or bite LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out with a Wurzels-fashioned backbeat, usually.
And we’re only five tracks into Chop Chappy, inspired by the tunes of his lockdown “niceolation” parties, every Tuesday, on his Mixcloud. Though, since its dawn, the likes of The Treacherous Three, Doug E Fresh or Ron & the DC Crew sprinkled comedy into hip hop, and today even locally we’ve Goldie Looking Chain, Monkey Bizzle, Corky, and more, it’s only cliché if you fail to find an original angle. Mr B subtitles his angle, The Gentleman Rapper, and with mock pomposity it does what it says on the tin, granting said tin should be authentically displayed in a museum of curiosities.
Lounge style Casio keyboard Bowie, a gangsta version of Presley’s cover of That’s Alright Mama, a Chas n Dave skanking Pistol’s Pretty Vacant, are just some of the actions, but while there’s always a gentlemanly vintage edge, it’s not all vintage sourced.
As well as old skool, contemporary rap acts go under Mr B’s sniping tool, one revealed to my outdated knowledge to be Cardi B, apparently. Called in E-troops, Shazam recognised it despite the fairground organ pasted atop. One, namely Flat Beat, even tested the app, admitting ‘this is tricky’ and it expanded its search to find a remotely similar track. I knew what it was, couldn’t put my finger on the title. Yet others are instantly recognisable as you dally through its crafted mosaic, from Daft Punk to a sample of Bojo’s bus model making waffle.
There are few occasions, like Nearly Robin, where Mr B raps original lyrics, and that’s most definitely the funniest parts. But to face facts, nothing here is desert island discs, hip hop is throwaway, music caught in the moment, and not repeated. This said, it makes Mr B hugely prolific, sixteen releases strong on his Bandcamp page since 2008.
So, rather than expect a stairway to heaven or bohemian rhapsody, accept, for a while, you’ll be bamboozled by Mr B simply mucking about and mashing up, and then, and only then, will you see, this is about as much fun you can have with two turntables, mic, sampler, and gramophone 78s; and for that much alone, it’s highly entertaining and amusing.
Does anybody else feel like things are starting to roll again? I mean like “normal”? – not the “new normal”, not the “old normal”, but just “normal”? Just me then?!
After snuggling up with the BBC on Saturday night to witness the old “last night of the Proms”, with a cup of warm Horlicks and a packet of McVities digestives, and remembering that this was what it’s always been like at this time of year, I came over all nostalgic. You know what I mean – the slide into Crimbo & the New Year via “putting the clocks back”, Halloween, Gunpowder Plot (and Thanksgiving if you’re of a Yankee persuasion). And the “it must be Autumn because Strictly’s started up again”. Yeah – all that. Soon be snow on the ground, blah, blah, blah…
Well, Sunday in Hillworth Park proved that there’s still a bit of life left in the old Summer yet, and it’s not quite time to pull out the long-johns and big coat. A large group of D-Town citizens turned out with camping chairs and picnic blankets to be royally entertained by Fantasy Radio (broadcasting live), the talented young singer Chloe Jordan, and the massed might of the Devizes Town Band, with their version of Proms In The Park. Children played, dogs scampered around, people ate ice-creams and queued for the loos. This was England! This was Summer! All good traditional stuff.
We were treated to a wonderfully varied programme of songs and music, ably MC’d by Mark Jones of Fantasy Radio 97FM, and under the direction of the enthusiastic Sharon Lindo. There were great solos from Jim Keenahan and Bruce MacDonald, ensemble and orchestral pieces, and of course the traditional rousing coda of Sailor’s Hornpipe, Rule Britannia, Jerusalem (beautifully rendered by Chloe), and the National Anthem. We had everything – clapping, singing, dancing, flag-waving – from the enthusiastic crowd. If anyone was feeling a little blue after months of Lockdown, no-one had told the hundreds of people who were out to enjoy themselves. And they rewarded the performers with a pretty darned good ovation at the end. Perhaps we ought to ask the Town Council to build us a bandstand? Just a thought. (Yes Andy, I suggested this too; Ed!)
A really cracking way to spend a Sunday afternoon!
Popping immediately into your head with fun songs you’ll be singing for the rest of the week, while breaking out in denims, Leeds’ The Burner Band kick off their debut album, last week, Signs and Wonders with a rock n roll blinder, but that’s not all they’ve got in them.….
The subsequent tune to Blues Came In, though, Block out the Sun, suggests, rather than mellowed blues, the blue is here cowboy-boot-tapping bluegrass, with spurs. A fast-moving fashion which continues throughout the album, fusing all Americana influences, and yeah, it sure is above snakes catchy.
As a solo artist, vocalist and guitarist Lewis Burner has supported the likes of Bob Log III, The Coal Porters and The Legendary Shack Shakers, appearing at Broadstairs Folk Week, Orwell Bluegrass Festival and Strummer Camp, and released two albums. Here he collaborates with Ian, absent surname, to create the duo The Burner Band, and it certainly does burn!
Company Man is acoustic goodness, nods towards Simon Garfunkel’s more upbeat moments; deep-rooted Celia, for if as their PR document suggests punk is an influence as well as bluegrass, and rock ‘n’ roll, it’s coming through remarkably subtle, typically folky. I say this because there’s a professional feelgood factor to The Burner Burner, rather than the rawness and unskilled tenet of punk; the simple country pop sound of it Takes Two, four tracks in, is enticingly gratifying, yet afterwards, this album takes serious themes, without losing the appeal.
You, the Devil and Me deals with grief, Search Deep, Find Out assesses morals and judgements. There’s subjects of mental health and murder, but it retains, above all else, it’s catchy charm and slither of flippancy, just by the upbeat nature.
Voodoo Queen, seven tunes in, being the most diverse with its Latino undertones, whereas with Pray for the Light, the folk-punk is now coming across, and it’s welcome to. Thing is, even suggestions of blues, as in Too Much Blues, is only in topic, sound-wise it’s rock n roll, leaving one to ponder if The Burner Band are capable of mellow! Though maybe they just held out for the memorable title track at the very end, with its Springsteen-esque narrative.
It’s certainly lively, filled with exhilaration and excitedness. It also sounds sincere Americana, even when dealing with satirical themes; Liverpool’s campaign to rid the city of The Sun, being most poignant. Penned wise, though, I loved Don’t Have To Listen the most, reflecting on teenage ignorance against the face of authority, for secretly in my own mind, I’m still a adolescent tearaway, and maybe, in a nutshell, that’s the appeal here; forget skin cream, this entertaining, quality toe-tapping bluegrass rock n roll merger will knock years off you!
It’s not often that you’ll get me schlepping down to a Community Hall in the middle of nowhere (well, OK, Lavington) on a Saturday night for a dose of Light Opera, but…well…it seemed like a good warm-up for the BBC Last Night of the Proms which was due to be broadcast later that night – and so it proved to be.
Devizes Musical Theatre (DMT), in their wisdom, had chosen this slightly out-of-the-way place to perform “A Gallery of Rogues” as their 2021 production (their first since 2019 following Lockdown for most of last year). And thus, breezing my way past the various posters for WI and other local events, I found myself in this rather modern and well equipped hall.
The evening was in two parts – the first being a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Trial By Jury”, a one act comic opera, and the second being the company performing a number of well known songs from many different musical shows.
“Trial by Jury” is a comic opera in one act, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It was first produced in 1875, at London’s Royalty Theatre, where it initially ran for 131 performances and was considered a hit. The story concerns a “breach of promise of marriage” lawsuit in which the judge and the legal system are the objects of light-hearted satire. As with most G&S operas, the plot of “Trial by Jury” is ludicrous, but the characters behave as if the events were perfectly reasonable. This narrative technique blunts some of the pointed barbs aimed at hypocrisy, especially of those in authority, and the sometimes base motives of supposedly respectable people and institutions. The success of “Trial by Jury” launched the famous series of 13 collaborative works between Gilbert and Sullivan that came to be known as the Savoy Operas.
In this production, using mostly modern dress, no scenery, and virtually no props, the guys and gals from DMT had nowhere to hide. Using only a simple piano accompaniment, it was down to the strength and quality of the voices only. And, after a slightly nervous start, they pretty well nailed it, with each singer growing in confidence as the play progressed. The call-and-response choruses, so beloved of G&S fans, were used to great effect and the whole production swung along with very few flaws. Of particular note were Naomi Ibbetson as The Plaintiff, and Tom Hazell as The Defendant. The supporting roles, especially the three bridesmaids, were also strongly played to great effect.
The second half consisted of a series of songs from various musicals including “Cats”, “Oliver” and “The Wizard of Oz”, culminating in a full-cast version of the Lockdown classic “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. Not a dry eye in the house.
For me, it was a good evening of entertainment, and well worth the trip out to Lavington. And I’d say the rest of the audience agreed, as the applause was hard and long. However, I’m still mystified as to why a concert that clearly took a lot of time and effort to be produced was only to be given this single performance, and why at such an out-of-town venue. Surely more people would have gone to see DMT in action if this had used a more Devizes-central location?
One reason why I enjoyed Jesus Christ Superstar at Devizes Wharf Theatre yesterday evening, is similar to why I like sci-fi and fantasy genres.
No, hear me out, long winded it maybe, but there’s a point! With sci-fi you can take an earth-bound concept, and moving it from its usual perimeters, see it for what it truly is, without being predetermined via propaganda or personal opinion. Example; racism. Take a green coloured race of aliens fighting with a blue race, and from outside looking in you can see how completely meaningless and rash it is.
Jesus Christ Superstar throws out preconceptions of this renowned Easter story, bought about by biblical re-enactments and more commonly accepted adaptions. In essence, it’s a rock opera, opera is tragedy, and rock music is modernised, least it was when Tim Rice and Andrew Llyod Webber created it.
I often wonder what it was like for Michael Jackson, in the limo to the show, mobbed by obsessive devotees throwing themselves unashamedly at him. In a way, the tragic desolation and isolation of fame is more the subject in question, rather than the biblical Easter story. Just like our sci-fi scenario, it never suggests a religious connection, never states definitively that Jesus is the son of God. It takes the story out of the usual context and reconnects the dots.
The set is deliberately void, mostly of black backdrop, and props are minimal. Rather than a school play’s amateurishly painted scene, the darkness leaves the setting to your imagination. While Nazareth and Rome are mentioned, there’s no depiction of it. The concentration is flowed into the characters and music. For Jesus here is unlike another representation; in fact, I’d argue Brian from Monty Python’s “Life of” is closer! Played convincingly by Jordan Overton, if this was intentional, I found Jesus actually quite irritating. Far from blasphemous given the circumstances, for here he’s unforgiving, frustrated at the mounting iconic hysteria surrounding him. Probably more likely how it would be, especially in the modern era.
If Jordan made a grand job of it, more so did the surrounding characters, for Judas is Jerry if Jesus is Tom, the tension between the two the narrative. Arguably Peter Assirati’s performance is passionately executed greater, the focus on his despair is equal pegging, as Judas feels overexposure will be Jesus’s ruin. Like washed up rock stars or actors in the modern era, we know from tragedies like Marylin Monroe, to Whitney and Kurt Cobain, the feeling is real. In a way then, the lines between protagonist and antagonist are blurred, another reason why I liked this piece of musical theatre.
More general is the third reason; the Wharf is such a splendid asset to Devizes. This historic shoebox theatre central to town is so welcoming, if the doormat was curled at the edge staff would lie over it so you don’t trip. Chat in the auditorium is not of condescending theatre-goers and thespians, rather an almost family ambience with an age demographic to match. As with most venues, lockdown flogged this theatre, kicking it while it was down. Those who can, bearing in mind ticket stubs here are far more reasonably priced than city playhouses, are dutybound to help it to its feet. I witnessed said devotion firmly in place already, as Jesus Christ Superstar plays to a full house.
The fourth reason I enjoyed it is simply the surprise element. I went in critical, didn’t expect to actually like it, given the theme tune’s school playground variant of yore, set to ridicule it with Yamahas and dustbin lids, was wedged in my mind. Anyone younger will have to ask Alexa about this; I’ve exposed my age enough already!
I tip my hat to the performances of additional characters, Pete Winterton casted perfectly for the seventies-fashioned game show host version of Herod, breathing one humorous element to the tragedy, at least! Francis Holmes as Caiaphas made for the textbook managerial role and convincingly bellowed his solo with professionalism.
Emma Holmes and Chris Smith’s recitals of Simon and Peter, respectively, being especially poignant. None so much though as Mary Magdalene, played by Cassy Swann, who, with her astute expressions of woe and loyalty, her superior voice commanded the stage above all else. In this, full credit has also to be awarded to Victoria Warren, music director, and the band, Jennifer Cardno, Bob Ball, Claire Borovac and John Joy, for limited to a four-piece, amalgamated the show to epic and euphoric proportions.
You should note, if you go see this, at the time, amidst the hullabaloo surrounding its controversial subject, it took the best part of decade to alter from rock opera album to the stage in London, and only because of its success in the USA. True music fans will recognise this more as an album of music than a play, ergo the dynamics of elaborate stage effects are deliberately stripped back, the opening of Jesus Christ Superstar rightfully displays the band playing the overture prior to actors taking their stance. But go see it you should; decide quick and seize a ticket post haste. It’s only running at the Wharf Theatre until this Saturday, the 18th September, and last time I checked, tickets are up for grabs weekdays, Saturday is sold out.
It’s top marks for the Death of Guitar Pop duo, Silky and Top Kat, for their new album, Pukka Sounds, from me; did you expect anything less?!
In 1976 Bunny Wailer titled his debut solo album, “Blackheart Man,” that being a Jamaican version of the bogeyman. Perhaps he likened the mysteriousness of Rastafarians to this childhood fable, for prior to the Kingston trend, which we associate so closely with reggae, the Rastas were rural hermits, seen as dangerous outsiders. The sound of the time of the Wailers’ early development was ska, and had little to do with religious or political thinking. It was a dance, untroubled and carefree.
Yet by the second wave of ska, initiated by Coventry’s Two-Tone Records, groups like the Specials bought about a political stance to ska too. After a tinkering second of piano, sounding like the beginning of a Who rock opera, Pukka Soundsexplodes, rightfully quoting their influences, “we play Two-Tone Records, Trojan Records.” Yet for me, the crucial line of “When the Ska Calls,” is “it’s the nuttiest of feelings,” a clear reference to Madness.
If mod and second gen ska was the concluding inclination of pop, prior to the hit factories churning out their monotonous formula, I was slightly too young to appreciate the solemn concepts bands like The Specials and Jam put forward. Merely a wee school kid, couldn’t relate to the teenage anguish of dogmatic student rants, or Terry Hall’s and exasperations at his sister. I thought the Jam were singing, “eating trifles,” rather than “Eton Rifles,” as in, “great trifle, mum!”“Thank you, Paul, I made your favourite flavour…. glue.”
But the underground youth culture had been breached; Bad Manners, The Piranhas, The Beat, Fun Boy Three, and especially Madness aimed at the charts. “Walking home and squashing snails,” was more relevant to me and my mates, than “bands don’t play no more,” ergo the resounding and lasting success of Madness above all others of the era.
It is of no bad thing then, the most appropriate comparison to Death of Guitar Pop can only be Madness, for their fairground sound was not just universally appealing, but reflected more on the original ethos of ska, as a carefree dance music. Death of Guitar Pop mimic this tenet, with bells, horns and chequered trilbies on.
I’m struggling then, to find anything serious about Pukka Sounds, and that’s its charm. Silky begins the second tune in with lounge style vocals, which has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Tongue-in-cheeks all the way through, I’d give Death of Guitar Pop takes Madness’s wittiest lateral to a whole new level, with tunes like Fell off the back of a Lorry, their jaunty Essex-boy humour is exposed, and comes over highly entertaining.
Perhaps the best track, for nodding to influences beyond Madness is The Death of Guitar Pop Shuffle, with the legendary Nick Welsh, aka King Hammond, for here’s a tune which recognises ska’s origins from the shuffle subgenre of RnB, the likes of T-Bone Walker and Fats Domino, replicated but reversed by Prince Buster at a Duke Reid recording sessions, to create “Jamacia’s first nation sound.”
Nods also go to reggae though, the pedigree “boss sound” distributed by Trojan in sixties England, which appeased the skinhead culture. I tip my hat to them for the track, For Alys, as a concentrated downtempo number without their comical toasting; their own The Return of The Los Palmas 7?
Bobby Dazzler, a Pukka Ballad, too, both challenging an anthemic hopeless romantic theme, naturally beer-driven last song ballads.
But, at best, Guitar Pop reveal in these beguiling ska and upbeat boss tunes with comical, carefree leitmotifs and nonsensical fun, like Captain Melvin’s Reggae Party Bus, and a cover of ska-punk band, Rancid’s Junkie Man, the aforementioned exactness to the ethos of Madness being the reason these guys have rocketed to the top of their game, in just three albums.
The array of ska nuttiness is reborn here, and the party doesn’t wait for those held up in the kitchen, the album marches, the sax on The Velvet Drum particularly evoking memories of Lee Thompson flying over rooftops.
For anyone with deliberations British ska is mislaid, home only to withering skinheads of a lost epoch, this deluxe edition of Pukka Sounds is eighteen original tracks strong, released yesterday, and it places England firmly back on the ska map amidst a universal scene. But more than this, their charisma is a beacon calling out to others, who may only have a passing interest in the movement. I urge, if you shrug at my consistent praise of ska, you’ve not tried Death of Guitar Pop, and really, you should. Then come back and tell me you didn’t least tap your toes, all the way to Southend pier and back, geeza!
Why? Need you ask why? Because, ska is the bollocks….
Not as eminent as the Yorkshire pud or the Bakewell tart, Devizes does have its own pie; who knew? Furthermore, what kind of monstrosity could the filling be;a generous helping of 6X, farmer Perkin’s old boot fished from the crammer, perhaps?! How offal could it possibly be (see what I did there?)
I’ll tell you, shall I, as that’s a lot of questions to digest? Though when I do tell you, you might favour digesting them instead. Basically, it’s cold calf’s head, complete with brains, some pickled tongue, sweetbreads, lamb and veal added, with bacon, and hard-boiled eggs; nice.
It might not sound very Devizes, being it’s got brains, but the final couple of questions for today are, can we modernise it, with, I dunno, doner meat and chips? And why all the fuss now about some fifteenth century pie recipe?
While I’m happy to hear many events of The Devizes Food Festival have already sold out, they’re keen to bring back the pie, least with an opportunity to create a new Devizes Pie.
Yes, keen cooks and pie enthusiasts are being invited to create a new recipe for the celebrated Devizes Pie, which will appeal to modern tastes at this year’s Devizes Food and Drink Festival.
There will be two categories – a meat pie and a vegetarian pie – and an entrance fee of £3 per pie.
Sponsored by multi award-winning West Country Devizes based butchers, Walter Rose & Sons, the winner of each category will receive a £100 voucher to spend on Rose’s exceptional locally sourced meat, fresh fish or choose from their extensive delicatessen products.
Entrants will be asked to create a pie containing any assortment of meat, vegetables, and other flavourful ingredients encased in pastry and suitable to be served and eaten cold [as was the original]. Imagination and taste exploration is the order of the day!
Judging will take place at 12 noon on Saturday 25th September, the opening day of the weeklong festival, in the Corn Exchange, Market Place, Devizes. The Walter Rose Devizes Pie competition 2021 will be judged by Lisa Markwell, editor of ‘Dish’, the Sunday Times food magazine, Steve Cook, director Walter Rose & Sons and Chris Gay, Mayor of Devizes, who said, “this is such an excellent competition. I have eaten a Devizes pie made from the original old recipe and it is certainly not a pie that would appeal to many modern pie eaters! A new and delicious Devizes Pie, to add to all our other tasty, local specialties, is a wonderful idea. Well done, Devizes Food Festival.”
Quite; you and Terry Wogan alone, Chris!
TO ENTER: Enter on-line via the festival website or via Devizes Books, tickets will be available from 16th August. Entrants will need to register their interest, complete the entry form and purchase a £3 ticket per pie [link on website]. Each person may enter as many pies as they like, with each pie attracting a £3 entrance fee.
PIES must be served cold, measure about 20cm/8” in diameter and be enveloped in a pastry case. An ingredients list should be provided highlighting any known allergens. Two categories: Meat and Vegetarian.
But away with all this, sounds far too nice for a Devizine article, I want to get the lowdown on exactly why we have a calf’s brain pie in the first place, why we couldn’t be famous for an ice cream sundae or something like that instead!
The cookery book of one Mrs Dalgairns holds the answer, and she’s not even local, God dammit!
She was born in 1788 on Prince Edward Island in Canada, the location of the Anne of Green Gables books. Mrs Dalgairns was of American\Scots heritage and had family in India; she didn’t even know where Derrick’s Deals come from, let alone who Ruth Peirce was!
She produced a prodigious volume of recipes, 1,597 in total, in multiple editions, dating from 1829-1860 and with culinary influences that reflected her origins, but Devizes Food Festival explains, it is not at all obvious how she came by the recipe for Devizes Pie. She just stuck a pin in a map, I’d presume, a pie with brains after all is hardly apt!
Though the Food Festival say, the lack of clear connections can only allude to the fact that our pie was popular and is therefore a good one. You be the judge of that, I’m off down the Rowdey Cow, and would rather look forward to an updated recipe; the original recipe is below:
Cut into very thin slices, after being dressed, cold calf’s head, with some of the brains, pickled tongue, sweetbreads, lamb, veal, a few slices of bacon, and hard-boiled eggs; put them in layers into a pie-dish, with plenty of seasoning between each, of cayenne, white pepper, allspice, and salt; fill up the dish with rich gravy; cover it with a flour-and-water paste; bake it in a slow oven, and when perfectly cold, take off the crust, and turn the pie out upon a dish; garnish it with parsley and pickled eggs cut into slices.
You remember being given some coursework, when back in higher education, with various objectives and your task was to choose one to complete? Not really wanting to do it, you go to the student at the top of the class, and ask them what they’ve done. They reply, “ah, not much,” and this gives you the cue to do absolutely nothing. Then, on the day of handing it in, they’ve unexpectedly produced the single-most awesome project, covering all the objectives in one ingenious combination, and you stand there with zilch, except a jaw hanging and an implausible excuse, which you made up on the bus coming in?!
I’d imagine Onika Venus to be just like that. Now Bristol-based, Jamaican-born Onika plays Trowbridge Town Hall on September 18th, so, given reggae is cited as an influence, I thought I’d check out her debut solo album, Everything You Are, which was released back in March.
The title track was chosen as Songsmith’s Song of the Year 2020, and it’s easy to hear why. I’ve not been this blown away by a female vocalist since discovering Minneapolis’s Mayyadda.
Immediately this pushed my buttons, but if this opening title tune is decidedly acoustic blues, with a distant harmonica resounding in the background, there’s a truckload more going on than the first impressions here.
The premise from the beginning is as simple as, Onika Venus has the prevailing soulful voice to carry whatever genre is thrown into the melting pot, and drizzle it over you like hot sauce. It only leaves you pondering how far she will take it. The second tune I pigeonholed as RnB pop, a contemporary Macy Gray or Erykah Badu, aiming for chart success. When I’m Broken carries this concept to a higher height, and is simply, the model formula of popular music every song should aim for.
Yet, three songs in and here comes the Caribbean influence. Friday Love has a clear mento feel, it’s immediately beguiling, a good-time chugging song in the face the despondent romance theme. This will occur again towards the middle the album with Who’s Been loving You. Again, with Shotgun there’s similar appeal, perhaps the most definable as “roots reggae,” and, for me, they’re the favoured sections.
But it swaps back to the mainstay for track four, steady soul with an orchestrated ambience; Everything has its Season, is the ideal equilibrium to bless that heavenly voice and compose this euphoric moment of bliss. After a surprising modern dancehall intro, we’re back to an acoustic guitar riff for the poignant The Storm, using sax to mitigate jazz. I Need You, though, has kick-ass funk, Ike & Tina Turner in their prime.
With only three tunes to go, just when you think influences have been exhausted, there’s a duet with a male voice, supplied by husband, Mark, Mary, sounds classic Americana, as if Joe Cocker just walked into the studio and said, why don’t you try this?!
To keep you guessing what the last couple of tunes will hold, yeah, folk is strapped onto soul, Reaper Man aches of Aretha Franklin, but by this point you just know Onika Venus can carry this off with bells on. Raising the bar of comparisons is justified, believe me. For when it’s funky I’d give you Randy Crawford, Chaka Khan, and when it levels with acoustic and folk, her voice dishes out notions of reggae heroines, of Phyllis Dillon or Marcia Griffiths, and the gospel finale, yeah, Aretha will be justified, if not Sister Rosetta Tharpe; it is this magnificent.
Yet, unlike all these aforementioned legends, the style here is not monocultured, neither does it jerk from genre to genre without consistency and flow. Onika Venus gives volumes to the eclecticism, and it moulds efficaciously into one melting pot, beautifully. Prior to this solo launch, in a band called Slyde, her voice customised their breakbeat, techno and house style, to great effect, and I can well believe it. The flexibility of her skill is captured here, I’d imagine as comprehensively as she chooses personally, and just as the student who bursts in effortlessly, with the homework complete and to an exceptional standard, Onika Venus makes this look easy!
Okay, I’ll get my coat. Leave it to the professionals, one of whom announced this morning, Devizes is on his hitlist. Husband of comedy supremo Sarah Millican, and king of the one-liners, Gary Delaney delivers his hilarious tour, “Gary in Punderland,” to our honoured little town on Thursday 5th May 2022, appearing at the Corn Exchange……
The double Sony Award Winner and Chortle Award nominee is a regular on Mock The Week. Gary is the only comic ever to have got two gags in the same top 10 for Dave’s TV Funniest Jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe, and his current tour took in over 200 venues; we’re so glad to hear he’s heading our way. After selling out his Andover show, and in the absence of a Swindon show, it was decided that Devizes offered the best central location, and easiest access in Wiltshire to attract his fans. Devizions love a bit of joking about, look at the councillors we elected….ba boom!!
If you’re hunting for snark, Gary’s got it covered! Not one to get too bogged down in serious stuff, like political and social observations, he leaves that to other comedians. Gary Delaney is known for his machinegun rapid, quick fire one liners, which take you away from your daily lives for the evening, something I’d imagine we all could do with. He loves each and every gag, and you can’t help but be carried away by his infectious charm. He’s like a cheeky schoolboy who can barely hide his glee with each and every punchline.
Courtesy of Sheer Music, we’ve been holding onto this news for a while, aching to tell you, honest! So, if you’re ready to dive into a rabbit hole of the best jokes in the world, star of Live at the Apollo and sell-out sensation Gary Delaney is your man.
WIN A COUPLE OF TICKETS!!
But to help you prepare, and you know, to celebrate this fantastic news, I want you to think up your best one liner, the very crème de la crème of your wit, and either send it to us using the box below, or commenting on the Facebook share of this article. Facebook users, ensure you’ve liked our page, invited your friends to like it too, and shared the post; I will be checking!
Also, ensure you have commented on the official Devizine Facebook page’s post, and not those shared to other groups and pages, I cannot trace them all, hunting for your joke, no matter how bad it might be; for that’s a joke in itself!
Closing Date for this competition: 4th October 2021. You must be over 18 to enter the competition.
Meanwhile I’m going to arrange for a score of top comedy judges to decide on the best one, (which will more than likely be my daughter and I, or if we can, Gary Delaney might help!) and they will WIN TWO FREE TICKETS! Note, this event is strictly 16+, and wheelchair access and seats are available.
Just as Afrika Bambaataa was “looking for the perfect beat,” I’m one who’s seldom content with the direction reggae has shifted to in the modern era, and long to discover something more akin to the finale of its golden age, when Marley chanted his songs of freedom to a liberated Zimbabwe, Jah Shaka shook the rafters and Linton Kwesi Johnson poetically versed an English insurgence.
Alongside international acts such as Spanish The Emeterians, or Hollie Cook closer to us, Switzerland’s Fruits Records is that rare outpost still defending the ethos of that militant period in reggae, and if I’ve used the term “reggae perfection,” to define their wonderful outpourings before, this one takes the phrase to a whole new dizzy height.
Out tomorrow, 3rd September, Showcase Vol1, cannot be compared with any other reggae album I’ve heard of recent; it simply wouldn’t be fair on the others. I’d better pitch this against classics; Bob Marley & The Wailers’ Survival, Burning Spear’s Marcus Garvey, Black Uhuru’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and a particular favourite of mine, Misty in Roots, Live at the Counter Eurovision 79, in order to rank it equitably, fi true.
Probably the most respected and sought-after producer of the European reggae scene of the last decade, Roberto Sánchez takes his place behind the microphone to deliver a new album as a singer under pseudonym Lone Ark, and is backed by Fruits’ in-house band, The 18th Parallel, and it’s quite simply, a sublime combination.
Sublime because it honours the Jamaican roots reggae tradition, with bells on. To put in perspective these six tracks, with dubplate counterparts, is to accept I’m sent so much music they occasionally get played more than once, but Showcase has been on repeat for the last month, and it still makes me tingle with delight, and militantly march while washing up the dishes!
It just has all the elements of said reggae perfection, heavy bass, divine one-drops, scorching riddims and well-penned lyrics of righteousness. The creativity of the sound engineer and the musicians is freely expressed, and the melody is tight, allowing all elements to flow in an amalgamation which sizzles under the grill.
Without being preachy or spiritual, there’s balanced virtue in the words. Starting revolutionary in citing youth, with the rousing line of Defend; “the rights of our brothers and sisters who cannot defend themselves,” through the yin-yang revelation in the solid Snake in the Grass. Side B, however, starts with Build an Ark, talks of family values in everyday activities, and “Get You,2 projects positivity to defeat oppression, akin to One Love. And in a summary, it creates a tenet comparable to the words of Marley, along with the sound of Sly & Robbie at their peak of Black Uhuru. And I’m sorry, but you cannot beat that.
This album is a treasure, all reggae fans need in their lives.
Our rambling reporter, T.B.D Rose, hangs up her walking boots for a moment, to enjoy a guided tour of our town gem, The Wiltshire Museum….
Opened in 1873, Wiltshire Museum, on 41 Long Street Devizes, isn’t much to look at from the front but holds a nationally renowned world of wonders in its walls.
Walking me through the basics of the museum’s most famed collections was its director of over 12 years, David Dawson.
David often finds that although the museum is the major attraction for visitors, the reception with locals is a different story: they often take a “oh yeah, I went to the museum 30 years ago, there’s not much there, it’s not for me” attitude, and that it’s as simply “a tiny museum full of cobwebs and it’s stuck in a part of town they don’t go to.”
As the age-old adage goes, it’s easier to look at the outside than it is the inside.
The Assize Court
For these reasons and to save another treasured part of local history, the museum is working with Assize Court Trust in a long-term plan to make the abandoned Devizes Assize Court the new home of Wiltshire Museum.
Following a consultation this time last year, a hundred-page report of what could engage visitors was produced. It doesn’t differ much from the current set up of the museum but will probably make it worth £2,000000 to the local economy, more than twice it’s worth currently.
Although he sees the enormous potential once the museum moves to the Assizes Court, David wants people to visit the museum now and hopes to reach our local readership.
So on to the museum!
Stonehenge and the Bronze Age
Having started our interview in a part of the building that was once a Georgian grammar school, it turns out the museum is in fact five buildings knocked together, including two Georgian town houses and a link building.
We begin on the ground floor covering the Bronze Age which was once a 1980s art gallery extension, the floor having originally been converted into the museum in 1872.
David gives me the rundown.
“What we’re best known for is our prehistory collection, particularly the Bronze Age, so that’s the time from about 2200 BC to 1500 BC, and what everyone thinks of at that time is Stonehenge.” The world-famous monument that needs no introduction.
For people looking for something closer to home, “Stonehenge seems a long way away, we do have objects from a burial on top of Roundway, Roundway down, which has the largest copper dagger ever found in Britain. And that’s a much earlier burial that’s about 2300 BC. And we think he, the chap who was buried there, probably grew up on the continent. But came across and was buried here.”
The objects he was buried with are currently in a traveling exhibition in the US, having been at four venues so far it will eventually be going to New Zealand and Australia.
“At the moment we’re also lending to two exhibitions in Germany, and that’s Stonehenge and the Bronze Age. And come early next year we’ll be lending some of our stuff to the British museum for a major exhibition about prehistoric Europe, because we have the best Bronze Age collection in the country.”
“So other museums have to come to us to cover the Bronze Age.”
As it’s important to note, David eloquently explains away a common misconception about our ancestors: “Most people think people at the time were like Fred Flintstone bashing each other over the head with clubs, no! These guys were really, really sophisticated.”
I won’t spoil it any further for you but this part of the museum is certainly the place for archaeology buffs.
The Kingdom of the Saxons
Here you can learn all about the Saxon people and the coming of Christianity and the branches of the Church, the most often noted one founded by St. Nicholas and brought to our shores by St. Augustine.
In addition to this often-referenced part of our religious development, David points out a less commonly known factor, “what everyone forgets is that the Irish Church survived from the late Roman period and there were missionaries coming across from Ireland, and so in Malmesbury for example there was an Irish monk who founded a monastery, before the St. Augustine type of missionary arrived.”
Among many other colourful characters, you can also learn the life story of a Christian woman of high status, who may have been an Abbes and possibly even the daughter of a King of Wessex.
The Story of Devizes
An aptly named section which, as David put it, “does what it says on the can.”
Beginning from, well, the earliest beginning to prehistory and the Romans (there having been Roman settlements here) through to Medieval town and castle, and a wonderful quirkily constructed model by John Girvan (our local tour guide, history buff and ghost walk host) of what the town may have looked like.
And also on show is a book of charters given to the town and made in the Tudor Period, which you’ll see is beautifully illustrated.
“We also talk about the story of The Battle of Roundway, and we’ve also got some cannon balls found in the town, musket balls found in the battle site,” etc.
There’s also a section on the old Prison (the museum even has one of its thick wooden barred doors) and the Asylum.
“There’s going to be a Channel Four program that’s going to dig up bits of the Prison from people’s back gardens,” says David, that the museum is involved in, which will start essentially in the second week of September.
Then you can see the majestic mayoral robe from the 1880s, we probably had our first mayor around 12000.
Fun fact if you’re a Devizes School Student: you’ll see a mourning ring in the cabinet beside the robe, it contains a lock of hair from the lady in the portrait that hangs in the school entrance.
In the next room David told me the heart-warming story of a boy and his toy submarine (now on display in the cabinet), made by prisoners of war who had befriended him while they were in Swindon building houses.
“This toy submarine was made by guys in the camp and given to a young lad in Swindon. The guys in the camp were being taken to Swindon to help build houses and they made friends with this lad and they gave him that as a present.”
With over 20,000 books and 20,000 archaeological journals, 30,000 photos and lots of archival material, and working with “over 30 postgraduate researchers every year and over 10 universities,” it’s not only a Library but also a research hub.
For anyone wanting to look through the archive, “pretty much everything we’ve got is searchable through our online database, it’s got images of everything, I think we’ve got about 15-20,000 images.”
The library’s archive of books, some donated by authors and others bought by the museum, covers the entire county.
I bid David adieu and thanked him for the informative tour: Bear in mind this was only a tour of the highlights, there’s far more in store for visitors.
Wiltshire Museum is funded by £12,780 in grant from Wiltshire Council and £4,000 from our Town Council, but they’re worth 3 quarters of a million pounds to the local economy, because as David illustrates, “when people come here, most of our visitors are making a special visit to Devizes to come to the Museum. Then of course they’re staying in B&Bs or hotels and spending money in pubs and shops and restaurants.”
Believe me, it’s not the boring, fuddy-duddy cobwebby museum you may remember. So, I for one reckon it’s time to show our support and appreciation for Wiltshire Museum!
Us locals ought to pay our prized museum a visit now and then, especially families so our kids can engage with the exhibits and have a sense of their history.
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