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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.

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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.


Americana maverick Jim White returns with Misfit’s Jubilee

Going in blind, crucify me if you will, but I’m unfamiliar with Americana maverick Jim White. Additionally, I’m streamlining due to the backlog and giving this one listen prior to reviewing. Yet, even if my analysis isn’t as exhaustive as other fervent bloggers, I’m bloody loving his latest album Misfit’s Jubilee.

It’s precisely what it says on the tin, a discarded rusty old tin in a desert somewhere. An upbeat roll in a haystack of psychedelic Southern Americana, and a festivity of folk-driven geriatric observation. Yet there’s his trademark, apparently; dark trippy twist of narrative in the depths. Jim White muses US politics, divided state ethos, and national stereotypes. Subjects range from a dope smuggling teenager to Big Foot, and he does it with the professionalism of quart-century experience, and self-confessed “hole of sickness, depression and poverty.”

Multiple-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, Jim, works this personal arse-whipping outing with only the tangibly cohesive musicianship of his long-time drummer Marlon Patton, trusted Belgian sidemen Geert Hellings on guitar and banjo, and Nicolas Rombouts on keys. Recorded primarily at Studio Caporal in Antwerp, it features new songs, plus some older-penned ones, only now surfaced. Put out on Loose Records, it’s out now. To me it’s all new, but I’m contemplating Neil Young jamming with the Pixies as its mind-blowing cogitates flow over my psyche like waves of a resilient dustbowl.

Ruminations are somewhat curtain-twitching but contemporary, and it hardly ceases its brainy grip on the necks of proletarian American orthodox devotees, but does so with the fashion of a perpetual parade of agitated and cynical characters, but oh, joyfully, and with a heartfelt sonic agenda.

The sound is toe-tappingly memorable, maintains upbeat jovial generation X indie-folk-rock, yet smells of vintage. If some moody piano rings out, as it does with The Sum of What We’ve Been, a zephyr of buoyant guitar riff repairs it. There were times when I figured it’d mellowed, like Mystery of You, but it was just building the track. And for that, it rocks!

Through ever-thickening material, straggly kitsch metaphors and uncensored outpourings, it’s perhaps the twanging guitars juxtaposed with samples from authentic US police chases which makes my reasoning for citing the tune, Highway of Lost Hats as the peak of Misfit’s Jubilee. There’s rib-tickling Hollywood narrative, adroitly directed at the carefree insolence in defence of US counter culture of yore. Herein is its niche, a bombast of the direction his nation heads, and comparison of what it could be. It is Born in the USA times a billion, it’s Guthrie partnering with Lou Reed, for a new era.

The finale defines this, an earnest and heartfelt speech, reflecting on quotes from George Washington, poet Emma Lazarus and even Jesus, but after the contemplative, it slides into a fading McDonalds order. Such a nimbly placed, sombre scrutiny, is the conclusion of the Divided States of America, as itdumps you in cold silence gasping for air.

I’m going to have to dive deeper into this impressive torrent of melodic genius, as I figure it’ll be some time before I fully unpick it, and its gist is sussed; that’s when you get the notion, it’s value for your hard-earned pennies.


Alan’s Fine Art Christmas Cards for NHS Charities

Local artist Alan Watters has launched these wonderful pencil-signed greetings cards, with all profits from his website going to NHS charities only until the end of October. The cards are individually pencil signed and sold in packs of ten for £12 (+ £3 UK P&P.) But hurry, Alan says they’re going fast!

Limited edition prints are also available, making a great Christmas present idea. Click here to order.


Cold Water; New Single from Lottie J

Wasn’t it in my review of Talk in Code’s latest single where I waffled on the subject of my passenger seat DJ on trips to her football, and thinking about it, every time she gets in the car even if we’re only going half mile up the road?

Matter of factually then, my daughter ensures I’m as up-to-date with pop, as far as a middle-aged pop can be. So it may surprise you to note this rocking grandad knows his Dua Lipa from his Doja Cat, just about, and I know the “peng” sound of now, and Lottie J’s single is bang on the mark.

Though, I’ll probs get dissed by da yoot for my hopeless attempts to align with the trends in lingo, and peng is probably, like ancient history; soooooo last decade. But everything about Cold Water rings contemporary pop hit to me.

Lottie has come some way from teen singing her own heartfelt compositions at a piano on the local circuit, and the days when Jamie Cullum encouraged her upon visiting her school to donate his old piano.

If she has stars in her eyes, they’re directed and affirmed in a business acumen which knows exactly how to point them in the right direction; Cold Water confirms this. It is fresh, it is the pop sound of now, and assures me, through the chosen path of self-promotion in an era which allows it through streaming sites, Simon Cowell is not necessary. I predict we will be hearing more from Lottie J, bigger and better each time, and with her sublime voice and beauty abound, she is the pop star in the making.

It’s cool, emotionally prevoking, it’s pop-tastic beats and has all the ingredients of a contemporary r&b come dance hit. All it takes is word of mouth and online sharing. I usually run anything modern past my daughter, who mostly scoffs at my attempts to influence her musical taste, but on the position of Lottie J we mutually appreciate her talent. And that’s good, innit, I mean she could be my excuse for attending Radio 1’s Party in the Park. Post Malone, we’re on our way!

No, he’s an American rapper, no, he hasn’t got a black and white cat; get with the program!

Streaming Link

Island Bop with Shuffle & Bang

San Diego, California, 2018, King Pops Horn and son, Korey Kingston began on a musical partnership, merging Korey’s deep vested love for dub and reggae with his father’s tenure as a decorated traditional jazz singer.

Gathering a gang of musicians with resumes including savvy veterans from The Aggrolites, Rhythm Doctors, Suedehead, Brian Setzer Orchestra, The Original Wailers, Stevie Wonder and a pianist who plays organ for the San Diego Padres baseball team, they formed Shuffle & Bang.

Over multiple recording sessions taking two years, this unique musical journey culminated in an accomplished album, Island Bop. Pirates Press Records, partnered with the band’s own Jetsetter Records are ready to deliver this gem to the world on 6th November; everything about it suggests it’s right up my street and banging loudly on my door.

And it is, and it is loud. Dressed as a classic Blue Note jazz album, with indistinct band-in-action photo and simple capitalised font running down the left side, it comes exceptionally close to capturing the elegance of an era of definitive jazz and soul. Yet it drifts wildly between genres, a surprise to know what’s coming next in many ways, but often, perhaps, constituting a Jack-of-all-trades.

I mean this in the nicest way possible, to hit the benchmarks of such legendary epochs, to come close to all the variety of influences represented here in one shebang, from Blue Note to Stax and Studio One, is quite near impossible. You got to hand it to them for trying. For all it is worth, it is accomplished, highly polished and grand. It’s exceedingly entertaining and highly danceable, to boot! Just don’t let the cover art allow to run off with the idea you’ve stumbled upon a new Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going on.

At all times, no matter what subgenre it’s mimicking, it’s brash but not slapdash, flamboyant and proud. There’s minimal subtly of soul, delicately tight riffs of ska, and to cast it overall is to say it is akin to big band, as it’s in your face and won’t let you escape, even if you wanted to, which, you probably wouldn’t. Big Band does jump blues, ska, soul, and even by the end, dub reggae.

Yep, you heard it right; it ticks all the boxes. The opening song is a deep acapella with a booming Teddy Pendergrass fashioned soul voice, whereas the second sets the running theme as this big band panache. Taking the jazz end of a classic ska sound, the third tune dragged me onto the dancefloor, or my kitchen lino to be more precise; yep, I’m reviewing while washing the dishes again!

Switching back to Cab Calloway big band groove for a fifth song, it is perhaps the next which is most interesting to date, Naima maintains a big band style but serves it with a rock steady riff. Quickly as it does it, it shifts again, onto a shuffle rhythm with some killer horns, more Louis Jordan than T-Bone Walker.

Within the thirteen strong songs, the whole album is showy and that makes it rather magnificently inimitable, and because of this running big band ethos incorporating all the various styles, at no time does it jerk into an alternative genre, shudder the goalposts, rather surprisingly, they flow all rather splendidly.

It gets unpremeditated and rides the Ratpack train, with beguiling vocal gorgeousness, When I Take My Sugar to Tea, particularly, or a take of traditional ska like the Skatalites, but the next tune might again return to up-tempo swing. Given our Louis Jordan reference, the only recognisable cover is his Tympany Five’s Let the Good Times Roll, at least you think it is, until the end song.

If you figured this cover might act as a grand finale, prepare, because after a drum and cymbal interlude, the groove suddenly and without warning dubs. Yep, true dat; with a deep rolling bass and reverbs akin to King Tubby, and perhaps melodica to impersonate Augustus Pablo, we are treated to a divine dub of the Gorillaz’s Clint Eastwood. Although they’re calling it Drum Song.

The culmination forces you to hardly recognise the style at the beginning of the album, and to return to it might make you think, no, I want to go listen to some Sly & Robbie now instead. However, Island Bop will rest accustomed in a jazz, blues, soul or reggae record collection, and you will return to its gorgeous portrayals. For all its swapping and merging, yes, Island Bop is hard to pin down, but for eclectic jazz and soul fans, its refreshingly experimental and a damn good groove!


Gigs Continue at the Southgate with a Bonza Line-up for November

Remember around this time of year, how the UK’s terrestrial television stations would wind down quality of their schedules in order to accrual a superior agenda for Christmas? Well, the near-only dependable live music venue in Devizes we have left is showing no sign of copying the idea. Abiding by restrictions and regulations, Dave and Deborah at The Southgate Inn on Potterne Road continue to bring us the very best of local music, and show no sign of letting up for November.

Maintaining Wednesday’s consistent Acoustic Jam evenings, and on top of regular Friday’s Ukelele Group, there’s something for all tastes during the lead up to the big C. Let’s run through them, but remember most gigs are early, from 4-6 or 7pm, and to adhere to the social distancing rules, and respect others at all times. Booking a table is recommended, particularly for the more popular gigs, and boy, there’s plenty of them upcoming. Call them on 01380 722872 or send them a Facebook message to let them know you’re coming!

This Saturday, 31st, we see the return of Swindon’s Navajo Dogs. They’ve not played since lockdown, and say they can’t wait to blow the cobwebs off, with their own-brand of punky, blues-rock, and as they say, “some face melting guitar solos!”

On Sunday, the local family band Skedaddle are in the house, with their popular singalong covers.

Next Sunday, the 8th November, is bound to be awesome as what The Southgate brand their house band pay a visit for some unforgettable funky blues. Local legend Jon Amor, Jerry Soffe, Tom Gilkes and Evan Newman make up King Street Turnaround

Saturday 14th and it’s time for Mirko and Bran, aka, The Celtic Roots Collective. The wonderful duo you should all know by now for their blend of Irish and Celtic folk and rock.

The Sunday, 15th, sees Bristol-based regular original folk, soul and bluesman, Lewis Clark, who appears solo rather than with his full band, The Essentials, focusing on new original material written during lockdown.

Saturday 21st has the combination of Manton’s own Ed Witcomb, of the aforementioned Skedaddle, & Marlborough’s talented Nick Beere, promising magical mellow blues, catchy guitar riffs, and a combination of chilled acoustic covers and original material.

More blues on the Sunday 22nd, and why not? Bare blues with rural roots, delivered via slide guitar, harp and stomp-box with energy and passion. The Gate welcome back Trevor Babajack Steger.

Saturday 28th I’ve defo bookmarked, when Swindon’s two-tone ska darlings, The Skandals skank the Gate. Since the split with frontman Mark Colton, the lively band welcome back their original lead, ex-Skanxter Carl Humphries. Playing as selection of two-tone ska covers, is always welcome.

The Southgate are keen to point out at this stage, gigs do depend on changing covid regulations and should things alter, larger and louder bands might have to sadly be cancelled. Fingers crossed, as Bite the Hand are due to arrive on the last Sunday of November, the 29th. Like many, it’ll be these crazy metal-heads’ first gig since lockdown. Bite The Hand perform fast and furious punk and metal, self-penned reasoning is “to try and offer audiences something less vanilla. It’s the kick in the teeth you’ve always wanted, the dirty habit you just gotta have.”

Personally, as well as wishing Dave a happy belated birthday for yesterday, I just wanted to thank them and their team for continuing to work through this period safely and provide Devizes with such a great line-up of free entertainment from their hospitable and welcoming, best pub in Wiltshire!


Wiltshire Council’s Live Covid Update

Wiltshire Council are hosting a live public COVID-19 update on Tues 3 Nov at 5pm.

The online broadcast will feature Wiltshire Council Leader, Philip Whitehead, Chief Executive, Terence Herbert and Director of Public Health for Wiltshire, Kate Blackburn.

They will be providing an update on the latest number of positive cases and the rate of COVID-19 cases in Wiltshire, and the arrangements in place to mitigate the spread of the virus. There will also be details on how schools, care homes and council services are responding to the situation and planning for the coming weeks.

They want to hear from you.

You can submit your questions about COVID-19 and the local response in advance by emailing communications@wiltshire.gov.uk, no later than 5pm on Sunday 1 November.

Full details: http://orlo.uk/szlOg

Devizes Winter Festival

The weekend traditionally for Devizes Lantern Parade, 27th-28th November, there promises to be a huge magical community event this year, because of circumstances beyond their control, DOCA are doing things a little differently, and invites you to be apart of the Devizes Winter Festival. There are plenty of things to do, see, and get involved in.

FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT
For your delight, they will have roaming performers and an amazing walking trail for you to visit, suitable for all ages.

Projector Boom Bikes by Sound Intervention

Dan Fox will be bringing his amazing projector bikes which will fill the streets with music and light. Interact with all the strange and familiar creatures the bikes project onto the buildings of Devizes.
Location: Leaving from the yard of the Black Swan
Appearing: Friday 27th 17.00 -17.45, 18.30-19.15 &
20.15-21.00 Saturday 28th – 16.45- 17.30 & 18.00-19.00

Celestial Sound Cloud by Pif Paf

Dance and wave and the Sound Cloud will react to you to create a unique conversation in sound and light. Don’t be shy, it’s your chance to be the conductor to create beautiful harmonies and make light patterns like you’ve never seen before. Access to the SoundCloud will be managed by volunteers for your safety.
Location: Wiltshire Museum’s garden, Long Street, SN10 1NS. Access through the rear car park
Times: Friday 27th – 16:00 – 21:00, Saturday 28th – 16:00 – 19:00

The Bell Orchestra by Beautiful Creatures

This amazing supersize instrument is waiting for you to come and play. Created by Beautiful Creatures Theatre who will invite you to experiment with these giant illuminated chimes. Come and enjoy some safe togetherness and make some beautiful music in this lovely Devizes square. Suitable for all ages and abilities
Location: The Chequers Garden, High Street, SN10 1AT
Times: Friday 27th 16:30 – 18:30 & 19:00 – 21:00

Devizes Town Band

Devizes Town Band will bring the sound of festive tunes that you know and love to the Market Place.
Saturday Morning – times to be announced soon

Virtual light switch on by Father Christmas From his home

Like most of us Father Christmas is having a trickier year than usual! To make sure everyone is safe he won’t be appearing in person at the Light Switch on this year but he’ll do it from his home.
He’s asking children to write to him, to help you he has sent us a letter template which you can pick up from the Shambles Market between the 31st of October and the 14th of November. If you want him to write back you’ll need to tick the box on the back of the letter and post it into the red letterbox in the Shambles by 4pm on the 16th of November. All the letters will be sent to Father Christmas who will be reading out a selection on You Tube at 7pm on the 27th along with a tour of his house and workshop. He’ll also write back to you, your letters will be ready for collection on Saturday the 5th and 12th of December between 9am and 12 noon from the Shambles.
The YouTube channel address is http://bit.ly/DevizesSanta

FOR YOUR SHOPPING NEEDS

Doca have selected the best traders in the area, offering a host of fantastic flavours, amazing tipples, beautiful handmade gifts and more. Explore the expanded festive markets in safety over 3 days at your leisure. Please view trading times below.

Friday 27th
Market Place 4 – 9pm
Corn Exchange  2.30 – 8:30pm
The Shambles 10:00am – 8:30pm
Town Hall 2.30 – 8:30pm

Saturday 28th
Market Place 10am – 7pm
Corn Exchange 10am – 7pm
Town Hall 10am – 7pm

Sunday 29th
Market Place 10am – 2pm
Town Hall 10am- 2pm

BE APART OF THE MAGIC  with Window Wanderland

Doca have invited homes, venues and shops to get creative through this Internationally known event, and hope it will become a new tradition in Devizes. Look on the Window Wanderland website or follow the link from ours for more information.
http://www.windowwanderland.com/event/devizes-2020/
Times: 17:30 to 21:00 each night.

Shambles Festive Makeover

With your help DOCA are attempting to transform the Shambles, the roof will be decked with baubles made by the community. Check their website for details for dates and opening times.
docadevizes.org.uk/make-a-bauble-for-the-shambles-installation

HELPING TO KEEP YOU SAFE

Attendees and audiences will be required to follow safety measure. Please ensure you use our track and trace system, scan the QR code in all venues and register using your smartphone
Use hand sanitizer provided
Wear a mask at all times
Maintain a safe distance from people
Bring your own cups for drinks and help the environment too

For more information on Devizes Winter Festival please visit the DOCA website https://www.docadevizes.org.uk/winter-festival/

Paul Lappin Wants to Fly

Tad snowed under with the plethora of great new music at the moment, but delighted to hear Swindon’s breezy Britpop fashioned artist, Paul Lappin has progressed from the few singles we’ve reviewed fondly in the past, to release an album of all new material, this week. So, yeah, apologies for lack of advance notice, The Boy Who Wants To Fly is out now, and very worthy of our attention.

It binds all the goodness of the singles into something you can nourish extensively, there’s a real concentration of composition here as each track drifts adroitly. It’s astutely written pensiveness, nicely implemented, with the expertise likened to our own Jamie R Hawkins; I’ve made this comparison before. This moulds what could be great acoustic into a full band experience, handsomely; As Billy Green 3 are accomplishing this side of the M4, but let’s not get all road map. Best way, imagine George Harrison present on the Britpop scene, and you’re somewhere lost in Lappin’s world.

Not a lot standout in theme, Paul mostly takes on the classic subject matters, sometimes optimistic romance, often uplifting reflections on past observation, such as the title track which Paul clarifies, “it was originally written for my young nieces and nephews, but listening to it now I can also hear a lot of my younger self in there.” But there’s a nod to current affairs, such as the citation towards the refugee crisis in the wonderfully executed Song for Someone.

I’m getting shards of Tom Petty’s Freefalling, particularly with the title track. Story behind the album reaches back six years, when Paul was looking after an isolated farmhouse in the Occitanie region of the south of France, coinciding with a particularly motivated period developing song ideas. “Most of the songs on the album were written within the first few months of arriving at the house,” he explains, “the melodies came during long walks in the surrounding hills and vineyards, the lyrics were penned in local cafés.”

Haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Paul yet, but through the openness of his songs you feel like you know him already, and that constitutes an exceptional song-writer.

Ten tunes strong, optimism drops by the eighth, The Eye of the Storm, and darker, heavier elements ensue, if only for a track. “Eye of the Storm was a reaction to how helpless and frustrated I felt to all the crap that was going on at the time,” Paul elucidates. Life was Good is critically observant too, but retains the feel-good factor, and that sums the general ambiance of the entire album. Common with creative geniuses, they shy, and this self-indulgence uneasiness I see in Paul. “Entering the For The Song competition in 2019 changed all that,” he expressed when he won with the song Life Was Good, boosting his confidence, which has ultimately led to this worthy and proud album; as he rightfully should be. I urge you to take a listen.


Talk in Code’s Secret

New single from Swindon’s indie-pop darlings, and, as foreseen, it’s blinking marvellous, Gloria.

“Eighties,” I yell, but my daughter corrects me. It’s a tune from Miley Circus, apparently. Story checks out, searched YouTube for it. Now I’m distracted from reviewing Talk in Code’s new single, Secret, by her suggestive gyrations in a black studded swimsuit and equally studded elbow-length gloves. Only from a health and safety perspective, you understand. Metallic studs are unsuitable for swimwear, gloves would fill with water; I should warn her PR.

When behind the wheel of Dad’s taxi, my daughter plays DJ; curse that built-in Bluetooth function. Least I can pretend I’m hip with the kids by distinguishing my George Ezras from my Sam Fenders. “Ah,” but I clarify, “I didn’t mean that, I meant it sounds like something from the eighties.” She agrees, tells me they’re all inspired from the eighties. “Like, Blondie,” I add, she’d have to Google that, but she watched The Breakfast Club and Uncle Buck, she is aware of the style of sound demarcated by eighties electronica pop.

Refrained from telling her about these guys though, some things are best left in the past.

If a retrospective inclination influenced by the decade of Danny Kendal v Mr Bronson, Rubik’s cubes and skinhead Weetabix characters is good for you, ok, look no further than upcoming local bands like Talk in Code and Daydream Runaways. I’ve often grouped these two on this very notion, and I’m delighted to note via my comparison, the Daydreamers are supporting the Talkers at Level III in Swindon on November 20th, my only annoyance is that it’s a Friday and I can’t make it.

To differentiate, Daydream Runaways take a rock edge, the like of Simple Minds, but Talk in Code seem to strive for the electronica angle of bands like Yazoo and The Human League. They do it far better than well though, and if I branded it, “sophisticated pop with modern sparkle,” their last single, Taste the Sun, back in July, embodied this more than anything previous. So, here we are again with another belter which adds to this uniform style, though the climate may not be so clement, Secret sparkles too.

It snaps straight in, this aforementioned feel-good 80s electronica guitar pop sound, and it’s so beguiling and catchy it’s certain to appeal wide, agelessly. If I was attending a local festival and Talkers took the stage, I’d imagine my daughter and I would dance together, and right now with her tastes directed to my odium, calculatingly sweary modern pop R&B, this would be a miracle! I do not twerk.

Secret is right out of a John Hughes movie then, a stuck record comparison I say to near-on every release by them and Daydream Runaways too, but this undeviating style is consistently cultivating and improving. Lyrically it’s characterised by the same simple but effective theme of optimistic romance, and a bright, catchy chorus, as every classic pop song should.  

The band cite pop classics such as King of Wishful Thinking, How Will I Know and Alexander O’Neal’s Criticise as evaluations. I can only but agree, but add, those can be cringingly timeworn, whereas, this is not Dr Beat, no need for an ambulance sound effect, and the Talker guys don’t got no hairspray, this is renewed and exhilarating for a modern generation.

You can pre-save TALK IN CODE’s brand new 80’s infused indie pop belter, on the platform of your choice and listen in full, but it’s not released until November 16th. Yeah, I know right, I’m so lucky to have these things in advance, but with Secret I can guarantee by the time it comes your way, I’ll still be up dancing to it, perhaps my daughter too. Care to join me on the dancefloor? But oi, watch the handbag, Miley, and don’t yank my diddy-boppers, I’m no that kind of guy; saving myself for Gloria Estefan.


The Conclusion to my Black History Month Articles….

If Dunbar’s number is a thing, then isn’t it a human instinct, be it more than a wish but perhaps a need, to group people outside of your given sphere? Does this constitute prejudges, and are they therefore ingrained in society through nurture and history? I’m continuing to bash on about Black History month before it’s over; remember, no one is forcing you to read this!

An evening in the mid-nineties and the Dreadzone gig at the Shepard’s Bush Empire ended. Me, a tad intoxicated, has drawn the short straw, gathered friend’s cloakroom tickets and patiently wobbled in the crammed queue to retrieve our jackets. A couple in front had found love, or lust at least, and I mean directly in front, like, so close if I wanted, I could have joined in. Pecking very nearly turned to copulating, as the couple furiously exchanged salvia. I confess, I was nauseous and uncompromising, the queue packed so tight it was difficult to concentrate my path of vision elsewhere, and even if I did, I could not disguise the sound of their slurping.

Now, I fully accept my mouth can override my sensitivity in times of intoxication, yet to me I enquired of the couple politely. I’m pleased for them, that they found mutual attraction and desired to explore it, but I wished they could wait until somewhere a tad more private. My subtle approach, if memory serves me right, was to say, “oi, do you have to do that here?” They retorted and accused me of homophobia, as they were a same sex couple. I affirmed I was no such thing, and annoyed by the accusation I replied it was nothing to do with gender, if they were a heterosexual couple I’d have been equally as irritated. Yet, till this day, I worry myself, were they right? Does this mean I’m homophobic?

Personally, the idea of myself engaging sexually with a guy is defo off the cards, but I like to think I’ve a liberal opinion and I accept others feel different. I know homosexuality happens in nature, I’m aware homosexuals were persecuted in the past, and I support the ethos of live and let live. But I’m nerved by the incident, and wonder if I might have reacted differently if they were heterosexual. I even contemplate if my attitude would be different if they were both female; might have perversely enjoyed the show; there, I said it, I’m only human! Is this an ingrained prejudice I’m unaware of, or mechanically unprepared to accept? I’m not ruling it out.

If you figure I tend to write these opinion pieces with a theme of personal perfection, that I do not stand accused myself, I give you this. Yet, I’d still be angered by a reaction of someone who falls into this grouping who states, yep, I’m afraid you are a hypocritical homophobic denier, defo, because I am adamant, I am not. I see the same reaction by a few in my recent articles about racism. They are unyieldingly positive they are not racist, to the point I believe they genuinely consider they are not. But, are they? “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth,” is a law of propaganda often attributed to the Nazi Joseph Goebbels.

Yet, as evident in the parish council’s refusal to display an exhibit in their phonebox on the theme from their village youth, they criticise recent motives and analyse with a natural bias, it seems to me. Yet the council in Urchfont are volunteer residents and is, obviously, not systematically racist. But I have to wonder if our history has ingrained prejudges into us, be it via the slave trade, The Buggery Act of 1533, passed by Parliament during the reign of Henry VIII, punishable by death, or every attitude pre-The Chartist Movement of 1838, and, of course, the Women’s Social and Political Union formed in 1903.

Though, despite the umpteen explanations the slogan, for it is such, black lives matter doesn’t mean that all lives do not, it’s still paraded around as rejoinder. Yes, small groups may’ve used the slogan in their name, and some may be activistic, the motto is simply decentralised social movements advocating for non-violent civil disobedience, and in any protest, some will disobey the objective and cause trouble.

A campaign only becomes political if a dogmatic rule opposes it. Negative reactions of the president, our own drive here in Britain to disengage immigration policy, remarks from our own royal family and jokes made by our prime minister, and, obviously, the murder of George Floyd, suggests it is. Unfortunate as it may be, often such a violent reaction is what it takes to raise awareness and change. On 19th February 1913 a bomb brought down ceilings and cracked walls in the home of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lloyd George; Emmeline Pankhurst claimed responsibility. Suffragettes smashed windows, cut telephone lines, spat at police and politicians, cut or burned slogans into turf, sent letter bombs, destroyed greenhouses at Kew gardens, attacked a doctor was with a rhino whip, chained themselves to railings and blew up houses. 1912, Mary Leigh threw a hatchet at Prime Minister H. H. Asquith, for change we now consider ludicrous not to uphold.

In this I see agism too, the campaign is worse than anything you recall with rose-tinted specs.  “Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.” Who said this, was it recent? Answer; Marcus Tullius Cicero, 43 BC, Rome.

I’m permitted to quote Keith Rowe of the classic reggae duo, Keith & Tex, when back in June he posted these thoughts; “As I digest this moment in time and observe what’s been going on in this country [USA], I am disappointed, yet hopeful, that maybe this time there will be changes in policing.

Disappointed that it would take an uprising to get people’s attention to what African Americans have been experiencing for generations. It took this latest despicable video of George Floyd to realize that this has been our reality. I’m hopeful because it’s the young people that are leading this protest.  Let’s not forget that back in the 60s, protests were being led by young people. Martin Luther King was only 26 when he started leading the nonviolent protests. 

We need an end to systemic racism and it’s good to see multigenerational, multicultural protests going on in many cities. You’re either a racist or an anti-racist, there is no in between. Having served the military for 20 years, I am amazed at how militarized the police have become. I’ve never heard before civilian protests referred to as a “Battlespace” It’s as if they are facing an enemy force and are going to battle them in the streets.  We need to relook at how policing is done in this country and make drastic changes. It just can’t go on like this. Black Lives really do Matter!”

I left this quote unedited, as I thought it inspiring, heartfelt and an honest reflection, but, the subject of this series or articles was principally intended to focus on a local issue. Racism is wrought, everywhere. How do we compare? To put it mildly, we’re in the thick of affluence, much of which is unescapably the profits of the slave trade. Consider Simon Watson Taylor, to name but one, the MP for Devizes from 1857 to 1859. His family derived its wealth from sugar and slavery in the Colony of Jamaica. In 1852, Simon Watson Taylor inherited his Jamaican estates from his mother Anna, he lived…guess…at Urchfont Manor.

Taking the advice given at my online meeting with Gurpreet Sidhu of BLMintheStix, an organisation addressing racism in rural areas, to be open and unafraid to discuss the subject with those affected, I did chat with a Jamaican-born friend living here. He messaged me, to say he found my article interesting. I suggested the Urchfont phone box issue is bizarre, stating I didn’t believe those parish councillors are deliberately being prejudiced, but they’ve believed the media propaganda against BLM and constitute any reference to racism as being arranged by some political activist organisation, enough to stop children of their own village displaying an art exhibit. As an artist himself, he replied, “that is sad,” and was keen to point out, “how it was, how it is and how it will always be.” Though he expressed content living here and said he had no issues in his village, “all very friendly. Happy at my yard.”  Here is an important point I tend so see here, the negativity is rarely cast upon an individual locally, and for this much alone, we should be grateful.

I therefore stand by my original observation, no particular place could be viewed as more or less racist than any other, our own stands well and we should be proud of this. But we do need to consider this current movement is no more violent or dogmatically driven than any other previous campaign on any particular issue, it’s only a media interpretation of, their reasoning for is a drop in the ocean for debate I’m not willing to speculate without another two-thousand words. Which, we don’t need me harking on even more!

So, to conclude, before my fingers fall off, I feel our prejudges are indeed inherited and ingrained upon us unwillingly, and this is no one’s fault. But we should want to address them, and strive to change, so there will be a possibility that they will be eradicated in the future. As is the section of Haile Selassie’s 1963 address to the United Nations, recited by Bob Marley in his song War; “that until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned; that until there are no longer first class and second class citizens of any nation; that until the colour of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes; that until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; that until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained.”

If I thought for a second it is but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained, then there is no hope. I know it’s doubtful I’ll ever see that kissing couple in the Shepard’s Bush Empire again, wouldn’t recognise them if I did, but if I did I’d like to say, “I sincerely hope you are wrong when you surmise I’m homophobic, but if not, and I am, I intend to change my view.” For a generation whose grandparents stared in shock at Boy George on Top of the Pops in 1983, we have come so far. And to watch same-sex couples unquestioned on game shows and reality TV, and accredited children’s cartoons such as the ground-breaking “The Loud House,” which openly has the protagonist’s best friend parented by a gay couple, I have to be proud as a generation we have nearly attained equality. Yet I quiver and anger at the notion this is slowly being torn down around us.

Return this back to our original article, our interview with Gurpreet, when I asked “are racist attitudes increasing?”

“Only if we let it,” Sidhu replied.

“We Cannot Let our Young People go Hungry;” those locally rallying the call to #endchildfoodpoverty

Time is against me to get this out with haste, forgive me that I don’t to go on one of my usual longwinded rants, I know you love them, plus, you know I’m aching to do so!  

Suffice it to say we’re all horrified and angered by this government-voting-down-free-school-meals fiasco and Marcus Rashford’s righteous campaign. It’s been suggested by HuffPost, MPs have a bee in their bonnet about being called “scum” by Angela Rayner! Something about sticks and stones; let’s not dwell, but have a local honour’s list of who is here to counteract this appalling decision from the scum, sorry, I meant kindly government, and help out anyway they can.

Marcus Rashford asks one thing of us in a Tweet; sign the petition.

Nationally there’s many independent establishments rallying to offer what they can, and after the bad card the lockdown dealt them, their generosity should be awarded; a massive thank you to everyone offering their services. Least we can do is compile a list of local places, who, if you are struggling to put food on the table this bank holiday or Christmas break, can help.

If I missed you, please message us and miss you we will no longer! Bless you all.

Update: Wiltshire Council are on the case!

Press release from WC, and it’s good news…..

Free meals for vulnerable children in Wiltshire during school holidays

Wiltshire’s vulnerable children will benefit from free meals during October half-term after Wiltshire Council agreed to ensure families struggling with food poverty in the county are supported.

Cllr Laura Mayes, Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Skills, said: “We know that many families are feeling the financial pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we want to do all we can to support them.
“We want to ensure that children do not go hungry during these school holidays and want to ensure that Wiltshire families know that they will be supported during these difficult times by putting these measures in place. Therefore the council will be funding free meals during the October half term. This will be reviewed throughout the pandemic and we will continue to make sure that any child and family who needs help gets it. As we have done throughout, we will continue to work with our partners in the community and voluntary sector to make sure the needs of our residents are met at this unprecedented time. The work of our community groups has been, and continues to be, amazing and I must thank them for their tremendous support throughout the pandemic.

“If you are entitled to free school meals or universal credit and struggling to pay for food over half term, please contact the Wiltshire Wellbeing Hub for support.

“Everyone in Wiltshire needs to play their part to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We ask that people regularly wash hands, maintain social distancing and wear face coverings where appropriate. This is the best way to keep us all safe as much as possible, and helps to prevent the spread of the virus.”

For more information on how to claim, please contact the Wiltshire Wellbeing Hub Team on wellbeinghub@wiltshire.gov.uk or call 0300 003 4576. The team is available Monday to Friday between 9am-5pm.

Devizes

The Gourmet Kitchen Brownie in Poulshot is offering free packed lunches. Please message their Facebook page for more information.

The Cavalier on Eastleigh Road are offering a free lunch pack, (sandwich, drink, piece of fruit and a bag of crisps to takeaway) available to collect from the pub for any child, during half term from 26th October. If you are in need of a packed lunch or know someone who might, please send them a message or call on 01380 725193

The Eastleigh Road Fish n Chip Shop is also offering free sausage and chips to school age children this half term, on Wednesday 28th between 4.15 -5PM.

The Raintree Indian Restaurant on New Park Street has taken the initiative too, during this half term week from Monday 26th to Friday 30th Oct.

For this special occasion, they will be open from 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm for collection of a lunchpack everyday.

For every child, the lunch pack will include one chicken curry and pilau rice, one juice and a piece of fruit.

Parents or guardians, feel free to call them on 01380 725649, or send them a Facebook message, to request your free lunch pack. You can call between 5:00pm- 8:00pm everyday for the next day order. A massive thanks goes to the Raintree, who are really going the extra mile; “as a parent,” they say, “if you are going through difficulty during this hard time, please feel free to order one extra meal for yourself as well. No question will be asked.”

Please note, they won’t be able to take any order for the same day collection. Every order needs to be placed the day before during the mentioned time above.

Pearce Electrical Contractors in New Park Street, have decided as a business to support Marcus Rashford’s movement. In partnership with Biddles Cafe in the Shambles, they will be providing a warm bacon roll and hot drink to any child that usually receives a free school meal throughout half term free of charge, No questions asked. These will be available until 2pm each day Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Potterne

The George & Dragon are providing free lunches and hot food over half term. Collection from the Pub for any child,

If you would like a pack lunch or a hot meal this half term for your child/children then please don’t be afraid to phone or text to book in their meal.

Available every day, collection times between 12pm-1pm

Phone 📞 01380 722139
Text 07814182252

Seend

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the Brewery Inn at Seend Cleeve will have packed lunches made up ready to collect from 12 noon, offering a free school lunch during half term to those that our eligible. Please message them in confidence to make arrangements.

Melksham

The Future of Football organisation. From Monday next week Future of Football FC will be providing free takeaway packed lunches for those in the Melksham area, available for collection from Bowerhill Sports Field. Starting this Monday with 50 lunches and if the demand is there, we will up numbers for Tuesday and so on. Simply turn up at Bowerhill Sports Field and collect between 11.00am and 12.30pm. There is a GoFundMe page here to donate.

Marlborough

In Marlborough, a Facebook group has been set up, Love Marlborough Kids Meals.  A community initiative to make sure all Marlborough children have access to free meals during the current crisis. No fuss, no forms, no referrals. Just meals for kids who need them. Please like the page for more information. There are details of places taking part, including Sue Brady Catering operating in conjunction with the Town Hall. Meals are being distributed at St Marys Church hall on Silverless St.

Pewsey

If you’re in Pewsey and need support of any kind, from food to help with shopping and library services, there’s a community website which can help.

https://pcca.org.uk/

The PCCA says, “we have stepped up to fill a gap that government should provide and will be offering school meals through the school holidays. If you would like to offer time or donations please sign up at pcca.org.uk or phone 01672487022.
If you are a family who needs help you can call us confidentially or email meals@pcca.org.uk

Pewsey Spar shop say, “We will be providing a lunch for any child in need from Monday October 26 to Friday 30. Just pop instore with your child/children and we will give them a lunch. There is no shame in asking for help and accepting a helping hand. We, as always, are there for you.”

The Little Lunch Box in Pewsey High Street is also offering help. “With many children not receiving free school meals during the holidays we would love to help. If you are affected and finding it difficult during this time, please feel free to get in contact totally confidential, no judgement. We’re all in this together, no child should go hungry and  irrespective of the Free School Meals for half term decision – if you run out of food or necessities, or times are just tough, please don’t let you or your kids go to sleep on an empty stomach.

Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to send us a private message. We will do anything we can to help. It may simply be a case of dropping off a food parcel and leaving. No one has to know and where others are concerned, it never happened.”   Phone: 01672 564901

The Woodbridge Inn are also providing lunches, see the poster.

Upavon

Contact the Ship if you require a free packed lunch for kids in Upavon.

Calne

There’s a Facebook group called Calne Town Dinners. Any volunteers who has cooked too much food and can supply you with a meal are encouraged to donate to the needy, for any reason.

Corsham

If you normally get a free meal at school, please visit to the cafe at Pound Arts with your adult, and they’ll give you a healthy meal for free. No need to buy anything. No questions asked.

Tasty Bites Sandwich shop on the High Street says, “if your child is normally entitled to a free school meal then bring them in,” and they’ll give you a free lunch bag for your child during half term.

Salisbury

Popeyes in Estcourt Road are offering free kids meals to those who need it. These are available:- For collection only- Between 4-6pm- Any kids meal option on the menu- Until Sunday 1st November 2020. You will also be able to choose:- Pot of beans OR- Side salad- Either Orange OR Apple & Blackcurrant fruit shoot (instead of a can of fizzy drink – if you wish). If ordering by phone, please just quote free kids meal. If ordering in person, please just show this message (taken from their Facebook page) when placing your order. Not available online.

Chisldon

The Patriots Arms is offering a free lunch pack available to collect from the pub for any child. The lunch pack is made up of a sandwich, drink, piece of fruit and a bag of crisps. Please message or call Sunny on 07807 037231 or Sanjay on 07587 694373 

Swindon

Mazza’s Munchies has teamed up with G Waste and Your Sport Swindon to offer free lunch packs for any children who are in need of food. Please message them if you can to arrange collection or simply turn up at our snack van at B&Q Swindon, Great Western Way.


Not just businesses helping out…

Another interesting angle to this I’ve just been informed about, is that out in the villages some people have been posting on their village Facebook pages, inviting any needy over to their home for lunch. For me, this proves undoubtedly, they are not doing this to promote a business, only to help in a time and issue the government are callously snubbing.

Potterne

Anna Villette in Potterne contacted us to say she had done just this, posted on Potterne’s village Facebook group for people in need to message her, where they could be invited over for tea as their guest, with her own children. How utterly selfless and decent is that? Well done and thank you, Anna. If you’re in Potterne and do wish to contact Anna, please message the page and I will pass on her phone number. She is even willing to put portions in a plastic tub to takeaway if preferred. “I knew I was hoarding those tubs for a reason,” she told me!

Devizes

If anyone in any other villages or in towns are thinking of doing similar, and wish us spread word, do let me know! KJ Jeffreys in Devizes is also willing to help.

Trowbridge

Caroline Jackson (click name to email) is planning to cook Spaghetti Penne Pasta on Monday for families in need in Trowbridge. Please could parents let Caroline know how many meals they would like & their address. She plans to deliver on Monday afternoon between 3-5pm.

Barred from his own local!

That’s all I’ve found so far, going to get this article up and running as time is short, but please, if you’ve a service to offer you’d like to me to list, contact Devizine and let’s get as comprehensible list as possible. Half term is upon us, but this could extend to Christmas holidays too.

Here, Danny Kruger, MP for Devizes, admits he doesn’t read your emails, “These citizens send abusive emails which, they may like to know, I never read: my team just delete them without bothering to show me.” You have to admire his honesty if nothing else.


Zoom Like an Egyptian: Wiltshire Museum Half-Term Activities!

Bangles not required, entertain your saucepans over the half-term with some Egyptian themed art and craft activities at Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, which is linked to their current Out of Egypt exhibition.

Tuesday 27 October and Wednesday 28 October you could find out about the Ancient Egyptians through their artefacts? Find out about mummification then create a mummy mask, a golden amulet and hieroglyphic bookmark to take home. Finish your session with the chance to see some of the amazing real artefacts from the Out of Egypt Exhibition.

The museum ensures it is Covid-secure, by putting a number of measures in place; details on their website.

And on Thursday 29 October – 2pm, you can zoom like an Egyptian with a digital event for curious kids. The Museum are offering Curious Kids the chance to engage with the museum and get creative as a family, via Zoom!  The session will also be inspired by their “Out of Egypt” Exhibition from Hampshire Cultural Trust.

Ideal for children ages 2 to 5 (including reception aged children) the session will last 30 minutes and will be broken up into short sections, to focus on your interaction, rather than attention to the screen.

Other craft activities you can do yourself with advice via videos created by local artist, Emma Kerr, is to make your own Egyptian mask using household items such as milk-bottles or from natural ingredients. Visit the website for more craft ideas for all the family.

Details and booking from the website. General entry to the Museum:

•             Thursday, Friday and Saturday – 10am to 4pm (closed 1pm to 2pm)

•             OPEN Sunday 25 October and Sunday 1 November – 11am to 3pm.

Pre-book to ensure entry, as they are continuing to limit numbers.

The exhibition, featuring genuine Egyptian artefacts, including scarabs and mummified animals, mummy masks and wrappings, shabti (a figurine found in many ancient Egyptian tombs) figures and jewellery, Out of Egypt closes on November 1st.


The Return of Wilding; Falling Dreams

It doesn’t hang about, it doesn’t drift dreamily as some previous tracks on the Soul Sucker debut EP, unbelievably near-on a couple of years ago, but it is unmistakably Wilding, this beguiling new tune from George Wilding, back with his band after lockdown. As a frustrating era for all creative groups, it feels as if with “Falling Dreams” they concentrated all their het-up energy, impetus and vigour, directed it into a trunk, padlocked it for a few months, then smashed the deadbolt and channelled it direct into an adroit three-and-half minute explosion.

Excellence is a watermark of Bristol’s Wilding, what initially began as a backing band for our homemade favourite lead singer, George Wilding’s prodigious young solo career, I expected no less. Though, while it’s not excessively upbeat it rocks steady, but Falling Down is a grower, appeal increases with every listen. It fits their self-penned label, psychedelic Britpop, but what is more, unlike Hendrix and Joplin it’s not psychedelia lost in time, similarly with Britpop darlings Oasis or Blur, which are somehow suspended in nineties nostalgia, a more apt comparison would be the Doors, a band with jazz and classically trained elements, and wild frontman poet, their sound is timeless.

Processed with VSCO with p5 preset

If Soul Sucker received regular rotation on BBC Radio 2 from Graham Norton and burgeoning interest from major labels, here is a natural progression and a multi-layered detonation, compacted into one song. Writer and frontman George, multi-instrumentalist Perry Sangha, bassist James Barlow and drummer Dan Roe have shattered expectations and produced something here to refine their style. If this is a glimmer of what is to come, you had better watch out.

Why? Because, as I said to George, there’s so much good music being released during this troubled time for musicians, if they can get some writing and production out to help fill the shortfall, it’s all good. “I suppose that’s been the upside,” he replied, “everybody has so much time on their hands to create.”

The theme of Falling Dreams is ambiguously defined, as any strong songwriter should allow audience interpretation. To me it feels bitterly like a broken romance theme, but George jests, “they’re usually about girls, but ‘Falling Dreams’ is just about being fucking cool,” adding, “it’s about me…” Herein requires some prior knowledge to his character to fully appreciate, as far from egotistical, George’s charisma lies with tongue-in-cheek witticisms shadowing a selfless good egg. But yeah, he is fucking cool too! They all are, this song verifies it.

To see what I mean, hold out for its release this Friday, 23rd October. If you’re used to George providing entertaining covers on our pub circuit and his sublimely succulent solo EP’s of dreamy indie, this will be a wonderful surprise, but as I said, its skill and catchiness is neither unexpected or unmistakable.


On the Climbing Frame with Gecko

If our last music review from Ruzz Guitar impressed me for its exploration of traditional blues styles, note I’m not conventional and you need not rewind progress to appease me; I love Climbing Frame, the second forthcoming album by London-based Gecko, equally, but for completely opposite reasons.

Partly, it reminded me of the time Louis Theroux rapped for one of his “Weird Weekend” episodes. In the mockumentary Theroux was advised by the US rap producers to “keep it real,” yet upon drafting lyrics about eating cheese and driving a compact car, sardonically citing as that as what is real to him, they contradictorily sniggered it off and recommended he rapped on cliché subject matter; bling, hoes, cold cash, etc.

If commercial US hip hop has lost its direction, UK rap thrives and remains faithful to the origins by pushing new boundaries. But if you feel the midway “cocknee” chat-come-singing style, the likes of Lilly Allen and Kate Nash, has come of age and flatlined for being samey, Gecko is a refreshing breeze of originality, and so multi-layered it’s difficult to pin it down and compare. Fact is, I’m uncertain defining it as “rap” is a fair shout, as hip-hop fashioned beats here have been left to the bare minimum and what we have is intelligent chat, often thought-provoking or comical, which slips into song over either acoustic indie guitar or retrospective electronica pop; as if Scritti Politti met the Streets.

If you’re contemplating, sounds rather geeky, I’d reply ah, it could head one of two ways, and in the hands of many it’d be bad news, but I’m happy to report Gecko accomplishes it in a proficient and highly entertaining way.

Awash with sentimental or witty verses reflecting on all manner of unique themes, the bulk of Gecko’s thoughts are honest observations, whole-heartedly personal, often retrospective anecdotes. Gecko does not uphold the ego or bravura of prominence; rather like Jarvis Cocker, there’s a contestant notion he’s opening his soul and depicting his innermost feelings, but is never without a punchline, and never afraid to show compassion. After a spoken word intro, for example, the opening song, “Can’t Know all the Songs,” is an upbeat riposte which any live performer could identify with; the annoyance of an audience shouting requests he doesn’t know. It’s ingeniously droll.     

But if the opening tune cites Gecko’s mature issues, the title track follows on this juvenile running theme, reflecting on childhood. The climbing in frame in question is a fallen tree, an amusing photo of Gecko estimated age of eight as the cover design reinforces this notion. Gecko perceives the unusual and expresses it inimitably, here, a reference to an age where we once recycled nature’s way for childlike kicks. Hope that the youngest people in this world will turn the apocalyptic hand that they’ve been dealt into something positive that we have not yet seen; “they weren’t trying to be symbolic, they were just having a laugh, but where most saw an obstacle, they just saw a path.”

Soaring does similar, but reverting to a simple acoustic guitar riff, it highlights the awe of childhood innocence in discovering something they think is exclusive, only to be knocked back by their parent’s clarification. I can’t detail it anymore without it being a spoiler, but believe me, if you don’t see yourself in this song and laugh out loud, you must’ve been born an adult. However, Gecko twists the narrative with genius writing akin to John Sullivan, and completes the track with a sentimental and virtuous moral. Hence my concern of my comparison; UK rap is not nearly multi-layered enough; don’t know why I even mentioned it really, only in desperation to pigeonhole this unique sound.

After this other recollection, Gecko proceeds to explain the theme of the next song, and performs a sublimely sentimental tale of Laika, a Moscow stray used to send into space, from the point of view of the dog. Perfect example of what I’m getting at with my originality angle; who dreams up a theme for a song on this subject? Gecko is part songwriter part author, Jack London in this case, and a damn good one to boot.

Furthering the childhood theme and his unpretentious tenet, he takes it to the next step with a real recording from his childhood, displaying the roots of his talent.

It’s a chockful album of twelve tunes, Breathe maybe the most commercially pliable with uplifting eighties synth-pop goodness. Yet Always and Pass it On plod like nineties indie anthems, Stereo MCs fashion. Whereas there’s a piano-based ballad, All I Know, and whoa, back to acoustic splendour with an immature narrative called A Whole Life. Here, Gecko writes from the perspective of a child just started primary school, giving a speech to a reception class about his experiences in ‘big school.’ This is, quite simply, ingenious writing and played out with sentiments so ultrafine and intelligently placed, you could listen to Climbing Frame over and over and still pick out elements you may’ve missed.

Best start then, as it’s released this Friday, 23rd October. It’s so multi-layered and original I’d highly recommend it to anyone, loving any genre, with an open mind, and perhaps a twinkling for nostalgic dreams.


Urchfont Parish Council Turn Down Youth Art Display

Further to my article reflecting on black history month, and our chat with BLM in the Stix organiser Gurpreet Sidhu, I said I had a local issue to raise which could be conceived as the perfect example of the message I’m trying to get across regarding rural racism so ingrained we fail to recognise it, or simply don’t care to consider it as such. I was waiting for a response from relevant sources in order to give an impartial valuation. In the meantime, the good ol’ Gazette & Herald beat me to it!

In all fairness they didn’t make a bad job, but it’s the reactionary and presumptuous comments flowing on social media where the story warps out of all proportion and skewers the facts; keyboard warriors tend to do that.

Urchfont Parish Council’s Chairman, Graham Day explains, “at its meeting on 8th July, Urchfont Parish Council discussed a proposal for a possible use of the High Street telephone box which is owned by the Council. A lengthy debate on this matter took place, with substantial public input both from those present at the meeting and others who had submitted comments to our Clerk.”

As with many rural out of service phone boxes, the community has gathered to find alternative usage for it. Many have become community hubs, noticeboards and others rural self-governed lending libraries. Urchfont’s phone-box was adopted by the Parish Council in 2018, “to protect it and to provide an unusual venue to promote village events and,” here’s the biting point taken from the phone box’s own Facebook page, “showcase work by local groups.”

So, members of such a group, Youth Of Urchfont, moved by recent racial injustices, proposed a display presenting art and literature on the theme of racism. Immediately the goalposts are moved, and the ethos of the phone box altered by councillors, stating, “the telephone box should be used only for local community purposes, as such this proposal covering the wider issue of racism should be rejected.”

For the first few minutes of the agenda’s proposal by the teenagers everything seems to be going well. But as the discussion flowed, it appeared an assumption the idea was linked to black lives matter, which rather than a slogan, is perceived by villagers to be an organised political movement.  Intent to maintain the Parish Council is a non-political body, it rejected the proposal five votes against three.

Spirally out of control, social media comments claimed all manner of fabrications, such as the youth wished to paint the phonebox. It hardly constituted any such vandalism, just a display of art and literature on the subject of racism, rather than a paint job, or even a salute to the BLM movement. What is a given thing for the Parish Council, is that the youth are someway promoting BLM, when really, they’re simply reflecting on racism in general; a fair observation? I asked one of the parents, David Kinnaird.

“They had never suggested painting the phonebox!” he stated. “Neither did they ever suggest any support for the BLM movement. When they first messaged the community bell to say they wanted to do something they immediately said BLM might be too political, and so the kids knew that this was off the table.  Sadly, and predictably, most of the opposition stemmed from perception of what the movement represents, and not to what was actually proposed. In fact, they didn’t really know what they wanted to display, no idea at all really, just wanted to do something. It was lockdown, they hadn’t been to school for months and wanted to do something…”

One of the youths, Polly, explained to the Parish Council, that she is really passionate about the proposed display. She questioned the fact that the kiosk had been previously used for political displays, citing the VE day soldier, for example. Wiltshire Council had expressed solidarity with BLM movement, protests had taken place in Wiltshire highlighting human rights, and racial inequality issues. Polly believed that the display will highlight all of these issues, adding it could link with other charities and be a great show for the Village. The Chairman then closed the meeting for public participation.

Councillor Mr Kemp made a statement outlining the ethos of the usage for the phonebox, including “local residents had an opportunity to exhibit artisan skills, workshops or art work,” and “it supported the interests of the community as a whole.” He strongly objected, virtually pitchforking the idea, stating “BLM, a patently political movement, is clearly the catalyst, a movement that is demonstrably contentious and of itself offers little, to enhance the lives of the Urchfont community. Unfortunately, a mood of ‘if you are not with us then you must be against us’ currently prevails and it can be easier to acquiesce in the face of public demand, against the better judgement of the individual or organisation, when that position is both emotive and forcefully declared.”

“It is clear from additional comments that the BLM movement and the (sometimes offensive) rhetoric associated with it resonates,” he continued waffling, “while these may be the legitimate expressions of personal views, the politically divisive nature underlying the issue as a whole is clear and cannot be ignored.” And, democratically, it wasn’t.

Here comes the opinion part, watch out! Ah, you know me well enough by now, not to possibly or in any way suggest this is concentrated prejudice on two parts, race and agism, and allow you to be the judge of if it’s concentrated prejudice on two parts, race and agism, or not, though it’s certainly possible it could be conceived as concentrated prejudice on two parts, race and agism.

The irony is, rather than allow a display organised by enthusiastic youth of their own village, encourage and support free-thinking from young people in an idyllic but humdrum Wiltshire outpost detained in lockdown, the alternative is nothing, and the phonebox currently and since the time it was suggested back in June exhibits such, absolutely nought, nothing, nada.

Nothing until these last few days, where the annual event “candles around the pond,” was reduced to “candles in the phonebox,” and raised funds for the church. And there was me thinking in Christianity the candle represents the light of God, and their ethics endorsed virtuous behaviour within its moral theology, as is their duty put in Leviticus 19:18 to love thy neighbour as thyself, and extend an unconditional hand of friendship that loves when not loved back, that gives without getting, and ever looks for what is best in others.

And here, their own children were rejected an art display as if they were suggesting a riot. To me, that is a sad reflection on today’s blinkered and hypocritic rural society and the very reason we need to openly discuss an issue most would wish to be eradicated many moons ago.


Today Devizes for Europe launched “Say #YES2ARealDeal” campaign.

Formerly local remain group Devizes for the EU has moved forward, changing it’s name to Devizes for Europe, and laid plans for action to avoid a no deal. Here’s their details from their press release…


Now that the UK has left the European Union, we need to take action to secure our future relations with Europe and avoid a catastrophic ‘no deal’ crash-out. 

The UK has entered the final phase of negotiations with the EU. Talks are not just about trade, critically important though that is. They cover everything: security, food standards, health, education, employment, research – and, yes, even fish.

The risk is that the talks could break down. That would mean ‘no deal’ – another catastrophe on top of the continuing nightmare of COVID-19. The electorate was promised a great “oven ready” deal but there is little sign of it so far.  

Our ‘#YES2ARealDeal’ pledge on our new website will use your signature to urge Danny Kruger and other Wiltshire MPs [Note 1] to confirm their commitment to the deal they promised in order to avoid a national catastrophe and the break up of the United Kingdom.

The Real Deal needs to include:

• Today’s high food, labour and environment standards

• Tariff-free trade to and from Europe

• Visa-less travel in Europe

• Europe’s education and apprenticeship schemes

• Enhanced security through EuroPol

• European partnerships for research and medicines

Such a deal would keep the UK strong – and United.

“A ‘no deal’ risks dissolution of the Union.  Nobody voted for that. Time is of the essence. The transition period runs out at the end of this year. If by then the UK and the EU have not agreed terms for their shared future, there will be a ‘no deal’ catastrophe. It’s high time to make our voices heard!” said Kate Freeman, Chair of Devizes for Europe.

Lorry parks will not just transform Kent but using emergency powers 28 other lorry parks across England could be built to cope with border trading chaos after Brexit. 

We can expect delays of food and medicines, increased prices, and complicated travel to and from the continent.  All this at a time when the government’s energies should be focused on COVID-19 not to mention the climate change crisis.

“I urge everyone to sign the pledge to urge Danny Kruger and other Wiltshire MPs to do the same.”

Rural Racism; Welcome to BLM in the Stix

Could “is Devizes a racist town?” be a clickbait headline?! I’m not out to infuriate. Ah, that’s why I didn’t use it. That and, hope this to be only a part of a wider subject incorporating rural racism in a series of reflections for Black History Month. And here we meet an organiser of a new campaign highlighting a different angle of Black Lives Matter……  

Nicotine stained wallpaper curled off the walls and tacky brass jumbles hadn’t seen a duster for decades. We sauntered to the unattended bar. A balding head popped up from arranging glasses underneath it. The landlord scanned us with a discontented frown, paying particular attention to one of my friends. Long before I’d moved to Devizes, I was with a group who were residents here; it was the first time I’d been in a pub in this town. I’m not going to name the pub; this was many years ago, it’s changed hands and is now converted to a rather splendid bar. The landlord avoided eye contact, and called down to the cellar where it would become obvious his wife was below. “Love, we’ve got a darkie up here needs serving,” he sighed as he walked off.

My jaw hit the floor and I suggested we go elsewhere, but the target shrugged it off as routine; “it’s okay.” Recently, following a Facebook thread debating racism on a local group, one comment offered, “because Devizes is a racist town.” Do I agree? Not really, is the simple answer. Devizes is a wonderful market town of which we should be proud to live in, yet with any affluent area, racism lurks and often can be so ingrained it’s overlooked, accepted as the norm, or taken with a pinch of salt. I see it here, as I see it everywhere.

Image taken from Gazette & Herald article: Black Lives Matter gathering to be held in Devizes

The concern, then, is more generally and nationally; are racist attitudes increasing? “Only if we let it,” Gurpreet Sidhu replied during our online meeting. In August Gurpreet created a campaign group to raise awareness of racism in rural environments in the UK, called BLM in the Stix. Though it has no website yet, it operates over social media and has staged protest from her home in rural Essex. She moved from London for her son to attend the university, and because she wanted to live rurally, “it felt safe,” she explained.

But Gurpreet expressed, “you are three times more likely to be victim of racial abuse in the countryside than in urban areas.” We tend to associate racism as an urban issue, perceptibly being a more multicultural society. Yet, BLM in the Stix states, being active in fighting against racism is even more fundamental when your ethnic population is minimal. You will send a message to non-whites that they are supported and welcomed, and for those who are overtly racist you will be demonstrating that their behaviour is unacceptable; systemic racism.

Gurpreet Sidhu

Gurpreet specified this was the angle of the group, as I predicted the response to anything I write would be preaching to the converted. “It’s often denied, downplayed and dismissed,” she said, what was more important to her was opening up to the concerned and encouraging them to be active. “It’s not about targeting racists,” Gurpreet explained, “more about encouraging people to think differently, and act.”

I gave Gurpreet my above anecdote in the pub, and I said I feared discussing it with people of ethnic minorities. She looked shocked but far from surprised, and asked why I felt like this. That got me, I didn’t have an answer. Perhaps we should feel easier about discussing the subject, in turn the ethos of Black Lives Matter. Gurpreet suggested I should consider addressing the individual dishing out the abuse, “but not in a confrontational way.”

Black lives matter. Yeah, I know, right, “all lives matter” don’t they; well done you. If I had a pound every time… It’s an ingrained xenophobic get-out-clause, a shrewd one, but only one under “I’m not racist, but…” For the amount of times explaining is needed, you’d think the feeblest of minds could grasp, quite simply, no one is suggesting they don’t, but the focus of the objective is black lives matter equally. I beg we get over this stumbling block, BLM is but a slogan, like Keep Britain Tidy, or Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives; they’re direct, often sweeping and not all-encompassing.

Akin to when protests over the George Floyd murder in the US kicked off, the great orange one whacked one out on Twitter, as he tends to mindlessly do, stating antifa was a terrorist organisation and enemy of the state. Ha, there was me thinking the term “antifa” was simply an Americanism shortening for anti-fascist. Seems right-wing thinkers cannot fathom free-willed movements of the masses is possible, and have to therefore assume it’s some malevolent chief organisation, radicalising the left-wing; as if we’re far too stupid to have abstract thought ourselves. Just because you couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery, others have this “thing” called sociability.

Contradicting my rant, though, as well as Gurpreet insisting her group was generally here to raise awareness, she stated they needed good case studies and hoped the campaign would be more organised, as far right groups tend to be. “We bury our heads in the sand at times.”

Alongside a Tweet from a conservative Afro-American writer, suggesting black people didn’t care for white do-gooders campaigning the issue, which was shared wide under the crass banner this guy somehow speaks for an entire ethnic worldwide population, one comment on a local thread which horrified me put that BLM was doing more worse than good, as it was encouraging racism. Gurpreet suggested the aims of BLM in the Stix were twofold, “helping doing anti-racism work,” and, rightfully contradicting the tweet, “asking white people to change and recognise it does affect them.”

“Racism is for every day,” she added. One thing is clear from our meeting, brushing it under the carpet and fearing to discuss it isn’t going to make it go away.  

Now, I’ve used the word “ingrained” a bit here, as our conditioning, particularly in rural environments where the majority are Caucasian, is entrenched historically. I honestly feel, knowing people I consider good people, but a little racist, that some often fail to even register how their thoughts and remarks are considered prejudice. We disguise and excuse them light-heartedly or with humour; that, I feel, is the issue with rural racism, here today.

So, during this black history month, expect this article to be part of a series in which we need to unbiasedly dig a little deeper. Both my reasoning and the fact I contacted Gurpreet was to expose a controversial rejection of a perfectly acceptable proposal to display some BLM related art by a local parish council. I await a response from said council before we can progress with it.  

For now, I asked Gurpreet how interested people can help. She suggested supporting them, in which you can like the BLM in Stix Facebook page as good start, but also getting involved with local BME groups, which lack funds as monies tend to be poured into city organisations.


The Instrumental Sounds Of Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue, While Washing Up!

Who says men can’t multitask? I’m washing up and reviewing this forthcoming musical extravaganza…..

Ruling in my household, being the better-half does the majority of cooking, I therefore wash-up. And on sporadic occasions I cook, I still do the washing up. I know what you’re thinking; under the thumb, Worrow. I beg to differ, family are watching some revamped eighties game show; squeamishly sickening the first time around, or else a bronze lady of all teeth and earrings, in a buttery summer dress is assisting affluent chavs to relocate to a Mediterranean costa.

Meanwhile, I’m preparing my chore. First task is not to clear the drainer of previously cleaned utensils, that comes after I Bluetooth my phone to the soundbar. Firmly of the belief washing up should be done to music, and such a law should be implemented nationally.

Those completed, time to fill the sink with hot water and Fairy. Cheaper varieties a no-brainer, you use twice as much for the same effect. Much like my choice of music, others don’t have the same clout. For retrospective genres, such as rock n roll, today largely consists of wishy-washy tributes and anodyne honours of a once dicey outrageous bravura. Else there’s a disturbing scene fusing techno with swing to revamp classics which really don’t need or desire the wonky attention.

Let me be the first, I suspect, to compare Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue to Fairy washing-up liquid. But if you want the job of recreating the true spirit of bygone blues styles done properly, accept no substitute. Add equal amount of Fairy as needed with a cheaper alternative and you’ve got an Ibiza foam party in your kitchen.

I’ve got an advance copy of their instrumental album, ‘The Instrumental Sounds Of…’ not due for release until 6th December, but ready for pre-order; I strongly suggest you do. Because here’s a Bristol-based rockabilly/blues trio, with three-piece horn section, who encompass everything once rousing and electrifying about musical styles ranging from jazz to rock n roll, originally, and with a benchmark of contemporary quality.

While Ruzz’s singing is passable, the guitar is his true calling; Gretsch agrees and endorses this, if you don’t take someone chained to the kitchen sink’s word for it. In genres such as these, where one imagines and perceives the vocals to hold a deep Mississippi accent, to hear his Bristol enunciation is novel, but unusual. Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue have the astounding ability to stretch a song to the proportions of a space-rock band like Pink Floyd, but retain the frenzy of traditional rock n roll, which would once be over within three minutes. At that point, though, it’s nice to simmer it with occasional vocals, but it’s not their forte.

Here then, is what they do best; concentrated instrumentals, a collection of musical styles, based within the blues, that have influenced Ruzz throughout his career. A project Ruzz has been wanting to do, and lockdown has provided the time. I’m strutting across the kitchen, shoving plates and utensils roughly back in the cupboards they belong in, while contemplating how I didn’t fully appreciate my dad’s obsession with the Shadows. For their instrumental goodness may’ve gone over my adolescent head, at the time. But this is a blinding upbeat opening tune, Hold Fast, with remnants of The Shadows’ slide-guitar. Yet it’s blaring horns make it like Hank, et al were in a big band.

Now to the main task, wrist-deep in foamy water I’m timely scrubbing with brillo-pad, like the ivory of a boogie-woogie piano. Swing Thing maintains big band, but slides neatly into swing. It’s spectacularly captivating.

Three tunes in and it’s mellowed to a sax ballad with Hawaiian guitar riff. Longing to See You drifts, as I causally dip dinner plates into their foam bath, and caress them as if they’re sun-kissed skin of a beautiful señorita! The Instrumentals Of album strides jazzily, continuing with a slight nod to that tropical guitar on the fourth track. But this is shrewdly quirky and experimental, Ruffled Up is as if Miles Davis joined a big band.

So many influences but so meshed it’s hard to pick it apart and balance washed up items on the draining board. Men can multitask, believe it. Now I’m striding, Clint Eastwood style, to obtain a tea towel dumped on the breadbin like it was a six shooter. Duel at High Noon is as perceived by title; Ennio Morricone influenced Shadows.

Heating up back at the sink with some fiery jump blues to make Louis Jordan blush. Jump In does what it says on the tin; I’m doing Chuck Berry legs, rattling those pots and pans like glam rock never happened.

Mambo takes a hit next, Ruzz-style, added funk. Spag Mambo is like Starsky & Hutch doing the Charleston on a Cuban vacation. Gotta go barehand; I’d look stupid doing jazz hands with marigolds, but Swing G-String is swing firing on all cylinders. Dishes done; I’m jitterbugging the sides down, soggy J-cloth in hand.

Opportunity to clear waste from the plug hole, never an appealing part of the process, nevertheless I’m cool; Soulful Blues made it so. It’s equably soul-blues, Ruby Turner could drop vocals, but it never strays from its ethos, yet saunters wonderfully between the variety of jazz and blues from 1940 to 60. There’s one more tune, but the job is completed.

Hammer Down polishes with dirty, deep Mississippi jump blues with a clunky rock n roll double bass. Like the rest of this sublime album, it’s irresistible and beguiling. It can’t end early; have to extend the task for five minutes. The floor may look wooden, but it’s lino really; ask Turbo B, or any break-dancer the value of lino; the kitchen is my dancefloor. Time to watusi with broom; the Mrs will be delighted. Even bending to get every last fallen crumb into the dustpan was a pleasure with this album playing in the background; blooming marvellous stuff.

Click to pre-order; gorgeous Christmas pressie!

Julia’s House Gameathon is Back!

Now, I know some gamers who’ll quite willingly play videogames until the cows come home, and if there was a videogame where the objective was to herd cows back into their cattle shed, they’d probably play for longer, just to see what happens in level two!

Myself, I’m impartial. My son teaches me the complexities of modern gaming, but while I could potentially survive in a Minecraft realm, he is the equivalent of a god inside that block world. Now I’m told I’ve to retrain, forget how to craft a diamond sword, and concentrate on the ways of a game called Terraria.

I can’t keep up. Is there a game where you have to teach old dogs new tricks, I wonder? I’m still stuck in the Attic room in Jetset Willy (kids, you’ll have to Google that.)

Kids, you don’t know you’ve been born!

But if you’ve progressed from the rubber keys of the ZX Spectrum, you flop into a gamer chair for eons at a time, and Lara Croft is but a bygone childhood crush, you’ll take to this like Sonic the Hedgehog in a jewellers.

Ready, player one? The Julia’s House Gameathon is back! Their popular virtual fundraising challenge returns this autumn and it promises to be bigger and better than ever.

I’ll say no more, I’ve got some birds to catapult at some green pigs. Oh, come back Pac-man, all is forgiven. But hey, if you’re into this brilliant idea, see Julia’s House website for more details….


Worsley Training Brings First Aid Course to Devizes Corn Exchange

The last first aid course I attended was quite some time ago, in plain old Wotton Bassett prior to the added Royal in their name, that’s how long ago it was. But did I learn anything from it, and do I remember any of it? Well, yeah, took some of it in, but, you know, it takes confidence to carry out first aid in an emergency, and refresher courses are essential.

Owner of Upavon’s Worsley Training, Louise Worsley, is a professional teacher with over ten years’ experience in the classroom, and over fifteen years of hands-on First Aid experience. With an instinctive ability to make learning First Aid memorable and enjoyable, she draws from this teaching to bring First Aid to life for participants, providing practical training grounded in realistic examples of how the techniques could be used.

Qualified through and regulated by Remote Emergency Care, Nuco Training and ProTrainings, Louise brings her “Emergency First Aid at Work or Basic Life Support course,” to Devizes Corn Exchange on Tuesday 10th November. 

The course includes basic first aid, including the use of a defibrillator, for personal confidence, or a small business owner who needs the full 1-day accredited certificate to fulfil service to clients.

“I am planning to run the 4-hour emergency course concurrently with the full 6-hour accredited Emergency First Aid at Work,” Louise explained, “as the initial content is the same and then you can choose to stay on to cover the more everyday situations.”

The course will mix theoretical and practical learning and assessment, and the accredited certificate lasts for three years.

The cost per person including a manual and certificate is:

– 4-hour non-accredited basic life support £50

– 4-hour accredited basic life support £55

– 6-hour accredited emergency first aid at work £70

One question I wanted to ask Louise, as it’s bound to be a concern, being a first aid course is very hands on and practical, often involving close contact, how does she get over these obstacles in order to align it to current restrictions.

“Of course!” Louise replied, “I’ve been classroom teaching again since 15th June with these adaptations, when the covid level went from 4 to 3, so we were allowed to teach again, (click for Worsley’s COVID-19 Classroom Control Measures) and everyone has been really happy! Plus, the rule of 6 is excluded for work education and training.”

Louise will use the Ceres Hall, for this course, so at 90sq/m there’s plenty of space to socially distance.

So, is Louise a doctor? “No, I’m a teacher,” she explained, “This is one of the most common questions I get asked, when I say what I do. The assumption that you need to be a medical professional to be a first aid trainer is highly misleading.”

“Primarily because first aiders need to assess everything but diagnose very little. We gather all the information on levels of consciousness, breathing rates, sources of pain etc, and then pass that onto the doctors to establish exactly what is wrong. If immediate treatment is required e.g. for choking or using a defibrillator then we can step forward, but most of the time it is not that obvious.”

“Secondly, a medical degree is very different from a teaching degree. As a trainer you need to know how to present information so that the learners understand and memorise it regardless of the subject. Sadly, there are many first aid trainers out there who lack these vital teaching skills, even though their medical knowledge is way more advanced than what their learners need.”

“So, I am proud to say I am a qualified, experienced teacher, who also has plenty of hands-on first aid experience from over 8 years of leading adventurous expeditions overseas and more recently as a parent.”

Book your place on this first aid course, or for more information, click here.