Scott Lavene’s Milk City Sweethearts

We’ve had a spate of comical albums coming in for review, what with Death of Guitar Pop, Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer and now this, which is by far the darkest, consequently most poignant. Songwriter and raconteur Scott Lavene returns this Friday (17th September) with Milk City Sweethearts, an album of new material…..

There’s intelligent and thought-provoking arch-beat poetry chatted here, an amphetamine-induced self-evaluation of an ordinary Essex boy, delivered passionately with a witty edge you cannot ignore. Something of an oddity at times, random prose seemingly slotted erratically fall into place with a running theme of this hopeless romantic, as the album progresses.

Behind a variation of backbeats, often being post-punk, as is Scott’s roots, yet fluctuating through new romantic electronica and eighties mod revival, are honest and blunt chronicles of love, loss, coming of age, in effect making for a memorable kind of album, border-crossing Ian Dury with Sleaford Mods; a Mike Skinner of The Streets in the Bowie or Jam era, or a psychedelic Gecko.

Humbly wry, the observations of his imprudent past come back to haunt him, as he retells heartfelt autobiography. The Ballad of Lynsey being the particularly touching example, telling of a potential everlasting love, but lasting only year due to differences, with the revealing chorus, “I choose amphetamines over you.”  

If I’ve made this sound despondent and somewhat depressing, while yeah there is that, Scott’s witty charisma teeters atop at even the gloomiest synopsises with clever wordplay and metaphors. And besides, not every track is quite so melancholic. In fact, it begins very much with the aforementioned mod revival style. Upbeat opening tune, Nigel, is especially comical, expressing the strangeness of individual’s choice of “kicks.” Likewise, The First-Time reels off an amusing list of first experiences with the annotation, “one day there’ll be a last.” It’s all very Essex lad Talking Heads, Phil Daniels chatting on Blur’s Parklife, etc.

Art-pop carries over when the mod revival moves over for a new wave electronica feel as the album progresses, by the third tune, The Earth Don’t Spin, it’s very much more Stephan Tintin Duffy than Weller. For all the credentials and comparisons mentioned, there’s no cliché, everything here is uniquely composed and written originally, and Milk City Sweethearts isa listener, not the sort of long-player you can pause and pick up again, you’ll be impelled to digest it one sitting.

A master storyteller astutely aware of when and how to evoke the correct emotions, and find unusual thoughts to everyday scenarios. The farewell to deceased finale, Say Hello to Zeus, is as Bowie, simply inimitable and inducing. Whereas halfway through gives us the laugh-out-loud Walk Away is Essex humour at its very best.

Closest you’ll get to see him to here is Bath’s Komedia on the 12th December, for now this masterful album, out via Nothing Fancy Records, is interesting, to say the least, an essential item for enthusiasts of the quirky and unusual, making the world seem that much smaller, and amusing, for lonely hearts.

I’m quite happy, thank you, but loved it nonetheless, cos it ain’t always been that way. And that’s it, right there, I figure it’s not only my association Scott is from my motherland, but there’s something I think anyone with a heart will identify with here, and that’s something really rather special.


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Everything You Are, Onika Venus

You remember being given some coursework, when back in higher education, with various objectives and your task was to choose one to complete? Not really wanting to do it, you go to the student at the top of the class, and ask them what they’ve done. They reply, “ah, not much,” and this gives you the cue to do absolutely nothing. Then, on the day of handing it in, they’ve unexpectedly produced the single-most awesome project, covering all the objectives in one ingenious combination, and you stand there with zilch, except a jaw hanging and an implausible excuse, which you made up on the bus coming in?!

I’d imagine Onika Venus to be just like that. Now Bristol-based, Jamaican-born Onika plays Trowbridge Town Hall on September 18th, so, given reggae is cited as an influence, I thought I’d check out her debut solo album, Everything You Are, which was released back in March.

The title track was chosen as Songsmith’s Song of the Year 2020, and it’s easy to hear why. I’ve not been this blown away by a female vocalist since discovering Minneapolis’s Mayyadda.

Immediately this pushed my buttons, but if this opening title tune is decidedly acoustic blues, with a distant harmonica resounding in the background, there’s a truckload more going on than the first impressions here.

The premise from the beginning is as simple as, Onika Venus has the prevailing soulful voice to carry whatever genre is thrown into the melting pot, and drizzle it over you like hot sauce. It only leaves you pondering how far she will take it. The second tune I pigeonholed as RnB pop, a contemporary Macy Gray or Erykah Badu, aiming for chart success. When I’m Broken carries this concept to a higher height, and is simply, the model formula of popular music every song should aim for.

Yet, three songs in and here comes the Caribbean influence. Friday Love has a clear mento feel, it’s immediately beguiling, a good-time chugging song in the face the despondent romance theme. This will occur again towards the middle the album with Who’s Been loving You. Again, with Shotgun there’s similar appeal, perhaps the most definable as “roots reggae,” and, for me, they’re the favoured sections.

But it swaps back to the mainstay for track four, steady soul with an orchestrated ambience; Everything has its Season, is the ideal equilibrium to bless that heavenly voice and compose this euphoric moment of bliss. After a surprising modern dancehall intro, we’re back to an acoustic guitar riff for the poignant The Storm, using sax to mitigate jazz. I Need You, though, has kick-ass funk, Ike & Tina Turner in their prime.

With only three tunes to go, just when you think influences have been exhausted, there’s a duet with a male voice, supplied by husband, Mark, Mary, sounds classic Americana, as if Joe Cocker just walked into the studio and said, why don’t you try this?!

To keep you guessing what the last couple of tunes will hold, yeah, folk is strapped onto soul, Reaper Man aches of Aretha Franklin, but by this point you just know Onika Venus can carry this off with bells on. Raising the bar of comparisons is justified, believe me. For when it’s funky I’d give you Randy Crawford, Chaka Khan, and when it levels with acoustic and folk, her voice dishes out notions of reggae heroines, of Phyllis Dillon or Marcia Griffiths, and the gospel finale, yeah, Aretha will be justified, if not Sister Rosetta Tharpe; it is this magnificent.

Yet, unlike all these aforementioned legends, the style here is not monocultured, neither does it jerk from genre to genre without consistency and flow. Onika Venus gives volumes to the eclecticism, and it moulds efficaciously into one melting pot, beautifully. Prior to this solo launch, in a band called Slyde, her voice customised their breakbeat, techno and house style, to great effect, and I can well believe it. The flexibility of her skill is captured here, I’d imagine as comprehensively as she chooses personally, and just as the student who bursts in effortlessly, with the homework complete and to an exceptional standard, Onika Venus makes this look easy!


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Longcoats Get Dancing

Opps, near-on delayed a month due to the amount of work involved with promoting our Julia’s House album, other stuff going on, and generally slacking off in my garden with my belly hanging over my khaki shorts, I’ve a backlist of music to tell you about, hopefully, before you visualise me slacking off in the garden with my belly hanging over my khaki shorts.

To begin, Bath’s indie-pop favs, Longcoats have an official new bassist, Will Vickery. The band claim he was “a stray man we found on the street and august-rush style he could just hear the music and play it.” Proof in the pudding, I’ll double-bet ya you’ll going to love their new belter, “Get Dancing,” which is, incidentally just what we all need right now.

Will Vickery

Probably why it’s blossoming attention and airtime from the likes of BBC Bristol, Target, Soho Radio, Sheppey FM, New York’s New Visions Radio Network, and even Australia’s Valley FM, and seeing them bookings at Moles, Brighton’s Pipeline, and supporting The Rift at Swindon’s Rolleston.

Just as Pretty in Pink did, which incidentally Longcoats kindly donated to our aforementioned and plugged charity fundraising compilation, (which I’m not going to shut up about until you buy it) Get Dancing is symbolic of the band’s ability to compose such a beguiling and catchy riff it feels like it’s always been in your life after just one listen.

It’s lively, carefree, resides bopping over hopeless romantically conversing, as it says on the tin, encouraging to dance in both sound and theme. And with that, I should take heed, stop writing how great it is and just add the Spotify link so you can hear it for yourself and I can revert back to the building mountain of new music I’ve yet to explore. But rest assured, this one is a keeper, and perhaps true to the word; I should get dancing if I’m ever going to work off this belly hanging over my khaki shorts!


OUT NOW! Various Artists 4 Julia’s House

As a nipper I’d spend days, entire school holidays, making mixtapes as if I worked for Now, That’s What I Call Music! In the era before hi-fi, I’d sit holding a microphone to the radio’s speaker, adventurously attempting to anticipate when Tony Blackburn was going to talk over the tune, and just when In the Air Tonight peaked with Phil’s crashing drums, my dad would shout up the stairs that my tea was ready; eternally caught on tape, at least until my Walkman screwed up the cassette.

Crude to look back, even when I advanced to tape-to-tape, I discovered if I pressed the pause button very slowly on the recording cassette deck, it would slide into the next song, and with a second of grinding squeal Howard Jones glided into Yazoo!! Always the DJ, just never with the tech! Rest assured; this doesn’t happen on this, our Various Artists compilation album, 4 Julia’s House. And oh, have I got some news about that?!

Huh? Yes, I have, and here it is….  

We did it! Thanks once again to all our fabulous contributing artists, our third instalment of detailed sleeve notes will follow shortly, but for now, I couldn’t wait another day, therefore, I’ve released it half a day early, this afternoon!

Now all that needs to happen is to get promoting it, and you can help by sharing news of this on your social media pages, thank you. Bloggers and media please get in touch, and help me raise some funds for Julia’s House.

I’ve embedded a player, in which you should be able to get a full try before you buy, I believe you get three listens before it’ll default and tell you to buy it. I hope you enjoy, it has been a mission and half, but one I’d gladly do again.

Please note: there are many artists giving it, “oh no, I was going to send you a track!” Fear not, there is still time, as I’ll causally start collecting tunes for a volume 2, and when the time is ready and we have enough songs, we will do it. It might be for another charity, I’d personally like to do another raising funds for The Devizes & District Opportunity Centre, but that’s unconfirmed as of yet.

You know, sometimes I think I could raise more money with less effort by trekking down through the Market Place in a bath of cold baked beans, but I wanted to bring you a treasured item comprising of so many great artists we’ve featured, or will be featuring in the near future on Devizine. Never before has all these artists been on one huge album like this, and look, even if you don’t care for a particular tune, there’s 46 of them, check my maths as I pride myself on being exceptionally rubbish at it, but I make that 22p a track, and all for such a worthy cause!


Click for info on Julia’s House

“We are so grateful to Devizine and all of the local artists who are taking part in the charity album to raise funds for Julia’s House. We don’t receive any government funding for the care we give to families in Wiltshire, so the support we receive from our local community is so important.”

Claudia Hickin, Community Fundraiser at Julia’s House

Andy J Williams; Buy all his $tuff!

I’m sure it’ll shock you to hear, I made a technical hitch, best described as a cock-up. It seldom happens, blame my masculinity; the wife often reminds me men cannot multi-task. We featured the indie-pop Bristol-based singer-songwriter Andy J Williams last month, as part of our Song of the Day feature, and I promised to review the whole album “Buy all the $tuff,” which was released at the beginning of February.

Musicians you wait for like buses, then two come along at the same time, and accidently I mind-merged them. Even joked in our Song of the Day post not to confuse Andy J Williams with his namesake senior easy listening giant, then mixed him up with someone else, whose name is nothing remotely similar. The only parallel is they’re both from Bristol, though many are, but being as the other artist’s album involved in this cock-up isn’t released until next week, both got put on the backburner. My virtual to-do-list saved the day; acts as my brain.

Extend a short story longer, here’s an apology to Andy, and a belated review of “Buy all the $tuff,” which is very worthy of not being missed out. To begin with his cohesive band firmly behind him, there’s a Britpop feel, I sensed, vocally, a similarity with Trowbridge’s finest, Phil Cooper, if Phil was aiming for pop. But there’s a lot going on here, influences are wide but mould into each other exceptionally well; a tad tongue-in-cheek at times too. It’s indie on the outer crust, but with a dynamite mantle blending of layers which incorporates funk, new wave post-punk, art-pop, and contemporary electric bluesy-folk, all with equal measure and passion.

Reminisces flood my neurons upon initial listening, of how eighties electronica fused funk into pop, a kind of “funk-lite,” avoiding the substantial seventies untainted funk vibe, and through post-punk new wave, rewrote the club-pop formula. Bands like Duran Duran and Roxette spring to mind, I’d even go as far as Michael Jackson meets Huey Lewis, but while I’m aware there’s a bizarre subgenre called “funk metal,” pleased to report Andy doesn’t get that heavy! This is more like musical cubism, with a skilful composition akin to King Tubby’s mixing board, and it comes out the other end as extraordinarily unique beguiling pop.

Don’t take the opening Britpop track as red, the next, Post Nup, opens up this funk riff, but no matter where it takes you, lyrically this well-crafted too, written with thoughtful prose. There’s topical subject matter amidst the archetypical romance, including the referendum and social media, but no theme distracts from the overall musical presentation. Night Terrors, for example, works opposite to Jon Amor, who uses Elvis Costello pop to create a more frivolous blues, Andy maintains pop by adding elements of electric blues. Then, piano solo, layered with subtle percussion. Andy rinses a fine ballad, undoubtedly the most evoking track on the album, Stay.

Buy This $tuff reaches an apex immediately after, Something to Believe in is masterfully danceable, bathed with handclaps and a funky riff, it is to Andy what Superstition is to Stevie Wonder. From here on, the album takes to this upbeat terpsichore concept. It’s highly entertaining.

Ballads follow, Celia and Now She’s Gone are particularly adroit, but you know Andy isn’t going to end this with melancholy. Be Mine returns to rock as it’s mainstay. Radicalised equally comes in hard, with an electronica feel. And Your Truth Hits Everyone is anthemic, concluding there’s a need to ponder what the Beatles would sound like if still around today, with Britpop, new wave electronica, and clubland techno at their disposal. Through this, I might provide a suggestion.


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Eighties Mod Revival Lost Gem: The Direct Hits

If I waffle positively here, and yes, I do waffle, about retrospection and a trend in sounds trying to be authentically from a time of yore, this one doesn’t need to try. The Broadway Recording Sessions thrusts you rearward into the eighty’s mod revival scene, whether you want to go there or not.

Battersea trio, The Direct Hits may only be remembered by the connoisseur of mod, having one-shot at charting in ’82, when TV presenter Dan Treacy released their song, Modesty Blaise on his Whamm! imprint. The music press hailed this as not just another Jam, crash-bang-wallop mod revivalist tune, and their explosive live shows avowed them pioneers of a “Battersea Beat.”

Whamm were financially struggling to fund an album, so the band pooled their limited resources and booked the cheapest studio time they could find, Tooting’s Broadway Sounds. By the afternoon they had knocked out nine songs, the other three on this album were recorded a fortnight later. It would be two years later when they re-recorded some of these songs for their debut album “Blow Up.”

Now remastered, these lost recordings have surfaced finally, and, with warts and all, show the uncooked spirit of a hopeful mod garage band. I’ve had this playing for a few weeks since it’s late February release, and it heralds the hallmarks of a post-punk return to the basics, which sixties groups like The Kinks and The Small Faces mastered. To expect this yardstick is pushing it, but through all its rawness there’s some beguilingly adroit songs to make you wonder why they wasn’t as their namesake suggests, direct hits!

Perhaps it was that bit too retrospective for the progressive eighties. Because, elements capture neo-psychedelia, rather than soulful eighties mod assigned via The Spencer Davis Group and into bands like The Merton Parkas. That era where the beatnik style was teetering on influencing the pop sound, but Merseybeat was still riding the high ground. There’s a delicate balance here, avoiding things getting too cliché Mamas & Papas, these upbeat three-minute-heroes never fails to kick ass.

Consistently high-spirted and energetic garage sound, yet psychedelically enhanced; think if Syd Barrett’s days spent at Pink Floyd would’ve been spent with The Who instead, and you get the idea. There’s even a bike song, just like on Relics. Lyrically there’s unassuming stories with clear narratives and characters to challenge the Beatles.

A polished rerecording of a track from the album.

Overall, though, you’ve got twelve mind-blowing rarities which perfectly capture a raw moment of youthful optimism for an inspiring band, in an era where everyone felt encouraged to pick up an instrument and give it bash; and they’re good, really good. In a funny kind of way, I see similarities to the now; the forgone passing of DJ culture in a rave new world and tasteless manufactured pop, to an imminent inclination of online DIY indie, I see hopefuls taking to a guitar and giving it a go. Perhaps then, there’s no time like the present for this to resurface.

Buy The Broadway Recording Sessions Here


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Song of the Day 27: Emily Capell

We are the mods, we are the mods, we are, we are, okay, you get the gist. Imagine Kate Nash is Doctor Who’s assistant, and they tracked back to Carnaby Street in 1963. If she dressed and performed without raising suspicion that they’re time travellers, you’ve got a general picture of the fantastic Emily Capell.

On one hand, this is fab retrospective meddling, on the other it’s lively and fresh fun, with a beehive hairdo.

There’s nothing here not to like, unless you’re a ret-con rocker and if so, I’ll see you on Brighton beach, pal. All I ask is you aim for the face, so you don’t crease my suit.

And, that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….. oh yeah, nearly forgot to mention, Emily has a live stream coming up Friday 12th March, here; groovy.


Song of the Day 21: Andy J Williams

Ever just float around your favourite social media site with no objective in mind, to unexpectedly find something which pounces on you as utterly brilliant, and wonder why you’ve not heard about it before?

Took a second of watching this to establish it’s one of those rare occasions, and not just a pointless scrolling exercise for your index finger. You know the kind, where you only see your mate’s unappealing dinner, a wonky, windup political opinion, or video of a young prankster posing as a magician hoaxing eye candy on a Florida beach.

Took a further second to confirm it’s not to be confused with senior easy listening giant, Andy Williams, rather an indie-pop Bristol-based singer-songwriter namesake, but with an added middle J, a penchant for a funky riff and eye for a beguiling tune.

Check this cracking danceable video out, where one could ponder if the middle J stands for “Jacko!”

Not that I’m usually one to allow a cracking video convince me, even with dancing stormtroopers. So, you should note, he’s on his third album “Buy all the $tuff,” of which you can, here. I’m reckoning I need a window to review this fully in the near future. For now it came as big as a nice surprise as spotting an unidentified circular yellow object in the sky this morning, for a near halfhour! Amazing.

And that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on…..


Song of the Day 20: Darling Boy

Self-taught multi-instrumentalist, singer and actor, Darling Boy, aka Alexander Gold adds reminisces about his game childhood with this video for his new single “Tea Drinkers of the World.” An unusual move for this brand of indie-pop, but a colourful and entertaining 16-bit retro game fashioned video; enjoy.

And that’s my song for the day. Stream it here. Facebook here. Very good. Carry on….


Song of the Day 17: Diana Leoport

What’s Spanish for “diva?” Oh, Google translate aptly says it’s “diva!”

Super sassy Spanish vocalised RnB-pop doesn’t come sexier than Mexican singer Diana Leoport’s debut single. Aching with masses of Latino promise there’s elements of Shakira and Gloria Estefan in this smooth tune. My glasses have steamed up!

Out on all platforms here.

And that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….


Song of the Day 12: Darla Jade

Even portions of expressive contemporary pop, the ambience of post-goth and downtempo electric blues of trip hop makes this Staffordshire singer, Darla Jade really someone to watch. With a haunting uniqueness about her voice and style, there’s shards of Evanescence fused with Beth Orton. It’s somehow individually chartable but would also appease alternative rock or goth aficionados alike.

Subscribe to her YouTube channel, hear her own stamp on Radiohead’s Creep, and realise, her talent is so very special.

And that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….


Song of the Day 1: Atari Pilot

Irregularly I share a music video to our Facebook page with the status “song of the day,” or week, or whenever, as if it’s a daily occurrence. When the reality is it’s a big, fat fib on my part, it’s only when I happen to find such a video and can be arsed to share it. What-cha gonna do, sue me?

So, just in case your lawyer says you have a case, I thought I’d streamline this sporadic idea for 2021, make it an actual feature on the site rather than a Facebook post, and show off that I know what long words like “sporadic” mean.

Little more gone into it than this, you should be used to it by now. I’m not going to review them, just embed them here for your own appraisal and entertainment purposes. Potentially, it’ll be a groundbreakingily breif post, a simple but effective phenomenon, and something I can do without missing the Simpsons.

The challenge is consistency; whether I actually stick to the idea or, like others, it’ll be a flash in the pan. Who knows, this could be the start of something beautiful, this could be the thing they’re talking about in decades to come. A holographic Ken Bruce could be asking “what was the very first Devizine Song of the Day” in a Pop Master 200 years from now.

And you can answer it with who I bestow this honour, Atari Pilot. They’ll be revelling in the triumph of the hour if it wasn’t lockdown, I bet.

History in the making then, the only issue I foresee is I over-waffle any old crap, which is, incidentally, not what’s happening now and rarely does here; I had to explain myself, didn’t I?

Okay, I get message; here it is then, enjoy the tune, enjoy the rest of your evening. Good job, carry on.


  • Remembering Sinclair’s ZX Spectrum

    Okay, given the news of the sad passing of Sir Clive Sinclair last week, guaranteed you’ll see lots of photos of him in his scarf, peddling to charge his C5, the innovative electric car of the future. Like few of his inventions, mini televisions included, the C5 flopped, simply because it was way ahead of its time. His successful inventions were too. Sir Clive Sinclair was way ahead of time, period.

    If there’s one invention, I’ll fondly remember him for, though, it’s not the C5 but can only be the rubber-keyed ZX Spectrum, or “Speccy,” as we dubbed it. Sinclair never sat on a creation; his pocket calculator was only the beginning. To understand the importance of his work is to understand the era. It was a time of great technological advances in home entertainment, the like we take for granted today.

    Computers, yeah, we knew of them, but to have one in every home was the stuff of science fiction. Personal computers had made it to schools, yet IT was a far cry from how it’s taught today. Picture it: a nervous beatnik throwback teacher, big black-rimmed specs, big perm, big beard, complete with leather elbow patches on his tweed jacket. He acknowledges this is the future, as he stands next to a shiny new BBC Model B and hoards of pupils gather around it, yet he’s had no training, and he doesn’t really know what the heck it does any more than they do.

    To have gained the slightest teaching about computers at primary school in the early eighties was to be the most bolshy kid, who managed to push his way to the front of the over-excited class. I didn’t tick that box, shy and reserved I loitered towards the back of the crowd, interested if confused, I considered myself lucky to have just seen the thing from a distance, through the pigtails of a petite girl standing in front of me.

    No, if I was ever going to get to grips with the computer, I’d need to have one at home. Yet the ZX80 and ZX81 were the stuff of the seventies, a naff era void of motivation to progress technologically for working class families; a time when the teas-made and electric blanket were cutting edge. Here, in the technological revolution of 1982, what we needed, what we must have, was a home computer, and my dad finally caved into our merciless campaign of perpetually chanting, “can we have a spectrum, dad, can we have a spectrum?”

    The pitch was successful on the grounds we appealed it would be a communal thing; it would help my dad by filing his bills, finances and address book, the possibilities were endless; it would, change our lives forever. Christmas 1982 was like no other, the joint present was hooked up to the television set, after major muddles, frustrating cries from my father and annoyed reactions from my mum who realised her favourite television shows were off the cards until the trend had passed.

    Mum was first to breech the covenant, hiding in the kitchen prepping Brussel sprouts. She came to the early conclusion it was the devil’s work, if Crossroads was to be missed. My father persevered, and after sweat and tears we finally had a grey screen on our television with the copyright text, “1982 Sinclair Research Ltd,” mysteriously running along the bottom. We had, as a family, entered the computer age, all 48K of it, our wants and dreams had been fulfilled, but what to do next and why we needed to do it, was a gaping mystery.

    Hard to imagine now, given operating systems like Windows are common knowledge and upon booting up a new PC, you’re off applying apps and downloading programs, but we didn’t have a clue what to do, and the lone copyright message offered no help. A big orange book came with it, and my dad tilted his glasses and begun to at least attempt to understand it, while my brother and I were far too excited.

    The problem was, to get it to do anything, anything at all, was to understand its own brand of Basic, which the book elucidated was a “computer language.” A bead of perspiration dripped from my dad’s brow at the thought of having to comprehend a whole new language prior to us kids getting bored with this rather expensive Christmas present.

    A command prompt was where we started. Under instruction of the book, dad apprehensively trembled and pushed a key, typing a 1. Before the hour was done, he had got the computer to have captured “10: PRINT “HELLO,” followed by a second command, “20: GOTO 10.” And we looked at each other perplexed. When were we going to get to shoot aliens?

    You see, dad had bought us kids two games of our choosing. Mine being a Pac-Man pastiche called “Haunted Hedges,” whereas my brother was nearly as bonkers about “Horace,” as he would be Lara Croft in the decade which followed, and his choice was one where “Horace Goes Skiing.” Young-‘uns should note, games those days were on cassette, and dad was some way away from attaching the cassette recorder to the Spectrum. Rather, he insisted above our pleas, we did things by the book and attempt to understand how to work the now blasted thing prior to blasting aliens.

    Time was of the essence; the Morcombe & Wise Christmas Special would be airing soon, and Mum would consider human existence was doomed if he didn’t manage to rewire the television back to the aerial and tune it in again. He digested the next page of the book, and confidently pressed the R key, for the function RUN. Like magic the tele changed to list the word “hello” all the way down the screen. We gaped in awe at his success, whatever exactly it was. “Look!” he cried in jubilation and misunderstanding the computer was merely following the prompt of his command, his first computer program, “it’s saying hello to us!!”

    As 1982 turned into 1983 my father had grasped the immensity of the task, his desire to have the computer do the things which he wanted it to do, to file and store an address book, set bill payment reminders, and the kind of stuff we’d do in a second on our mobile phones today, was too difficult a chore. Wrought with complications and complexities at learning a whole new trick, a language to unify human and computer, he spaced out on it and gave up. The ZX Spectrum was abandoned for parents, he sighed all the way to Radio Rentals, hired a second TV, put the old one upstairs and reluctantly passed the computer to us kids, to play games; the sole thing we really wanted it for in the first place.

    The key to this was, that cartridges for the Atari 2600 we had prior were expensive, to buy a new game was a rare treat. The revolution of having games on cassette tape made them affordable, and we could collect them in abundance. This bought about a youth culture; Speccy was the first video game movement. You could swap games, tape-to-tape copy them, and if and when the damn tape loaded without crashing, the half-hour wait of white noise would fulfil you with the joy of a new game.

    And there was a plethora of games of varying quality, but all shaped the formulas of games today even if they didn’t reflect the same graphics, speed and game play. You have Sonic the Hedgehog, we had Sabre Wulf, you had Tekken, we had Way of the Exploding Fist, you have Super Mario Odyssey, we had Donkey Kong, you have Little Big Planet, we had Bubble Bobble, you have Grand Theft Auto, we had Back 2 Skool, and you have Minecraft, and erm, okay you got me there, we were still on Lego…. But you get the idea.

    Speccy was a youth culture of video games, magazines on the subject flew off shelves, kids would hang outside a computer shack in our town, boasting how they solved Jet Set Willy, despite it being impossible without “pokes,” (cheats.) You could go there for advice, if stuck in Valhalla, or Spy Hunter didn’t load. This was the first social network for gamers. Comprehend, though, online gaming was reduced to asking your mum if your mate Adam can come into play, and only permitted if he took his muddy trainers off at the door.

    Educating through it was limited, but it introduced me to the terminology, to basic programming and how to create simple BIT graphics and it made me realise the wealth of maths, even if I was shit at it. I knew what a modem was, something way beyond reach, but least I was aware two computers could be linked via a telephone line. Fascinated by an article predicting one day many computers could be linked into a network, only on the example of a virtual classroom, so we wouldn’t have to go to school. I never fathomed this would happen in my lifetime, never considered the interactive whiteboard, the mobile phone app, and especially virtual reality.

    As with all devises, the ZX Spectrum waned against upcoming videogame consoles, as the eighties came to a close focus was on Sega’s Megadrive and a 48K rubber-keyed processer, less powerful than a Tamagotchi would never stay standing. Not without a fight it was slayed, but every devise has its day.

    Personally, the magic of both computers and videogames was replaced by raves, pubs, and hopelessly chasing girls. I bought a PlayStation when the price came down, it just collected dust. Bit of a hippy, I shunned technology for a while, forgetting everything I’d learned to the point of when discussing the idea of photocopying my first comic, and my flatmate, who was the editor of a Swindon music zine earlier in the nineties, suggested “no, print will be dead, it will all be on the wobbly web one day,” I hadn’t a clue what she was dribbling about.  

    The thing is, this era, where the TV streams off Netflix yet no one’s really watching, as I’m updating my blog, the wife is paying a bill on her iPad, my daughter’s sharing photos on her Insta and my son is logged into a Minecraft server with twenty other mates, what Sir Clive Sinclair achieved maybe lost in time, but I feel is gravely underestimated. His name should be up there with Charles Baggage, Alan Turing, Bill Gates and Tim Berners-Lee. Without his vision of home computers, life would be very different today.

    Sinclair should be remembered as a visionary, pioneer and innovator, a concept designer like Apple, as today it’s hard to imagine a life without home computing, even if it’s updating your status to post a picture of some cute, fluffy cats. Let’s not dwell on images of him in a failed electric vehicle, he was more than that, and besides, one day our laughing at the C5 will return to bite us in the ass!

  • Pumpkins & Poppies with Devizes Town Band

    In six weeks, the historic Devizes Town Band will be performing at their first indoor concert for two years!

    On Sunday 31st October, Devizes Town Band are thrilled to be bringing to you a very special ‘Poppy’ Concert supporting the Royal British Legion; “Pumpkins and Poppies”

    An afternoon of beautiful and entertaining music, to celebrate on Hallowe’en being able to perform again and to remember those who served, those who live with the consequences of conflict and those who paid the ultimate price. The concert will be held in the Corn Exchange, Devizes. Doors open at 2pm and the performance will start at 2:30pm.

    All seats will be socially distanced and the building is fully air conditioned. Tickets are £10 each and available online via the link below from today!

    You can also get them from the lovely Jo at Devizes Books. We Will Remember Them. Come along to our concert and remember them too….


    Win 2 Tickets; Click Here!
  • We Care Bear Selfie Sculpture

    “We want to be there for every seriously ill child that needs us,” say Julia’s House, “but to care for families in your community, we need your support. As part of our Together We Care Appeal, we’re creating a giant bear sculpture and aiming to cover it with the faces of everyone who cares about seriously ill children in Wiltshire – that’s YOU!

    Join them in The Brittox, Devizes, this Friday 24th, Salisbury Market Place on Saturday 25th, or Chippenham High Street on Sunday 26th.

    Have your photo taken at their selfie tent, and your photo will be added to the We Care Bear. Once created, the bear will tour different towns across the county before going on permanent display at their hospice in Devizes, so the families they look after will be reminded of your support whenever they arrive at the hospice.

    Can’t make that date? Alternatively, you can submit your selfie online, just visit https://www.juliashousebear.org/upload

    When can I see the finished bear? Julia’s House will announce the dates soon for when you can see your photo on the finished Julia’s House We Care Bear. Sign up for an email newsletter to get your paws on the latest bear action: https://www.juliashouse.org/enews


    Don’t forget our wonderful compilation album, download it here, all proceeds go to Julia’s House
    Win 2 free Tickets Here!
  • Onika Venus Smooths Trowbridge Town Hall

    A truly wonderful night was had at Trowbridge Town Hall with soul-reggae artist Onika Venus and band….

    Agreed, you may have to sift through wildly nerdy debates over Kirkby and Buscema’s cross-hatching, or season 12 of the Fourth Dr Who against season 13, but one great thing about socialising in the comics industry, unlike the mainstream music one, is level-pegging. The fact everyone gets paid peanuts no matter if you’re inking for Dark Horse or small pressing under a broken photocopier, means no snobby hierarchy, and this compares to local music circuits too, something I wrongly didn’t expect it to be like last night.

    The arrogance and haughtiness of the pop star is historically documented. If I go above my station, it usually ends in disappointment, because I’m not wearing a Rolling Stone stage pass. I check ahead this weekend, because Onika Venus responded with gratitude when we reviewed her wonderful album, and on the strength of it alone, I made Trowbridge Town Hall my mecca for my evening’s intake of quality music. The message simple; make door-staff aware to allow me backstage if you would like to say hi.  

    Now I’m sitting in a modest room of the Town Hall, with a slight crowd of approximately forty, rather than the grand ballroom and mass gathering I was expecting, and husband half of the duo, Mark Venus comes to thank me for the review, joking, “it’s okay, I’ve cleared your backstage pass!”

    Why my assumptions? Not alone the prestigious connotations of “Trowbridge Town Hall,” but the sheer quality of Onika Venus’s album, Everything You Are. Her rich, beautiful vocals commands superiority, as if she’s pre-famed internationally, rather than the veracity; she’s upcoming, gigging together for the best part of twelve years on their local music scene around Bristol and the Forest of Dean, fans of which travelled to attend in support.

    Reason enough to cry her name from the hilltops, which I intend to do, because last night was absolutely fantastic, and if everyone knows Macy Grey, Erykah Badu, or even Ariana Grande heaven help, everyone should know the music of Onika Venus.

    I could ponder why until the cows come home, and conclude imminent attention aside, there’s a unique crossover with this singing duo making it tricky to pigeonhole. Husband Mark very much has the style of acoustic country or easy listening, a passionate James Taylor quality, whereas Jamaican-born Onika belts out a naturally sublime soulful voice where reggae is ascertained.

    In a world where traditionally, husband and wife duos are unified in style, from Abba to Sonny & Cher, or Johnny Cash and June Carter, this blend is welcomingly unique, and I have to say, works so, so well. Critics should also take heed this little-known fact, historically as well as blues and RnB, country music bears a huge influence on the Jamaican recording industry pre the era of their homegrown radio stations, where folk would hear the sounds of US stations.

    I discussed this with the pair, Mark acknowledged Onika’s mother back in JA sung country songs. In turn this also revealed, like many Jamaican musicians, music is in her blood. For while soulful, there’s nothing diva about Onika, coming across reserved and shy. Reflecting in the passion of her voice, on stage she shines like a beacon, with the joyfulness of female reggae artists of yore, particularly that of Marcia Griffiths, who always held an esteemed cheerfulness in her sound.

    So, amidst this modest audience, accompanied by her husband Mark on acoustic guitar, and two other members, a percussionist on snared cocktail cajon and multi-instrumental brass player, they played out tunes from their album with a perfection spectators held in awe, then took a break.

    This was not before the brilliant oddity of a comical support act, namely Big Tom, a friendly Londoner with a warming smile and penchant for original music hall. Whom covered the age-old bawdy parody of the nursey rhyme, “Oh Dear What Can the Matter Be,” where seven old ladies were locked in the lavatory. This took me back to the cockney songs my own nan would sing, and I told him so within this surprisingly communal and outgoing environment.

    It also gave the opportunity, said environment, to chat with Onika and Mark, the latter suggesting his eclectic influences included mod revival and two-tone ska as well as country-rock. This came to an apex in the second half of the show, whence after playing a few more songs from the album, and introducing us to some new songs they’ve been working on for a follow-up, the four-piece burst into a lively finale of reggae classics. From Dandy Livingstone to the more obvious Toots and Marley, this medley gave the crowd the incentive to dance, making for a celebratory and memorable culmination.

    But if this felt essential given Onika’s origins, it certainly wasn’t pushy, and with equal joy Onika sang the songs which blessed reggae into international recognition as she did their own compositions. Yet it is in those originally penned songs where this band all gleam, the album is a must-have. I adhere to this notion so much, I’ve a CD of said album to give away, see below.

    For now, though, know this was a wonderful evening, with Sheer Music’s Kieran at his beloved control tower, Trowbridge Town Hall intends to break barriers and offer a variety of events for all in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Not forgoing, Onika and her band were astounding.

    WIN A CD OF EVERYTHING YOU ARE!

    So, if you want a copy of Everything you Are by Onika Venus, it’s on Bandcamp, or you could win one (if you live in the Devizes area so I can deliver it!) Please ensure you’ve liked our Facebook page, and Onika’s too. But I’m not making it that easy, you will have to give me, via Facebook comment, a great example of where country music influenced reggae, post a YouTube link to the song, and let’s get educating! Winner will be the one who picks my favourite example, by chance!


    WIN 2 TICKETS HERE!
  • REVIEW – Creedence Clearwater Review – Long Street Blues Club – Saturday 18th September 2021

    Up Around The Blues Club

    By Andy Fawthrop

    Well, it’d been a long old time but finally – finally! – we were back after 18 months to Long Street Blues Club, hosted by The Con Club.  The original artists for this gig had been the USA-based Billy Walton Band but, once one or two other dates on their European tour had been cancelled due to Covid restrictions, found that the tour as a whole had become unviable.  Hopefully they’ll be re-scheduled for 2022.

    Which left Ian Hopkins needing to scrabble round fairly quickly in order to fill this date for tickets already sold – and what a great job he did at such short notice.  He found two very competent acts to step in, and the gig could go ahead, even if not quite as originally planned.

    Kevin Brown

    Support for the evening came from an old mate of mine, Kevin Brown.  He of the oil-can guitar, the blues slide guitar and, when playing on the local pub and festival circuit, Shackdusters fame.  This was his first appearance at the club, playing solo.  His laid-back, humorous, self-deprecating style quickly won over a large audience, who listened in rapt attention. Kevin writes his own material, based on his life experiences, so that the man and the music blend almost seamlessly. His JJ Cale tribute number was particularly impressive.  A very winning performance, which elicited fulsome and well-deserved applause – so let’s hope he’s invited back in the future.

    The main act, Creedence Clearwater Revival arrived with a “show” – a pre-programmed set, introduced by, and intercut with documentary voice recordings by members of the original band.  Early on the band explained – if explanation it was – that their rhythm guitarist “couldn’t make it”, so they were doing the show as a trio.  An odd start, but then they got on with ticking the hits off the list – Up Around The Bend, Rocking All Over The World, Heard It Thru’ The Grapevine, Midnight Special, Because You’re Mine, As Long As I Can See The Light, Bad Moon Rising, Born On The Bayou, Proud Mary, Have You Ever Seen The Rain.  The show – delivered as two fifty-minute sets – was performed with confidence and aplomb.  By the end we had singalongs and quite a few folks up dancing at the front.

    And yet. And yet…..and yet it left me rather un-moved.  I grew up with the music of CCR and John Fogerty, so I’d like to think I’m a bit of a fan of their material.  So I was surprised to find the show rather unexciting.  The band were professional and competent and captured, to some extent, the “feel” of CCR’s bayou-based sound. Yet somehow, something of the original CCR’s drive and energy was missing.  It felt a bit “CCR-by-numbers” if you get what I mean? I thought perhaps I was being a bit super-critical, so I consulted a few people whose musical opinions I respect (as well as a few whose musical opinions I don’t respect) and there seemed to be a clear consensus – it was OK: the band were good, but not great.  My own acid test on these things is – would I pay money to go and see them again?  Sadly, my answer would be in the negative.  It felt a bit one-dimensional. There wasn’t a whole lot of audience engagement.  They’d come to play a show, and they played it.  Job done. No criticism whatsoever of the great job done by Ian, but not every band can float your boat, can it?

    Future Long Street Blues Club gigs:

    • Saturday 2nd October – Jimmy Carpenter
    • Saturday 30th October – Climax Blues Band (at Devizes Town Hall)
    • Saturday 20th November – Focus (at Devizes Corn Exchange)
    • Saturday 27th November – Antonio Forcione Quartet
    • Saturday 18th December – Kossoff: The Band Plays On
    • Friday 14th January 2022 – Chicago Blues Allstars

    WIN 2 Free TICKETS HERE
  • REVIEW: Strakers’ Devizes Comedy – Corn Exchange – Friday 17th September 2021

    You’ve Got To Laugh

    by Andy Fawthrop

    It really feels as if the old times are back with the very welcome return of Strakers’ Comedy Night at the Corn Exchange.  A fairly packed audience of about 200, with long early queues at the bar, settled down for something we all needed – a great night of laugh-out-loud comedy.  It did initially have the feel of a massed estate agents’ night out and bonding session, but once we finally got under way, all of that was forgotten.

    First up was Kane Brown who wasted no time in warming to his first couple of themes – a black man in a very white town, and the obvious need to take the piss out of the sponsor of tonight’s event.  Kane was quick-fire, calm, relaxed and made an immediate bond with his audience.  It could be argued that he was scoring into an empty net, such was the crowd’s desire to have a good laugh after such a long lay-off, but in fact it was much better than that.  Kane had a very nice line in nostalgia themes – salted crisps, the choke on cars, old TV technology – and his slot seemed to slip by in no time.  Very assured, very funny and an obvious hit with the crowd.

    Next up came Rod Woodward, veteran of the corporate comedy circuit, TV, Royal Variety show etc.  Rod played the “I’m very Welsh” card early, followed it with low-level machine-gunning of the Strakers (a theme was developing here) and rounded out with routines on Ryanair, and the dangers of going clothes shopping with a married partner. Another great performance, also hilarious, and a great way to end the first half.

    Following the half-time scrums at the bar, and the queues for the loos, the second half offered up a couple more comics.  First of these was Ali Cook, another very experienced performer in terms of TV work, Edinburgh Festival and the corporate circuit. Ali combined his comedic patter with a number of sleight-of-hand magic tricks, effortlessly pulling victims (sorry – “assistants”) out of the crowd to help him on stage.  Routines involved card-tricks, apparently eating goldfish, and smashing an i-Phone to pieces.  Another clear hit with the crowd.

    Last on stage was the wild-looking, long-haired Canadian Craig Campbell.  Here was a real force of nature from the get-go.  Having just done a none-too-easy gig for UK troops quarantined after recently returning from Afghanistan, Craig had a lot to say on the subject.  At first this really took the audience with him, but then he appeared to lose a good few people with his crude, shouty, expletive-ridden rants about not very much in particular.  He managed to pull them round with a very good story about the Dutch and the Danes, but then went off into another blizzard of shouting. A few people around me were making their excuses and leaving at this point, but other sections of the audience found him very funny. He lost me towards the end I’m afraid.  I don’t mind bad language well-used, but Craig seemed to rely on the f-word almost completely to get his laughs, a thin cover for fairly sparse material.  So, something of a Marmite type of performer.

    Still – to badly paraphrase a certain rock legend – three out of four ain’t bad.  Overall a great night, lots of laughs, and a very welcome extra step to getting our lives back again.  Thanks to Strakers for putting the show on – great stuff!


    Win 2 Tickets HERE!
  • Eric Ravilious: Downland Man

    Unique exhibition to open at Wiltshire Museum

    Featured Image: The Westbury White Horse © Towner Eastbourne

    Finally opening at Wiltshire Museum on 25 September 2021 is Eric Ravilious: Downland Man, something we previewed on Devizine in October 2019, but, sadly, lockdown prevented.

    This major exhibition explores for the first time the celebrated artist’s lifelong fascination for the chalk hills of southern England, particularly Wiltshire and Sussex.

    The exhibition will feature more than 20 works borrowed from national collections and private collectors, including iconic watercolours such as The Westbury Horse and The Wilmington Giant, alongside other rarely-seen works.  The exhibition is supported by the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund.  Created by the Garfield Weston Foundation and Art Fund, the Weston Loan Programme is the first ever UK-wide funding scheme to enable smaller and local authority museums to borrow works of art and artefacts from national collections.

    Central to the exhibition are several of Ravilious’s best-loved watercolours of chalk figures made in 1939 in preparation for a children’s book, Downland Man.  The book was never completed, and for many years the prototype or ‘dummy’ made by Ravilious was believed lost.  When it resurfaced in 2012 this precious item was bought at auction by Wiltshire Museum.  It will be included in the exhibition alongside some of the artist’s watercolours, aerial photographs, annotated Ordnance Survey maps, postcards and books that relate to the Ravilious works on show – material drawn largely from Wiltshire Museum’s own collection.

    The exhibition will offer a new view of Eric Ravilious (1903-42) as a chronicler of the landscape he knew better than any other.  From his student days until the last year of his life, Ravilious returned again and again to the Downs, inspired particularly by the relationship between landscape and people.  Watercolours and wood engravings included in the exhibition show dew ponds and farmyards, a cement works and a field roller, modern military fortifications and ancient monuments. 

    Eric Ravilious: Downland Man is curated by James Russell, previously curator of the 2015 blockbuster Ravilious at Dulwich Picture Gallery. He said ‘I studied History at Cambridge and I’m always intrigued by the social and cultural context of artists’ work.  When it comes to downland history and archaeology Wiltshire Museum has an unrivalled collection, making this exhibition a unique opportunity to shed new light on Ravilious – an artist who is well-known these days but still little understood. With watercolours such as ‘Chalk Paths’ and ‘The Vale of the White Horse’ on display, visitors are in for a treat.

    Heather Ault, Exhibitions Officer said: ‘This is a wonderful opportunity for Wiltshire Museum to exhibit such beautiful works by Ravilious.  The exhibition will be an absolute delight’.

    Sophia Weston, Trustee of the Garfield Weston Foundation, said: “We are delighted that the Weston Loan Programme has been able to support the display of these important works by Eric Ravilious in Wiltshire – an area of the country which repeatedly inspired this much-loved artist. The exhibition will bring his evocative landscapes to new audiences and shed light on material little-known by the public.”

    Eric Ravilious: Downland Man opens at Wiltshire Museum on Saturday 25 September and closes on 30 January 2022.  Tickets can be pre-booked online at https://www.wiltshiremuseum.org.uk/prebooktickets/.

    The exhibition ends on 30 January 2022.


    win 2 tickets here
  • Real Cheesemakers go Head-to-Head with Professor Elemental in Chippenham

    So, you’re planning to go out-out, the decision rests on music or a night of comedy. An unnecessary dilemma, no need for a crystal ball, tarot cards or Paul the psychic octopus, you can do both in the land of chips n ham. In fact, if you happen to own a psychic octopus, this will be right up your street.

    I’ve been waffling on the subject of comical music of recent, reviewing release from Monkey Bizzle, Death of Guitar Pop, Mr B, and Scott Lavene, but here’s an evening not to be missed for your dancing shoes and funny bone alike.

    Professor Elemental

    Lord of whimsy himself, Brighton’s steampunk chap-hop artist Professor Elemental, who’s been in a friendly feud with the very same Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer, goes head-to-head with Calne’s nonsensical Real Cheesemakers, and the ref will be Chippenham’s own legend and Edinburgh Festival favourite Wil Hodgson in a night not to be missed or dissed.

    The Real Cheesemakers

    One randomly selected lyric of Professor Elemental might whet your appetite, “this one’s for the crusty festivals and shows, where a fan tries to hug me and I get a dreadlock up my nose,” and honey, he’s got rhymes you haven’t heard yet. Expect hilarity at the Old Town Tavern on 16th October, demand trousers, horses and dinosaurs, tickets are eight quid, a brown one on the door. Facebook yo bad self, tell ’em you want in.


    Win 2 free Tickets HERE
  • Spearmint’s Holland Park

    As spacey as Spaceman 3, I get a whopping chunk of cleansed retro Madchester with the opening of Holland Park, the new album from one of ‘Britain’s best kept secrets’, Londoners, Spearmint. The album drops tomorrow, September 17th, on WIAIWYA Records, and is produced by acclaimed journalist and musician Rhodri Marsden, known afor playing in Scritti Politti.

    Story checks out, with there’s a clear Scritti Politti influence going on here, The Boo Radleys, Belle & Sebastian comes over in waves too. The follow-up to their acclaimed 2019 album Are You From The Future? This is one rich, uplifting record.

    It mellowly plods but picks up with the third tune, Walk Away From Hollywood, only to be followed by a strings-based honour to Bowie, in a kind of Mike Berry’s Tribute to Buddy Holly. Shirley Lee, frontman of Spearmint explains the meaning behind the first single released from Holland Park, “Since Bowie Died isn’t about David Bowie, it’s about the rest of us. I remember hearing the news at the start of 2016: it didn’t seem real. Then as things came to pass that ear and since, I felt like our world had become a harsher place from that moment on, as though it had ‘opened the floodgates’. I know others felt the same way, so we wanted to capture this feeling in the song, but add some hope too.”

    The spirit of Bowie courses through the record as a leitmotif, and hallmarks their typically sublime mellow brit-pop infused melodies. A record that “explores what it’s like to be in a band, what it’s like to have walked away from being in a band, what music means to all of us, and how it feels to lose your heroes.”

    A concept album in the vein of the subject it depicts, Holland Park has a running theme of a seventies rock group who never quite hit the big time, based on the singer Shirley’s father’s band. It comes to its apex at The Streets of Harlesden, the following title track with an everyday chit-chatty quality, similar to Scott Lavene we reviewed yesterday, and a striking instrumental called Black Vinyl. All mood setting like a slumbering Who rock opera. There’s a dreamy but uplifting ambiance here, and it’s beguiling.

    Once it winds back to the mellow Britpop for a few tunes, the penultimate is the oddity, a sudden blast of sonic punk, called She Says She Wants to Save the Pigs, and it returns with its hallmark for an uplifting romantic finale.

    Spearmint plan to premiere the album live in London in November, followed by shows in Brighton and Bristol, with further gigs being planned for 2022.


    win 2 tickets here
  • Help Choose a Charity For A Fundraising Music Event in Devizes….

    A prestigious live music gig is being planned for Devizes. Top secret, if I spill anymore beans about it they’d be forced to shoot me, and I know you wouldn’t want that…..would you?

    I thought not, not even if they just skimmed my kneecap with a spud-gun?

    But what you can help the organisers decide is, what local non-profit charity would you want this event to fundraise for, should it go ahead?

    I’ve added some worthy charities, but you can add your own if you wish. Please give us your feedback asap, takes a second, thank you! And yes, I’ll tell you all about when the time comes, just, like push me, man!

    https://poll.fm/10921261

Devizine’s Review of 2020; You Can’t Polish a Turd!

On Social and Political Matters……

For me the year can be summed up by one Tweet from the Eurosceptic MEP and creator of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage. A knob-jockey inspired into politics when Enoch Powell visited his private school, of which ignored pleas from an English teacher who wrote to the headmaster encouraging him to reconsider Farage’s appointed prefect position, as he displayed clear signs of fascism. The lovable patriot, conspiring, compulsive liar photographed marching with National Front leader Martin Webster in 1979, who strongly denies his fascist ethos despite guest-speaking at a right-wing populist conference in Germany, hosted by its leader, the granddaughter of Adolf Hitler’s fiancé; yeah, him.

He tweeted “Christmas is cancelled. Thank you, China.” It magically contains every element of the utter diabolical, infuriating and catastrophic year we’ve most likely ever seen; blind traditionalist propaganda, undeniable xenophobia, unrefuted misinformation, and oh yes, the subject is covid19 related.

And now the end is near, an isolated New Year’s Eve of a year democracy prevailed against common sense. The bigoted, conceited blue-blooded clown we picked to lead us up our crazy-paved path of economic self-annihilation has presented us with an EU deal so similar to the one some crazy old hag, once prime minster delivered to us two years back it’s uncanny, and highly amusing that Bojo the clown himself mocked and ridiculed it at the time. I’d wager it’s just the beginning.

You can’t write humour this horrifically real, the love child of Stephen King and Spike Milligan couldn’t.

Still, I will attempt to polish the turd and review the year, as it’s somewhat tradition here on Devizine. The mainstay of the piece, to highlight what we’ve done, covered and accomplished with our friendly website of local entertainment and news and events, yet to holistically interrelate current affairs is unavoidable.

We have even separated the monster paragraphs with an easier, monthly photo montage, for the hard of thinking.

January

You get the impression it has been no walk in the park, but minor are my complaints against what others have suffered. Convenient surely is the pandemic in an era brewing with potential mass hysteria, the need to control a population paramount. An orthornavirae strain of a respiratory contamination first reported as infecting chickens in the twenties in North Dakota, a snip at 10,400km away from China.

Decidedly bizarre then, an entire race could be blamed and no egg fried rice bought, as featured in Farage’s audacious Tweet, being it’s relatively simple to generate in a lab, inconclusively originated at Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, rather spread from there, and debatably arrived via live bat or pangolin, mostly used in traditional Chinese medicine, a pseudoscience only the narrowminded minority in China trusts.

Ah, inconsistent pseudoscience, embellished, unfalsifiable claims, void of orderly practices when developing hypotheses and notably causing hoodwinked cohorts. Yet if we consider blaming an ethos, rather than a race, perhaps we could look closer to home for evidence of this trend of blind irrationality. Truth in Science, for example, an English bunch of Darwin-reputing deluded evangelicals who this year thought it’d be a grand and worthy idea to disguise their creationist agenda and pitch their preposterous pseudoscientific theory that homosexuality is a disease of the mind which can be cured with electro-shock treatment to alter the mind inline with the body’s gender, rather than change the body to suit the mind’s gender orientation, to schoolchildren!

Yep, these bible-bashing fruit-bats, one lower than flat earth theorists actually wrote to headmasters encouraging their homophobia to be spread to innocent minds, only to be picked up by a local headmaster of the LGBTQ community. Here’s an article on Devizine which never saw the light of day. Said that Truth in Science’s Facebook page is chockful with feedback of praise and appreciation, my comments seemed to instantly disappear, my messages to them unanswered. All I wanted was a fair-sided evaluation for an article, impossible if you zip up.

Justly, no one trusts me to paint an unbiased picture. This isn’t the Beeb, as I said in our 2017 annual review: The chances of impartiality here, equals the chances of Tories sticking to their manifesto. Rattling cages is fun, there’s no apologies I’m afraid, if I rattled yours, it just means you’re either mean or misguided.

Herein lies the issue, news travels so fast, we scroll through social media unable to digest and compose them to a greater picture, let alone muster any trust in what we read. I’m too comfortable to reside against the grain, everyone’s at it. I reserve my right to shamelessly side with the people rather than tax-avoiding multinationals and malevolent political barons; so now you know.

February

If you choose to support these twats that’s your own lookout, least someone should raise the alarm; you’d have thought ignoring World Health Organisation advise and not locking down your country until your mates made a packet on horseracing bets is systematic genocide and the government should be put on trial for this, combined with fraud and failure of duty. If not, ask why we’re the worst hit country in the world with this pandemic. Rather the current trend where the old blame the young, the young blame the old, the whites blame the blacks, the thin blame the fat, when none of us paid much attention to restrictions because they were delivered in a confused, nonsensical manner by those who don’t either, and mores to the pity, believe they’re above the calling of oppressive regulations.

If you choose to support these twats, you’re either a twat too, or trust what you read by those standing to profit from our desperation; ergo, twats. Theres no getting away from the fact you reep what you sow; and the harvest of 2020 was a colossal pile of twat.


Onto Devizine…. kind of.

For me what started as a local-based entertainment zine-like blog, changed into the only media I trust, cos I wrote the bollocks! But worser is the general obliteration of controversy, criticism and debate in other media. An argument lost by a conformer is shadowed behind a meme, or followed up with a witch hunt, a torrent of personal abuse and mockery, usually by inept grammar by a knuckle-dragging keyboard warrior with caps-lock stuck on; buy a fucking copy of the Oxford Guide to English Grammar or we’re all going to hell in a beautiful pale green boat.

We’re dangerously close to treating an Orwellian nightmare as a self-help guide, and despite fascists took a knockdown in the USA and common sense prevailed, the monster responded with a childish tantrum; what does this tell you? The simple fact, far right extremism is misled and selfish delinquency which history proves did no good to anyone, ever. Still the charade marches on, one guy finished a Facebook debate sharing a photo of his Boris “get Brexit done” tea-towel. I pondered when the idiot decided a photo of his tea towel would suffice to satisfy his opinion and convince others, before or after the wave of irony washed over his head in calling them Muppets.

I hate the term, it’s offensive. Offensive to Jim Henson’s creations; try snowflake or gammon, both judgemental sweeping generalisations but personally inoffensive to any individual, aside Peppa Pig. I wager you wander through Kent’s lorry park mocking the drivers and calling them snowflakes rather than tweeting; see how far you get.

So, the initial lockdown in March saw us bonded and dedicated, to the cause. We ice-skated through it, developed best methods to counteract the restrictions and still abide by them; it was kind of nice, peaceful and environmentally less impacting. But cracks in the ice developed under our feet, the idea covid19 was a flash in pan, akin to when Blitz sufferers asserted it’d all be over by Christmas, waned as we came to terms, we were in it for the duration.

Yet comparisons to WWII end there, lounging on the sofa for three months with Netflix and desperate peasants delivering essential foodstuff, like oysters, truffles and foie gras is hardly equivalent to the trench warfare of Normandy. Hypocritical is me, not only avoiding isolation as, like a nurse, my labour was temporarily clapped as key worker in March, I figured my site would only get hits if I wrote something about Covid19, and my ignorance to what the future resulted in clearly displayed in spoofy, ill-informed articles, Corona Virus and Devizine; Anyone got a Loo Roll? on the impending panic-buying inclination, and later, I Will Not Bleat About Coronavirus, Write it Out a Hundred Times…

The only thing I maintained in opinion to the subject, was that it should be light-hearted and amusing; fearing if we lose our sense of humour, all is lost. Am I wrong? Probably, it’s been a very serious year.

It was my first pandemic-related mention, hereafter nearly every article paid reference to it, no matter how disparate; it’s the tragedy which occupied the planet. But let’s go back, to oblivious January, when one could shake hands and knew where the pub was. Melksham got a splashpad, Devizes top councillors bleated it wasn’t fair, and they wanted a splashpad too. They planned ripping out the dilapidated brick shithouses on the Green and replacing it with a glorious splashpad, as if they cared about the youth of the town. I reported the feelings of grandeur, Splashpad, I’m all over it, Pal! A project long swept under the carpet, replaced with the delusion we’ll get an affordable railway station. As I said, convenient surely is the pandemic.

So many projects, so many previews of events, binned. Not realising at the time my usual listing, Half Term Worries Over; things to do with little ones during February half-term… would come to an abrupt halt. Many events previewed, the first being the Mayoral Fundraising Events, dates set for the Imberbus, and Chef Peter Vaughan & Indecision’s Alzheimer’s Support Chinese New Year celebration, to name but a few, I’m unaware if they survived or not.

March


On Music……

But it was the cold, early days of winter, when local concerns focused more on the tragic fire at Waiblingen Way. In conjunction with the incredible Liz Denbury, who worked tirelessly organising fundraising and ensuring donations of essentials went to the affected folk, we held a bash in commemoration and aid down that there Cellar Bar; remember?

It was in fact an idea by Daydream Runaways, who blew the low roof off the Cellar Bar at the finale. But variety was the order of the evening, with young pianist prodigy Will Foulstone kicking us off, opera with the amazing Chole Jordan, Irish folk with Mirko and Bran of the Celtic Roots Collective and the acoustic goodness of Ben Borrill. Thanks also has to go to the big man Mike Barham who set up the technical bits before heading off to a paid gig. At the time I vowed this will be the future of our events, smaller but more than the first birthday bash; never saw it coming, insert sad-face emoji.

We managed to host another gig, though, after lockdown when shopping was encouraged by In:Devizes, group Devizes Retailers and Independents, a assemblage of businesses set up to promote reopening of town. We rocked up in Brogans and used their garden to have a summer celebration. Mike set up again, and played this time, alongside the awesome Cath and Gouldy, aka, Sound Affects on their way to the Southgate, and Jamie R Hawkins accompanied Tamsin Quin with a breath-taking set. It was lovely to see friends on the local music scene, but it wasn’t the reopening for live music we anticipated.

Before all this live music was the backbone of Devizine, between Andy and myself we previewed Bradford Roots Music Festival, MantonFest, White Horse Opera’s Spring Concert, Neeld Hall’s Tribute to Eddie Cochran, and the return of Asa Murphy. We reviewed the Long Street Blues Club Weekender, Festival of Winter Ales, Chris O’Leary at Three Crowns, Jon Walsh, Phil Jinder Dewhurst, Mule and George Wilding at The White Bear, Skandal’s at Marlborough’s Lamb, and without forgetting the incredible weekly line-up at the Southgate; Jack Grace Band, Arnie Cottrell Tendency, Skedaddle, Navajo Dogs, Lewis Clark & The Essentials, King Street Turnaround, Celtic Roots Collective, Jamie, Tamsin, Phil, and Vince Bell.

The collection of Jamie R Hawkins, Tamsin Quin and Phil Cooper at the Gate was memorable, partly because they’re great, partly because, it was the last time we needed to refer to them as a collection (save for the time when Phil gave us the album, Revelation Games.) Such was the fate of live music for all, it was felt by their newly organised trio, The Lost Trades, whose debut gig came a week prior to lockdown, at the Pump, which our new writer Helen Robertson covered so nicely.

For me, the weekend before the doom and gloom consisted of a check-in at the Cavy, where the Day Breakers played, only to nip across to Devizes Sports Club, where the incredible Ruzz Guitar hosted a monster evening of blues, with his revue, Peter Gage, Innes Sibun and Jon Amor. It was a blowout, despite elbow greetings, I never figured it’d be the last.

It was a knee-jerk reaction which made me set up a virtual festival on the site. It was radical, but depleted due to my inability to keep up with an explosion of streamed events, where performers took to Facebook, YouTube sporadically, and other sites on a national scale, and far superior tech knowhow took over; alas there was Zoom. I was happy with this, and prompted streaming events such as Swindon’s “Static” Shuffle, and when PSG Choirs Showed Their True Lockdown Colours. Folk would message me, ask me how the virtual festival was going to work, and to be honest, I had no idea how to execute the idea, but it was worth a stab.

One thing which did change, musically, was we lowered our borders, being as the internet is outernational and local bands were now being watched by people from four corners of the world, Devizine began reviewing music sourced worldwide. Fair enough, innit?

The bleeding hearts of isolated artists and musicians, no gigs gave them time on their hands to produce some quality music, therefore our focus shifted to reviewing them, although we always did review records. Early local reviews of 2020 came from NerveEndings with the single Muddy Puddles, who later moved onto an album, For The People. Daydream Runaways’ live version of Light the Spark and Talk in Code’s Like That, who fantastically progressed through lockdown to a defining eighties electronica sound with later singles Taste the Sun and Secret.

We notified you of Sam Bishop’s crowdfunding for a quarantine song, One of a Kind, which was released and followed by Fallen Sky. Albums came too, we covered, Billy Green 3’s Still in January, and The Grated Hits of the Real Cheesemakers followed, With the former, later came a nugget of Billy Green’s past, revealing some lost demos of his nineties outfit, Still, evidently what the album was named after.

Whereas the sublime soul of Mayyadda from Minnesota was the first international artist featured this year, and from Shrewsbury, our review of Cosmic Rays’ album Hard to Destroy extended our presence elsewhere in the UK, I sworn to prioritise local music, with single reviews of Phil Cooper’s Without a Sound, TheTruzzy Boys’ debut Summertime, Courage (Leave it Behind), a new single from Talk in Code, and for Daydream Runaways’ single Gravity we gave them an extensive interview. This was followed by Crazy Stupid Love and compiled for an EP, Dreamlands, proving they’re a band continuously improving.

April

Probably the most diverse single around spring though was an epic drum n bass track produced right here in Devizes, featuring the vocals of Pewsey’s Cutsmith. Though while Falling by ReTone took us to new foundations, I ran a piece on the new blues sounds locally, as advised by Sheer Music’s Kieran Moore. Sheer, like all music promoters were, understandably, scrambling around in the dark for the beginnings of lockdown, streaming stuff. It wasn’t long before they became YouTube presenters! The Sheer podcast really is something special, in an era leaving local musicians as dry as Ghandi’s flip-flop, they present a show to make ‘em moist!

Spawned from this new blues article, one name which knocked me for six, prior to their YouTube adventures, was Devizes-own Joe Edwards. I figured now I was reviewing internationally; would it be fair to local musicians to suggest a favourite album of the year? However, Joe’s Keep on Running was always a hot contender from the start, and despite crashing the borders on what we will review, I believe it still is my favourite album of the year.

Other top local albums, many inspired from lockdown came flowing, perhaps the most sublime was Interval by Swindon’s reggae keyboardist virtuoso, Erin Bardwell. The prolific Bardwell later teamed with ex-Hotknive Dave Clifton for a project called Man on the Bridge.

Perhaps the most spacey, Devizes’ Cracked Machine’s third outing, Gates of Keras. Top local singles? Well, George Wilding never let us down with Postcard, from a Motorway, and after lockdown reappeared with his band Wilding, for Falling Dreams and later with a solo single, You Do You. Jon Amor was cooking with Peppercorn, which later led to a great if unexpected album, Remote Control.

There was a momentary lapse of reason, that live streaming was the musical staple diet of the now, when Mr Amor climbed out onto his roof to perform, like an ageless fifth Beatle. Blooming marvellous.

Growing up fast, Swindon’s pop singer Lottie J blasted out a modern pop classic with Cold Water, and no one could ignore Kirsty Clinch’s atmospheric country-pop goodness with Fit the Shoe.

Maybe though it wasn’t the ones recorded before, but our musicians on the live circuit coming out with singles to give them some pocket money, which was the best news. I suggest you take note of Ben Borrill’s Takes A Little Time, for example.

I made new friends through music, reviewing so many singles and EPs; Bath’s Long Coats, and JAY’s Sunset Remedy. Swindon’s composer Richard Wileman, guitarist Ryan Webb, and unforgettable Paul Lappin, who, after a couple of singles would later release the amazing acoustic Britpop album The Boy Who Wanted to Fly. Dirty and Smooth and Atari Pilot too, the latter gave us to cool singles, Right Crew, Wrong Captain, and later, Blank Pages. To Calne for End of Story and Chris Tweedie, and over the downs to Marlborough with Jon Veale’s Flick the Switch. I even discovered Hew Miller, a hidden gem in our own town.

May

But we geographically go so much further these days, even if not physically much more than taking the bins out. Outside our sphere we covered Essex’s Mr B & The Wolf, Limerick’s Emma Langford, London’s Gecko, and from the US, Shuffle & Bang, and Jim White. Johnny Lloyd, Skates & Wagons, My Darling Clementine, Micko and the Mellotronics, Typhoidmary, Frank Turner and Jon Snodgrass, Mango Thomas, Beans on Toast, Tankus the Henge; long may the list continue.

Bombino though, the tuareggae artist really impressed me, but I don’t like to pick a favourite, rather to push us onto another angle. I began reviewing stuff sent via my Boot Boy radio show, and covered a ska scene blossoming in South America. But as well as Neville Staple Band’s single Lockdown, The Bighead, the Bionic Rats, and Hugo Lobo teaming up with Lynval Golding and Val Douglas, we found reggae in Switzerland through Fruits Records, the awesome Cosmic Shuffling and progressive 808 Delavega.

So much music, is it going on a bit? Okay I’ll change the record, if you pardon the pun, but not until I’ve mentioned The Instrumental Sounds Of Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue, naturally, Sound Affects’ album Ley Lines, Tunnel Rat refurbing their studio, and Bristol’s freshest new hip hop act The Scribes. Ah, pause for breath.

Oh, and outside too, we did get a breather from lockdown and tiers, all Jamies for me, Mr R Hawkins was my first outing at the Gate and followed by Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective. Sad to have missed Two Man Ting and when The Big Yellow Bus Rocked the Gazebo, but hey, I thought we were out of the deep water.

June

Splashed straight back in again; “tiers” this time, sounds nicer than lockdown. Who knows what 2021 will bring, a vaccine, two vaccines, a mesh of both despite being ill-advised by experts? Just jab me, bitch, taxi me to the nearest gig, if venues still exist, by spring and I’ll shut up about it.


On Arts…..

Bugger, I’m going to need Google maps to find my local boozer. But yeah, they, whoever they are, think we’re all about music, but we cover anything arts and entertainment, you know? We previewed Andy Hamilton coming to Swindon’s Wyvern, Josie Long coming to Bath, The Return of the Wharf Theatre, and the county library tours of Truth Sluth: Epistemological Investigations for the Modern Age. Surely the best bit was being sent a private viewing of a new movie, Onus, by the Swindon filmmakers who gave us Follow the Crows.

I shared poems by Gail Foster, and reviewed her book Blossom. Desperate for subject matter I rewrote a short story Dizzy Heights. I featured artists Bryony Cox and Alan Watters, both selling their wares for the NHS, Ros Hewitt’s Glass Art open studio, Small Wonders Art Auction in aid of Arts Together and Asa Murphy published a children’s book, The Monkey with no Bum! I dunno, don’t ask.

July