Deadlight Dance of the Dabchicks, and another Painted Bird

Glad I went to Aldbourne, for a freebie trio of must-see bands, including Siouxsie and the Banshees tribute Painted Bird, it was a great night, but…..

In 1987 I was but a 14 year-old Essex suburbian lad, who got his first taste of rural Wiltshire peering out of the back window of his Dad’s car to the Square in Aldbourne, realising places like this really exsist outside of picture books and peroid dramas.

Concerns of fitting into life in my new home never dawned on me, let alone how the natives would feel about my being here. Oblivious to cliqueines and class, snobby village girls turned their noses up while lesser-so ones seemed intrigued. I guess I was somewhat “exotic,” if “chav” before the word was even repopularised!

Maybe it was the latter which caused my male peers to view me as a threat, maybe it was because I was different, but for whatever insular reasoning some bestowed an abhorrence of me which came to an apex when I attempted a night at the social club, and a gang chased me all the way home. I never returned, until now.

Thirty-five years later I confess a slight feeling of apprehension, sitting in my car in the Square planning to enter the club. Moreso to see it in exactly the same location, up exactly the same stairs. Surely they’ve matured too, I’m as Wiltshire as lardy cake now, and they’ve ditched their pitchforks?!

A nostalgic side to me felt pleased to be here, after so long. Here for two reasons, firstly to see old school associate Tim, who I was reunited with at Mantonfest as bassist for Richard Davies & the Dissidents, in the newly formed duo Deadlight Dance, with his former sixform buddy, Nick. The pair have worked together in various groups since their sixform band, and Tim confided he liked it this way, just a simple friendly formula.

But this evening’s entertainment is a trio of bands, all with an Aldbourne connection. The second reason was to tick headline act, Painted Bird off my must-see list, a local Siouxsie and the Banshees tribute I’ve heard all good things about. I find the backstories of tribute acts fascinating, and why they chose the artist they did to attribute, particularly when it’s such a unique choice as Siouxsie Sioux.

Real name Nancy Jean, I set out firstly to discover her connection to the village by asking her if she was a Dabchick. For those unaware, it’s the name for those born in the village based on a folklore rare appearance of one on the village pond. But Nancy’s response in a rich Californian accent answered the question; she was married to her drummer, a born and bred dabchick, and they live in the village.

Nancy explained she had fronted a Siouxsie and the Banshees tribute in LA, applied for a similar role here, and created her own band around it. And I’m happy to report, they’re a highly skilled four-piece, able to recreate the magic of the punk era legends in an entertaining and accurate way. Nancy was also keen to point out the music took presidence over the look, still she looked and acted the part with meticulous precison too.

It was a superb show, as lively as retro-punk should be, and perfected, as they trekked through the discography of the Banshees and polished it off with two remaining tunes from a new project using the same band for original sounds under the banner KGB, which though twisted the style to metal, the punk imprint of the tribute remained subtly evident, which was fine by me and the enthused and tipsy crowd.

And it was a bloody good gig, with hospitable locals and staff. Leaving my preconceptions outside, this was quite the opposite of the shithole akin to someone’s garage with a few scattered pub tables in it it once was, but a modest contemporary function room, comfy and affordable; something every village needs but few seem to have aquired. Aldbourne should be proud. But all should note, I don’t hold a grudge against an entire village for the aforementioned incident, it’s water under the bridge, and besides, I’m fully aware a similar occurence would’ve happened in whatever village we landed in; just bored teenagers with nought else to do.

For the record both young and old were in attendance, age demographics know no boundaries at village venues, as Deadlight Dance kicked off proceedings.

Eighties new wave electronica is their game, angled toward the gothic alternative, which they executed with finesse and emotion. From a few originals Nick explained they were taking into the studio, to expected covers of Bauhaus and Joy Divison, it was the sort of serious music venue appreciation society type stuff, rather than universal village hall. Though what was particularly adriot in their set was a rendition of Heartbreak Hotel in their house style.

That said, if Devizes has an affectionate for electric blues, go east to discover a similar penchant for post punk, so this worked, and I stood beside goths and locals, equally appeased. It was almost like being back at St Johns in the eighties, save for lack of trippy science teacher, Dr Dodd!

Next up were also residents and bought their fanclub with them as they bounced on stage and wasted no time in blasting traditional punk covers from the dawn of the shortlived detonation direct into our faces. The Racket, they called themselves, and they were, though an accomplished racket, and it’s a guaranteed win-win to rouse a middle-aged audience with Ramones, Dammed, Elvis Costello and Blondie covers. Most diverse with a punky version of Kids From America, the Racket make for an ideal function band, for the aging punk aficionado. The girl upfront passionate about reproducing the genre, appeared as a cross between Debbie Harry and Katherine Tate, as though it bore hit parade pastiche of the lost era, they did it with bells on, and were as lively as the need be.

Then it was time for Nancy and her band, the bassist of which we’d seen guest in Deadlight Dance, to steal the show. Proir she asked me if I liked Siouxsie, and though I confirmed I did, made excuses for not being totally clued up. “You’ll know more than you think,” she responded, “we play all the hits.” And she was blooming right too, as their perfect renditions paid homage to Siouxsie and the Banshees, track recognition fell neatly out of my brain’s archive like a slot machine.

Locally touring with Mark Colton’s Blockheads tribute, Dury Duty, if tributes reside with no middle-ground, either being absolute shit, or absolutely brilliant, I’m pleased to report it’s the latter with Painted Bird. Local circuits tend not to clash, but any one of these featured acts should be made to feel more than welcome to pass border control and play the Vizes. Book em, Dano, and put their name in cutout newspaper letters for a poster!

Punk, alive and well and living in Aldbourne; who’d have thought it?!


Nothing Rhymes Orange, Fact

Oh, for the enthusiasm of emerging talent; new track from Nothing Rhymes with Orange is a surprisingly garage band delight……

My dad never revealed his feelings about being in an amateur teenage band. Though I knew he was, he played down its importance. Sacrificing his guitar for parenthood, he’d shrug and tell me they were never any good, anyway, then explain it was the trend of the era, everyone tried picking up a guitar. A tendency succumbed to electronica and the pop machine of my youth; we grew up hailing the DJ and the sound system. Yet the DIY ethos of swinging sixties is very much revitalised these days, and if there’s lots of current notable young bands on Wiltshire’s circuit, one to watch are called Nothing Rhymes Orange.

But, if it’s fact nothing does rhyme with orange, I confess to know little else about this emerging talent, save they’ve a Devizes connection, recently rocked up Lavington’s Churchill and supported Carsick at The Pump, as Sheer’s incentive to promote upcoming locals never fails to spot greatness. And greatness it is, if raw and somewhat undercooked; such is the delight of discovering a garage band, as they come out of Martin Spencer’s Badger Set studio with a blinding original track this week, Chow For Now.

Garage is an appropriate blanket term, I was pleasantly surprised not to hear some expected grunge-inspired thrash, rather the balance of indie-pop akin to the Coral, with occasional nod to post-punk, when fitting. This sounds garage, yeah, basslines of early Jam, even, which rings out a beguiling riff of contemporary sparkle, not forgoing an original concept for theme. Ah, Scouting for Girls, or more; taking on local favourites like Longcoats and Daydream Runaways.

Immediate like from me, guys; one to watch. Aside another two tunes in the works, you can find Nothing Rhymes Orange supporting Harmer James and Chasing Kites at a Freaky Friday down St James Vaults, Bath on 11th November. Link-tree is here, go figure.

This is what picking up a guitar is all about, albeit to suggest it takes perseverance; likely where my dad’s Who-like wannabes failed, but Nothing Rhymes Orange seem to excel. Guess I’ll never be sure about the first, but I’m certain of the latter.  


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Sheer Music Grand Return to Devizes

Ah, it’s on the grapevine alright; godfather of Wiltshire’s millennial live indie scene, Kieran Moore isn’t sneaking in the back door with his tail between his legs like the prodigal son, rather he’s returning to Devizes, the origins of his promotional stamp Sheer Music, in a blaze of heavy rock glory.

Not content with setting the soul of live music in the bright light city of viva Trowvegas on fire, or getting those stakes up higher at Komedia in Bath and legendary venue the Vic in Swindon, he’s
just a devil with love to spare…. for his roots!

It’ll be loud and proud, that much is for sure, when Sheer takes the Corn Exchange on Friday 7th October, and, hold your breath, it’ll be a free gig, yes I said free. When was the last time you got in the Corn Exchange for nought? Obviously as chief blagger I’m not at liberty to answer that question myself, but you catch my drift I hope!

They’ve got that kick-ass skater punk collaboration of Trowbridge, Devizes, Westbury and Wotton Bassett, Start The Sirens as support. A promising upcomer we handsomely reviewed their debut “Just the Beginning,” back in June.

Next up is two-thirds homegrown purveyors of noise NervEndings, who should need no introduction locally, abielt to note the boys are creating quite the stir forever further abound, headlining this Saturday at the very same Victoria, for the Swindon Shuffle.

Plus hard-rocking contemporary punkers Lucky Number Seven, which I’ll confess is a new one to me, but they certainly sound like a belter, featured alongside NervEndings at the Shuffle, and who tore Bristol’s Fleece apart at the beginning of the month.

Kieran labels his promo posts with “shit the bed, Devizes,” leaving me pondering; are you sure you’re ready for this, Devizes? Stage diving all the way to Chick-O-Land?!


Drag Me Down are Invincible; Fact!

Ah, hark the beatific resonances of an adolescent choir, in their prime; Swindon’s metal-skater-punk three-piece Drag me Down have a new single out, destined to take no prisoners.….

Released on 26th August (2022) Invincible is fresh loud and proud, if contemporary pop-punk bands like Sum41, just as a for example, are sounding tad commercialised and lite, either/or, Limp Bizkit be too rappy for your palette, this local garage powerhouse packs the punch of metal’s finest hour and plunges the rest of said genre against the ropes.

And they sent it to me for my appraisal, unaware I’m approaching fifty and should be looking over my glasses at them in disgust, complaining about skateboards in the park while sucking on a pipe and adjusting my slippers until the nurse passes me my meds; and I reckon it’s having it.

Its intro is unpredictably electronica, but kicks within ten seconds with a grungy carefree “this is our time” notion, and rolling drums of pop-punk is the hook which confirms it is exactly that, a beguiling up-to-date anthem. If, like me, you were unaware of these guys, this will permanently scar them into your neurons as they go from strength to strength, claiming to have learned “a few new tricks along the way.”

Formed in Swindon, the band have been friends since their pre-teen years and suggest they’ve “gone through every trial a young person could face while growing up in the UK,” yet emerge from the other end as a “no-nonsense unit of friends with only one goal: to put smiles on the faces of everyone who listens to us.” Ah, I can’t give ’em that, sorry, they don’t know they’ve been born!

If there was any truth in what I just said, least they’ve top marks on how to rock.

In true counterculture ethos, they’ve a DIY label, Whatevercords, and have teamed up with The Bottom Line, Hightail, and From Here On Out producer Zac Pritchett to whisk an ever-growing discography. They’ve played Furnace Fest at Swindon’s Level III with the likes of Polar, TRC and our purveyors of noise buddies NervEndings.

I forgo my right to a free bus pass unless it’ll take me to a Drag me Down gig, because based on this single alone, they’ve got every ingredient firmly placed for the lively, youthful denotation you need to be at when it goes off. So, yeah, I’m predicting these kids will go far, and as for pensioner whinges I’ll stop at: if not I want a full enquiry into why not.

Pre-save said ticking-timebomb HERE, and wait for detonation Friday week (26th August.)


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Tickling Your Fancy with the Hard Rock Lifestyle

You ever have one of those almost comical “you want some, do yer?” type confrontations, whereby your drunk challenger is absolutely determined to fight you? No matter how passive your posture, regardless of complimentary reactions, they only retort the precise opposite, even if it jeopardises their own reputation; as in, “no, thanks for asking, but you look very tough,” and the reply thickens the plot, “no, I’m not!”

Or is it just me, with “one of those faces?!” After seventeen years idle, Bradford-on-Avon rockers Peace return under a new guise called Tickle Your Fancy, to blast the musical “in your face” equivalent, and it absolutely kicks back, residing in retrospective hard rock rather than ear-bleeding all-out grunge or thrash…which better floats my boat, subtle hints of the take-no-prisoners punk attitude, et al.

For five three-minute heroes in this name-your-price download or cassette EP aptly titled “Hard Rock Lifestyle,” never settle, never meanders off up sentimental stairways, or drifts to Mordor, rather similar to an edgy ZZ Top, AC-DC at the top of their game, they don’t come up for air.

Just when I was pondering a possible method of introducing Led Zeppelin to my daughter today, by suggesting while those screamingly gritty vocals might be cliché in contemporary metal, these guys were the originators, they set the bar, Tickle Your Fancy come at it so insatiably, it’s compulsory to toss annotations of platitude aside, like a groupie’s bra, and just rock out in its sublime portrayals of an after-party in the green room of a Kiss concert.

Akin to the irony of their past name, being doubtful if they were ever best described “peaceful,” “Hard Rock Lifestyle,” rarely tackles serious issues “that fill our everyday lives,” as disingenuously claimed, other than suggesting partying through an apocalypse. Yeah, there’s a sample in the finale of a fictional cold war nuclear strike newsreel, which, like the fact it’s released on cassette, only increases the idea we’re living in a time of pre-soft metal yore; hard rock’s finest hour, an era when long-haired men belted out songs about gorgeous ladies carefree of chauvinistic ripostes. I mean, said sample appears in an anthemic song called, Pull Down Your Pantz, for crying out loud; coupled with a cover of a chic businessman skateboarding to the office, it kind of says it all about the tongue-in-cheek nature of this crazy ride.    

Good old, untroubled rock n roll is what’s on offer here, adroitly captured. Predominately themed of fun-loving carnal appreciation, tracks like Hot Blondes and One O’clock Gun reek of ZZ Top’s Legs, and thus said party begins with an eponymous opening tune. Top marks for a release of energy I was unsure of which way would go in appeasing to my personal taste, but I’m locked into this direct-to-audio cassette release from Wiltshire’s Crest Studios, by Garlic Bill of The Raw Data Recording Company. You can’t escape it’s hold; it targets you and won’t give up until you attempt to swing a punch; Tickle Your Fancy will give it yer!


Just the Beginning, Start The Sirens

If it’s the beginning, it’s a loud one; kicking punk album release from Start the Sirens out last week has got me potentially stage-diving off the top of wardrobe.…..

A collaboration of members from Trowbridge, Devizes, Westbury and Wotton Bassett, Start The Sirens formed in 2019, hit the pandemic with an acoustic EP, which bassist Leyton Jones, aka Rocky explains was an experimental project to “find our own style, and achieve that upbeat sound.” Just the Beginning is the kicking debut, and a testament to accomplishment; they rock it with bells on.

If Forget What You Heard sets the mood, kick-ass skater punk which takes no prisoners, the second track Sunset to Sunrise breathes an air of carefree ingenuity akin to millennial pop-punk. Three tunes in though, Tell Me hints of traditional punk, well, at me it does! Lead vocalist Holly Harwood in Siouxsie Sioux fashion, especially with the “Whoa Whoa” chorus. It’s beguiling stuff hard to pinpoint but with a wave insensible to pigeonholing; just shut it and rock out.

Keen though I am to shelf this with punk roots, for it has that DIY ethos, Rocky was adamant to cite pop-punk and emo bands like New Found Glory and Blink 182 as obvious influences, and I’m forced to shed my aged perceptions and agree, it’s high-energy vibes and doesn’t come up for air, but cast in positive light rather than the dejected attitude of original punk. Positivity was key, Rocky established with me.

Design by Nikki Noodle

We spoke of tricky placements in local circuit pub gigs, though the band rocked Trowbridge’s Stallards last weekend, play the Old Bear Staverton tonight (2nd June) at 8pm, and support USA’s Hit Like A Girl with Brighton-based I Feel Fine, for a Sheer Music gig at The Village Pump on Friday 17th June. Rocky spelled out their motivation was a labour of love, and based on this showcase album, they should be placed firmly on a touring map of UK punk venues. Though I think Swindon’s Vic should snap them up, Bradford’s Three Horseshoes and Devizes Southgate would love it too.

Seven original three-to-four-minute heroes here, the penultimate This One’s For You perhaps the most enticingly commercially viable, and it finishes with one final name-sake anthem blast; I’m looking forward to catching these guys live. What? No, I’m convinced I still got it, mate! I’ve told you my story of Dad’s taxi to a Bowling for Soup gig at Bristol’s O2 before, haven’t I? I was like leaning on the railings of the upper area when I perchance to spot another glum looking expression on a guy of similar age. Seems like he was also chaperone to his kids, and we did the dad nod. Then I thought fuck it, I’m here, allowed to enjoy myself too and tried to drag that son to the mosh pit!

I may be outdated for the skater punk detonation, but it’s high energy, full of zest and aspiration, that’s my take, and something Start the Sirens has captured here; have a listen, get ’em in your local….  


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Cobalt Fire’s Butterfly

In the words of the great Suggs, “but I like to stay in, and watch TV, on my own, every now and then,” after three gigs on the previous weekend, I opted a weekend off, albeit I was with the family, and succumbed to Britain’s Got Talent for my entertainment, one little part of me wishing I’d headed down the Southgate.….

To rub salt in the wound, Swindon-(I think)-based Cobalt Fire, who were providing the sounds at Devizes most dependable pub for original music last Saturday, also released a debut album called Butterfly, so naturally I wanted to hear what I missed.

Self-defined as a fusion of “the retro sound of 90’s grunge and post-punk with a modern take on folk,” I can see where they’re coming from, and it’s no new thing for them, formerly known as Ells and the Southern Wild, the band developed their fresh sound from acoustic roots, and yes, there’s tinges of this still in them. Though their bio suggests they formed in 2103, I gather there’s either a typo or a gothic timelord in there! But in their switch to electric they strive to retain the core features of the songs, “creating a more muscular beast in the process,” they put it.

And they’ve certainly achieved this, Butterfly, usually more bug than beast, is a boom of emotional overdrive, as grunge commands, with echoes more of Evanescence than Nirvana, what with Ells Chadd’s haunting vocal range. It packs punches from beginning to end, the finale of which, Another Round, particularly poignant to this nod to acoustic roots, middle tracks like His Words Lie Heavy breath an air of eighties post-punk, ah, goth tinge, Siouxsie Sioux style, while it begins strictly grunge, with those rising and falling echoes of emotive authority.

The magnum opus, though, is three tracks in, Crimson Red summarises everything great about this potent four-piece, it’s dynamitic, driving.

It’s basically ten professionally executed, blindingly touching three-minute heroes, in a fashion not usually my cuppa. But if I sing praises for a genre more me, that’s easy work, for music to make me consider oh yeah, I like this though pigeonholing obligation says I shouldn’t, the result is even more impressive, and with Butterfly I’m near to breaking out some multi-belt buckle platform boots, growing my hair and dying it black!

This is a powerful and emotive creation, indulgent of all rock subgenres, yet beguiling grunge, and it never strays from its unique sound. See now, I’m sorry I missed you guys, another time and I’m beeline; embarrassingly for BGT too, though I’ve given my best cat ate my homework excuse, and though I doubt you’ll turn Simon Cowell’s frown upside-down, going on this album, you’d have got my golden buzzer.

Ah, it’s all lies, anyway; not sure my hair will grow back!


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PREVIEW – White Horse Opera’s Production of Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amour”@ Lavington School, Devizes – Wednesday 26th, Friday 28th, and Saturday 29th October 2022

Opera Is Back! – The Elixir Of Love! – Go See This Show! by Andy Fawthrop We’ve said it before, and we feel no shame … Continue readingPREVIEW – White Horse Opera’s Production of Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amour”@ Lavington School, Devizes – Wednesday 26th, Friday 28th, and Saturday 29th October 2022

Swindon’s New Tribute to the Blockheads; Dury Duty

On the eve of a new tribute act fronted by Swindon’s Mark Colton, he tells me “Dury seems to be a forgotten genius and the blockheads are an amazing band still. We just want to remind people of what a great showman he was, and what great songs there are……”

I find myself pondering on Dury’s virtuosity, influence and why it’s popularly considered underrated. True, the meandering and wishy-washy narrative of Matt Whitecross’ 2010 biopic, Sex & Drugs & Rock n Roll, didn’t do much justice, but his funeral, a decade prior to the film, saw a handful of celebrities, keen on honouring the mysterious persona of Ian Dury. From Mo Mowlam and Robbie Williams to Madness, the latter of whom occupied a similar place in the nation’s heart as Ian Dury and the Blockheads did a few short years prior.

A posthumous national treasure, in death he achieved what his dark and edgy character prevented him from accomplishing, a Times obituary praised the singer’s “Swiftian satirical streak” and acknowledged his “lasting place in the corpus of the English popular song.” If The Blockheads’ pseudo-fusion of jazz into punk didn’t wash with the atypical punk movement, it certainly scored them some hits, and anyway, when did punk itself ever adhere to “fit in?”

Ian Dury

To take onboard recent trends in British unpremeditated, often jokey street rap, the kind The Streets, Lily Allen and Kate Nash rinsed, Dury popularised that poetic verse, to consider post-punk’s more jazzy moments, The Blockheads reigned supreme, but perhaps the synthesis doesn’t pigeonhole them for a majority to realise the strength of their influence on pop.  

Swindon’s newly formed six-piece Dury Duty is dedicated to the songs and performance of legendary band leader and raconteur Ian Dury, rather than recent Blockheads reformation. This combo of experienced musicians strives to recreate the sound and feel of a genuine Ian Dury concert, drawing from material found within his solo output, his work with The Kilburns, The Blockheads as well as other side projects.

“I have decided to follow my heart and do the projects I have always wanted to do,” Mark explained, “including this one. The initial set features the sort of set around the time Do it Yourself would have been released, lots of songs from New Boots.”

Mark Colton

Colton leads in Thin Lizzy tribute, The Lizzy Legacy, temporarily fronted ska covers band The Skandals, continues in the punk cover band Rotten Aces, and has been gigging solo for a while with a repertoire of two-tone and punk covers. He basically has his fingers in so many pies, it’s tricky to keep up! I asked him if the concentration was solely on Dury Duty now, or if the other original and tribute acts are still in motion.  

“The solo stuff will continue,” he informed, “I have a few projects still on the go. My original material band CREDO is recording our 5th album, Rotten Aces are gigging again from April, after getting a new guitarist. I have a Marillion Tribute too, called Marquee Square Heroes, and the Lizzy Legacy are still active, but less so due to others commitments and of course, Dury Duty. Each band is a different challenge, but they all keep me on my toes!”

Along with the expected big hitters, such as ‘Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll’, ‘Reasons To be Cheerful (Pt.3)’, ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’, and ‘What A Waste’ forming the backbone of any set, Dury Duty promise “lesser known but equally entertaining nuggets to whet the appetite of any long-time Ian Dury aficionado.”

Mark is joined by Jono Judge – Saxophones, Percussion and Vocals, Michael York – Piano, Keyboards, Guitar and Vocals, Brian Barnes – Guitars and Vocals, Rob McGregor – Drums and Vocals and Ken Wynne – Bass Guitar and Vocals. A self-confessed “talented band of brothers” keen on not only entertaining those familiar with the extensive cannon of this great performer and wordsmith, but to bring new fans to the man. “Ian Dury is sorely missed and his sharp, witty and often cutting observations on the mundane and absurd through his lyrics and poetic verse are carried forward by this.”

Opening gig is at Swindon’s premier venue, Old Town’s Victoria on Friday June 3rd, but are the band ready to roll, should a nearer booking come their way, I asked Mark. “I suspect we would do something if it came up for Dury Duty, but that’s what we are working towards at the moment. We will be looking to get out and get this working, the songs are a pleasure to play.” Got to wish them all the best with the project, being it innovative and crucial for a tribute act find a sustainably eminent niche which doesn’t fall into cliché, and for the reasons of Ian Dury’s elapsed stimulus makes this project exciting local music news.


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Trowbridge Town Hall Rides into Spring

At the beginning of the month Devizine covered Trowbridge’s musical renaissance, highlighting The Village Pump and Town Hall’s dedication to introducing a variety of upcoming local bands and performers. Explaining Sheer Music’s Kieran Moore had “big shoes to fill,” taking over as chief event coordinator for the Town Hall from Gavin Osborn. Well, the proof is in the pudding, and that dish has made it off the serving counter and onto our table.….

Not forgoing, the programme is already in full-swing, with Truckstop Honeymoon at the Pump on Friday, (18th) a cider swiggin’ scrumpy and western hoedown with The Skimmity Hitchers and our great friends, and the Boot Hill All Stars supporting at the Town Hall on Saturday.     

Boot Hill All Stars

Such is the fashion for live music in Trowbridge, Fridays at the Pump, Saturday at the Town Hall, aside some great happenings at Stallards and Emmanuel’s Yard, comedy and more commercial nights at the Civic. Gecko appears next Saturday at the Town Hall, and all-day Sunday there’s   fundraising session, Kalefest, a family-orientated mini-festival for some musical equipment for a teenager with a severe brain injury, in which Zone Club, Pete Lamb’s Heart Beats and The Relayz play.

Marching on atop this free six-week interactive course of workshops for 16- to 18-year-olds, covering all aspects of the music industry, next month sees a continuation of great bookings, of which we highlighted in the aforementioned preview, here. What we’re here today for is to check in on Kieran, see if he indeed “filled” those shoes for the ongoing season.

So, just revealed, April and May listings at the Town Hall and Pump, which have equally exciting news, as, perhaps, Mr Moore asks the shopkeeper for a shoehorn. Isle of Man’s recent export to Wiltshire, Becky Lawrence, the musical theatre singer-songwriter who wasted no time fitting into the local circuit, joining established local bands, The Bourbons UK and Clyve and the Soul City Foundation, teams up Bristolian country singer-songwriter Zoe Newton to pinch-punch April at the Pump.

Zoe Newton at Bradford Roots Festival

Whereas, in the name of variety I’m surprised to see The Town Hall hosting a “rum and reggae night” on Saturday April 2nd; it’s as if they’re calling to me! Seriously though, I’d wager youngsters reading this are asking Siri what the hell a shoehorn is.

But nice surprises flow, as Gavin Osborn himself plays The Pump, Friday 8th, with his band Comment Section. Regulars at Stallard’s, locally-based indie-rockers Riviera Arcade arrive at the Town Hall with Gloucestershire’s electric-punk favourites, Chasing Dolls on Saturday, with (udated) Devizes/Swindon NervEndings headling the show.

NervEndings

Alcopops Records’ Croydon duo, The Frauds play the Pump on the 15th, with Ipswich’s experimental indie-pop darlings, Lucky Number 7, while Henry Wacey and Dan O’Farrell are there on Saturday. Surreal stand-up, Welsh hard rockers The Vega Bodegas are at the Town Hall on the Saturday, with support from Wiltshire-based metal trio newcomers, Last Alvor and self-confessed “degenerates,” synth-punk noise-makers Benzo Queen.

If that weekend is atypical of what I’d expect Mr Moore to assign, the following, Saturday 23rd is different. Kieran is no stranger to asking what acts local giggers would like to see via social media, as Brighton’s Chap-Hop legend Professor Elemental comes to the Town Hall, with support from my recommendation, Bristol’s fantastic veganomic ska-punk-folk crazies, Boom Boom Racoon, who’ve we fondly followed in the past on Devizine.

Boom Boom Racoon

If I’m excited with boom boom coming soon, while “Sunday league” songwriter Tom Jenkins finishes off April on Saturday 30th, May is positively booming too. Local soul-hip hop DJ, Mac-Llyod gets the crowd prepped for another of my personal favourites, Bristol’s bouncy boom-bap virtuosos The Scribes, on Saturday 7th May. Aching to encourage these guys a gig more local than Salisbury’s Winchester Gate, I’m delighted to see this on Trowbridge Town Hall’s listing; they’re definitely calling to me now!

Pan-European ‘inventive and thrilling’ alt-folk duo, singer-songwriter Tobias Jacob and double-bass playing multi-instrumentalist Lukas Drinkwater play the Pump on Thursday 12th May, whereas I’m notified Saturday 14th’s do at the Town Hall will be a “pipe and slippers rave,” of which I had to inquire if, as it sounds, it’ll be an old skool DJ rave type thing, and this it was confirmed, “that’s exactly it.” If they’re calling me, now they’re mocking; the feet in my slippers were stomping in mud when you were an itch, whippersnappers! “Honey, where’s my whistle and white gloves?”

Sheffield’s award-winning finger-style guitarist, Martin Simpson breathes some folk to the Pump on Friday 20th May, while the Town Hall blow cobwebs off with Trowbridge’s own hardcore metal quartet, Severed Illusions. With nine years under their belts, they opened for Hed PE at the now defaulted Beirkeller in Bristol, and played metal festivals’ assemblage M2TM. Joined by doomcore fourpiece Eyesnomouth, and Salisbury’s screaming metalcore Next Stop Olympus; that’s going to go off.

The Lost Trades

From here gigs are pencilled in, June sees Martin Carthy, Jon Amor with Kyla Brox, Hip Route and Billy & The Low Ground feature, but be certain the near-future looks bright and varied for Trowbridge’s live music scene, particularly as the last gig of May is our beloved folk-harmony trio The Lost Trades on Saturday 28th. Bring in the summer with Graham Steel’s award-winning Phil, Jamie and Tamsin, what more could you ask for?


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Sonny Vincent’s Snake Pit Therapy

Here’s me doubting using the phrase “traditional punk rock,” because wouldn’t punk castoff anything deemed traditional? Yet I feel the term punk is loosely thrown about these days, compared to its original ethos. Much of the sneaker and drainpipe crowd-surfing youngsters barely relates to the sound and attitude of the Pistols or Ramones.  

While I’m a little behind, and smell like one too, Svart Records released Snake Pit Therapy on 17th of September, legendary NYC rocker Sonny Vincent is something we have to mention, because it’s loud, dangerous and pretty much nails the aforementioned oxymoron, “traditional punk rock.”

Born in New York City and raised on its streets and in its clubs, Sonny Vincent is infamous from NYC punk early fire-starters Testors, who from ‘75 to ’79 were attitude-laden fixtures on the CBGB and Max’s Kansas City scenes. An extraordinarily prolific artist, active since the late 60s, Sonny has released numerous albums collaborating with members of the Stooges, Dead Boys, The Damned, Husker Du, The Replacements, Rocket From The Crypt and releasing four albums with the Velvet Underground’s Moe Tucker. He recently collaborated with Pentagram’s Bobby Liebling in the new supergroup The Limit, whose Caveman Logic album was released in the spring.

Snake Pit Therapy maintains the rawness of real-deal blazing protopunk with heaps of psychedelia and hard rock, all taken to the edge with Vincent’s naked aggression, passionate voice and his trademark caustic guitar. Yet scrupulousness rides this razor-sharp rock n roll testament, because Vincent’s life and antics are more than legend; they are real, as documented in his recent memoirs, bearing the same title as this very album.

In and out of homes for bad kids, committed to the psych ward for observation and forcibly conscripted into a tour of duty in Vietnam courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corp, Vincent’s experience of wild and tough living has awarded his songs hardness with humanity. Sincerity without mawkishness, Snake Pit Therapy is glorious rock ‘n’ roll with an edge that’ll slice your finger clean off.

For this, I’ll say, at first it was a hard pill to swallow, blasting it straight in your face when I was in somewhat of a laidback mood, rather Snake Pit Therapy grows on me like a wart with each listen, and if you’re looking for rage without cliché or irrationality, you’ve come to right album.

It was ten tracks into this fifteen-track indestructible primal scream when I was smitten, Japan Mofo, has the start stop of blues-riffed rock n roll, while retaining the ferociousness of previous tracks. Yet it’s the earlier driving rock tune, The End of Light which is the first single released, Never Tired follows, which a heart-ripped-open chorus, is having it.

Note, if you’re expecting it calm down, you’ll be disappointed until the final song, Forest offers a slightly mellowed psychedelic tenet, in comparison with the rest, still though this is verging on metal at times, inline with his recently formed heavy punk-metal band The Limit, featuring Bobby Liebling of Pentagram, and garnering glowing reviews worldwide.

So yeah, while a tad weighty for me, I still see it’s quality and know there’s a lot of people who are going locally who’ll love this, and I do too, when I’m in the raging like of mood, which has been known to happen for anything as long as thirty seconds! In the past, I reached for Iggy Pop, he now will have competition.


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The Great Rock N Roll Swindon; Anarchist Artists Unite

October at The Post-Modern Gallery, on Swindon’s Theatre Square, sees an irresistible exhibition for punks, general music or art aficionados, and devotees of the curious and unusual, The Great Rock N Roll Swindon. Running from the 2nd – 10th, it’s a free art show, the name of which was inspired by the Sex Pistols film and song, The Great Rock N Roll Swindle, and is part of a touring group exhibition organised by punk artist, David Apps.….

From 2012 over a six-year period he had staged six exhibitions a year, always with his artwork dominating the exhibition. From London, Essex and Cambridge to Newcastle and Berlin, he staged exhibitions, built up a large following and returned the following year, until opening his own successful gallery in the summer of 2017.

With Brexit and then the world closing down shortly after, sadly David had to close his beloved gallery in December 2020. “Lost and not knowing what to do,” he explains, “I decided to book an exhibition a month and go back to how I started out, booking venues and art galleries and taking the artwork on tour.”

The exhibition is made up of a plethora of artists from the original punk movement, alongside some extremely interesting artists and friends who David has worked with over the past seven years, including legendary singer of punk band the U.K Subs, Charlie Harper. Two Brixton based artists, Dalis & Angel, aka DnA Factory, who produce provocative and slightly wrong bright pinks!

British punk icon Gaye Black, AKA Gaye Advert exhibits too, a bassist with the Adverts, who hated being the female icon of the band. Her work has dark themes as well as the use of press images of herself and the band in her work.

Others include renowned artist in his own right and son of the artist Lucian Freud, David Freud, Mr Ben Art from Worthing with music-related and punk icon images made from old magazines, papers and paint under a thick resin; sounds real punk-paste. London based T-shirt designer, Sexy Hooligans, specialising in duplicate original Malcolm McLaren & Vivianne Westwood’s SEX design T-shirts and the Anarchy shirts worn by the Sex Pistols.

Two of the artists are originally from Swindon, Michelle Mildenhall, a Latex artist now based in Hastings, who’s work contains themes of bondage, face-gags and iconic faces, and Hammer Horror influenced gothic, Saffron Reichenbacker, with fun but angelic designs, Brighton based.

There’s also Northampton based artist, Monet Shot, with limited edition prints using consumerism themed products as his influence. World renowned mosaic slogan artist, Carrie Reichardt, of whom we’re advised it’s “well worth taking a look at her mosaic house in West London on Google.” Carrie will only be showing small works in the exhibition. Plus, a second mosaic artist, CuriousiTeas, who’s thought-provoking and humorous slogans are put onto custom-made teapots.

But the most interesting and topical sounding of all this bizarre collective, just when you think you’ve heard it all, must be Linda King, who creates large, decorative flat wooden Crows, of beautiful design, to hang in windows to stop birds flying into them. And Hastings based artist, Sassy Luke, who uses religious icons with a twist, and has a wide range of both religious and Covid design knickers.

And with the thought of religious and Covid design knickers I believe it’s best to leave it there. If you’re intrigued by any of this, such as the aforementioned Covid designed knickers, as much as I, you really need to take a peek into this, more works on display can be seen by following David’s Instagram account. I mean, who hasn’t tried wearing their facemask as undergarments for some light relief during lockdown? …. oh, just me then!


Win 2 tickets HERE

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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.


WIN 2 tickets HERE

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Was a TwoManTing at the Southgate

Managed to make it somewhere between out and Micky Flanagan’s out-out last night. In other words, I didn’t change out of my manky khaki shorts I’d been gardening in, but still got a pint or so down “the Gate.” I’ve been aching to witness the duo, TwoManTing for myself, Captain Obvious; yes, TwoManTing is a duo, you can’t make it up.

Appearing at the Devizes trusty Southgate a few times previously, it’s been something I’ve been meaning to catch-up with, being their appellation sounds all rather reggae, my favourite cup of tea. My residual curiosity though, how can a duo make reggae, something you surely need a gang for; a bassist, a drummer, brass section et all?

Two Man Ting

Answer revealed, the “ting” part might be misconceiving to our preconceived notion the phonologic is Jamaican patois. The Bristol-based duo consists of English guitarist Jon Lewis, who has a clear penchant for Two-Tone and punk inclinations of yore, and Jah-man Aggrey, a Sierra Leonean percussionist. They met playing together as part of dance band, Le Cod Afrique, at venues such as Montreux Jazz Festival and WOMAD, formed the duo in 2004, and make for an interesting and highly entertaining two-man show.

Something of a surprise then, and a rarity around these backwaters, to hear maringa, demonstrative folk of Sierra Leone, perhaps catered more to our tastes via Jon, but essentially the same ballpark, acoustic guitar and percussion. Somewhere between calypso but with the Latino twinge of rhumba, best pigeonholed, their sound is motivating and beguiling, and achieved with originality. In fact, to my surprise most of their compositions were their own creations, save the sublimely executed known cover of The Clash’s Guns of Brixton, Jon’s clear punk inspiration showing forth.

They told there’s a Clash cover on each album, of which they’ve produced three. Story checks out; Armagideon Time on their first album Legacy, which I could quibble is actually a Coxsone’s Studio One cover by the Clash, aforementioned Guns of Brixton on 2015’s Say What? and something of a rarity from Combat Rock, the poet Allen Ginsberg’s duet with Strummer, Ghetto Defendant, which can be found on their most up-to-date album, 2019’s Rhymes With Orange.

But this punk influence is sure subtle, the mainstay of their enticing sound is the acoustic maringa, palm wine music traditional throughout West Africa, at least for the start of the show. The most poignant moment for me was Jah-man attributing his homeland’s natural glory, rather than that which people tend to ask him about, the civil conflicts and war, in a chorus which went, “why not ask me about….”

Jah-man and George hanging out after the gig

As the performance progressed the fashion modernised, live loops upped the tempo, and it became highly danceable afro-pop, in the style of soukous, more spouge than cariso in delivery; how apt for the current heatwave! At times lost in the music, it was easy to throw-off the notion the wonderful sound was reverberating from just two guys, rather than an eight-piece band, reason enough for BBC 6Music’s Lauren Laverne to say of TwoManTing, “brilliant – if you want a bit of early summer, then get this into your ear-holes!”

Today they can be caught at Salisbury’s Winchester Gate, but appreciation again to The Southgate for supplying Devizes with something diverse and entertaining. Next Saturday at “the Gate,” Rockport Blues appear, for a night of blues, rock and soul classics, starting at 7:30pm.


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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

Liddington Hill Celtic Punk!

Sometimes, and quite a number of times I might add, nothing fits the bill quite like a bout of pounding bibulous Celtic punk, by a band with a girl donning a cow’s head as a mascot. But how far would you expect to trek to find such a group of misfits, Wales, Ireland?

Suggested in the name, Liddington Hill, the beautiful down overlooking Swindon, with the Ridgeway traversing and its iron age hillfort, is local enough. Not since the days of the Blitz, when the area was used as a “Starfish” decoy bombing bunker, has it been so explosive.

What’s the link to Liddington with this scorching five-piece band, who have just released their debut EP, Cow after a few singles, I felt imperative to ask? “We all lived in Swindon at the time we started,” fiddle and vocalist Matt told, “our singer grew up around the area and went up to Liddington Castle a lot as a child. It seemed to be a bit of a landmark and with the Ridgway close by had great links to the past, so I guess it just seemed like a good name.”

Two members remain in Swindon, the other two now live in Oxford, and drummer Chris hails from Chippenham. With fiddles and a bodhrán meshed with electric guitars, the line between punk and traditional Celtic folk cannot be yanked apart, not that there’s any good reason to try to.

The bobbing theme of a band drinking excursion to Oxford, Pub Crawl, follows a dynamic and unique slide-guitar take of the folk sea shanty, Whip Jamboree.

An almost new-wave post-punk feel is implemented into the melting pot with the third tune, Marshlands, an original song about lead guitarist Liam’s Grandfather in Ireland, “who wouldn’t ride a horse,” Matt explained, “but insisted on riding a cow!” Hence the cow symbolism, I’m best guessing.

The EP ends traditionally, with Joseph B. Geoghegan’s anti-war music hall classic, Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye, and Liddington Hill bless the folk feel with their brand of punk, making for a perfect finale. While it might not be as authentic as The Pouges, or as aggressive as The Levellers, with bands like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys storming success in the US, there’s a huge market for this beguiling genre, yet a scarcity on the local scene, and Liddington Hill pack a punch.

It’s a grower, and I’m loving this, anticipating possibility of an album to greater extend their scope, but as far as energetic presence is concerned, it’s kick-ass. Branded subtly, though, to suit a pub environment, so a live show, fingers crossed for their definite return, would be something highly memorable and I’d recommend landlords book them in; certainly, it’d push up the beer sales!


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Countin the Blues, Punkishly, with Elli de Mon

Well, that certainly took the serrated edge off Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill. Imagine an episode where you are Doctor Who. You’ve landed the Tardis nearby a juke joint, deep in 1920s Mississippi. A bunch of wild railroad convicts won’t let you out unless your assistant plays them some songs. Trouble is, your assistant is Siouxsie Sioux. You pray to the timelords of Gallifrey she won’t corrupt continuity, by introducing punk fifty years too early. Just when you think she might have found middle-ground, Ravi Shanker drops in to join the jam!

The score could be provided by Italian multi-instrumentalist and soloist Elli De Mon, who’s forthcoming album, out 18th June, Countin the Blues is packaged like a delta blues album of yore; sepia photo of Elli, guitar between legs, and graphics to match. It weighs in well with sound too, a twangy guitar opening, but it jerks between tradition and modern. Reimaging ten female vocalist, vintage blues rarities from the 1920s, Countin the Blues varies between adhering to the original, or converting it into kick-ass contemporary punk. This works, exceptionally well under the skilled labour of Elli, primarily because those songs are as raw and filthy as punk could be or has ever been.

This album should put Elli de Mon on the UK map, as she’s been thrilling blues audiences across Europe with this unique take on the blues for best part of decade. A prolific one-woman-band, releasing six albums since 2014, she breezes through vox, rezophonic and lapsteel guitars, organ, drums, dilruba, and even an outplaced sitar, on this magnificent album.

Primordial blues being a major influence, during pregnancy Elli penned, Countin’ The Blues: Indomitable Women, a book about the women blues artists of the twenties. Published in 2020, it must’ve been a natural progression for her to decide to record the songs she wrote of, in tribute to these great women. It’s a win-win for documentation of songs which has been forgotten by most. The only tune I’d heard of was Memphis Minni’s When The Levee Breaks, as many would know it from the Led Zeppelin adaptation.

Kicking in, as I said, twangy guitar introduces us, but seconds later Elli’s version Ma Rainey’s Prove It On Me Blues electrifies. One could shrug at this conjunction, pop-punk has the T-shirt on this, if Alanis Morissette coined it, Sheryl Crow and Shania Twain commercialised it. Yet there’s a definite rawness here, a dusky garage punk nod. This notion drags you in, darkened by the second track, Bessie Smith’s Blue Spirit Blues; eloquently macabre, and the theme continues for a further two tunes until Lucille Bogan’s Shave ‘Em Dry pounces on you like a seventies punk anthem.

Proving drugs and music went hand-in-hand since day dot, the overlooked iconoclast Victoria Spivey recorded Dope Head Blues in 1928, yet Elli implements a beatnik lysergic aura to it, by adding a sitar; hence the Ravi Shanker connection mentioned in my Doctor Who visualisation!

Just when you consider reeling in your assistant Siouxsie Sioux, with your extended scarf (because Dr Who will eternally be Tom Baker in any of my imaginary scenarios) dragging her to the crossroads in hope the devil, or Davros even, is up for purchasing a soul, we’re back on the agenda, less Sgt Pepper, and more traditioned twangy acoustic guitar blues is aired now more than previous songs.

Image by S. Carollo

With the sublime acoustics of Elizabeth Cotten’s Freight Train, it feels as if Elli figured it had all gone too far the other way, and returned her salutes the queens of the blues by traditional method.  This acoustic trend continues for four amazing tunes, ingulfing the aforementioned When The Levee Breaks. In my scenario Doctor Who would be effectively saved, these last few tunes would adhere to the angry railroad convicts’ expectations. But just as you assume the cliché happy ending is near, there’s a vinyl only bonus track, Geeshie Wiley’s Last Kind Words Blues, which slivers back into psychedelia sitar, and the Doctor is doomed, to be continued next week!

This album is a treasure, if not for the tremendous tributes to historical blues standards, or the adaptions of unearthed rarities returned to modern times through punk rock, but for the overwhelming effort of this Italian multi-skilled virtuoso who accompanied herself on nearly every instrument, and arranged the whole album in a new key, to align to her personal punkish style.

And Elli, if you read this, I wonder, and I’d imagine you do too, what the mother of the blues, Ma Rainey and the other subjects you’ve so wonderfully recaptured here would think of it all? It may well take some time for them to get their head around music’s progression, but I’m certain you should be proud as they’d nod their approval.


Tribute Acts Going the Extra Mile; Blondie & Ska

One surprise track contributed for our forthcoming compilation album for Julia’s House, (yes, it’s going sluggish but well, thanks for asking!) comes from Chippenham’s part-Blondie-tribute-part-ska-covers duo, Blondie & Ska. It’s a solid, rock steady original, with the added bonus it sounds as if it could’ve been an album track from Parallel Lines, Plastic Letters or another Blondie album at the peak of their game.  

It’s given me the opportunity to have a chat with Dave Lewis, one half of the duo, on how they started doing what they do, pondering if you just wake up one morning and think, I know, I’m going to be tribute act. If Blondie & Ska actually see themselves wholly as a Blondie tribute act at all, given they not only record original songs, but in a unique slant, perform classic Two-Tone songs from the same period. But most importantly, answering some conundrums I’ve had since hearing a tune with a similar concept by UB40 tribute Johnny2Bad, about tribute acts going the extra mile and recording tracks in the fashion of their inspiration. I mean, is it deliberate that it sounds akin, or simply natural method given the music is based around imitating the act?

Certainly, Blondie & Ska wasn’t formed on a whim. For a decade prior to forming the duo, Lorraine and Dave were both co-members of various bands on the same circuit. The idea, Dave explained, “occurred over a number of phases,” and expressed, as a mod, his love for The Beat. Anxious not to live up to expectations of his idols, Dave continued, “playing ska, was one of those things, because you love it so much, you don’t want to go that direction, but when we kind of got dragged into it, there was no stopping us, because the more we did it, the more we loved doing it, and there was no reason to be nervous!”

In the band as well, was Steve Edge, who co-wrote our song. “Steve and I used to write back in the nineties,” Dave explained, chuffed to be reunited to write this track specifically for us. “And we performed as an originals band,” he enthusiastically continued.

After the originals band, Dave joined his drummer and played in a local blues band called No Ties, which Lorraine also started in, while Dave concentrated on a secondary band aptly named Band Two, which Lorraine would later join. It was there where Dave suggested the concept of Blondie & Ska to Lorraine, in 2013. “She replied, hum, I fancy having a go at that,” Dave revealed. “It took about six months to get rehearsed. We did our first gig, and thought, why didn’t we do this before?” They’ve been performing weekly as a duo act from Land’s End to Barnsley since, clocking up hundreds or appearances together.

I moved onto the question, given recording originals and this mixture of lateral ska tunes added to the Blondie tribute, if they even classed themselves at ‘tribute act’ in the same light as the run-of-the-mill ones. “It’s weird one,” he admitted, “I kind of call it that Blondie and ska sound. Whatever we tend to do, people say I didn’t expect it to be like that, but that’s way things are. If I’m going to do something, we want to do it in a different way.” It’s also practical, using pre-recorded sections such as drums and horns, Blondie & Ska can accommodate the smallest of venues, unlike a large ska band with a horn section. “The other thing which is difficult, with signature bands, is it’s hard work keeping the bands together,” Dave observed, a notorious hindrance with ska bands in particular.  

Dubious it would work at first, during lockdowns alternate Saturdays have seen regular blossoming live streams from Blondie & Ska. “We had over 10 thousand viewers on one,” Dave delighted, “which is bonkers! I think it was just a sign of the time, everyone was just at their computer!” For your attention, next one is tonight at 8pm (Saturday 22nd May) on Facebook, HERE. “If people don’t know us,” Dave suggested, “it’s always a nice test. We’ve been surprised by the positive feedback.”

There’s the thing with Blondie & Ska, and I put it to Dave without trying to cause offence, that though it’s unique, nothing they’re doing is particularly ground-breaking. They’ve no stars in their eyes, but the niche is they’re two musicians having a whole lot of fun, doing what they love doing. And this is what comes across, and why it sounds so good. “Absolutely,” he agreed, suggesting the original blues band was tiresome. “I wasn’t really up for anything after that, and later wanted to get back into the action. We’re doing it now because we enjoy doing it. The Blondie & Ska stuff, you know, the more we play, the more people ask, and more bookings we get in ska clubs, and our repertoire is pushed in that direction.” I laughed, so prolific was the Jamaican record industry during the ska era, there’s always going to be one trainspotter, like me (!) who comes up and asks for some obscure Coxsone rarity!

But in turn, that’s precisely the ethos of both ska, and seemingly Blondie’s music. Aside the political unrest occasionally portrayed in the Two-Tone ska revival of the eighties, the memorable songs come from a carefree perceptive of jollity, and like Madness and Bad Manners, ska is eternally dance music, from the very roots. Likewise, Blondie rarely, if at all, socially commented about anything more than romance.

Dave was so enthusiastic to chat about the reasoning and history behind Blondie & Ska, about the technicalities of recreating the perfect tribute sound, and appeasing the aficionados, we could’ve chatted forever, but I feel you need to witness them in the arena they love, rather than waffle some!

An interesting story surrounding the chosen name for the duo we finished on, as while setting up for an early gig, the organiser summed up the sound on the blackboard by chalking up “Blondie & Ska,” under the premise a lot of blond girls and a lot of male ska fans had turned up. “I was standing there, looking at the name on the poster,” Dave explained. “Lorraine was saying, can you just get on and set up, cos we’ve got to be playing in an hour?! I said, but look at the name on the poster, and she was going, no, get on with what you’re supposed to be doing!” But Dave approached the guy, knowing him through many past gigs, to ask him if he could use it. “The girls danced to the Blondie songs, and the guys danced to the ska,” he noted. Story checks out, the mix works. Tune into their live streams to find out for yourself, or here’s hoping to catch them at a real gig soon.


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Brainiac 5’s Other Dimension

And it is precisely that. Cornish psych-punkers The Brainiac 5 release this mind-blowing album of both reflective new tunes and lost archived tracks, today. Another Time Another Dimension bursts the cliché term genre-breaking to compose scattered influences, with this kind of low-fi garage style, which while loans to punk, even reggae, has the nod to acid rock of a previous psychedelia era. Most befitting a title, this is a tricky nugget to nail down, but it’s grower.

The band stress this is not a lockdown album, the impetus came from two other sources, namely a digging through the archives for unreleased material, and secondly, the passing of a long-time friend of the band, Martin Griffin. A supportive engineering assistant to the band in its earliest days, allowing them extensive use of his Roach Recording studio. Both reasons sparked the writing of some new songs, in this fifteen-track bundle of era-spanning and mind-expanding goodness.

I confess I was dubious at first, it’s as if The Beatles came after punk, but still recorded in a garage. It made me ponder the Clash singing “phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust,” and in turn the target audience, presumably a fairly eclectic bunch. As I said, it’s a grower, and I suspect I’ll be digging bits of “oh yeah, I get it now,” for many listens to come. But time has got the best of me, got to get this review out tonight.

“The four albums released during our second coming have all garnered many reviews noting our continuing desire to experiment and expand while still maintaining the basic psych/punk ethos,” they say, “Indeed, the three new tracks here do continue this tradition of experimentation. However, although it is clear that the band has grown and developed over the years it is remarkable just how much we were experimenting right from the band’s inception.”

The bulk of Another Time Another Dimension, then, are memoirs, lost archives from 1976-1980, in what the band name “our initial Cornwall period.” Taking John D. Loudermilk’s Tobacco Road to Hendrix proportions, yep, sure is blues to be found here, and the rough and ready cover of Move’s Do Ya revels in low-fi garage rock.

But it’s loud, proud and sonic trialling, denoting a path through dubby seventies roots reggae, with a few tracks which offbeat, such as I Call Your Name and though Our Devils is another, it reeks of avant-garde, a Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band-come post-punk Talking Heads. Then I return to thinking, definitely punk, I Feel Good a prime example. And then, wham, there’s freaky drunken Jim Morrison weirdness in tracks like Khazi Persona.

Though the ground here is bumpy at the best of times, your head doesn’t smash on the top; it may be raw, but blends with a flowing refinement of proficiency. “There is a lot of ground covered here,” they rightly explain, “hang on and enjoy the ride.” And there’s the very thing; once you’ve found your footing, it’s a fantastic, adventurous ride, just lacks suspension!

But, with the third eye being squeegeed so succulently as this, suspension is for losers, anyway. Another Time Another Dimension encompasses a past with a present, as if neither really happened, and that’s refreshingly effective against pigeonholing.


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Cult Figures; Deritend, Yes Mate!

It’s not just me, is it? Eighteen seconds into the Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary, you know, when it breaks, and you’re like, that’s it, right there. It matters not what youth culture you were into, at the time, or even now, it doesn’t give a hoot about your favoured genres, haircut, colour of anorak, age, gender or race, it just does it, and you, you’re like, as I said, that’s it, right there.

Something similar happens with this Cult Figures album Deritend, out last week; heck, if they haven’t even got a comparable name. Perhaps not so nostalgia-filled, as these are all originals, though the sound harks back to an era or yore, when cookies were in a biscuit barrel rather than your web browser, Tories were governed a demoness made from iron rather than a clown made of teddy bear stuffing, and a wet wipe was when your mum spat into a handkerchief and wiped it over your Space-Dust covered chops.

Mind, as happens when I’m sent files not numbered, it lists them alphabetically rather than in the running order, so the opening track is actually the penultimate Camping in the Rain, but it makes the perfect intro into the world of these London-based masters of retrospection. From its off, it’s, well, off, leaving me to reminisce about those classic post-punk new wave bands of the eighties. At times though, as it’s a mesh of this and reflective of the scooterist mod culture of same period, I’m thinking of the likes of the Jam and Merton Parkas too. Contemplate the musical differences are subtle, though worlds apart at the time, and this sits comfortably somewhere in-between.

To add to their perfection of authenticity, one must note this is the second album from Cult Figures, and is comprised of tracks written in their earlier incarnation between 1977 and 1980, just recorded more recently.

The real opening tune, Chicken Bones, has the same impact, something beguiling and anthemic, setting the way it’s going to go down. Donut Life, which follows, sounds like carefree pop, the Chords, for a comparison. In fact, as it progresses the guitar riffs of next tune, Lights Out, is sounding more pre-gothic, Joy Division, yet with a catchy whistle more akin to The Piranhas. Things get really poignant with Exile, almost dub Visage meets the Clash, and Omen extenuates the seriousness of a running theme.  

“Deritend draws a line under the past,” they explain, “all eleven tracks composed and recorded since our 2016 comeback, simultaneously reflecting a maturity gained in 40 years of life experience, whilst still embracing the accessible three Ps of the early days; punk, pop and psychedelia.” The album’s title owes to a historic industrial area outside Birmingham’s centre, “a few miles from where Gary and I grew up.”

The mysterious iconic name was a bus route terminus and has a strong emotional connection to the band, “evoking the nervous excitement of those long rides into town on our way to Barbarellas. But it conveys so much more: Deritend is an album that reflects on the past, speculates on the future, but for the most part is fairly and squarely a comment on the lives we are living now.” They convey this well, for through its retrospection, subject matter, growing up with the dilapidation of a working-class industrial chip, could equally apply to then, or now.

A timeless piece of art within a captivating musical style which embraces the traditions of generation X, just curled up at an edge like an old poster on the congregated iron fence of a closed factory. I mean Silver Blades and White Noise crave you dive back into punk; there’s a definite Clash feel to the latter. As girl’s names for titles generally do, Julie-Anne is archetypical upbeat but themed of desire, and the sound of it is particularly challenging to pin down, there’s Weller there, but a drum roll you’d expect Annabella Lwin to surface from (of Bow Wow Wow if you need to, Google it, youngster!)

Most bizarre and experimental is the brilliantly executed talky sound of Concrete and Glass. Cast your mind back to 86, if poss, remember Jim’s tune, yeah? Driving Away From Home by It’s Immaterial, and you’re not far from the mark.

The aforementioned Camping in the Rain which could’ve been the opening track, is next, and it’s the epithet of all we’ve mentioned. This combination is not juxtaposed cumbersomely like a tribute act, rather the genuine article lost in time, and it, well, in a nutshell, absolutely rocks. The finale, Privilege is plentiful to summarise; Clash-styled punk rock, themed on the expectations of irritated propertyless youth, akin to Jimmy Cliff’s You Can Get It If You Really Want.

But, unless all you want is a zig-a-zig-ah and to spice up your life with commercialised bubble-gum pop, nothing here is oven-ready for criticism, just relish yourself in a bygone era, and rock.


The Lost Trades Live Stream their new album on Friday; tickets here

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Dark Matter: Chloe Glover

In probably the oddest way, I’ve discovered Manchester folk-punker Chloe Glover, during a rather slow news week, in which I opted to watch Star Trek rather than write. So, I’ve got stuff to review building, just, you know, a Netflix, sofa-lounging savoury snack calling. Meanwhile on the other side of the country, Chloe joined the nation’s joggers and tweeted a finish-line “I feel fantastic,” photo which reminded me of the “no makeup selfie” passing trend, being she added, “even with no makeup and covered in sweat and rain…”

See, a thing I don’t get intrigues me. Chloe affirms insecurities, and states her love of running, despite “looking objectively quite gross,” when she clearly doesn’t, and mutual friend, Kieran from Sheer Music concurred she doesn’t in a comment. That’s the link, how I discovered her. Knowing Mr Moore, I clicked on Chloe’s account, a fair assumption she’s a musician. Such is da powers of da inter-web, before you could say Joan Jett, I’m rocking to this debut EP “Dark Matter,” released just under a year gone.

While the opening track, Fool, is edgy, despondent themed folk-rock, and immediately obvious Chole has commanding and emotive vocals, it’s only dipping a little toe in the EP’s range. Only four tracks long, things escalate quickly. Get Back Up follows, and it’s time to rearward past the cliché and sappy direction P!nk commercialised riot grrrl and contemplate the impact of Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill, or possibly, Skunk Anansie. Here’s a beguiling potential punk-pop anthem, with balls, big balls, and sweary words to boot.

Three tunes and it’s dumped you in the kick-ass mood, courteously. Hurricane is really showing a vocal range, it’s decidedly indie taking on punk-pop, and it rocks. By the finale, Silver Linings, I’ve gone way beyond my previous nineties’ comparisons, because essentially, we’re in proper punk country, and I’m thinking Suzi Quatro, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts; this level of definitive punk.    

Photo Credit: Suncan Stone

Life after The Slits, and the hackneyed chauvinism backlashed against them, there was a celebrative sense about feminist punk, just prior to Spice Girl’s “Girl Power.” An epoch grasped beyond the fanzine culture, of Bikini Kill and Huggy Bear. But if you tried my recommendation of the Smalltown Tigers recently, and thought wow, that blew up in my face kinda quickly, you should note while Chloe doesn’t muck about, there’s a tenderer, leisurelier build-up to the rage, via folk, but perhaps closer associated with modern day too. This layered accumulation holds one in uncertainty on just how far Chole will take you, so, when she plucks these emotive and sharp frenzies, it’s a nice surprise, abso-fucking-lutely sublime and executed with a celestial meticulousness.

It’s immediately amiable and addictive, projected to an effective live show too, with band or acoustically, which has seen Chloe support Frank Turner. Still, I don’t get the no makeup fear thing, that recent Facebook selfie trend, like a dare. I’m always left scratching my head as to the fuss; they look gorgeous to me. Makeup, yeah, can highlight best features, but it’s not the makeup which is beautiful, is it? Just sitting in on a shelf in Superdrug, a nonentity, no lure there.

I recall you’d never see my Nan, until she’d “put her face on,” as she put it. As a kid I’d imagine her behind her bedroom door as Darth Vader in the scene of the Empire Strikes Back, you know the one, when his helmet eases down? But, for crying out loud, if you choose to see it like this, as your war paint, your confidence is shot, and you’re overthinking it. Slap or no slap, doesn’t make hide nor hair. Fuck what L’Oréal want to convince you of, and what Estée Lauder say you need; you are girls, women, the female human form, and that makes you beautiful, as standard, all of you. It really is that simple, and bollocks to anyone who says otherwise.

For Chole, the power, essence and obvious devotion to her music garnishes this unique EP. Dejected themes conclude to optimistic premise, and to nail a concept, an inclusive narrative within four songs is sheer talent. If the punk element to it is a like a girl, full of makeup, or the stripped-back folk is the girl without, neither matter, it’s all beautifully crafted, kick-ass music.

 


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Five Things of Smalltown Tigers

Being fashionably late for a party with a trio of female Rimini punks, their album, Five Things released in April last year on Area Pirata Records, mightn’t be as bad as it sounds, because post-1973 this music is timeless, recapturing the genre’s very essence and roots; welcome to the world of Smalltown Tigers.

Because, the punk the era was a short-lived explosion which although never toppled the rise of disco and funk, surely stamped its mark on everything which followed in its aftermath, from fashion, tenet and sound. Yet the aggressively modern attack of the first wave of punk rock in the face of hippie culture perpetually allowed itself to be watered down and fused. Just as every popular genre tends to do. Concluded new wave and avant-garde art-punk through to the skater contemporary fusion with metal, or oi ska, it’s warped into many guises. Yeah, they’ve got edge, but as dicey as the original simplicity of early seventies punk? I think not.

That’s where Smalltown Tigers pack their sucker-punch, from the hip of the original garage formula, as if post-punk never happened.  They cut their teeth playing Ramones songs at squats and beach parties, spreading their love for surfboards and punk rock. Tommy Ramone stated on the lineages of the youth culture, “punk rock had to come along because the rock scene had become so tame that [acts] like Billy Joel and Simon and Garfunkel were being called rock and roll, when to me and other fans, rock and roll meant this wild and rebellious music. By 1973, I knew that what was needed was some pure, stripped down, no bullshit rock ‘n’ roll.” And from the off of Five things this notion resonates to modern day.

Image: Alex Poni

But it doesn’t allow you time to contemplate any of this, it doesn’t wait for you to come up for air, it doesn’t causally drift in, and it certainly doesn’t stop to excuse itself. It detonates eight under three-minute tunes of punk noise in your face before you’ve time to take cover, and while their energy might leave adolescents jittery and flabbergasted, craving for what they consider a crazy new sound, punk diehards will wink with acknowledgement and welcome its blissful eruption with open arms.

While you won’t find this mini-album settling down to a ballad, or suddenly branching out to experimentation, as time passes obvious influences of Patti Smith and the Ramones slip into elements of Joan Jett and the B52’s fashioned rockabilly, but remain elusive at best. Mostly of what you have here is no nonsense, high-energy, fuzz box punk rock n roll with a calling to its roots, and in this much, it absolutely rocks my world!

Recorded mostly live in the studio with no overdubs, mixed by analogue master Roberto Villa on 2” tape, and mastered by Detroit garage-punk guru Jim Diamond, these eight songs testify that these girls are no Dolce Vita. Time to forget your Busted and Blink 182s; punk has never been so retro or raw since its incarnation, the opening for Smalltown Tigers is gaping.


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