ALBUM REVIEW: Penguin Café Orchestra – Union Café


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Originally conceived by Simon Jeffes (when delirious with illness from a dodgy fish dish) in 1972 as a utopian locale for dystopian chaparral, over five albums Penguin Café Orchestra proffered sunlit serenades and optimistic orations (of the mime kind) designed to enliven and illuminate in a uniquely pastoral British (to the) manner (born).

Combining avant garde tropes with ambient notes (originally signed to Brian Eno’s Obscure Records) the band’s first live performance was supporting Kraftwerk at London’s Roundhouse in 1976. The versatile Jeffes also helped with the string arrangement on Sid Vicious’s ‘My Way’ in 1979 and introduced the Burundi drumbeat to Adam and the Ants with the arterati ultimately anointing them with a South Bank Show special in 1987. The group’s evergreen music continues to proliferate from advertising to film soundtracks, sampled sources to theme tunes.

Union Cafe was the fifth and last studio album by Penguin Cafe Orchestra in 1993 and the Erased Tapes label are releasing it on vinyl for the first time. In these bleak times these intricate and intimate chimes resonate ever so greatly.

The jaunty jiggery of ‘Scherzo and Trio’ (also the theme tune to Radio 4’s Round Britain Quiz) evokes Dexys Midnight Runners and Glenn Miller, the result a heady concoction of mood swinging and too rye aying: a frank sonata.

There’s oboe-showboating at its most mournful on ‘Lifeboat (Lovers Rock)’ before it cascades into finger-pickin’ happy-sadness redolent of Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western work.

‘Another One from Porlock’ is purloined from Samuel Coleridge’s unwelcome visitor when trying to write Kubla Khan, said intruder’s presence delaying its completion by 19 years. Inspiration comes in mysterious ways … eventually. ‘Discover America’ is an arch commentary on the Land of the Free (© Madison Avenue) interspersing traditional melodies with Johnny and The Hurricanes’ ‘Red River Rock’ in a prime example of sonic snarkytechture.

The experimental ‘Passing Through’ is the found sounds of water dripping from a tap; mesmerising in its repetition the experience is a metaphorical realisation of the fleetingness of existence. The plughole awaits us all.

Erased Tapes’ Robert Raths has said of this album ‘this release is righting an old wrong. The slow development of the pieces means that you can really get lost’. In these hypnoreal and hyper-accelerated times this album is an aural antidote, a calm betwixt the storm. Sixteen meditative ruminations/ruminative meditations for the bucolic-melancholic in your life. That’s YOU.

Since Jeffes’ passing in 1997 his son, Arthur, has carried the mantle, converting to Penguin Café but no less orchestral.

P-p-p-pick up this Penguin.


ALBUM REVIEW: Goldie Lookin Chain – Fear of a Welsh Planet


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Newport, South Wales’s premier hip-hop raponteurs GLC return with a sweet sixteen (and 1/2 ) track long-player chock full of missives concerning subscription TV, fowl broth (metaphorically), past-rave anthems, Liverpool F.C.s continuing inability to win the league, high-way codes and yes, the peaches of herb. Brace yourself for Fear of a Welsh Planet.

Inspired by a mind-meeting match-up with Daisy Power players De La Soul in 2015 (incidental details subsequently forgotten) this tribute to the principality’s aim for global dominance can be read as a manifesto for mankind, a guidebook to betterment and the kickstarter of creativity.

The title track reels off a litany of Welsh cultural totems (Joe Calzaghe, Glengetty tea, Windsor Davies, Caerphilly cheese) reminding the rest of the UK and beyond that when it comes to icons, the Welsh can (and do).

The sleek and Chic influenced disco-funkin’ ‘I got a van’ is a celebration to the freedom a transit offers, from parking up to driving in, a lay-by is simply that.

‘Bonk Eye’ is a defence of the optic realm, as a lazy eye gives off the wrong perception, misunderstandings running amok. The song has a smoove-segue in the vein of Oran ‘Juice’ Jones’s seminal turned-tableism revenge classic of a dish best served cuckold ‘The Rain’.

‘It’s the law of the streets’ pays homage to Prince’s funky guitar with the crew dispensing hardy advice concerning the rules of the road, the dos and the don’t’ s when you’re at the wheel (no booze, no smoke, no calls, no joke). To wit: No green when you’re crossing the road, man.

Phat ace of bass pervades ‘Netflix in bed’ which highlights the modern pastime of binge-watching boxsets where a night in the sack has a new meaning, darling. It’s not me, it’s ‘you got the remote?’

‘Six feet tall’ is a eulogy to self-exiled colleague and Big Brother bemusee Maggot, the band declaring it as poignant as Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett opus ‘Wish you were here’. Ball’s in your court, ya lazy diamond.

Ignoring the haters and critics who sniff and sneer, this West Coast posse deliver another knock-out collection. As mission statements go this is a foreboding sign of the times.

E.P. REVIEW: American Anymen – Flag Burner


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Notions of nationhood have long been wrapped up in emotions of neighbourhood. Samuel ‘Call me Doctor’ Johnson immortally uttered the line ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel’ in response to ‘false’ patriotism. Has ever a line ever seemed more topical?

Pledging allegiance has incorporated Dimbulb Dubya’s ‘You’re either with us or you’re against us’ to surreality star Trump’s persistent calls to arms, his Machiavellian hectoring causing the division he and his handlers crave. They are no more than puppets of the Brotherhood acting out their roles, reading their lines, picking up their rewards. All part of the charade, the curtain’s up and it’s perma-panto season in D.C.

Like a folky Crass teaming up with They Might be Giants, anything but ‘average Joes’ American Anymen are the thorn in the side, one in the eye of PsyClops Inc. that stops at nothing in carving up the globe, rapacious racketeers running the world that affect difference when on the screen, their symbolically positioned hands betray their performances. These power brokers choke us with their land grabbing, war mongering and resource pillaging all in the name of ‘freedom’.

‘Flag Burner’ is an articulated diatribe against the boneheads that subscribe to the ‘constitution’, the ‘amended’ dos and don’ts designed to enslave and disempower within the absurd electoral system that purports to be a democracy in the Land of the Free (‘the electoral college, itself put in place to protect the slave states’). This, remember, movie-buffs is a place where ‘anyone’ can get to the top of the tree, honest, it’s all matter of hard work. Not if you’re in the network, on the web, from the nest, if you’re not part of it, you’re apart from it. The greatest trick the devil …

The song reels off the embedded socio-cultural signifiers that comprise the American Dream ©: baseball, football, oatmeal, quiz shows; textbook sleight of hand distractions.

The heretic who sees through these fallacies is the true hero, the citizen who sees beyond the inconsistencies of the loyalty to a contentious piece of cloth, that reminder of oppression, colonialism, genocide and bloodshed. This song smashes the myth in more than 147 characters.

‘President 2’ is an urge for the selected ‘pussy-grabber-in-chief’ to go surfing on watery waves as opposed to fanning online waves of discontent.

The gangster-folk ‘Late to the party’ outlines the myriad ways the bullies exploit the runts, scrambled attendees to the litany of clubby cabals: G8, NATO, E.U., WTO, Davos, WHO wreak havoc, genetically modifying food and folk, no joke.

This E.P. and this band in general are powerfully effective in their simplicity, their words of erudite protest cutting deep, delivering a disaffected dissatisfaction drawl with their sharp observations there to keep. This anti-Jock rock illustrates that it’s not a crime to think … yet.

Have we met before? #157 (Jimmy Krankie special)


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Always look back in hunger

Britpop’s Gollem is back from Fantasy Island with more plunderphonics designed to hook those ears who think the lil’ Manc maestro invented music way back yore. Like fellow pasticheur Mark ‘Ronno’ Ronson, this radio friendly shit unit is jam-packed with references, reminders, cut, shut ‘n’ paste rock, an assemblage of the archives all dressed up as ‘return to form and ‘experimental avenue-trekking’ by the rags that need his repartee to sustain their existence. A mountain of wholly pilfered sounds that continue his quest of unrelenting unoriginality.

What with Brother Dim peddling his Double Fantasy piano-led bowel-blocked drivel it’s like the 90s never happened. Or something. Make them go away. What’s Mark Chapman up to nowadays?

Here’s a snippet of the patchwork profiteering that Jimmy Krankie’s passing off as ‘new’ now (to my ears, anyway).





INTERVIEW: David Gedge


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Thirty years since George Best’s release, what are you memories of that time (personally and within the music alternative scene)?

It was an exhilarating time for us… for obvious reasons! I’d been planning to be in band since I was about five years old and now I was finally writing songs, making records and playing concerts for a living! The alternative music scene was at an exciting point, too. It was just after the NME’s C86 release and there were lots of new bands and labels and people putting on gigs and making fanzines…

What are you memories of the photoshoot with George Best?

I recently wrote about that for an issue of ‘Tales From The Wedding Present’ my autobiography in comic book form. To be honest, I was basically just awestruck. He’d been one of my idols when I was growing up in Manchester. Which was why I’d named he album after him, of course. In my nervousness I offered him a can of beer, completely forgetting that he was a recovering alcoholic.

Who were your primary influences when forming the band? Music, literary, filmic?

I’ve always been fascinated by pop culture in general so there’s far too many to list but, musically, at least, let’s say that the stuff John Peel was playing was obviously significant. I think most pop lyrics are rubbish, which is why I think mine tend to sound more like film dialogue. But I’ve also always liked the conversational style of Lou Reed’s words in The Velvet Underground.

George Best 30: You’ve not re-recorded it, or reduxed it, but, simply recreated it, as you were unhappy with the end product. What can we expect from it?

It wasn’t because I was unhappy with the original. It’s true that I think we have made better albums since but we wouldn’t’ve released it at the time if we hadn’t’ve been happy. George Best 30 simply came about because we had the time and the opportunity and the line-up at that point was playing it really well. They were adding something extra while still respecting the original. The fact that Steve Albini was in place to record it didn’t do it any harm, either!

Is ‘nostalgia (still) not what it used to be’?

I’m not too big on nostalgia. One of the reasons I was initially unenthusiastic about being on bills with a load of reformed 1980s bands is that The Wedding Present have pretty much always been around and always continually moved forward and not relied on people just enjoying shows because they’re re-living their youth. Having said that I can’t deny that nostalgia often brings old and maybe lapsed fans back to The Wedding Present and then they go away again after seeing a band that’s better than it was around the time of George Best.

This is your second time at the Shiiine On Weekender, what do you like so much about it that brought you back?

In a word… the atmosphere. There’s something special about people gathering to celebrate a genre and culture which means so much to us all. Everyone’s always very friendly and receptive.

What can we expect this year?

Well, we’re playing George Best live… simple as that! People always ask me why, if George Best is my least favourite Wedding Present album, I’m happy to perform it. The answer is that, as a live set, the energy is incredible! It’s a full on charge of fierce guitarring and frantic drumming… I love playing it.

Anyone you’re looking forward to seeing?

Definitely Peter Hook. I saw him playing in Los Angeles a couple of years ago and I was in tears, it was so moving. Such a great sound.

How do you feel about the demise of the music press? How integral were they to your starting out and staying ‘in’?

It’s obviously kind of frustrating that there’s no longer a specific home for informed music writing but, if I’m honest, I’m glad to see the back of how some bands were criticised because they didn’t fit in with editorial policy or just because the writers thought by attacking them readers would think they were being hilarious. The Melody Maker use to slag off The Wedding Present all the time but they’d still put us on the cover to sell their papers.

You are immortalised on the New Musical Express’ cassette C86, the holy grail of alt-indie artefacts. Amelia Fletcher (Tallulah Gosh) has said that ‘The C86-ness is in the personal politics of it’; something your entire output addresses. Is there a dearth of the personal-political/political-personal in today’s ‘outsiders’?

I’m certain there’s a new generation of young people who’s writing is comparable but maybe it just doesn’t sell as well as other styles? With the lack of money going around for musicians these days I can understand if people need to write stuff that sounds like it’s made for a car advert.

The term ‘C86’ has become lazy shorthand for a style, a sound, a rootless label to (re)sell. Agree?

I suppose so… but if you listen to the original collection, there isn’t actually one unifying style or sound on there… I actually think that’s one of its strengths. It’s come to mean jangly guitar pop but some of the bands on it were anything but that!

How would you summarise today’s ‘indie’ darlings? Who are they for a start?

No idea! Alt-J maybe? I know ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll’ is obviously cyclical to a certain extent… but whenever I hear a new group these days they always remind me of a 60s band or 70s disco or 80s new wave or something… the only real innovation these days seems to be in the way music that is distributed and marketed.

Who (if anyone) is the modern-day George Best?

I don’t think there is one; he was a one-off! What was so appealing about him was that unique combination of style, recklessness, charm and sheer talent.

Do you get mistaken for Corrie’s Underworld kingpin Johnny Connor much?

Sorry, I’ve no idea who that is! After decades of being something of a Corrie obsessive… my mum used to tape every episode for me… I’m afraid I haven’t seen it now for many years!

Last time out you said you liked the cut of Louis Van Gaal’s jib and you were quietly excited. What’s your summary of that episode and your assessment on motormouth and all-round braggart Mourinho?

Ha, ha… I think he’s hilarious. I think Football’s the richer for characters like him. Anyway, you can’t argue with Manchester United’s results since he arrived.

Finally, what’s ahead for The Wedding Present?

Since the most recent album, Going, Going… came out we’ve hardly had time to catch our breath, never mind think about the future. It was very well received and led to tours of Europe, North America, Australasia and, next year, Asia. On the George Best side… we released George Best 30, as you say… but also Live 2007 which is an album and DVD of The Wedding Present playing George Best live in Dublin. On top of all that I’ve been helping with the new Wedding Present ‘fanthology’ Sometimes These Words Just Don’t Have To Be Said which was recently published… and a documentary film about the making of George Best called Something Left Behind which is in production. And I’m already booking bands for the tenth anniversary edition of my own mini-festival in Brighton every August… At The Edge Of The Sea!

ALBUM REVIEW: L.A. Witch – L.A.. Witch


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After treading the tour circuit for three years L.A. Witch have decided to name, shame and document it ALL.

Similar in feel, tone and attitude to other West Coast narco-rock this year (The Black Angels, The Molochs), this hell-A trio’s eponymous LP delivers 9 seedy tales from the City of (fallen) Angels.

Coming over like The Shangri-Las fronting The Ventures if they’d woken from a night on the up and downs and decided to jam, these are vivid missives from the underbelly, the hazy dusk vistas that permeate the sun-drenched gates to Hades. The angelic ascent before the devilish descent.

In kinship with other cellar-dwellers (Brian Jonestown Massacre), grave throbbers (The Cramps) and celestial travellers (Mazzy Star) familiar signifiers abound (cars, jeans, killing your baby …), all adding up to a technicolour-spectacular Russ Meyer sexploitation flick (of the knife): the dream piercing harder than reality ever could.

The nihilistically gauzy ‘You love nothing’ is a brush-off to a loser, a chooser, a floozer that blew it. His options have run out, time elapsed.

Stand-out ‘Drive your car’ is the Throwing Muses having undergone an esoteric ritual, Sade Sanchez’s malevolent muffled mutterings in tandem with the pounding beat-pair of Irita Pai (ace bass) and Ellie English (skins). A one-way journey into madness before an (existential) breakdown at the side of the road to hell.

‘Baby in blue jeans’ has Sanchez’s vocals sounding like Stevie Nicks during the Rumours sessions, druggish and sluggish (allegedly), drawled up and wrenched out verbiage all expertly backed by jingle-jangle Marychainsaw guitars.

This is an album that’s a primal scream from herstory, an aural era-echo, a reminder of the potency of simplicity. In these time of hyper-polished surface-level robo-pap this reverb-al psyche-bashing of magick abstracktion and spell-blinding garage-rock is a salve.

THIS is the season of the witch.

ALBUM REVIEW: Zola Jesus – Okavi


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As a means of filtering loss and grief, artistic endeavours as forms of catharsis is a tried and tested medium, an attempted reconciliation with the present/past and a yet to be realised future. Forgiveness and redemption are sought and occasionally found.

These creations act as a soothing balm to alleviate pain and woe, and with titles like ‘Exhumed’, and ‘Remains’ and lyrics including ‘decay’ the message here is clear: life and death, love and last breath are entwined, the gap between the pair fleeting, a speck in the eye’s mind/splinter in the mind’s eye.

On ZJ’s sixth album Okovi (Slavic for ‘shackles’) she addresses life’s big questions: our attachment to our ‘selves’, each other, nature’s rhythms and societal systems, all prisms and prisons depending on perception.

Opener ‘Doma’ is an echo chamber-crie de couer, a plea to be free, away from the chains and pain ‘a ghostly ‘take me home’ an ambiguous plaint to return to the womb or retire to the tomb?

Soil is toiled, tossed and turned on ‘Exhumed’ a less cloying and annoying Florence and the Machine and her rote emoting, this is vocal dexterity that yearns for relief not approval from a ‘talent’ show chief.

Appeasement and bereavement permeate ‘Soak’ as the ‘can’t win’ dichotomy of ‘I feel/give nothing’ erupts into Fever Rayish trip-hopping all the way ‘down to the water’. One way to drown sorrows.

‘Ash to bone’ evokes Siouxsie Sioux’s gothic garlanding, a spectral projection of the erosion of existence. The symphonic ‘Witness’ airs ZJ’s sombre timbre, a spectacular tale of seeing and not wanting to believe.

‘Siphon’ is a graphic account of ‘rather ‘clean the blood of the living dead’ a Hobson’s choice if ever there was one. ‘the cold, dark nights inside your head’ echo those times of despondency, the bottom has been reached, looking up is not on the radar. ‘Veka’ is a throbbing missive from the afterlife.

This album is a soul-cleansing, demon banishing exorcism. The mental manacles have been cast aside.

Britney Spears: The Cabaret


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What price fame? In this show it’s the cost of a childhood, the loss of innocence highlighting the manipulations of the media machine and how it portrays and betrays, uses and abuses.

As Kenneth Williams immortally uttered ‘Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!’ this production addresses the fine line between acclaim and shame and how today’s pin-up is quickly tomorrow’s drop-out.

Following a sell-out run in Australia Britney Spears: The Cabaret is an outstanding and uproarious analysis of the perils of fame, how the ‘toxic’ American Dream’s illusions lead to delusions and mental collapse and how a small-town girl is left bereft in a world of ‘fake’ reality/fake ‘reality’. From the artificial families in commercials to a Disney puppet to the simulated celeb-bubble that envelops her everyday existence this is a rollercoaster of blurred lines and bare berating/bear baiting.

Having to fend for herself surrounded by ambitious children, forging relationships of convenience she is ultimately discarded and disregarded. Miss American Dream turns into a nightmare, Spears’s arc bridges the cusp between the old school paparazzi and the new school social media snaparazzi where nothing is ever private. Fleeing fans she sought security in the glare of the flashbulb: ‘these parasites KEEP me alive’ illustrating the ties that bind, the double-edged sword of the tittle-tattle empires.

The song titles lend themselves to deconstruction (‘Circus’ ‘Piece of me’ ‘Stranger’ ‘Slave 4 U’ ‘Lucky’, ‘Oops I did it again’ ‘Woman’), fixing a lens on the true nature of these ‘pop’ hits and uncovering the mask that hides the spectacle. Their reconstruction here demystifies the whole process and punctures the Vegas bubble, that artificial ‘world’ of contradictions and hypocrisy. This is the path from starstruck infant (the creepy weirdness of pageantry) to powerless parent with a ‘Hollywood’ ending (like Elvis before her put out to pasture to (re)live again (and again) for the benefit of the rubberneckers.

The show is laced with subtlety from the vodka bottle with an Evian label on to the visual sexual metaphors (cavorting through a hula hoop) that add to the carnival of chaos, all part of the dead-eyed nature of an exploitation industry populated by ‘23 year old guys with tattoos directing videos telling me what to do’.

Names are shamed and digs are given (e.g Max Martin the Svengali in flat forms, Timberlake the himbo-snake and the talentless and fat Aguilera) none more than the falling Madonna (‘real, fake, alien’) who uses Britney as a cipher for her own time in the spotlight, when the cameras leave so does the ambitious blonde.

The show breaks the fourth wall by crossing over from showing to telling, a peak behind the veil, the ultimate kiss-off being ‘it’s all about how you’re remembered after you strut off’. It’s imperative to leave an indelible imprint like ‘Marilyn’s frozen in time’ image.

In order to effectively lampoon something you have to love it, know it, live it and writer/director Dean Bryant and musical maestro Matthew Frank deserve mass applause for nailing this so perfectly, but this is all about Whelan Browne’s blistering performance. Exquisitely capturing the polarities of the fame game she is vulnerable and victorious, brittle and skittish. This is setting the story straight.