Introducing Matthew Hopkins

In 1974, two Catholic schoolgirls met at the age of 5 over a scabby knee and sang together in praise of the lord, ‘til they discovered Salvation in the form of Hex Enduction Hour. An explosion of hair spray, eyeliner and ideas ensued.

Julia moved to Blackpool and joined the band The Tingletones as singer before moving to Manchester, when she became singer for the short lived Arthur Badfrown Band. A move to London at the turn of the century saw her finally pick up a guitar. Upon returning to Manchester, she joined Government Death Epidemic as guitarist. She has recorded with Craig Scanlon and Steve & Paul Hanley (ex The Fall).

Matthew Hopkins

Anne has sang, go-go danced and played tambourine in 60’s- garage outfit The Stags since 2001. They are stalwarts of the garage scene playing around the UK and Europe and worked closely with Frank Sidebottom.

Matthew Hopkins

Max, Anne’s son, has been playing drums and guitar with bands since the age of 13. He is currently playing his own material in duo Fibs as well as occupying the drum stool for The Stags.

Matthew Hopkins

A hiatus in both womens’ musical projects gave them the chance to get together and get creative – Matthew Hopkins was born in 2016. Max completes the team, bringing exceptional musicality and skill to the bandi

The trio’s marriage of tight harmonies and a post-punk sound gives them a unique sound which is rapidly gaining attention on the Manchester Music Scene.

Anne and Julia have also contributed vocals to Four Candles recent album “Nettle Rash”.

Here is their first release on German Shepherd Records.

And here they are live at Manchester’s Peer Hat Venue…..

Fascinating Things : Issue 65

It’s usually  quite quiet in June, not this year, with a raft of new things worthy of your aural consideration.

To kick off a few things from the north of England which caught my ear:

Self described as “blues-laden menacing psych” the sample below leaps out at you as an unctuous  mix of Arthur Brown and Tex-Mex imbibing something mind expanding in an opium den in a Bill Burroughs tract .  Moody, brooding, and sensuous the band comprises  Stewart Kinloch – Vocals,  Mark Stainton – Guitar, Dave Royston – Guitar, and,  Mike Smith- Drums, They are from Leeds and are called Mesmer Disciples and we will no doubt be hearing a lot more from them.

tAngerinecAt are Eugene Purpurovsky and Paul Chilton. Their music is unique and compelling. Paul provides a selection of electronica and rhythms with occasional penny whistle and Eugene creates a fascinating sound with the traditional instrument the hurdy-gurdy. They have been blazing a unique trail across the music venues of the north and beyond with their fascinating sound and overtly political/polemical music. Someone needs to snap them up quick and get them out to a wider audience. They are based in Manchester.

Also from Leeds The Masses sound like something from the mid 80s – the tracks below is a sort of amalgamation of Dinosaur Jr, The Smiths and The Wedding Present. They describe themselves as “jangly indie pop” but I think they are a little more than that They are Nik Klimanski – Guitar, Vocals, Jack Hunt – Bass, Backing Vocals, and Roan Jenner – Drums

Completing the Leeds trio of bands are Deathtripper who manage to tick any number of my Aural Pleasure boxes with ease. There’s some post-punk, some Krautrock and some other bits which make me smile. I can’t find much more about them sadly as their Facebook age is bereft of info.

Scatter Factory, is the solo project of Will Foster. After many years of working with (as either a recording or touring artist) numerous notable artists, including The Fratellis, Martina Topley-Bird, Heather Nova, and Suede’s Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler he releases his debut album on July 22nd. Here is the single from the album which marries classic electronica with more modern proponents.

Off World, who are Sandro Perri, Drew Brown, Susumu Mukai, and Jesse Zubot release their debut album on Constellation in the Autumn. On the basis of the teaser track below I am looking forward to it. Go here for more detail.

New album  “A Boat Upon Its Blood” is from Montréal-based improviser, composer and reedist Jason Sharp; a fixture of Montreal’s avant-garde and improv music communities, and an alumnus of Sam Shalabi’s Land of Kush orchestra and Matana Roberts’ Coin Coin Chapter One ensemble. With this debut recording issued under his own name, Sharp presents contemporary electro-acoustic music that reveals the shape and scope of his vision as a composer and bandleader in his own right. More info here.

In Black Crack Mark Tilton (guitarist, singer and founder member of The Membranes) fronts his five-piece band  which is a vibrant mix of garage rock, post punk and half spoken half sung intensity. It’s a take no prisoners blast of sound with its in your face attack. Good stuff!

Dark wave goth in abundance  comes with the new video and final single from Bradford (UK) based They Called Him Zone‘s   ‘MiamiEP.  Spooky psychdelic and somewhat trippy.

The excellenr Dutch insrumentalists Radar Men From The Moon recently released “Subversive II: Splendor of the Wicked”, a heady mix of space and stoner rock with an almost industrial edge to it and is well worth a listen  – it’s a pay what you want offer so I suggest you dive into the psychedelic wonderment as soon as possible,

Latvian band Tesa tour with Neurosis in the Autumn and their previous Bandcamp release “Ghost” is now coming out on My Proud Mountain. Heavy wall of sound instrumental rock which should blow your socks off.

And last but not least that troubadour of the obscure Moff Skellington is back with a new album – his 30th – called “Sherbert is the Culture of the Void”. It seems somewhat odd that Moff Skellington is not a national institution by now. As an artist who combines the unique other-worldliness of Ivor Cutler, the singular English whimsy of Viv Stanshall, and word mangling obtuseness of Lewis Carroll, together with a musical pot-pourri combining elements of Tom Waits, Pere Ubu, The Residents, The Fall, and the folk band from your local pub, after several doses of mind-expanding substances, he certainly challenges conventions. I would have thought that this convention defying approach to music would have caught the ear of those in search of something new. However he has not broken the glass ceiling of fame as yet.

Maybe this time?

“Sherbert Is The Culture Of The Void” comprises 14 tracks and lasts just over 41 minutes. More experimental than his recent work this album explores familiar and unfamiliar themes in Moff’s world of Eddodi. Busy, alien sounding, instrumentals coupled with songs with fascinating titles, spoken word in broad Abstercot, and mind curving subject matter ranging from obesity, via Orthopaedic Chairs, to the sobriety of witches this is Moff at his most challenging.

Moff is currently working a new joint venture with Iron Mouse & Loop-Aznavour entitled The Mouse Engine which will be released later in the year. He also a couple of new albums in the pipeline.

The album was released on July 1st and is priced at £5.


Sherbert Cover








Fascinating Things : Issue 62

in And the summer rolls in with it’s misery inducing mix of ridiculous heat and torrential rain, there’s quite a lot going on but frankly I can’t be bothered getting out of my sweat soaked chair to attend. Instead a ramble through some of the better things that have been sent my way in recent weeks…..

A current obsession is The Drones (no not the ones from Manchester 1976 but the Australian current band). Their recentish album “Feelin’ Kinda Free” manages to do what a lot of people cannot seem to deliver these days which is sound like nothing else that’s prowling around the ether at the moment. The exciting thing (and it takes a lot to get me excited these days) is their unique use of guitars to create new sounds and the adoption of some interesting dance flavoured rhythms on the album. Their back catalogue is equally fascinating and is worth investigating.

From Atlanta, Georgia Gringo Star  (it took a while to sink in with me but the relevance of the name becomes more apparent when you hear the music) have just signed with Nevado Music and have a new album called “The Sides And In Between” out on August 26th.  Pending that they have a single out called ‘Rotten’ which according to the promo:

“presents Gringo Star’s love for nostalgic sounds of rock in the style of The Kinks. Sat between The Shins’ folky twang and Tame Impala’s generosity on the reverb, the melody beautifully shines through the raw psychedelic finish.”

My immediate reaction on seeing the vid was it felt like the The Beatles to some extent, it may have been the Rickenbackers that sparked that thought, or maybe there’s a bit of Yardbirds in there somewhere. The forthcoming album, which I haven’t heard yet, is described elsewhere as a the bands own version of British invasion rock with the sounds of The Animals, Tame Impala and Buddy Holly. I get The Animals reference.

On our record label we have the excellent Bouquet of Dead Crows from sunny Cambridge, and they can seen working as the backing band for Gavin Chappell- Bates who has a single out on the back of his recent album. It is the opening track from the album “Church of Rock and Roll”. Sadly I don’t have a video or a soundcloud at this point but search him out on You Tube and you will see what he is up to.

Alternative electronic producer Dean Garcia, the man behind seminal alternative rock band Curve and electronic dream pop duo SPC ECO, has joined forces with Preston Maddox of post-punk noise-rock band Bloody Knives in a new project, called S T F U. Their debut LP ‘What We Want’, planned for release on July 29, is all about unfolding hypnotic loops that gradually progress to uptempo electronics, trip-hop laden beats, lush noise entwined with shimmering synths, and Maddox’s hazy trance-like vocals. Dreamy with a shoegaze backbone this is epic stuff.

Vogue Dots are Canadian and deliver moody, layered pop styled music…..comparisons with Beth Orton have been made, which means nothing to me, but it sounds nice….

Two years after releasing ‘Best-Selling Dreams’ to wide acclaim around the world, Novanta will soon release his new album “Hello We’re Not Enemies” on Seashell Records. The first single from this release is ‘Goðafoss’. Novanta is Manfredi Lamartina, a musician who is originally from Palermo but has been based in Milan for many years now. On this album, Novanta further evolves his sound, falling effortlessly between shoegaze, post-rock and electronica. Sounds like relentless euro-pop to me…..

Those lovely people at Acid Cosmonaut Records have shared a preview from the second album from DSW.  I got a serious 70s flashback when I heard it, pretty heavy blues rock with a metal undercurrent. Lots of wah-wah going on here….!

Wolves In The Throne Room  re-release their 2006 debut album “Diadem Of 12 Stars” through their own Artemisia Records on 17th June. . Its raw analog sound in many ways pays homage to the band’s varied influences: the harsh black metal of Norwegians Ulver and Emperor or their American counterparts Weakling and Ludicra, the monolithic heaviness of Neurosis and Swans, the sorrowful Funeral Doom of My Dying Bride and in places, the mournful goth of Dead Can Dance.  Described by guitarist Nathan Weaver as the rawest and most “punk” of their five full-length releases Diadem Of 12 Stars was recorded live to tape in Oakland by Tim Green. Joined in the studio by Jamie Myers (Hammers Of Misfortune, Sabbath Assembly) and Dino Sommese (Asunder. Dystopia), every song was recorded in one or two takes and the album was mixed without the aid of a computer. Originally released on a small DIY label and unavailable physically for many years, this reissued version has been carefully remastered by Jason Ward at Chicago Mastering Service. It’s intense stuff but worth the effort if you want a different take on the sub-genre.

After Ian Moss left Hamsters (Manchester)  in early 1981 the band continued with drummer Steve Middlehurst’s wife Tricia taking the vocalist position before she in turn left due to pregnancy . At this juncture , now down to a three piece, guitarist Bobby Williams became lead vocalist . Wayne Edwards found a studio in Middleton and the band was captured for posterity after explaining to the engineer they most definitely were not after a Wishbone Ash sound. Lo-fi, wonderfully cack-handed, and cocking a snook at the wider music world these three tracks are previously unreleased





A Young Persons Guide to Staggs

With the release of a new double A side single this Friday it seems timely to focus on the work to date of the mighty Staggs.

Staggs are Scott and Ridley a pair of north eastern England musicians, artists and raconteurs. The Staggs project was born out of a one-off experimental remix of their own anarcho-punk track (the band was Reality Control and they formed 50% of it*) from the early 80s. The production is wholly contemporary but the anger of that era lives on in their energy, lyrical content and vocal expression. With a healthy cynicism towards British culture contained in the wealth of nostalgic samples and a bizarre smattering of French language thrown in for good measure, STAGGS give a sly “clin d’oeil” to 1970/80s Britain.

The latest release from the band, on German Shepherd Records,  “A Rum Do” finds the duo dabbling into techo/electronica and krautrock via two stand out tracks – “Robotomy” and “Don’t Call Me Satan”

But lets go back to the beginning and work our way through all their back catalogue.

June 2013 saw the first release from the duo with the fascinating “Weird Kids” EP with a clear statement of intent.

Later that year the sophomore effort was the challenging “Mother Natures Bastard Sons” ….

This was quickly followed by a vivid aural dissection of Sir Cliff in the memorable “Staggs Xmas”….

In April of the following year an ep of reinterpretations of the work of Staggs was released under the intriguing title of “Smart Husband” Resonator Set (reviewed by myself here)

In the same month the cheeky “Risqué But Not Blue” saw the light of day with its’ baleful commentaries on middle class existence (reviewed here)

In October Staggs took the brave step of aligning themselves with German Shepherd Records kicking off with the memorable single “When Eartha Kitt Met Pete Tong”…

The now traditional Staggs Xmas single was revealed, partnership with Cryptic Cut, with a remake of two songs…

There was a long wait for the next release, but the wait was worthwhile for the stunning “Shy Bairns Get Nowt” , again reviewed at the time, including a revealing interview with the pair.

The Xmas single for 2015 was the suitably challenging “Funk Me Jesus” which included a remix from Space Museum.

Pending the release of the newest offering of the band which is out on May 6th, February 2016 saw the release of a solo effort from Scott described at the time as follows “Moving sideways from the warm embrace of Staggs, m.t.scott revisits his back catalogue giving us an insight into other parts of his musical endeavours. The usual Scott themes are in play, biting and caustic wit set amongst cinematic aural adventures providing a challenging and fulfilling listening experience“.

So there you have it, everything you wanted to know about Staggs but were afraid to ask.  True iconclasts, challengers of the mundane and damn good at what they do…..

* Reality Control were the Sound of the Newcastle suburbs! Heaton Manor’s very own Anarcho Punk band! – a 21 track retrospective of their work was released in 2013 on Anti-Society via Flat Earth records on vinyl and CD . The bands “Nice” track subsequently re-emerged in Staggs form on “Shy Bairns Get Nowt”. They are not to be confused with a  contemporary band with the same name from Aylmer, Ontario. You can grab the album here.

Fascinating Things : Issue 57

I was engaged in one of those “list your ten favourite albums without thinking about it too much” things on Facebook the other day and I asked a like minded group of souls to do the same thing, as you do. The surprising , and perhaps concerning, result from this swapping of ideas was, in the most part, there were not many current/contemporary releases in the lists submitted by my chums. I was also a culprit in this regard, which got my thinking about my current listening patterns, and maybe the digital revolution had somehow, altered the way I absorb and remember music. Maybe it’s an age thing? Anyhow that’s another discussion….

The other notable thing was the lack of music from Australia in all of the lists except my own, I  had two albums – Night of the Wolverine by Dave Graney  ‘n’ The Coral Snakes, and Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express by The Go-Betweens. I considered the lack of Aussie material to be a matter of some concern given the quality of  both historic and current music emerging from the other side of the planet that I am aware of. So I set myself the task of exploring some recent music with a view to sharing some of the albums I consider deserve a wider audience.

I’d guess for the unenlightened Aussie “rock” music begins and ends with AC-DC,  with the occasional thought for the likes of  Men at Work. Midnight Oil and INXS. The more enlightened might have cause to mention The Birthday Party, and consequentially Nick Cave, together with The Go-Betweens, and The Triffids. Beyond that initial list of “well known” bands there is a vast array of exceptional talent in Australia both current and historic. Last years break through of Courtney Barnett, merely scratched the surface of what is, if you do enough work researching what is out there, a very impressive scene. Like the UK the scenes are disparate and different between the big cities like Sydney and Melbourne. Bands like The Holy Soul and singers like Jess Ribiero have been featured on my podcasts but I am lightly dipping my toe into a huge musical stew, there is a lot more out there.

It is no coincidence of course that I have been somewhat engaged with matters Antipodean over the last few months, what with Mr Graney and his band of merry troubadours paying a visit to Salford/Manchester. As is my custom when these things present themselves a detailed  examination of the wider  Melbourne music scene followed. Which lead to many hours pouring over arcane links between musicians and bands and many pennies spent acquiring material for consumption.

As discussed with the Graney band pre-sound check at the Eagle as couple of weeks back there are direct parallels between Manchester and Melbourne in that they are both music cities. The population of Melbourne is substantially larger than the Greater Manchester conurbation but there are comparative spreads of townships and settlements with their own disparate scenes across the geographies of both city regions, and both have dock land developments. There was mention when Dave was chatting to Marc Riley on Radio 6 the night before that the view was Sydney echoed London, in that it was more corporate, in music terms, whereas Melbourne was more like (Greater) Manchester.  There is a real sense of that “underground” “diy” “screw the system” approach in both of the latter cities. It appears from a distance, as unfortunately I have never visited, that Melbourne has a greater variety of choice of venues and that the pub/club scene there is more geared towards breaking new and established musicians, compared to the increasingly worrying trend here of venues closing or “tribute” bands dominating. Maybe it’s the economy, or maybe we need a cultural kick up the backside, but Melbourne seems to be a model of music provision we need to aspire to up here in the North?

Harry Howard and the NDE

So where does this take us?

As I am always in search of new and interesting music, I thought I would explore some of the better releases that I have come across, and starting with Dave Graney, one can map a series of links across to some fascinating music indeed. Although they’ve had albums out for a while, I’ll begin  with the band that Dave and Clare Moore play bass and drums in, that being Harry Howard and the NDE. Harry was notably in Crime and the City Solution with his brother the late Rowland S. Howard, and These Immortal Souls. Harry writes a mean tune and his two releases to date are highly recommended for lovers of post-punk styled garage rock. There are some certified bona fide ear worms on both albums and notably, on the 2012 released “Near Death Experience”, the epic closer ‘History is Linear’.

2013’s “Pretty” is jam packed full of great tunes, and builds on the first release to create a memorable listening experience. The music is delivered with a great swagger and deserved confidence. It makes me smile when I listen to it and it has that inspirational rock and roll feel. The unique sound of Edwina Preston’s Acetone Organ gives the music that extra edge which sets it apart from others in this genre.  I wait with some anticipation for future recordings from Harry and Co.

Stu Thomas has occupied the bass seat in Dave Graney’s bands since the early 2000’s, as well as that he is a busy man with his own projects, notably The Stu Thomas Paradox which he describes as “voodoo surf”.  Stu has formed and fronted many musical units, as well as  The Stu Thomas Paradox there are  Stu & The Celestials, The Brass Bed, Crumpet and Organism, all of which will need investigating at some point of course. Pending that, the 2010 album “Escape from Algebra”, which features Graney alumni Billy Miller (and I must get around to listening to his stuff) and amply demonstrates Thomas’s excellent song-writing prowess. There’s a joyful playfulness running through all of the music on this release.

Aside from the about Stu has, more recently, released a couple of Lee Hazelwood tribute albums which I  haven’t got around to as yet, pending that I would point out his 2007 solo debut which is a more introspective affair than the Paradox work. It’s an acoustic focused set of songs with a series of duets from notable female vocalists –  Charlotte Thomas, Clare Moore , Anna Burley (Killjoys), Barb Waters, Amanda Rochford (Gusset Rustlers), Emilie Martin (Luxedo).  There are also some notable guest musicians featured Mike Noga (The Drones), Delaney Davidson (Dead Brothers), Chris Hughes (These Immortal Souls, Hugo Race), and Lemmi Schwarz (Neon Dorn).  Another fine album which I strongly recommend, and a pile of other bands to look into due to the associations. The Gusset Rustlers are intriguing to say the least!

Following the continuity trail, Stu has also played bass with Kim Salmon, in the band The Surrealists. Salmon has been described as  as one of the first Australians to “embrace wholeheartedly the emergent punk phenomenon of the mid-to-late 1970s” with The Scientists. He described a later band Beasts of Bourbon as “masters of uncompromising gutbucket blues and hard-edged rock’n’roll”. He has a massive back catalogue which will need some time to absorb, including the need for a retrospective on the excellent Scientists. Pending that notably, the 2010 album “Grand Unifying Theory” from the Surrealists, brings together Salmon’s love of Sun Ra, Miles Davis and Can, in a melange of music described as “polyrhythmic beats, its atonal keys, its heavy funk/punk grooves “. To keep the conceptual continuity of this piece alive,  Kim’s vocals were tracked by Dave Graney at the Ponderosa (his home recording studio), and Clare Moore provides backing vocals. Stu Thomas plays bass, and Phil Collings, from the Paradox band, is the drummer. This is the least commercial of this selection of albums, and the most challenging, as Salmon merges free funk, jazz and scabrous rock improv workouts into a curates egg  of a collection of material, with the stunning “Predate” standing out. It is sadly short at 23 minutes but packs enough into that time to keep the mind alive and the attention grabbed. On the basis of this album I shall be diving head first into Mr Salmon’s back catalogue with some vigour.

Material from the above will featured in Aural Delights Podcasts 178 and 179, and of course going forward as more emerges.

dg Eagle 1
Dave Graney and the mistLY : Live in Salford



Right Place, Wrong Time

Cheap Thrills

Disambiguation warning : This is not about the American Indie Rock Band The Dodos but their precursors, a band from Manchester, UK.

Manchester. 1981

Working in the city centre was a dour affair. I had just returned to the cavernous corridors of the Town Hall after being exiled to Moston (part of the north Manchester suburbs) for 12 months. It seemed to be grimmer than I remembered after the leafy greenery of the north side of the city.

It was a city in transition.

I worked in the Housing Department, dealing with what was called “Miscellaneous Properties”, the thousands of homes the Council had acquired over the years as part of municipalisation. My job involved regular trips to Moss Side, via Hulme, to check on the property around the Great Western Street area. Travelling through Hulme was always an interesting experience.

Hulme was something else, it was truly the architects/planners dream gone haywire. I remember it being built around the mid 70s, it wasn’t going to last the 60 year life expected of modern developments  By the turn of the eighties family units had fled from “The Crescents” which dominated the landscape. It was somewhere between ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘Mad Max’ , a dystopian neo-brutalist edge of city centre zone that was home and playground to students. drop-outs and alternative types of all persuasions. Several years later the council would launch a task force to attempt to resolve multiple problems, and decades later, when I has crossed the Irwell to work in the other city, the Crescents would be demolished to be replaced by modern redevelopment.

But at the time Hulme was wild , dangerous and fun , Hulme had The Dodos.

Hulme had cheap accommodation and a sea of possibilities, Hulme had a recording studio, where the  tracks for The Dodos album, which are about to be released for the first time, were recorded. It was called ‘ Out of the Blue’ and set up by an enterprising soul, take a bow Adam Lesser, then a four-track, before it moved to the more salubrious surroundings of Ancoats.

The Dodos were formed when the singer (Ian Moss) approached the guitar player (Graham Ellis) in Rafters , at the time Manchester’s pre eminent venue. They had both recently left well established bands , the Hamsters , and Elti Fits. They fixed up a rehearsal to take place in the cellar of the War on Want offices on Oxford Road for the following week. The guitarist brought along a drummer and a trumpeter (Matthew), songs were ripped from the ether and it was decided to debut the band that very night when the rehearsal space was opened, to those in the know, as ‘ The White Noise Club’. The bass player from The Fall (Steve Hanley) stood in that night and the band played a hardly ground breaking set, by the next week the Dodos had their own bass player (Tim Oliver) , who provided the magic ingredient , an appreciation of space to let the rhythm breath, that made the band stand apart from their contemporaries , The trumpeter departed and the singer brought in a keyboard player , a female non-musician seemed just the random element the band needed.

The band lasted twelve months recording three sessions in the aforementioned “Out of the Blue” , played live on a regular basis constantly striving to stretch their parameters.
They were in truth a band out of kilter with their contemporaries in northern England. In in New York at the same time a scene dubbed ‘ no wave’ flourished , The Dodos were making music remarkably similar a transatlantic journey away. Clearly a case of ‘ Right Time , Wrong Place’ as Kurt Vonnegut Jnr expressed in such a bitter sweet fashion and so succinctly in ‘ So it goes!’.


So, a city in transition with a music scene in transition. The heady punk excitement of 1976 to 1980 was fading away.

Time for something new, exciting, different. The Dodos tried to do something different probably 18 months before they should have done.

In the wider music world things were changing as well, but not quite fast enough.

Manchester and the surrounding boroughs lacked focus at the time. The Hacienda was a year away, Wigan Casino had closed, Buzzcocks and Magazine had both split. The overall feeling was depressing, nationally punk had spluttered out from a populist movement into a second phase of leather clad copyists who were altogether more harder (more metal leaning) and violent. There was post-punk, but it was disparate, there was no youth movement to latch onto.

The venue dichotomy was clear across the city centre Rafters, Fagins, The Gallery, The Beach Club, did the local and underground stuff, but in the outskirts/suburbs it was a different matter The Apollo hugged the mainstream for dear life, and the Universities took on the mantle of the music in between. The Factory in Hulme was closed, Pips hadn’t risked bands for a few years, too much trouble, the Mayflower had the Exploited and all those other “studs and leather” punkers , Rafters ruled the roost as a regular gig and hangout , The Dodo’s played it a couple of times. Manchester Poly had bands , as did Devilles , but from a cultural point of view the Beach Club, on Shudehill, run by New Hormones was the most interesting place.  The Cyprus Tavern was another place that had pretty much forsaken live music by then.

As for local “stars” Joy Division had moved into New Order land and were struggling to make an early impact.  The Fall had stripped themselves down to a spidery jangling alley of their own making, and spent a lot the year in Germany and the US. Slates was a remarkable release but very much a bridge to the monster that was to follow in 1982. Blue Orchids had a new line-up. The Distractions slowly started to unravel when Steve Perrin left.

Nationally the last vestiges of phase one punk were moving slowly into something more pop (Adam and the Ants, Toyah), or shifting into anarcho territory or getting considerably darker (Crass, Discharge,The Exploited, Anti-Pasti). A new pop sensibility was emerging via jamaican music (UB40, Madness) or pop electronica (Depeche Mode).

In Manchester a sign of things to come were the early stirrings of James and Happy Mondays

From Ian Moss’s viewpoint the best bands were the Fall , the Glass Animals , the Passage and “bits and bobs” by A Certain Ratio , he was belatedly developing a taste for northern soul and going to a few all nighters . In the mainstream the two tone stuff seemed the most obvious street music. Ian remembers Madness doing Grey Day on TOTP as The Dodos finished one recording session. The music that fed the Dodos wasn’t local, it was from Was Not Was, Grace Jones, Smokey Robinson, Earth Wind and Fire we played James Brown and Funkadelic. Exceptions that year came in the form of guitar bands The Birthday Party and The Gun Club, being the most notable.

The No Wave scene was sort of finding it’s way into the Manchester psyche via James White and the Blacks, the Bush Tetras; the Speed Trials compilation was on the cusp between punk and the new approach, and the Mutant Disco compilation album with Material merging jazz and funk, with a hard jazz edge, was a break through. There was an undercurrent of soul/funk rumbling in the basement bars of the city, Colin Thorpe’s Disjunct were a fine example of what was possible.

The Dodos seem to have captured that zeitgeist.

New Order would of course absorb that whole dance thing two years later and make a name for themselves. It is clear listening to the new collection of Dodos material, to be released on German Shepherd Records in May, that the band were breaking new ground. No synths, no arpeggiators etc, just guitar, bass, organ and drums. You can listen for yourself when the complete recordings are released on May 13th but i’ll tempt your interest with a sample track to be going on with. Raw, ground-breaking and marvellous. An exciting mix of Moss’s punk aesthetic with jagged post-punk guitar and funk rhythms and bass lines.

This is raw Manchester music, never before heard except by a select few, and masterfully reproduced by Tim Oliver for a new audience.

Thanks to Ian Moss and Tim Oliver for background information to this article.




Fascinating Things : Issue 49

As you will be well aware,  if you read this nonsense on a regular basis, there is a lot of new music out there which barely gets the recognition it deserves. It is a sad indictment of the increasingly polarised music mainstream that a handful of artists dominate the media when arguably more talented folk don’t get a look in. The so called arbiters of taste peddle the promo gubbins that pluggers and labels zap their way. When I listen to some of the dross that gets peddled on so called hip radio or red buttons I get a tad grumpy.

I’m also acutely aware of the passage of time and the regular repackaging of formats so that material from across the long history of my music listening regularly reappears in what is the latest “hip” format. Following the deification of vinyl over the last year or so the CD lovers (of which I am one) have started the inevitable fight back against what must be the biggest con job the music industry have foisted on the public since 8-track cartridges. There will be several friends and acquaintances that will vilify me for calling out the great god Vinyl but I remain convinced that the great listening public have been tricked into purchasing music in a format that has inherent built in obsolescence and is horribly overpriced as well as being bad for the environment and taking up far to much space. Whatever, it’s all about opinion, if you want to  collect vinyl because it fills you with misty eyed nostalgia of a time, in the vast majority of cases when you were not  even born,  and where music was more legitimate because it was played on a  dansette, that’s fine with me. I don’t recall it being much fun picking up a copy of “Selling England By The Pound” at the shop on Piccadilly Station approach and having to take it back several times because of the skips, jumps and crackles. As things stand I couldn’t possibly afford a home that could house all the vinyl versions of the music I have collected over the years, CDs are pushing it a bit space wise but I can just about accommodate them, MP3s on external hard discs are the most convenient option as the moment.

I must reference the sad death of Keith Emerson. ELP have got a bad press over the years, and I would be the first to admit that after “Brain Salad Surgery” my interest in them waned, not helped by that completely over the top BBC feature on them and their touring excesses. Notwithstanding that Emerson’s early work with The Nice still stands up well and the first four ELP releases had some fine moments. I saw the band twice. The first time was at the Oval in 1972 when “Tarkus” had just been released; on the day they stole a march on Genesis with Peter Gabriel in his red dress and foxes head (Foxtrot had just come out), with two giant Tarkuses appearing on stage. The second gig was in 1974 -ish I think  at a cavernous Wembley Arena where the band were reduced to mere cyphers and which more or less put me off stadium gigs for life. Emerson, for all the faults of ELP at their worst, was a fine showman and his marriage of classical music, jazz and rock was innovative.

Enough of my ramblings what can I share with you this week which you may not have heard elsewhere, or isn’t getting the wider attention it deserves? :

  • Southern Lord will be bringing back the early work of Wolfbrigade (then Wolfpack) in a trilogy of reissues encompassing the Swedish d-beat hard core goups first three LPs (A New Dawn Fades, Lycanthro Punk and Allday Hell), which will be available from April 15th, as well as a boxset including the remaining two EPs released before their name change. This marks 20 years since the release of their first two records Bloodstained Dreams and A New Dawn Fades. Expect a new album from the band later in 2016.
  • Formed in Liverpool in 2014, Indie Pop/Rock band Seprona practice in an abandoned pub on the outskirts of Liverpool city centre where they have locked themselves away, writing profically. Each band member brings their own influences to Seprona’s sound, but the band agree that the likes of Arctic Monkeys, The Black Keys, Interpol and Radiohead are their common denominators. Facebook:
  • I got sent the below with absolutely no information other than the soundcloud link, which would normally put me off, but I was impressed by the sounds so I thought I would share it and let you have the fun of finding out more. It reminded me of early Phillip Glass in places, which is no bad thing.
  • Lauren from the ever excellent Rarely Unable says “The collaboration between Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Bitchin Bajas shares a passion for arresting the moment in the process of now. Their ability to stretch time, coupled with their ability to explore and meditate on words, make them the most pertinent of partners. On Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties, they combine forces to travel down a celestial path that knows no bounds – won’t you follow?” You can watch a video at another site as I have nothing I can embed for you. It’s Will Oldham cast in a new light, which is no bad thing, and there are echoes of Neil Young in some of it, but the Bajas influence is strong and good. It’s out on March 18th and you can pre-order it here.
  • After a bit of a hiatus the eclecticians at Superstar Detroyer as back with their unique brand of math and madness. They have just released I.I.A.H.S.W.E.S EP by BRITNEY which is a riotous melange of chunky red zone bass and heavy percussion in a Beastie Boys punk soup with a sprinkling of post punk overkill and the occasional dip into manic piano distress. Fascinating and slightly disturbing. Also new on the label, on April 11th, but with nowt to embed from it, is  the excellent Polymath with an album entitled “Melencholia”..
  • The refreshingly heavy duo Rusty G’s are back with a full length album and a new single. Having got quite excited about them last year I can confirm that the band have continued their fine run of form with some blistering rock noise. A hell of a bg sound for a pair of people and well worth some of your time. They have a small tour coming up and are well worth checking out.
  • Ghold return  with a new album PYR (Ritual Productions, 7th May), which also marks the band’s first recording as a trio with multi-instrumentalist/guitarist Oliver Martin. They play Islington Mill, Salford on May 11th as part of a run of dates. More info to follow on the release but its out 7th May on LP, DIGI and CD formats, the latter comes with a bonus track.
  • I have been featuring the new Rangda release (as well as working my way though their back catalogue) over the last few podcast. I was pleased to get an interesting video of The Sin Eaters from the new one “The Heretics Bargain”.  I’ve seen a couple of bad reviews of the album which I thought were a tad mealy mouthed, this is good stuff and continues the work of some fine exponents of multi guitar rock.
  • As previously mentioned Moulettes are a Brighton based British band of Björk, Frank Zappa and Gentle Giant loving multi-instrumentalists that weave in and out of several genres with 3 part harmony female vocals, amplified Cello, distorted Bassoon, Auto-Harp, Guitar, Drums, Bass and Synths into an incomparable alt.pop/rock/folk universe. Since the success of ‘Constellations’ (No.7 Indie Charts, Spiral Earth Best Album 2014), Bajian Irish Londoner Raevennan Husbandes has joined the band on Vocals and Electric Guitar. With this new line-up the band have made their fourth Album ‘Preternatural.’ Sadly they have failed to send anything through to share but you can pre-order it in several formats over at their website.
  • Seven years on from 2009’s Afterlife EP, Amenra are to release a new collection of songs, titled “Alive”, a counterpoint to the band’s Mass series, featuring brand new compositions and cover songs, as well as appearances from special guests and additional musicians. This marks their second acoustic release, and first live release.It was recorded at Ancienne Belgique in Brussels by Hein Devos, and mastered by Frederic Alstadt. You can hear a track in advance of its release below. More details regarding tracklisting and release dates will be shared in the near future. Alive is set for release at Roadburn Festival, with all pre-orders scheduled to ship in the week following the festival. Pre-orders will be available via Consouling Sounds. Hypnotic stuff.
  • Almost three years in the making, ‘Soundtrack Doom’ band Merrin have  released their follow up to 2013’s “Doom Cinema”. “Midnight Movies! is a 6 track collection of songs inspired by late night movies. Everything from horror, to kung fu, to post apocalyptic action movies and the plain bizarre, the band have broadened their scope beyond simply rehashing Goblin scores  to deliver something more unique, unpredictable, cinematic and very much in the spirit of the films they take inspiration from. It is also the first release to be recorded with a full band present for the entire session. The result is an album that sounds heavier and more driven than before, featuring Chris Purdie on all guitars, Arturs Reirs on Drums and Misha Hering on Synth, the band sounds bigger and more epic.
  • Joy abounds with news of a new Melvins album and it sounds like a cracker. The band, who have a history of imaginative line-up changes, feature not one, but six different bass players on their appropriately titled new album, “Basses Loaded” (June 3, Ipecac Recordings).  The collection features Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover joined by Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic, Redd Kross’ Steve McDonald, Butthole Surfers’ J.D. Pinkus, Big Business’ Jared Warren, Mr. Bungle/Fantomas’ Trevor Dunn (aka Melvins Lite) and Crover swapping the drum kit for bass in the Melvins 1983 iteration. Here is a taster via Rolling Stone. They will be back in Europe in the summer, the only date pencilled in so far is in Bristol but hopefully more will follow.
  • The duo of Stuart Dahlquist and Edgy59, under the banner of The Poisoned Glass, have released the video for ‘Toil And Trouble’ ahead of the launch of their debut album 10 SWORDS on April 22nd via Ritual Productions. The video uses footage of a performance of the work of Bauhaus artist and choreographer Oskar Schlemmer – the surreal costume design and faceless dancers mesh with The Poisoned Glass’ aesthetic, which echoes Peter Hammill at his most cinematic and intense. I’m looking forward to the album based on this teaser.
  • ……..and to close Richard Citroen & Stephanie B, aka Lola Dutronic are back with a new video from the excellent “Lost In Translation” album – a marvellous band.