ENDLESS UNSTOPPABLE TUNEZ #5
It’s been a big couple of weeks. 17 months later, 2 gigs announced, plenty more to come. I don’t need to tell you how good that feels. Yes, nothing’s 100%. Yes, it could all come collapsing down at any minute. For now, though, I just want to live in the moment. We’re getting there. Something akin to life resuming seems a genuine reality. We’re nearly there. We’ve nearly made it. All of us.
It’s also been a big couple of weeks for pure, unadulterated traxxxx m8. This week’s edition of ENDLESS UNSTOPPABLE TUNEZ is an all-new compendium featuring some sublime new artists and an awe-inspiring comeback. Shall we stop ruminating? Shall we get on with it? Ok, if we must:
Garsa – The Unfairity (EP)
Garsa’s a vet, man. The man formerly known as Martin Garside has a track record of excellence as part of The Maitlands, Little Avis and loads more. He’s been a vital cog in some of the best guitar bands Manchester has produced in the last 20 years. Now, with The Unfairity he steps to the front on his own with a complete about turn; a lovely set of lo-fi bedroom pop songs that showcase the understated beauty of his writing, the intimacy of his production and the compassion of his lyrics. The Unfairity feels like a moment of unfurling for Garsa; the delivery on the promise of last year’s singles ‘Jimmy Sour Highs’ and ‘The Devil’s Own’ in which he sets out his stall. He has produced the EP, written and played everything on it and even done all the artwork – in doing so he has given us a piece of his soul that is pure, infectious, full of unexpected delights and brimming with idiosyncratic melody. Another triumphant release for Golden Believers Records and a vindication for Garsa, who has cemented his status as a special talent.
Facebook – @garsamusicuk
Instagram – @Garsa
Twitter – @Garsa_music
YNES – Better Job
YNES is an absolute hoot. Everything she has released so far crackles with wit and radiates joy, and Better Job continues in that vein. Striding along buoyant and piano-driven with quickfire, half-spoken lyrics that spell out some uncomfortable home truths about the financial reality of being an artist in 2021, Better Job articulates anxieties and anger a lot of us are feeling more intelligently and perceptively than anyone I’ve heard in a long time. Plus, it’s got a banging singalong chorus. YNES is an exciting AF talent and one of the best lyricists I’ve come across in ages. Inventive, honest and laden with pure addictive hooks, Better Job is the most accomplished release so far from one of the most original artists going right now.
Facebook – @ynesmusic
Instagram – @ynesmusic
Twitter – @ynesmusic
The Umlauts – Boiler Suits & Combat Boots
I’m cheating a bit here because I heard this months ago, however I completely forgot about it and stumbled upon it again this week, remembering in the process how utterly ace it is. Based in Wimbledon but hailing from across mainland Europe, The Umlauts are as powerful an advert against the misery of Brexit as exists (apart from, y’know, the New Troubles). ‘Boiler Suits & Combat Boots’ is a sleek, enigmatic slice of zesty Electronic goodness in the vein of ya boiz Kraftwerk or Tangerine Dream, with deadpan, duelling lead vocals dovetailing in an arrangement that is physically sparse but musically rich. Their debut EP U is forthcoming and looks set, if the lead single is owt to go by, to be one of the releases of the year.
Can’t find them anywhere on Social Media. They’re on Bandcamp though – theumlauts.bandcamp.com
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Glasvegas – Godspeed
What a journey the last decade has been for this special, special band. So many obstacles, so much adversity and yet so much triumph. 2018’s 10th Anniversary tour seemed to revitalise a band who seemed to have had their backs broken by a series of unfair rejections, with the band once again reaching unstoppable heights as a live band. The thing is, live they have always been an extraordinary, powerful spectacle, brimming with the kind of life-affirming passion and unmatchable beauty that has on more than one occasion left your humble working writer in tears. The question remained… could they still deliver on record? What would a new Glasvegas album sound like so many years after 2013’s Later… When the TV Turns to Static? Godspeed is the answer, and it is emphatic.
A semi-concept album documenting a stream-of-consciousness diatribe spanning one dark Glesga night, Godspeed showcases a band, and in turn a writer in frontman James Allan, at the absolute peak of their powers. Clattering, fuzzy guitars in the trademark Glasvegas style pepper the album on songs like Cupid’s Dark Disco and Keep Me a Space, mingling with ice-cold synths that could light up the pitch-black sky. They sound familiar yet completely different with each song in a way no band has done since maybe The White Stripes. Dive and Shake the Cage (Fur Theo) buzz with new ideas, with the latter building to a synth driven, almost Trance-like synth-led crescendo beneath some sumptuous James Allan spoken word. Throughout the album James is in particular form, sounding impassioned and imperious, vocally the best he has sounded since that wonderful debut album. The album is perfectly structured, the concept beautifully realised, the aesthetic utterly captivating.
As you can probably tell, I love GV, I always have. Their music has been, deliberately and accidentally, the soundtrack to so many important moments in my life. Keep Me a Space was playing when my son was born. I used to walk the snowy streets of New Moston at night, a 16-year-old dreamer listening to Glasvegas on repeat and dreaming of ever writing songs that powerful, that truthful. They evoke so much for me. I think every album they’ve released is superb in its own way. But this is something else. Godspeed is a towering achievement from a band who have been far too often undervalued and underappreciated. As good, if not better than, their debut. It’s a masterpiece. I’m so glad they exist.
Facebook – @glasvegasofficial
Instagram – @glasvegasofficial
Twitter – @glasvegas
Darren Smiley: An Obituary 2020 – 2021
Darren Elsietanner Smiley was not a nice man – on the contrary, his misadventures and misdeeds are numerous and well-documented. From stealing his neighbour’s antihistamines and filling her house with cats to being banned on individual occasions from contacting every member of 5IVE, all the while somehow avoiding jail, Darren was a… complex character. Nevertheless, it’s sad when people die, even if they are less ‘people’ and more ‘conceptual motifs’. We mourn him appropriately, as we would a goldfish or a lost shoe on a wet day.
We first met Darren outside Stalybridge train station, where he was eagerly snarfing down a tray of Donner Meat and Chips. Without prompting, he told us it was his third portion in a row. After a brief and unwanted chat in which he discovered we were a band he offered to manage us, which we politely declined. This was our only face-to-face meeting with Darren who for the last 6 months has repeatedly taken over our social media platforms and assumed numerous promotional duties for our debut EP ENDLESS UNSTOPPABLE PAIN which, incidentally, is still available to stream on all platforms. We don’t know how he did this. He had no passwords, he is not an admin on any of our accounts, I don’t even think he knew what social media is. He just did it. It caused us a great deal of distress, but he did it anyway. That was our Darren.
Darren was known for his firebrand political activism and died as he lived – shouting anti-vaxx slogans through a megaphone at passers-by outside a primary school. While doing this he fell face-first into a puddle and drowned, a situation brought about by his lack of arms, legs or body. He would have wanted it that way. He was also a keen Capri-Sun drinker and consumed it in copious amounts, using it to fill the void in his soul where some unknown pleasure once dwelled. His main passion in life was the unprovoked harassment of low-level celebrities, and before he met us he mainly filled his days sending threatening letters to various former Big Brother contestants, shopping channel hosts and any other such person who, for reasons best known to Darren himself, drew his relentless ire. He was a complex man.
Darren Smiley leaves behind only an estranged son whom we have been unable to trace, which is the reason we’re doing this obituary instead of literally anyone else. Darren often referred to his son in his letters as ‘that mustard boy’ and repeatedly said he wanted nothing to do with someone who ‘reeks of Dijon’. We don’t know what that means, but not having a name for the junior Smiley made it hard to trace him, or indeed know if he was real. So here we are.
Darren was malevolent, mean-spirited, intensely obsessive and cruel. And yet, we will miss him. Our time in his crosshairs was ultimately enjoyable and he admittedly did his job as an aesthetic centrepiece well. In a roundabout way, he leaves the world a richer place than it was before he arrived. Isn’t that what we all want in the end?
So yeah, let’s raise a toast to the Hate Machine himself. Thanks for nothing.
Right, now that that’s over with, let the march begin…
ENDLESS UNSTOPPABLE TUNEZ #4
ENDLESS UNSTOPPABLE TUNEZ IS BACK, BABY!!! I know it’s been hard. You’ve been lost, haven’t you? Without this venerable blog to make your tastes, where do you go? What do you do? Listen to your old records? Whatever, loser! You do that while the cool kids read our sweet recommendations blog and discover what music I didn’t know about that they already did.
Na, all jokes aside, apologies for being quiet on the auld bloggo the last few weeks. We said ENDLESS UNSTOPPABLE TUNEZ in particular was going to be a weekly do but, as so often happens, life gets in the way. Nevertheless, we’re back on the scene and keeping it keen with some hot stuff recommendations. As ever, this isn’t necessarily a new music blog, just a blog of music I hadn’t heard 7 days ago. That said, it’s been a few weeks so I’m bending the rules a bit this time and including stuff I heard up to 3 weeks ago like an absolute MADMAN. Let us begin…
Cold Water Swimmers – So Young
Anyone who knows us knows Cold Water Swimmers are great pals of ours. Anyone who knows us also knows there’s no room for nepotism on this blog! ‘So Young’ is the new single from Manchester’s male-fronted tune machine and it sees them further explore the breezy, glistening Guitar-Pop territory they first traversed last summer with the gorgeous ‘Be My Sunshine’. CWS do stuff like this gloriously well. There’s a real heartfelt tenderness running through the veins of ‘So Young’, with shimmering-yet-jerky acoustic guitar providing a glittering base to a soaring riff that sounds like a fresh breath of mountain air, all undercut with urgent, stripped-back drums. A call-and-response vocal provides an endearing element of sweetness, overall making for an insistent, affecting earworm of a number. It marks another fine milestone in the evolution of a band who keep throwing up surprises and stokes the flames of excitement for their forthcoming debut album. CWS are a band of many shades – deceptively complex, defiantly honest and constantly surprising. Listen to this and be warmed. It’s a real stunnah.
Facebook – @coldwaterswimmers
Instagram – @coldwaterswimmers
Twitter – @coldH20swimmers
FilthyDirty – Straight to Hell
For those unfamiliar (Bensplain alert), FilthyDirty is the sleazy, lascivious, irresistible frontman of Preston’s own masked bass monsters Evil Blizzard. Fans of ours will know just what an influence Evil Blizzard have been on our sound, particularly on our earliest releases like 97/91. With the news arriving of auld Filthy’s debut solo album anticipation on the Farm was rife. The album’s lead single offers a tantalising, sickening taste of the nightmare to come.
‘Straight to Hell’ pulses with menace. Malevolent, hypnotic bass and drums drive forward a track that builds slowly throughout, unfurling gradually to reveal a hellscape of ferocious, whirling guitars. It is a masterfully arranged track made all the more unsettling by Filthy’s vocal, which crackles with dark wit, sidling right up to your ear and straining to purr into your soul. Stoic in the face of the flames that surround it. Yeah, basically, I fucking love this track and can’t wait for the album. Offshoots of Evil Blizzard have generally been amazing (check out Singer/Drummer Side’s other project One Sided Horse) and FilthyDirty’s debut looks set to add to a grand canon.
Facebook – @evilblizzard
Instragram – @evil_blizzard
Twitter – @oneofevilblizz or @evilupdates
Wu-Lu feat. Lex Amor – South
This might genuinely be the track of the year so far. Dark, visceral and uncompromising, ‘South’ begins with a catatonic acoustic guitar riff looped over a gigantic, Chemical Brothers-esque beat that conjures a powerful intensity. The track simmers and seethes, with Wu-Lu’s vocal lingering with bad intentions, hovering like a kestrel waiting to attack. The arrangement builds and builds, turning up the tension to an unbearable degree. Once the attack happens, the song explodes in full colour with an absolute monster of a chorus – a primal, pained, outraged scream that rages in the face of the corrupt power structures that keep us subjugated and separated. This is a vital, magnificent piece of work. ‘South’ ends with a laconic verse from Lex Amor that provides a stunning contrast to the intensity of the rest of the track. A Staggering piece of work.
Benefits – Flag
Benefits are the most important band in the country right now and Flag is another example of why that is the case. A startling, raw, despairing fightback against the statue-shaggers, the poisoners, liars, killers, Brexit fetishists, destroyers and cowards in power. A devastatingly articulate dissection of performative patriotism and toxic nationalism that is the most succinct, righteous explicit address of the state of things I’ve heard – ‘this place stinks of old wars, subservience, semi-final defeats, god and flags’. This is a genuinely breath-taking song from a band who radiate power. Where other ‘political punk’ bands have failed resolutely to step up to the plate in the face of the carnage this country has wrought on itself, Benefits are as real as it gets. Flag marks a watershed moment for them, putting them alongside Sleaford Mods and Bob Vylan as the most perceptive, effective, vital documenters of the misery that is Britain’s slow slide into Fascism. Incredible.
Yeah. It’s been tough to know what to say…
I promised a follow-up to our last blog a couple of weeks ago but the rigours of early-stage parenthood and some shitty personal news left me not feeling much like writing another. I finally dredged up the energy to pick the blog up a couple of weeks ago. Then Sarah Everard’s murder happened. Then Clapham Common happened. Then the Policing Bill happened. All the sewage in the male psyche laid bare. All the twisted, sick priorities of the state laid bare. The stark, brutal, horrific reminder that everything is not OK. Suddenly it didn’t feel like the time to write a blog about 90s nostalgia.
I don’t want to platform my voice here. Men spend too much fucking time trying to centre themselves in the conversation, when at the moment men, collectively, are not victims. The time for self-pity is not now. In fact, it’s never. The time for self-reflection is now. The time for action is now. We need to do more to make women safe.
Instead of writing a lengthy blog on this I thought I’d use this platform, small as it is, to direct people to educational resources run by women and hopefully help make clear what women face on a horrifyingly regular basis. I’ve also included some charities and crowdfunds to look into and donate to if you can and some organisations fighting for justice and equality for female-identifying people in all walks of life. Now is not the time for male perspectives. I hope you find the below resources useful.
RIP Sarah Everard. I’m sorry. I’m so fucking sorry.
10 Simple, Direct Actions Men Can Take by Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project – https://www.instagram.com/p/CMdXePDAtsy/?igshid=p9ufmbn6t911
Man Walks Into a Bar by Tyrone Lewis – https://tyronelewis22.com/poetry/man-walks-into-a-bar/
Northern Police Monitoring Project: COVID19 and Policing: http://npolicemonitor.co.uk/covid-19/
‘Without the right to protest women have everything to lose – the Sarah Everard vigil proved why’: The i article by Sisters Uncut – https://inews.co.uk/opinion/women-right-protest-policing-crime-bill-sarah-everard-vigil-914008
Munroe Bergdorf statement – https://www.instagram.com/p/CMShERQhtNk/?igshid=1lb6c8e6dvcr6
‘What happened to me was nothing – the nothing women know all too well’ by Marina Hyde – https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/12/what-happened-women-uk-harassed-street
‘Black Trans Lives Matter: Incredible charities you can donate to right now’ by Sam Damshenas: https://www.gaytimes.co.uk/life/black-trans-lives-matter-incredible-charities-you-can-donate-to-right-now/
Safe gigs for women – https://sgfw.org.uk/
Women’s Aid – https://www.womensaid.org.uk/donate/
London Black Women’s Project – https://www.lbwp.co.uk/
Queercare – https://queercare.network
#Reclaimthesestreets crowdfunder – https://justgiving.com/crowdfunding/reclaimthesestreets
There are obviously countless resources you can read and access. These are just a few that I found useful as a start. Thank you for reading.
ENDLESS UNDSTOPPABLE TUNEZ #3 (Dominic James Kenneth Corry Edition)
Hey Ya’ll Sean Kingston here…Jokes just me Dom, the one who plays guitar. Since the advent of our website’s birth i’ve sat, forlorn, from the side lines as Ben takes all the credit for his ‘BLOGS’, writing away willy nilly about all his new favz,being all eloquent and grammatically correct and i thought; y’know what, that needs to change we need fresh perspectives, new horizons, more platitudes and most importantly some brand new tunezzz for you to vibedial upon and rest assured i’ve got it all, because i’m not just any Joe Blogs…Doing Blogs…Writing Bollocks….I’m a man with the music embedded in his psyche man, Babylon. So as Rembrandt famously said to Hieronymus Bosch over some cheese butties and a can of Cherry Tango “I’m Bringing the Tunez Lad, Way More than I’m Munching The Cheddar”…Let’s crack on…I bloody love ellipsis me…
Deaf Deaf Deaf – Nothingness.
All zany guy shit aside, this song is fucking fabulous. On a personal note i have this thing where by genuinely great guitar music tends to have one of two effects on me, the first is i feel like i want the rapture to happen and i want to be consumed and ascend on the unabridged majesty of music that i’m hearing, the second is that it evokes this strange sence of complete purge, specifically of this pent up rage or whatever, y’know like that feeling where you hear a song and it makes you want to fucking head butt a glass window or bite your own face off ? Yeah ? well this song evokes that feeling ( and the former actually come to think of it) and that is all I want from the Bands y’know ? It propper menaces along with that like ‘An Ideal For Living’ urgency and fizz and it doesn’t let up one bit from there. I believe this is a brand new track as well, released at the end of 2020 and it was also a debut release for Deaf Deaf Deaf,so yeah if you still think guitar music needs saving in 2021 where the actual music is concerned, you need to get your head out of your ass.
Facebook: search Deaf Deaf Deaf
RICEWINE – West Ridge
So I knew very very little about RICEWINE upon stumbling across his latest E.P. ’Delicious, No Worries’ ( which is actually in collaboration with a chap named Nikodimos – whose music I am yet to explore baring this) anyway there was something immediately captivating about the lush, breezy, instrumental opener of it. This is music that cleanses souls for sure, it’s what i’d like to be the soundtrack if ever i sat on a beach in Honolulu and watched the sun set or something cringe like that ( Actually fuck it i don’t care if it’s cringe, that sounds like the dream to me and its far more appealing sitting in your gruds on a dank, grey wednesday afternoon in Manchester, struggling to eat your Rice Krispies.) But yeah, Listen to this and I feel like RICEWINE who i believe is based in Australia ( of course he is) will indeed bring that fucking Sunshine and head space to breathe (yeah that makes sense if you just think about it) which i think every fucker on this Island could do with right about now. In this particular track there’s this beautiful and crisp brass section that runs throughout which springs some of the Instrumental elements of Kendrick Lemars To Pimp A Butterfly to mind, like melancholic honeysuckle, west coastal breeze sort of sound ?…Do i sound a bit like a twat there ? I’m really insecure about sounding like a twat, can you tell ? ahh shit the sky is falling.
Facebook: search RICEWINE
Grandma’s House – Always Happy
Right Initially with this song I heard the first 15 seconds and thought oh god not another bunch of monotoned posho’s from the south whining about how hard it is being monotoned posho’s from the south. I nearly couldn’t be arsed, but then i listened to it all the way though and the vocals got more barbed and gristly, The lyrics unravelled with this dripping venom and sarcasm as if the protagonist in it was the only one who believed what they were singing about themselves. then the guitars got more ferocious and loud and the drums started to jar and spindle and then i though ‘ah well i got that one wrong initially didn’t i, what a knob ed i am’ an absolute fucking tune. These here Bristolians are of course another (yeah another) guitar band I cannot wait to see live eventually, Keep ‘aving It Grandma’s House Keep ‘aving it indeed.
Facebook: search Grandma’s House
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
Katy J Pearson – Return
Ah the sweet sweet sound of being born again, what an absolute triumph this album is. Released at the end of a year that for the most part stunted any chance of long term personal growth for a lot of people, Katy J ov Bristol ( A lot of Magic in air down there at the moment isn’t there) has pulled of the great escape (escape in every sense of the word) here. To put it into context prior to this release a project with her brother was dropped by a major label and she spent the months after that wanting to disappear into a career of Horticulture, which i think she did, until she started writing some songs and the result of that scratched itch is this dense americana laced, guide to starting again. Time to start again.
Facebook: search katyjpearsonband
Over and out
Nostalgia, Cultural Detritus and Me: Part 1
I used to hate nostalgia. In my arrogant teens and early/mid 20s I thought it was the first refuge of the unimaginative. A cancer, stymying new ideas in culture while simultaneously diluting and devaluing the original ideas and blah and blah and blah. Fuckinell mate, just let people enjoy things. We’re all dying. Aren’t we entitled to some crumbs of comfort as we hurtle headlong towards the grave? Aren’t there more important things to worry about and be angry about than Back to the ‘80s Festivals? How else is Limahl supposed to make money? Hasn’t he earned it?! No? Ok, fair enough.
The same goes for ‘low-brow’ or mainstream culture. I used to be really belligerent about it, getting in a big flap about why Britney Spears, for example, is so popular when SHE DOESN’T EVEN WRITE HER OWN SONGS or some similar bollocks. I used to get proper lathered about the idea of Simon Cowell ruining the music industry by strangling the Christmas number 1 every year when in the past people like Gary Jules have built leviathan careers off the back of it. Leviathan. Pop Svengali types like Simon Cowell have always existed, right back to Colonel Tom Parker. Their business model has always been the same and more often than not their contribution to culture is dire (although Parker’s actual contribution to culture was literally zilch, even minus zilch, the parasite). If people want to enjoy Joe McElderry or Leona Lewis, though, who am I to say they’re wrong? Who am I to be so arsed about it? What is the point of getting all outraged about the fact that more people like Mrs. Brown’s Boys than Grandma’s House? People love tat. They love it! Always have, always will. If it makes them happy and no one is getting hurt, then go for it. As long as the world is still on fire and the Tories are still in power and Covid is still raging and people are still dying needlessly we don’t really have the luxury of being despondent or angry about the existence of The Masked Singer. For what it’s worth, I love a bit of tat. I love Lemar from Fame Academy and Danny Dyer’s The Wall just as much as I love 6 Music or Dostoevsky. So what? They’re fun.
Obviously with things like X Factor or Big Brother I still feel quite justified in hating them and being glad they’re gone, but for different reasons. Although early series of Big Brother are the only guilty pleasures I have, I feel justified in my ultimate disdain because the impact of their freakshow legacy has been long reverberating, far reaching and has proven corrosive in society. I genuinely believe the influence of shows like X Factor and Big Brother, and to an even greater extent The Jeremy Kyle Show has mutated. Over time they have contributed to emboldening of the base, animalistic nastiness with which we treat each other now on Social Media and in many ways in real life. Sometimes life reminds me of Ballard’s High Rise, particularly life on the internet in its long-form savagery and violence, the kind that has risen to the surface over a long auld time. The sheer intensity of the hate we spit now can be traced back to those particular cultural phenomena in a lot of ways. My point is I’m aware it’s not all black and white. Some cultural shit is genuinely poisonous. Not all of it is harmless fun.
I’m also aware that if you have too much nostalgia knocking about, or you lean too heavily on it you create an unfair environment and a breeding ground for lazy ideas. I’ve been playing in bands on a grassroots level for 16 years. I know all about the opportunities newer bands miss out on because they get handed to heritage acts by bookers and festivals with limited imagination or limited financial room to experiment. Not that I’ve ever been successful enough for those booking decisions to impact me. Maybe there’s a trickle-down effect of those lost opportunities that does ultimately affect me personally. Probably. I dunno. Either way, an entire culture built on nostalgia benefits nobody. So no, my attitude isn’t simply live and let live.
What’s my point here, three paragraphs in? Well, during the pandemic I’ve found myself leaning more heavily on nostalgia and things that might be considered ‘fodder for the bovine masses’ than I ever have. Don’t get me wrong; post-outbreak I’ve discovered and enjoyed loads of genuinely great new art and culture and stuff that I’d never experienced before. It’s just, whenever I’ve really, really felt the need for a comfort blanket to take me away from the hellscape we’re all in it’s been Masterchef, or rubbish ‘00s Indie landfill stuff, or old episodes of Hole in the Wall, or, weirdly, compilations of 90s TV adverts that work best. Probably because – certainly in the case of the latter three – they take me back to a less laborious time, when it didn’t feel like everyone was walking around with a balled-up fist in their pocket, when every single thing wasn’t so utterly, exhaustingly over-wrought. People weren’t nice then either but at least they weren’t all in your face with it screaming at you all the fucking time
Obviously, it’s that childhood thing as well. Being the big fat cliché that I am I can’t help but find things from my childhood the most soothing of balms because I was lucky enough to have a really nice childhood, so when I watch an old Tango advert or hear Dale Winton’s enthusiastic clarion ‘bring on the wall’ (not Anton DuBeke’s) I feel, for a second, just right. Things have strayed from that formula somewhat recently though…
Myself and my wife Gemma were watching an episode of Paul Sinha’s TV Showdown a few weeks ago, wherein the question was asked ‘Who presented the ITV dating show Man, Oh, Man?’ (not that it’s relevant yet but the answer is Chris Tarrant). I have no idea how we got into this, but we got into it about what Gemma remembered of Man, Oh Man from her childhood and what, exactly, Man Oh Man was, as I’d never heard of it in my life.
The basic premise of Man, Oh Man is that an audience of 300 women judge a group of 10 or so men over a series of challenges on who is the best… I dunno what really. The best man? Whatever, the women whittle them down to one and the winner wins, not a date with anyone, but a Motorbike. I don’t know why. That skeletal description just sounds like a proto-Take Me Out, and indeed that show clearly shared much of Man, Oh Man’s DNA. Man, Oh Man though, is a different beast. My description there doesn’t do it anywhere near the justice it deserves because it only tells you what happens. It’s how it happens; that’s the real crux.
It’s. How. It. Happens.
I don’t want to go into too much detail because this blog was supposed to be a blow-by-blow account of the only episode from Man, Oh Man’s glory days (series 1 from 1995, there were two other series’ in the late 90s wherein they gave the show a complete overhaul but they’re rubbish) that exists on YouTube, but I reckon I’ve spent too long ruminating on the nature of nostalgia and poor taste like an absolute prick, so it looks like this is going to be a two-parter. I think I’ll give it a suitably self-indulgent title… ‘Nostalgia, Cultural Detritus and Me’. Yeah.
What I will say is that Man, Oh Man would never be made today. It’s almost flagrantly sexist, deliriously absurd, offensive to the male and female genders, needlessly and relentlessly cruel… and utterly, utterly captivating. This is an obscure dating show-that-isn’t-really-a-dating-show from 1995 hosted by an out-of-his depth Chris Tarrant that breaks almost every moral rule in my book and yet, for a good couple of weeks in January 2021, I became obsessed with it. I became obsessed with the ridiculousness of it; obsessed with the shamelessness of it; obsessed with the raucous, irreverent chaos of it; the kind of irreverent chaos that seemed to cease existence beyond the millennium. This isn’t a show I had any happy memories of from childhood. Indeed, it wasn’t even a show I’d heard of before me and Gemma happened into a conversation on it. But what I derived from it went beyond the warm glow of nostalgic consumption I mentioned earlier. It came to define the first month of the year for me. Oh my God I can’t wait to tell you about it!
ENDLESS UNSTOPPABLE TUNEZ # 2 :-)
It’s ENDLESS UNSTOPPABLE TUNEZ time! The second instalment of our always eagerly anticipated recommendations blog comes to you amid the heavy-set, blood-thick ennui of another fucking lockdown week. No reason to mention that really, other than to record it for posterity, in the hopes that one day we’ll be able to look back on that last sentence as a haze-faded antiquity from a darker time and marvel at how far we’ve come. Setting myself up for a little endorphin boost somewhere down the line basically. Someone tell me I’m right? I’m feeling… pensive, to be honest. Let’s just get on with it. Here’s some music I heard in the last 7 days that I hadn’t hear earlier. You might like it, you might not. At least it breaks up the endless drone of time.
Dry Cleaning – Sweet Princess EP
There are a good number of Dry Cleaning releases I could have picked. Could have gone for their new single ‘Scratchcard Lanyard’; could have gone for their 2nd EP Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks, which is itself equally brilliant. Instead I went for their debut EP Sweet Princess as they announced their debut album New Long Leg (which I have pre-ordered) this week and I just think there’s a nice symmetry in that.
One of the more galling aspects of the pandemic – obviously not counting all the death and potent, visceral misery – is the fact that this is the most exciting time for new music I can remember in my lifetime at all levels. This is only annoying because we can’t go out and see all the incredible bands lighting up the landscape right now. Chief among them are Dry Cleaning, who are an utterly unique proposition, mainly due to frontwoman Florence Shaw’s acerbic, surly, hilarious lyrics and her captivating spoken/sung delivery. Sweet Princess is a perfect encapsulation of what makes this band so great; urgent, jittering Post Punk* guitars and wasp-sting drums make for a vivid backdrop to Shaw’s rapid-fire treatises on modern life. Cutting, observational, yearning, powerful, bitter, wry and witty, Shaw covers a breadth of territory and emotion that she has no right to on a 21-minute EP. A stunning introduction to an exciting band and a vital new lyricist. Go seek them out if you haven’t already.
*what even is ‘Post Punk’? Up your description game, BEN
Facebook: search Dry Cleaning
Twitter: They’re not on it, I don’t think
All Girls Arson Club – No Duh EP
We’re on the same bill as All Girls Arson Club this Sunday for We Are Manchester 30 and I’m well pleased to be honest, as I’ve been a fan of theirs for a while. That said, I like a buffoon I hadn’t listened to their latest EP No Duh. Obviously, like their debut EP Dark Fruits, it’s brilliant; 10 minutes of exhilarating, irreverent Garage Punk that hits the spot just right. Lyrically it’s an absolute joy, packed with snarky, absurdist wit – never has the line ‘chips, chips, chips, chips, chips’ been so gloriously realised or laugh out loud funneh. Songs like ‘Arcade’ and ‘Kath & Kim’ bounce with knowing intelligence on an EP that, without my wanting to sound frivolous, is an out-and-out riot of fun.
Facebook: search All Girls Arson Club
Twitter: no Twitter m8
MF Doom – MM…FOOD
Y’know, I always feel really lame and icky when I get into someone just after they’ve died, having only discovered them because they died. It happens more often than I’d like. That said, it’s important to celebrate great art and artists no matter how you happened upon them, and there are few greater than MF Doom. I have the double shame whammy of only just having listened to him this week, with the great man having died weeks ago. If you’re an idiot like me and have remained blissfully ignorant of MF Doom’s work, I’d recommend starting with MM…FOOD (although there are people better placed to make that recommendation than me). Loads of 10/10 food-based wordplay, classic, old-school beats with hypnotic jazz inflections and a delightful streak of nerdiness running through the album, with tonnes of references to old superhero serials and the casting of Doom himself as a very campy villain indeed. When this came out in 2004 it must have been a right anomaly; a throwback to classic Hip Hop standing out on a thoroughly modern scene. I’m still very much working my way through MF Doom’s catalogue, but this is my favourite so far.
Facebook: search MF Doom
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
Kid Kapichi – This Time Next Year
I first saw Kid Kapichi supporting Calva Louise at Night People in Manchester in 2019. Along with Evil Blizzard supporting Sleaford Mods in (I think) 2014, it’s the best support set I’ve ever seen. They’re one of those bands whose intensity and ferocious charisma engulfs the room and it absolutely shines through on the record.
This is a taut, gnarly, rugged, thoroughly modern punk album, cut through with infectious melody, precision playing and righteous anger. In another world KK would be touring the country playing the gigs of their lives, celebrating the almighty achievement of putting this album together, which they’ve done entirely by themselves without any record label support. Alas*, that’s not the world we live in. That said, give this album a spin and get excited for when we can all come out to play. When that first note hits, it’s going to go off big time. In the meantime, cheers to Kid Kapichi for making an important album that distils the mood of the times; a triumph against adversity brought to fruition through sheer bloody-mindedness. This time next year, man. This time next year…
That’s it, then. This week’s recommendations all wrapped up with a neat little bow. I mentioned earlier that we’re playing We Are Manchester’s 30th livestream event this Sunday, and we bloody are too! Tickets are on sale now (the link is in our Insta bio), the line-up is absolutely amazing with ourselves and the aforementioned All Girls Arson Club joining Matthew Holland, UNE and Clint Boon interviewing John Robb. It’s quite something. We’ve put our set together already and we can safely say you’re in for a treat. Join us. JOOIIIIN UUUUUSSSSS….
- Actually, no fuck ‘alas’. ‘Alas’ is Boris Johnson speak for ‘there’s nothing that could have been done’. There’s plenty that could have been done. Kid Kapichi find themselves in this situation, as do the rest of us, because of government laziness, government cronyism, government shortsightedness, government lies and the fact that even now the Conservative Party simply cannot get past their vicious, undying hatred for the poor.
DARREN SMILEY SPILLS THE BEANS
I first met The Battery Farm outside a butcher’s shop in New Moston (1 – Footnotes at Bottom), wherein I had been bartering over of 1kg of diced beef. I had intended to eat the beef blue and mostly raw as per the specifics of my iron-rich diet, however the shopkeep, a truculent hipster, insisted that this would make me ill. They’re even gentrifying raw meat now.
‘I’m aware of E. coli and its associated risks, thank you very much’ I stated proudly, knowing full-well that my particular brand of stomach lining is almost supernaturally fortified against Gram-negative, facultative anaerobic, rod-shaped, coliform bacteria (2) .
Nevertheless, he continued his tirade of reactionary unctuousness, denouncing my assurances as LIES, pure and simple LIES.
‘YOU ARE A LIAR’ he screamed.
I assured him repeatedly that I was not lying. Far from it. To my eternal credit, instead of growing ever-more furious with each repetition I actually became calmer, yeah? Anyway, after a bit he got the message and out I strolled with my produce. Yes, he got the message indeed. Sorry, what was I talking about? Ah yes, The Battery Farm…
I left the butcher’s and began to head home, my line of sight hooked by the visage of four overfed youths loitering outside the post office. They stood frozen in line, staring into space with unnerving intensity. They didn’t look like they were there to post letters. The nearer I came to them, the further they shifted from their malignant stillness, slowly turning to face me with air of menace so intense it was alluring. They floated into my path and stopped dead in front of me, their eyes boring into my soul as the eyes of the many people I have wronged (or who have wronged me; depends on your perspective). They spoke as one – simpatico, symbiotic (3) – in a voice whose quivering neutrality hinted at a desire to simply disappear. Four disparate souls trapped in the hell of functioning as one seemingly interdependent organism. Or should that be… disfunctioning? Think about it (4) .
We stood for at least five minutes in thick silence, occasionally standing aside for passing pedestrians but never breaking eye contact. They were sizing me up, I could tell. Their inaction told me they knew just who they were dealing with. Their enigmatic façade was already beginning to crack. Finally, they spoke;
‘That was quite a fracas just now’, they intoned blankly.
‘Yes, well, some people need their minds opening for them’, I retorted brilliantly, defiantly. I wasn’t going to let them intimidate me, which – let’s be plain – was exactly what they were trying to do (5).
‘Is there something you want?’, I demanded after another short pause.
Their initial cocksuredness visibly receded to mere cockhesitance.
‘Well? Spit it out!’ I commanded, my hackles rising with every unnecessary word. The worm had turned now. Their stoicism was faltering. Finally, they sputtered a response;
‘Are you Darren Smiley, celebrated local poet and meat packer?’
My invective gave way to disdain, and for the next 7 minutes I roared a mirthless laugh right in their stupid, white, student activist, milquetoast, liberal snowflake faces!!! ‘HA HA HA’, I bellowed. Ha. Ha. Ha. Local?! LOCAL?! I’m a much more pressing concern than that!
‘Local?! LOCAL?! I’m a much more pressing concern that that!’, I barked authoritatively, ‘you idiots better give me a good reason to stick around or I’m telling you now I am straight up outta here!’
‘Please, sir, we’re sorry’, they vacillated, abandoning any pretence of dignity.
‘I will kill you right now!’, I raged, admittedly starting to lose control of myself. Can you blame me? (6)
‘We’re a band and we want you to be our manager!’ they blurted out in cowardly desperation, stopping me in my tracks and saving themselves from the full force of my fury. Their air of cool insouciance had long since abandoned them.
Puzzled, my rage subsided. In my confusion I became docile… but intrigued. I asked the obvious question;
‘What’s in it for me: Darren Smiley?’
‘Well, I mean- ‘
‘50% of what?’
‘The profits! What else?’, I could see they were trying to hoodwink me.
‘Oh, yes, those’, their poker faces had really slipped now as they stuttered and stammered their way through their meagre response – the poor, beleaguered fools. ‘Well – erm – what if we, y’know, go for something like, maybe, 40%-‘
‘NO DEAL!’, I cut them off before they could even finish, using a time-honoured technique to assert my dominance in a tense negotiating situation. ‘I want 50% and not a penny less’.
Finally, meekly, they relented, cut down to size by my sharp negotiator’s eye and superior wit. They agreed to 50% of all profits coming my way. A contract was signed there and then, and a beautiful relationship was formed.
To this day though I still haven’t received my money (7). I’m a generous soul so I’m willing to let that slide. It’s the other stuff that still rankles. We’ll get to that though.
Immediately I set about blessing this bunch of abject no-hopers with my knowledge and experience. My savvy and intuition. My showbiz nous. I knew from years of just generally being trendy what the kids were after. I and I alone knew the trajectory of the money trail. Listen to me and they’d be riding the A-train to Hitsville.
I’ve often thought I never got the credit I deserved for the work I put in with The Battery Farm. I’m not bitter though. D’you think I care? Get over it, yeah? Still, it would be nice to have some formal acknowledgement of the fact that I more-or-less created this band. Oh yeah, that’s right. Created. You won’t read about that in the FAILED mainstream media. Before I came along, they were arsing about playing 10cc and Bryan Adams covers in various local pubs (8) and were determined to continue hurtling down Soft Rock Avenue, destination: Obscurity. I remember when we first talked about their sound and they explicitly told me that their main objective was to successfully copy Dan Gillespie-Sells’ iconic Guitar sound from The Feeling’s debut album (9). A noble objective, but not one that makes that lean, lean green.
‘Listen lads’, I said, my synapses firing with blistering, iconoclastic ideas, ‘there’s only one place to be right now. There’s only one thing the kids are talking about, the thing that’s gonna make you cash money millionaires and… nah, forget it actually, you guys don’t seem that keen’
‘No, please tell us!’, they pleaded, their eyes wide with awe, their appetites whetted to breaking point, their tongues thick with anticipation (10). I had them in the palm of my hands, like little birds snarfing away on seeds.
‘Alright, I’ll tell you’, I said magnanimously. ‘That thing that’s gonna make you your fortune? The thing all the kids are pining for in their droves? Two words boiz [I came up with that] – Punk. Rock.’
They sat dumbfounded. It seemed so simple. How had they failed to think of it before?
‘But, we don’t have the songs… the sound… the attitude’, they muttered
‘Well boiz, the day you crossed my path was your lucky day! I just so happen to have a full batch of PUNK ROCK bangers written and ready to go. All you’ve got to do is learn them. Follow my advice and you’ll head straight to the toppermost of the poppermost’.
Yes. I wrote The Battery Farm’s songs (11). All those big tunez that you don’t know and don’t love? 97/91, I Am a Man, all of ENDLESS UNSTOPPABLE PAIN ? I wrote them. Me. Darren Smiley. I don’t need proof (12). I’m telling you, that’s the proof. Without me they’d still be cranking out half-arsed karaoke versions of ‘I’m Not in Love’ to disengaged drunkos. They took all my incredible advice and all my tremendous songs, and they didn’t do them justice. Remember when I mentioned that you don’t know and don’t love these tunez? Well, The Battery Farm disappointed me in that, to this point, they have remained irrelevant in the public eye (13). Despite all that I gave them. All the sleepless nights. All the avenues I cleared for them. All the opportunities I got them. Me. They squandered all of it. Do you know how many t-shirt throwing gigs I booked them? How many personal appearances at village halls they turned down? What thanks do I get? Nothing! They plaster my handsome face all over their tat with reckless abandon and I get nothing, not even a writing credit. And why? Because I ‘don’t exist’, because I’m a ‘conceptual motif’ apparently. Well I do exist, and one day I’m going to get the recognition I deserve. I wrote all those songs in an hour between poetry readings! That’s how much of a talent I am! You’ll see. You’ll all see.
So that’s pretty much my story. I created The Battery Farm, wrote all their songs and sacrificed all my hair for them (Dom’s hair is actually mine, shaved and fashioned into a toupee – he’s Kojak bald in real life (14) ) and I got not an ounce of credit for it. In the end I was sacked (15) for one reason and one reason only. Jealousy. Pure and simple. They couldn’t handle the dynamism that I brought to the table, and ultimately their resistance to my genius has led them straight into a basin (16). Whatever. I’m not bitter. Why would I be? Me? Bitter? Don’t be so stupid. I’ve got loads on the go. Don’t worry about me. Like God, I have no beginning and no end. I’m just biding my time. Soon, you’ll all see just how real Darren Smiley is.
ENDLESS UNSTOPPABLE TUNEZ #1 :-)
Hi, Ben (the main one) here. Welcome to our blog! Home to long-form ruminations, new music smugly recommended with a David Brent-esque ‘oooh, don’t you know?’ and all sorts of winning #content from the minds of your humble working boiz. This section of the website is basically a platform to for us to talk unimpeded about whatever auld shite we’ve been thinking/watching/reading/doing/delete as appropriate. Strap yourselves in, comrades, it’s about to get weird. Or mundane. Or sexy. Or, dare I say it… beautiful.
I thought we’d start off soft to be honest. I am, despite my best efforts, one of those horrendous people who does, deep down, care what others think. This is my affliction and a bear it like a cross. A martyr I am in every sense. Anyway, lord knows I don’t want to be seen to be trying too hard on our debut blog post, so I thought it prudent to begin with some good, old fashioned new music recommendations! You’ve got time to listen to them. I know you have. I’m not an idiot. We’ve all got time. Endless, unstoppable time. Yes palz, welcome to the inaugural edition of your new least favourite weekly music blog ENDLESS UNSTOPPABLE TUNEZ; a title that is both on-brand and an extremely clever parody of our most recent release, in case you hadn’t noticed. What’s more, it definitely will not date.
This is going to be a weekly do and I’m delighted to welcome you to the first one. You were here at the beginning. Be proud. Just to be clear, this isn’t necessarily only about new music, just stuff I’ve been listening to in the last 7 days that I hadn’t heard in the 7 days previous. Once we’ve built up a few of these I’ll put together a playlist, but for now there are like four recommendations so what’s the bleedin’ point? Anyway, let’s get on with it.
CHAI – ACTION
Sub Pop, man… I dunno. Yeah, they put Bleach out and Smell the Magic and God’s Favourite Customer and all that lovely Beach House stuff and myriad other things, but there’s something about them I’ve always found so hipstery and gatekeeperly. Thus, I’m always vaguely suspicious whenever I hear about ‘the new release from Sub Pop’. Generally, I’m wrong, which I’m sure means that the good people at Sub Pop are just that… good people. I dunno, I’ll bloody work on it, ok?
Here, I am wrong again. CHAI are brilliant, not that I ever thought otherwise. The Tokyo-based Electro-J-Pop-Techno-Punk 4-piece continue the follow-up to their 2019 sophomore offering Punk – itself a glorious, uplifting piece of work – with ‘ACTION’, the new single from their forthcoming 3rd album WINK. Stripping away any of the DIY punk elements that characterised their sound on Punk, this is a full-on Electronic bangerino that acts as a sudden left-turn from the band and brilliantly expands the breadth and depth of their Neo-Kawaii concept. Shimmering, duelling vocals and dark, fidgeting synths flutter malevolently over driving, angular beats that push the track forward with the mechanical relentlessness of the T-800 or Dexter Loomis (one of these references is less niche than the other). A superb track that leaves me hella excited for the album. CHAI are amazing, and really bloody wholesome too, their music peppered with super-positive lyrical soundbites in both Japanese and English about self-love– ‘it’s ok, it’s ok, it’s going to be ok’. Genuinely uplifting stuff in times that are decidedly unuplifting times. Check out ACTION and their first two albums, Pink and Punk. Do it now.
Facebook – I don’t know to be honest, couldn’t find them
Instagram – @chaiofficialjpn
Twitter – @CHAIofficialJPN
Phoebe Bridgers – Savior Complex
We all know how brilliant Phoebe Bridgers is don’t we? Well, no, I bloody don’t! At least I didn’t until I heard this song for the first time the other day. Hers is a name I’ve seen everywhere for a few years now, never possessing the curiosity – or time, not sure – to dig into her back catalogue. Well more fool me I say. More fool me. This has been out since June on Phoebe’s 2nd album Punisher so I’m sure, dear readers, it isn’t very new to a lot of you. Well it is to me, and it’s my blog so there!
This is one of those incredible songs whose beauty genuinely feels like it stops time. The centrepiece of a wonderful album, it is about as epic and kaleidoscopic Bridgers’ brand of Bedroom Folk gets, lolloping dreamily with shimmering strings and guitars under a vocal that puts you in mind of St. Vincent’s quieter moments (think ‘Happy Birthday, Johnny’). It waltzes and sparkles and holds you in stasis, dropping you every now and then with a devastating set of lyrics that ache with the pain of loss, of loneliness, of toxic devotion. Like Arlo Parks, who we’ll get to later, Bridgers is a starkly honest lyricist whose caustic wit sits alongside words that swell with compassion, humanity and empathy. ‘Savior Complex’ is a stunning example of that. If you haven’t listened to her yet – which, in large swathes, I haven’t – now is the time.
Facebook – Just, y’know, search Phoebe Bridgers
Instagram – @_fake_nudes_
Twitter – @phoebe_bridgers
Dimitri From Paris & DJ Rocca – Works
I’d been vaguely familiar with Dimitri From Paris for years but hadn’t listened to his stuff with any great deal of attention or conviction until 6 Music made his forthcoming compilation (I can’t remember what it’s called) their compilation of the week and started playing tracks from it, all of which were great. This piqued my curiosity and had me scurrying around like a fat little mouse around his back catalogue. I could have mentioned his Chic remix album or Sacrebleu, both of which are tremendous, but I’ve gone with Works from 2019, a compilation from 2019 of his stuff with DJ Rocca. Featuring the extended version of ‘Ero Disco’ and ‘I Love New York’, it is a completely immersive, jolting 33 minutes of Disco-tinged Electronica that brings the joy in spades.
The more you dig through Dimitri from Paris’ work, the more you realise how much artists like Daft Punk owe to him. That splicing of the Nile Rodgers brand of Disco with the Electronic music template that Daft Punk have wielded so well comes from Dimitri. Works, to me, displays the extent of that influence and is a great starting point ahead of delving into what is a rich, varied, irrepressible back catalogue.
Facebook: Search Dimitri from Paris
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
Yep, it’s album of the week time! Will this be a regular feature? Who can say? Maybe one week It’ll be EP of the week or another week I just won’t bother because all the albums have been shit, although that is admittedly unlikely. Anyway, this week’s album of the week is…
Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams
Just an utterly beautiful piece of work really. Taking influence from Sufjan Stevens, Ms. Dynamite, Massive Attack and tonnes more, Collapsed in Sunbeams announces Arlo Parks as a songwriter of wealthy and understated substance. It is Bedroom Pop shot through with an atmosphere of melancholy that, rather than being fey or winsome, transports you vividly into Parks’ world of complex characters and painful memories. Parks demonstrates startling honesty on songs like ‘Caroline’ and ‘Black Dog’ as well as a tremendous knack for a luscious, woozy chorus.
This album is just tremendous on so many levels. Lyrically it is formidable, documenting intimacy, disappointment and mental illness with an emotional intelligence and nuance that I’ve seldom come across in recent years. Musically it is a deceptively complex piece of work, with a ridiculous range of influences that don’t water down the singular identity and voice of the artist. In fact, the voice of the artist still sings through triumphantly here, with Parks managing to strike that fragile balance that allows you to celebrate the things you love while retaining a sense of self. It’s Arlo herself that really shines through the brightest on this album, which is a beautiful, triumphant collection of songs and to my mind is the first great album of 2021.
Facebook: search Arlo Parks
That’s it then! Hope you enjoyed this first blog. I don’t know if there’s a comment section as at the time of writing we haven’t set up the Blog section of the website yet. If there is, great! Leave your delicious opinions and maybe make some recommendations yourselves. We’re a family, yeah? And families share.
This particular series will be weekly but generally we’ll be adding to the blog as and when we bloody well feel like it and talking about all sorts. While I’ve got you, we’ll be dropping The Leper Sessions 5 on Saturday at 8pm on our YouTube channel. I’ve been practicing and I can assure you it sounds not shit. Join us, won’t you? What else are you doing?
Thanks for reading, keep streaming ENDLESS UNSTOPPABLE PAIN 😊. You’re the best. We love you.