My songs of 2014 Part 3 : underground sounds from Merseyside

November 23, 2014

Give these bands some love !

The Vibes


Blind Monk Trio – The Moth  (Coulrophobia)

Jazz trio with sax, bass & drums.

Bolshy – Counting Fucks (Radical. Anarchic. Bolshy. Scouse.)

Ska punk septet, formed 2012.

The Bordellos – The gospel according to Julian Cope (Will.I.Am, you’re really nothing)

Three piece outfit from St Helens.

Broken3Ways – Work On It (Return to the Shack)

Seven piece ska punk funk band from the Wirral.

Iain Till – Haunted By You (The Rise and the Fall EP)

Former bass player with The City Walls, went solo in 2013. Acoustic folk / country.

Låpsley – Painter (valentine) (Station single)

Teenager from Formby whose style has more than a few echoes of James Blake. Recently signed to XL Recordings.

Lizzie Nunnery & Vidar Norheim – Drunk in a Midnight Choir (Songs of Drink and Revolution)

The song title’s nicked from Leonard Cohen (Bird On The Wire). Very thoughtful and interesting if rather sombre song.

Pete Bentham and the Dinner Ladies – Dead’s Not Punk (I Heart Here)

My June 2014 band of the month, and the cd’s still getting plenty of listens …

The Vibes – I’m gonna shake you (Dust Trail EP)

Garage rock band, formed in April 2013.

We Are Catchers – Isabella (We Are Catchers)

Debut album release on Domino Records with a melodic 60s vibe.

Zombina and the Skeletones – Tonight, There Will Be No Survivors (Charnel House Rock)

“Five deformed rock n’ roll monsters from Liverpool. Zombina and the Skeletones mix garage punk and girl-group pop with spooked out B-movie sonics.”

The 69 Watts – Get On (Put Out Some Light EP)

Three piece rock and roll band formed in 2012 – this is their debut EP.


My songs of 2014 Part 2 : global dance rhythms

November 16, 2014

It’s a global dance party, and you’re all invited.

Amsterdam Klezmer Band – Op Je Hoede (Blitzmash)


Cumbia All Stars – Quiero que Amanezca (Tigres En Fuga)


Dona Onete – Carimbo Chamegado (Feitiço Cabloco)


Habadekuk – Svenske Niels Polka (Kaffepunch)


Kareyce Fotso – Kak Pou Tseu (Mokte)  


King Ayisoba – Weene Ma’le Wane (Wicked Leaders)


Los De Abajo – Mexican Underdogs (Mariachi Beat)


Meridian Brothers – Somos los Residentes (Salvadora Robot)


Ras Muhamad feat. Kabaka Pyramid – Re-Education (Salam)


Sia Tolno – African Police (African Woman)  

Sierra Leone

Szkojáni Charlatans – Sheiner Shtetl Szkoján (Elixir)  


Teta – Daty Raty (Blue Tsapiky)  


Triakel – Lillade Anna (Thyra)  




My songs of 2014 Part 1 : songs of conscience and social commentary

November 9, 2014

1. Songs of Conscience and Social Commentary 

This is the first of six weekly instalments of songs chosen from among my favourite albums of 2014. Each week I’ll focus on a different area of music. This week’s list is inspired by one of the strengths of the UK folk / acoustic tradition : that again and again it produces songwriters who feel compelled to wear their heart on the sleeve and engage with the world in which they life, a world darkened by war, violence and poverty.

Amy Goddard – Taking the Edge Off the Day (Burn & Glow)

A song about alcohol dependency.

Coope, Boyes & Simpson – Hill 60 (In Flanders Fields)

World War 1 song written by Jim Boyes about a small mound in Flanders which was bitterly fought over for many weeks in 1915.

Gaz Brookfield  – The Ballad Of Elizabeth Duke (Acoustic EP)

Can someone explain who is Elizabeth Duke ?

Ian Prowse – The Murder of Charles Wootton (Who Loves Ya Baby)

Charles Wootton’s death led to race riots in Liverpool in 1919. Ian Prowse links this to  Anthony Walker’s murder in 2005.

Jez Lowe – Names (The Ballad Beyond)

“Confronted by the rows of anonymous white headstones at Tyne Cott cemetery near Ypres, this simple and somewhat indignant song was a spontaneous reaction in the drizzle of an Autumn day.”

The Men They Couldn’t Hang – Fail to Comply  (The Defiant)

Still militant after 30 years.

Naomi Bedford  – Overseas  (A History of Insolence)

Written by The Men They Couldn’t Hang’s Paul Simmonds,

Reg Meuross – What Would William Morris Say (England Green & England Grey)

I reckon William Morris would have some very interesting things to say about the modern world.

Ribbon Road  – Last Paying Day (No Redemption Songs)

“The miners gathered together after the long strike to take a vote on staying out or going back to work. There was no real choice and for many it would be the end of their working life – their Last Paying Day.”

Robb Johnson – Bob Crow  (Us & Them)

“I sort of thought Bob wouldn’t think of himself as a hero, and I knew from Tolpuddle of his fondness for having the RMT brass band play loudly whenever they felt like it regardless of whatever else was going on, so I decided to start the song off the way I did. Some of the details I checked by reading my friend Guy Smallman’s obituary of Bob too. And every time I have heard Bob speak, I have felt inspired and energised, and that last time, just before he died, he was … magnificent. Thanks Bob, maximum respect.”

Sally Ironmonger – Food Banks & Ferraris (The Company I Keep)

“The promises of 45 are just broken dreams and lies – food banks and Ferraris on the rise.”

Ten Gallon Bratz – Who’s Left to Save the Working Man  (Tales from the Long Shadows)

“Convinced that stardom is just around the corner however the corner is somewhat bigger than we anticipated !”

The Young’uns  – John Ball (Never Forget)

Sydney Carter wrote John Ball in 1981 to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the Peasant’s Revolt. John Ball himself was a priest who found in Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible into English new hope for an egalitarian England.




Band of the month

November 1, 2014


“Most bands are trying to be something as opposed to actually being something. Most are pale imitations of established acts so to me this is pointless, its almost as if a mass of misunderstanding is taking place all of the time. My view is, you shouldn’t really be doing it unless you have something to show and also have something to say.” – Jason Williamson

They’re a duo called Sleaford Mods. They make angry punk music. They swear a lot. And they may just be the most exciting band in the UK right now …

Sleaford ModsJason Williamson had been around for a while. He’d been in guitar based bands before, and he felt they were holding him back. So he struck out on his own, and things began to click. He learned that he could tear down the barriers between him and the audience and really express himself. He teamed up with Andrew Fearn, whose keyboard gave him that extra dimension he needed. Two more albums followed : Wank in 2012 and Austerity Dogs in 2013. By 2013 Sleaford Mods were starting to attract wider attention; then came the release of Divide And Exit earlier this year and things began to get a bit crazy, with four star reviews in Q Magazine, Mojo and Pitchfork (though I confess that I’ve only just caught up with it now).

They’re not from Sleaford. They’re currently based in Nottingham. But the name absolutely fits. Williamson grew up a huge fan of The Jam. He relates to early Mod culture, a culture that he believes is missing from Mod revival bands – “Mods was a reaction of working class insecurity, of being in rags for far to long. It was, in the Sixties a massive scream of frustration and no self identity. “

Williamson’s lyrics grab your attention, shock you, provoke you.  He speaks for the alienated working class youth in austerity Britain, but he doesn’t come with any agenda. In a way this is a bit frustrating, I think his songs could be even more powerful if there was less diatribe and more commentary, but the direct unfiltered style does makes the songs feel more credible. They feel relevant in the same way that American hip hop, at its best, feels relevant. Add to this the fact that, although I don’t always agree with Williamson (I mean, why take a pop at Chumbawamba ?) there’s an intelligence behind his choices of targets which I respect. Because of this the Sleaford Mods occupy the kind of space that the Arctics did when they burst onto the scene in 2006. And that’s an exciting thought.

This is from Austerity Dogs :

Sleaford Mods – Wage Don’t Fit 

And from Divide And Exit :

Sleaford Mods – Air Conditioning

Sleaford Mods – You’re Brave

Sleaford Mods – From Rags To Richards

Sleaford Mods – Middle Men

Sleaford Mods – Tied Up In Nottz  



Aye tunes

October 12, 2014

Ten songs for Scottish independence (and one poem)

They may have lost the referendum, but they won the battle of the songs. Here are ten of the best new songs inspired by the Yes Campaign. I use my words carefully here. What unites these songs is a sense of hope, that people are on the rise, and that a different Scotland is possible (along with a healthy injection of contempt for Westminster politics). Most of them could not have been written before the Yes Campaign began to take off. There’s not the sense of nostalgia, of looking back, that we find in Dougie Maclean’s Caledonia – “telling old stories, singing songs, that make me think about where I come from”, nor do they fall back on national stereotypes to support their argument.

We begin with a poem :

Colin McQuillen – Alright Westminster  

And here’s my ten songs. If you know of any better ones written in 2014, please post the links.

Andy Clark & the Independence Singers – We’re aw Votin’ Aye!

Ballboy – JK Rowling changed my vote from No to Yes!

Callum Baird – Better Off Alone  

Calum Carlyle – Our Scotland  

Citizen Smart – Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright 

Eddi Reader – We Are Everything  

Glesga Poet & The Mad Squad – Independent

Macanta – Be A Nation  

San Fran and the Siscos – Yes  

Stanley Odd – Son I Voted Yes  


Rambling across the Mersey

April 14, 2014

14 April 2014 I’ve been listening to a lot of global music in recent months while researching for my book, but in the meantime let me bring you up to date with some of the best new local sounds.

Ian Prowse – The Murder of Charles Wootton

Charles Wootton’s death led to race riots in Liverpool in 1919. Ian Prowse links this to  Anthony Walker’s murder in 2005. This remarkable song is from the new album Who Loves Ya Baby.

Hughie Jones – Blow the Man Down

Former Spinner Hughie Jones still runs  a folk club in Liverpool. His love of Liverpool’s maritime history comes over in his latest album of songs about the sea, Maritime Miscellany.

The White Widows – Talkin’ to Yourself 

Brilliant debut single. They just launched their album on Friday so I’m looking forward to hearing that.

The Vibes – Rambling Man

One of my sounds of 2013 : they’ve been back in the studio and there’s a new EP in the works which they tell me will be “just as raw if not more so than the last EP”. Sounds good to me. Here’s a taster of it.

Electric Lips – Not Coming Back

Meanwhile The Vibes mates, rockers Electric Lips, have released their debut EP Snake Eyes, and have just expanded to a 4 piece. CDs are available at gigs, so you know what to do.

Evian Christ – Waterfall

Josh Leary, a young producer from Ellesmere Port, has a teacher training qualification and a credit on the latest Kanye West album. His new EP Waterfall was reviewed in Pitchfork (they gave it 7.3), and was the subject of a long feature piece in the Guardian.  Expect noise, technical wizardry and crashing bass.

Ninetails – Sinn Djinn 

From the EP Quiet Confidence. Electronic soundscapes aren’t really my thing, but this is a bit unusual, and worth a listen.

Stephen Langstaff – Home

Last month he was in America where he played three shows at SXSW, and toured in Texas and Nashville, and wrote this song.

Mark Pountney – Treat me Baby Like You Should

If you had to guess which of these artists also fronts a Beatles tribute band, you’d probably have got it right. While the new album Mark One is steeped in the 60s, it’s very much his own material, and let’s hope he stays away from the covers from now on, because this is great feelgood music.

Tear Talk – Parallel

According to their own record company, Tear Talk “is one of the most awkward, introverted and melancholic bands (their words) out there today”.  That endears them to me a lot ! On their 3 track EP Breathe they sound like New Order meets The Cure.

Matt Swift – Everton Songs

In the week in which Everton moved into a Champions League place, surely you can allow me a little indulgence.



1,000,000 !

March 24, 2014

Today this website reached 1 million hits !! It only just struck me, I should be doing some crazy giveaway to mark the occasion. As I’ve not planned anything here’s a promise : anyone who messages me this evening with their email address and the type of music they would like will be sent some mp3s.



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