Notes from the Fireside

Ever imagined what it would have sounded like if Violet Elizabeth Bott and William Brown had formed a high-energy, pop-rock band after indulging their shared passion for Nazi crank? Well cogitate no more.


I stand alone, the last of the Misanthropes. A sepulchral silence envelops the club. The only movement, flitting shadows through windows opaque with grime.

Do not misunderstand me. Gemütlichkeit and bonhomie were never welcome in an institution where a proposed member was rejected unless opposed by no less than half the existing fellows. This was a place of barely constrained animosity, rather than the gaiety of debutante giggles and the idle chatter of dilettantes. The accidental chink of ice was met with approbation, and on the rare occasions that words replaced disapproving grunts it was to chide or chastise. But there was a bond of sorts.

The only visitors now are tradesmen, bill collectors and, despite a statute prohibiting mythical beasts, bewildered ‘Twilight’ fanatics unable to differentiate their ‘thropes’.

Wandering over to the empty bar, Roderick’s soiled-apron hanging on a peg catches my eye. His ear trumpet stuffed in a pocket. How will he survive without it I ponder, running my finger through a thick layer of dust? I never liked the man, but his brooding presence could be reassuring. His vitriolic spleen refreshing in this world of scripted obsequiousness.

I pour a quadruple measure of 50-year-old Dalmore and raise my glass to the absent sommelier. May he be struck down by a hansom cab as he staggers back from his inbred sibling’s nuptials so I can enjoy another day of exquisite solitude. Serving my own drinks is a small price to pay.



Lolito: Lolito (Les Disques 7éme Ciel)

From the band’s name with its hideous associations to Humbert Humbert and his myopic cohorts, to the disturbing kitsch cover photos, all pigtails, dungarees and mischievous smiles, reminiscent of Sidney Cooke’s Christmas list, and finally the eponymous title (there can be only one, and that was made in 1989) it seemed unlikely this would appeal. I was wrong. Lolito are magnificent, like cramming your mouth full of Space Dust.

Ever imagined what it would have sounded like if Violet Elizabeth Bott and William Brown had formed a high-energy, pop-rock band after indulging their shared passion for Nazi crank? Well cogitate no more. 

Catchy tunes and fast paced, infectious riffs, with punk overtones, are the order of the day, while Poly Styrene’s love-child’s impossibly high-voice pervades this album without, amazingly, becoming annoying.

Lolito is provocative and varied: one minute happy, the next threatening and ominous. A hyperactive toddler beating a toy drum with an oversized lollypop, this is the music you wanted to play as a child. Yet beneath the innocence there is a welcome darkness. What I wonder is lurking in the cupboard?


Pissed Jeans: Honeys (Sub Pop)

Before listening to this I was conflicted. The appellation Pissed Jeans recalled the shame of a childhood affliction, while the label Sub Pop reminded me of numerous grunge attrocities. (It also brought to mind Peter Bagge’s fantastic comic Hate which you must read immediately.) Once I pressed play, however, my reservations disappeared.

A fan of the Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat and Black Flag the bare-chested aggression of hardcore appeals to me, and this band can hold their own in such august company. The sound is raw, persistent, angry, energetic and guttural, and they don’t take themselves too seriously.

What makes Honeys unique though is ‘Loubs’: the historic event when hardcore met haute couture. Of course, being a devoted foot fetishist, willing to prostrate myself before any woman in seven-inch, dagger-heeled Christian Louboutins, may have clouded my judgement.

Lyrically this is no Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, but they have something to say, although can struggle to articulate it. Seeing them live would be a far more intense and rewarding experience. If they tour Europe I will be there and you should be too.


Midas Fall: Wilderness (Monotreme Records)

‘Evocative’ and ‘captivating’ are words I imagine Midas Fall would use when describing Wilderness. Everyone else would choose ‘schism’ and ‘derivative’.

Melancholy, plaintive lyrics float above a far too earnest pastiche of Godspeed, but there is absolutely no connection between them, emotionally or musically. A lot of this is due to awful production, when the guitar and piano alternate, which they do regularly, you can almost hear the engineer changing tracks. But the chasm between the two is so deep that you wonder if they’ve ever met before, let alone played together.

This is such a disappointment because the singer is enchanting and strong, with an impressive range, but she needs to find a band that can do it justice.


The Leisure Society: Alone Aboard the Ark (Full Time Hobby)

If this kind of mawkish, insipid, banal offering has a time and place it is a village fête or tea dance between the wars. Sentimental for an England which never existed, apart from in misinterpreted poems by William Blake and the turgid prose of HE Bates, this sort of fare will go down well with serial sentimentalists currently exiled on the Costa del Sol.

If you encounter them wistfully meandering down an English country lane in their horse-drawn, PVC Reading wagon, replete with oh-so-witty gilt cupids adorning the eaves, drive past them at speed and join me at my caravan parked in the next lay-by. I’ve procured a couple of lurchers and a jug of poteen. We can go coursing and sing songs from the old country.

The Wurzels are far more authentic and amusing, and at least they have mastered humorous techniques beyond mediocre malapropisms. ‘Cabriolet’ not ‘cabaret? Must try harder! Yet, I could forgive all of that, but putting ‘Side A’ and ‘Side B’ on a CD cover must be avenged. Now where did I put my bow of burning gold and my arrows of desire?


Doldrums: Lesser Evil (Souterrain Transmissions)

Interesting rhythms, electronic flourishes that draw you in without dominating, acoustic soundscapes that stay the right side of experimental, and good old-fashioned indie are combined to create an emotive, deeply-layered coherent whole. One that is complement perfectly by sublime vocals redolent of eighties German synthpop. Gretel has eaten her brother, moved in with the witch and installed some serious sound equipment.

The attenuation and distortion sometimes becomes annoying and there is a danger they may drift into the arena of the pretentious, titles like ‘Golden Calf’ and ‘Holographic Sand Castles’ don’t augur well, but if they avoid this then I have high hopes.


Velvet Changes, Dog Bite (Carpark Records)

Firstly I’d scream ‘Stop mumbling boy’ at the vocalist, and then phone Crimewatch because there is a gang of thieves abroad.

Everything about this is clichéd and plagiarised. Does ‘Prettiest Pills’ remind anyone of another song title perchance? If it wasn’t so blatant it would be fun trying to name all the stolen riffs, tunes and lyrics.

This is indie pick-and-mix at its worst: let’s take a bit of Blur, a soupçon of Stone Roses, a piece of Pulp and see what it sounds like. You don’t need to break into the band’s flats to tell you what CDs are in their collections.

There are tribute acts out there that sound less like the originals they ape than these charlatans. Never, since Liam Gallagher saw Ian Brown and decided that’s who he wanted