New Monday

Sasami is an American musician who used to play synth in Cherry Glazerr before going solo. Her self-titled debut album is a collection of ethereal songs decorated with skeletal guitars and synths for a gorgeous and lightly Shoegazey sound.


Ranking Full Stop

Well this has been a shitty week. First we lost Scott Walker, and now Ranking Roger has joined the great band in the sky too. The Beat were such an underrated band, despite having a bunch of hits and being consistently great over three albums they seemed to be a little in the shadow of The Specials and Madness. But they were just as good as them — often better — and Roger was such a big part of their appeal, adding flavour and spice to their punky-reggae stew.

My favourite things they did was their 12″ singles where they stretched out into more dubby directions. Like this gem which was on the b-side of “Too Nice To Talk To.”

Download: Psychedelic Rockers (Dubweiser) – The Beat (mp3)

My Favourite Year

Originally published September 2013

If you’re a reader of David Hepworth’s excellent blog (2019 update: or read his also excellent book) you’ll know that he considers 1971 to be the best-ever year for rock albums. He’s beating that drum again by listing the albums that would have been on the Mercury Prize shortlist (albums released by UK and Irish acts) if they’d had one that year.

A very impressive list it is too (if you can ignore the presence of Yes and Jethro Tull) and in response I offer what would have been on the Mercury Prize shortlist in 1979. I’m leaving off some out of personal preference (The Fall, not my cup of tea) and I’m sure there are others missing that will be pointed out in the comments.

Metal Box – Public Image Ltd.
Unknown Pleasures – Joy Division
London Calling – The Clash
Entertainment! – Gang Of Four
Armed Forces – Elvis Costello & The Attractions
154 – Wire
The Raincoats – The Raincoats
Squeezing Out Sparks – Graham Parker
The Specials – The Specials
Forces Of Victory – Linton Kwesi Johnson
The Undertones – The Undertones
Setting Sons – The Jam
Drums & Wires – XTC
Cut – The Slits
Broken English – Marianne Faithful

Not that I want to start a generational war or anything, but: Eat that 1971!

I was 17 in 1979 so obviously I have a sentimental dog in this race but I think it wins this one by several noses. Not only is that a list of great records, many of them are great records which had a huge and lasting impact on rock music. 1979 looks even better when you see the NME albums and singles of the year.

Was it a better year than 1971 overall? We could argue about that until the cows come home but that’s what we like doing best isn’t it? Having completely pointless arguments about things that can never be proved one way or the other.

Download: Careering – Public Image Limited (mp3)
Download: Discovering Japan – Graham Parker (mp3)
Download: Sonny’s Lettah – Linton Kwesi Johnson (mp3)
Download: No Side To Fall In – The Raincoats (mp3)

New Monday

Nilüfer Yanya is a 21-year-old Londoner who got some notice with her first few singles and EPs and that has now become a very loud buzz with the release of her debut album Miss Universe.

Quite rightly too, because it’s a terrific record: a dazzling brew of fuzzy indie rock, sultry R&B, and Amy Winehouse-esque Jazz-Pop. She’s also a great guitar player and has a fabulous, smoky voice. Buy!

My London

Originally published March 2014

“The Greater London Council is responsible for a sprawl shaped like a rugby ball about twenty five miles long and twenty miles wide; my city is a concise kidney-shaped patch within that space, in which no point is no more than about seven miles from any other. On the south it is bounded by the river, on the north by the fat tongue of Hampstead Heath and Highgate Village, on the west by Brompton Cemetery and on the east by Liverpool Street station. I hardly ever trespass beyond those limits, and when I do I feel like I’m in foreign territory…It is the visitor who goes everywhere; to the resident, a river or railway track, even if it is bridged every few hundred yards, may be as absolute a boundary as a snakepit or ocean.”
Jonathan Raban, Soft City (1974)

A bloke at work asked me recently if I’d been to Abbey Road to see the famous zebra crossing and was really shocked when I said I hadn’t. He assumed that, being a Londoner, I must have.

Besides the fact that I would never act like a sight-seeing tourist in the city I grew up in*, Abbey Road is in NW8 which might as well be Mars to this boy from Fulham SW6 who rarely ventured to the north of the city. To me, Camden was a foreign land I only ever visited to go to the Electric Ballroom. My London — the city I knew well and was comfortable in — was bordered on the north by the Westway, went about as far east as Holborn, out west to Hammersmith, from there south of the river to Barnes, and then on that side of the Thames east to Putney.

If it was a Tube map it would look like this:

Though I have lived and worked in some of them at various times, the areas beyond these borders might as well have a Here Be Dragons sign on them – or at least Here Be Media Luvvies (North London) and Here Be Pub Fights (SE London) — for all I know about them, or care to. Visiting friends who lived outside my comfort zone I often didn’t feel like I was still in London even though the A-Z said I was — I mean, where the bloody hell is Stoke Newington? It’s doubly uncomfortable feeling like a stranger in your own home city, and you don’t ever want the shame of someone thinking you’re a tourist or out-of-towner by asking for directions or looking at a map.

Every Londoner will have their own version of the city like this (just as there are New Yorkers who never go uptown or downtown) because it’s just too big for one person to feel at home everywhere. I remember several times falling asleep drunk on a night bus and waking up in unfamiliar territory near the end of the route. You quickly get off the bus in a panic — where the fuck am I? — and start walking (or staggering) back in what you think is the right direction. Then, in the distance, you see a building or road that you know and immediately your spirit lifts and your pace quickens. You’ve crossed the border into your London and everything is going to be all right.

Download: London Town – Light of The World (mp3)

*I have also never been inside Westminster Abbey or The Tower of London.

The Pictures On My Wall

I’m not actually sure if I ever had my own copy of this poster but if not I would have been about the only Lefty student in the 1980s who didn’t. It must have been hanging on the wall of every bedroom I slept in or living room I partied in during my art school days, and is as iconic a symbol of its era as the Tennis Girl poster — just the thing to have on the wall of your student digs when you brought a girl home to listen to your Smiths’ records because it showed that you were into politics but had a sense of humour too.

Amusing though it was, it did reflect a real anxiety that Ronnie Reagan was crazy/stupid enough to start a nuclear war – limited to Europe of course — and that Maggie, his ideological girlfriend, was too turned on by the size of his missiles. This feeling wasn’t just reflected on student bedroom walls either as the possibility of nuclear holocaust was all over popular culture at the time. There was When The Wind Blows in book shops, Two Tribes in the pop charts, and Whoops Apocalypse on the telly along with the still-nightmarish Threads. We were hardly reassured by the government’s Protect and Survive booklet either.

Apparently, before it became a poster this image originally appeared in the Socialist Worker newspaper which surprises me because I had a mate in the SWP at the time and they didn’t seem to have much of a sense of humour.

Download: (Don’t Let Your Love) Start A War – The Pale Fountains (12″ version) (mp3)

Make Mine Marvel

Originally published May 2011

One Saturday afternoon in 1972 my mum came back from the shops with a comic she’d bought for me: the first issue of The Mighty World of Marvel. This was a weekly that reprinted the early (movie-length!) adventures of The Hulk, The Fantastic Four, and Spiderman in glorious two-colour, bringing real American superheroes to us deprived English kids if not exactly for the first time, at least the first time properly by Marvel themselves. It was so popular that it soon spawned a whole family of other Marvel UK reprint titles like Spiderman Comics Weekly, The Avengers, The Titans, and eventually our very own superhero Captain Britain (who was a bit crap really).

Until then my comics reading had consisted of cheeky English funnies like The Beezer, Cor!!, and Whizzer and Chips (I was a Chip-ite, and my sister a Whizz Kid) but these swinging and clobberin’ superheroes seemed far more exciting to 10-year-old me than Colonel Blink and The Bash Street Kids and I pretty much gave up all those and started getting the Marvel UK titles every week.

The character that seriously grabbed me was Spiderman whose alter ego Peter Parker was a bit of a loser despite his super powers: his family was poor, he was shy and hopeless around girls, and he was often picked on at school (mostly by that twat Flash Thompson) — just like me! In British comics, on the other hand, it was the bully or the bad kid who was usually the hero and the weedy, bookish kid was the figure of fun who was laughed at, kicked in the shorts, or shot at with a pea shooter.

I never wanted to be Dennis The Menace (who now seems like a bit of an arsehole, a thug with a nasty dog) but I really wanted to be Spiderman and would daydream about having his super powers so I could beat up whatever knuckle-headed bully was picking on me at school at the time. I got quite emotionally invested in Peter Parker’s personal life too and, I have to admit, I cried when his girlfriend Gwen Stacy was killed. I think I was more upset by that than I was by Ian Curtis dying a few years later.

Back then we had to get our Marvel fix through these reprints because actual American comics were hard to come by at your local newsagent. Every now and then my mum would see one and bring it home for me and I felt like I had come into possession of some precious, rare document from another world. For a start they were in colour (or “color”) and they were full of ads for exotic things like X-Ray Glasses, Sea Monkeys, a newspaper called Grit, and all kinds of other strange curiosities — even your own nuclear submarine! — what an amazing place America was!

Then I discovered the legendary Soho book and comic shop Dark They Were And Golden Eyed and, when that closed, the original Forbidden Planet shop on Denmark Street, so I was able to stop buying the reprints and get the real thing — which I bought lots and lots of every month, especially Daredevil and The X-Men which were going through classic runs in the late 70s and early 80s. Both places had a similar atmosphere to a record shop (where I was also spending a lot of money at the time), being like secret boy’s clubs with their own cliques and mythologies, and needless to say there are a lot of similarities between comic and music fandom: both are overwhelmingly the province of obsessive young males with insufferably smug opinions, a love of arcane trivia, and difficulty with the opposite sex (though there may be rather more virgins in the comics world).

I eventually stopped reading comics sometime in the mid-1980s, the last one I bought regularly was Love & Rockets which wasn’t a superhero comic at all, but even so-called “adult” ones like that weren’t doing it for me anymore and frankly started to seem a bit pointless — if I was going to read something “adult” why not just read a novel? It might be simplistic to say I grew out of them but I think that’s basically it, it’s the same reason I stopped listening to gloomy post-punk. I sold my comic collection in the 1990s which got me a lot more money than the records I also sold at the time (those Daredevils and X-Men had become quite valuable) and haven’t had the urge to pick up once since.

I’ve actually been into a few comic shops recently for the first time in nearly 20 years because my daughter developed a love for Wonder Woman through watching the old TV series, but I have a hard time finding one suitable for her as they’re all so relentlessly dark and violent now (and expensive — $2.99!) with none of the Pop-Art fun they used to have — even a Supergirl I looked at was as bloody as a Tarantino movie. Personally I think it’s all Alan Moore and Frank Miller’s fault, ever since Watchmen and The Dark Knight they’re all trying way too hard to be grown-up and gritty but to me they seem even more juvenile as a result — only adolescents take themselves that seriously.

Download: Comic Strip – Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot (mp3)

2019 Update: I am actually reading more comics now thanks to my kids, but I’m still a Marvel kid.