What I Sight When I Cycle: Hearings, Impediments and Localised Villainy

By Angus C.Rolland

“Equanimity, when confined to the fundamentals of A to B, is a concept attainable.” (A. Rolland, 2021)

I know you’ve heard it too; that passing racket from a particular cyclist, portable radio in-basket, roaming about the pave-ways projecting their track-list of choice to all about, atypical to what you would expect to hear. An example, eh… A fellow there was, well over a year ago, possibly 2, gliding (specifically) through Northern Quarter, blasting out a track by (abrupt interlude)… Rheingold, huh? A Neue Deutsche Welle group of all things, yes (Lionel Hutz nodding)… hardly what you might define as a general listen to help breeze the peddling… 

(Q) So, randomly selected or a conscientious choice, hmm?

  1. He didn’t seem the type for it, in comparison to the past-dwelling retrospectives you would normally associate with stated genre; content in mispronouncing the Teutonic-tongue, purchasing sort-after vinyl to use only as informal wallpaper and tending to plants (they own) with an overdose of H2O, the final spite towards the dreaded expense of botanical cultivation. 

The light is fading, yet the cries of battle ring out to startle the non-conflicted. And by that I mean circling the Gardens of Piccadilly while listening in on a brawl, unscripted and bloody. Shout, right-hook, kick, eye-gouge… you name it, ‘tis in the manual. But what of the consequences? I couldn’t just stroll up to a policeman and say: 

What’s the happening plankton, there’s a fly-chasin’ geezer with implement! Your prompt intervention would do them benefit…” 

To utter such a thing, I’d more than likely see the darkened confines of a cell than an instigation of help for a fellow citizen. After all, what an in-uniform does for them-self amounts to lonesome preservation; a distant hope of a badge shining and the casual acceptance of things being dropped gently into their unbuttoned pocket, all expenses tethered. Conversely, if I cycled into the fray with my bike-lock chain (unlocked) and swung it around as though a mace, what percussive samples could be sourced from the scattering of their teeth? Well, their diction would be lacking, that’s for sure.          

If I may elaborate on the final part of the title (see above): soaring volumes and the clash of stubble-d ruffians… at this point, now irrelevant. Instead, I’m drawn into the side-road-rage of shout and retort, (sighs) the perennial tick-tac-toe. You know, the idiot walking into the cycle lane oblivious to that incoming front-wheel, or the accidental crashing into of a deliveryman (the idiot reversal?), scowling as he checks that his pizzas’ sense of shape isn’t something the late Salvador Dali would have had in mind for a sculpture, culinary in focus. REDAMBERGREEN… and… Vroom! Cars man, those motorised coffins sure make for a roadside contemporary I’d really… rather not encounter, however encounter… I do. The choice of stations on their ‘built-in’ stereos, in conjunction with vehicular “features” like open windows, is ever an undelight… and honestly, a missed opportunity. 

*BBC Radi…* (Static)… “Uh oh…” (notices something’s wrong) *CAPITAL F…* (Static) “Stop, stop… cut TRANSMISSION!” (peddling intensifies)… *Smooooooooooooth Radio*… (look of resignation) “too late…” I sympathise in a way; a non-digital setup’s variety isn’t particularly outstanding, aye. The process of driving, with its entailments of sign-posted iconography and surveillanced ‘courtesies’… a regimented bore, no? Gated reverb, a hypnotic wonder and indeed a temptation, that much is true… but Smooth fucking Radio? Couldn’t you have just rode in silence like a good little sport, perhaps humming to a frequency only bats can hear as you lament your journey toward the 9 to 5? JUST WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE!? Aside from the wanton anguish you inflict on the passengers within (that heap of welded tin!), you’re also putting yourself at risk, since… if I had another chain to spare, I’d be sure to give it a swing!

Dearly Missed: The Cheese of a Cracking Night Out…

© Dexy’s Midnight Runners

By Emily Read

I miss shit nights out. Now I know this is a bold claim, and no, I don’t just miss being hammered. Alcohol certainly helps ease the evening along when the tunes aren’t to your taste, but I don’t think that’s the driving force behind appreciating them. Since the pubs opened on the 12th April it’s been great to have a big one at the pub, but as I sat there with my mates I couldn’t help missing the sensation of being in a crowded, crappy club with cheesy hits blasting in my ears. Still need convincing? I’ll talk you through the stages of a basic night out, all the way from loathing to loving. 

Stage 1: Disbelief. I think everyone has their trigger song that kicks off this stage. Mine is ‘Come on Eileen’, a song I personally believe is a strong contender for the worst audio recording of the 20th century. Anyway, I could write a whole article about that, so let’s not get sidetracked. In the middle of the crowded dance floor, your trigger song comes on, and all you can do is stand there in awe as you foresee the night degenerating before your eyes. “I can’t fucking believe this”, you think to yourself, “the one song I didn’t need them to play was this, and now it’s on”. There you stand, helpless, as your mates drunkenly wiggle to the anthem of your waking nightmare. 

Stage 2: Anger. The shock is over, now it’s time to start thinking of all the other places you could be instead. You reel through all of the cooler clubs that you could be in, all of the missed Skiddle tickets and unbooked Ubers that could’ve brought you to a dodgy industrial estate, to enter a warehouse full of overpriced Red Stripe and that specific subgenre of techno that makes you look interesting if it’s on your playlist. That’s what I should be doing, you say to yourself furiously, instead here I am listening to Since U Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson and watching my mate get off with the person they swore they never, ever would ever again. What a wasted opportunity. 

Stage 3: Acceptance. Well, you’re not in the warehouse, so you might as well make the most of things. It’s at this point you realise not all is lost, that you can in fact have a good time listening to music that you don’t love. Nights out aren’t all about the tunes, they’re about being with your mates and having fun, you remind yourself. Let’s face it, you actually kind of like ‘Hips Don’t Lie’. And why wouldn’t you? It’s a banger. 

Stage 4: Joy. That was an understatement- you LOVE ‘Hips Don’t Lie’, and you couldn’t care less if that makes you embarrassing. Everyone seems to be having a really great time, no one’s trying too hard to look cool- in fact the exact opposite is happening. It hits you that you’re having a better time right now in this grimey club than you’ve had at ticketed events, and that’s because nothing quite brings people together as much as a collective cringe. Bad music and bad dancing make us do something that we often aren’t allowed to, and that’s to let go and be the most unhinged versions of ourselves we can be. The best bit is – no one cares! This is precisely what you’re expected to do here, embrace the cringe. What’s the worst that could happen? 

YOU GOT GOOD TASTE! The Very Best of The Cramps’ Album/Single Covers

By Neve Robinson

Good lord, I love the Cramps (like any respectable Bad Girl Should). They’re hyper-sexualised, no holds barred, grimy punk perfection. Shit loads of leopard print, shit loads of leather, shit loads of stillettos. Endearingly sleazy. To love the Cramps is to celebrate one’s own filth in all its grungy glory. And what better way to pay tribute to the kings and queen of camp than to traverse through their endless library of excellent album covers? Featuring predominantly the blisteringly beautiful Poison Ivy herself, these covers are some of the most iconic of their genre, and epitomize everything the Cramps are about. Here are ten of their best album or single artworks, from the bootleg to the bikini-clad girls with machine guns in hand…

10 THE CRAMPS / BOOTLEG ALBUM: TALES FROM THE CRAMPS / 1977-79

This comic book-esque cover for an amalgamation of their earlier works is a belter. The muted colour palette and art are reminiscent of slightly later punk album cover artists like Raymond Pettibon, who did the Sonic Youth Goo cover and some of the Black Flag covers. I also really enjoy the idea of them knocking around a graveyard with a fuck-off spotty guitar. BIG fan.

9. SMELL OF FEMALE

This is definitely one of their most iconic covers, and I absolutely love the seedy sex show vibes – not to mention those to-die-for crushed velvet scarlet gloves. My only qualm, and completely unintentionally so I’m sure, is that it reminds me far too much of that XXX sex shop that got knocked down recently on Tib Street, Manchester. Perhaps brings down the immersion of a late seventies sextravaganza of the cover when I’m just thinking of a drunken urination spot in NQ.

8. LOOK MOM NO HEAD!

What a name, what an album. Iggy Pop’s feature on Miniskirt Blues makes this a record you can’t forget. Set in a sinister house of mirrors, we get multiple Ivys necking multiple wines. You love to see it, really. It’s a little less sleazy than some of their other covers though, and I like a bit of filth in my punk single/album art. Maybe if she had a weapon or a bikini of sorts it would be a bit campier and more appealing to me. I’m easy to please (or sleaze).

7. WHAT’S INSIDE A GIRL?

The single cover to What’s Inside A Girl? really shows us, erm, well, what’s inside a girl. Lux’s x-ray eyes gives us a cracking view of Ivy’s pelvis, something I’ve always wanted to take a gander at. All jokes a side, while it’s a pretty paint-by-numbers cover, I do like the campiness. I can see this being a pretty cool advert on a billboard, you know? Or maybe in a doctor’s office…

6. FIENDS OF DOPE ISLAND

Their final album bears a cracking cover. Lux looks like a sort of Nosferatu character – incredibly intimidating and yet undeniably sexy, I shan’t lie. I’d love a black vinyl pressing of this record, it looks like it’s been fished out of the Black Lagoon. I really think it is emblematic of that gothic side that the Cramps capitalised on in their later years, and reminiscent of old horror films of yore. Big into it.

5. DATE WITH ELVIS

Oh, yes. Now we are talking. Probably their most iconic album, A Date With Elvis gives us the most 70s pornography-feel cover of the bunch, really. It looks straight off the back of a seedy VHS found in the 18+ section of the local offy, and I love that. The satin background makes me want to reach out and stroke it. Satanic symbolism never looked so sexy!

4. FLAMEJOB

A nineties record, Flamejob is by no means their best work, even it is rather impressively produced by Interior and Ivy themselves. However, the impressiveness of this cover is undeniable. A sleek all-PVC number with killer stillettos and flamethrower? The polished power of this stance sticks in the mind, that’s exactly what you need from album art, surely – even if Mean Machine is one of the only tracks really worth a damn on it.

3. STAY SICK!

Have you ever seen a sexier cover? It’s raw, it’s animalistic, it’s sexually perverse and SICK!!! The zebra print really makes this record pop and amps up the camp. Ivy’s hair style is particularly fabulous in that this is arguably their most psychobilly record (even featuring a cover of Elvis’ Jailhouse Rock), and she has the 50’s rockabilly pinup girl hair down to a T. 12/10.

2. CAN YOUR PUSSY DO THE DOG?

Well? Can it? One of the sexiest songs by The Cramps surely deserves one of their sexiest covers, and Can Your Pussy Do The Dog? does not disappoint. The illustrations are almost cave paintings and primal, which more than fits our tiger girl and her incredible striped suit. I would KILL for an outfit like this, seriously. The colours are completely clashing and yet somehow completely work. Here kitty kitty, you better move along…

1. BIKINI GIRLS WITH MACHINE GUNS

Ah yes, the magnum opus of Cramps covers. Truly a sight to behold. It has everything one could want from a punk record’s cover really – a badass woman wearing a badass sequin bikini with a badass machine gun in hand. And don’t even get me started on that lush wallpaper. If they sold this in B&Q, that would be well plastered in my living room let me tell you. From the beloved aforementioned Stay Sick, this single cover more than packs a punch and does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s bold, it’s beautiful, it’s bloody cool. I don’t need to say much more on the matter other than that I am simply desperate to be this woman. The Cramps forever and ever, man.

We Can Work From Home: TRACKS FOR THE WORK FROM HOME GENERATION

 © Jon Hopkins

By Oliver Hockings

Whether you’re crunching numbers from a cluttered office in a crowded apartment outside London, or burning the midnight oil from a dingy student bedroom, self-motivation has never been more taxing for the stay-at-home generation. If you’ve found yourself struggling to maintain focus or needing a kick into productive action, this list may have what you’ve been seeking. I’ve compiled tracks ranging from contemporary classical, through ambient, to the left-field corners of electronic music that have helped me through this difficult period when a black coffee and an impending deadline just isn’t cutting it! 

1. ‘Scene Suspended’ – Jon Hopkins

I first came across Jon Hopkins’ work on realising his role in coproducing much of Coldplay’s early albums (give ‘Light Through the Veins’ a spin if you need convincing!) and his close ties with Brian Eno. A personal favourite artist of mine from my years of discovering new music, Hopkins has, in my view, an unrivalled ability to blend truly beautiful classical melodies with hard-hitting and transcendental techno. His new ‘Polarity’ tour of opera houses across Europe, is a masterful demonstration of this ability to weave the seemingly paradoxical genres together and was the last gig I managed to catch before the pandemic called time on live music. ‘Scene Suspended’ is one of Hopkins more recent productions, firmly on the classical end of the spectrum and a perfect soundtrack when clarity of mind and focus is what you’re after. 

For fans of: Brian Eno, Biosphere

2. ‘Everything You Do Is A Balloon’ – Boards of Canada

You could do far worse than sticking any Boards of Canada album on shuffle if you’re in need of a late night grind at the desktop. I’ve opted however for one of the brother’s earliest tracks, from their 1996 EP ‘Hi Scores’ that I feel captures both a love of the vintage analogue synthesizer sound and catchy trip-hop beats. The EP as a whole perfectly represents the stripped back, lo-fi sound the duo have crafted over the years and is the perfect soundtrack for those more reflective moments of concentration.

For fans of: Autechre, The Future Sound of London

3. ‘Recovery’ – Rival Consoles

Leicester-born producer Ryan Lee West (Rival Consoles) has been a staple on the London-based Erased Tapes record label with a repertoire ranging from complex IDM and glitch, to harder club-orientated tracks. I first heard ‘Recovery’ played in a Boiler Room set from Italian electronic duo Mind Against back in 2015 when the track first released and I’ve not tired of it since. Expect an emotional backdrop of eerie synths accompanied by an erratic yet melancholy lead and a powerful yet subtle drum arrangement. This track is brain food at its finest!

For fans of: Kiasmos, Max Cooper 

4. ‘Styge’ (Ochre Remix) – Ed Chamberlain

The track that immediately springs to mind under the ‘braindance’ genre (if that’s not too pretentious a category), ‘Styge’ is an electro-infused composition that really encapsulates intelligent dance music. Dug up from the depths of the underground and given a delicate remix from Ochre, this 2008 version features the same warping ambience and complex drum patterns of the original, but the melody is complemented by a harp rhythm which gives the track a tranquil and relaxing tone overall. A fitting demonstration of how electronic music can be shaped for different environments and a must-have on your focus playlist.

For fans of: Four Tet, Skee Mask 

5. ‘Negative Returns’ (Four Tet Remix) – Krust 

Upping the tempo somewhat, Kieran Hebden’s (Four Tet) recent take on Kirk George Thompson’s ‘Negative Returns’ is exactly what you’d expect from the former artist. This remix is completely new territory for Hebden who has produced extensively but never released a remix in the 170+bpm range. Unsurprisingly however, for those familiar with Four Tet’s discography, the track is rearranged and mastered beautifully. It strips back the aggression and ‘noise’ of the original and leaves a delicate and floating liquid d’n’b track which hits those frequencies that really allow you to tune into what you’re doing. Expect emotional and ethereal synths paired with the sample selections we know and love, as well as something a little bit new when it comes to the drums. 

For fans of: Floating Points, Calibre

6. ‘Lone Swordsman’ – Daniel Avery

A favourite selection on Mary Anne Hobbs’ BBC Radio 6 morning slot, ‘Lone Swordsman’ is a track from Daniel Avery’s ‘Dusting for Smoke’ EP released on Phantasy records last year. Avery’s track has a simple and contemplative feel befitting of its purpose as a homage to the late Andrew Weatherall, a true musical pioneer in acid house, rock and beyond. The lead melody is dainty and catchy and the accompaniment from the synth chords and drums is understated and yet exactly what this track demands. A real winner from an artist who continues to impress.

For fans of: Avalon Emerson, Leon Vynehall

7. ‘Love’ – Ben Lukas Boysen

Renown for crafting mesmerising soundscapes that owe much to an early mastering of sampling techniques, Boysen has made his name in sound design working alongside major clients in the advertising, film and gaming industry. This track from his 2020 release ‘Mirage’, available from Erased Tapes records, is a showcase of an exciting genre of avant-garde, experimental electronic music that draws on classical influences. It features a slow and emotional build-up of arpeggiated synths set to the backdrop of a string section reminiscent of a Nils Frahm production. Definitely one of the more dramatic tracks to feature on this list but one that captures an intricate genre that’s worth considering if you’ve always thought classical meant little more than Beethoven’s sixth symphony!

For fans of: Nils Frahm, Rival Consoles, Plaid

8. ‘Fundamental Values’ – Nils Frahm

To wrap up this list we come to an artist who’s love of the black and white keys and modern twist on classical music has earned him global critical acclaim. While working with a true arsenal of equipment and scaling up to full blown orchestras in his live performances, Frahm’s compositions centre on a real appreciation and command of the piano. ‘Fundamental Values’ takes the listener on a mesmerising 14 minute journey. It begins with spritely, delayed synth patterns and slightly eerie chords before the piano comes in. The track is a testimony to Frahm’s ability to marry electronic minimalism and looping techniques with a dynamic and free flowing grand piano lead. The track slowly gathers momentum and drama as Frahm introduces and manipulates backing vocals before it enters its final phase in the last four minutes with high feedback on the synths and rapid percussive elements. A true masterclass in the ‘not quite classical’ bracket! 

For fans of: Jon Hopkins, Hans Zimmer

While these tracks may not be a definitive, catch-all solution to getting stuff done, hopefully they serve as a starting point for those unfamiliar with an interesting and burgeoning genre exploring the intersection between electronic music and new classical. Whether they end up being used as a backing playlist to work or study to, or simply tracks to look out the window and ponder the meaning of life at 2am is entirely up to you! 

LIVE REVIEW – VENUE – DATE

By Angus C. Rolland

Oi! Did you see the drink token on the ground? Did you? Did… you? Well??? Good, you’ll need it. The quartet we are seeing, or outfit as I will come to overuse throughout, BOAST influences stretching from the disparate corners of both proto and… post, with a sound so indie… it will compel you to go full circle and undergo a frontal lobotomy… for real autonomy is but a shroud.

Reach for the clogs, but don’t TAKETH THESE POGS!” Kudos, kudos… certainly some witty lyrics from the aforementioned outfit right there, which I will now refer to as lyricism. I mean, tacking on a suffix or two just makes everything better DOESISH IT NOTISM? Like gifting a 10 pound note-superimposed rubber to a homeless person… camera at the ready! Let’s hope the flash doesn’t make his retinas glow… for that would spoil my op, warrant a mop (upon seeing the jaundice prevalent), and thereby render the whole thing a… box-office flop?

Actually, that was boring… recall the token? Well, time to put it to use, after all, only a Stanley Standard would queue up to buy a pint full-price, wasting what little dosh they… and probably you have, unlike I. What is it you’ve chosen? A Newcastle Brown Ale, is it not? A quench repulsive, you’d agree?A Salford Quay swig it is! *Smashes the glass on the ground* You ought to try Thatchers, it replicates the taste of Devon just enough for you to (genuinely) believe you’re a peak-cap certifiable! And accent wise, non-rhotic galore! Wowee, the outfit’s lyricism strikes once more unto, “Fuck this infernal crisp, for now I have… THE ETERNAL LISP!” clearly, the syntactical nuances of Anglo-Saxon are strong with this one; I’d wager 2:1 in Lit, 79% ENTJ and a gold star for P.K.Q (Pub Knowledge Questioning)… defferinos, for I do so believe…

Oh no! It looks like someone split their head open on the rafters while crowd surfing, ouchy. Now then, back to your drink of choice. Why, oh why… the Weiss Sturm, over the sacramental K, good sir? Sheet metals are hazardous to the sole, desecrate the greenery (like our Platt Fields) and makes you look like the non-toothed tramp we earlier encountered. By comparison; K is an offering smooth on the grip, caustic on the cracked-o-lip, elevates your social standing in the smoking area to about the rank of ‘hip’, and… In terms of the red-on-black branding… you can plonk it on top of your wardrobe as though a trophy, making your room, as they say: less a tip. Aho, the sonic-outfit-extraordinaire(s) have yet more food-for-thought to offer, “If I happened to be in possession of an accom FOB, I’d be sure to give it a hefty LOB, at that ersatz journo KNOB, known to most as Prince… JOHN ROBB!” Rivets and bolts man, rivets and bolts! Whether evoking the LYRICISM of the late Tom Weights or simply a cough from the Clever Clarence influenza… it matters not, the deified OUTFIT have cracked the code on this vault and placed the lid (right) on the genie, just as the horoscope prophesied!!!! If only a PR budget, un-prohibitive, were theirs to spend… Hey, let’s go backstage and steal shit from their rider!

Music Video Review: Jarring visuals and edgy lyricism: Legss put forward their first offering of 2021

© Legss, 2021

By Lana Williams

London’s up-and-coming alt-rock quartet, Legss, are Ned Green (Vocals), Max Oliver (Guitar), Jake Martin (Bass) and Louis Grace (Drums). The post-punk experimenters are two EP’s deep and are set to release accompanying visuals for the title track of their sophomore offering. Directed by the band and Luke Kulukundis and filmed by Rory Edmonds and Mollie Gallagher, the video is set to be an exciting accomplishment, adding to their resume of delightful musical creations.

Ambitious, ageless and authentic, ‘Doomswayers’ takes us on an alt-rock sonic journey through London, following a poignant protagonist with utter potency and incredibly ability. The lyrics and unwavering vocals exacerbate the dark side of post-punk with a certain edge that takes their music to a next level.

Speaking on the video, frontman Ned Green informs: “The video for Doomswayers is the concluding statement from our EP. A sprawling, epic, emotionally-charged, scatty, nauseating, vitriolic visual accompaniment, set in a 17th Century, modern, time-warped LondWinium-by-Sea, to a three-part throwaway Violin Concerto in D Major, found in a tip and then transcribed into the six-minute title-track EP-closer that you can all love, listen, and now watch today.” 

Doomswayers’ is teeming with jagged riffs and tongue-in-cheek lyrics that tackle themes of modern-day urban life of crowded streets and intense volatility that come along with the 21st century. The opening monologue sets the scene for razor-sharped observations and critical orations that is present throughout. The track lends a unique view into the inner workings of a bustling city, dark undertones and volatility alike.

Legss have the mesmerising ability to produce off-kilter tracks which is blindingly brilliant, they’re poets that just happen to have a penchant for searing instrumentation.

Legss are set to support the eccentric Pom Poko on their upcoming tour: HOME | pom poko.

Listen to their single here.

Falling Head Over Feet (All Over Again): ‘Jagged Little Pill’ And Her Hold On Me

 © Alanis Morrisette, 1995

By Neve Robinson

Warning: This is by no means a ‘professional’ article. It reads more like a personal essay. Die-hard avid Alanis fanclub members, please do tolerate my ramblings, there are some glimmers of Ms Morrissette in here, and not just my diary, honestly…

Recently, I revisited an album that I hadn’t listened to in eons. Do you ever have a record that you once played cover to cover, and you just one day abandoned, never really to be returned to again? Musical maturity seems to dictate that we don’t return to old favourites, that we seek the new, bold and exciting. This of course is completely fine – it’s what we’re all about on this blog, of course. But the nostalgia that ensued from my sitting down and relistening to this record in full was more blissful than even the most sparkling epiphany one experiences at new discoveries. The moment that I shuffled this on Spotify and let it flood gratefully into my auditory nerves, illuminating my ear canals with glorious rainbows and celestial seas…God, I’m even drifting off dreamily into this sentence as Mary Jane plays from my battered soundsystem. I can’t even tell you the incredible contentedness that en-swathed me. I had, within about ten minutes, opened up Ebay, purchased a vinyl copy of this record, and in another tab opened up Google Docs to pen this very article you are currently privy to. The sense of urgency that this rediscovery inspired in me was remarkable. I suppose it is because it is an album that is nothing short of remarkable. This is an album that resonated with me in my youth. An album that, at that juncture of my life, seemed to mainly appeal to my general teenage angst, but upon relisten has touched me in a totally different. That album is of course, Jagged Little Pill, by the imitable Alanis Morrissette. I’m going to link it below. I want you to shuffle it, or at the very least start from the start. Press play, now. I’m hoping I can express my feelings about this record successfully enough that you will begin to see what I mean.

I was putting together a radio show, a show that focused on the year of 1995 (you can listen to it here, for contextual purposes in relation to this article and not for reasons of self-promotion, of course). Having to favour the cleaner-cut side of ’95, my hip-hop choices were slim to none due to the cursed claws of censorship, and I didn’t want to rely solely on Britpop offerings (I am a musical Mancunian cliche, but not that much, honest). I decided to delve more into alt-rock, and then I had that realisation – of course! Alanis! How could I forget her? She was once a dear companion of mine.

When I was about 14, I went through a slightly difficult part of my life. My friends became sparse and few and far between all of a sudden. I had to work myself out a lot. It’s a strangely formative age, being 14. You’re a teenager, certainly, but not quite old enough to do daring things you’d seen the teenagers in Hollyoaks do. I longed for the normal things all 14 year olds do, really. To be pretty (I struggled with this a lot, I wish I could give little me a big squeeze). To kiss a boy (turns out it’s not all it’s hyped up to be). To have legions of loving mates (this eventually sort of happened, but it took me some time, trust me). I was a lanky emo with braces and cripplingly low self-esteem. I was sweet, though. Naive, but sweet. I was finding figuring myself out a little more difficult than I’d initially anticipated. How did I want to present myself? What kind of people did I want to surround myself with? It’s all well and good having an incredibly loving and supporting family who adore you unconditionally, but trying to navigate high school where nobody has to like you and in fact, not many people do? It’s a whole different ball park. I had a real journey of independence to embark on, and by God, was I going to do it. It was either succumb to shyness and self-doubt, or come out of my shell, and be who I had long-romanticised myself to be. I decided to throw myself into creative endeavours and hope that somehow, the world would maybe start working out in my favour – and that perhaps the girls in the P.E queue for rounders bats would stop kicking the back of my legs and verbally pondering my sexuality. They never quite got it right. I wonder what guess they would hazard now.

Slowly, it worked, and my confidence built up. Though I no longer play and lost interest in the craft with age, I played guitar at this time. I didn’t reckon myself to be very good, but I enjoyed it. My dad taught me bar chords and songs that I liked, while I did scales and boring paint-by-numbers Classical Guitar at school. My guitar teacher at school was a bit dull to say the least, and didn’t really want me to tackle more contemporary stuff. But the one thing he did bring me, the one pivotal album he taught me pretty much in full? Jagged Little Pill. This guy was obsessed with Alanis. I’m talking borderline Stan and Slim Shady level. I’ve been lucky to have had the most fortunate of musical educations and upbringings, and yet I didn’t even know who she was before our lessons. My guitar teacher had a specific songbook for the album, and he lent it to me. I’ve always been one for words. I remember poring over the lyrics, marvelling in how this woman that I hadn’t even known existed was somehow opening my mind to experiences and opinions that I either already had, or would go on to have as I grew. The way that she responded to things that I struggled with intrigued me. She was defiant, she was boisterous, she was angry. Her self-worth and respect are evident throughout the record, not just in the way that men treat her, but in the way that society does. A young woman with such a grasp and perspective on herself was, to a lost young lady such as myself, so revolutionary and a breath of fresh air. I had previously aligned myself with musicians who were wracked with self loathing. I guess that’s the allure of being an emo when you’re that age, a strange sense of community. But Alanis immediately made me want to break away from these negative notions I’d long harboured about myself. Within a month or so, my mum had bought me the CD and I had played it until it was adorned with sparkling scratches. I had officially become entangled in the Canadian songstress’ web, and she had become entangled in mine, without ever knowing.

You know that old chestnut, where people say to [insert fairly run-of-the-mill mediocre musician] – “your music saved me”. I finally understood this sentiment. Sure, it can seem silly, cringe or even trite to the more cynical among us. But if words and melodies inspire you, if they offer you support when you’re a bit lonely and don’t really have the comfort of anything else, and really if they spur you to positively grow and adapt? Well, I don’t think it’s a bad assessment to make at all. I don’t think it’s unrealistic, either. Who are we to criticise someone’s bond and personal connection with an artist, even if nobody else really understands it? It’s a plight I empathise with hugely, because I truly do maintain that this album did save me. I slowly but surely came out of my shell. I think on reflection that school and the strange ideals young women are pressured into from a young age really instilled a strange toxic dislike of other girls in me, almost an ugly resentment of girls that I felt were prettier than me and more popular than me. I didn’t understand that we could all be pretty and popular, duh. It’s not a competition. I also think I maybe associated the validation of having a boyfriend with loving yourself and appreciating your quirks far too much, be this from (again) the influence of wider pop culture or just a socialisation thing. I think what I didn’t understand most of all that really, I didn’t need to fully work out my personality just yet to be happy. Everyone has multiple facets of themselves, some parts you will dislike, and some parts that you will love. It’s all about working out a balance that makes you happy. I think Hand In My Pocket really reinforced that for me –

I’m broke, but I’m happy
I’m poor, but I’m kind
I’m short, but I’m healthy, yeah
I’m high, but I’m grounded
I’m sane, but I’m overwhelmed
I’m lost, but I’m hopeful, baby
.

She acknowledged the good and the bad and accepted all of it and everything in between. Because as she said:

What it all boils down to / is that no one’s really got it figured out just yet.

And that’s exactly it. Why should I, a literal child, have panicked and agonised that I hadn’t worked myself out yet? Why was that a thing? It’s messed up how that’s a thing. Alanis taught me to be care-free, to not worry so much what other people thought of me, and most of all to be happy in myself. That summer, soundtracked by my faithful iPod Nano with JLP loaded onto it, I started to connect with people that really made me feel good about myself. I found a bravery that hadn’t really existed before. It goes hand in hand with a heightened self-worth, that. I made one lovely friend in particular who I would listen to Jagged Little Pill with in her attic, feet against the bedframe with our long tangled hair splayed across the carpet with Ironic blasting. I started acting properly, something I’d always felt too scared to do. And it was the strangest thing. As my confidence blossomed and I started making decisions that were truly for my own self-preservation and not out of fear of fitting in, my jealousy, resentment and bitterness against other girls in my class started to dissipate. That’s the thing about Alanis. Her plight for self-love is never at the expense of others. It’s never about tearing peers or other women down, not even when she’s angry like in You Oughta Know. Her feminism was different to the ‘feminism’ I had prescribed to from young-adult gossip magazines – the “hey, hey, you, you, I don’t like your girlfriend” rhetoric (sorry Avril). With my new found friends and self-assured nature, I slowly stopped being bullied and stopped using music as the heavy, heavy emotional crutch I had used it for in those difficult times. I traded it instead for merely a tool for enjoyment now and then. Alanis was pushed to the back of my memory, and I moved on in my musical journey, eating up new artists and interests with every year that passed. But I never forgot the impact that she had on me, or the way that I saw things at that point in my life. You don’t ever truly forget something like that.

So, fast forward to now. Fast forward to the moment that I sat down, pressed play on JLP and felt a swell in my chest and tears prick at my eyes. God, I sound lame. I’d like to blame this sudden serge of emotion on lockdown, I’d like to blame it on the current difficulties in my personal life and mental health. But really, I think it was more just the shock of it. I’ve been in a slump as of late. Low in self-esteem, low in validation, let down by failed romantic endeavours and friends who frittered away. I’ve almost felt in a similar state to how I did all those years ago, but with more pals, better hair and less eyeliner. To be really honest with you, dear readers, I’m worried that I’m losing my confidence and crumbling away. I don’t feel a particular warmth or love for myself that I possessed as recently as a few weeks ago. That’s the thing with self-love, it fluctuates. And you sometimes need a nudge to get you back on track with it. When I let her words wash over me just now, I heard exactly what I needed to hear. Not The Doctor. It’s strange to have lyrics resonate with you in a completely different way than they did when you first heard them. Alanis wrote this record when she was 20/21 (which in itself is baffling). As a 22 year old young woman, I’m now finding that the lyrics are more relatable than ever. Back when I was 14, I modelled myself on Alanis certainly, but I was yet to experience many of the things that she sings about particularly relationship-wise. But now that I’m at exactly the point that she was at, with many a failed relationship under my belt, I empathise and relate with her lyrics and musings moreso. I use Not The Doctor as a key example of this because it is almost exactly how I would summarise my opinions on recent relationships. There’s a plethora of songs about love and heartbreak out there. But for me, this song is different. This is a song that, were I a gifted Bernie Taupin type, I would write myself now.

I don’t wanna be adored for what I merely represent to you. I often battle with this sensation. That men merely romanticise me, and the moment that they realise that I’m actually just a mess of multiple facets of a personality rather than an idea they disappear.

I don’t wanna be your mother / I didn’t carry you in my womb for nine months. I’ve dated many a man who I have babied, and admittedly lost myself completely in because of this bizarre maternal sense I feel in caring for them.

And I don’t wanna be your other half / I believe that one and one make two. That’s my dilemna now. Trying to rebuild myself without this structure of essentially being ‘part’ of someone else. It’s difficult. It’s weird. I can’t help but feel I shouldn’t even have to relocate myself in the first place.

I could go on analysing all day. I just find it incredible, how so many different feelings and attachments to this record have been inspired in me upon listening with a more mature ear. I understand things I never did. I first listened to this record as a little mouse of a girl. I listen to it now as a strong, self-assured woman going through a rough patch. I feel proud of the journey that Alanis and this album have helped me to embark upon and how far we’ve come together.

Enough about the personal connection, though. Factually speaking, this record is genius. It dabbles in a myriad of genres, spanning post-grunge, alternative rock, folk, indie. Vocally, she more than impresses, with a voice that beggars belief that it is coming out of such a young woman. It’s cohesive, and virtually no track is skippable. She explores addiction, heartbreak, It was nominated for NINE, yes, NINE Grammy Awards. And once again, I reiterate – TWENTY-ONE YEARS OF AGE! I grilled a pizza this evening by putting the oven on the wrong setting. It’s funny how usefully others can utilise their short time on this Earth, isn’t it? It’s even been adapted into a Broadway musical that’s been nominated for FIFTEEN Tony Awards. You don’t need to do the maths. Jagged Little Pill is something special. Her exploration of emotions and truths that she realises throughout the tracks reminds me of the songcraft of artists like Carole King. Her emotional maturity and sensibility helped me and has probably helped countless other little girls in the world. I feel privleged to have had her be so pivotal in my own personal growth. Even young starlets who would grow to be some of the biggest artists in the world felt that inspiration, too – Katy Perry said of the record that “Jagged Little Pill was the most perfect female record ever made.” She said that she related to every track. “They’re still so timeless.” Perry has hit the nail on the head there. Timeless. For a record to have this profound effect on me so many years on confirms one thing clearly to me – this record will always be everpresent in my life. No matter how long I leave her unplayed, she’s something special, and she’ll always be waiting for when I need her.

Alanis Morrissette thank you for your honest lyrics and always being the most wonderful role model. Here’s one thing You Oughta Know – Jagged Little Pill changed my life, babe. I hope you know how many other young girls’ lives you changed too. If I ever have a daughter, this will be the first album I’ll ever play for her, rest assured.


bigfatbig Single Review: A masterclass in powerful indie songwriting, “Don’t Wanna Be Sad” is a bright, punchy exploration on glum existence

© bigfatbig, 2021

By Varun Govil

North-eastern rising indie-heads bigfatbig know how to make a charismatic, endearing track and never has it been more evident than on their latest single. While, truth be told, it has been a while since my jaded pretentious ears have taken to a youthful indie track, it was hard not to be swayed by the charm at display here. On Don’t Wanna Be Sad, the one word three-piece seem to have found all the ingredients necessary to cook up the summer sing-along anthem that even I can relate to: a heavy helping of fat instrumentals, a generous dash of self-assured vocals, and just the right amount of lyrics that hit close to home.

Undeniably, a large part of what makes the tune so iconic has to be the vulnerability at play. From the lyricism and songwriting to the band’s notable performances, you really get the sense that every moment on the track is written and performed to stay true to the band’s experiences. With the tune starting off with a snippet of what seems like a DIY demo, the band show they aren’t afraid to show their true selves, both at their most and least polished. Even once bursting in with the fully fledged track, they manage to retain that sense of confidence in their weaker moments as the lyrics relate the feelings of crushing depression. Forgoing the soft folk-laden voices one might expect for such subject matter, though, bigfatbig instead take the route of massive pop-punk vocals that makes sure every moment feels heavy with purpose. Think Hayley Williams covering a Beach Bunny track and you’ll have bigfatbig.

As the track recounts the struggles of maintaining relationships, the feeling of atrophy when regularly putting off self-care, and the inability to process thoughts when struck with depression, it would make sense that you would leave it feeling cathartic at best, downtrodden at worst . Life, though, is many things and sensible it is not. What Don’t Wanna Be Sad really leaves you feeling is energised, and comforted that you aren’t alone in living with those moments of depression. The warmth and density of the guitars, drums, and background vocals all add up too making it hard to feel anything but upbeat. It’s a strange but effective juxtaposition between the music and the lyrics and one that I wouldn’t trade away for anything. It also helps that there’s the occasional synth solo, and who doesn’t love a bit of synth.

If it isn’t clear by now I want you to listen to this track and I’m not sure how else to convince you because I feel like I’ve taken a lot of words to say what really only needed two sentences in the first place: bigfatbig rip and you should go check em out. Get that punchy catharsis and don’t look back!  

bigfatbig’s music is available to stream everywhere you would expect. You can follow the band on Instagram here. The fourth single from bigfatbig, Don’t Wanna Be Sad, was released today, Thursday 25th March. Listen here.

Spotify, Soundwaves and the Solitary

© Unknown Mortal Orchestra, ‘II’, 2013

By Alex Lamont

It’s not been a great year for the majority of us, and if by chance fortune has smiled upon you, keep it to yourself until June and tell us all about it over a pint. For me, the saving grace, or survival tool, has been music. At the best of times music remains a constant in our day to day meanderings, whether it’s the soundtrack for the punctual bus commute or blasting through speakers into the late night. But from March 2020 to March 2021 (the time of writing), it has progressed to an even greater role than it previously held, inhabiting the shape of a study-buddy, a distraction, and at times, a friend.

Consequently, unlike my previous late teen years, in which the chatter of Snapchat and jealousy inducing Instagram occupied a worrying amount of my life, Spotify has been the app of my twentieth year. Before critiquing the limits to the streaming giant’s promotion of new music, I would like to make clear my appreciation that we had it on hand to guide us through the last twelve months. Life would have been a little bit darker without the convenience of music streaming, as much as we sometimes look down our noses at it while cradling our vinyl records in our arms. Music doesn’t always have to be an event, I feel it’s a luxury we should allow ourselves to indulge in as frequently as possible, and streaming is the easiest way for us to do it.

With that being said, hunting for new music is a discovery unlike most other discoveries, in that the hunt for new music never ends. Very little beats the feeling of hearing a new song for the first time or rediscovering a tune that feels so intimately wrapped in the memories of a certain time in your life. I experienced this a few years ago when I stumbled across Why Can’t This Be Love by Van Halen, a song my Dad had ripped and put on a CD for my Walkman when I was four, and all of those car journeys up and down to Northumberland came flooding back to me. It’s a magical feeling when it happens.

The Spotify algorithm in these trying times was, for many including myself, the primary key to a whole bank of undiscovered discographies and playlists- for a time. Spotify boasts 70 million tracks in its rich database, and yet, as every album I hear fades out the once-infectious now-infected groovy chords of So Good at Being In Trouble buzz into my earphones like an angry wasp. At first I welcomed it in as a kind neighbour, liking it and adding it to all of my summer playlists. But as the winter months arrived I realised that my kind neighbour was a bloodsucking vampire invited into my home, feeding off the algorithm and the opportunities its fellow sixty-nine million fellow tracks deserved.

The unusual thing here, is that Spotify used to have an option to prevent this – a like or dislike function while listening to a radio from a selected song – which disappeared some time ago. In place, the Spotify algorithm rotates between a handful of songs the listener already listens to on a regular basis, Unknown Mortal Orchestra in my case and after some thorough research, Harness Your Hopes by Pavement for my housemates. In a time where bars and gigs are closed, meetings with friends are severely limited, and the churning output of steady music is slower than the usual, it is a shame that Spotify were unable to seize the chance to introduce a new host of upcoming musicians to the world. This, to an extent, was reflected in the inclusion of well-established artists KAYTRANADA and Phoebe Bridgers in the Best New Artist category at the recent 2021 GRAMMY’s with both artists taking a giant streaming leap with Kyoto (31,067,512) and 10% (41,202,083) respectively with major assistance from the Spotify algorithm.

What can we do to counter this? This is by absolutely no means a ‘boycott Spotify’ article, but I can only suggest and encourage you to sign up to newsletters from as many online vinyl retailers (such as Rough Trade and The Turntable Lab), as well as independent, unincentivized music websites (such as us!) to find your new musical fix. 

In any case, that is all for now. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, hit the outro…

Imiss: Japanese Post-Rock Juggernauts’ New Single “Make Your Call” Wows

 © Imiss, 2021

By Lewis Oxley

Japanese post-rock is one of the sub-genres that can generate many feelings. From excitement to fear, intrigue to confusion, there is no doubt of its power to entice you once you’ve trudged through hours of searching on Spotify. The band, Imiss, are proof that this statement is true on their track ‘Make Your Call’.

The track opens up with a cinematic wall of sound underpinned by intense drums helping create a full-bodied effect. The drums’ synchronous pattern compliments the rather uplifting string section to evoke a large soundscape which is gripping and transient. The band’s utilising of the studio draws on their ability to compose music that draws on the dreamy effects of cinema in particular, the surroundings of their native Japan and its awe-inspiring landscape. 

The awe-inspiring scoundscape demonstrated in the music is matched with the lyrics, which conjure the other side to Japanese life,  the beautiful romanticism keeping Japan an enigma yet to unravel itself. This is expressed through the lyrics: 

Every day, every night / We’ve been drawing / when the sky is filled with stars and rainy days/ Every day, every night/ We’ve been drawing/ ‘cuz we fell in love with our dreams...

These lyrics capture an authentic poetry that resonates with a spiritual quality and the added theme of dreams captures a tranquil state of being while you sink into the shimming soundscape.

This track fills a need for wonder and a lust for life that only atmospheric post-rock can provide. Lets hope Imiss can make post-rock not just big in Japan but around the world.    

Listen to their new single here, and follow their Twitter and Instagram here.