Saturday 12 December 2015

Best Of 2015 lists for Monorail Music

This year while deciding what should go in my top 10 albums list  (and top 5 reissues and top 3 singles) for Monorail Music's annual poll, I felt like a football manager who doesn't know his best eleven.  So many records could have and should have been on the list and I have guilt in my heart that they aren't.  Some I purchased too late to make the cut, such as the ridiculously pretty Vic Mars "The Land and the Garden" lp (Clay Pipe) or Heather Leigh Murray's unique and eviscerating "I Abused Animal" (Editions Mego).  Based on repeated plays alone, Four Tet's euphoric "Morning/Evening" (Text) would probably have made off with the first place garland.  Why it doesn't appear below is a mystery!  Michael Kasparis's Night School Records had an extremely strong year releasing ace material by the likes of Paper Dollhouse, Apostille, Liberez and Molly Nilsson.  Any one of them would've made a worthy addition to my top 10.  Oh, and Night School's reissue of Rose McDowall's "Cut With The Cake Knife" deserved a spot on my top reissues list.

N.B. All titles link to a song from the record.


1.  The Green Door All-stars "Youth Stand Up!" (Autonomous Africa)
2.  Salad Boys "Metalmania" (Trouble In Mind)
3.  Flying Saucer Attack "Instrumentals" (Domino)
4.  Wildhoney "Sleep Through It" (Deranged)
5.  Domenique Dumont "Comme Ca" (Antinote)
6.  Helen "The Original Faces" (Kranky)
7.  Charles Howl "Sir Vice" (Ample Play)
9.  Diät "Positive Energy" (Adagio 830)
9.  The Fireworks "Switch Me On" (Shelflife)
10. Vital Idles "Demos" (self-released cassette)


1.  The Debutantes "Adam's Apples" (Emotional Response)
2.  The Wake "Clouds Disco" (LTM)
3.  Hooton Tennis Club "Jasper" (Heavenly)
4.  Terry "Talk About Terry" (Upset The Rhythm)
5.  Lime Crush "s/t" (Fettkakao)
6.  Golden Teacher "Sauchiehall Enthrall" (No Label)
7.  Sukie and The Browns "If You Want Me" (Choonz Inc.)
8.  Sheer Mag "II" (Static Shock)
9.  Tropic of Cancer "Stop Suffering" (Blackest Ever Black)
10. Bel Étage "Quiet Town" (Where It's At Is Where You Are)

Try as I might, I couldn't limit myself to 3 singles - there were just too many belters released in 2015 for that to happen!  I saved Spinning Coin's "Albany" for next year when the Geographic 7" is released despite the fact that it graced a cassette single in 2015.  Oh, and the Expert Alterations 12" on the mighty Slumberland Records would definitely have been on this list had I not been too stingy to pay the postage from the US.  Sorry, Mike!


1.  Michael Head and The Strands "The Magical World Of..." (Megaphone)
2.  Lizzy Mercier Descloux "Press Color" (Light In The Attic)
3.  Darrell Banks "Darrell Banks Is Here!" (The Blank Recording Co.)
4.  Departmentstore Santas "At The Medieval Castle Nineteen 100-Year Lifetimes Since" (Superior Viaduct)
5.  The Clientele "Alone And Unreal" (Pointy)

I suspect that when I finally have Gloria Ann Taylor's "Love Is A Hurting Thing" in my hands I'll have a rethink and Golden Teacher's compilation of their first three e.p.s appeared in the racks too late to qualify.

Sunday 29 November 2015

"There's always gonna come a time when we should just go dancing"

Turn your living space into a tangled mess of limbs and sweat with the three best tunes I've heard for getting on the good foot to in the last week or two:

Last Friday saw the launch party at The Art School for The Green Door Studio's crucial "Youth Stand Up!" lp (Autonomous Africa read the story behind it here).  The names Sacred Paws and Golden Teacher on the bill ensured that all 300 tickets were sold and it was great to see the Vic Bar's black and white tiled floor rammed with increasingly frenetic dancers for "Come With Me" .  With its insistent rhythm, fabulously dense arrangement and pleading vocal, had it played on a loop for the rest of the evening I wouldn't have complained.  Totally wondrous!

DJing before the recent John McEntire/Schneider Kacirek show at Mono, Eilidh Rodgers from aforementioned Sacred Paws stopped me in my tracks with the incredible "Djama" from Idrissa Soumaoro's "Ampsa" (recently reissued on Mississippi).  Shamefully, I know nothing about Malian music of any era but I do know that "Djama" is something special.  That organ at the start could've been lifted from any number of Teenage Shutdown downer garage tracks.  A stunning track.

The Green Door Studio's (not to mention Whilst's and The Rosy Crucifixion's!) own Stuart Evans weighs in with some of the crispest, most beautifully recorded percussion on "Dub Cha Cha" from his recent  "In A Year of 13 Moons" 12" (Invisible, inc) under the name Sordid Sound System.  Dig that sawing Suicide keyboard sound while you're playing air cowbell!

Och, while I'm banging on about dancefloor killers, The Mole's "Lockdown Party (DJ Sprinkles Crossfaderama) (Perlon) remains one of the most infectious good time records I've bought in 2015 (thanks to the mighty Jon Dale for the tip!).  It hasn't once failed to put a smile on my face or get my feet on the move.

Sunday 15 November 2015

Tropic of Cancer "Stop Suffering"

Starting as sparsely as Weekend's matchless "Drumbeat For Baby" demo before building emotionally, Tropic of Cancer's "Stop Suffering" (like the aforementioned Weekend demo available through Blackest Ever Black) is as sober as anything I've bought in months.  Don't get me wrong, it's not dour or melodramatically gothic, it's just serious and all the more lovely for it.  Perfect listening for watching the rain streak down the windows on a Sunday night in November.  If I get round to compiling a list of Not Unloved's favourite singles of 2015, "Stop Suffering" will be on it.

The Clientele @ Islington Assembly Hall (23/10/2015)

(Walking down Essex Road, London towards Islington Assembly Hall to see The Clientele a few weeks ago)

J: Do you think you'll cry?
Me : Nah.  I'm too much of a hard man for that!

I could tell J didn't believe me.  She was right not to.  About halfway through, the group was joined by their string arranger, Louis Phillippe, who read Alasdair MacLean's wonderfully evocative short story, 'Losing Haringey'; a song which has never failed to make me shiver since the first time I played 'Strange Geometry'.  Philippe then took his place at the grand piano and from the moment Alasdair sang "Goodnight my angel of the dark" the shivers gave way to tears.  I just hadn't steeled myself for  'Dreams of Leaving':

After that they went straight into 'Summer Trail' from their fabulous Hangover Lounge split with Birdie.  It was majestic but didn't aid in my vain attempts to regain some sort of composure.  In retrospect, it's just as well they didn't then play '6 a.m. Morningside' or 'Never Anyone But You' .  I have too much history layered on top of those songs to be just a casual listener.  Even the guy to my right who picked his nose (and ate his pickings) for the first 20 minutes or the irritating couple (what kind of selfish dud wears a massive hat with a 4 inch brim on the back of their head at a concert?) who snogged and shouted for songs but didn't applaud the group once and who stood in front of me the very second the group took to the stage couldn't take the shine off a beautiful evening.  Any show that ends with the purchase of a new mug is one to savour, for sure.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Calling all fans of the musical output of Glasgow!

Richard Youngs in the rain at
Glasgow Welcomes Refugees in Queens Park

A few weeks ago I spent a few enjoyable hours in The Glad Cafe in the company of Laurence Estanove, a French researcher in English and Social Sciences at Paris-Descartes University.  She is currently conducting some fascinating research that should be of interest to readers of Not Unloved:

"My objective is to look at the way people perceive Glasgow, at what image or representations of the city they may have (whether they've actually been to Glasgow or not) through following its independent music scene since the early 1980s. 

Please note that your answers will be used exclusively for research purposes and entirely anonymised."

To be part of it all you have to do is fill in the questionnaire here.  Go on, be part of something academic and cool!

Sunday 1 November 2015

A Weekend Abroad fanzine

Monorail Music's inaugural A Weekend Abroad festival at the CCA was a complete blast.  Unfortunately, due to prior pop commitments (more on this later), I wasn't able to witness Night School Records' evening of interplanetary oddness, wryly observational synth pop and dreamy dance float but I did get to enjoy The Pastels and friends bring warmth and good humour and ENERGY to the sometimes sterile main performance space.  Normal Love's debut showcased hit after hit with Roxanne and Eilidh's voices combining to moving effect.  One song, I'm guessing called "Angela", was supernaturally beautiful.  Recordings must follow! Next up were Spinning Coin who rampaged through their set with conviction and heart.  They never sounded better.  Debsey Wykes and Paul Kelly's Birdie were as endearingly funny and melodically rich as I could have wished, the tinge of melancholy in Debsey's voice making it the perfect autumn sound.  The Pastels closed the evening with yet another reminder that when they're on it and their subtleties can be heard, few can match them.  What a night!  

To mark the occasion some friends (see below for more from them) and I produced a little fanzine.  J and I assembled 105 in all in an assortment of autumn leaves colours.  As an altruistic gesture, we gave them away for free.  All the physical fanzines are now gone but there's a digital copy here for those that missed out.

Read/see more from the 'zine's contributors here:

Andrew R Hill's Blasted Journal 
Chris Fox's La Terrasse
Chris Stevenson's Flickr

He's A..../She's A... or The Dahlmanns/Baby Shakes

Not many groups are as effervescent or as multi-coloured as Shonen Knife.  Baby Shakes, however, are one of the few.  Their recent "She's A Star" (Surfin' Ki) single is wholesome cartoon glam stomp of the highest order. It really ought to have come with a Hanna Barbera animated video.  7 years ago (zoinks!) a post on the precursor to Did Not Chart had me scrabbling about trying to find a UK distributor able to sort me out with a copy of their first lp.  This autumn I had to look to mainland Europe (thanks!) to snag a copy of their second lp, "Starry Eyes" (Lil' Chewy).  On first listen it's slightly chunkier sonically but still has the tunes to prompt spontaneous outbursts of kitchen dancing which has proved useful for keeping the late autumn chills at bay!

The first thing I noticed when the latest 7" by The Dahlmanns (Ghost Highway) arrived was the Next Big Thing t-shirt.  Any group with the smarts to advertise their love of Lindsay Hutton's seminal N.B.T. fanzine is alright by me!  It's a classic tale of a dud boyfriend set to an insanely catchy  Rock'n'Roll High School tune that's had me repeating "Yeah, yeah, he's no fun!"  till I needed a slap for a few days now.  "He's A Drag" was written by Kurt Baker.  He sure sounds lie a chap who knows how to wrangle a pop melody into shape.  And so another avenue of YouTube investigation (and, possibly, wallet emptying) opens up...  

I'll be giving these 7"s a fair few spins over the coming week to get my dose of top drawer contemporary power pop as, unfortunately, I'll be missing Mary Timony's Ex Hex who roll into Glasgow for a show at Stereo on Friday night that's sure to be a riot of glitter, harmony and riffs.

Monday 19 October 2015

For sale for Carey Lander's chosen charity: Original 1997 Camera Obscura demo (all funds to Sarcoma UK)

Thanks to everyone who bid on a shared the link to this blog and to the auction itself.  Bidding closed at a fabulous 470.00 GBP.  Thanks, also, to the winning bidder for their tremendous generosity for a great cause.

A little over a week ago Carey Lander from Camera Obscura tragically succumbed to bone cancer at 33.  I didn't know her well - we only shared a laugh or two on a couple of occasions - but I loved her keyboard work with Camera Obscura and those I know who knew her always spoke of her with great affection.  She was a lovely presence round town and will be missed.  In the last few months Carey raised an amazing amount of money for the cancer charity Sarcoma UK.  In her honour, I'd like to make some sort of contribution so I'm selling an extremely rare 1997 homemade Camera Obscura demo tape via ebay.  This predates the group's beautiful first single, 'Park and Ride'.  100% of all funds raised will go to Sarcoma UK and postage is free to anywhere in the world.  Please take a look at the listing and it would be much appreciated if you would pass it on to anyone who might be interested.

Thanks for your help,

>> The 7 day listing is here <<

David Pollock's touching obituary for The Scotsman is here

Update @ 11:12pm:

Some interesting details about the tape/artwork from the official Camera Obscura Facebook page:

"An extremely rare item is being auctioned for Carey's Sarcoma UK campaign. An original 1997 demo tape from us. Not sure how many of these we made back in the day, realistically it was probably 10-20, I doubt any of us still have one lying about (I certainly don't). The sleeve was taken from an old photograph taken in Spain, and given a bit of a Peter Saville design-style tracing paper cover like New Order's Low Life album. Worth bidding on to help a great cause, and certainly an interesting and fairly unique piece of Obscura history."

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Blank Realm @ The Hug & Pint (28/09/2015)

One of the reasons why Not Unloved went on an unplanned summer long hiatus was that a cavalcade of great bands stampeded through Glasgow.  Staying up late more often than is sensible makes it a little tricky to remember the half of what went on but one thing is for sure, no group played harder (the guitarist broke a string on the first song!) or more thrillingly than Brisbane's, Blank Realm did at The Hug & Pint in September.  David and Heather Leigh from Volcanic Tongue cajoled me into buying Blank Realm's records a while back and, sure, I got all steamed-up over them but they just didn't suggest that, live, Blank Realm would scorch the paint from the walls whilst branding BR in a heart on my heart forever.  Guitars careened between ultra-fast garage jangle to blazing effects pedal wallop and back in thrilling instants. Perversely, maybe, the little of run of quieter songs for which vocalist and drummer Daniel Spencer emerged from behind his kit to sway centre stage is the bit I have replayed in my mind most often .  'Dream Date' from the recent 'Illegals In Heaven' (Fire Records) lp was the real scene-stealer - the best 80s Brat Pack high school prom clinch soundtrack ever.  Some Monday nights are better than others.  Some Monday nights are unforgettable.

Monday 12 October 2015

(The) Esquires "Settle Down"

(The) Esquires seems to have been a pretty popular band name back in the 1960s. From what I've heard online, all of the groups who operated under that name were worthy of a spin or two at least but the only one whose record I actually ponied up hard cash for (ok, Paypalled Craig Moerer for) is the Springfield, Missouri incarnation:

'Settle Down' has surely set many a Chelsea boot tapping over the years.  Possibly because Glasgow has just had it's Double Sight psych weekender at the end of a week or so of playing host to a bunch of the groups who converged on Liverpool for its annual International Festival of PsychedeliaI've been spinning it loads, each time anticipating rabidly the surprisingly trippy sequence at around a minute in.  Bonus Not Unloved points for the untypically romantic lyrics, too.

You can read about The Esquires over at the always reliable Garage Hangover.

Sunday 11 October 2015

The Squares "This Is Airebeat"

"If you're bored today
 Stand up and say
 But try and do something constructive
 Instead of just being disruptive"

- The Squares "This Is Airebeat"

The Squares released "This Is Airebeat" in '79 so I'm guessing that these lyrics were a rebuke to the legions of disaffected punk kids lurking around town centres spray painting 'No Future' on every spare inch of wall space.  I'm sure, too, that those punks just shrugged dismissively and ignored them, thinking that they were well named.  Still, it's a sweet pop tune and with such clean guitars and crisp vocals it sits well with some of the acts on Slumberland Records such as Literature  or Devon Williams.


If cartoon think bubbles had appeared above my head on today's amble through the park, they would mostly have contained randomly ordered lines from "Ruby" by Sneakers: "Talk is cheap!", "It's funny, you don't look like a character assassin", "Slander me, I'll libel you" and so on.

When I wrote previously about one of Chris Stamey's pop masterpieces I knew then that I didn't know enough about his other work.  Ominvore Recordings have filled-in some of the gaps in my knowledge with their CD release* of his 70s work (and that of Big Quiet and R.E.M. producer Mitch Easter) with Sneakers.  Coming on a like a tougher Big Star, they made the kind of melody riddled power pop that zines like Bucketful of Brains brought to suburban bedrooms the nation over in the wake of R.E.M..  Their take on The Grass Roots'"Let's Live For Today" is a real highlight.  It bursts from the speakers with such verve that it's impossible not to belt out "Sha la la live for today!" at the top of your lungs; neighbours be damned!

* - There was a US 10" for Black Friday 2014 but, if the location of the sellers on discogs is any guide, not many copies made it to Europe.

Wednesday 3 June 2015

Big Quiet 7"

Big Quiet explode out of the traps with their debut 7", the Mitch Easter-produced "Maura & Dana" (Unblinking Ear).  The title track which previously graced the group's cassette, zips along at pace, casually tossing out radiant melodies and guitar lines that make yr heart beat faster and have you yearning for the days when Velocity Girl were at their peak.  It's a shame that Parasol Mailorder is no more.  They would've sold a bunch of these.  With their descriptive adroitness, I would have ordered a copy in a heartbeat.  When I finally get my hands on a physical copy, I'm going to relish turning the volume knob on my amp to dangerous and blasting the flip, "Style & Pace".  After a restrained intro, guitars, bass, drums and cymbals hurtle unstoppably as Marisa Cerio belts out a terrific vocal that should have admirers of Sleater-Kinney itching to hear more.  If this single and Ex Hex's "Rips" are any guide, it would appear that Mitch Easter is on the form of his life.

Tuesday 2 June 2015

Sweet Pearl / Saun & Starr

Sometimes the word 'love' just ain't strong enough. In the case of Memphis act Sweet Pearl's 1981 soft funk miracle "You Mean Everything To Me", not even 'adore' nor any other word you care to suggest that's even stronger than that can express my feelings towards it:

"So, tonight let me hold you once again
Whisper sweet encouraging words
That would make me feel that you're my only man"

So gentle, so romantic and what an admirably restrained production. It's got a real recorded-late-at-night sound, too; the musicians delivering relaxed performances wholly devoid of the urgency of daytime. Unfortunately, as is so often the case with music of this ilk, the ritual checks of collectorsfrenzy and popsike revealed original Leopard Head label copies to be pricier than my wee wallet can handle.   Thus far I haven't spotted any legitimate or even dubious grey area reissues or, for that matter, CD compilations that would tide me over until the miracle 50p charity shop find that's destined to happen at some point (dream on, Not Unloved!).  Let's hope BGP or the venerable Kent label sees fit to restore it to print on 45 in the near future. 

Q: How did Not Unloved first encounter "You Mean Everything To Me"?

On a similar tip (do people still say that - probably not, I'll wager), Saun & Starr's "Look Closer" single from a bit back now crops up as the lead track on their debut lp for Daptone.  It still sounds stunning:

Easy brilliance, huh?  It's scarcely imaginable that two voices could be more complementary.  When the sun finally sticks around long enough to justify a trip to the beach, I'll jauntily paddle in the Firth of Clyde with it on my headphones and it'll be the best.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Happyness "A Whole New Shape"

"A Whole New Shape" by Happyness fits into what I used to call 'Evening Sesson pop' after the 90s early evening BBC Radio 1 show that generally played more accessible indie stuff than John Peel.  In those days, a lot of the time I dismissed a lot of the 'Evening Session bands'.  They seemed less individual, easier to assimilate and hence less interesting than the more visionary, at times awkward, groups championed by Peel.  Embarrassingly, they also seemed like they were trying to be cool.  These days, all that seems a very long time ago.  Now that I'm 100% older and 72% less snobby, I'm able to enjoy simple thrills (yr listening life can't be all about Half Japanese or Keiji Haino can it?) where I can find them so "A Whole New Shape" has earned its fair share of spins:

A little bit Pavement, a little bit Teenage Fanclub etc., it's full of familiar, comforting sounds for a fellow of my vintage.  It's up there with Hooton Tennis Club's touching "Jasper"  for youthful charm, too (the 'Woo!' at the start!):

Maybe, given my new mindset, I should revisit bands like Yuck or all those Evening Session bands I haughtily spurned two decades ago.  We'll see.

"A Whole New Shape" is on the reissue of the group's debut album "Weird Little Birthday" (Moshi Moshi)

Monday 25 May 2015

The Tamborines "Said The Spider To The Fly"

On a recent work trip to London I made the obligatory trip to Rough Trade East. This time, I took a list as browsing time was limited and their stock so ample.  Top of that list was "Sea of Murmur" by The Tamborines.  Due to a hectic gig schedule of late I haven't had a chance to fully assimilate its myriad charms but one song that made a big dent in my heart on first listen was "Said The Spider To The Fly":

Timeless sounding, sensitively sung and impeccably played and recorded, it's a real heart-stealer from that first slightly hesitant drum crack.  There won't be many fresher sounding songs released in 2015.  It's Teenage Fanclub, Allen Clapp or Spinning Coin great and that guitar cascade of the last minute or so is a real balm for my gig-bruised ears.  "Sea of Murmur" is out via the group's own Beat-Mo Records.  I hope tracks from it have been cropping up with regularity on stations such as BBC 6Music as it would be a real shame if it fell through the cracks. 

The Tamborines play the Liverpool Psych Fest this September.

Vital Idles

Scant minutes into the first show by the Good Press Gallery house band, Vital Idles, on Sunday, 24th May 2015 at Glasgow's The Old HairdressersI knew they would be a group I would clutch to my heart.  Informed by the sounds of the early 80s DIY revolutions in both the UK and New Zealand, they zipped through a succession of ever more adorable songs.  'The Garden' was a high-point.  Sensibly, someone saw fit to film it:

Jessica, the singer, is a terrific performer prone to bouts of vigorous dancing and insouciant mic use.  Sure, not all the notes she hits are the expected ones, but this ain't opera and sometimes a bit of wrongness makes things right.  Each of the elements of their sound is as it should be: rhythms are thumped out unfussily on a minimal drum setup, the bass is tight and propulsive and the guitars have the immediacy of Buzzcocks or Crystal Stilts.  Manchester-based label Comfortable On A Tightrope has just released a tape of Vital Idles demos.  Get it on bandcamp or from the label.  Oh,and if you've ever wondered how the children of Messthetics might tackle The Smiths, then wonder no more:

Their inauguration into playing live was such a blast that I can't wait to see Vital Idles again. Somebody make it happen, please!

Monday 18 May 2015

2 new 7"s from Those Old Records

Those Old Records is a record shop in Rugeley, Staffordshire.  They run a mailorder and also a label which has just issued a couple of excellent Emidisc acetates from the 60s (bought from a former Sounds journalist, apparently) on 45 for the first time.  "Tangled Web" by Bedford's Spell is a lilting dose of soft psych from the same orbit as The Action's trippier, less overtly soul-influenced material:


Equally enjoyable is "Train" by John Williams which oscillates between a tightly wound Brit R&B shuffle and looser, more psychedelic structures: 

How something so distinctive wasn't deemed worthy of a release at the time is a mystery!  Those Old Records have to be commended for allowing the music of John Williams and Spell to finally take its rightful place on 7" vinyl.  Sterling stuff.

Tuesday 28 April 2015

The Event

Had I been home when the postman arrived today I would have struggled not to give him a hug as the parcel he had in his bag for me contained the lp on which this giddy-making slice of British Invasion revival (it's from 1989 not 1965) POP appears:

Now, that's how to open an album!  I think it's safe to say that the singer has heard Alex Chilton.  If you'd asked me a fortnight ago if I'd ever heard The Event before YouTube's algorithm kindly suggested I give them a whirl, I would have told you unequivocally that I hadn't.   I would, of course, have been entirely wrong as a good friend had included them on a compilation for me a few years back.  I must have been so snowblind from the avalanche of other great pop songs on that disc to notice it at the time.  On first listen "Pop Think In" was only one of a number of tracks on "This Is The Event" to set the pulse racing. "She's Our Girl", in particular, is pop art POP at its best:

Getting to grips with "This Is The Event" (Voxx) over the next few weeks is going to be a blast. 

Sunday 19 April 2015

26th April: Sarah Records documentary screening in Glasgow

Next Sunday the Monorail Film Club is presenting a special screening of Lucy Dawkins"My Secret World: The Story of Sarah Records" at the Glasgow Film Theatre.  Following the screening I (!) will be chairing a Q&A with Clare Wadd who co-ran Sarah Records with Matt Haynes.  I've written before of my love for Sarah Records, so it's a great honour to be asked to do it.  Last May, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Sarah Records themed weekender at Bristol's Arnolfini Centre at which the film was premiered.  It was a blissful weekend from the film itself, to the exhibition of Sarah Records memorabilia, to the walking tour of Bristol ("Look!...there's There And Back Again Lane!") to the live performances from The Orchids, Secret Shine, The Catenary Wires (Amelia from Heavenly's new group - debut single out NOW on Elefant of Madrid) and the living breathing art exhibit, Julian Henry.  It really was, to quote The Sweetest Ache, a heaven scented world for a couple of days.

What a majestic record! Unbelievably, only a b-side, too.  Incredible.

There's a Facebook event page here.  Here's what I wrote for it:

I was ripe for Clare Wadd and Matt Haynes’s Sarah Records. At the turn of the 90s I was a pretty timid teenager looking for things to help sand-off the rough edges of life. When Sarah released one heart-meltingly beautiful single after another by the likes of The Sea Urchins, The Field Mice, The Orchids, The Wake etc., I was in. Sarah stood out because it proudly celebrated beauty and unashamedly celebrated sensitivity; things which irritated the more laddish element writing for the rock press at the time. They got some savage reviews and were dismissed as “limp-wristed wimp pop”. Professing to a love of Sarah Records was more often than not met with a disparaging sneer. It only made me love them more. Sarah was about more than just music, too. I looked forward to reading Matt and Clare’s writing on the record inserts, fanzines and newsletters almost as much as I did to hearing their new releases; it was so passionate, erudite and slyly funny. Sarah didn’t shy away from the political - check The Wake’s “Major John” and wasn’t ‘Fuck the poll tax!’ etched into the run-out groove on the a-side The Orchids’ “Underneath The Window, Underneath The Sink”? - and it was inclusive: female, male, gay, straight, all were welcomed by Matt and Clare. Like Postcard before it, Sarah produced some wonderful ephemera. There were 5” flexidiscs, the aforementioned newsletters, gorgeous cut and paste fanzines, balloons, the butterfly design Heavenly carrier bag which, inexplicably, got up the noses of the more dunderheaded heavy metal tee wearing types on my university course and so much more. The records consistently looked fabulous, too. When Matt and Clare called it a day in 1995, I was genuinely a bit heartbroken. Happily, however, time has been kind to their uncompromising vision and impeccable taste, what with Lucy’s documentary and a soon to be published book. Even former foe the NME recently proclaimed Sarah to be second best indie label ever. Something which rivals Canadian punks Fucked Up covering Another Sunny Day’s rollicking “Anorak City” in terms of sheer unexpectedness.

Lucy tweets about the film at: @SarahRecordsDoc

The Wake "Clouds Disco" 7" (FBN 94)

Yesterday's Record Store Day at Monorail Music was a blast.  As ever, I bought a load of Record Story Day exclusives that I undoubtedly would have bought on any other day of the year: The Liminanas 7", the Hinds/The Parrots split 7", the third archival Half Japanese box, the new Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings 7", Night School's Rose McDowall reissue 12" etc..  I also bought the NF Porter reissue "Keep On Keeping On" / "I Can Only Be Sure" despite its 12.99 asking price because a) the SONGS and b) I'm no Daddy Warbucks so affording the originals is the stuff of delusional daydreams for me.  The record I had been looking forward to picking up most, however, was The Wake's subtly shimmying "Clouds Disco" 7".  It was a highlight of the cd version of last year's "Testament" compilation but belongs on 7" vinyl.  Caesar's vocals are so gentle and great and those keyboards sway as organically as seaside grass.  It's a sweet reminder that The Wake's melodies, heart and uncluttered arrangements are always welcome.

Sunday 1 March 2015

Spinning Coin "Albany"

Sometimes you go to a show and there's an unfamiliar new local band on the bill and you're not really expecting too much of them so you're chitting and chatting but then they play a song and it stops you mid-witter.  That song then plays in your head on and off for days so you get fired-up with evangelical zeal, hellbent on telling the world, only to remember that it's 2015 and that unless you can let people hear the song in question, it'll be forgotten in the time it takes to read 'View 4 new Tweets'.  The last time that happened?  When I heard 'Albany'" by Spinning Coin at Audio last December.  Helpfully for evangelists, it has now been posted to Winning Sperm Party's  - they're releasing the group's tape - Soundcloud page:

What an endearing slice of weed-dazed, vulnerability! A friend astutely mentioned the name Further on hearing them. To that I'd add Tomorrow's Tulips. I suspect that the Burger Records' collective hearts will pogo when they hear it. If the rest of the tape is as affecting it'll be a must purchase.  From the two times I've seen them live, however,  I know there are at least two or three more stunners, one of which is in the vein of Teenage Fanclub's unageing, untouchable "Everything Flows".


Sean Armstrong, one of the singers in Spinning Coin, has just made available his solo version of "Albany" and it's a dreamy, Alex Chilton-like affair.  Plain lovely.

Sunday 15 February 2015

Marshall Scott Etc.

For many years now, Saturday mornings have started with sleep-listening to Brian Matthew's Sounds of the Sixties on BBC Radio 2.  As with Peel's show, he plays such a wide range of material that I never like everything but every once in a while he'll play something new (to me) that cuts through the haze and has me scurrying to the internet.  This week it was romantic beat merchants Marshall Scott Etc..  Unusually, my search turned up a great British Pathe video in which the group step Mr Benn-style straight out of a gentleman's outfitters - check the guitarist's tartan trews! - into the grounds of Woburn Abbey to mime their tender 'Same Old Feeling' single:

Looks like the drummer went to the Ringo Starr school of larking about and smiling!  With its easy charm and sun-steeped melody, it's hard to believe that 'Same Old Feeling' wasn't the handiwork of a bunch of tanned Californians.  Now to find a copy on 7"...

Thursday 12 February 2015


A trip to a record shop just isn't complete without at least one 7" sneaking into your bag is it?  The other week it was a new Vampisoul release which pairs a Colombian original by Elia Y Elizabeth with a cover another of their songs by Elefant Records' Single.  'Alegria' by Elia Y Elizabeth is beautifully constructed: verses of gentle, sunny day funkiness that slip with ease into a chorus of brassy exuberance.  It's just so endearing!  Vampisoul's parent label, Munster Records, has released this fine looking item by the sisters which, should it find its way into, say, Monorail's racks (hint!) will find a willing purchaser...

Single's take on 'Soy Una Nube' on the reverse is a more beat-driven affair that skulks somewhere between the brilliant bri-nylon pop of Saint Etienne circa "Nothing Can Stop Us" and a US 70s cop show theme.  An unexpected ESG sample seeps in around halfway through and pops up again at the end by which point you've already reached for the modern tools of evangelism.

Single is a duo (ha!), both of whom - Ibon Errazkin and Teresa Iturrioz - were in the eternally elegant Le Mans whose 90s records for Elefant were things of gentle wonder, especially their double 10" "Saudade" which still gets semi-regular spins on the Not Unloved turntable.  It's great to be reminded of their music and good to hear that they're still making lovely records (which sometimes have freaky covers!).

Glaswegians: As of 2 days ago Monorail had at least one copy of this essential 7" left.  Get on it!

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Honey Radar "Chain Smoking on Easter" (Third Uncle/Treetop Sorbet)

In true Not Unloved fashion, I feel the need to outline the typically haphazard way in which the outstanding Honey Radar lp "Chain Smoking On Easter" came into my life.  A while back my pal R asks if I follow (fanzine/podcast) Dynamite Hemorrhage on Twitter.  I say 'no' but duly rectify that.  DH then tweets with pride that one of the Ugly Things writers has listed it among their favourite things of 2014.  Being nosier than is decent and an obsessive digester of favourite things lists, I scour the aformentioned 'The Best of 2014 According To a Bunch of Ugly Things Writers' page and let out a little gasp when my eyes alight on this description:

Honey Radar Chain Smoking on Easter (Third Uncle) LP

Kitchen-sink psych-punk (ala Swell Maps, Television Personalities) using economy as a calling card, interspersed with ‘60s licks, noisy bits and a harmonious instrumental interplay. An assault of sixteen tracks blasts forth in a mere 21 minutes, and brings to mind the earliest moments of Pavement.

Maybe 32 seconds into streaming the album's arresting opener on bandcamp I was manically searching for a UK distributor.  Luckily Rough Trade had the smarts to stock it so a costly and fraught airmail experience was avoided.  There isn't a wasted second or the semblance of something I'd change given half a chance to across the entirety of this record and I certainly wouldn't be plum crazy enough to wish it had been recorded in a plush studio and not in the Richmond, Indiana home of Jason Henn.  At around 1 minute and 47 seconds, I used to believe Primal Scream's "Velocity Girl" to be the ultimate short duration pop song.  Then I heard The Charlottes' even shorter "Are You Happy Now?" and realised it wasn't.  At 47 seconds, however, "Alabama Wax Habit" makes the pair of them look like ponderous prog epics.  It makes its point and makes off with your heart in just 47 seconds.  Its tinnitus inducing (only in the left ear if you listen on headphones, mind) ultra-high pitch jangle is a sound beamed straight from my dreams.  In three decades of jamming Robert Pollard never happened on a more succinct but fully realised meeting of sound and melody.  "Birds Reunion" is the loosest, free-est recent rendering of the classic early Flying Nun Records sound.  In summary, "Chain Smoking on Easter" is pure orange sherbet and the most easily lovable missive from the US underground I've heard in years..  Thinking back, I don't recall being so concussed or made so madly evangelical about a record since "Eyes Rind as if Beggars" by The Garbage and The Flowers jump-started my heart and flooded my brain till it couldn't take anymore.  The new Twerps lp, the Go-betweens box set, those Pip Proud reissues etc. will have to wait to earn my love as Honey Radar won't be budging from my turntable any time soon.

Sunday 25 January 2015

The Ringleaders "Grin and Bare It"

Secret Stash Records of Minneapolis, USA have been poking around in the archives of  the 1960s Chicago based One-derful! family of labels for a 6 disc compilation series.  In the process they've happened upon some tremendous hitherto unissued soul gems which are now taking their rightful place on 7" vinyl.  "Grin and Bare It" by The Ringleaders is a crisp, horn-filled beat-stepper that'll make a welcome addition to any Northern Soul DJ's box.  "I've Got To Find My Baby" on the flip is far mellower group soul fare which again features some wonderfully soulful horn lines and a few moments that would have made lovely samples for Wiggs & Stanley in the early 90s.  Two top quality sides and easily the best unreleased soul cuts to reach these ears since that sensational Up Tights 7".

Hear lengthy samples and buy it here (US) or here (UK).

Saturday 24 January 2015

The Wrong Society "To Be Free"

Once again I find myself hugely indebted to Higher State chap Mole.  His keen ears and knowledge of the current garage scene make his m.brooks m.porium ebay store a smashing resource for helping lazy lumps like me to keep up with what's out there.  The latest smash to hit the m.porium's virtual shelves is a 7" by Hamburg's The Wrong Society:

What a fizzing tune!  That guitar solo is pure desperation and do you hear the slightest tang of Martin Phillips (The Chills) in the way the singer pleads "Set me free!", too?  "To Be Free" could be slipped without any qualms onto any of those vintage Teenage Shutdown downer jangle comps.  With Denmark's The Youth, France's Les Grys-Grys and now Germany's The Wrong Society, European garage punk is in a right good state.  My self-imposed mailorder embargo was never gonna last, not with 45s of the quality of "To Be Free" screaming for attention.  I just didn't think my resolve would crumble so soon!

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Missing, presumed lost

For the second time in three years my Christmas present from me to me has been 'lost in the post'.  This comes hot on the heels of my first copy of The Luxembourg Signal's phenomenal lp being 'lost in the post' and a consignment of 7"s from Groovie Records allegedly meeting the same fate.  The sellers have been really good about it all: Groovie Records sent replacements, I got a refund on the LS lp and I'm sure the person from whom I bought an original copy (Mint-, by all accounts) of The Romancers' sublime "She Gives Me Love" will do like likewise but it's killed my enthusiasm for buying records by post.  Music and buying records is supposed to be fun, not fraught, and those around me are heartily sick of hearing me moan about the postal services of the world so, for the time being, my PayPal account will get a much needed rest, my postman won't have to cart records up 3 flights of stairs and (in a small way) it'll be a boom time for the bricks and mortar record shops of Glasgow.

"She Gives Me Love" is, for me, one of the standout cuts on Outta Sight's wondrous "East LA Soul - Rampart Records 1963-1971" cd.  It would've been such a thrill to own a well preserved copy of it on vinyl.

* - 'first' as I bought a second copy from a different seller - the original seller had none left - with my refund which in total cost in excess of 30 quid and arrived bashed despite being packaged well.  Yet another thing that's chipped away at my enthusiasm for buying mail-order.

Thursday 1 January 2015

Action & Reaction

When Cherry Red assembled their recent 4 cd collection of Mod revival sounds,  "Millions Like Us: The Story of the Mod Revival 1977-1989", they included a track by a group called The Reaction.  "I Can't Resist" is an energetic, power pop contender from Mark Hollis's pre-Talk Talk days.  I like it loads but I can't help thinking that "Make Up Your Mind" (1986, Waterloo Sunset) by the other The Reaction from the decade in question would have been more a appropriate choice.  With its ultra-catchy Rickenbacker riff and hip 60s pop art pop feel, you can practically hear the polo necks and corduroy fishermen's caps!

("Make Up Your Mind" and its flip can be downloaded for free from the above bandcamp page)

It's my guess that The Reaction were named in honour of their Mod forebears The Action.  Unexpectedly, Top Sounds has just released a 4 track 10" of unreleased Action/related tracks which includes the best version I've heard them do of Martha Reeves & The Vandellas' "In My Lonely Room" and a fabulously vibrant take on The Tempations' "Why You Wanna Make Me Blue" .  There are samples of all 4 tracks at  Blue eyed soul seldom sounded so convincing or so vital.