Sixty for 60: 21. Loud Women

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60. This isn’t one of them, though – this is way more important and vital than that. God, it makes me so happy to witness this. So proud, so passionate, so strong. So beautiful. The sound of myriad voices coming together to protest something that should never have needed protesting in the first place. If ever anyone says to you they don’t understand the need for – and the power of – feminism… play them this. I have no idea why this isn’t already front page news across all the varying cultural media outlets right now. A sweet fuck-you to anyone who doesn’t understand the need for urgent change RIGHT NOW.

It’s not easy as it looks, writing a protest song. I know. I’ve tried – once (reasonably) successfully, once not so successfully. This song is just incredible. An anthem for the non-binary and new feminist generation, put together by London collective Loud Women, ‘Reclaim These Streets’. Feminist Aid.

From the age of 13
I’ve known the fear of dark streets
I’ve known my body’s danger
Can he hear my heart beat?
Every woman’s got a story
Breaks silence with a whisper
Daring to tell her truth
Calling to her sisters

Text me you when get home
Keys between your fingers
Staying close to streetlights
Fear of shadows lingers

Till every woman’s safe from harm in her own home
Till every woman’s safe to live her truth
Till every woman’s safe to walk on every street
Reclaim these streets! (Reclaim these streets)
Reclaim these streets! (Reclaim these streets)
Reclaim these streets! (Reclaim these streets)

Buy a copy here. All proceeds to Women’s Aid.

Brix Smith: You know, I’d been told that Reclaim These Streets was in some ways a bit similar to Band Aid’s ‘Do You Know It’s Christmas’? When I heard that, I thought, let me call my friend Siobhan [Fahey] from Bananarama and Shakespears Sister. Back in the day, she was one of only four women on that Band Aid single out of everybody in the 1980s. They had only four women. Three of them were Bananas and one was Jody Watley. And I said, wouldn’t it be a wonderful circle to have Siobhan sing on this as well? Siobhan said, absolutely I’ll do it! So we went to her house and recorded there. She’s the last vocal with the last words “texts me when you get home”—the most haunting, throaty, emotional vocal. (Louder Than War)

Sixty for 60: 20. Camille

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to…

No FUCK THAT. My blog, my rules. I have no fucking words right now. I have just rediscovered French singer Camille‘s 2008 album Money Hole and… fuck me. This song is like Robin Thicke meets Whitney Houston meets the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band… and. Fuck me. It’s really fucking irritating on a third listen. The album is so.,. Fuck it. Just for once, I am going to leave it to one of the professionals (the people paid to write about this shit) to try and put across the sense of disorientation Camille causes on her third album. Take it Alexis:

It’s not often that one record can claim to have laid waste to an entire musical genre, but then, it’s not often that anyone releases a record as unmitigatedly wretched as Bobby McFerrin’s novelty hit Don’t Worry, Be Happy. It wiped the collective memory of the glorious musical heights that can be scaled with the human voice alone – the gorgeous old doo-wop singles, the chilling, blood-spattered folk ballads, the Beach Boys’ ethereal Our Prayer – in three minutes of revolting bumper-sticker sentiment and flatly dreadful advice: in the event that your landlord say your rent is late and he may have to litigate, there are several options open, but the one thing you definitely shouldn’t do is follow McFerrin’s suggestion, which seems to involve chuckling at him and saying, “Look at me, I’m ‘appy.” Ever since, acapella pop has been a cordoned-off area. Like one of those game Ukrainan businessmen who organises tourist trips around Chernobyl, Björk had a go with her 2004 album Medúlla, but the public remained deeply wary.

So you have to admire the guts of Camille Dalmais. The 30-year-old Parisian vocalist has set up shop right in the middle of the musical Zone of Alienation that is a cappella pop, apparently without a thought for her own safety. While others still quail at the very memory, she is prepared to confront the genre’s darkest hour head-on: she has not only adapted McFerrin’s infamous body-slapping percussion style, but also covered Don’t Worry Be Happy live. Perhaps her fearlessness has been boosted by her surprising success in her homeland. Every track on 2005’s Le Fil was based around the same single droning note, an avant-garde conceit that didn’t prevent it going gold and winning the French equivalents of both the Mercury prize and a Brit award.

Music Hole dispenses with the drone and offers lyrics in English, but otherwise sticks with its predecessor’s approach. There are odd shadings of piano and electronics and a handful of sound effects – Money Note, a witty satire of the vocal histrionics employed by Mariah Carey, features a rhythm of clattering coins. Otherwise, virtually every sound you hear is made by Dalmais herself.

Well yeah. I’m loathe to share a single song because NONE of them are representative. She sounds like she’s having so much fun, it’s near unbearable. Love the fact she’s got a song called ‘Winter Child’ followed by a song called ‘Winter’s Child’ on her album, and for all I know they’re the same song.

Cabaret for sure.

Sixty for 60: 19. Pom Pom Squad

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60.

Today, it’s Roddy Thomson‘s chance to blow my mind with Pom Pom Squad. I mean, wow. I think the song he nominated is ‘Lux’, which is hard and bitter and brutally brief and kicks grungy bottom in a way that reminds me of fucken Shannon And The Clams and the God-like FUCKEN GENIUS of Babes In Toyland, only simultaneously like, but I ain’t sure because the last 24 hours has been a rabbit hole that I have found myself disappearing deeper and deeper downwards, barely anticipating the myriad twists and turns and snatches of birdsong, bruised often at the sheer wonder of it all, loving upon loving everything there is to be loved about Mia Berrin and Pom Pom Squad, crushing hard here, crashing hard there, senses alive and tingling from the energy and attitude, just fucken in too deep to find an easy or pleasant way to withdraw, not that I want to. Not that I fucken want to.

Shout out to Agent Ribbons.

I mean, seriously. Any band who so gets Joan Jett’s take on ‘Crimson And Clover’ and takes it in several new disturbing directions, forcing me to confront my own misgivings and failings and sexuality, has gotta be … God. Wow. I don’t know. Fucken incredible. As one comment on the YouTube video stated, “This fucks so hard”. Fucks. And rocks. Or, as Pond magazine puts it, “New York’s Pom Pom Squad, Better Than Your High School Cheer Team”:

Pom Pom Squad, a project fronted by Mia Berrin, is a musical diary entry influenced by the sounds of garage rock and RIOT GRRRL. Originally based out of Orlando, Florida, Mia began recording demos in her teenage bedroom before moving to New York City. Read More ->

Sixty for 60: 18. Bleu Russe

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60.

Today, it is the turn of Benjamin Berton to nominate the quite extraordinary stylings of Bleu Russe – Ça fait du bien. Berton has cheated here, because this is from February 2020 but as this music really is quite extraordinary I will forgive him. Extraordinary inasmuch as this song reminds me of Al Larsen and his primordial expression of love, Some Velvet Sidewalk. (Nirvana occasionally sounded like a slightly inferior version of Some Velvet Sidewalk, which ain’t meant to be a diss on the big KC just a comment on how raw and beautiful SVS were.) Bleu Russe are equally as extraordinary however. Intrigued, I clicked on a couple of their other YouTube songs and they sound nothing like. Nothing at all like. Maybe these are several different bands all going by the same name? Those dozen or so of you who are reading, see what you think. The final clip is revelatory: like Sleaford Mods hit with a lo-fi electronica button and driven to mindless repetition to keep spitting the words “like Jumping Jack Flash” over and over – the rest I do not understand, as I have little to no grasp of French.

The video in itself is quite disturbing, but adding sound really does not help the feeling of disturbance. This music is absolutely to be encouraged.

(That Some Velvet Sidewalk song by the way is one of the GREAT unheard classic rock songs of the early 90s.)

Sixty for 60: 17. Pleasure Venom

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60. I cannot deny that I have been somewhat swamped by nominations since then, which is brilliant – but also means that I may not be getting round to some of them for a few weeks – months, even – yet. So apologies in advance if I haven’t yet written about your inspired choice.

Today it is the turn of the inspirational musician and activist Cassie Fox to recommend. And she recommends Pleasure Venom‘s brutally apposite ‘We Get What You Deserve’. It’s LOUD! It’s angry. It’s in your face confrontational punk rock, disgusted with injustice and hatred and the imbalance of power. I say punk, but you know what? It ROCKS! Punk like… yeah, I don’t know. Punk like She always wrote it: speed thrills and anger chills. I guess I’m thinking the female side of Crass, ramped up several decades, but you can call it thrash or speed thrash or metal, even if you want. Sure, I fucking love Amyl and the Sniffers, too. – so loud that it broke my fucking speakers three times over, and I’m a little scared to try it again cos, wait… you think there is anything to disagree about here? Fuck right off the fuck out of here.

They say: Pleasure Venom are a a 5-piece experimental punk project based in Austin, TX.

We say: let it ROCK!

Sixty for 60: 16. Nightspell

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60.

Another sleepless night. Another morning when I wake at 4.30am and wonder just how I am going to fill the blank space in between now and when I next see a human being. Another day of knocking around the inside of my house, wondering if other people have lives, friends, stuff they do which makes them happy to be alive. Folk say you shouldn’t let your workplace or your partner define you, but what have I ever been if not defined by my workplace or relationship? We spend more time in this life alone, whatever happens. It’s grey outside, and these days there is a constant humming in my ears – a little like an old computer or fridge ticking over, but constant. I already know what I need. I need some good old school rock’n’roll as She Herself created, some gold old-fashioned rock’n’roll with shiny metallic skirts and bobbing lights and angel wings, guitars that chug and burr, beautiful underplayed harmonies and buzzing guitars, old school like The Breeders and Scarce and those other names I hold dear but increasingly am starting to wonder whether I dreamt through entire decades of my life, a glorious rock’n’roll-drenched dream and soon, very soon, any day now, I am going to wake and discover that I am in fact what I have long suspected myself of being: not a figure to envy or hate or be aware of, but just plain me – a little shy and a little dull and a whole load mediocre. I struggle against these thought patterns near every day, when I allow them in. I try not to allow them in. I cannot listen to old music (music made by ‘indie’ bands in the 80s and 90s and 00s), it makes me too sad. Why would I do that deliberately? So my artificial high, my Joey Ramoney, my drugs fix needs to restart all over again, needs to come from somewhere… needs to come from moments and series like this. Nightspell – Sea of Thieves. This reminds me of my French crush, the increasingly scary Sugar & Tiger, and … it ticks every box I want ticking. For now. It makes me happy without making me sad, lost in the pureness of the moment for 150 brief seconds. Beautiful, bruising, beautiful. I want to play it FUCKING LOUD, but cannot for fear of waking the neighbours.

So fine.

It’s your turn it’s your turn it’s your turn
Listen listen listen
Time is gone this is all this is it
Do you care? Suck all the air
A sense of love is hardly real
It is my life you want to steal
A pirate thief has come for me
My heart is rich with victory
So please stop talking
It my turn it’s my turn it’s my turn
Listen listen listen
There’s no way it’s ok there’s no way
Do you care suck all the air
Swim away swim away swim away swim away
Take anything that you want
Take anything but me

Sixty for 60: 15. Hannah Rose Kessler

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60.

Today, Terry Tyldesley has been good enough to recommend me Hannah Rose Kessler and her deeply sarcastic answer song ‘Your Female Rage‘. This reminds me of the acerbic poetry of early 1980s artist Anne Clark (no, not that one), but this song is far more vicious in its own way: over an acoustic, gentle guitar Kessler does not hide bare realities of objectification and being gender-patronised, nor does she bother to mask her scorn for those that would seek to treat others in a certain way. As she wrote on Facebook:

One of the songs upcoming on my EP is all about how “Female Rage” is treated as a selling point in itself. However, this “Female Rage” is full of conditions and contradictions. Eg, you can *tell* people how angry you are, they’ll nod sympathetically and tell you how brave you are for speaking out, but the moment you actually *are* angry, you’re a diva, a psycho, etc. Female Rage can be talked about, but it can’t be shown. They want us to be onstage, maybe lightly kick an amp, and shout-sing vague stuff about smashing the patriarchy, so they can wave their “YOU GO GIRL” flags and feel like they’ve done their bit for feminism. Anger isn’t always a call to arms. Sometimes it’s a lonely, desperate, painful feeling. All of us need to remember that it’s okay to sit with those feelings and consider where they come from. We don’t always have to be brave, empowered and strong. It’s okay to feel hopeless at times. No really, it is okay. I understand group motivation often uses ideas of bravery, power and strength to get people together, but I want to consider a 4th quality: Compassion. Treat your fellow human beings with compassion. Treat yourself with the compassion you treat your closest friends. Self love isn’t all about success, healthy choices and baths, sometimes it’s about allowing yourself the space to cry, to be weak. Sending all the love and solidarity to everyone who is impacted by misogyny. If you’re struggling reach out, if you know your friend is down, reach out. Look after one another ❤ we are all worthy of love.

I particularly like this line, ” Anger isn’t always a call to arms. Sometimes it’s a lonely, desperate, painful feeling.” There’s no ‘sometimes’ about it, far as many of the people I know are concerned.

The song itself is shiver-inducing, beautiful in its directness. No, not beautiful in that fucking way, you idiot. Have you not been listening to a word we’re saying? Beautiful, only inasmuch as it induces shivers, shards of recognition and isolation. Anguish. Despair. (Is loneliness sexy? I really don’t fucking think so.) The always on-it Loud Women call it, “A sensuous, barbed riposte to the commodification of feminism”. I really appreciate this raw emotion, this soul. Most of all, I appreciate this for the way it reminds me how powerful a tool music can be.

This does not make me feel comfortable, far from it.

Sixty for 60: 14. Nightshift

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60.

Today, it’s the turn of Facebook friend Alexis Late – ‘Power Cut’ by Nightshift. (Are they Australian? Please tell me they’re Australian! They totally sound Australian.) Slightly panicked, she writes, “I’m probably too late but just in case xx” and then adds, “Oh no that was 2020! Eek sorry 😳 But that was my favourite song of 2020. Here is a 2021 one xx.” No need to worry Alexis, both are great – and strikingly different too. (Beach Photography have a bit of a Petticoats vibe about them, don’t you think?) This one reminds me of… no, wait. Why should you care which obscure yet magnificent Sydney and Melbourne band this reminds me of? All you need to know is: does this pass the Electrelane test?

Well, does it? You can answer your own question at around the 4.15 mark when the clarinet (oboe?) and swings come into play. Fuck YEAH it passes the Electrelane test. And no, it ain’t from anywhere close to Melbourne or Sydney or Brisbane or any of those other cities I hold so dear – but that’s cool. That’s fine. Good music is good music is good music. And this groove just keeps going on and on and on, so much so that when the needle leaves the groove you just need to place it back in there and start dancing all over again. A little bit Totally Mild, a little bit one of those homebuilt cassette labels from the early 1980s (the synth), a little bit Life Without Buildings even. I mean, what more do you need to know? This contains near everything Everett True loves about a certain strand of psych music. I know, because I asked him.

I notice this is referred to as “post-punk” on their YouTube channel but it really isn’t.

It is way more magnificent than that. My new favourite band. Their record label is named after a Nina Simone song. Do yourself a favour: listen to their entire album. So good.

Sixty for 60: 13. Gravel Samwidge

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60.

Today. Again, today I am breaking my own rules. I do not believe this was a nomination but certainly a) I have been aware of this for some time now, and b) these are some of my old homeboys from Brisbane and as such take precedence. It has only been in recent months that I no longer miss Brisbane and its sun and isolation and massive lawns every day – this, more than five years since I moved back to the UK. Haywards Heath is similar: but as yet, I have not discovered the space or underground music scene that made Brisbane so bearable and indeed desirable. And the grunge! Sometimes, it feels like Brisbane’s Gravel Samwidge – and the much-missed, sadly departed Bek Moore – are the only people left this side of the Arm himself to understand what was meant by “the grunge”.

Today, we have Gravel Samwidge – ‘Wrong Way’ (Swashbuckling Hobo Records).

Mess. Noise. Freedom. Beer. Sprawling comatose under share houses. Loudness. Camaraderie. Loving the loud rock and most all that goes with it. Loving the weird little scuttling creatures that lurk beneath the abandoned car in the garage under your share house.

Or, as Robert Brokenmouth says about their newest vinyl Complaints:

It’s quite unpleasant, and I may never listen to it again. But if I do, it will be very loud, and I will end up in jail. I like Gravel Samwidge. They’re out of kilter with everything else around right now. The songs put the listener right in the singer’s place, their intense, irritated narrative. The Gravels write songs as natural to Australia as the King Brown Snake, and just about as cuddly.

Agreed. He goes on to mention a fair bit about The Birthday Party and The Scientists – but bearing in mind I have been cited on numerous occasions as saying Kim Salmon invented grunge in Australia years ahead of schedule, I think we can safely say me and the Brokenmouth are spewing forth syllables from the same dusty semen-impregnated hymn book here. He also adds this most excellent disclaimer:

Don’t get “Complaints” if you want to dance (get the Revillos’ Cherry Red box, “Stratoplay” instead). Don’t get “Complaints” if you think that Nirvana were stoner rock, nor if you think Mudhoney stole Nirvana’s glory. This ain’t Seattle-nostalgia. This is something very nasty out of Brisbane. Get “Complaints” if you’re a grumpy old git like me who wants the world to pay a bit more attention to itself, and you fancy a turn inside yourself. Down a wrong way street, naturally.

So true. Ain’t Seattle nostalgia at all: this is specifically Aussie RULES and more specifically Brisbane and also nasty and cuddly and twisted (though, much as I love the new Revillos box, gotta say that it’s mostly irrelevant after the first disc). So that’s that. Gravel Samwidge: two MASSIVE fucking thumbs up from ME! This is like Fontaines DC or Idles or someone, but really fucking good. (NOTE: I like Fontaines DC and Idles and someone.) THEY KICK SOME FUCKEN ASS.

As I wrote before:

I really appreciate any music that sounds this sludgy and acerbic and sarcastic. Music that captures a moment in time, and doesn’t move forwards, only sideways. I really appreciate any music that makes me feel a little less alone. I really appreciate any music that can remind me of music that’s actually near-impossible to duplicate but tries anyway and gloriously, deliriously fails. Music that makes me shuffle backwards and forwards, rooted on the spot, waving my non-hair in abandon. In my head, I’m dancing. Always dancing. In my head, I’m surrounded by music like this and I’m leaning out of a third-flight window throwing whiskey bottles at the dullards below. In my head, this is the sound to aim for: drawn-out and lingering and not a little woozy. Everything is a failed climax. Everything is anchovies.

If there were from Birmingham UK, they’d be called The Nightingales, and Stewart Lee would be making gloriously brilliant documentaries about their sadly never-realised glory years.

Sixty for 60: 12. The Helicopter Of The Holy Ghost

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60.

Today. Wait. Today, I am breaking my own rules once more. This recommendation is my own: yesterday, my dear friend Crayola Lectern passed along a beautifully-packaged slab of clear 8″ vinyl to me, with a gorgeous painting of a many-coloured parrot on its front cover. Now, I can only play 8″ on my straight-to-MP3 record player, sounded out through mono speakers, so… (Wait. I have some stereo speakers now. Whatever.) So, I did the sensible thing. And read the (physical, hand-typed) press release for The Helicopter Of The Holy Ghost‘s brand-new (released May 20) 8″ single, Slow Down c/w Not The End Of. Found the link to the website with the lashings of charm and information.

And I quote:

The Helicopter of The Holy Ghost are Billy Reeves, Crayola Lectern, Mark Morriss and, on guitar, Mark Peters. To to buy our eight inch single please join our socials: insta /thehothg – fb / thehothg – twitter /helicopterholy where, on May 21st the store URL will appear at 9am. as the record is very limited. It will also be released on May 21st on all streaming platforms and iTunes.

Billy Reeves formed theaudience for a bet, fortunately meeting the fabulous Sophie Ellis-Bextor two days later at The Garage, Islington. (He won the bet seven months later). The band reached the dizzy heights of 12 in the LP charts. In 2000 he signed to Sony with the group ‘Yours’ but this project was violently curtailed by joy-riders that hit his Morris Minor at 99 mph (on the way home from promoting the first ever gig by the popular heavy metal band, The Darkness). A long coma, many operations and a housebound year ensued. In 2017 his brother gave him two mini-discs that had been saved from the wreckage, including demos of songs he had forgotten – due to crash-related amnesia. These songs were recently moulded into an album, ‘Afters’ by Reeves, Mark Morriss, (solo artist and singer with the chart-topping guitar-janglers The Bluetones), Mark Peters (of Engineers – Rough Trade included his solo LP ‘Innerland’ in their best albums list of 2018), and Crayola Lectern (from Crayola Lectern/Zofff/la Momo/Departure Lounge and Damo Suzuki’s band up the Con Club in Lewes). ​

What are these songs about? No-one knows. They are, however, very pretty.

I need to insert myself back into this dialogue here and point out two things: first, I was the person on the other end of that bet (the losing side). Second, earlier that day I was shown the exact spot (in “boring” Goring) where the video to the original version of ‘Slow Down’ was filmed. (Coincidence? I think not.) I already love this song – as indicated when I first wrote the following several years ago while living in Brisbane.

I know and I love this song so well, though – ever since I saw him perform it on a grand piano in the Quakers Meeting Hall in Brighton a few years back. Or perhaps it was in his and Sadie’s flat in Worthing. (I say a few years. It has to be over six, because that’s how long I’ve been living here in Brisbane. This video was released 18 months ago. So long ago, I’ve seen Chris perform with Crayola Lectern on a beach in Worthing since then. On pebbles, and with random revellers snared in and entranced by the hypnotic loveliness of the Lectern keyboards.) I know what the song is about, loosely: he’s told me. So I’m not going to tell you. Interpretation, remember? Always leave it up to the listener. It’s haunting, mournful, beautiful. It’s like something drawn from that wonderful 1974 album Rock Bottom, but I don’t mean that to sound like it’s copyist. It ain’t. It’s so fucking good, it should be closing out the end credits of three dozen TV serials about surrealist loneliness and isolation and long-distance worry.  Such a graceful way of making the silence linger. Such a beautiful sonorous trumpet. Such a lovely dance. Such wonderful double-layering of the vocal line. Makes me miss my dear friend’s companionship and caring so much.

(My eyes are closed right now, enjoying the music. I cannot see the keyboard for my two-fingered type. I just love being able to lose myself; in the process like this.)

So now there is a new version of the song out, vocals from the singer with my former Britpop sweethearts The Bluetones, car crashes and bets and love included, new video with some fetching stop-motion line animation, and a beautiful painting of a parrot. Damn, I feel spoiled today. And now I wonder what the song is about, bearing in mind all this back story and added connotations. (Have I mentioned that trumpet… oh my God. Trumpet to die for. Not literally. Please, not literally.) This is as gorgeous as your arse is flatulent. No. This. This is as gorgeous as Sophie Dahl waltzing through fields of ballet dancing men, as melancholy as spending your entire life never listening to Robert Wyatt, as evocative and poignant as a child kicking a stone alone on the way home, as refreshing as Spring Rain. As gorgeous as the arse of Donald Trump is flatulent. Oh god. No. This. This is succour and beauty and redemption and pain and laughter. This is…

Slow down lad. Please, slow down.

Treat yourself. Go to their website, and order yourself a slice of… oh god. I don’t know. Poignancy. Poetry. Love.

Name from a Microdisney song, I assume.