Album Review – Monochrome Set

Monochrome Set -‘Maisieworld.’ (Tapete)

“…Playful vocals sing of your frail organic nature, the sad dreams and hopes that you entertain, and the dismal decisions you make. Scenes of a different imagination tear you like brittle canvas and rearrange your portrait into another’s fantasy.

Upon your exit from Maisieworld, you will be pleasantly surprised to find that your vessel is now filled with abnormal thoughts.

Caution : May contain nuts. And bolts.”

Excerpt from press release.

…Of course, I’m not here to review the press release, but it does give some idea of the world in which you enter here…

This year marks forty years since the Monochrome Set formed. Led by Ganesh ‘Bid’ Seshadri, they rose out of the ashes of the B-Sides, which had included Stuart Goddard (the future Adam Ant).

This is, perhaps surprisingly, their fourteenth studio album. It’s a great insight into what makes them distinctive as a band. While I wouldn’t want people to cherry pick what they listen to on this album (c’mon people, it’s all of 33 minutes long! Find the time, as Five Star once sang), there are highlights on this record. Stage Fright,  the opening ‘Give Me Your Youth’ and the wonderfully titled (and ever so slightly sinister sounding) ‘Oh, Yes, I’m Going To Be In Your Dreams Tonight.’ Sounding so different to almost anything you will hear on mainstream radio as to be from a different planet (and all the better for it) these songs hold their own up against the songs of what is now decades ago like ‘The Monochrome Set’ and ‘Jet Set Junta.’ There are – unquestionably- people who can explain in more depth than I can about what is ver Set’s best work, but this is as good as any place to start with their work. The oft-repeated John Peel cliche about The Fall that they were always different, always the same applies to the Monochrome Set. It’s an equal successor to the band’s last record, 2016’s Cosmonaut.

It’s not just that it’s different from so much out there that makes this an entrancing listen. Sure, it’s not a groundbreaking record, but this is a great collection of songs and and attendant sounds. It’s somehow very reassuring that in this uncertain world that Bid and co. continue to produce their slightly quirky songs, a connection to a time when indie meant independent, as opposed to meat and two veg formulaic guitar work, as is so often the case. While members may have wondered why the former Stuart Goddard had much greater commercial success than they, four decades along, there’s still consistently great work coming from the Monochrome Set. There have been splits and hiatuses along the way, but whether the next album is two or ten years away, there’s a strong likelihood it will be worth the wait.


Maisieworld is out now on Tapete

More from Sista Strange

Last year, I was very impressed by a track from a South London duo called Sista Strange. Still in their teens they are Chariz Calanday and Jesley Faye Fantolgo. Writing about ‘Friday Evening’ I commented ‘I hear electronica, soul, hip-hop and drum’n’bass, served up as a kick-ass tune.

It still is, take note. Somehow I missed out on the slightly darker-sounding ‘Lust’ – but I’m enjoying making up for lost time. You should, too.

In the last week, they have unveiled ‘Ride’ which shows that they have developed further. In what seems to be -charmingly – typical of the Sista Strange sound, it goes places you don’t expect. Not least because my first thought was ‘Wow! They’ve gone more soulful on this one.’ It is, however, like a much needed ray of sunshine in this freezing cold weather. Utterly fantastic.

New from Ezra Furman

I cannot claim to be any sort of expert about Ezra Furman. I do know that I really enjoy both of his last two albums Perpetual Motion People and Transangelic Exodus. The latter was released this last Friday just gone. I’m still getting my head around it – it’s absolutely brilliant, though. As in: I would be happy to spend my own money on it, and be thrilled.

So, instead I will point you in the direction of the very nice Loz Etheridge at my other writing gig, God Is In The TV, and you can read his excellent review there.

I don’t think it’s either controversial nor too early to say this album will be cropping up on end of year lists. This video for ‘Driving Down To L.A.’ is worth seeing on its own…

…and you should stream the whole album below:

The return of Broken Records

Having championed them on this blog since 2007, every time there is a new Broken Records release I want to get up and cheer. Should a forty-something man behave this way? Ach, who cares. Broken Records will shortly release their fourth album What We Might Know, on March 30.

The first track from the album is entitled ‘They Won’t Ever Leave Us Alone’ – and whether or not you have seen the video or heard the track, you can view it just here:

The band will be playing the following tour dates:

March 31 – Lexington, London

April 21 – Church, Dundee

April 26 – Summerhall, Edinburgh

April 27 – Tolbooth, Stirling

April 28 – Lemon Tree, Aberdeen

The album cover looks like this…

…and the album tracklist is as follows:

  1. They Won’t Ever Leave Us Alone
  2. Let The Right One In
  3. Open Ground
  4. The Inbetween
  5. Anytime
  6. Perfect Hollow Love
  7. When All Of This Is Done
  8. So Free
  9. Clarity.
  10. Someday You’ll Remember Me
  11. What We Might Know

Album Review – Ohio Players (re-issue)

Ohio Players – The Definitive Collection (Cherry Red)

It is absolutely no reflection on the quality of the music produced, but by and large, Ohio Players are mainly known for three things in the UK. The single ‘Who’d She Coo’ which reached no.43 in 1976, the song ‘Love Rollercoaster’ (which became a top ten hit in Britain for the Red Hot Chili Peppers), and the fact that their song ‘Fopp’ gave the record chain their name. All three tracks are here – but there’s so much more.

This 46-track compilation is pretty comprehensive, divided into three chapters: ‘The Early Years,’ ‘The Golden Years’ and ‘The Later & Solo Years.’ The band were hugely successful in the mid seventies in the US – but even that had been a long time coming.

The first disc starts with the fabulous ‘Here Today and Gone Tomorrow’ (later covered by David Bowie on his Diamond Dogs tour). This track, with its echoes of Smokey Robinson and Sam Cooke, came from the band’s debut album Observations In Time, released in 1969. This was a decade after the group had formed in Dayton, Ohio. A series of singles (not included here were issued throughout the sixties, and over the course of their lifetime the band were signed to a number of labels. Amongst other things they backed Wilson Pickett on ‘I Found A Love.’

Observations was only a regional hit, and it was a couple of label changes later before the band had their first hit single and album Pain. The first disc also includes ‘Funky Worm’ – a big US hit that was later sampled numerous times by the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Ice Cube and Snoop Doggy Dogg, amongst many others.

Dubbing the second disc ‘The Golden Years’ is accurate in terms of both American commercial success and just how essential they’d become – these are tracks that hold their own against the likes of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Funkadelic who were all firing on all creative cylinders at this time. As well as the aforementioned likes of ‘Fire,’ ‘Coo’ and ‘Rollercoaster’ there’s the gorgeous ‘Sweet Sticky Thing’ – taken from the album Honey (but of course!) and ‘O-H-I-O.’

The final disc may sound like it’s preparing you for a let down – but it doesn’t. The band were evolving, even if their commercial fortunes may have been on the wane – and two noteworthy cover versions of Otis Redding-popularised numbers -‘Try A Little Tenderness’ and ‘Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay’ are radically reworked from the way you think you know them.

Though the music on this compilation ends in 1985, the band continue to tour to this day. What this compilation shows is how great the recorded output of the Ohio Players was in these years. Drawing on soul, funk, rock, jazz and disco – and paving the way for hip-hop – it’s time their story was more widely known, not just the edited highlights. If you haven’t heard them before, take this as your starting point – and then go and track down those studio albums.


The Definitive Collection Plus… is out now on Cherry Red



Album Review – Stick In The Wheel

Stick In The Wheel – ‘Follow Them True.’ (From Here)

I thought that if you had an acoustic guitar it meant that you were a protest singer’ sang Morrissey on The Smiths’ 1985 single ‘Shakespeare’s Sister.’ I reference this because it seems that ‘folk music’ is far too often a term used in staggeringly lazy ways. See, Stick In The Wheel do come from a folk tradition – but it’s one that’s very much alive, and has absolutely nothing to do with *insert irritating run of the mill mostly acoustic band of your choice here.*
Hailing from East London, and lead by singer Nicola Kearey and guitarist Ian Carter, this is the second album from Stick In The Wheel. Their debut, 2015’s From Here was a critical success, picking up end of year best of awards. On the strength of this album, it’s likely the same thing is going to happen all over again.
‘The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance’ is a fascinating example of why Stick In The Wheel are so vital. The idea of a ‘dance tune’ is so often tied to EDM – but the point about dance music is that people should be able to like, y’know, be able to dance to it? It originates from the thirteenth century in a Staffordshire village, still being performed every year (you can read more about it here) even in the twenty-first century. Over the course of three and a half minutes, this dance starts off slight before picking up pace and getting more and more urgent. Stick In The Wheel argue that as one of the oldest surviving English dance tunes, people should be aware of this as part of their heritage. If listeners (misguidedly) wonder what relevance this should have to music in the 21st century, it’s because human beings are still human beings, still getting to grips with and being alienated by technology, and dealing with the reality of day to day living.
What it doesn’t have is the voice of Nicola Kearey. On the rest of the album’s tracks she is there, singing unapologetically in her own East London accent. It can be an acquired taste – but well worth acquiring. So whether on the band’s originals like the title track or the stunning opening ‘Over Again,’ the latter sounding both modern and centuries old at the same time, there’s links with the older, traditional material that they visit. One of the standout tracks is ‘The Blind Beggar Of Bethnal Green’ which is routed in the legend of SImon de Montfort from the 13th Century. Like Fairport Convention’s take on ‘Matty Groves’ it’s a song centuries old that becomes itself in this recorded version.
Stick In The Wheel are an astonishingly easy band to love. If you’re a fan already, you know this. If your view of folk music is that it’s worthy but dull stuff for real ale bores in hideous jumpers, let this put you right. Not a ‘hey nonny no in sight (or hearing)’, and delivered with an attitude if not sound that’s far more ‘hey ho let’s go.’
Follow Them True is released on January 26 2018 on From Here

New from Tracey Thorn

Photo credit: Edward Bishop

One of my favourite singers, Tracey Thorn, has announced her first album of new material in seven years.

Entitled Record, the video for the album’s opening track ‘Queen’ can be watched below. In her own words ‘It’s a great opener for the album – driven along by Ewan Pearson’s unashamedly glittering electro-pop production, drums and bass from Warpaint’s Stella and Jenny, it features me playing electric guitar for the first time in a while, and singing my heart out.”

The album tracklisting is as follows:

1.  Queen
2.  Air
3.  Guitar
4.  Smoke
5.  Sister
6.  Go
7.  Babies
8.  Face
9.  Dancefloor

‘Nine feminist bangers!’ she reportedly (well, it’s what the press release says, so you know…) jokes about how the album sounds. It’s released on March 2. Bring it on…

Young Fathers – new song and album!

Young Fathers picture credit: Julia Noni

Long-term 17 Seconds favourites, Young Fathers, have announced their third album.

Entitled Cocoa Sugar, the album will be released on March 9 on Ninja Tune. Following on from ‘Lord’ which was released towards the end of last year, the band have released another track from the album ‘In My View.’

The band will be touring – dates can be found here on their website, including a date at Glasgow’s Barrowlands and theor biggest headline gig to date at London’s Roundhouse.

The album’s tracklisting is as follows:

1. See How

2. Fee Fi

3. In My View.

4. Turn

5. Lord

6. Tremolo.

7. Wow

8. Border Girl

9. Holy Ghost

10. Wire

11. Toy

12. Picking You

…and just for completeness sake:

U.S. Girls: New single, album, tour…

Meg Remy photographed by Colin Medley

Wow…4AD are continuing to keep my inbox very busy indeed. Long may they continue to do so…

Meg Remy, who goes under the name U.S. Girls, is shortly to release her sixth album, In A Poem Unlimited. Her second album for the label, and her sixth in all, she has also unveiled the third track to be released from the album ‘Pearly Gates.’

And wow, are those concepts intriguing. ‘Pearly Gates’ is about a woman attempting to seduce St. Peter in order to get into heaven, with mixed results.  is explained by its creator as follows: “Some years back a story was recounted to me about a man attempting to convince a woman to engage in unprotected sex by saying, ‘Don’t worry, I’m really good at pulling out.’ I thought this was a hilariously stupid thing to say and knew one day I would build a song around this line.”  

The other singles so far released from the album include ‘Velvet 4 Sale’ imagining a world where women take up arms against men…

…and the aforementioned ‘Mad As Hell’, which deals with pacifism.

The album tracklisting is as follows:

1. Velvet 4 Sale
2. Rage Of Plastics
3. M.A.H.
4. Why Do I Lose My Voice When I Have Something To Say
5. Rosebud
6. Incidental Boogie
7. L-Over
8. Pearly Gates
9. Poem 
10. Traviata
11. Time

She will be touring later on this year, the European tour dates are as follows:

30 April – AMSTERDAM, Melkweg Theaterzaal
1 May – BRUSSELS, Les Nuits Botanique
3 May – BERLIN, Kantine
4 May – VLIELAND, Here Comes The Summer
6 May – COPENHAGEN, Hotel Cecil
8 May – COLOGNE, Gewoelbe
9 May – ZURICH, Rote Fabrik
10 May – BASEL, Kaserne
11 May – BOLOGNA, Locomotiv Club
14 May – PARIS, Point Ephemere
16 May – LONDON, Scala
17 May – BIRMINGHAM, The Hare and Hounds
18 May – MANCHESTER, Soup Kitchen

Track of the day #51: Justin Levinson

It’s cold in most of the northern hemisphere, and summer feels so far away. It might be a gamble to release a record that sounds so summery – but Justin Levinson has done that and released an absolute gem.

Having released his fourth album Yes Man in 2015, he has released the gorgeous ‘I’ll Make It In Hollywood.’ This is a single that deserves your attention. It’s sure as hell got mine.As in: I like the single, I’ve gone to investigate further.

According to the press release: “I really wanted to release a bright/ beachy summery track at the beginning of the year,” Justin explains. “Like the previous record, we kept a lot of the ’60s pop inspired sound… big vocal arrangements, wurly and mellotron. Though the song may appear to be about a fella who is quite confident he’s going to hit the big time in Hollywood, there is actually a bit of a subtle cynical undertone. I tried to tap into some of the hardship creatives go through in a lighthearted manner.”

Beach Boys meets the Carpenters? Could be. Or Ben olds if he’d been more in thrall to sixties baroque pop but kept his sense of sarcasm. It’s 1965-1975 distilled, beauty and cynicism at the same time, to produce a brilliant pop record that I can’t stop playing.