The Comedians

And not just any old bunch of comedians either. The Divine Comedy, sympathetic interpreters of the work of Mr. Neil Hannon, who is up there in my opinion with soon-to-be Sir Ray Davies as a living, breathing and performing example of a Great British Popular…

‘Larks Tongues in Aspic?….

Don’t mind if I do, thanks…’

A famous philosopher once said ‘life is like a box of chocolates’. Ergo, so must be music, (for many) an integral part of life…. on first impressions it can seem soft, hard, sweet, tart, chewy, or can melt like just like liquid in your ears. It also contains a (dangerously?) high proportion of nuts. However, it also leaves an impression, an aftertaste, that with the best also leads to craving more… Looking back on the selection of treats on offer in 2011, here are some of my personal highlights – my artists of the year, who induced in me those ‘I like it I like it I like it !’ goosebumps with their art… and, left me wanting, yes, more…

Amy LaVere, double bass wielding belle whose Southern gothic Lynchian meditations were iced with some outstanding surf noir guitarwork

Fatoumata Diawara, music as beautiful, addictive, hypnotic and mysterious as any I have heard

Gillian Welch, as unique and timeless as ever

Wilco, storming back on their new label with what may well prove to be their definitive album

Mountain Man, sounding as old as the hills themselves, this female trio sent many a chill through my psyche with their otherworldy harmonies

Tom Waits, still ornery as hell and as slippery and gifted as ‘ol Springheel Jack himself, ornate crazy blues with fellow old jackal Keith Richards along for the ride

Jonathan Wilson, long hair/Topanga Canyon/Bob Harris/Jackson Browne/David Crosby are just some of the touchstones in his work, but the end result is uniquely his

Josh T Pearson, a truly stunning solo album ten years on from Lift To Experience

Other highlights and Honorable Mentions go to Edwyn Collins, continuing to astound in his recovery, with an amazing work rate not just as a writer/performer whose work is getting even better with each release, but also now as label boss (and often production chair)of the very wonderful AED Records, and indeed the AED singles and albums, particularly Linden & Rotifer, to Thomas Dolby (I rediscovered the chillingly beauteous ‘Airwaves’), Richmond Fontaine’s ‘High Country’, The Civil Wars, The Click Five live at Mith Samlanh , Colorama, and for rebooting my powerpop years the Japanese reissues on 1977 Records of my old band’s Radio City single and album-that-never-was, Sigur Ros with the atmospheric end of era ‘Inni’, the righteous racket that was the Jim Jones Revue, Rolling Stones live stuff from the early 70’s (Brussels Affair) and the ‘Some Girls’ reissue, Kurt Vile & co-conspirators the War on Drugs…

… and of course, there’s more, much more, where those came from…

Breakfast of champions

It’s breakfast time in an unnaturally quiet Phnom Penh. Unnaturally, as it is Water Festival which normally brings milling throngs in their millions to the city from the provinces, but this year the spectacular boat races pivotal to the festival have been cancelled as the countryside is still reeling under the impact of the floods. Maybe some echoes of last year’s tragedy at Koh Pichhave also added to the sense of quiet contemplation that seems to have settled over the city. Even the fireworks of yesterday evening seemed almost perfunctory and embarrassed to be breaking the calm. However, it’s not so quiet in our street.


After a long and noisy period of deconstruction, construction work has now begun opposite us, and as this is a mid-scale job (probably a high-rise apartment block), the lack of safety precautions taken by the construction team is frankly alarming to behold. I have already watched one worker place his head directly under a jackhammer which seconds before had been pounding relentlessly away (no hard hats either, which of course wouldn’t really have made any difference) and another, a teenage boy, swinging from the hook of a crane by one arm, about 15m off the ground. Meanwhile the local kids are playing in and around the site, which has no safety barriers or warning signs of any kind in evidence…


So, breakfast time… ah, yes, it makes me think fondly of orange juice (you poor old soul, you!) and fond thoughts of orange juice lead on to even fonder thoughts of the chieftain of OJ, the inestimable Sir Edwyn Collins. His remarkable journey back from his debilitating illness continues, and the latest evidence can be found right here on ‘Down the Line’, a brand new track from his forthcoming album. It will be released next year on the rather wonderful AED Records (Analogue Enhanced Digital – Todays Technology Now!), a label to cherish, with some excellent acts joining Edwyn in keeping the spirit of independent music alive, whilst simultaneously falling and laughing…


I saw yer’!!

Much merriment yesterday (and today) when Otis and I revisited the 1960’s, travelling down the time tunnel to find The Who in their mod-tastic prime firstly performing (in a bizarre little b&w film) the treatise on mental illness and cruelty they christened ‘Happy Jack’, followed closely by the mayhem they inflicted upon The Smothers Brothers Show in the USA. Mr. Moon packed a little too much gunpowder into his stage effects during a performance of ‘My Generation’ , and the result…. devastation!

auto-destruction - The Who, where art and rock 'n' roll collide and explode...

Otis likes Keith Moon, which is just fine by me… one of the greatest drummers the world of rock’n’roll has ever produced. Indeed, the way my son batters wildly on his collection of drums, the furniture and his mummy and daddy makes me think that Moonie Mark II might be among us already…!

God bless The ‘Oo, and award yourself one point if you know where the title of this piece comes from…

Cassettes (and books)

Received an e-mail today which rolled back the years. It came from Mike Powell, who played guitar in a band with me 30 years ago. The band were called the Blonde Brothers, brainchild of myself and Raymond Henderson, and we really believed we were the powerpop songwriting saviours of Scottish music. For about 10 minutes we were, getting single of the week accolades in the music press for our ‘cassingle’ and attracting the attention of Led Zeppelin’s publishing agent who promptly Led us into oblivion…

A blast from the analogue past - the Blonde Brothers amongst friends...

The pic above comes from a bit of reminiscence about the BB’s courtesy of another Thurso expat, Mr. Kevin Williamson. His life took a turn for the unexpected when his publishing company took a chance on an unknown Scottish writer called Irvine Welsh…

Read Kevin’s original post.

Gotta lust for life….


Next to ‘Surf Green’ guitars (which mine is, thanks again Ani – I will relate that story in more detail one day…), I am somewhat partial to the red variety. Here is a nice ESP Telecaster currently holed up in a box on the wall of the Hard Rock cafe in Bangkok.

Signed by Keith Richards, but probably never owned or touched by the Human Riff.

Guitars should not be in boxes.

They could give it to me, that would be nice. I’d love to have a strum on that.

Talking of guitars, do check out the new album by American chaps Real Estate. It’s called Days, and it’s really rather good in a Sunday morning hazy mazy kind of way. Free download and more info at the end of this post.

Despite claiming to be influenced by the Doobie Brothers and Kokomo (remember them?), to these ears there’s more an early Stone Roses/Byrdsian/Feelies type feel going on. Good stuff anyway, and chock full of… yes, guitars!

Happy Lazy Sunday, all…

Green Aisles by Real Estate