Live review: Mik Artistik’s Ego Trip @ The Salty Dog, Northwich, 9th October 2022

It’s a cold and rainy Sunday evening and Northwich town centre is even more deserted than usual.

But at the southern end of the pedestrianised High Street you’ll find the best choice of beer in town at The Salty Dog. The owners are desperately trying to breathe some life into this town with regular live music, DJs and comedy nights.

Coincidentally it was exactly 7 years ago today that I first encountered the phenomenon known to the world as Mik Artistik’s Ego Trip. For the uninitiated, they are a 3 piece playing in a 2-1 formation. The backline tonight consists of ever-present shiny-shoed guitar whizzkid Johnny Flockton and a Fruitbat-haired bassist who I think is called Carl. Up front and centre of attention we have the frontman every other band wishes they had, the indescribable Mik Artistik.

He’s a sexagenarian rock star.

He’s a philosopher, a poet, a visionary.

He’s an accordionist with accoutrements.

He’s a menace to society.

He’s a livestream of consciousness.

He’s a shouty bald man in a string vest.

As Kris Kristofferson puts it “he’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction.”

The current tour is billed as the “Sharp” tour, named after the recently released album which was recorded live in Mik’s hometown of Leeds in December 2021. They’ve released 10 albums now, 3 of them recorded live and often that’s the best way to hear the songs. The live versions can often end up double or triple the length of the original versions once Mik goes off on his tangential ad-libs.

At this gig they only played 5 of the 13 tracks from the “Sharp” album. To be honest I was delighted about that because I got to hear quite a few of my favourite songs that aren’t included on that album.

One of those was the breezy opener “I Don’t Need Heroin” in which our hero plays an accordion while vowing to stick to bitter, Baileys and Belgian chocolates instead. Good advice for all and certainly far funnier than Lou Reed’s song, apart from the line “it’s my wife and it’s my life” which for some reason I’ve always found hilarious.

“the trouble with heroin, it’s very moreish apparently”

That was followed by another of my favourites where Mik is worrying about guitarist Johnny leaving the group, with its increasingly panicked refrain “Johnny’s had an offer from another fucking band!”

Mik boasts of his new musical instrument in “Acoustic Synthesizer” and gives details some of the amazing sounds you get when you press its keys… bird song, a choir of angels, even the football scores! Leeds United 4 Man City 0 apparently, a scoreline which will delight my fellow wizard Kicker Of Elves.

If you’ve been wondering when someone was finally going to get round to writing a dub reggae anthem about people who don’t pick up their dogs’ shit, then “Clampdown” is the song you’ve been waiting for. The 2 boys at the back were playing a blinder on that one.

Another highlight was “Tribute Band” an extended spoken word piece so lengthy it was split into 2 halves either side of the interval. It tells the story of how an impressionable and youthful Mik become obsessed with a band called Theme and how his life was subsequently turned upside down by a chance meeting in the Dolomites. It’s 150% fictional but the detail and precision in the words and performance are so inspired that as you chuckle along, you just have to admire the writing.

The first half was brought to a close with “I’m Turnin’ Into Dad.” There are a lot of lines about getting old in his lyrics and the topic of becoming more like your parents as you get older is one that would be very easy to just play for laughs. But we’re not talking about a musician who takes the obvious path here. Mik’s song about his dad is genuinely moving. He’s been our guide through quite a dramatic change in mood and we’re all going with it. Ten minutes ago he was singing about dog shit in a silly Jamaican accent, now he’s singing about his childhood and many of the crowd simultaneously seem to have something in their eye.

The second half opened with “David Bowie (Was A Funny Man)” another touching song centred around Mik playing the “Golden Years” riff on his accordion. The song mentions that Bowie’s dad was from Doncaster which I just presumed was totally made up. But I just Googled it and it’s bloody true!

David Bowie by Mik Artistik

With its post-punk guitar riffing and unhinged vocals, possibly my all-time favourite Ego Trip song is “Plastic Fox.” The live version tonight was even more intense. The grandkids love it!

The hits just kept on coming as we neared the end of that second half. Not sure where Mik disappeared to while they played “Secret Cloak Of Invisibility” but both that song and the recent single “Glastonbury” went down very well.

Two older songs that I really love, but had completely forgotten about also made very welcome appearances in the set, “Bali” wherein Mik visits the tropical island in his dreams and the unquenchably funky “Condoleeza Rice.”

There were also some new songs along the way, I particularly enjoyed the one about being an old man in a flat cap seeing another old man in a flat cap in the street.

The final song was inevitably “Sweet Leaf Of The North,” named as the greatest song of the 2010s by no less a person than Iggy Fucking Pop! This was preceded by another exhilarating improvised flight of fancy from Mik, in which I especially enjoyed his impression of a Londoner. With the band still playing round the soulful keyboard riff as the song ended, Mik sang his thanks to us all for coming out on a Sunday night. Then we headed back out into the rain with our lives considerably enriched.

Mik modelling “Sweet Leaf Of The North” scarf

Related links:

Spare Snare – One From Each (with Jan Burnett)

This is the second part of my discussion with Jan Burnett of Spare Snare – you can find the first part here.

Here, I presented Jan with all 11 (ELEVEN) Spare Snare albums and asked him to select his ‘one from each’, either a favourite track or one that means the most to him. Jan asked to clarify that we were only talking about the album versions of songs, and I also went through and chose my favourites too. See if you agree.

LIVE AT HOME (1995) – As A Matter Of Fact

Jan: A Matter of Fact.

Kicker: .. is the correct answer. Is it because it’s the first song?

J: {laughs} Yeah, maybe not that album version, but as a song… I think I prefer the 4-track [version], but it’s the one that started it all off, you know? It triggered everything.

WESTFIELD LANE (1996) – Action Hero

J: (picks up Westfield Lane CD) Oh, this is interesting, where did you get that?

K: Oh, I’m not sure, did I not get it off you?

J: Don’t think so, it has a different rubber stamp. It’s a circle one normally.

K: Oh, is it a rarity? Excellent!

J: Hmm… I don’t know how many he made of this – he repressed it without telling me {laughs}, hey ho.

not rare at all, dammit

K: Of course, Guided By Voices and Cobra Verde had a single on [the Wabana label] too.

J; Yeah, the guy who ran the label (John Petkovic) was in GbV for a while… [From this] it’s probably obviously Action Hero, but James Dean Poster is a favourite as well. I’m going to say Action Hero as James Dean Poster has a sample on it.

K: Well, I’ve gone for Action Hero too..

J: I haven’t seen your list, honest…

K: No, no, but we seem to be in tune here…

ANIMALS AND ME (1998) – If I Had A Hi-Fi

J: Out of all the albums, we’ll exclude Sounds, because Sounds has got songs that are off these [other albums], and we’ll exclude the first album, I think this is probably the next strongest album. I think this is our most underrated. Right, I’m going to go with [If I Had A] Hi-Fi.

K: OK. Me too. {laughs}. What do you like about that songs apart from the fact that the title’s a palindrome?

J: It’s brilliant? {laughs} No, it’s weird, the lyrics were so out of date, and then they’ve come back in date. Everyone’s got record players again. I dunno, it [the song] works really well. I think the BBC Scotland version we did in 2018 as part of the Sounds promo is probably the ultimate version, we had slide on it, and it kind of blew me away. It’s on the boxset [The Complete BBC Radio Sessions 1995 – 2018]

CHARM (2001) – Taking On The Sides

K: You’ll know which one I like best on there, but I don’t know if that’ll influence you…

J: Erm, Taking On The Sides is probably the one, although Calling In The Favours… if I have to go with one (It is the One From Each section, Jan! – TTW Ed.)… it’d be Taking On The Sides.

K: See. We agree again, and you knew I’d say that because when you were offering to do hand written lyrics, I made you write out the whole thing including [Charles] Schultz’s spoken bit…

J: Yeah, thanks for that. {laughs}

LEARN TO PLAY (2004) – Why Don’t You Sing In Your Accent?

J: This is a funny record. I don’t always like it, but, er, Why Don’t You Sing In Your Accent?

K: OK, why that one?

J: Well, it’s probably more relevant now than ever {laughs}, but from memory, the recording was at the old Chem19 [with Andy Miller] or some of it was done on 4-track and then taken there. I think it’s got some really good music elements on it, and it’s quite a clever title and lyric as well.

K: I agree. And that’s why I chose it as well.

J: Oh, for fuck’s sake!

K: I don’t know why I’m bothering to ask you all this, I could have done it myself. {laughs} But the thing about that song is it is a Scottish song, right?

J: Aye, I suppose.

GARDEN LEAVE (2006) – Grow

J: This is a good example of where choosing a track to do with [Steve] Albini totally worked because Grow was kind of lost, and I always thought it was a great tune. So, doing it again with Albini with the extra trumpet and stuff, I think really worked. So, I’m going to go with Grow…

K: Well, of course you have because that’s what I went for. {laughs} Although, I do agree that the Sounds version is even better.

J: Yeah, it is a bit lost here, but then this is our lost period where people didn’t buy the records.

I LOVE YOU, I HATE YOU (2009) – Kicking Up Leaves

J: Good title that! The wife didn’t like that title, but… this is where we might go wrong with our choices… I’m going to say Kicking Up Leaves.

K: OK, yeah, I didn’t say that. Why do you like that one?

J: It’s totally about my daughter, actually. It’s a lyric about childhood, autumn leaves… There’s the obvious [choice] Spot The Difference, but no…

K: Well, I went for Qwerty For The Masses, which is also particularly helpful because it gives you that full A-Z of song titles, which I guess is very important and part of your long-term planning. {laughs}

VICTOR (2010) – And Now It’s Over

J: This is quite good, I quite like this, it reminds me of when we did the playbacks [over Twitter] during the lockdown. I do remember them [the albums] better now.

K: So, you don’t listen back very often? It’s like you’ve recorded it, so that’s it now, and you move on…

J: Yeah, well, I will go back in maybe a year or so and listen back, but… Now It’s Over.

K: Oh, And Now It’s Over, right! I went for Didn’t Know Much.

OUR JAZZ (2013) – I Am God

K: Well, Our Jazz, which is not released in any useful form, it was just a download, wasn’t it?

J: {laughs} Well, yes, it has come out on cassette though…

K: Well, sort it out, get it out on vinyl…

J: OK. That’d be quite good. All I can say is that this was when no-one was interested, which is why it never came out physically. But then, there’s tracks in there like I Am God that are good, so, erm, I am going to say I Am God.

K: I mean that is the [standout] song on there, but I haven’t chosen it for a reason [that will become apparent]. I went for Distinctly Obsolete. Do you play that live? You don’t, do you?

J: No, I don’t think we’ve ever played that. It’s obviously about us. {laughs} Well, at that time, it was, like, yeah, nobody’s interested. I think at the time I probably thought it was our last record. It was these four [lost albums] and then we came back. I’m not sure why that happened.

UNICORN (2017) – Not As Smart As You

K: Yeah, so what was the push then? It was a round this time [2015] you came down and played Liverpool…

J: It might have been just having a bit of interest from other people. All of this [album] was done on 16 track. I think Alan and Barry probably had some preliminary stuff they sent to me and I added to it and deleted stuff and chopped it up, and made it what it is… I’m going to go for Not As Smart As You.

K: OK. The ‘pop song’. See, I really like that, but I was listening to the album on the way up [to Glasgow] and the song that jumped out to me was You’re Not Home, which I really liked when I first heard the album, but I’d almost forgotten about it because there’s also the likes of Hope You Never Go, and a few others that you regularly play live, but you don’t play that. But there’s a line in it that goes “this democracy is not yours, free yourself, it’s not yours…”, which is so relevant now.

J: Well, this Unicorn is a Scottish, er, animal {laughs}, it relates to Scotland. This was [about] nuclear war and the [Scottish] referendum. You’ve got the Chernobyl recording, which weirdly I recorded on cassette from Russian radio, Radio Moscow, at the time, in my room in my mum and dad’s house, and I found it, I forgot I had it, and there was also the story of the sinking of a Russian ship off Australia, where forty people died, at the same time. So, I transferred that over to digital and then it all kind of made sense.

K: So, this is the political album then, if there is one?

J: Well, it’s political with a slightly bigger P {laughs}

K: I really thought those lines about democracy in light of the mandated national mourning were really quite striking.

J: Oh yeah, well, it’s also about Trident, why do we have Trident, well, we’ve got the deep water that’s why otherwise it’s be in Wales. {laughs} The English government would be scuppered without us having that here. That’s the only reason they want us: Trident, oil, whisky. The things that make money. {laughs}.

K: So, not Spare Snare then?

J: {laughs} No, not Spare Snare!

SOUNDS (2018) – Action Hero

K: So, these are all songs that are actually elsewhere, but these are Albini-ed versions.

J: This was a good chance, as I said earlier, to choose songs that might have been hidden before or that would suit Albini’s sound, we thought, and I think that worked out. I think on here, it’s probably Action Hero as well. You know, they all have different little stories, the studio memories and stuff. So, with Bugs, the intro, and then where it gets loud, is actually two different recordings. So, he chopped them and joined it up, so fast, on tape… amazing! And you wouldn’t know, but that was his decision.

K: So, would you never have done that yourself?

J: No, I wouldn’t have. So, he’s super fast with his razor blade and putting it all together, so he could do that. It was what I was saying to Raveloe last night, who was supporting us, was if she wanted any advice with mastering or that type of thing, go to someone who does it all the time. Not a mate, it’s like a hospital theatre, you want someone who does it all the time, who’s not going to fuck it up, they know what they’re doing. Partly [this is down to] speed, but also they know what they’re talking about and they’re going to get it right for whatever format you need to take it to get pressed, or whatever. There’s no point in not using someone’s experience.

K: Do you generally like the versions on Sounds more than the originals?

J: No, I think they’re just different. The Live At Home version of Bugs totally fits that album, it’s just different. It made sense not to just do a whole bunch of songs that potentially weren’t very good. For our first time with Albini, we thought let’s choose songs that we know are pretty good, that we know back to front… Whereas, this time, we’ve spent nine months [on it] so we know these songs are good, we know they’re decent and they sound great.

[Kicker chose the Sounds version of I Am God to complete the set]

Look out for that new Spare Snare album recorded with Steve Albini due sometime early next year. In the meantime, you can find the Spare Snare back catalogue on Bandcamp.

Here’s a playlist of all Jan’s selections, plus Kicker’s choices where these differed.

Q & A with Jan Burnett (Spare Snare)


Fresh from playing two special shows in Dundee (Hunter S Thompson last Friday) and in Glasgow (The Hug & Pint), our Kicker sat down with Spare Snare’s main man, Jan Burnett for a spot of breakfast and a chat about what’s going on in his increasingly busy life.

Kicker: The 2 shows you’ve just played were a chance to run through the new songs, although that didn’t quite work out as planned.

Jan: No, it didn’t quite work out as planned*, but the idea was to play them under a bit of pressure because we are recording next month with a finite amount of time to do that…

K: .. with Steve Albini…

J: … yeah,, and he likes you to be rehearsed, so we know that…

K:… so, he’s going to say to you ‘play me your songs’?

J: No, he’ll press record {laughs} and then we’ll play the songs. Last time we worked with him, he hadn’t heard anything that we were going to record until we did it, and likewise, I don’t expect that this time either. We did demo the [new] songs over the weekend just to have them not just as a phone recording of rehearsals. Mainly for us so we could work out actually if there were any bum notes that we didn’t know we were playing, ‘cos in the rehearsal or playing live you can’t really hear them. So, we were doing them direct into an 8-track just to make sure…

K: so, he [Albini] isn’t going to record from that…

J: … no, no, he won’t hear any of that.

K: So, in terms of the ‘prep’ for the recording then, how did you feel about how the shows went?

J: Really well, actually. It’s interesting, starting off with a kind of goth-metal track with two synths talking about wi-fi, I didn’t think that was going to go down quite as well as it did {laughs}…

K: And there’s a lot of pressure on your voice there from the outset… [Jan is currently sounding like I do after a particularly trying afternoon at Elland Road]

J: Yeah, a wee bit croaky. Well, on Saturday and Sunday [between the two gigs], I kind of lost my voice, so last night [the Glasgow gig], I’m glad it all came back. [Jan did swallow a fair bit of honey during the show, tbf!]

K: The audience reaction to the new stuff was good, I thought. [I was at the Glasgow gig.]

J: Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s quite nice because we’re getting some audience who don’t know us anyway already, so at both [gigs], I had people coming up to me saying “I hadn’t heard of you before, to be honest”, and I was like, great, that’s exactly what I want, these new people, and it [the setlist] was all new to them., so that’s fine.

K: Excellent. So, do you think you’re going to change anything as a result of having played the [new] songs live?

J: I don’t think so, it just gives us a confidence that we know we can do it, just walk in and we know the basic arrangements really well, because we’re going to have a few guests on [the new album], we don’t actually have six days of recording, we have maybe three days to record and everything else is around the guest players…

K: .. right, and when you’re talking about guest players, who are you thinking of there?

J: We’ve got, er, my dad {laughs}…

K: Is he going to start the record off again? [see Live At Home] {laughs}

J: Er, I don’t know, no, I don’t really know what the actual running order of the album will be…

K: Oh really, so you don’t know yet?

J: No, not until it’s done ‘cos we’ve got a few ideas for intros and things, that we wouldn’t really play live, but would be quite nice on the record. Well, I suppose the two main guests would be Terry Edwards [The Higsons, Barry Adamson, Gallon Drunk, Tindersticks, etc.] and Gary Barnacle [The Clash, the Ruts, The Damned, Kim Wilde, Soft Cell, etc.], who if I think of brass or woodwind players, are totally two of my era’s heroes. It’s absolutely bizarre that they are both going to be on the record!

K: Do you know what Terry’s going to blow through?

J: {laughs} No, he’s going to be playing a variety of things, as is Gary, who plays clarinet and stuff as well. I’m dead chuffed how it’s just worked out. I met them both separately, for different reasons. Terry knew of us through [John] Peel, which was a lovely surprise and I met him through a mutual friend. Gary didn’t know us at all, fair do’s, but I met him, er, I’ll name drop, I met him at Dave Ball [Soft Cell]’s 60th birthday party {laughs} and got on with him really well, got his address, sent him a CD of Sounds [the album Spare Snare previously made with Steve Albini] and he loved it, which was great. So, he’s totally up for it, they both are. So they’ve never met each other, and they’re both coming up [to Edinburgh] together on the train, so they’ll have the journey to get to know each other before they come and do their thing. So, we’re planning on using them a lot, they’re both up for a day…

K: … so, they’re going to be on more than one track, you think?

J: Oh yeah, so I’m kind of hoping it’s going to be a bit of a crazy jazz angle on top of stuff, which would be different for us, and expands it a wee bit.

K: So, going back to talking about Albini then, you recorded with him on the ‘Sounds’ record in 2018 What does he particularly bring to the recording process, or the ‘capturing’ process, he doesn’t like ‘recording’, does he?

J: He calls himself an engineer.

K: Right, so why were you drawn to him again?

J: I think we were pleasantly surprised that we got on with him so well, and it’s having that confidence knowing that he’s behind the desk and knows what he’s doing.

K: Because you’ve usually done [the recording] yourself, right?

J: Usually, yeah.

K: Have you been produced by anyone else apart from him?

J: There’s been a couple of albums where we’ve been mixed, so Andy Rogers [Senior Producer Live Music at the BBC] did a couple of tracks on Animals And Me, and there’s been a wee bit with Andy Miller and Paul Savage [The Delgados] as well. And they’re all lovely, but I think there’s an element of we want to stretch ourselves, we want to be under a wee bit of pressure, don’t want to be too comfortable, don’t really want to be too local either. I think although we’re meant to be a Scottish band, or a Dundee band maybe more so, we’ve always been not really in a gang. We’ve never really been in the Scottish clique of stuff because of the Dundee thing, we’ve always been a little bit out[side], so I think there’s an element of that as well. So although we can’t afford to go over there, we can afford to bring him here {laughs}

K: And will you be recording in Chem19 again?

J: No, we’re recording at Post Electric in Leith, which is Rod Jones [Idlewild]’s studio.

K: So, is that a deliberate choice [to change]?

J: Yeah, it is. Well, Albini only works with 2″ tape, and there’s not that many studios which have that facility, so we might not be their go-to, what they do normally, but if they have [that] machine, then it’s doable. I also wanted the East Coast for a change, and it also means we are all staying under 10 minutes from the studio, including Albini, in the same hotel. It was quite tiring because we were driving a lot to Chem19 last time. So this will be, I’ll not say a holiday {laughs}, but I won’t need to go home and then deal with [that] {laughs}

K: And this is to start in October? For how long?

J: Six days. You pay for Albini for 8 days because he’s got a day of travelling each way. He’ll arrive on the Sunday, go to the hotel, sleep for a few hours, and then at night go and set up the studio, and then Monday morning, [we’re] straight in.

K: Brilliant. And you reckon something might be out in the middle of next year?

J: Yeah, probably Spring [2023]. As soon as it’s mastered, you press the button, send it to the pressing plant, and that’s like a six month run now.

K: So thinking about what’s actually going to be on the album now then, I had the pleasure last night of hearing seven new songs, and I’ve got the setlist in front of me. Are these fixed titles [Jan nods] or rough ideas? So, you talked about WiFi, which was the opener, and is not really your usual sound, right? As you said, it’s very keyboardy, and you going a bit mental over the top…

J: Keyboardy, but a bit Black Sabbath {laughs}

K: Yeah, yeah, I get that. So, does the album have a name yet?

J; No, not yet.

K: Can I suggest it should be ‘Visions’, so then you’ve got ‘Sounds’ and ‘Visions’?

J: {groans} Nah. {laughs}

K: So, the songs that you played last night, are they all definitely going to be recorded?

J: Yep, [indicates the new songs on the setlist]…

… and there are another three.

K: So, it’s going to be a 10 tracker again, and you’re going to have your ‘pop’ song at number 7?

J: That’s the plan.

K: Because there’s definitely a pop song here, I thought…

J: … which is… [indicates Ring To Me], and that’s probably our second single as well.

K: Oh, singles are coming out, this is excellent news! So, the running order, when and how do you decide that then? Will you play with it a bit?

J: Yeah, I think last time what I did was give a sheet to every band member, and they write what order they think the tracks should be in…

K: Yeah, that’s very democratic.

J: It is. And then I scrub it all out and do my own.

K: {laughs} it’s like modern democracy then…

J: I have the idea of groups of which ones go together, so maybe 2 or 3 together, and then you work them out into which ones are on side 1 or side 2. Now obviously, on a CD you don’t have a side 1 and a side 2, but I quite like the flow of it going in and out…

K: So, you’ll be thinking about not just the opening track, but the closing track of side 1, and so on, and that flow, which I think is quite important.

J: Yeah, yeah, it is important, yeah, I think it comes over better. I quite like the idea, we’ve probably done it too much actually, of doing not what people expect. So, I’m thinking of the album cover not having any words on it, maybe on the back, but not on the front. But then why? It’s gone less and less… or, do we go the other way because this actually might be the album that sells, I don’t know. Do we actually put it on or put a sticker on instead? These are all things to think about. But then that sticker costs 10 pence when you put it on! {laughs}

K: It’s interesting what you have to think about. The last artwork you did, the re-release of Sounds, you used your friend [Graham Anderson]’s art..

J: Yes, he also did Unicorn and also the Smile, It’s Sugar single, and Haircut, the American single. We met when he joined me working in Our Price, and then we’ve been buddies ever since.

K: I guess if there is a theme in terms of your artwork, that would be it, that and the hand painted stuff that you did at the beginning.

J: Yeah, and everything else, that’s me, so it’s whether I’ve got the inspiration or not, but actually having the paintings is quite nice, it make it a little bit more thoughtful or a bit more interesting…

K: Well, are you thinking of a vinyl release? Because it looks really good [on 12″]…

J: It looks amazing, yeah, my (ex) brother-in-law is a medical photographer, so he has a horrible job because he’s photographing horrible things, but he’s got the gear that’s so good for photographing paintings because it’s so detailed. So you can actually see, I thought it was a blemish on the sleeve, but it’s actually the paint. So we’ll probably do that again.

K: Excellent. Just going back to the new songs then, and it terms of how they’re created, can you tell us a little bit about the song-writing process – is it something you do on you own and then take to the band and say what can you add to it or is it a bit more collaborative than that?

J: We made a point of letting everyone know at the start of this that we all got a writing credit, so they’ve all got to go six ways. And that’s partly as a [recognition of] everyone’s putting in so much time and effort, it feels like the right thing to do. But it stops bands splitting up as well. It means they then feel they can actually input as well, and we can try it, which is great, and it gives it a bit of flexibility in that way. In terms of the actual original, kind of seed, one of them actually came from Graeme [Ogston], but the rest tend to come from either myself or Barry [Gibson]. So, I think Ring To Me is the oldest track that I’d had and it’s changed in terms of speedings, but I think it’s just fair that everyone gets a percentage of something or potentially a percentage of nothing {laughs}…

K: So, do the songs change much? You’ve been rehearsing a lot and have the songs changed over time?

J: Yes, absolutely, it could be anything, like a break in the song or different ideas coming about. So it’s been really good, it’s been nine months going up to Dundee once a week [Jan is based in Glasgow]. It was very very ropey at the start. We recorded them all on a phone because we had to listen back to them, so that’s going to be on the 10 year anniversary ten box set {laughs}. In an edition of one.

K: I’ll have it! {laughs}

J: Oh, an edition of two then as I’ll have to have one! So you can actually hear all the songs evolving.

photo by Alan Cormack

K: So you said things are split six ways because the band is now a 6 piece with you, Alan Cormack, Barry Gibson, Adam Lockhart and Graeme Ogston being joined by Michael Lambert*, who wasn’t there last night [or for the Dundee gig] because of Covid, which threw a spanner in the works a little bit. Can you tell me a bit about Michael and what he brings to the band?

J: Well, the main thing is he reduces the average age of the band by about 15 years!

K: Ah, so he’s the looker of the band?!

J: He’s the hairy looker (not the hairy biker)! He was a fan.

K: From Dundee?

J: Yes, he played with Man Without Machines, Adam’s solo thing, and what happened was, 3 years ago, Graeme Ogston had some health issues, so we needed someone to stand in for a gig at Monorail [Glasgow record shop and venue] and we got Michael in to play bass. And that worked out. And when we were doing this, we thought why don’t we have Michael in, it will give us a bit of flexibility, another opinion. He can play, he knows the tunes.

K: So on the record, he’s primarily going to be on bass is he?

J: Yeah

K: It was interesting live, you said from the stage last night that you were quite pleased not to have to play your 2 string guitar, which is the sound of early Spare Snare really, but it isn’t the sound of the current Spare Snare, is it?

J: No, it totally frees me up, but it’s weird [not to be playing guitar] because it’s my song, you know? But there’s partly a practicality to it, there’s no point in bringing in another guitar for one song, and also it gives everyone else a chance to play it properly and concentrate on that… it’s a bit like The Voice, have you seen The Voice?

K: I haven’t.

J: Well, if you watch The Voice, and they just come out without any instrument, that’s good because they’re concentrating on their voice, concentrating on their performance. If you see them come out with a guitar, half the time they’re concentrating on what they’re playing and that’s not want the show’s about!

K: So, it gives you more focus on your voice too then?

J: It does, yeah…

K: If you had one.

J: {laughs} yeah, I can think about words, think about my actual performance, so I’ve definitely changed from a singer-songwriter with a band behind me to being the front man [of a band]. We’re a total gang now.

K: Well, it’s a million miles away in lots of ways from Westfield Lane (1996), which was just you, right?

J: Yeah, it is.

K: And yet you’re still playing songs from that album.

J: Yeah, people still ask for them.

K: Yeah, we want to hear them!

J: Yeah, it’s weird, {laughs}, but lovely.

K: So, what would you say the difference is then between when I saw you playing 5 or 6 years ago and now when you’ve got your 6 piece band? What would I hear that’s different?

J: Confidence.

K: It’s as simple as that is it?

J: I think it is. I think we’ve moved on from always being a bit self-deprecating and… I always quite liked that element of it could always collapse at any moment, but I prefer now because you know where everything is, where it’s all going to sit…

K: From my point of view last night, it struck me that it was so professional. I mean, yes, you were playing songs you didn’t know very well, so there were some false starts, but that’s all done with humour, but the actual delivery of the songs was spot on. I mean, Barry is a one hell of a drummer…

J: … a great drummer… underrated drummer…

K: Totally, I mean, I know you put him right at the back so we can’t see him… {laughs}.. but the stuff he was whacking out yesterday was just superb. It’s funny you should say a lack of confidence because you as a front man exude that, you come into the crowd, which is not something all front men do, would you say that’s bravado or just losing yourself in the moment?

J: It’s all acting, isn’t it? It’s all acting.

K: It’s a version of you.

J: Yeah, but I enjoy it. It’s good fun.

K: Well, you were glad-handing..

J: Yeah, probably gave Covid to everyone…

K: {laughs} so, is there a plan to tour the new album?

J: I’d love to. The biggest problem we have just now is we’ve never had a tour agent, so if you know any tour agents… Covid has really struck that area, so there are no tour agents, a lot just disappeared because they couldn’t afford to [keep going], but those that do exist have reduced their portfolios, they’re not getting anyone new in, and this is not just bands at our level that are struggling in the scheme of things, I was speaking to someone who gets a couple of thousand people a night, and they can’t get an agent. People don’t want to take any risks. So, we’re desperately looking for an agent. It’s the one thing I’m not very good at. I don’t have the time or the energy…

K: I think it is really a professional role that, isn’t it? I put you on in Liverpool a couple of times, and I don’t know what I’m doing, but you get a crowd even with me doing it. If someone who actually knew what they were doing did it, it would be better.

J: It’s someone who could do 20 dates as a one off and have the energy to do that is what we need.

K: And maybe playing festivals. You played one a couple of years ago?

J: Yes, Rockaway Beach we played, yeah, which was great. I’d love to get us on stuff like that. That was Ian who runs it, he was a fan of Westfield Lane. Who knew?

K: Well, him and Billordo [Argentinian lo-fi troubadour]

J: He (Ian)’s from Glasgow actually and was there last night. And so it’s difficult, but we definitely want to play live. Actually, what we’ve been doing over the past couple of months is contacting bands from the past that we’ve played with, who are still around, saying we’d love to play with you. So, Mountain Goats are totally up for it, they’re coming back next year if they’ve got an album out that is, so that would be quite nice if we can get some support slots in that way. So, we will see.

K: You said that you want to put the new album out on vinyl again. Any other formats?

J: Yeah, there’ll be a CD as well.

K: Tape?

J: Possibly.

K: Because that’s the cool format, you know?

J: It is, but no-one really buys them. Well, you do {laughs}. Vinyl is what everyone’s buying, but it’s expensive.

K: No mini-disc this time?

J: Well, you never know. 8-track tape? It’d be good.

K: The vinyl release of Sounds was put out in loads of different colours. Is that something you’d like to do again? And can we have a white one this time?

J: A white one. OK. I’ll make a note. [He didn’t.] I got the contract through and I’ve altered it a wee bit, sent it back, so not had it signed yet, but it’s a contract with Republic of Music, based in Brighton. They’re a pressing and distribution company, so lots of labels sign up with them, they’re ex-V2 people, Stereophonics and stuff, lovely people, had a good chat with them. So they’re up for pressing and distribution and it goes through Universal, so that’s good, it’s pretty major…

K: In America too?

J: Yes, it would be too. My worry as label manager is that they don’t press too many, they don’t press too little, because you pay for the ones that sit in the warehouse. So they have to sell out or there has to be enough to roll over for a year or so. It will happen. They’re totally up for it, which is great. So, I’m paying for all the recording and I’ll still own it, it will still be Chute Records, but they’ll do the pressing.

K: So, Chute will be on it.

J: Yeah, yeah. They’ll do the pressing and distribution and take their money from sales, and when they break even, then we’ll get some money. And that’s fine because it saves me paying for the pressing.

K: Excellent, Well, hopefully, you’ll sell loads.

J: We’re talking about doing a Dinked version. It’s all very cool.

K: Yes, I’ve got a few of those. So, there’ll be an extra flexi-disc or something like that?

J: Yeah, maybe something with it. I asked Rough Trade if they’d like to do an exclusive and they would, but Dinked is like the opposition to that, so we can’t really do both, and Dinked is in a lot more shops. Obviously Rough Trade have got 3 shops, so you’re kind of restricted to what you can do. We might do something different with Rough Trade like a signing or play in Rough Trade East or something and then do a signing there.

K: So, the Dinked thing is definite?

J: It’s being talked about, yeah, they’re quite keen to do it, and you’d sell more Dinked than Rough Trade.

K: Good that you mentioned Chute as it leads me to my next question. You have just published a fanzine looking back on the 30 years of Chute Records, the label that has put out all the Spare Snare albums, well, since Westfield Lane came out on vinyl last year, we can say that now, can’t we?

J: Yeah, although the Chute logo was on Wabana as well. It’s all licensed and I ultimately own it all.

K: But there’s other stuff as well on Chute [Grand Gestures, Muppet Mule, etc.]. So my question is how do you feel about being a 30 year old veteran of the music business?

J: {laughs} It’s funny, you just sort of accumulate knowledge, you know, it’s like anything.. most of it, I still don’t know, but it is weird how the record label model has changed from: get signed, have a hit, tour, get pissed off because you don’t own anything, you’ve been ripped off, well, you think you’ve been ripped off, but you signed the contract, to: now you own everything, it goes through Bandcamp, goes digital, you do a distribution deal, which is exactly what I’ve always been doing. So I never went for the big advance, never got offered the big advance, to be fair, but, thank god! I had a conversation with someone recently who totally disagreed with me, but I still think catalogue is everything. It’s always going to be there, it’s always something you can potentially get revenue from, whether it be something you end up synching with films and adverts in another digital world or whatever else. You must own all that. Why wouldn’t you? Why wouldn’t you want to own your own stuff? I don’t understand.

K: So, is there anything that you knowing what you know now would advise the you 30 years ago to have done differently or have you basically got it right?

J: It depends what you want. If you want a big enough advance that you can buy a house and not have any major bills and then kick straight on to touring the world…. I think the whole touring thing would be the one thing we missed out on. But, the other side of that is that if we had done that, we would have worn ourselves out and wouldn’t currently exist.

K: Yeah, well you said about bands splitting, and not many bands last as long as you have..

J: No, I noticed De Rosa officially split yesterday. Funny, because we were talking about them yesterday, and I was saying to Alan (Cormack) if we talk about any band, will they split up {laughs}, who do we not like? {laughs} I just think that it has kind of worked out for us, but then ten years ago, no-one was interested in any of the records.

K: Well, you all still work, right?

J: Exactly, it pays for itself, it breaks even quite easily now…

K: Is it more than a hobby?

J: Oh, yeah, totally, because I could not not do it. It’s, it sounds a bit wanky, but it is an art, an art of sorts, you can’t not do it. So even if it wasn’t Spare Snare, it would be something else I’d be doing in that field definitely.

K: And how does your other stuff like releases as Jan The Man and Grand Gestures fit in with Spare Snare? Is that about side projects that are never likely to take over?

J: Well, I kind of killed Grand Gestures off a wee bit because it was just such hard work making it a live thing because there were so many elements to it, so many people involved. It was great doing it, but a wee bit overpowering, a lot of personalities and stuff, it was quite draining. So I killed it off and then Phil Jupitus liked it, and I thought I can’t not ask him, so we did that.

K: Well, in a way, that did round it off because you had that plan of 3 albums and a Greatest Hits, was it?

J: A best of, yeah. I’d maybe go back and do a, not a highlights, but maybe an anthology thing with a couple of unreleased tracks that could go on, a Sanjeev (Kohli) track that’s really good, and maybe do it with different art, radio sessions as well. So there’s maybe another kind of weird compilation thing that’ll happen. But, I wouldn’t want to do anything new. Jan The Man, actually, is really good in that it’s another element of my brain that I don’t really use with Spare Snare, it’s all electronic, it’s all non-computer, so it’s all real and I just join it up with leads, press play and see what happens. And then, chop it all down. I really enjoy that and I was asked to be on a compilation, a cool wee record shop in Edinburgh, just a couple of weeks ago, so OK. People are finding it because it’s tagged as ‘electronica’, people who don’t know Spare Snare, so that’s quite nice.

K: So that’s an ongoing thing?

J: Yeah, yeah, it’s another element, when I’ve got a bit of down time, I can do that without having to deal with anyone else.

K: Well, thank you very much for spending an hour of your time before you fly off to New York.

J: That sounds very showbiz, it’s actually a holiday {laughs}

K: I do have one final question for you though, which is where can I get a copy of the Crazy Sort Of Hum (September 70 Remix) CD single??? It’s on Discogs and I haven’t got it!

J: {laughs} Right. It is on Discogs, now we did CD-Rs and I cut out pictures of celebs from Heat magazine and they got stuck on, and they got a little gold star sticker, and they were numbered 1 to 50 or whatever it was, and I think I kept a couple. Let me see what I can find… but from memory, there’s two that I kept, one was Kylie, love Kylie, one was Jimmy Saville.

K: That’s a shame.

J: {laughs}

K: Well, on that note, thank you very much, and the best of luck with your holiday first, and then the recording, and we’ll all look forward to hearing and seeing Spare Snare over the next 12 moths or so.

J: Thank you, no bother.

A couple more pictures from the fantastic Hug & Pint gig

You can find the Spare Snare back catalogue on Bandcamp.

You should also join the Spare Snare Subscription service to make sure you don’t miss out on any of those rare releases.

Podcast 122: Festival special, Reading 1992

30 years ago today Nirvana brought the Reading Festival to a close with the most legendary performance in that festival’s entire history.

And then there was also the weather, as described in Melody Maker the following week: “It rained like f**k, the wind when it came up was like something announcing The End Of The World, and the mud was deep enough to drown in.”

Our wizard Chorizo Garbanzo was there and the passing of time has now enabled him to talk about the experience. Huge thanks to 2 other veterans of that campaign, Graham and Mark, for joining him on this episode.


Related links:

Memories of Flowered Up

I wrote this piece about Flowered Up in Autumn 2019.

Extracts from this were included in the book “Flowered Up: A Weekender’s Tale” by Matt Mead and Dave Hewitson. That book was funded by a Kickstarter campaign and is now sold out.

We used to go down to Brighton a lot back then. Most weekends we would be in Sister Rays on West Street pogoing around and knocking each other into the mirrored walls around the dancefloor. When we first started going there around 1987 it was full of teenagers like us dressed in black. The music was Cure / Sisters of Mercy / Joy Division mixed in with the big punk tunes and C86 indie stuff.

Part of the club’s appeal was that it was never very busy so you’d see the same faces coming each week and there was never a wait to get served at the bar.

That gradually changed over the next few years as the whole Madchester thing took off. The decade ended with The Stone Roses at their peak, by which time no night at Sister Rays was complete without the DJ playing both Fools Gold and its equally brilliant b-side What The World Is Waiting For. The lolloping monkey dancers in beanie hats were outnumbering the any-colour-so-long-as-it’s-black brigade by this point.

As much as me and my mates liked those Roses and Mondays records, we liked Inspiral Carpets even more. They were more obviously influenced by some of our favourite punk bands (Buzzcocks, Stranglers) and songs like “Joe” and “Find Out Why” were just that bit more fast and frantic. The late Craig Gill’s unrelenting Funky Drummer at 78rpm drumbeat was irresistible to our teenage feet. (See also Simon Smith’s similar drumbeat on another Sister Rays dancefloor filler The Wedding Present’s “Kennedy.”)

A few weeks before the Flowered Up gig that I’m eventually going to get to below, we’d seen the Inspirals (or should that be the Carpets?) at the Top Rank, just opposite Sister Rays on West Street. That had gone down as the most hectic and sweaty gig we’d been to at that point. A month later we saw them play probably their biggest ever gig so far headlining the Saturday night of Reading Festival, fireworks and all.

In between those gigs, 2 carfuls of us drove down to see Flowered Up play on Tuesday 31st July 1990. I’m pretty sure it was the first time that we’d ever gone to see a band based on just one song so “It’s On” must’ve made a big impression on us. I was working in the HMV shop in Guildford then and I remember that most of the staff there though it was rubbish. But me and one of my colleagues loved it and we used to play it in the shop a lot. It must have been largely about the music because we were a bit too naive and smalltown to have much idea what the lyrics were actually about!

The gig was at the Zap Club and for those that never had the pleasure of a gig there, it was a small club under the promenade facing directly onto the beach.

Inside it was wider than it was deep with a stage that was about shin height.

On this particular night it was absolutely rammed and boiling hot. Bobby Gillespie was wandering around looking higher than the sun and somehow was the only person in there not sweating despite having a leather jacket on.

The band were jammed together on the tiny stage and we were right next to the keyboard player getting a good look at his Italo House piano chords. It’s mostly the fast songs that I remember. Of course we’d never heard any of them before but there was that frenetic Inspirals Funky Drummer drumbeat again and we were bouncing around. We ended up on the stage, we couldn’t really help it! It seemed like half the crowd were up there. Not quite sure how but we ended up going home with quite a few large pieces of Barry Mooncult’s petal stage outfit.

I’m Barry Mooncult and so does your mother!

Lots of the crowd came straight out of the gig and went swimming in the sea to cool down. I remember that when we came out of the we were really pissed off because some bastard had stolen all our clothes. Actually it was just that the currents had taken us several hundred yards east and once we’d figured that out we found that our clothes were in fact exactly where we’d left them.

I think the gig was reported in NME or Melody Maker as a riot which it definitely wasn’t. It was just a band and an audience dancing like loons and having a fucking great time.

The next single “Phobia” was a bit of a letdown after all that. It seemed to take ages for the album to actually come out and when it did there were some absolutely brilliant songs on there. Maybe something catchier like “Silver Pan” or “Crackerjack” should’ve been the follow-up to “It’s On.”

Those 2 songs and the amazing “Egg Rush” are as good as anything from that era and I still listen to them today. Joe’s guitar playing is fantastic, both the Chic style rhythm guitar and the full on lead stuff that sounds like it’s from some 70s prog rock nonsense that I definitely wouldn’t have admitted to liking back then.

Apart from going to gigs and football, we spent most of the rest of our time watching and re-watching our favourite films on VHS. Quadrophenia was one of our most frequently viewed so as soon as I heard the intro to “Weekender” I was hooked. The band’s masterpiece and just one of the most amazing singles of all time. Jimmy’s “you can take that mail and that franking machine” speech is surely the greatest ever piece of dialogue to end a song with!

Not long after “Weekender” came out I saw the band again. The scale of the gig was very different to the small sweaty Zap Club because this was “Madstock” a huge outdoor gig in Finsbury Park. I’d been in Camden that Sunday morning where someone had told me that there’d been some sort of controversy involving Morrissey on day one. He’d waved a Union Jack onstage, caused a bit of a palaver and had consequently cancelled his appearance on the second day. It all seemed like a bit of a storm in a teacup back then and I certainly did not foresee that this was one of the first signs of what a total bellend Morrissey would reveal himself to be politically over the subsequent decades!

Morrissey at Madstock the day before.

I can’t remember if it was Flowered Up or Gallon Drunk who’d played at the bottom of the bill but I remember getting right down to the front for both of them. Neither of those bands play music that suits a Sunday afternoon outdoors in the sun but there was quite a contrast to the way they approached the gig. Gallon Drunk gave it the proverbial 110% and performed to the small gathering down at the front with a lot of passion as if they were playing in the small pub backroom they probably wished they were. Flowered Up seemed to be going through the motions. Their half-hearted performance was such a contrast to the Brighton gig where it was obvious that the band were enjoying themselves at least as much as the crowd!

It’s perfectly understandable if Flowered Up didn’t particularly want to be spending a hungover Sunday lunchtime playing to a big field of people who were mostly ignoring them and concentrating instead on getting suitably pissed up for when the headliners appeared. Gallon Drunk probably didn’t want to either but they hid it better. Even so I had no idea that the band were coming to an end and I was looking forward to more Flowered Up Records because if “Weekender” was anything to go by, the second album was going to be fucking fantastic.

The first record I ever bought was “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick” in Romford Woolworths so I was really pleased that Morrissey’s no-show meant an extended set from the brilliant Ian Dury and the Blockheads. I wonder if he caught any of Flowered Up’s set earlier that day and heard some of Liam’s smart lyrics. Just like Dury, he was a one-off. Such a shame that Liam, Joe and the rest of the band didn’t leave us with more music. They had more ideas in that one album and single than many bands have over their whole dreary careers!!

Robert Pollard’s Guide To The 60s – Tape 24: The Action – Rolled Gold / Mighty Baby – Mighty Baby

The pride of Kentish Town, The Action, never made an album in their lifetime, but we review the compilation of demos that make up Rolled Gold. That band dropped singer Reg King, after he fell off a tree, and became Mighty Baby, who released 2 very different sounding albums. We give their first a listen.

You can hear what Kicker and Chorizo make of these albums by clicking on the image below.

This is what The Action album might have sounded like, pre-production…

Our chats about the previous tapes can be found where you found this one.

To avoid any potential disappointment on missing out on the next show, make sure you follow our podcast on Spotify or subscribe on Apple Podcasts.

Robert Pollard’s Guide To The 60s – Tape 23: The Everly Brothers – Two Yanks In England / The Troggs – Love Is All Around

“The best duo vocal harmonies around”, no not us, it’s The Everlys, Isaac (it says here) and Phil with their album of mostly Hollies songs, paired up on this tape with Andover fist Andover’s finest, The Troggs. Be afraid, be very afraid.

You can hear what Kicker and Chorizo make of these albums by clicking on the image below.

And, as promised, here’s how we would have improved that Troggs compilation if they’d asked us.

Our chats about the previous tapes can be found where you found this one.

To avoid any potential disappointment on missing out on the next show, make sure you follow our podcast on Spotify or subscribe on Apple Podcasts.

Robert Pollard’s Guide To The 60s – Tape 22: The Monkees – Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. / The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees

And people say we monkey around, but we’re too busy podcasting to put anybody down…

Hey, and, indeed, hey, it’s our latest look at Robert Pollard’s best of the late 60s, and it’s all Monkees with their 4th and 5th albums.

You can hear what Kicker and Chorizo make of these albums by clicking on the image below.

Our chats about the previous tapes can be found where you found this one.

To avoid any potential disappointment on missing out on the next show, make sure you follow our podcast on Spotify or subscribe on Apple Podcasts.

Podcast 121

It’s been a while since we did one of these, but we seem to have remembered how to do it. It’s just talk a load of bollocks and play a load of ace tunes, right? Right.

Anyway, this show not only features all the above, but also a star turn from Kicker Jr, who helps explain modern music to the wizards [Finally!! – TTW Ed], an exciting new lucky dip feature, no, really, and the latest instalment of Chorizo’s ever popular Musicians Dreams. Oh, yes.

You can hear all the fun of the fair here and down there…

Turn away now if you don’t want to know what’s coming up. Otherwise, here’s what we played:

  1. Robert Forster – 121
  2. Opus Kink – Mosquito
  3. Guided By Voices – Mad River Man
  4. Frankie Machine – Smell You Later
  5. Good Grief – Hatches
  6. Century Egg – Do You Want To Dance?
  7. The Mentalettes – Lovers’ Wasteland
  8. Billy Bragg – Ideology
  9. Hempuli – Water Is Sink: The Lake
  10. The Catenary Wires – Wall Of Sound
  11. St Christopher – Stornaway

The physicality: (where we had some):

Robert Pollard’s Guide To The 60s – Tape 21: Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends / The Monkees – Head

Hey, hey, it’s Simon and Garfunkel’s Bookends and hello, Monkees, my old friends, it’s the soundtrack to Head, both under the wizards’ critical microscope* on this show.

What unites the two, you may ask, well, they were both on Robert Pollard’s tape, that’s what.

You can hear what Kicker and Chorizo make of these albums by clicking on the image below.

*ill-informed guesswork

Our chats about the previous tapes can be found where you found this one.

To avoid any potential disappointment on missing out on the next show, make sure you follow our podcast on Spotify or subscribe on Apple Podcasts.

Robert Pollard’s Guide To The 60s – Tape 20: Small Faces – Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake

Oi, oi! ‘Ere’s anuvver podcarst for your delactation. So, whatcha gonna do abaht it?

Ahem. Yes, the wizards have a good listen to the Small Faces conceptual masterpiece and as a result go all cockney knees-up.

Are you all sitty comftybold two square on your botties? Then you can hear what they made of it by clicking on the image below.

And, as a special treat, see if you can spot the 10 song titles from Oliver! that Chorizo manages to include in their discussion. Let us know how you do!

We also mention that a Small Faces song should be added to this historical playlist. You can read all about the premise in, erstwhile wizard, Rebel Rikkit’s original text.

Our chats about the previous tapes can be found where you found this one.

To avoid any potential disappointment on missing out on the next show, make sure you follow our podcast on Spotify or subscribe on Apple Podcasts.

Robert Pollard’s Guide To The 60s – Tape 19: Syd Barrett – The Madcap Laughs / Barrett

Following on from discussing Syd era Pink Floyd, it’s now time for the wizards to consider Syd era Syd Barrett. Both his solo albums, in fact.

You can hear what we made of these two albums by clicking on the image below.

Kicker has also put together a playlist of his favourite Syd Barrett songs, a few of which weren’t on the 4 albums we discussed, and Chorizo has made him add his favourite cover versions too.

Talking of which, here’s that REM cover of Dark Globes Chorizo was talking about:

And the magazine and CD…

Our chats about the previous tapes can be found where you found this one.

To avoid any potential disappointment on missing out on the next show, make sure you follow our podcast on Spotify or subscribe on Apple Podcasts.

Podcast 120: Chorizo’s favourite songs of 2021

Later than planned due to technical issues far too tedious to explain here, we are delighted to bring you Chorizo Garbanzo playing his favourite songs of 2021 and talking about them with his wizarding pal Kicker.

Here’s Side A…

… and here’s Side B.

Alternatively you can download Side A here and Side B here or listen via Soundcloud below.

This is the second of our end of year round-ups, go here to listen to Kicker’s selections .

Look away now if you don’t want to know the ingredients baked into this tasty musical cake.

Side A:

Fissured Ceramics – Dummy
Lese Mwen Ale – Delgres

Yeter – Kit Sebastian
Cream Militia – Regressive Left

Keep It Together – Pip Blom
Pure Particles – The Bug Club

Y Bywyd Llonydd – Carwyn Ellis
Llyn Llawenydd – Papur Wal

Blue Soul – Lost Horizons
Seen The Boreal – Hilang Child

Asdikte Akal – Mdou Moctar
Silver Breasts – The Surfing Magazines

Side B:

Helluva Summer – Randolph’s Leap
We Should Be Together – The Wedding Present featuring Louise Wener

Requests – So Cow
Ah Yeh – Beak>

Wild Bill – Opus Kink
How Does The Story Go – Sprints

Breathe, Howl, Flower Moon – Piney Gir
The First Time – Scott Lavene

Samurai Sword – Chad Vangaalen
No Connectioh – Cheekface

Look Over My Shoulder – David Boulter
Get Out – Don’t Worry

Kicker of Elves’ Favourite Things from 2021

As is now tradition, let’s start with my favourite SONG OF THE YEAR – a full run down of all my favourite songs can be heard on one of our end of the year podcasts – the Kicker one, and, of those, my favourite is Scott Lavene‘s The Ballad of Lynsey.  A proper bit of storytelling with a killer refrain.

Top 25 Albums

1    Slonk Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?

This Bristol band, the brainchild of the prolific Joe Sherrin, were new to me this year thanks to the introduction of friend of the pod and all round top lad, Jeff Tyson. I now own their full back catalogue and could do with another tape as this one is worn out.

2    Scott Lavene – Milk City Sweethearts

3    The Reds, Pinks & Purples – Uncommon Weather

William Doyle – Great Spans Of Muddy Time

5    The Cleaners From Venus – Penny Novelettes

6    Von Hayes – Wa La!

7    Psychic Flowers – For The Undertow

8    Paul Jacobs – Pink Dogs On The Green Grass

9    Low – Hey What

10  Guided By Voices – Earth Man Blues

11  Cathal Coughlan – Song Of Co-Aklan

12  James Yorkston & The Second Hand Orchestra – The Wide, Wide River

13  Wurld Series – What’s Growing

14  Astral Swans – Astral Swans

15  Marconi Union – Signals

16  The Declining Winter – Recordings Of Weird Air

17  Haiku Salut – The Hill, The Light, The Ghost

18  Ronan O Snodaigh – Tá Go Maith

19  Strapping Fieldhands – Across The Susquehanna

20  Gruff Rhys – Seeking New Gods

21  Smug Brothers – Application Of The Twig

22  John Francis Flynn – I Would Not Live Always

23  Faye Webster – I Know I’m Funny Haha

24  Lewsberg – In Your Hands

25  Mimsy – Ormeology

…. and making up a top 50 albums, all of which you should own, are, in alphabetical order, 25* more:

Apeshit – Music For Pipe Smokers; Arab Strap – As Days Get Dark; Courtney Barnett – Things Take Time, Take Time; The Bevis Frond – Little Eden; Black Country, New Road – For The First Time; The Chills – Scatterbrain; Clinic – Fantasy Island; Cub Scout Bowling Pins – Clang Clang Ho; Dohnavùr – The Flow Across Borders; Ducks Ltd. – Modern Fiction; The Goalie’s Anxiety At The Penalty Kick – Ways Of Hearing; Good Morning – Barnyard; Guardian Singles – Guardian Singles; Guided By Voices – Styles We Paid For / It’s Not Them. It Couldn’t Be Them. It Is Them!; Hiatus – Distancer; The House In the Woods – Spectral Corridor; Immersion – Nanocluster Vol. 1; Kitchen Cynics – Reekinhame / Resevoir / Endbirds / In The Ruins / Songs From Room 9; Pardoner – Came Down Different; Royal Chant – Shoot The Messenger; Sleaford Mods – Spare Ribs; Veryan – Here; Wake Up – Tigers Can’t Be Choosers; Andrew Wasylyk – Balgay Hill: Morning In Magnolia; Western Edges – Dependency

*plus some extra

Top 5 Compilations

Portraits From Quarantine (Almost Halloween Time Records)

And not only because it features a song co-written by this particular wizard, but definitely that, and the song by The Cannanes, which is stellar, and so much more.

2  Cue Dot Sampler: Volume 1

3  An Eclectic Selection Of Music From The Arab World, Part 2 (Habibi Funk)

4  May The Circle Remain Unbroken: A Tribute To Roky Erickson (Light In The Attic)

5  Eins Und Zwei Und Drei Und Vier (Bureau B)

Top 5 EPs

1   Yard Act Dark Days

Chorizo brought these to the pod, and I instantly fell in love with this Leeds band and their first 4 songs. The debut album, due early next year, seems sure to be a big hit in Kicker Towers in 2022.

2  Cub Scout Bowling Pins – Heaven Beats Iowa

Dohnavùr – Pristine Environments

Kitchen Cynics – Seven Meditations From A Morthouse 

Ducks Ltd. – Get Bleak

Top 5 Reissues / Re-pressings / Remixes / Not Strictly Speaking New Stuff

1   Spare Snare – The Complete BBC Radio Sessions 1995 – 2018

Dundee’s (some say, Scotland’s) finest, The Snare put together a fantastic box set of stuff they did with Peel, Riley, Galloway, and, er, Jones over 25 years.

2  Caravan – Who Do You Think We Are?

Linda Smith – Till Another Time: 1988-1996 

Devo’s Gerald V. Casale – AKA Jihad Jerry & The Evildoers

Pye Corner Audio – Black Mill Tapes (10th Anniversary Box Set)

Top 5 Live Albums

1   The The The Comeback Special

A gig I regret not getting to, but am delighted to now be able to hear in full. I really hope its release signals the return of The The to the recording studio.

2  The Fall – Live At St Helens Technical College 81

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts 

Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Way Down In The Rust Bucket

Alex Chilton and Hi Rhythm Section Boogie Shoes – Live On Beale Street

The Robert Pollard Annual Output Roundup

Guided By Voices – Styles We Paid For (a December 2020 release) / Earth Man Blues / It’s Not Them, It Couldn’t Be Them, It Is Them / Thank You Very Much For Nothing (video)

Cub Scout Bowling Pins – Heaven Beats Iowa EP / Clang Clang Ho

Reissues: Propeller x 4 (Scat); Under The Bushes Under the Stars (white); Isolation Drills (2xLP, blue/black); Alien Lanes (Newbury Comics, Red)

Hot Freaks (Subscription):

Following on from the subscription starting in May 2020, this year we received, in the form of weekly downloads, the following:

Robert Pollard – 1998 Home Acoustic Recordings / Irving Plaza, New York City, June 14, 1996 / The Batman Sees The Ball (Preview) / Before Computers (Style We Paid For Demos) / Kevin March Songs / I Sell The Circus (Demos) / Sunshine Girl (Preview) / Live at the Grog Shop in Cleveland, April 21, 2018 / Bobby Bare Jr / Robert Pollard – Carry On Bag / Lord Of The Birdcage (Roughs) / Robert Pollard – Motivational Jumpsuit (Demos) / WXPN World Cafe – July 17, 1997 / Robert Pollard– Full Sun (Dig The Slowness) / BBC Radio 1: John Peel Session, June 18, 1996 / Robert Pollard – Space City Kicks (Roughs) / Cub Scout Bowling Pins – Eggs Mother? (Preview) / Robert Pollard – Carry On Bag II / Broadcaster House /  Live at Gateway City Arts in Holyoke, MA – October 23, 2018 / Broadcaster House – Part 2.

Rather neatly this meant the full sub gave us 1000 tracks, which subsequently have been made available on a GBVUSB. Shit, yeah!

Top 5  Music Related Books (Read This Year)

1   Bela Koe-KrompecherLove, Death & Photosynthesis

From the founder of the wonderful Anyway Records, this book provides the reader with a vivid moving description of love, friendship, music and excess in late 80s Ohio. Highly recommended.

2  Bob Stanley and Tessa Norton – Excavate!: The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall

Holly George-Warren – A Man Called Destruction: The Life And Music Of Alex Chilton

Tot Taylor – The Story Of John Nightly

5 Kristin Hersh – Seeing Sideways: A Memoir of Music and Motherhood

Top 3  Non-Music Related New Books

1 Justin RobertsonThe Tangle

Described as a ‘mind-fuck’ on the back of the book, no description I could come up with beyond this would do it justice. Just know you need to read it, and then read it again.

2 Willy Vlautin – The Night Always Comes

3 Bob Mortimer – And Away

Top 5 Music Films Seen (But Not Necessarily Released) This Year

King RockerRobert Lloyd / Stewart Lee

Everything you could possibly want from a music documentary – informative, moving, and laugh out loud funny. It’ll make you want to get those Prefects records out again too.

2   Dunstan Bruce – I Get Knocked Down

3  The Jangling Man: The Martin Newell Story

4   Poly Styrene – I Am A Cliché 

Sparks – The Sparks Brothers

Best Song That Didn’t Quite Make The Playlist, But Had My Favourite Music Video Award

The Stephen Jones One Man Domination Of Record Shelf Space Award


Just the 260 tracks released by Stephen Jones this year under various guises:

Babybird – Corona Christmas / Give Me Your Heart, I’ll Give You Mine (single) / Leicester Square, London, 11/2/12 / Covers & Remixes / Kids Gun

Baby Bird – I Was Born A Baby 

Stephen Jones – The Floating City / Heart Boxes / Bandcamp Babybird

Death Of The Neighbourhood – Additional Tracks

Apeshit – Music For Pipe Smokers

New Musical Source Of The Year

Castles In Space

Subscription Library:

British Achievement In Chemistry, March 1977; Concretism – Archive: Volume 1; Jilk – Welcome Lies; Dohnavùr – Pristine Environments; Oscilloclast – Nocturnal/Seasonal; Hawksmoor – Crystal World; Polypores – Myriad; Stellarays – Cosmopollinators; The Heartwood Institute – Land Of The Lakes; Correlations – Rewind The Exit Tape

Plus a number of other great records released by the label this year, but not part of the subscription:

Dohnavùr – Flow Across Borders and New Objectivity (The Remixes) EP; Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan – People & Industry and Interim Report, March 1979; Den Osynliga Manteln – Insektsfolk; Clocolan – This Will End In Love; Hattie Cooke – Bliss Land; Concretism – Teliffusion; Everyday Dust – Black Water

Favourite Music Related Moments (Outside of Everything Above)

Jellyfish Reflector – bought direct from Uncle Bob via Sarah Zade-Pollard. Oh, yes.

Tom Violence – the band I was involved with back in the late 80s – found themselves included on an Almost Halloween Time Records compilation (see above). Luigi said:

“Tom Violence: The song that made me think the most. Where has she been hiding all these years? I know that one of the members of this project has an infinite record collection, it certainly went like this, the original tape it was contained on must have been placed by mistake in another shell and Darren found it putting his collection in order during the lockdown. It was not easy to find a collocation for this song which could very well be a b-side of Talk Talk or Pet Shop Boys. What if more recordings come out? I could finally update my playlist of favorite 80s songs and turn the clock back to release a bizarre classic.”

You can decide for yourself here:

And finally, something to enjoy with the family over Christmas Dinner, a selection of the best part of a dozen (eleven, in fact) of my favourite instrumentals of the year.

Please help support all the wonderful musicians mentioned in the lists above by searching out their records, CDs, tapes and downloads and BUYING THEM!!!

Podcast 119: Kicker’s Best of 2021

It’s been another bumper year for music in the O’Elves household, where extra shelves have been built (put together) to accommodate a whole bunch of great new stuff.

You can hear Kicker’s choice of his favourite 24 tracks from that little lot on two jam-packed sides of the show below:

Side A and Side B

Turn away now if you don’t want to know what’s on the list. Otherwise, here’s the run down:

  1. Low – Days Like These
  2. Astral Swans – Bird Songs
  3. Arab Strap – Fable Of The Urban Fox
  4. The Reds, Pinks & Purples – Don’t Ever Pray In The Church On My Street
  5. Psychic Flowers – Wondering
  6. Guided By Voices – Trust Them Now
  7. Telefis (Featuring Cathal Coughlan) – We Need
  8. Scott Lavene – The Ballad Of Lynsey
  9. Smug Brothers – That’s News I Could Have Used Yesterday
  10. Spare Snare – I Want To Follow
  11. Paul Jacobs – Your Last Words
  12. The Delines – Little Earl
  13. Wild Billy Childish & CTMF – Bob Dylan’s Got A Lot To Answer For
  14. Slonk – Postman
  15. Lewsberg – The Corner
  16. Wurld Series – Feeling Crushed
  17. Wet Leg – Chaise Longue
  18. The Cleaners From Venus – Everytime I Go Up
  19. Black Country, New Road – Track X
  20. The Declining Winter – Housing Tract Blues
  21. Yard Act – Dark Days
  22. Von Hayes – I Had No Idea It Was Today
  23. James Yorkston & The Second Hand Orchestra – Struggle
  24. William Doyle – I Need To Keep You In My Life

The physicality (where there was some):

As always, we urge you to support all the wonderful musicians involved in making our lives more tolerable by seeking them out on bandcamp (using the links above) and BUYING their stuff.

Streaming is for wimps. Thanks.

Robert Pollard’s Guide To The 60s – Tape 18: The Pink Floyd – Piper At The Gates Of Dawn / Saucerful Of Secrets

The big question on this episode is, rightly, all about the use of the definite article in describing the artist behind these 2 albums – the first two from (The) Pink Floyd and the only ones to feature Syd Barrett.

As an avowed post-punk hater of The Floyd, Chorizo opens up his mind and gives them a go.

You can hear what both the wizards made of these two albums by clicking on the image below.


Our chats about the previous tapes can be found where you found this one.

To avoid any potential disappointment on missing out on the next show, make sure you follow our podcast on Spotify or subscribe on Apple Podcasts.

Robert Pollard’s Guide To The 60s – Tape 17: The Rolling Stones – Their Satanic Majesties Request / Beggars Banquet

This series finally turns its attention to The Rolling Stones, possibly the most over-rated of all 60s rock behemoths or second only to The Beatles in terms of importance and influence.

Here we consider the evidence in the form of an album that wanted to beat Sgt Pepper’s at its own game, and one with a bog seat on the front.

You can hear what exactly the wizards made of these two albums by clicking on the image below.

Our chats about the previous tapes can be found where you found this one.

To avoid any potential disappointment on missing out on the next show, make sure you follow our podcast on Spotify or subscribe on Apple Podcasts.

Podcast 118

After a lengthy hiatus, the wizards are back and making as much sense as they normally do. With a mixture of mikmakmoks and babababas, they have all the gibberish you have come to expect.

Along with a whole bunch of fantastic tunes, there are in-depth discussions about what constitutes a decent album credit, the big question of ants v worms, what it is that nobody really needs help with, not ever soul singers, and news that Kicker will soon be unable to locate any record ever again. Oh, and I’ve been told to place here a photo of a QPR legend…

You can hear all the good stuff right here and right down there in a show that we dedicate to Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.

Turn away now if you don’t want to know what’s coming up. Otherwise, here’s what we played:

  1. Julian Cope – Mik Mak Mok
  2. The Helicopter Of The Holy Ghost – Tony Got A Car
  3. Solomon Burke – Get Up And Do Something For Yourself
  4. Guided By Voices – Ant Repellent
  5. Scott Lavene – Worms
  6. The Siddeleys – Sunshine Thuggery
  7. Los Bitchos – The Link Is About To Die
  8. The Chills – Background Affair
  9. Slonk – Holidays
  10. The Lazy Eyes – Where’s My Brain???
  11. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – Panic In Babylon

The physicality: (where we had some):

Robert Pollard’s Guide To The 60s – Tape 16: Paul Revere & The Raiders – The Spirit Of ’67 / GTOs – Permanent Damage

This time round Robert Pollard forces us to listen to the GTOs album, but also the last record from the classic line-up of Paul Revere & The Raiders (which even features Paul Revere), so all is not lost.

You can hear what exactly the wizards made of these two albums by clicking on the image below.

Our chats about the previous tapes can be found where you found this one.

To avoid any potential disappointment on missing out on the next show, make sure you follow our podcast on Spotify or subscribe on Apple Podcasts.

Podcast 117: Manchester Psych Fest special (4th September 2021)

Saturday 4th September 2021 was the day that Chorizo finally got to see some live music again and to mark the momentous occasion he made a podcast about it.

You can download it here or click below to play in the browser.

Robert Pollard’s Guide To The 60s – Tape 15: The Byrds – Fifth Dimension / Del Shannon – …And The Music Plays On

On this show we consider the third album from The Byrds, and the first one without previous main songwriters Gene Clark and, er, Bob Dylan, along with the lost Del Shannon album produced by Andrew Loog Oldham that didn’t come out in 1967.

You can hear just what the wizards think about these two albums by clicking on the image below.

Our chats about the previous tapes can be found where you found this one.

To avoid any potential disappointment on missing out on the next show, make sure you follow our podcast on Spotify or subscribe on Apple Podcasts.

Podcast 116: Isolation Pod #23

Plenty going on in this show with a lucky dip based on Chorizo’s recent cheapskate shopping trip giving Kicker the slightest excuse he needs to talk about his meeting Robert Pollard that time.

We also get Chorizo Snr critiquing Sleaford Mods, Oates out of off of Hall & Oates in a dream, African Country & Western, and both wizards giving us their top 20 albums of the year so far (with no overlaps, that’s 40 albums in total that you should immediately pop into your local record shop and purchase, even if there might not be a living legend available in aisle twelve for photos).

Anyway, you can hear all that and loads of great music, including tracks from some of our favourite albums of 2021, by clicking here or on the player down there.

This show is dedicated to David R Edwards. Diolch x

Turn away now if you don’t want to know what’s coming up. Otherwise, here’s what we played:

  1. Datblygu – Gwlad Ar Fy Nghefn
  2. Shannon Lay – The Dream
  3. Guided By Voices – Electronic Windows To Nowhere
  4. Jess Sah Bi & Peter One – Kango
  5. William Doyle – Nothing At All
  6. Snapped Ankles – Shifting Basslines Of The Cornucopians
  7. Faye Webster – Both All The Time
  8. Synthetic Villains – I Can Hardly Wait
  9. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – Cut Up
  10. The Bug Club – We Don’t Need Room For Lovin’
  11. The Reds, Pinks & Purples – The Record Player And The Damage Done

The physicality: (where we had some):

Robert Pollard’s Guide To The 60s – Tape 14: The Byrds – Younger Than Yesterday / The Notorious Byrd Brothers

Wearing their fringes* like Roger McGuinn’s and hoping to impress, the Chorizo and Kicker take a listen to The Byrds albums numbers four and five.

*Kicker wishes

You can hear just what the wizards think about these two albums by clicking on the image below.

Our chats about the previous tapes can be found where you found this one.

To avoid any potential disappointment on missing out on the next show, make sure you follow our podcast on Spotify or subscribe on Apple Podcasts.

Robert Pollard’s Guide To The 60s – Tape 13: The Bee Gees – Horizontal / Graham Gouldman – The Graham Gouldman Thing

Despite one wizard literally phoning it in on this show, you’ll still find we had an in-depth discussion of a third Bee Gees album and the collection of original versions of some of the best known 60s hits from a founder member of 10cc.

You can hear Chorizo and Kicker discussing the two albums and bringing in talk of train crashes and hated guitarists by clicking on the image below.

Our chats about the previous tapes can be found where you found this one.

To avoid any potential disappointment on missing out on the next show, make sure you follow our podcast on Spotify or subscribe on Apple Podcasts.

Podcast 115: Isolation Pod #22

Mon Dieu! Zute alors!! The wizards have gone all stripey t-shirts and berets as a result of watching a TV series about a board game. Fortunately, this has led to a tune packed show and not just more passive aggressive shrugging.

There’s plenty to get yer dents into as we return to a one sided show. Click on the link here or the mini-player below. Vive le sorciers!!

Turn away now if you don’t want to know what’s coming up. Otherwise, here’s what we played:

  1. Gillian Hills – Tut, Tut, Tut, Tut
  2. Figures Of Light – Seething Psychosexual Conflict Blues
  3. John K. Samson – Fantasy Baseball At The End Of The World
  4. The B-52s – Song For A Future Generation
  5. The Gladiators – Hearsay
  6. David Boulter – Looking For Trudy
  7. Concretism – ROC Trainee Programme
  8. Happy Accidents – Secrets
  9. Guided By Voices – The Batman Sees The Ball
  10. Cheekface – Best Life

The physicality: (where we had some):