#musicmonday : House of Love – Shine On

This song has been going around in my head ever since I saw that Creation documentary and the fascinating interview with Guy Chadwick and Terry Bickers. Chadwick was, by all accounts, extremely ambitious, while Bickers was drifting around in a volatile drug-fuelled manic depressive haze.

Shine On was initially released on Creation in 1987, followed by a tour with Felt and Zodiac Mindwarp. Their subsequent single, Real Animal, passed virtually unnoticed, but did lead to another tour (with Mighty Lemon Drops) and further single, the better-received Christine, which marked the departure of Andrea Heukamp. Continue reading

Why artists shouldn’t stick to art


Written for Collapse Board

Everett True reckons that Artists Should Stick To Art instead of making mixtapes of obvious dad rock. If mixtapes made by artists are so disappointing in real life, I think we should invent some fantasy selections.

For example:  Continue reading

Top 100 singles of all time: 72 – Levitation – World Around

Levitation - I'm pretty sure this is a promo pic

I’m going to keep this very brief since I’ve written about Levitation a few times before. It was the first song I heard by the band, and the main single from their album Need For Not. I recall my friends at school being a little underwhelmed when they heard it, but that’s because it’s quite subtle. There’s a lot going on underneath a basically pretty indie pop tune – hints of metal, psychedelia and anything else they could find in the cupboard. The drums are fantastic, the bass insistent, the guitars beautiful. (I should probably give a shout-out to the keyboard player but to be honest I didn’t really notice him here.) Ah, it’s a great song. Continue reading

There’s a great feature on Levitation over at The Quietus

It’s about 19 years since Meanwhile Gardens was recorded, which means it’s about 19 years since I started writing about music. I still remember Tom leaning over the back of the classroom chair, his eyes shining with mischievous glee: “Levitation have split up. Are you going to cry?”

I grabbed the issue of Melody Maker out of his extended hand. Terry Bickers had quit live on stage, leaving the crowd – and the band – stunned by his departure. I didn’t cry, of course, but I was bewildered enough to want to find out more. Once home, I grabbed my copy of Even When Your Eyes Are Open, flipped the sleeve over to get the details and called directory enquiries. I was quickly put through to Dave Francolini, who had fortuitously dropped into the office that day. After we’d been talking for a few moments, I said, “Do you mind if I write all this down?”  Continue reading

#musicmonday: The Monsoon Bassoon and No Doubt

I couldn’t choose between two songs for Music Monday, so sod it! We’re going to have both!

We’ll start with the poky little venue in London. Probably Camden. Seeing some little band you go along to because your mate’s in it and then being completely blown away. I was given a demo cassette with three or four tracks on it. It was produced by Tim Smith of Cardiacs. It had this on it. They got the NME‘s Single of the Week with this song – and for two others, as well. Three SOTWs for three consecutive singles.

Continue reading

Trending Topics: The Longest Tunes In My iTunes Library

Not sure if this topic is actually trending yet, but it should be! (Thanks, ET) It’s not based on all the songs in my collection, just the ones I have to hand. One song from each featured band (so it’s not just a list of Pink Floyd songs):

Sufjan Stevens – Impossible Soul (25:34)
Like Echoes, it’s like an album’s-worth of songs in one.

Pink Floyd – Echoes (16:31)
I still go absolutely weak at the knees watching that!

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Leader of the Starry Skies – Cardiacs tribute now available

I just realised I hadn’t done a follow-up post about this. I also realised that I don’t have any photos of Tim anywhere: I once lost my entire photo collection in a house move. At least with most of the subjects in the other pics I have the possibility of taking new photos to replace them.

I’m not going to “review” The Leader of the Starry Skies: A Tribute To Tim Smith, because it’s too painful to sit there grading a musical hug to someone who deserves it. Suffice to say the album is great, since it’s predominantly by people in/ex Cardiacs, and associated acts (Levitation’s Bob White and Bic Hayes, Medieval Baebes’ Katherine Blake, etc). With well-known folks from XTC, Ultrasound and All About Eve contributing, it might even find an audience beyond Cardiacs’ devoted fanbase, and they’ll find plenty to enjoy.

I was very pleased to see it topping the “best sellers” chart over at thegenepool.co.uk

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Last Impressions: Levitation – Need for Not

Back in 1993, this was my favourite album in the world. A couple of years later, when I moved to London, my ritual with my fanzine co-editor was to turn up at hers with a bottle of whiskey and drain the bottle while listening to the week’s releases. We’d scribble down our thoughts before we got too drunk and then reward ourselves by listening to Need for Not, lying on our backs on the floor.

Owing as much to Killing Joke and Swans as to hippies and shoegazers, it was the wild eclecticism bound into some of the tightest playing I’ve ever seen that appealed so strongly to us both. Most bands blend their influences; Levitation more sort of squashed them in.

Against Nature is paradoxically the weakest track and the perfect opener. It establishes the mix of indie-punk-rock and swirling psychedelia and mood of relentless, crushing paranoia, while introducing you to Dave Francolini’s impossible drumming and ex-Cardiac Bic Hayes’ fierce riffs – neither of them overstated.

Single World Around is subtler still. In school, we had a day where we were all to bring in our favourite songs and play them to each other, and nobody got what the “big deal” was about this song. I couldn’t understand how they missed that breathless clash of styles and genres, the unexpected guitar squeals, that strangely funky bassline, and – as ever – former House of Love man Terry Bickers’ fantastically weird lyrics. All anyone heard was quite a nice indie pop song. Their loss.


Hangnail throws any ideas of subtlety out of the window goes straight for the throat. Plinky harpsichord gives way to brutal guitars and percussion, which take the forefront for once. Levitation took the rules that defined Cardiacs – an intense, playful musicality in which virtuosity reined in what would otherwise be utter chaos – and applied them to a wholly different canvas.

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Just released! Foetus ‘HIDE’

So, after months of waiting for me and years of waiting for everyone else, Foetus.org has proudly released HIDE. It’s going to take anywhere between a week and a month to wend its way to me from JG Thirlwell’s Brooklyn magic shop, so I can’t tell you very accurately what it sounds like yet. The preview clips I listened to on the site while I was gleefully throwing my money at Ectopic Ents and yelling “GIMME GIMME GIMME!” sounded exactly how I thought they would, only more so.

In other words, it’s a cross between this (wow – check out the similar imagery in the artwork!):






and this



Can’t. Bloody. Wait.

(While I’m hopping impatiently from foot to foot, why not pop over to Foetus.org, check out the preview clips for yourself and order the album?)