unpop 166

unpop166 october 2018

I’m cruel but I’m not cold

Weight – Cyanide Thornton (from ‘Cyanide Thornton’ LP. Bandcamp)
She’s A Runaway – The Coral (from ‘Move Through The Dawn‘ LP)
Here It Comes (The Road) Let’s Go – Spiritualized (from ‘And Nothing Hurt‘ LP)
Wastelands – Suede (from ‘The Blue Hour‘ LP)
Working Class Jacket – My Favorite (on ‘Love At Absolute Zero​/​Death In Suburbia’ LP. Bandcamp)
Suburbia – Pet Shop Boys (from ‘Please‘ LP)
The Seaside Town – Deerful (from ‘Tell Me I Can Fix This On My Own’ LP. Bandcamp)
Growing Older – Princess Chelsea (from ‘The Loneliest Girl’ LP. Bandcamp)
Seven – Men I Trust (digital single. Bandcamp)
Days Of Dust – Molly Nilsson (from ‘Twenty Twenty’ LP. Bandcamp)
This Heat – Gregor (from ‘Silver Drop’ LP. Bandcamp)
Space Cowboy – Life Pass Filter (digital single. Bandcamp)
Double Denim – Cornershop (digital single)
Jewels Are Set in Crowns – Felt (from ‘The Pictorial Jackson Review: Remastered Edition’)
Sleep Easy – The Goon Sax (from ‘We’re Not Talking’ LP). Bandcamp)
Fortress – Terry (from ‘I’m Terry’ LP. Bandcamp)
The Man – Goat Girl (from ‘Goat Girl‘ LP)
Hotel – Oskar’s Drum (from ‘Degenerate Art’ LP. Bandcamp)
Many Clouds – Tim Burgess (from ‘As I Was Now‘ LP)
Hens Teeth – Bad Sav (from ‘Bad Sav’ LP. Bandcamp)

make a chain of flowers

Love and Hate with Bryant and May

IMG_2244Are you familiar with the Bryant and May series of books by Christopher Fowler? I admit that I have come very late to the series which has been running since the publication in 2004 of ‘Full Dark House’ and I admit too that, five novels in, I find myself in something of a love/hate relationship with the books.

Many of the cover quotes tell us that these are ‘page turners’ and this is true. Through book 4 (‘Ten Second Staircase’) and 5 (‘White Corridor’) I have found myself rapidly flicking and skimming the opening chapters, increasingly infuriated by the numerous references to the previous instalments and what I can only describe as tiresomely smug rolling out of historical trivia the author bets we don’t know. And yet, I find myself inexorably drawn in despite these erratic entries and despite the fact that I find myself rolling eyes as yet again the plucky team of outsider detectives fight to keep their Peculiar Crimes Unit open in spite of dark forces, usually emanating from the greasy environs of the Civil Service or their own senior leadership.

It has been suggested that all crime novels fit into one of just a handful of recognisable forms and I largely go along with this theory. As such, Fowler’s Bryant and May stories are clearly rooted in Poe’s Dupin and into the Grand Guignol tradition of early 20th Century French school of crime fiction. Indeed, in ‘White Corridor’ Fowler himself cheekily makes this nod, explicitly referencing the ‘Murders in The Rue Morgue’. Being 21st Century novels, however, Fowler plays with traditions and expectations (‘White Corridor’ also contains a Locked Room mystery a-la-Gaston Laroux’s ‘Yellow Room’ as one of the narrative arcs). And whilst Fowler doesn’t quite break the fourth wall in the way that Edmund Crispin did within some of his Gervase Fen novels (his final novel, ‘The Glimpses Of The Moon’, from 1977, is generally regarded as Not One Of His Best but I admit I love its bonkers post-modern take on country living in the 70s) Fowler very much takes the nascent post-modern roots of Crispin and lets them run wild. And there’s the rub. For to me, the wildness feels just that little too contrived. Too often it feels excessively exuberant and I find myself inwardly groaning and shouting “yeah, yeah, let’s just crack on with the story shall we?”

Striking the right balance of sharing prior information about characters and contexts in individual novels within an extended series is of course a tricky challenge, but for me Fowler over-eggs the pudding. Christie is adept at weaving the threads of character and context through her Poirot and Marple tales for example, whilst Sayers does it exquisitely within the Wimsey books (the counter argument I know is that Christie isn’t really a CHARACTER writer and Sayers is… well, Sayers is Sayers). I’m now five books into the Bryant and May series and I’m already frustrated at so much of the books being taken up with telling me things I already know. This is doubly frustrating because at their core these five novels have fast paced and thrilling narratives. For me however they just take too long to get going and even when they do they are too often derailed by extended and extraneous meanderings into any number of tangential asides (and don’t get me started on the Steampunk wet dream of ‘the device’ in ‘Seventy Seven Clocks’). The novels are hardly weighty but I’d argue they could do with a brutally efficient editor unafraid to put a blue line through extended sections, trimming them to something of a Campion-like length. Hardened fans of the series would no doubt balk at this and suggest this would be to remove exactly the things that they enjoy about the books, and whilst I understand such a stance it is, of course, wrong.

All of these frustrations are exacerbated perhaps because Bryant and May ARE such intriguing characters, not least because there is something endearing about them being so dashed OLD in most of these first five novels. Are they caricatures? Well, yes of course they are, but this is hardly a criticism, for Fowler plays up to this with all of his characters (certainly the recurring ones), illuminating them mostly in a light of common expectation with the occasional punctuation of darkness or a burst of hard-edged grittiness to give lie to preconceptions. And of course Fowler does a fine job of drawing threads from the past and weaving them into the contemporary present (and vice-versa). In doing so he establishes notions of motive (and by implication human nature) as being essentially timeless, with just contextual colouring being rendered by any particular point in time.

Intriguingly of course, my frustrations themselves are almost exactly those with which Fowler sketches the relationship between Bryant and May. Their relationship is fired by an undertow of exactly this exasperation and perhaps it is to Fowler’s credit that he understands his readers will approach the books from the perspective of one or other of the main characters. If this is the case then I am most assuredly a May (a tendency to minimalism organisation and logic, though without the looks and the appeal to women) and the books themselves the Bryant (endlessly frustrating; prone to disappearing down rabbit holes of obscure detail; occasionally rambling; too ‘smart’ for their own good; prone to obscuring the obvious with personal obsessions). Ultimately, although the relationship may be built on a tension of opposites it nevertheless brings a strange kind of pleasure and fulfilment.

So will I continue to explore further in the series? Almost certainly, yes, although I think I may need a break of a few months filled with something more focused and perfectly perfunctory, a purpose for which Simenon’s ‘Maigret’ strikes me as perfectly suited (Simenon’s spare brush strokes describe Maigret with a deftness of touch any author would do well to study). But that, as they say, is another story for another time.


Are you familiar with the movie ‘Grosse Pointe Blank’? Of course you are. And because you are familiar with that movie you are naturally also familiar with the concept of Shakubuku: “a swift, spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever.”

Well, every so often we all need a bit of that. I need it now.

I glanced/scrolled through this blog and found myself mildly depressed by a couple of things.

  1. There’s been no writing on it for an eternity. Well, not since the end of 2017 when the ever-unpopular Advent series kicked in during December. Before that, another year back to the Advent series of 2016 and the conclusion of the ’50/50′ project.
  2. There’s been nothing except Mix Tapes since the start of June when the 2018 version of the Double Negative photography series petered out in a befuddled pfffft of inertia.

So come on, kick me. Kick me. KICK ME.

I kick myself. I kick this blog. The blog kicks back. Just write. Right.


Just write.


unpop 165

unpop165 september 2018 copy

I tried to paint you something

A Tragedy In The Tithe Barn – Alison Cotton (from ‘All is Quiet At The Ancient Theatre’ tape. Bandcamp)
Parachute – Thee Lakesiders (from 7″ single. Bandcamp)
Whisper – Still Corners (from ‘Slow Air’ LP. Bandcamp)
The Wood – Paul Haig (from ‘The Wood‘ LP)
Stjärnor som – Testbild! (from ‘Stad’ LP. Bandcamp)
You Can Hide Your Love Forever – The Fortuna POP! All-Stars
Make Time 4 Love – The Goon Sax (from ‘We’re Not Talking’ LP. Bandcamp)
Best Laid Plans – Lost Ships (from ‘Best Laid Plans’ EP. Bandcamp)
World’s Last Payphone – Dot Dash (from ‘Proto Retro’ LP. Bandcamp)
You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth – MARY + STEW (flexi disc. Bandcamp)
Oh Helen – Terry (from ‘I’m Terry’ LP. Bandcamp)
Cut Knuckle – Monnone Alone (7″ single. Bandcamp)
Lord Of All I Survey – The Chills (from ‘Snowbound’ LP. Bandcamp)
I Don’t Know About Love – SOB STORIES (from ‘debut EP’ Bandcamp)
Stumble – Picturebox (from ‘Escapes’ LP. Bandcamp)
Pull The Plug – Jactars (available on ‘C89’ box set. Cherry Red)
Son of Nothing – The Wolfhounds (from ‘Hands In The Till’ LP. Bandcamp)
Kill Kill Kill Kill – The Death of Pop (from ‘Reverse Play: C86 re​(​dis​)​covered’ LP. Bandcamp)
Sixty Second Window – Alison Statton & Spike (from ‘Bimini Twist’ LP. Bandcamp)
Books I’ve Read – Alpaca Sports (from ‘From Paris With Love’ LP. Bandcamp)
Katie Dear – Mapache (from ‘Lonesome LA Cowboy’ EP. Bandcamp)
Snowblind – The Room in the Wood (from ‘The Room In The Wood’ LP. Bandcamp)
Leaving Detroit – The Jayhawks (from ‘Back Roads and Abandoned Motels‘ LP)

our fingers grew numb with cold

unpop 164

unpop164 august 2018 copy

You and I were young those summer nights

From Philip Roth to R Zimmerman – Amy Rigby (from ‘The Old Guys’ LP. Bandcamp)
This Train – Moscow Circus (digital single)
An Air Conditioned Man – Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever (from ‘Hope Downs’ LP. Bandcamp)
Clothed in Ivy, Obscured by Dust – The Left Outsides (from ‘All That Remains’ LP. Bandcamp)
Self-Destruct Reality – Jetstream Pony (from ‘Self-Destruct Reality’ EP. Bandcamp)
I Never Learn – the Orchids (from 7″ single. Bandcamp)
Want You – Tight Knit (from forthcoming 7″. Bandcamp)
Summer Days – ALPACA SPORTS (from ‘From Paris With Love’ LP. Bandcamp)
The Saddest Story Ever Told – The Magnetic Fields (YouTube)
Roller Disco – Jonathan Bree (from ‘Sleepwalking’ LP. Bandcamp)
Black Lagoon – Still Corners (from ‘Slow Air’ LP. Bandcamp)
Graffiti Hen Ewrop – ILU (single on Libertino records)
Aperture – L. Valerie (from ‘Arranged Marriage’ EP. Bandcamp)
Saltillo – Mapache (from ‘Mapache’ LP. Bandcamp)
Me & Magdalena – The Monkees (YouTube)
Kathleen – GospelbeacH (from ‘Another Summer Of Love‘ LP)
Kathleen – East Village (YouTube)
Kalinda – Papernut Cambridge (from ‘Outstairs Instairs’ LP. Bandcamp)
Gaze – Marlaena Moore (from ‘Gaze’ LP. Bandcamp)
Never Let Me Go – Swing Out Sister (from ‘Almost Persuaded‘ LP Japanese bonus tracks version)
LETS BE CLEAR – Oliver jackson (digital single. Bandcamp)
My Dear One – Nick Garrie (from ‘The Moon And The Village LP. Bandcamp)

All that was between us was the sound of the rain

unpop 163

unpop163 july 2018 copy

our music is the best

She Passes Through The Night – David Lance Callahan (from ‘7 and 77’ collection. Bandcamp)
Thinking About You – Jübl (digital single. Bandcamp)
W.X.J.L. Tonight – The Human League (from ‘Reproduction’ LP)
Kowalski – Primal Scream (from ‘Vanishing Point’ LP)
Berlin – Chaos Chaos (from ‘Chaos Chaos’ LP. Spotify)
Wounded – Claudia Brucken & Jerome Froese (from ‘Beginn‘ LP)
That Way Again – Mazzy Star (from ‘Still’ EP)
Crush – Cigarettes After Sex (digital single. Bandcamp)
Was That Love? – the Catenary Wires (from 7″ single. Bandcamp)
Ghost at Cockcrow – Señor Alec Thompson (from ‘Mouche’ LP. Bandcamp)
A Hymn For The Postal Service – Hefner (from ‘Breaking God’s Heart’ LP reissue.)
Disgusted E7 – The Wolfhounds (from ‘Hands in the Till – The complete John Peel sessions’ LP. Bandcamp)
Sister’s Jeans – Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever (from ‘Hope Downs’ LP. Bandcamp)
Complex – The Chills (from ‘Snowbound’ LP. Bandcamp)
(I Wanna See U) All the Time – GospelbeacH (from ‘Another Summer Of Love‘ LP
Our Country – Ray Davies (from ‘Americana Act 2’ LP)
A Little More Love – Juliana Hatfield (from ‘Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton​-​John’ LP. Bandcamp)
Love My Boyfriend – Princess Chelsea (digital single. Bandcamp)
Catatonic – The Essex Green (from ‘Hardly Electronic’ LP. Bandcamp)
Listening To Another Sunny Day Makes Me Forget You – Butterbeer (from ‘Obliviate’ LP. Bandcamp)

you just don’t need the rest

unpop 162

unpop162 june 2018 copy

Give the sun half a chance and it will shine

Figure It Out – Chaos Chaos (from ‘Chaos Chaos’ LP. Spotify)
Vanishing Point – New Order (from ‘Technique’ LP YouTube)
Fast Boys and Factory Girls – PORT SULPHUR (from ‘Paranoic Critical’ LP. Bandcamp)
You Supply The Roses – Memphis (7″ single. YouTube)
Do You Wanna Hold Me? – Bow Wow Wow (on ‘Your Box Set Go‘ box set)
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner – John Howard (from ‘Kid In A Big World’ LP. YouTube)
Situation Comedy Blues – Momus (from ‘The Poison Boyfriend’ LP. YouTube)
Model Village – The Penny Peeps (7″ single b-side YouTube)
Different Drum – The Stone Poneys (YouTube)
The Old Guys – Amy Rigby (from ‘The Old Guys’ LP. Bandcamp)
Charity – Courtney Barnett (from ‘Tell me How You Really Feel’ LP. Bandcamp)
She Knows – The Goon Sax (from ‘We’re Not Talking’ LP. Bandcamp)
Falling Down the Stairs – Even As We Speak (from ‘Feral Pop Frenzy’ LP. Bandcamp)
Chains – Vital Idles (from ‘Left Hand’ LP. Bandcamp)
Beauty Is Truth – The Verlaines (from ‘Untimely Meditations’ LP. Bandcamp)
Disown – Colour Me Wednesday (from ‘Counting Pennies In The Afterlife’ LP. Bandcamp)
Folk Song – The Sundays (from ‘Static and Silence’ LP. YouTube)
It Can’t Be Love Unless It Hurts – Tracyanne & Danny (from ‘Tracyanne & Danny’ LP. Bandcamp)
Rhythm Of The Rain – The Pooches (from ‘Heart Attack’ EP. Bandcamp)
Civil War Lament – The Left Outsides (from ‘There Is A Place’ LP. Bandcamp)
Trapeze Boy – Jack Frost (from ‘Jack Frost’ LP. YouTube)
Death of a Party Girl – TV Girl (from ‘Death of a Party Girl’ LP. Bandcamp)

It always hurts when no-one replies