I (still) miss The World Of Twist

I miss The World Of Twist. I’ve got the t-shirt, picked up along with the expanded reissue of the group’s single LP ‘Quality Street’ a few years back. I hadn’t known that the artist Jeremy Deller was a fan though. I’d always had a lot of time for Deller and his love for The World Of Twist merely cemented that opinion. He opened the sleeve notes for that reissue with a few lines saying how he hated writing so that all he could say were that The World Of Twist were the Roxy Music of his generation. Which I suppose (since he was born a couple of weeks before me) means my generation. Or even My Generation. Whatever.

The line about Roxy Music opens up ‘When Does The Mind Bending Start?‘, the newly published biography of the band from guitarist Gordon King. Since the demise of WOT King went on to be a key element in Earl Brutus and The Pre New, both groups who, you know, if you know you know. Both made brilliant records and both were deliciously wild and weird. But still, they weren’t The World Of Twist, and King’s book, which is effortlessly engaging and remarkably evocative of the times, almost acknowledges this fact. He knows what we all lost.

The times, in case you need getting up to speed, would be the (mostly post) Madchester era of the late 1980s and early 1990s, and whilst the book is certainly peppered with references to the likes of Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and their ilk, it’s clear that for King and his gang of like-minded truth seekers, World Of Twist were always travelling a path apart. Outside of time and space, The World Of Twist were all about creating their own universe and mythologies. It’s clear, reading King’s tremendous book, that the ley line leading to the temple of Twist passed through the likes of Roxy, Eno, Hawkwind, Genesis, Yes and all points Prog before racing through key punctuation marks of the Punk and post-Punk deviants such as Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, The Fall, Magazine, Clock DVA etc. It’s a lineage that makes a lot of sense to me now, although at the time I would have sneered naively at the Prog references, locked as I was in the myopic, mediated falsity of a Punk Year Zero. No Elvis, Beatles or Rolling Stones… blah blah blah. Being some years younger than King and perhaps immeasurably more naive, I had no concept of much music prior to 1977 when my mates started buying funny coloured 7″ singles at Speed and talking in riddles. So when The World Of Twist covered The Rolling Stones’ ‘She’s A Rainbow’ on the flip side of ‘The Storm’ 7” I could see by the writing credits on the label that it was a Jagger/Richards number and that by rights I should hate it, but… man, it sounded divine. Assuming that this was some groovy take that sounded nothing like the original, it was a bit of a shock some years later to discover that it was in fact a very faithful facsimile pulled off with love and affection. Similarly, it took me years to realise that ‘This Too Shall Pass Away’ was a cover of a number by The Honeycombs, they of the magnificent ‘Have I The Right’ that for years I knew of only from the Dead End Kids, of all places. Says it all, and which I’m sure makes it obvious too that I was never hip enough to catch The World Of Twist playing one of their psychedelic extravaganza live shows. Hence, it wasn’t until that expanded reissue that I picked up on the fact that they played The MC5’s ‘Kick Out The Jams’. I mean, of course they did. It made perfect sense. How could they not?

King makes it clear in his book just how important theatrical elements such as Brother J.C. Crawford’s evangelical on stage introductions to the MC5 were to the formation of The World Of Twist (and indeed, to Earl Brutus and The Pre New). In an early chapter entitled ‘Bill Nelson’s in His Tube’ (and incidentally, there is a massive 6CD reissue of Nelson’s Red Noise ‘Art/Empire/Industry’ set coming later this month on Cherry Red) King outlines his nine-point plan for forming a band. Point eight is: “Conceptualise. This is essential. Amazingly, it’s the most neglected, overlooked part of forming a band, but you skip this step and you are doomed.” I suspect there is more than a touch of irony in there, as World Of Twist, Earl Brutus and The Pre New were conceptualised to the point of Fine (Pop) Art and were all, for the most part, doomed to the peripheries of ‘success’. Which, perhaps, is why there were all so interesting, ‘success’ being entirely defined by the criteria one chooses to apply after all. Certainly in terms of Chart Success, it was World Of Twist that came closest, with singles hovering tantalisingly close to breaking into the top 40 before falling away, deflated and sad like wrinkled balloons at a birthday party. They did the TV circuit to an extent too, with their performance of ‘The Storm’ on The Word being a particular triumph, enjoyed enormously by Holly Johnson at the time, as one would rather hope and expect. But if World Of Twist were, commercially speaking, not as successful as they (or their label, Circa) would have liked, conceptually they were worlds apart from the run of the mill humdrum of the rest of the charts. Conceptually they were way ahead. Conceptually they were the best band, the greatest gang on the planet.

The gang element was played out most perfectly on the photograph that graced the inner gatefold of ‘Quality Street’. Composed and shot by James Fry (younger brother of Martin Fry, he of New Pop Pioneers ABC) but conceptualised largely by King, it is a photograph that contrasts magically with the Georgian period-drama costume extravaganza of his main cover shot. From the Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells (I always thought it might have been Bath) Fry moves the group into some backwater back alley and captures the group looking like something from ‘Bronco Bullfrog’. ‘Iconic’ was made for images like this and King rightly proclaims it as “the greatest rock band photo ever shot”. The photo shoot appears in the background of the video for ‘Sweets’, where an impossibly young (and incredibly cool) looking Bob Stanley wanders past, Bob being the central character in the video playing the group’s biggest fan. It was hardly acting, for Bob was certainly a long-standing fan. His CAFF label would release a World Of Twist 7″ and his Icerink imprint would give Earl Brutus their first outings. Later, Bob’s group Saint Etienne would write and record ‘Train Drivers in Eyeliner’ for their 2017 album ‘Home Counties’ in tribute to Nick Sanderson. Indeed, Saint Etienne were one of the few groups contemporary with The World Of Twist that one might have mentioned in the same breath. The mighty Intastella, with whom World Of Twist were almost inextricably linked at the time, and Denim also spring to mind. Maybe Luke Haines’ Baader Meinhoff and Black Box Recorder, although they were much later of course but imbued with the same spirit for sure.

Hardly the typical Rock Biog, ‘When Does The Mind Bending Start’ is nevertheless peppered with Amusing Anecdotes, but these are often delivered with a self-deprecating air of almost apologetic bemusement which makes it very easy to warm to King and the group. My favourite is one where King misses out by a few hours on joining the rest of the group as cameos in the background of a Rolling Stones video, although his tale of meeting a drunk Kris Novoselic runs it close and is typically good natured and measured. There’s a typical lovely warmth to his conclusion to this anecdote: “I never really got Nirvana, it all sounded a bit like The Police to me, but Kurt Cobain, for the few seconds I spent in is company, seemed like a nice lad. What happened to him was really sad.”

There’s no bitterness in the book towards the record label or to managers or ‘suits’ who tend to come off badly in these kinds of stories. There is even little irritation shown to The Media who, inevitably, turned on the group that they had previously championed. Indeed, King proudly includes scathing reviews of their final single, that cover of The Stones’ ‘She’s A Rainbow’ that initially appeared on the flip of first single ‘The Storm’. King even professes to the Melody Maker piece, which concludes that this is “A song for swinging-losers” being his favourite piece of WOT press. By this point in the story of course King appreciates that it’s all but over for band, the brief window of opportunity closing before their eyes. It might be the benefit of age or the calming balm of distance, but the book is imbued with a lovely sense of peace that is often missing in such things. A recognition that It Wasn’t To Be. That life moves on and that we take what treasures and pleasures from it that we can. Making things precious, or whatever.

It’s abundantly clear too just how much love King has for the characters who accompanied him on the journey with The World Of Twist, several of whom are tragically no longer with us. David Hardy, the band’s manager and, as King points out in the initial outline of characters, “the only adult in this story”; Martin Wright of Intastella and the incomparable Laugh; Nick Sanderson, who drummed with World Of Twist, Clock DVA, Jesus and Mary Chain and The Gun Club amongst others, fronted Earl Brutus and was the inspiration for the aforementioned ‘Train Drivers in Eyeliner’. And of course, there is Tony Ogden, front man extraordinaire with his leather shirt tucked into white jeans, massive belt buckles shimmering under the mirror ball and fighting his way out of a tinfoil underworld, like Lou Reed boxing his way out of Warhol’s Factory. If there is a regret in ‘When Does The Mind Bending Start’ it is perhaps that King and Ogden grew apart towards the end of The World Of Twist and that, in some ways, robbed us of some particularly special possibilities.

So I’ve got the t-shirt and now I’ve read the book. And I still miss The World Of Twist.

What To Read Whilst The World Burns

Hall’s Farm sits on the lower slopes of Higher Metcombe, a stone’s throw from the Western edge of the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I pass it regularly on my bicycle, in a blur going down and rather more sedately going up. It’s home to The Metcombe Herd, which perhaps sounds like a rural 1960s Peter Frampton tribute band, but is actually a gang of pedigree Holstein Friesian cows. There’s a nice little sign on the end of one of the outbuildings proclaiming this, although lately it’s obscured by a larger one announcing that the farmhouse, its outbuildings and 18 acres are up for sale. I dread to think what will become of the place. Will it continue as a small working farm or will it fall foul of the drive to turn every available piece of rural architecture into second homes and holiday lets? Will the fields be dotted with Yurts and will signs for Glamping replace the one for The Metcombe Herd? Sadly, it feels inevitable. West Hill, with its exclusive gated properties, is a stone’s throw away, after all, and one imagines the inhabitants there would rather have more Chelsea Tractors in the lanes rather than mucky Masseys towing trailers of slurry.

There was a time when I was profoundly mistrustful of the countryside. I remember Lawrence of Felt/Denim/Mozart telling me the same thing. About how he was terrified of rural sounds. Animals, birds, whatever. That and the silence. He said he needed the reassuring constant thrum of the city to feel safe and alive. At the time I was living in the centre of Exeter which was hardly a metropolis (a visiting musician from LA described it at the time as being ‘pastoral’) but I kind of knew what Lawrence meant. During this time I also lumped farmers in with every other type of rural dweller as being ignorant blood-thirsty Tories to be despised and ridiculed. Foolish and naive, of course, particularly since my own ancestry is firmly rooted in the soil of tenant farmers and Ayrshire fields. My great-great grandfather bred champion chickens, and the High Park farm at which various ancestors worked still sits above Cairn Hill in New Cumnock, a stone’s throw from the council house I was born in and the now empty site of the school I once attended.

It is only in more recent years that my (at best) ambivalence towards the countryside and farmers has shifted. Sixteen years of living in a village in the Exe valley have been the primary driver for this, I’m sure, although there is some symbiosis too with my reading an increasing amount of what I guess folks refer to as ‘nature writing’. Any previous urban arrogance/ignorance about the countryside then has dissipated, more youthful perceptions of the rural/urban divides replaced by developing understanding of the complexities and inter-connectedness of what we see around us. There is certainly something of this in Vron Ware’s excellent ‘Return Of A Native’. I first read some extracts of the book on Caught By The River and was immediately taken by the imagery of the fingerpost sign defaced at a crossroads in the depths of Hampshire. Ware’s writing around this sign and its significance is captivating. She weaves elliptical stories around it, ruminates on meaning and impermanence. This kind of personal rumination is common in so many non-fiction books these days, but as I have mentioned previously, it is a welcome strategy for it allows the reader to understand the inevitable interplay between the global and the personal. Ware does this as well, if not better than most, and the passages about moving to and fro between London and the Hampshire cottage of the/her past to visit her mother are poignant and tender. That space between the rural and the urban is played out in sensitive, understated ways. There is anger and frustration here too, however, aimed mostly at those who have made excessive financial gain out of exploitation of resources/the land/the rural population. There is some excellent historical exploration of the shift from essentially horse-powered ‘human’ scale farming to mechanised agriculture on an industrial scale, particularly around the development of the factory farmed chicken, and throughout the book there are fascinating excavations that explore the relationships between land ‘ownership’, exploitation, slavery, hunting, class, betrayal, rock and pop culture and all points in between. Ware is always engagingly informative about these issues (as one would expect given her decades of writing about racism, gender, history and national identity) but is clearly keen not to fall into the trap of being overly judgemental or to be tempted by the simple stance of ideology. Instead her overviews strike a fine balance between righteous indignation and the pragmatic awareness that Things Are Complicated. Except when they aren’t, of course, which means that any kind of obnoxious apologist attitudes towards racism, sexism and exploitation of the working classes are given short shrift. There is not much love lost either for City Bankers (yes, the rhyming slang is very definitely implicit) who used the Banking crisis of 2008/9 as an opportunity to syphon money into the purchase of cheap agricultural land, thereby protecting their capital and not coincidentally benefiting from tax breaks. Ware additionally shines a light on how these new ‘hobby farmers’ were/are quite happy for these farms to operate at losses, deductible for tax purposes from their obscene City bonuses. All of which doesn’t exactly fill me with hope for the future of Hall’s Farm.

Mature, expansive, yet engagingly personal, ‘Return Of A Native’ then is a compelling outline of the state of England’s rural landscape in the 21st Century and how it got there, for better or for worse. 

The 1951 Festival of Britain is rightly referenced by Ware as a key hinge point in the development of post-WW2 rural England, and it crops up too in E.C.R. Lorac’s tremendous ‘Crook O’Lune’. First published in 1953 and now given a new lease of life courtesy of the British Library Crime Classics series, ‘Crook O’Lune’ sees Lorac’s series detective, Chief Inspector Robert Macdonald nearing the end of his career and contemplating retirement to a small dairy farm in Lunesdale. Much like Vron Ware, Lorac seems to take the point made in the Festival about how “in making what they have of the land, the people have become divided… [into] either countrymen or townsmen” as a starting point for her novel. As with Ware’s historical analysis, there is much in this work of fiction that addresses those divisions by ultimately pointing out that they are structural rifts fashioned for greed and gain by the few over the many. Despite this, both Ware and Lorac are largely optimistic about humanity, perhaps in spite of the evidence. Certainly in Lorac’s case there is the over-riding sense of Good triumphing over Bad (the common, though by no means universal, trope of the detective novel), of ‘common’ decency prevailing over petty jealousies, religious pomposity and the insidious creep of personal greed. It’s clearly important that whilst Macdonald might represent a figure of Law and Order, in this particular circumstance he is not officially in such a role, thereby feeding a sense that in these rural environs it is some kind of intrinsic fairness that might eternally prevail. Ultimately too, for both Lorac and Ware, there appears to be an acknowledgement that whilst Humans may intervene with Nature to the extent of managing and changing landscapes to their needs, the long-playing game will always ultimately be in Nature’s favour. Human’s might exploit Nature’s resources to the edges of existence, but its patience will not be endless: the bite back will always be deadly and Humans will always, ultimately, lose.

Not that either ‘Return Of A Native’ nor ‘Crook O’Lune’ are depressing books (well, okay, there are elements of Ware’s that chill to the core and make one despair of humanity), and both writers are adept at writing about the landscapes of their preferred counties. Lorac in particular was clearly drawn to the Lunesdale area in the borderlands between Lancashire and the South Riding of Yorkshire as several of her Macdonald books are set there. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Lorac also felt the divine pull of Devon (if Macdonald could skip forward 70 years and would take Devon instead of Lunesdale, he might have been interested in Hall’s Farm), and passion for place is without doubt one of the lasting treasures of the 46 Inspector Macdonald novels that she produced. There would be another eight after ‘Crook O’Lune’ before the Yard man would bow out for good in 1959’s ‘Dishonour Among Thieves’ (aka ‘The Last Escape’), a book set once again in Lunesdale that shares a significant amount of DNA with this earlier effort.

By my reckoning there are 18 of those Macdonald novels that have been uncovered and reissued in recent years, 10 of them in the British Library series and every one of them worthy of attention. It’s my devout wish that the remaining 28 see the light of day again in affordable form before the Earth, or I, run out of steam. Then, at least, we will have something good to read whilst the world burns.

Unpop 218

Download Disc 1

Meli (II) – Bicep (digital single)
The Hill – Räven Musen (from ‘Peppermint Soldier‘ LP)
West Treding (Clatter Valve mix) – holmes and atten ash (from ‘Peace and Plenty‘ compilation LP)
Ghost of Love (Plukatan) – Schmitz & Niebuhr (from ‘The Greatest Hits‘)
Fig.1c The Third Phase Of House Construction – Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan (from ‘Moonbuilding Summer Special‘ fanzine and CD)
This Earth That You Walk Upon – Simple Minds (from ‘Sons and Fascination’ LP)
Notgonnachange – Classic Club – Swing Out Sister (from ‘Blue Mood, Breakout And Beyond – The Early Years Part 1‘ 8CD Box Set)
Good Times – Jungle (digital single. YouTube)
I Don’t Even Know If I Should Call You Baby (Marhsall Jefferson Symphony Mix) – Soul Family Sensation (from ‘Fell From The Sun‘ LP)
A Man Without A Face – The Chants (from ‘Gotta Get A Good Thing Goin’ – The Music Of Black Britain In The Sixties, 4CD Book Set‘)
Globe – Pale Blue Eyes (from ‘Souvenirs‘ LP)
Pamela – Robert Sekula (digital single)
1994 – Theatre Royal (from ‘Beneath The Floor‘ EP)
Once Upon a Bombshell – Northern Portrait (from ‘The Swiss Army‘ LP)
Wind In My Blood – Young Guv (from ‘Guv IV‘ LP)
The Garden – Dan Weltman (from ‘Rivers In My Mind‘ LP)
Geraldine – Mabel Joy (from ‘Before The Day Is Done – The Story Of Folk Heritage Records 1968-1975‘ 3CD Box Set)
Defences – Emily Fairlight / The Shifting Sands (from ‘Sun Casts a Shadow‘ LP also from Occultation for the UK)

Download Disc 2

Ecce Quadragesimo Tertio – Michael Tanner (from ‘Vespers / The Blackening‘ LP)
Orpheus – North Sea Navigator (from ‘Peace and Plenty‘ compilation LP)
Porth Ia – Gwenno (from ‘Tresor‘ LP)
The Man Who Waved at Trains – Soft Machine (from ‘Bundles‘ Remastered & Expanded 2CD Edition)
Asleep On The Runway – Moonbears (from ‘Four Sides for Red‘ LP)
Linen In The Sun – Lucy Roleff & Lehmann B Smith (from ‘Dark Green‘ LP)
Lazy Day – Peregrine (from ‘Before The Day Is Done – The Story Of Folk Heritage Records 1968-1975‘ 3CD Box Set)
The 1st Person – Bachdenkel (from ‘Rise And Fall – The Anthology‘ 3CD)
Lean Into Me – Gordon McIntyre (from ‘Even With The Support Of Others‘ LP)
A Bird Came Down The Walk – Matthew Bannister (from ‘The Saddest Noise (2022)‘ LP)
Citrus Beach – Tan Cologne (from 7″ and digital single)
Highway Sun – Triptides (from ‘So Many Days‘ LP)
Curse the Conscience – Sean Thompson’s Weird Ears (from ‘Sean Thompson’s Weird Ears‘ LP)
The Sadness In The Air – the boy least likely to (from digital single and 7″)
When the World Stops Ending – Dolour (digital single)
Schweden Espresso – Sofie Royer (from ‘Harlequin‘ LP)
Don’t Stop The Music – New Seekers (from ‘The Albums 1975-1985‘ 4CD Box Set)
Champion The Underdog – Sutherland Brothers (from ‘Miles Out To Sea: The Roots Of British Power Pop 1969-1975‘ 3CD Box Set)
Wage Wars Get Rich Die Handsome – The Mountain Goats (from ‘Bleed Out‘ LP)
Art / Empire / Industry – Bill Nelson’s Red Noise (from ‘Art/Empire/Industry – The Complete Red Noise‘ 6CD Remastered Box Set)
the seeker – Sweet Juice (from ‘Sweet Juice‘ LP)
Kodak Ghosts Run Amok – Eyeless In Gaza (from ‘Skeletal Framework – The Cherry Red Recordings 1981-1986‘ 5CD Box Set)
The Saddest Story Ever Told – Mick Trouble (from ‘Oddities and Sodsities‘ EP)
Sometimes Accidentally – The Goon Sax (from ‘Up To Anything‘ LP)

Unpop 217

Download Disc 1

The Night – xPropaganda (from ‘The Heart Is Strange’ LP)
Dean’s 7th Dream – My Favorite (from ‘Tender Is The Nightshift: Part 1‘ EP)
Your Silent Face – Velocity Girl (7″ single. YouTube)
Build A Fire – Stars (from ‘From Capleton Hill‘ LP)
The Girl With The Loneliest Eyes – The House Of Love (from ‘Burn Down The World‘ 8CD box set)
Behind Her Lovely Smile – My Raining Stars (from ‘89 Memories‘ LP)
Broken Beauty – Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band (from ‘Dear Scott‘ LP)
English Parish Churches – David Westlake (from ‘My Beautiful England‘ LP)
The Cotswolds – Ernest Moon (from ‘Skipping to Maloo‘ LP)
This Boy Is A Mess – The Orchids (from ‘Dreaming Kind‘ LP)
I Confess – Marine Research (from ‘Peel Session‘ EP)
Parallel World – silver biplanes (from lathe cut and digital single)
The Summer At The Sawmill – Loch Ness Mouse (digital single)
Don’t Hang up on Me – Tchotchke (YouTube)
Stop – Gemma Rogers (from ‘No Place Like Home‘ LP)
Meet The Lovely Jenny Brown – The Bachelor Pad (available on ‘All Hash and Cock‘ LP. R.I.P. the wonderful Tommy Cherry)
Everything’s Going South – Legends Of Country (from ‘Anything But Country‘ LP)
Going Down – Starry Eyed and Laughing (from ‘Miles Out To Sea: The Roots Of British Power Pop 1969-1975‘ 3CD Box Set)
Garden of Life – HEMLOCK (from ‘Hemlock‘ LP)
Light My Fire – Mapache (from ‘Roscoe’s Dream‘ LP)
Get Through This – Emily Fairlight & The Shifting Sands (from ‘Sun Casts a Shadow‘ LP also from Occultation for the UK)

Download Disc 2

Euphoric Clashes – Stick In The Wheel x Jon1st, Nabihah Iqbal, Olugbenga (from ‘Perspectives On Tradition‘ LP)
Pinky – Schmitz & Niebuhr (from ‘The Greatest Hits‘)
Ghost Orchid (Lomond Campbell Remix) – Dot Allison (from ‘The Entangled Remix‘ EP)
Concrete Antenna (Miaoux Miaoux Remix – Radio Edit) – Simon Kirby, Tommy Perman and Rob St John (from ‘Concrete Antenna / Revisited‘ LP)
Garland Queens and Old Straw Bears – Meadowsilver (from ‘Meadowsilver II‘ LP)
Editare Rosie – Räven Musen (from ‘Peppermint Soldier‘ LP)
Sabine Equation – Wealdham (from ‘Complex Systems‘ LP)
Midwich School – Hannah Peel (from ‘The Midwich Cuckoos – Original Score‘ LP)
Men An Toll – Gwenno (from ‘Tresor‘ LP)
I Buried the Candlesticks – Alison Cotton (from ‘The Portrait You Painted Of Me‘ LP)
Ivory – Justin Hopper & Sharron Kraus (from ‘Swift Wings‘ LP)
Waiting – The Unthanks (from ‘Ballads‘ LP)
A Garden After Rain – The Light Music Company (from ‘Housewives Favourites‘ LP)
Everybody Go Home, The Party’s Over – Clodagh Rodgers (from ‘Bubblerock Is Here To Stay Volume 2‘ 3CD set)
You – Lorraine Child (from ‘Gotta Get A Good Thing Goin’ – The Music Of Black Britain In The Sixties, 4CD Book Set‘)
Moves Like Miyagi – Dolour (digital single)
Training Montage – The Mountain Goats (from ‘Bleed Out‘ LP)
Something Pretty – The WAEVE (digital single)
1980 – Organised Scum (digital single – on Soundcloud from July 10th)
The Montrose Air Station Ghost – Kitchen Cynics & Grey Malkin (from lathe cut and digital single)
11 p.m. – Letters From Mouse (from ‘Sleep Tapes‘ cassingle)

Blowing wild and searching for peace

At the start of this month I re-read a selection of Peter Benson novels and re-appraised the music of The Waterboys from 1981 to 1985. It didn’t take long to decide that all were terrific and well-worth revisiting. In the midst of all this I also read Benson’s 2019 novel ‘The Stromness Dinner‘, which struck me as a beautifully judged piece of poetic fiction with a realist backbone. Lots of handsomely worked language about landscape and the pleasures of food. Finely wrought but staying the right side of rococo, delicious filigree and shadow. In summing up ‘The Stromness Dinner’ and Benson’s other novels I noted that nothing ever really happens in his books. Or rather that it does, but it doesn’t really. Even in something like the marvellous 2012 ‘Two Cows and a Vanful of Smoke’ where there are drug dealers and murder, car chases and falling in love with hippie girls, it feels as if those cartoon episodes of action are just that: cartoons punctuating an afternoon spent watching Pasolini films on Channel 4. Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck infiltrating a Truffaut season on BBC2. What lingers most are the deceptively light observations on the worlds that we pass through, the lives we lead and the loves we love to love. Darkness, sorrow, and loss, too. Inevitably.

Well, just to prove that I’ve likely been talking out of my arse, Peter Benson has only gone and written a new novel where EVERYthing happens. Here the cartoons are the main feature, a psychedelic madcap race into oblivion where the pauses for breath allow the recharging of energies under the guise of philosophical reflections. Fidelity. Loneliness. Boredom. Justice. Mediated obsession with everyone else’s business. Actually not giving a fuck about anyone else’s business. Tuning out the hate and turning onto love. Deep breath and on we go again. Foot to the floor and take to the backroads where no-one will find us.

Now there was a time when Peter Benson might have been seen to be, if not on the M4 of literary ascendency, at least on the A303. This would be back when Benson’s debut novel ‘The Levels’ was winning The Guardian fiction prize and when books like ‘Riptide’ sported quotes from reviews in the Daily Mail. If it’s something of a shame then to suggest that subsequent books such as ‘Two Cows’, ‘The Shape of Clouds’, ‘The Other Occupant’, ‘A Lesser Dependency’ and ‘A Private Moon’ might have dropped him off even the A303 into the backwater lanes of the Blackdowns, perhaps that’s been to the reader’s benefit. It’s certainly true to say that each of these books has been a treasure of intelligent, measured prose untarnished by whatever the literary fashions of the days might have been. Not that such metaphorical travelling around in the backroads, reversing up for tractors and milk tankers, will have helped pay the bills. But perhaps it’s allowed Benson to build a body of work that is impressive in its wealth of intelligent prose. And there is, in all of Benson’s work, an indulgence in the luxury of words that is immensely pleasurable but never cloying and that never outstays its welcome. A certain pragmatism is always ready to curb pretension when it threatens to get above itself. Mind how you go, poet wanker.

If there was a delicate restraint in ‘The Stromness Dinner’ then in ‘Kidnap Fury of The Smoking Lovers’ Benson really lets it all hang out. There is a spontaneity to the language here that feeds off the narrative and vice versa. At times it feels almost out of control, a wild and wicked stream of consciousness on the road to nowhere, which might be North Wales or might be anywhere else but here today. Running away to get away. Paul Haig doing Sly Stone. Peter Benson doing David Goodis doing William Burroughs reading R.S. Thomas whilst listening to Paul Haig doing Sly Stone. Albert Ayler wailing in the background. And then, and then, and then.

Pause. Breathe. Punctuate with an asterisk like a Big Flame change of pace and direction. Just so.

‘Kidnap Fury of The Smoking Lovers’ is a comic thriller, a dystopian modern fairy tale searching for enlightenment in the richness of words and the white light of unexpected love. ‘End of the fucking world’ meets ‘Harold and Maude’, perhaps. It also recalls something of the wickedly funny series of novels featuring Peacock Johnson that Stuart David has been writing these past ten years or so: books that simultaneously remind us that striking the right comedic balance in a novel is a tough act to pull off, yet still make it seem so effortless. Bastards.

It’s not entirely smooth running though. There are some stumbles that might be intentional nods to what’s gone before or might be examples of a writer forgetting that past and losing their place. So there’s the same perfume (the one Marie Antoinette wore) that crops up in ‘The Stromness Dinner’, and there’s a familiar anecdote about a bishop and a diplomat from the south seas discussing the inherent impossibilities of religion and belief. Perhaps an editor said “Benson, have you lost your shit here?” and Benson replied, “can’t you see the signposts of connective narrative that I’m threading through the cosmos?”. Or perhaps not.

As in his previous books, ‘Kidnap Fury of The Smoking Lovers’ showcases Benson’s gift for the gab. His exchanges between characters are eminently believable, quick fire, barely broken up with ‘he said, she said’ markers. It’s easy to get carried along, sometimes forgetting the place. Who’s this? What’s that? Doesn’t matter. Onwards!

I love this about Peter Benson’s books, and about ‘Kidnap Fury of The Smoking Lovers’ in particular. They are quick and easy reads, this one more than most. A tabloid headline turned against itself, ‘Kidnap Fury of The Smoking Lovers’ is about knowing when to say fuck you and fuck off and when to shut up, shut down and lose yourself in love. It raises you up on its shoulders and carries you away. Quick and easy, but not easy easy. Simple not stupid, stupid. It’s so difficult to do that. Stripping things out to leave just what’s required. ‘Kidnap Fury of The Smoking Lovers’ then is the sound of a Modernist doing improv. Blowing wild and searching for peace.

Kidnap Fury of The Smoking Lovers‘ is published by Seren books.

The Unbroken Circle

“I was every track The Waterboys recorded between December 1981 and July 1985, from ‘December’ through ‘All The Things She Gave Me’ and ‘Be My Enemy’ to ‘This Is The Sea’.”

That’s Peter Benson writing in his 1994 novel ‘Riptide’. Or rather, it’s Peter Benson putting words in a characters’ mouth, for it is a work of fiction and we should always be wary of reading too much of the author’s personal life into their work, be it books, films, songs, reviews, whatever. Benson himself nods explicitly to this in a later book (2012’s terrific ‘Two Cows and a Vanful of Smoke’) when he/his narrator warns us that we should not “think that something [we] hear in a book or a film has anything to do with real life. Books and films are false.” Well quite. Songs too, as often as not. Mike Scott would probably agree with that. A suggestion of the real but also a hefty dose of the mystical and mythical, perhaps. Holes around the moon on a winter’s night walking the footpath to Loans and the Bruce Inn. That kind of thing.

The Waterboys, though, never really did it for me back in the 1980s or at any time since. It was one of the main reasons I put off reading ‘Riptide’ for so many years. That and surfing. I always felt there was something insufferably smug and dreary about surfers. I still do, to some extent, but I also understand that’s more about the mediated image and my own insecurities. You could say the same things about cycling, and I’d be with you pretty much 100%. Ironically of course Duncan, the narrator in ‘Riptide’, tells us that he feels exactly the same way about “surfer wankers” so yeah, that’s me told.

It is often difficult to look back and to understand our past impulses. They can often be remarkably uncomfortable and we try to obfuscate them with morning mists of misremembering. So it goes. I think then, though cannot be certain, that another reason I avoided reading ‘Riptide’ for 18 years was because Benson’s debut novel ‘The Levels’ had meant such a lot to me in 1987 and I did not want to be disappointed. Stupid, in hindsight, but then how many of our younger selves’ decisions were anything but foolish at the very least? Then again too, je ne regrette rien and all that, and in this particular universe I’m happy I waited so long because it meant ‘Riptide’ became, along with ‘Two Cows’ and a handful of Benson’s other novels, a hugely enjoyable break from reading detective fiction back in 2012 or so.

Oddly, or inevitably not really, it’s much the same situation a decade on. The hefty piles of detective fiction on the ‘to be read’ shelves left for another week or so whilst I (re)indulge myself in some Peter Benson again, circling back to start with ‘Riptide’ because of a chance remark on social media about resurrecting old mix tapes from the mid 1980s. This particular one was great. Could have almost been one of mine, but only almost, and there is always something pleasing about that because our differences are as valuable as our connections after all. Something on there by Sinatra that I’d once foolishly have sniffed at but that now sounds sublime. An old Microdisney number that I listened to just hours before hearing of Cathal Coughlan’s tragic passing. Orange Juice, Love, New Order, The Velvets and closing out with The Chameleons. Old friends. Bookends. And yes, a Simon and Garfunkel track on there too. And The Waterboys’ ‘All The Things She Gave Me’, a song I barely recognised and all the better for that.

‘A Pagan Place’ did not mean anything to me in 1984 or in any year since until now. In some respects this is strange because I do remember that I loved, and bought, ‘The Big Music’ early in that year. Yet when we are eighteen time moves so quickly, or perhaps impossibly slowly, so by the time the summer came and left I was in a different place, a different person, metaphorically if not physically. Big was bad. An unconscionable evil. Something along those lines, anyway, and I was certainly no longer interested in The Waterboys. A year later things were not much different, and though my best friend Scott played ‘This Is The Sea’ on repeat and I begrudgingly admitted a fondness for ‘The Whole Of The Moon’ (informed in large part by aforementioned late winter night wandering of footpath to Loans and the Bruce Inn where some degree of alcohol may have been involved) in reality I couldn’t help wonder if this was a sign of us growing up, apart, as teenagers do when the dreaded twenties approach. I mean, just look at the teenage male friendships in Peter Benson’s books for proof of that. Sometimes I wonder if we would still be in touch, still riding bicycles, still listening to similar but different music. Moot point of course. I do still think of him though. The things he missed. Where do the years go?

I’m glad to hear every track The Waterboys recorded between December 1981 and July 1985 at this point in my life though, where the weight of the/my past can be cast off to a degree and allow me to hear things I’d never have allowed myself to notice. So that now what I hear is the sound of The Teardrop Explodes on steroids; Pale Fountains with long hair and more pointed Chelsea boots (enough in itself to put backs up and noses out, and I’d have been in line with that response then, but now it feels an irrelevance); Lou Reed singing songs of Ayrshire mysticism; Springsteen and the E Street Band channelling Van Morrison, swimming in symbolism and flying on metaphysical Beat poetry, a Semina soul of strangeness and sensuality. Occasionally overbearingly earnest and eager, but then they were earnest times and who wasn’t desperate to be something Other? And then that number about wanting to look like Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine. Someone told me it wasn’t even on ‘A Pagan Place’ when it was originally released, but whatever, it sounds hilarious/magical now. When I hear it I need to follow it with The Triffids’ ‘My Baby Thinks She’s A Train’, which is maybe just the train connection or perhaps because of those Mike Scott lines about calling up Australia. And would Peter Benson, or his eighteen year old narrator in ‘Riptide’, have dug The Triffids? I hope so.

‘Riptide’ is a tremendous read and I think I understand now the appeal The Waterboys would have had for the eighteen year old Duncan in the book who is searching for something. Losing and finding different things, all of which might have been It and then again might not. We used to make a thing about It, didn’t we? Perhaps failing to realise that It was constantly changing in front of our eyes and ears. Or maybe it was just me who didn’t understand that state of flux at the time. Entirely probable. Hopelessly naive, looking for black and white. This not that. That not this. For a long time I thought the narrator in Pet Shop Boys’ ‘Panninaro’ was the epitome of cool. That long list of things he says he doesn’t like, and then laughing and saying that the things he DOES like he loves with a passion. I mean, I still get that. I really do. It’s just that now it also feels limiting. A little embarrassing. Maybe that ‘Panninaro’ character sees it that way now too. Grown up. Grown old, at least.

I wonder if Duncan would still be listening to those Waterboys records in 2022 or if he’d have filed them in a box of uncomfortable memories and hidden them in a dusty attic or let them die of mould in a damp garage somewhere. Is he still with Estelle? Still surfing? Still looking for things and finding them and losing them? Aren’t we all?

There is a quote on the cover of my paperback copy of ‘Riptide’ from the ‘Times Literary Supplement’ that says the book is “Touching, funny and erotic.” I’m not sure about that. Touching and funny, certainly, and that’s pretty much Benson in a nutshell. But erotic? Certainly there is a lot of sex and thinking about sex in ‘Riptide’. It is a book narrated by an 18 year old boy, after all, so how could it be otherwise? Personally though I’d call the writing sensual, and it is what Benson does so well in all of his books. In ‘Riptide’ that sensuality is in the writing about sex, certainly, but it is also present in the way Benson paints the landscape and in how he has Duncan express the pleasures of surfing. The surfing of course is a metaphor for struggle and conflict. That searching for something and the finding and the losing. It is elemental and obsessive. That tantalisingly tangible yet infinitely elusive It again. Pure teenage dreams.

Benson writes with a sensuality in his latest book, 2019’s ‘The Stromness Dinner’, but here the sensuality is about food. And landscape, of course, this time that of Orkney. Always the mystical pull of landscape. The magic it holds, electric and essentially unknowable. Which is why we yearn to taste it, feel it, touch it. Steve Diggle knows the score here. I nearly missed ‘The Stromness Dinner’. Lost down my rabbit holes of detective fiction. Coming up for air. So thanks to my friends for nudging me to (re)discover The Waterboys, and thanks to Mike Scott for nudging me back to ‘Riptide’, and thanks to Peter Benson for writing books in a way that make me want to just keep reading more. And thanks to Peter Benson too for writing books that can be devoured so quickly that they feed the appetite. So I (re)read ‘Riptide’, ‘Two Cows…’ and ‘The Levels’ in a day each; ‘The Stromness Dinner’ over two. Not that they are slight books, any of them. There is a lot in there to chew over. Language mostly, because not much happens in Peter Benson books. Well, it does, but it doesn’t really. Except perhaps in parts of ‘Two Cows…’ which could be a comedy crime caper gone wrong. Except it’s also bleak and dark in places, the shadows cast by the endless scorching sun of the summer of 1976. The spells of the countryside around Ashbrittle, a place that feels like it sounds. Indeed there is something of that contrast in all of these Benson books. It could be a trademark quality. Like his skill for writing perfectly abrupt sentences. Hemingway or Fitzgerald losing themselves in Hardy landscapes. Something like that. Or nothing like that at all. Much better than I can manage, certainly.

Another of Benson’s trademark qualities would be his way with dialogue. Did I write something in the past about Benson’s dialogue being like George Pelecanos’? I might have done. Should have done, since both have a natural grasp for exchanges that is quick-fire, flowing, easy to follow until it isn’t. Who’s talking? Who said that line? Was that Muriel or Billy? Duncan or his mother? Ed or Claire?

Less happens in ‘The Stromness Dinner’ than in any of these other Benson novels. It’s hardly a spoiler to say that there is a red herring of a stolen vase, but that is about it. A cottage gets renovated and we think we might have seen ghosts. But not really. There are some reflections on Brexit and some sorrowfully angry, lost characters who might the read the Daily Mail, even on Orkney. There are salt of the earth working folks and wealthy City types, but again it’s hardly a spoiler to say that Benson makes a point (bluntly, but also, paradoxically, softly and gently because he always does) that people are mostly decent and thoughtful and kind despite their differences. It might be a book about individuals retreating to perceived positions of remote isolation, but it’s also about humans’ need to create connections and to belong to communities. The book may be separated from ‘The Levels’ by more than thirty years, but I sense a circularity here, not least in the tension between The City and Orkney, Somerset and That London. Ed and Claire might be what Muriel and Billy never were, partly because they are in their thirties and not teenagers, and partly perhaps because they are fictional characters and Benson is in his sixties not his twenties and that has to count for something, right? Even though books are false. Because books are false, perhaps.

When I first read ‘The Levels’ I was turning twenty one, so still a teenager of course, and I felt so bad for Billy. Every time I’ve read it since I have still felt bad for the boy, but increasingly also frustrated about his obsessive fixation on Muriel as Object Of Desire. Caught in a world of illusion and self-perpetuated emotional bondage (to family, to tradition, to place) he’s the Billy Liar of an ancient rural landscape with Muriel cast as Liz. Julie Christie disappears on the London train and Tom Courtney is left with the milk bottles. Or in the other Billy’s case, the willow and the basket weaving.

So is there a sense in ‘The Stromness Dinner’ of Ed and Claire doing what Billy and Muriel never could? There are certainly echoes whispering in the distance between the two books. Scents that linger. Almonds and apricots. Ghosts that flicker. Those lines in ‘We Were A Happy Crew’ about the wind in the reeds. I’m not sure Ed or Claire or Muriel or Billy would dig the sounds of Spirogyra but I think Duncan would have done and I think Peter Benson just might. They linger in ‘The Levels’, where Billy reckons that Muriel “had a beautiful face and the brain to match; her man would never be like me.” More than three decades later Ed says the same about Claire, though never quite as self-pityingly, as befits a man of thirty compared to a teenager. Naturally Claire and Ed could never be Billy and Muriel though. They’d be in their fifties, for one thing. Like me. Perhaps then they could be their children; fictional surrogates transplanted in time to fulfil a destiny that was never on the cards, not in a million years never mind thirty.

But then again ‘The Levels’ ends with the lines: “I was by the door, staring at a tree I’d planted against the wall. It looked dead months ago, but I can’t dig it up, I get a feeling, once in a while; something might happen.” And with ‘The Stromness Dinner’ there is the softest suggestion that, in some alternative universe of fictional reality and falsehood, the circle is unbroken and that tree might just have blossomed. It is certainly pretty to think so.

The Other AC

In his detailed introduction to a newly re-published collection of ten detective novels by Alice Campbell (sometimes referred to as The Other AC of detective fiction), Curtis Evans suggests that the “ongoing revival of vintage English and American mystery fiction from the twentieth century” has led to many forgotten treasures being unearthed. Whilst this is undoubtedly true, these adventurous exploits of literary archeologists also present the discerning reader with some challenges, not least of which is to sift the finds for the treasures that they might relish the most. So: Neolothic hand axe, Roman samian ware, Mediaeval window moulding or 17th century table glass ware? Each might be of passing interest, but we will all have our favourites or obsessions. Detective fiction is no different, and whilst the fabulous Dean Street Press has largely succeeded in reissuing authors that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed discovering (and in the case of, say, Ann Morice, unexpectedly so), I’m afraid that these latest excavations haven’t quite connected with me.

That said, Campbell’s debut novel ‘Juggernaut’ from 1928 is certainly aptly titled and was a great success on its original publication, even spawning a 1936 film starring Boris Karloff. Yet whilst it masquerades as a thrilling joyride of a story, it also feels barely in control of its trajectory, even if it is very clear about its ultimate destiny. The narrative plunges ever onwards, whipping up a frenzy of breathless activity that may be fleetingly exciting, but ultimately feels unnecessarily, even irritatingly, exhausting. In this, and other ways, it sets the template for Campbell’s subsequent novels, certainly up to 1932’s ‘The Click Of The Gate’ which is as far as I’ve progressed in the full collection of nineteen (a further nine will be published next year). In each of the three (‘Water Weed’ from 1929 being the third) there is the same blend of romance-fuelled mystery with plots that often seem to hang on fairly flimsy coincidences and overheard conversations in restaurants.

According to Evans’ excellent intro, Maurice Richardson (like Campbell, a self-proclaimed Socialist from a wealthy and privileged background) once suggested that Campbell did not indulge in what “American detective novelist S. S. Van Dine … dogmatically dismissed as “literary dallying.”” Now I enjoy a Van Dine paperback as much as the next fan of American mass-market detective fiction, and Richardson’s humorous surrealism can be amusingly diverting, but from the evidence of the three Campbell novels I’ve just read, ‘dallying’ (literary or otherwise) is what she does remarkably well. It’s not as though the addition of such padding was the fashion of the times, for compared to the typical detective novel of the late 1920s into the ’30s, Campbells’ books really do seem extraordinarily long, certainly when standing next to the likes of Freeman Wills Croft or other so-called “Humdrum” writers. Only Dorthy L. Sayers comes to mind as being someone with similarly lengthy tomes, but apart from the occasional tendency to outline railway timetables or church bells in overly detailed extended passages, Sayers never dallies, and as a result her books still feel thoroughly Modern. Campbell’s, in contrast, feel very much as though their foundations are firmly in the era of Victorian melodrama or even back into the interminable tedium of the early 18th Century. Each of the books feel restricted by an apparent need to Keep The Action Moving in a linear manner, an impulse that perversely breeds varying degrees of boredom and frustration. Indeed, such is the underlying sense of ‘and then this happened’ that at times one rather wonders if the books have been written by a fourteen year old.

That last criticism is of course a little cruel and unwarranted, for I am sure that the work being done on literacy and writing in our schools means that such stereotypes are increasingly inaccurate, and certainly there are numerous pieces of evidence in Campbell’s books that show her to be capable of elegant and engaging prose. In ‘Water Weed’ there is a delicious line about a character having a face that suggests “a Fra Angelico angel” whilst elsewhere there are some marvellously bitchy lines about Other Women: “”I daresay she’s good-looking enough,” returned the younger girl with the scathing accents of eighteen. “I never notice them much when they get past forty. Why, that’s old, you know!”” and men: “a big, very handsome young man, no brains, I should say. The housemaid’s idol, you know. Very good at games.” and the cutting “You know what men are like if they feel they can’t face a thing, they simply don’t try.”. Ouch. And then there is a throwaway line about a character feeling “maddened by his deliberation”. Personally, it was all I could do not to laugh out loud and say “tell me about it!” Indeed only the fact that I was reading the book whilst sitting in a public park kept me from doing just that.

In truth though, there is much in ‘Water Weed’ (by a slim margin my favourite of the three) that is worthy of attention, even if Campbell does her best to obscure it behind swathes of quasi-baroque decoration. First of all there are some intriguing Freudian tropes threading through the text, notably an Oedipus theme that a young Ross Macdonald would surely have found attractive. One contemporary reviewer certainly felt differently however, opining that “it is to be hoped that the fashion of plumbing the depths of Freudian theory for dramatic fare will not spread.” It’s hardly a spoiler to say that that Oedipus theme never quite comes to fruition as one might expect, but that there is instead a remarkably frank account of masochistic sexual preferences that simultaneously feels uncomfortably out of place in detective fiction of the period, and remarkably brave. A hint of the Modern peering from behind that gauzy curtain of lingering Victoriana, perhaps. Such jarringly direct unveilings are always interesting to come across of course, and do make one realise how our perception of the activities and proclivities of certain periods in history are coloured by the weight of a constructed retrospective picture that is rarely, if ever, entirely (or even remotely) accurate.

Speaking of commonly accepted inaccuracies, one of the most regularly parroted criticisms of the other Other AC (i.e. Agatha Christie) is that she was never much cop at characterisation. It’s the kind of lazy potshot taken by folks who tend to look down their noses at genre fiction in general. They are of course wrong in this respect about Christie, but it is perhaps more appropriate when thinking about Campbell’s work. Certainly I struggled somewhat to remember who was who in these three books, and that’s from someone who is generally pretty good at discriminating between all the ‘men in suits’ in films. Campbell’s characters largely feel like lightly sketched cartoons propelled through plots that spiral like miniature tornadoes through the pages. One exception might be one in ‘Water Weed”: a housekeeper who begins to harden into what might easily be an early prototype for Mrs Danvers in ‘Rebecca’. Indeed, there is a sense that Campbell’s books (at least these early three) could be seen as B-Movies to Daphne Du Maurier’s A-List blockbusters: Diverting enough entertainments, but perhaps ultimately lacking in much lasting interest. Which would explain, at least in part, why they languished out of print for more than seventy years.

In conclusion then, and to throw in a decidedly out of context reference point, these three Alice Campbell books read like some of those early ‘extended mix’ versions of Pop hits in the nineteen eighties where the listener would be numbed by lengthy ‘disco’ extrapolations of drum machines. They may have been interesting up to a point, but one always rather felt like one was waiting (often interminably) for a return to the actual song. With Campbell’s books it feels as though those drum machine exploits drown out what are, in fact, some nicely turned plots with some odd and compelling themes. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for those 12″ Disco Mixes and they have lots of admirers, just as there will be a lot of fans of ‘lost’ detective fiction who will enjoy every page of these reissues. Me? I just can’t help wishing that someone could have released the 7″ radio edits.

Unpop 216 – June 2022

Download disc 1

Kneading – Jill Lorean (from ‘This Rock‘ LP)
Disraeli’s Problem – Spirogyra (from ‘The Future Won’t Be Long – The Albums 1971-1973, 3CD Box Set‘)
Bend Away & Fall – Dana Gavanski (from ‘When It Comes‘ LP)
Nabihah Iqbal x SITW : The Milkmaid – Stick In The Wheel (from ‘Perspectives On Tradition‘ LP)
Contados los segundos es nada lo dulce – Aura en el espejo (from ‘Terrón de azúcar‘ LP)
The Overgrown Garden – The Toy Library (from ‘Vignettes For May‘ LP)
Making Plans – Everyday Dust (from ‘Deadham Ridge‘ LP)
Spacing Out – D’Arcangelo (from ‘Arium‘ LP)
Theme from “A Few Dollars More”- Babe Ruth (from ‘Darker Than Blue – The Harvest Years 1972-1975, 3CD Box Set‘)
Fool’s Gold – Hemlock (from ‘Hemlock‘ LP)
If That’s What It Takes – Legends Of Country (digital single)
Living, Learning, Trying To Forget – Ray Pressley (from ‘The Wonderful World Of Depressing Country Music‘ CD
Audacity – The Muldoons (digital single)
Pristine Disarray (Radio Edit) – The Sylvia Platters (digital single)
Move With The Dawn – Mark Eric (from ‘Heroes & Villains – The Sound Of Los Angeles 1965-1968‘ 3CD Box Set)
It Won’t Always Be The Same – The Millennium (from ‘Heroes & Villains – The Sound Of Los Angeles 1965-1968‘ 3CD Box Set)
Sunny, Honey Girl – Fluff (from ‘Bubblerock Is Here To Stay Volume 2‘ 3CD set)
She Is Still A Mystery – Summer Wine (from ‘Bubblerock Is Here To Stay Volume 2‘ 3CD set)
Summer Dreaming – Harmony Grass (from ‘Harmony Grass’ LP)
Pink Frost – The House Of Love (from ‘Burn Down The World‘ 8CD box set)
Friends Again – The Chills (from ‘Secret Box’)
State Of Art – Friends Again (from ‘In The Beginning‘ LP)
Art Rules Rock Mix – Chicks On Speed (from ‘Art Rules’ EP)
Only Human (xTract) – xPropaganda (from ‘The Heart Is Strange’ LP)
Twisted Cord – Caulbearers (digital single)

Download disc 2

An Ode To If – Accu (from ‘Follow The Ivy‘ EP)
Song to the Cliodna – Sedna Chronicles (from ‘Sedna Chronicles‘ LP)
White Over – HARESS (from ‘Ghosts‘ LP)
Cottonmouth – The Wolfhounds (from ‘Bright and Guilty‘ 2LP reissue)
Strange Journey – Martin Carr (digital single)
Only Fades Away – Chris & Jed (from ‘Singles and B-Sides‘ LP)
Change Your Mind – Young Guv (from ‘GUV IV‘ LP)
World Passing By – David Long and Shane O’Neill (from ‘Age Of Finding Stars‘ LP)
Jealousy – Porridge Radio (from ‘Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky‘ LP)
Bounce Off The Bottom – Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever (from ‘Endless Rooms‘ LP)
Haircut – Alex the Astronaut (from ‘How To Grow A Sunflower Underwater‘ LP)
Together Forever In Love – Go Sailor (from ‘Go Sailor‘ LP reissue)
We’re In The City – Saint Etienne (from ‘Sound Of Water‘ deluxe CD)
Picture Me Gone – Madeline Bell (from ‘Gotta Get A Good Thing Goin’ – The Music Of Black Britain In The Sixties, 4CD Book Set‘)
The Midwife Cycles Home – The Light Music Company (from ‘Housewives Favourites‘ LP)
You Don’t Know What Love Is – The Poppy Family (from ‘A Good Thing Lost‘ CD R.I.P. Susan Jacks)
Joy In The Finding – Agincourt (from ‘A Game For All Who Know: The H & F Recordings Box’)
Summerdays – Weekend (from ‘La Varieté’ LP)
March Of The Civil Servants – peter howell & john ferdinando (from ‘A Game For All Who Know: The H & F Recordings Box’)
Garden In The Moonlight – The Times (from ‘The Times: My Picture Gallery – The Artpop! Recordings, 6CD Box Set
Loftholdingswood – Microdisney (from ‘The Clock Comes Down The Stairs’ LP. R.I.P. Cathal Caughlan)

Unpop 215

Download disc 1

If After Weeks Of Early Sun – Hannah Peel & Paraorchestra (from ‘The Unfolding‘ LP)
Night Falls Over Parted Air As The Sky Widens – Yves Malone (from ‘Upon Chrome Skies Rides A Pale Horse‘ LP)
Limpet Dance – Luminous Foundation (from ‘Luminous Foundation Presents Haig Fras‘ LP)
Somewhere – Arch Brockie (from ‘Agnes Angus‘ LP)
Moulding Heaven With Earth – Abrasive Trees (from ‘Moulding Heaven With Earth​/​Kali Sends Sunflowers‘)
You Won’t Remember This – Orca, Attack (from Superpolar Taïps #29)
Owlight – Meadowsilver (from ‘Meadowsilver II‘ LP)
A Lyke Wake Dirge – Burd Ellen (digital single)
Pierced Arrows (acoustic) – Hurray For The Riff Raff (digital single)
White, Upon Your Grave – Lightning In A Twilight Hour (from ‘overwintering‘ LP)
bring to me your open wounds – Kathryn Joseph (from ‘for you who are wronged‘ LP)
Staring at the Henry Moore – Aldous Harding (from ‘Warm Chris‘ LP)
Timothy Grub – Vashti Bunyan (from ‘Just Another Diamond Day’ LP)
Violet May – Alison Cotton (from ‘The Portrait You Painted Of Me‘ LP)
Litres Into Metres / Susurrus – Haress (from ‘Ghosts‘ LP)
The Symphonies Of Danny La Rue – Telefís (from ‘a hAon‘ LP)

Download disc 2

Murder By Heartbreak (The Anchoress Remix) – Dot Allison (from ‘The Entangled Remix‘ EP)
Black Dog – Jill Lorean (from ‘This Rock‘ LP)
I’ve Got A New Heartache – Kitty Wells (from ‘The Wonderful World Of Depressing Country Music‘ CD)
Don’t Say No – Ruthann Friedman (from ‘Heroes & Villains – The Sound Of Los Angeles 1965-1968‘ 3CD Box Set)
Little Girl Lost And Found – The Garden Club (YouTube)
Spinning, Spinning, Spinning – The Ballroom (YouTube)
New Hard Times (stereo LP version) – The Stone Poneys (from ‘Heroes & Villains – The Sound Of Los Angeles 1965-1968‘ 3CD Box Set)
You’ve Never had it so Bad – A.J. Holmes (from ‘A Better Standard of Ordinariness‘ LP)
Age Of Finding Stars – David Long and Shane O’Neill (from ‘Age Of Finding Stars‘ LP)
I’m Leaving You Because I Don’t Love You – Jens Lekman
Easy Listeners – Bart Davenport (from ‘Episodes‘ LP)
Getting Nowhere Fast – Girls At Our Best (from ‘Pleasure‘ 3CD reissue)
Don’t Wait For A Sign – jeanines (from ‘Don’t Wait For A Sign‘ LP)
Do Nothing ‘Till You Hear From Me – MICK TROUBLE (from ‘It’s Mick Trouble’s Second LP‘)
Solid Gold (featuring Amelia Fletcher) – Red Sleeping Beauty (digital single)
Instant Gratification – Gemma Rogers (from ‘No Place Like Home‘ LP)
The Comeback Kid – Dolour (digital single)
Sinister Smile – Papercuts (from ‘Past Life Regression‘ LP)
Halcyon Tide – Beneather (from ‘Beneather‘ LP)
Folding – Erasers (from ‘Constant Connection‘ LP)
Down – Swell (from ‘…Well?’ LP. R.I.P. David Freel)
Old Square Hip Cats – The New Existentialists (from ‘The GDH Smoke Machine – Booklovers‘ tape)
Tiny Marks – Gordon McIntyre (from ‘Even With The Support Of Others‘ LP)
Rainbows In Windows – The Hanging Stars (from ‘Hollow Heart’ LP)