Monday, December 24, 2012

Shaky, rattle and roll...

Michael Barratt, otherwise, and far more famously known as, Shakin' Stevens will be the grand old age of 65 next year.  

Most people will remember Shaky as an incredibly charismatic performer - his string of 11 top 5 chart hits in the 1980's bearing eloquent testimony to his abilities to entertain and beguile.  What many forget/do not know is, prior to 1981, and his first UK number one record, Shaky had been a performing and recording artist for 13 years - gigging up and down the country and abroad with The Sunsets - to considerable acclaim.

The Sunsets were, as contemporary articles agree, one of the great live bands, attracting the attention of NME hacks, John Peel - who attempted to sign them to his own Dandelion record label and, finally, and certainly most importantly for Stevens himself, Freya Miller who signed him to Epic Records.

The rest was history....

Thanks Michael and thanks to the mighty Shakin' Stevens and The Sunsets - one of the great British exponents, along with Billy Fury, Johnny Kidd and Bob Fish, of rrreal Rock and Roll...

Lastly, and entirely in keeping with Michael's music, Everyone here at Twat Bubble would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's the end of the year as we know it...

I usually wait until mid-December before beginning posting poorly constructed opinions and biased reviews of the year's best records, movies, books etc. This allows me sufficient opportunity to arrogate obscure albums, independently released movies and stand-up comedy 'discoveries,' reviewed by other people, as my own.  

Completely my own.  

Absolutely me.

- Here's a record by someone I like -

Kendrick Lamar's official debut album is, for many people, this year's great Hip-Hop record.  In a year where the music has enjoyed considerable and renewed commercial and artistic success - many contend that it's been the best year for breaks and beats since the early 1990's - Lamar's 'good kid, m.A.A.d city' sets a considerable benchmark.  

Following sexily, uncomfortably closely, great new albums by Odd Future, Action Bronson, Apollo Brown, De La Soul, Fushawn, JR and PH7, Prince Paul, Gangrene...

Two albums, however, for this writer, stand up and out.   

Small Professor's 'Gigantic, Vol 1' and Oddisee's 'People hear what they see.'  

Both are genre redefining examples of the new music: containing nods to an illustrious musical past - whether Soul, Funk, Rap or ? - whilst spitting and shitting, however respectfully, on their memory.  

If you like your music loud and Canadian then Metz may be for you.  Recalling the mighty Nation of Ulysses and, to these ears, Bob and Grant at their howling best, they know how to chill out the rolling rock in you.  Bone-cruising stuff.

More past and future noiseniks, more new records by these c****.  Batsauce, Chuck Prophet, Dan Deacon, Bill Fay, Bobby Womack, Dexy's, The Flowers of Hell, Josephine Foster, Mac Demarco, Mission of Burma, Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs, Momus, Orbital, Tindersticks, The Wave Pictures, The One Ensemble, Laurel Halo, Bob Mould...Momus.       


If 2012 saw anything, it saw a return to 'floaty dreamscapes' - a bit shoegazey but where you could see your reflection in your uppers.  Both Tennis and Taken by Trees are fine examples.

It's been a great, great, great year for noise, noise, noise.  

Australia's Royal Headache delivered a fast and furioso set, harking back to torn and ripped ears/jeans of yesteryear.  Arto Lindsay, Marc Ribot and Mike Ladd resurfaced on Anarchist Republic of Bzzz's marvellous eponymous album. 

More noise?  Records from Dean Blunt, Japandroids, Dope Body, Agent Side Grinder, Dead Rat Orchestra, Godspeed (in a magnificent return to form), remixed albums from Bjork and Mogwai and their various collaborati, Gonjasufi, El Ten Eleven, Mark Eitzel, The Fall, Iris Dement, La Sera, Astra, The Pheromoans, Death Grips, Kid Koala, Spider Bags, Dinosaur Feathers, This Many Boyfriends.  The Fall.

The Fall?

In an astonishing year for reissues, no album was more revered than William Basinski's 'Disintegration Loops.'  An awe inducing piece of work, it paved, and continues to pave the way, for much of what is happening in new electronic music today.  

You must have it.  

What else? Drexciya's phenomenal output collated in the 2 volume 'Journey's of the Deep Sea Dweller,' David Sylvian's 'A Victim of Stars,' the recent slew of Karen Dalton re-issues, more new King Tubby releases - especially those on VP records, the welcome remastered version of Lynch/Splet's, 'Eraserhead,' Oliveros's 12 CD box set (not forgetting the collected Deep Listening Band material reissued recently on Ltd edition vinyl), Virgin's Roxy Music Complete Studio Recordings and, of course, reissues of classic albums by Massive Attack, MBV, Ken Higney, The Heads, The Human League, Swans, Tortoise... and, of course, undoubtedly the best and most important, this...

So, 2012 rears and allows its ugly head to fall.  If you like any of these records why not buy them.  In your local record shop.  NOT HMV.  Y'hear?

To finish - Gerry Love's/Lightships homage to love - the beautiful 'Electric Cables.'  

Being beautiful is not impossible.

Now where did I leave that NEW SCOTT WALKER ALBUM!!!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Marfa, my dear...

"Art is made as one lives. It must be as decisive as acts in life..."
     Donald Judd, 1983

Larry Clark has chosen to set his most recent film in the border town of Marfa, Texas - made famous, some of the inhabitants of this small town would contend 'infamous,' by its close cultural associations with the artist Donald Judd and the proto-artistic community he established there.  

In common with other artist, musician and writer contemporaries, Clark is eschewing more traditional means of release/distribution by premiering the film on his own website for a nominal fee (see above.)  His first feature in 7 years, it will be especially interesting to see how such an uncompromising stance fares both artistically and, crucially, commercially - for Clark's sake and for others who share a similar viewpoint on hyper-commercialism in and beyond the Hollywood mainstream.

Despite some early negative critical impressions of the movie I, for one, hope it's a success.

- 'Marfa Girl' - released 20 November 2012 on

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Slashed, not burned...


Although officially released by Slash records in 1983, Violent Femmes actually recorded their eponymous debut in 1982 - which affords us legitimate ample opportunity to shout about it, get all dove-eyed about it and near demi-deify it in this, the 30th anniversary of its release.

It was a bit of an odd record even way back then - coming as it did in an era of lovingly upholstered long coats and perma-dried ice, the debut single from madonna and an era and genre defying record by some guy who used to sing/dance with his brothers in a band.

With so much going-on and being begun, a freshmen album from some mid-North West musical miscreants was hardly likely to register highly if at all on pop/rock's increasingly ephemeral Richter scale.  But, hugely, surprisingly, it did.  The record found its audience: the same long-coated sophomores looking for a new bible of the beats finding it in the new age kerfuffle-skiffle-punk of this mightiest of trios from Wisconsin.

The record has not dated one inch of one iota.  2 tracks to follow - one live, and one not so.  

Break your heart all over again.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Under the radar...what radar?

It's been 41 years since Bill Fay recaptured our hearts with his second album 'Time of the Last Persecution.' Bill has often suffered at the biting hands of critics: lazy journalism often saw him dismissed as a Nick Drake clone here or a Graham Nash clone there...

These barbs were unfounded and grossly unfair, contributing to his star shining dimly, if at all, throughout the already drifting towards excess 1970's.

2012 sees a new record by Bill Fay, 'Life is People' - on Dead Oceans records.

The voice has changed over the years, becoming more sonorous yet, softer, imbuing the meticulously crafted songs and their choreographed arrangements with a timeless, haunting quality.

And, after 40 years of waiting and waiting, that's more than enough.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Wonderful Kitty Wells...

Kitty Wells was a true Country music original.  A recording artist for over 40 years, she began her performing career as early as the 1930's performing as part of The Deason Sisters.  The 1940's saw her join the already established Tennessee Hillbillies and then, on Jack Anglin's return from the Army, with her husband Johnnie Wright and Anglin, singing and playing guitar as part of their Johnnie and Jack duo.

Recording initially for RCA; who found her in your face determinedly 'unfeminine' fierceness difficult to market, her greatest success came when she signed for Decca Records.  Paul Cohen, A & R man for the Stateside arm of the company, was looking for an answer song to Hank Thompson's 'The Wild Side of Life;' a song which to this day still rankles many with its thinly veiled sexism.  It certainly inspired Ms Wells: her recording of Jay Miller's 'It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,' set her on the road to stardom, establishing her as the nascent queen of Country Music.

It really was no contest.  And, for many, it stayed that way.

Kitty Wells was that rarest of rare things - a quiet revolutionary.  Kind, sympathetic and willing to do whatever she could to help young musicians, especially young women musicians, gain a foothold in a precarious often combative industry, she will be remembered for this, for her unequalled generosity of spirit and, most of all, for her voice - which never failed to inspire and uplift.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thankyou Ernest...

Each year, in a West Village Mexican restaurant, a dinner is held to proclaim the life, the movies, and the man known as Ernest Borgnine.  Guests sit in decorated booths wearing sailor hats and Ernest masks asking and answering questions about celebrated movies, breathtaking individual and ensemble performances, and about a man who seemed, certainly to outsiders, convincingly larger than life.

Ernest appeared in many films over as many years.  He was often pigeonholed as the gnarled, uncomprehending, at time barely incomprehensible, bully.  In 1953's 'From here to Eternity' he played the brutish James 'Fatso' Judson - a man whose sadism reached its peak in his relentless victimisation of Frank 'Maggio' Sinatra - a masterful performance and, possibly, what influenced Sturges to cast him in such a similarly unprepossessing role in his 1955 masterpiece 'Bad Day at Black Rock.'

Borgnine won an Oscar that year for his portrayal of Marty Piletti in Delbert Mann's film of the same first name.  It was an unusual role for him, but it was played with the same thoughtfulness and intelligence that was to characterise all of his performances.  He deserved his Academy award - despite depriving his friend, and the star of 'Bad day...,' Spencer Tracy, from taking the honours.

Although Ernest continued to act regularly on both the big screen and television, he never reached the heights of his earlier films  - with the possible exception of the part of 'Cabbie' in John Carpenter's marvellous 1981 'Escape from New York.'  Again, as was the case in many of his films, it was a smallish part, not a starring role.  But he brought to it a brusque charm and devilish humour, often stealing the show from his illustrious companions - a role he was to reprise with effortless regularity throughout his career.

We will miss him.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Is it really 50 years since 'Carnival of Souls?!'


You bet.

In 1962, the, as yet unknown, Herk Harvey decided it was time to make a movie all of his own.

He had ample writing, directing and producing experience prior to this - from the 50's through to the 80's, he worked for Centron (an independent producer of educational and industrial films), making well received docu-pics covering everything from the gloriously unremarkable - 'Manners in School' to the slightly ridiculous - 1963's, 'Pork: The Meal with a Squeal.'

Prior to his interest in meat products however, Harvey co-wrote, directed, produced and starred (well, that's stretching the truth slightly...) in 'Carnival of Souls,' one of the underappreciated genre movies of the early 1960's.

There is no real need to go into the plot - the film, now public domain, is included here for you to see for yourself.  Suffice to say it is like no other motion picture- with the possible exception of Romero's darkly claustrophobic first feature, heavily influenced by Harvey's surrealistic masterpiece, and made some 6 years later. 

Of course, you'll have to bring your own screams - that is if you can hear yourself scream above the macabre Gene Moore soundtrack...but those screams, I can assure you, will come.  Despite being made 50 years ago, the film delivers big time on chilly chills - the kind of sweet otherwordly chills that Hollywood, with few recent exceptions, appears to have neither the guile nor desire to reproduce...

Harvey died in 1996.  But his film, and his own uniquely terrifying performance in it, lives on. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

The sedge is wither'd from the lake, And no birds sing.

It's now almost 50 years since the publication of Rachel Carson's seminal book, 'Silent Spring;' documenting the wholesale detrimental effects of pesticides on the environment, especially on birds and the flora and fauna symbiotically associated with them.

Carson wrote her book to highlight not only these deleterious effects on avian populations, but also, in looking at the wider environmental implications per se, to draw attention to large chemical conglomerates' profligate use of these synthetic chemical pesticides to control both actual and, crucially, perceived threat from biological pests.

As a marine biologist, Carson was aware of the need for balanced ecosystems - her earlier 1951 work 'The Sea Around Us,' argues the importance of this need and fundamental understanding; communicated with the poetic insight and intensity and clarity of vision that became a trademark of all of her subsequent writings.

Throughout her writing career, Carson was vilified by many in the scientific community - and, almost without exception, by agribusiness CEO's, politicians and political commentators on Capitol Hill - as an alarmist, as an extremist, and, by some commentators, as dangerous (witness, as recently as 2007, John Tierney's vituperative assault on Carson whilst writing in the conservative New York Times [on DDT and its use as an anti-malarial agent in Africa]).

Of course, being a hysterical woman hasn't helped...

Despite those rallied and railing against her, Carson remained convinced that she was right.  Although mortally ill, she testified, in 1963, before US Senate committees/sub-committees, on the misuse of chemicals in the environment - leading, eventually, to the curtailing and subsequent banning of DDT agricultural spraying in the United States in 1972 (something that Carson was opposed to - as a scientist she believed that chemicals/their compounds should be investigated for, amongst other things, their aetiological properties).

Rachel Carson 1907-1964.  Biologist.  Writer.  Ecologist.  Read everything she wrote.

Chemical Heritage Foundation


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Guitar? Wolf? Guitar Wolf!

The wonderful world of Guitar Wolf rears its decreasingly ug-ly head at the venerable Glasgow institution that is Mono on the 4th of June (perilously close to my birthday, hipsters...).

The kindly folks at Mono explain 'Guitar Wolf live at Mono - 4th of June 2012!!!'

If you like your squall with a capital Yee-Ha, then GW are for you.  Bring your parents too.  If you're a parent yourself - nae luck - your kids are probably near the front practising their stage misdemeanour, trying on their school teachers make-up and planning partial world domination with a collective flick of an uncultivated wrist...

Friday, February 24, 2012

One more reason to believe...

Karen Dalton, whose magnificent album '1966,' has very recently been issued on Delmore Recordings is a true original.  Her unique voice, her idiosyncratic interpretations of compositions by the likes of Tim Hardin and Fred Neil, and her own inflected and infected songs, marks her as an artist of the first degree.

So why do so few people know about her?  It's difficult and surprisingly easy to guess.  Dalton's life was one marked by personal and artistic struggle - often, with the music playing second fiddle (awful pun intended) to her personal demons - her recording career was sporadic, with only two albums released in her lifetime.  

'1966' is a marvellous record.  Essentially a rehearsal tape, it includes full-throated, open-armed renditions of songs old and new - and criminally undiscovered - by an artist at the peak of her considerable powers.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

Books of 2011 - Part 2 (But it's January...)

2011 was a standout year for non-fiction books of all misshapes and argumentative's even more difficult to put these into critical context than it is fiction writing.


Norton publishing released R P Crease's marvellous 'World in the Balance;' a history of weights and measures, their attribution and their adoption, or not, by various countries. Or not. Crease makes a potentially dry subject highly amusing, fun even, emphasising the differences, highlighting the similarities. Hell, there's even a section on brassiere measurement - and that's incontrovertibly no bad thing.

'Hemingway's Boat,' as reviewed by Allan Massie, is as quixotic a read as the man himself. Tremendously entertaining, the book is, in many ways, similar to Hemingway's own, 'A Moveable Feast,' written when he was a young objet d'art living in Paris (the book begins after Papa's formative years spent carousing there).

What differentiates Paul Hendrickson's book from so many other biographies is that it counterbalances the warts and the all of a man often beleaguered by life, at odds with his crucial self, with his headstrong humanity - in all its rumbustiousness.

Paul Shaw has written a delightful book about an even more delightful subject - the New York City Subway System or, more specifically, its signage. For years, New York's underground signs were an indecipherable mess; difficult to read, nigh impossible to follow. Impeccably researched and gracefully written, it's the story of how a font changed a small, imperfectly formed part of the world for the better and to a new way of seeing.

Paul Shaw 'Helvetica and the New York City Subway System' MIT Press

Jon Ronson has written a number of entertaining, enlightening and informative books. Ronson's latest, 'The Psychopath Test,' follows in these footsteps - albeit following them wearing a pinstriped suit, a pair of Trickers brogues and a mePad. Above all, as Ronson says and writes, it shows how eager many of us are to recognise the marks of madness in other people, and to steadfastly ignore these hallmarks in ourselves.

There have been other great books this year, too:

Daryl Gregory's collection of short stories, 'Unpossible and Other Stories,'

'Dream Repairman: Adventures in Film Editing by Jim Clark with John H Myers'

James Gleick 'The Information,'

In closing, it would be impossible not to mention Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon's magnificent 'Day Tripper,' published by Vertigo. Undoubtedly one of THE books of this or any other year, the story, unlike so many graphic novels, grabs and gripes you from the start and never lets go - Ba and Moon have been rightly compared to another Vertigo alumnus, Neil Gaiman; both in terms of story-telling and, crucially, realisation - but their visions are undoubtedly their own.

So, finally, an end to 2011. And a beginning to 2012.