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Watch This – Bilk: IGKOTSNED – single review

BilkBilk: I Got Knocked Out The Same Night England Did

(Scruff Of The Neck Records)

DL and Streaming – Out Now

Essex punk’s Bilk re-release their 2020 blast I Got Knocked Out The Same Night England Did with a new video to welcome the start of the Euro’s. It will also be the opening track on their Allow It EP, due late August.

IGKOTSNED, to which it’s affectionally shortened is a true story. Whilst Englands’ World Cup  aspirations were ending in Russia in 2018, singer Sol Abrahams found himself in A&E!

Speaking of the new release, the singer explains “I thought I got knocked out was the perfect opener song for the EP and it fits well with the Euros kicking off and that. We did a sick new video too that tells the story pretty accurately and gets across the often chaos of a night out in Britain, especially when the football is on”


With this as the opening track, it’s clear the EP will be a good one, and will showcase the trio’s witty social commentary and punky hooks. As well as IGKOTSNED it’s also features their last couple of releases. Bad News, about a fancying a girl who your mates all warn you off; and Stop Pranging Out, a cautionary tale of the singer’s first experience with magic mushrooms on a trip to Amsterdam.

Bilk have announced a short UK Tour for the end of the year, taking in Glasgow; Newcastle; Sheffield; Birmingham; London and Manchester at the beginning of December.

For more on Bilk visit, InstagramFacebook or Twitter


All words by Iain Key. See his Author Profile here author’s archive or on Twitter as @iainkey.

The post Watch This – Bilk: IGKOTSNED – single review appeared first on Louder Than War.

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Asian Dub Foundation – Interview – Access Denied

Access Denied

X-Ray Production


Out now

Asian Dub Foundation present a special deluxe reissue of their cognizant Access Denied on Record Store Day.

Celebrating cultural diversity, Asian Dub Foundation adventurously mix various genres and create heterogenous music that can be compared to the melting pot of London. With the new tracks added, their updated ninth album sums up issues that have been affecting the world on the global and personal level – from addressing the climate change message to an ironic stance in response to Brexit. Although being provocative, Access Denied is much more than a rebellious rant. Embroidered with various elements, its inclusive texture is a patchwork of sounds alluding to different episodes in the history of music.

Originally released in September last year, the album brought a comical note to the baffling and uncomfortable Brexit reality. Featuring a sketch by the British comedian Stewart Lee, Coming Over Here took over the UK sales chart in the first weeks after the transition period. “Working on this track felt therapeutic”, admits Asian Dub Foundation’s Steve Chandra Savale. The remixed version of the song is one of the five new compositions on the deluxe reissue. It delves slightly deeper into the chronology of global migration presented in the sketch, poking fun at one of the speeches of Paul Nuttall, a former leader of the UK independence party.

LTW: The new version of Coming Over Here has a slightly darker, sinister sound. Was there any imagery behind it?

Steve Chandra Savale: I had this idea of neolithic people stomping around. Stewart Lee said to me when he heard the track: “This is like a stoner rock track with a Spinal Tap Stonehenge thing”. Nathan (Nathan Flutebox Lee – ed.) came and did a bespoke flute solo for that. It sounds really primitive.

LTW: Had you been following Stewart Lee before he and the band started collaborating on this track?

SCV: Not particularly, that’s another funny thing. I mean comedy, the British comedy has a huge audience in this country. But it is not something I had been that interested in over the last decade or so. And I don’t know people who followed that either. There were some second-hand, third-hand contacts – people who would say “My brother is a big fan of his” but not necessarily well familiar with his comedy. As a band, we didn’t have much contact with the comedy world anyway. But a lot of us knew that sketch. It’s a sketch that came into our world. I think Stewart even didn’t realize how powerful it was for people like us to hear that. Coming Over Here is something we grew up with. It is something that we remember. It’s more powerful than he thought it would be. It was a slight extension of the logic of Paul Nuttall, leader of the UK Independence Party. Just extend the logic of anti-immigration politicians and you get a brilliant comedy sketch. Now apart from this one, I know a lot more of Stewart Lee.

Where did the idea to work on this particular sketch come from?

There was a trigger. Because it went down to a festival for which Stewart Lee was doing a lot of stuff. He was making a documentary of one of John Peel’s most favourite groups called The Nightingales, funnily enough, I knew some members of when living in Birmingham, so he was presenting something on that. I saw him there and that reminded me of the sketch he had done. I listened to it while I was working on the music. I was literally just playing the sketch while working on the track. It was a moment of inspiration with no real aim other than to see what it would be like.

Both new versions of Coming Over Here and Kursk Down have this distinct sound as if the music was heard from the ocean bed.

Well, you are on the right track. When I did the drum loop for Kursk Down, it had this submarine sort of vibe. The melody was inspired by a choir singing that one might hear in a Russian Orthodox church. Eventually, we debuted this track during a gig at an old Soviet shipyard in Estonia two years ago. Kursk Down is very site-specific, I think, it’s something we’d never done before.

The new versions of Kursk Down and Hovering Shadows were produced by Adrian Sherwood, who, needless to say, has been a legend in the dub music scene. ADF has had a story of collaborating with Adrian. Was the working process organized in any specific way?

We did it in the style he used to do records and still does. He gets a set of live musicians and then dubs them live. And that would be an album. Basically, we did a special gig, just for that, at the Ramsgate Music Hall which has become quite a prestigious venue in Britain. It’s quite small but it’s an amazing little place. Adrian set out a sound system because he lives there. We went and did the whole instrumental set there. So Hovering Shadows and Kursk Down are live tracks that were mixed by Adrian, with a few little tweaks from me. There is not much drums and beats on them, almost classic live dub going on. We were pretty happy with the way that turned out.

It could have been expected that, among other serious issues, one of the bonus tracks would comment on the current pandemic situation, yet, this topic is not mentioned. Was it omitted deliberately?

There is a line on the track Stealing the Future which mentions spreading infection but it is unintentional. I just wonder how effective the comment on that would be. I’d probably write from personal experience – I haven’t really thought about it. We are actually writing a lot of new material at the moment but funnily enough, the pandemic theme hasn’t come into it at all. There is a new track called Polarizing, it might eventually end up with a different title, but it refers to the point of polarization of ideas. Society is not as homogenous as it was before. It’s defined by ideas. There is a complicated controversy around the pandemic issue too.

What do you think about the anti-lockdown protests that were taking place in Britain recently?

For many people, lockdown feels like something that the government uses in order to control them. Especially for those with the propensity to have a conspiracy mindset. I had a debate with a friend of mine and we both came to the conclusion that the lockdown protests are results of incompetence, inconsistency and disunity about the response to the pandemic. If the government were organized and actually cared about the population, then there would be nothing or fewer things like mixed messages and hypocrisy that caused people to march on the streets. Yet, although I’m sympathetic with the spirit, I think it’s also misguided. It’s better safe than sorry. I don’t think it’s a big deal to wear a mask.


Access Denied is available for purchase in record stores and online on the Rough Trade webpage.

Asian Dub Foundation are on Twitter, facebook

Asian Dub Foundation Website

All words by Irina Shtreis. More writing by Irina can be found in her author’s archive.

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Watch This! Ora Violet – Have You Met Me – Video Premiere

Ora Violet Have You Met MeOra Violet – Have You Met Me

Self released

Out Now

Louder Than War is proud to present the premiere for the video for Ora Violet’s latest single, Have You Met Me. A breathless assault on the senses that leaves you gasping for more.

The frantic discombobulating video, directed by Pablo Chiereghin and Viktor Schaider reflects the incessant squally urgency of the guitars. A brief respite to take a breath, literally and metaphorically, before the juggernaut of crunching sonorous noise continues apace. To top things off, the laidback louche Iggy-like vocals seemingly sneer at anyone who wants to take them on.

The story? Seemingly an internal battle with the self, but the desperate character isn’t going go down without a fight, as reflected in the lyrics. Almost as soon as it starts, it is over and the protagonist and antagonist are unmasked… or are they?

“Ora Violet are multi instrumentalist production duo Black Tiles and guitarist Nick Ferman. they are joined on Have You Met Me by vocalist Jeet Mulkerj and Adam Liston on bass.”

Ora Violet on InstagramSpotify


All words by Neil Hodge. More writing by Neil on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. You can also find Neil online at his blog thegingerquiff.

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Have Krept and Konan made a football song that reflects a new England?

With a new England football song – the grime infused Krept and Konan We are England that attempts to reflect these times and define a 21st century England and create a football song we look back at the long and difficult history of the football song. 

One of pop culture’s great certainties is the England football song. Lesser spotted are the Scotland and Wales efforts as they qualify less often – sparring them the cringing singalong pop culture skip filler these sunburned beer garden travesties often are.

Despite the occasional magic moment, the anthems, like the national team, are a graveyard of ambition, a wheezing full on physical huffing and puffing of effort that comes around every two years and bombs out of the early stages as full of endless backward passes and miscommunication before losing to penalties as the crestfallen national side.

Like the Christmas song, the football song, is a far more tricky escapade to create than it seems. That balance between being not too stupid or being over clever is a tricky tightrope to walk. Capturing the elusive moment is the pop alchemists dream and the quick cash in of the ‘official football song’ is a quicksand.

Soggy sentimentality and beer stained bonhomie is hard to grab in song without sounding like it has a bumbling midfield middle eight made up of clown shoes and a beer garden chorus sung by ‘Peak Bloke’.

This year’s effort attempts to transcend this and move forward. Like the young England squad it’s not bogged down in the history and grappling with the future. The song from London based rap grime duo Krept and Konan We are England is a leap into a new England. A post Stormzy headlining Glastonbury, post BLM cool new multicultural England squad not trapped by the baggage of the past. It’s a brave move away from the Trad footy song that tries to capture a moment in a very different England that won the world cup in 1966. 

But does it work? 

It certainly captures a very different England team than the sixties with nods to BLM and the contemporary narrative it’s certainly got its heart in the right place but does it work as a football anthem?

Will it sit up there with the so called classic football songs like World In Motion or Three Lions? or will it be a worthy footnote? It’s certainly a long way away from another England like 1970’s Back Home that seeped into the national consciousness like a blokey precursor to Lieutenant Pigeon  Pigeons Mouldy Old Dough – that postcard England of smoky pubs full of real men and ‘banter’. That year Britannia ruled the waves as world cup holders who were about to become chumps and also ruled the airwaves with the Beatles and the Stones. The world champions awkwardly droned along to a terrace anthem that become the archetype football song for decades because it obeyed the simple rule of being a simple singalong.

Its updated nineties version was Three Lions which is perhaps a masterclass in football songs by capturing then then the Britpop moment. It was a perfect piece of songwriting by unsung pop polymath and tune genius Ian Broudie and worked as both a slice of perfect trad british pop music and football anthem because it was written by a football fan and smart pop operator.

Often, though, the England football song got too clever like Pop Will Eat Itself’s Touched by the Hand of Cicciolina or even New Order’s World In Motion – both ostensibly classic, clever slices of then contemporary pop culture but both slightly too complex and both slightly too cool for the often behind the pop culture beat of football. 

The New Order song is often held up as peak football song – a reworking of an old piece of music from the band with added football culture references and the infamous John Barnes rap – it broke barriers in the dusty old football song model at the time but has it aged well?  The same with Black Grape’s England Irie which despite getting Joe Strummer his only ever Top Of The Pops appearance may have been better as just another great Black Grape song and untainted by the seventies showbiz of football anthem. 

Sometimes the England song comes laced with irony like Vindaloo which was infectiously catchy terrace bombast that seemed to laugh at the whole notion of the football song and the country itself like a snark take on Meat Pie Sausage Roll or Scotland ‘Ally’s Tartan Army’.

Maybe the football song has to tick so many boxes that no-one is ever happy. 

The post Have Krept and Konan made a football song that reflects a new England? appeared first on Louder Than War.

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Listen To This! Deathretro release blistering single ahead of debut album

Deathretro Promo ShotListen To This! Deathretro emerge from the wilderness with a genuinely exciting debut single and an album 16 years in the making.

Initially formed in Cumbria sometime around 2005, it could be argued that Deathretro are the country’s best kept musical secret. The band plays snarling electro-rock infused with cryptic lyrics and a healthy dose of post-punk spirit. The songs have been locked away in a digital vault for years but will finally see the light of day in the form of a long, long overdue debut album in August. In the meantime, Edge Of Nothing serves as a rather brilliant introduction to the band. Propelled by tense rhythms, sinister synths and distinctly dangerous undercurrents. Oh and plenty of riffs too!

“Well, hell kid I know that money’s tight right now/ you don’t know the situation I’m in” sings wired vocalist Kieran Harris before adding, “but this could be the start of something!” It’s that mixture of anxiety and excitement that makes Edge Of Nothing an ideal anti-anthem for summer 2021. If you’re ready to step over the edge and into the great unknown then give the track a listen. If all this wasn’t enough there’s also a pulsing, dancefloor-ready remix by Hexagons to enjoy. Resurrected and ready to rock, Deathretro prove that you just can’t keep a good band down.

You can listen to the single on various streaming services HERE.

You can find Deathretro on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


All words by Andy Brown. You can visit his author profile and read more of his reviews for Louder Than War here.

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Things we didn’t know a month ago: May 2021

Keith Goldhanger reports on his latest discoveries that appeared during May 2021.

We’re halfway through the year and bands are still releasing the tunes they’ve been writing and recording instead of playing shows. This month’s discoveries are mostly from creators further down the line from their debuts but superb tracks nevertheless.

One man who did get around to playing a show this month is a new name to me but maybe not to those out there more on the ball than I. SCOTT LAVENE (main pic) came to my attention thanks to the magic of an Email gig invitation and although I think I’d still rather be pruning the roses instead of attending a gig sat around a table with friends not seen for a year, it did at least contain this gem of a tune that’s taken from a forthcoming album (his second) that’ll be released in September. Louder Than War did send Simon Reed along and the review can be read here. However, if like myself this name is relatively new, then listen to his recent tune Lord of Citrus (below) that will be on the forthcoming album and then sit back for eight minutes and digest Broke. John Robb mentioned one or two of Scott’s earlier tunes back in 2019 however one or two of us are still playing catch up.

LA JUNGLE are from Belgium and should not be confused with the UK band simply called Jungle who we already know, love and have caused us to dance around the living room for the past few years (New tune Talk About It became available this month), and of course the music genre or the book and film of the feral child with loads of animals as mates. LA JUNGLE’s recent “La Jour Du Cobra” (below) is another long epic frantic wonderful slice of entertainment that comes highly recommended from the just-released album Fall Off the Apex which is a throbbing hypnotic album of pure madness that puts them on the list of bands we’ve never seen but hope to one day when things get better list. An album to put on the same shelf as Battles or AK/DK and one to listen to after removing any sharp objects from arms reach. It’s a fabulous album and it can be heard here.

MODERATE REBELS are an interesting lot that apparently played their debut show (one song, half an hour) at Rockaway Beach a year or two ago and have decided to release three albums in 2021. The first of these is currently available and is wonderful. If You See Something That Doesn’t Look Right came out in April and is a chaotic yet compelling piece of work that one simply needs to see live one day. It sounds as though there could be dozens of people in this set-up, voices come at the listener from many angles yet it’s simple, not over-egged and sounds fun without sounding like a Polyphonic Spree tribute band. They were first mentioned on this Louder Than War page in 2018 and just like Scott Lavene deserves to be mentioned again.

Nice Swan records seem to be releasing one great new band with a great new tune after another great new band with a great new tune. From the label that has provided us already with the likes of Sports Team, Feet, Hotel Lux, Fur, plus countless others, we now have (The equally hard to Google) ENGLISH TEACHER whose debut release R&B will have one or two of us scouring the listings for the chance to catch live when we do eventually feel comfortable going out.

JAMES RIGHTON who soon we won’t have to keep mentioning Klaxons every time he puts out a new tune has provided us with a glorious piece of electronic pop music to help us through the day (Release Party) as have JAMES who are now climbing up to the top of the festival listings as we speak (again) with a fabulous new album (their 16th, reviewed here). SELF ESTEEM‘s I Do This All The Time has to be one of the singles of 2021 however a couple of late arrivals by new names ends the month as LARRY PINK THE HUMAN (he of Slaves) has provided us with ELEVEN11_GTR_SONG, BEE SIDES from Nottingham/Coventry have provided us with their sublime debut Give Me A Reason, CHILDCARE who I can’t remember if I’ve seen or not have provided the infectious Karaoke Mantra and WESLEY GONZALES along with ROSE ELEANOR DOUGAL have a new tune (Greater Expectations) that screams summertime…. and that’s where we’re going…. out into fields where stages are yet to be erected and to dream of wearing our stupid hats and festival footwear whilst we eat chips for breakfast dinner tea and supper before no doubt dancing once again to Donna Summers’ I Feel Love with total strangers…… is it safe to go out yet does anyone know? This is the new video for the latest FUR song….. enjoy!

More next month


Words by Keith Goldhanger. More writing by Keith on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. You can also find Keith on Facebook and Twitter (@HIDEOUSWHEELINV).







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Watch This. Chris Connelly & Monica Queen singles

Chris Connelly & Monica Queen Chris Connelly & Monica Queen

Tae the Poets/My Father Took Me Everywhere

Jnana Records

Out Now

Ahead of the release of The Birthday Poems album later this month, a faultless collaboration between Chris Connelly and Monica Queen, the second single and video is now available for your delectation and delight.

The album is a “song cycle” about the relationship between Orcadian poet George Mackay Brown, his muse Stella Cartwright, and their friend Stanley Roger Green. A review of this frankly stunning album will appear on the site very soon.

Tae the Poets

The first single, Tae the Poets, gives voice to George Mackay Brown and his adventures with like minded souls in Edinburgh’s Rose Street, the Abbotsford Bar to be precise. Wider than that this invigorating and intoxicating song is a celebration of all Scottish poets and writers.

My Father Took Me Everywhere

The second single introduces us to Stella Cartwright and the story of her and her father, who, as the title suggests, took her everywhere, including the pubs and bars where she would ultimately meet the great and good of Scottish culture and writing. Voiced by the honeyed vocals of Glasgow’s very own chanteuse, the very much in demand Monica Queen, this is another slice of perfection from the album.

The video is also a joy to behold. Produced by Iain W Mutch (Walker and William) it features Monica and her equally sought after guitar slinger partner, Johnny Smillie, as they reproduce scenes from a short film called Palindrome from 1964. The original version of this film featured rare footage of the real Stella Cartwright.

If these songs have whet your appetite for more, you can one-order the album from the dedicated The Birthday Poems site.

Chris Connelly – website – Facebook

Monica Queen – Facebook


All words by Neil Hodge. More writing by Neil on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. You can also find Neil online at his blog thegingerquiff.


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Philip Goth – Album Review

Philip Goth

Philip Goth

Team Love Records

Out June 11th

Back in late April, I had the privilege of announcing the debut single from Philip Goth, the new moniker of singer songwriter Josh Rawson, You Don’t Know What I’ve Been Through, Bro, confirming that his style of modern melancholy was certainly something that should be opening our ears. Now, his eponymous debut album certainly confirms that, as a jigsaw of small, distinctive touches run throughout the record to pull together something which mixes the charming and heartfelt with the wry and the unexpected. Opening with Serpico At The Salad Bar, its pop culture reference already placing some odd juxtapositions in the listeners head, its a stirringly brooding piece which provides the perfect introduction. “Singing is inherently embarrassing/ but I’ll do anything for a laugh,” it opens with warm self-deprecation and a hint of genuine awkwardness that runs, charmingly, throughout the record, before taking us into a world of washing machines that sound like George Washington and Anne Sextons ghost. Its an intriguing world.

Seguing into The First Song I Ever Wrote gorgeously off-key and unashamedly stoned slice of lo-fi. Twinned with closer The Last Song I Ever Wrote, a delicately looping companion with lyrics dwelling on a girl smoking heroin, we get an insight into Goth and his writing processes across the album. We don’t know, for example, if the girl is real or merely a figment of his imagination “trapped in the verse of the last song I ever wrote.” Its a blurred lens, with small circles of clarity cleaned into it by the most fragrant of polishes.

This smudged microscope approach allows Philip Goth to truly expose the absurdities of life. Irreverent, attention grabbing song titles turn out to be genuinely thought provoking meditations of life and death – Pole Dancing 4 Funerals (a strong contender for song title of the year) feels coated in misty nostalgia, while the clattering cymbals that open Teenage Anna Nicole Smith give way to perfectly nuanced social observation. The storytelling is very much a creative force, but there’s no half baked guesswork here – Goth’s biggest muse is the day to day lives he encountered working various day jobs, before going and singing about them into a computer in his spare bedroom. Now, the feel of intimacy is inviting the listener to observe too, and its not always comfortable even if it initially lulls you into thinking it will be. Take the track Raptors, for example, the most delicately constructed song on the album, accompanied by the sound of coffee cups moving in a warm cafe environment, featuring some uncomfortable lyrical references before veering slowly, gorgeously off key. (Goth’s vocal style really is the key to communicating all of this.)

Those expecting a straight-up reflection of Goth’s long stretch with indie-folk heroes The Felice Brothers won’t necessarily find it here. But they will find someone finding their own voice – and mirroring a great many other peoples – in a fashion that’s wry, fragile and above all, astonishingly erudite.

All words by Amy Britton. You can find more on her archive here.

Pre-order and find out more of Team Love’s Bandcamp page here.



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Cardinal Black: New Band, New Single, New Video

Cardinal Black band

Three weeks ago, on a Friday evening, a band nobody had ever heard of came seemingly out of nowhere and dropped a debut single. Before the weekend was out, they’d knocked Noel Gallagher off the top of the iTunes Rock Chart.

The band are called Cardinal Black and the song was entitled Tell Me How It Feels. It was one hell of an achievement for a new outfit, but scratch a little below the surface and you soon realise that there’s more to this story and their instant popularity than first appears.

First up, whilst Cardinal Black might be a new name, they’re not really a new band. Front man Tom Hollister, guitarist Chris Buck and drummer Adam Roberts were performing together over a decade ago under the moniker The Tom Hollister Trio. The rigours of touring and a few creative differences ultimately led to the break up of that band but the three remained friends and firmly in each others’ musical circles. Covid restrictions last year afforded them time on their hands and in 2021 the trio got together again, recruiting a fourth member with the addition of bassist Sam Williams.

Secondly, in Buck, they have a musician with a significant social media following. The enforced layoff gave him the opportunity to really push his YouTube channel and its weekly content, Friday Fretworks. The net result of that is 133,000 subscribers and climbing.

Buck was also recently voted the ‘Best New Guitarist In The World’ by the readers of a leading guitar magazine. Whether winning what is essentially an entirely subjective and arbitary online popularity contest actually makes you the ‘best in the world’ at something is open to question; but what isn’t is that Buck is both a seriously good player and a seriously popular personality. It’s the kind of combo money can’t buy and the sort of advantage any new band would crawl through broken glass to attain.

Cardinal Black Solo Challenge

That social media presence was put to use following the release of the first single by opening up a competition for guitar players across the globe to contribute their own interpretation of the solo that Buck performed on it. The track minus the solo was made available for download and the results can be found on Instagram via #CardinalBlackSoloChallenge. This link comes with a warning for guitar nerds: the content is extremely addictive. There are hundreds of versions of the solo on it. The standard of playing is frankly amazing and it’s possible to spend hours watching them. I know.

The band, whose members hail from the valleys of South Wales, have described their music as alt-rock and with Buck in the lineup it was always going to be guitar driven. On the debut there’s also a Hammond bubbling under the surface but what really jumps out is Hollister’s vocal, which is enormous and has more soul than a bowl of jambalaya.

Cardinal Black have now released a follow up single entitled Jump In, with a classy video to promote it shot on a Cardiff rooftop garden by award winning filmmaker Chris Watkins. Watkins has previously worked with Buck on solo projects and extensively with Buck’s existing band, Buck & Evans.

The new song has a mellower feel, a guitar motif running through it that gets lodged between your ears and can’t be evicted, and more of those big, delicious Hollister vocals. The capacity of his lungs is probably only matched by that of the Principality Stadium, nestling in the darkness behind the band.

So, what is next for Cardinal Black? A four track EP is planned in the near future, some Covid dependant live dates in September/October and a debut album before the end of the year. It will be interesting to see whether the most popular band that anybody has never heard of will build on their incredible opening salvos, a few weeks (and ten years) after it all started.

You can find Cardinal Black on Facebook. The band is on Twitter as @TheCardinalBlk
and Instagram as @thecardinalblack.


All words by Simon Reed. His website Musical Pictures is here and you can visit his author profile for Louder Than War here. He tweets as @musicalpix.

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The Catenary Wires: Birling Gap – album review

Album Review

Catenary Wires

The Catenary Wires – Birling Gap

(Skep Wax/Shelflife Records)


Released 18 June 2021

Now a full five piece band, in addition to founders Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey (Heavenly/Talulah Gosh) they include Fay Hallam (Makin’ Time/Prime Movers)  Ian Button (Thrashing Doves/Death in Vegas) and Andy Lewis (bass in the Weller Band for some years) who also produced this near-perfect album. 

Deep down we’re as English as the weather

This is unexpectedly fabulous. An album of the year for 50-Somethings with Attitude but sensible shoes.

It’s like an English Nancy & Lee singing songs written by a less-cynical Luke Haines.  One song is reminiscent of the doleful but wonderful Broadcast, the next the Mamas & the Pappas. The baroque organ brings to mind Dave Greenfield. The lyrics have echoes of Philip Larkin and Stevie Smith. There are a myriad of influences which blend seamlessly.

It’s C86 Indiepop reaching adulthood with quality Dreampop production. Musically, the experience and influences of Hallam, Lewis and Button enhance the Fletcher/Pursey songs and performances and give the intelligent songs about Englishness an analogue pop sheen and professionalism…. it’s just such a great album.

(Calms down a bit…)

Generally speaking, when a band or artist brings out a ‘mature’ or ‘grown-up’ album it’s time to wince and part company with them.  They’ve reached a ripe old age -in pop terms – and decided to aim for a certain demographic… which we shall call for the sake of argument ‘Beautiful South fans’. Birling Gap is the exception that proves the rule.

The Pulp-ish Mirrorball, probably the weakest track on the album, is the nearest you get to Paul Heaton territory, with it’s tale of middle-aged lonely hearts at a retro Indie Disco.  ‘Be the Jason to my Kylie‘ is rhymed cleverly with ‘be the Wah! Heat to my Wylie’.  (If only they had left the disco at seven minutes to midnight…)

The rest of the songs seem far more serious and considered somehow…

These songs are adult affairs – a set of cracked duets exploring all kinds of relationships, set in a world where anxiety about the future and nostalgia for the past are equally potent. 

Birling Gap is a significant place. On the South Coast of England, it’s where steep chalk cliffs resist the rough seas of the English Channel. It’s where iconic images of England are created and re-created. A landscape beloved of patriots – the sturdy white cliffs standing proud and strong against the waves. It’s also a place where people, despondent and doomed, have thrown themselves off the cliffs. It’s where The Cure shot the Just Like Heaven video. It’s where romantic lovers go for passionate storm-tossed assignations.

The album depicts England, not just in its lyrics, but also in its music. The Catenary Wires have listened to the songs and stories England has comforted itself with over the decades, and re-imagined them. Rob and Amelia take on the personae of duetting couples from different moments in pop history: in Canterbury Lanes, they are a pair of folk-rock musicians, old now and worn down, but still aspiring to put their band back together, hoping to rekindle the idealistic flames of the 1970s. (The arrangement hints at the acoustic guitars and harmonies of those long-lost Canterbury Scene bands.)

In the 60s-flavoured pop of Always on my Mind another couple appear, re-discovering long-lost love almost by surprise, conjured up by an old photo in a pile of memorabilia.

Three-Wheeled Car is about a nostalgic old couple, gazing across the waves at Birling Gap, feeling smug about their Englishness. It makes oblique reference to the Kinks – probably the greatest pop chroniclers of English life – but also wonders if Ray Davies’s once radical songs are just part of the nostalgia industry now. 

The last two songs on the album, Like the Rain, and The Overview Effect, are anxious love songs, set in a fragile world. Those white chalk cliffs at Birling Gap are, in reality, eroding very rapidly. They are emblematic of a proud, self-regarding nation, but they also represent impermanence, erosion and environmental change…

(The press release content is so perfect it was pointless me re-writing it!)

The leap Catenary Wires have made with this album is similar to when David Gedge formed the altogether more sophisticated Cinerama: like a move from reliable old portable tv to widescreen surround-sound cinema.

It was only when Marc Riley played Liminal on the radio that I realised the sound and vibe of that particular song is very Pauline Murray & The Invisible Girls.

Overall, there is a bizarre kinship with the work of Luke Haines (whether with the Auteurs, Black Box Recorder or solo) – his take on how uptight and odd the English are, and his knack for portraiture in song.

Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey, partners and soulmates for decades, almost by accident have made an utterly fabulous album.

As the language practises its slow violence

There is darkness and light in these songs.  Despondency and hope. The best and worst of England.

Found out, the song’s about people lost & lonely…

The lyrics could only have been written by a couple of ‘English Lovers’, because they achieve an equilibrium of bitter/forgiving, desperation/optimism which comes from a strong relationship.

Birling Gap, is a shimmering thing of beauty. Pop with depth and the wisdom of that comes with age and musicianship to match.

Buy from here

For a fantastic, detailed interview with Catenary Wires go to writewyattuk 

Bizarro Promotions has organised a short tour by The Catenary Wires, Pete Astor (The Loft/Weather Prophets) and European Sun (another Rob Pursey band project) for September, calling at:

Friday 3rd Sept 2021 – The Thunderbolt, Bristol
Saturday 4th Sept 2021 – Amersham Arms, New Cross, London
Friday 10th Sept 2021 – The Oast, Rainham
Saturday 11th Sept 2021  – The Piper, St Leonards-on-Sea
Sunday 12th Sept 2021 (afternoon) – The Albert, Brighton
Friday 24th Sept 2021  – Fusion Arts Centre, Oxford
Saturday 25th Sept 2021 – The Tin Music & Arts, Coventry (without no European Sun).

All words Ged Babey – except press release content which is italicised. 

The post The Catenary Wires: Birling Gap – album review appeared first on Louder Than War.

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