Thursday, 13 October 2016


Should Luke Haines ever appear on one of those game or reality shows – and I’d dearly love to see him on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here covering in rat shit fetching firewood with Una Stubbs – he’d be introduced as “Best known as lead singer of 90s indie band The Auteurs and member of Black Box Recorder who had a hit in 2000 with The Facts of Life”. For me though Haines is the author of two fabulously bitchy autobiographical books, Bad Vibes: Britpop and My Part in its Downfall and Post Everything, both of which I read earlier this year and was instantly a fan after having never taken much notice of his work. Haines possesses a well-developed skill in tearing to shreds anyone who crosses his path and a fondness for occupying the position of perennial outsider with an enormous sense of righteousness. Written from the viewpoint of the time with no attempt to balance with hindsight or maturity, both books are funny as fuck. You need to read them, not least for the Glenn Hoddle lolly stick episode...

I remembered The Auteurs – I saw them support Suede at the 100 Club in the early days of both bands – but not any of their music so it was with trepidation and some reluctance I finally approached them. Haines talks such a good game I didn’t want to spoil his version of events. How much stuff from the mid-90s is going to sound great to fresh ears this late in the game? The Auteurs did. Almost the classic albums he claimed, certainly the first three and the fourth isn’t bad at all. Lacerating rock and roll, sharply penned, unusual subject matter. And what with Haines being an obnoxious shit-stirrer with self-destructive tendencies I don’t know why I missed out on them.  A combination, more than likely, of bad clothes, worse hair, a punchable face and the band not looking in any shape or form like a gang. Bad crime that. They were no Spitfire, man. Oh, and one of them played the cello for Christsakes. I, like almost everyone else, backed the Suede horse. It was one thing to merrily mince around the indie-disco shaking all your money in time, quite another to rejoice in an unsolved child murder or a light aircraft on fire.

Last Friday, Haines’ new album, Smash The System, was released. On Saturday, following a talk back in the summer at the Walthamstow Rock & Roll Book Club, he returned to the ‘Stow to promote it. Not that he mentioned it nor were there any copies to be bought. No hard sell here. Strolling on to the low stage, glass of red wine in hand, he sat on a stool, picked up an acoustic guitar, played songs, cracked gags and wore, quite literally, a pair of Rock ‘n’ Roll shades. “Rock” in white paint on the right lens, “Roll” on the left. Looked good but impossible to see shit through so donated to one quick-handed punter after the first song, the album’s rolling title track, which urged us to smash the system, listen to the Velvet Underground and expressed admiration for the Monkees. “Davy Jones sings… Peter Tork sings… Mickey Dolenz sings…” Poor old Mike Nesmith left off the list for treating the Monkees too seriously. “Imagine being in the Monkees and not understanding the Monkees”. This light-hearted knockabout routine become a frequent occurrence.

‘Ritual Magick’ was a macabre tale of putting menstrual blood on the roses to make the garden grow (unusual song themes, remember?) and the odd folksy theme continued with ‘The Incredible String Band’, a kazoo accompanied ditty about “an unholy act, they sang like a couple of weasels trapped in a sack” which made me chuckle as that’s precisely why I find those Scottish folkniks unlistenable. Haines though, the contrary sod, “loved them”. ‘Bomber Jacket’ a creepily evocative account of being outside growing up in the late 70s straddled comedy and menace as did ‘Are You Mad?’ also referencing that period (or early 80s) with references to Eric Bristow and Bobby George. 

Outside the new record there were some Auteurs songs including ‘Child Brides’, ‘New French Girlfriend’, ‘Lenny Valentino’ and ‘Show Girl’ and although I can’t profess to yet being fully up to speed on all the solo albums Haines knocks out seemingly cheaply from his front room (I’m trying), ‘Lou Reed, Lou Reed’ and ‘Leeds United’ were instantly recognisable as were two tracks from his concept album about 70s wrestlers: ‘Haystack’s In Heaven (Parts 1-3)’ “Shirley Crabtree in heaven, Les Kellett in heaven, Pat Roach in heaven, Dickie Davies in heaven, grapple fans in heaven, all the old ladies in heaven…” and ‘Saturday Afternoon’ with Haines masterful at blending innocence with the darkest horribleness, entertainment with terror. His half-spoken, breathy husk make a “liver sausage” sound like the most terrifying object on earth. His sinister delivery akin to a hostage taker ringing up and giving directions where to drop the money before your loved one chokes to death on a meat based sandwich.

Luke Haines likes to give the impression of a scary man (see his Twitter feed) and he can rub people up the wrong way (I was talking to a couple of NME journalists from the 90s recently and the air would've made a sailor blush when his name came up) but isn’t that what rock and roll is supposed to be about? Smash the system, listen to the Velvet Underground, reflect on our pop-culture heritage, wind people up and, most of all, have fun. Luke Haines is a lot of fun. Sorry Luke.

Smash The System by Luke Haines is out now on Cherry Red Records.
Bad Vibes and Post Everything are published by Windmill.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016


The Lucid Dream, The Lexington, London, September 2016
Formed in Carlisle, Cumbria in 2008, The Lucid Dream have just released their third album, the magnificent Compulsion Songs. Monkey Picks caught them at the Lexington in London the day before release and is still slightly in awe with what it witnessed. It’s been a pleasure to watch them develop and progress over the years from being initially attracted by their (then) Mary Chain sound to the unstoppable dubby, psych rock, Krautrock juggernaut they’ve become. One of the most innovative bands around at the moment their live shows are phenomenal; managing to harness raw power, imagination and hypnotic grooves to move the body and the mind.

The Lucid Dream are Mark Emmerson (vocals, guitars, synths, melodica), Wayne Jefferson (guitars, synths), Mike Denton (bass) and Luke Anderson (drums, percussion). Mark kindly spared some time to chat about the album, being a genuinely independent band from Carlisle, psychedelia and the albums that influenced Compulsion Songs.

Let’s start with the new album, Compulsion Songs. Did you have an idea in mind, leading off the previous album, or was it ‘let’s just see what comes out’?
I think it's a natural progression from the second album, The Lucid Dream. I look back at our debut, Songs of Lies and Deceit, which took four long years to complete and think it is a band finding their identity whilst borrowing heavily; let’s be honest, the Spacemen 3 debut was very like that. These last two albums I think have put us in a class of our own, and it is no secret many share that opinion. No band are covering the genres in one release that we are. Compulsion Songs is going to be a classic with people in time, I can sense it.

Was it pieced together over an extended period or done during one concentrated period of recording?
Surprisingly this album was very simple and constructed from a recording/mixing view. After recording 'Bad Texan' for a single in November 2015 we knew we should strike while the iron was hot, and recorded the album over February-June 2016. We spent five days recording it at Whitewood Studios, Liverpool, with Rob Whiteley and the way of working was that I had all the songs ready, we literally spent a day rehearsing each - the joys of being in a band who are shit-hot and know each other perfectly - and then off to the studio to record it a few days later.

What's your recording process like?
Everything was very structured really, and we laid the guide takes down second or third attempt. 'I'm A Star In My Own Right' - the morning I showed the guys the song, we then played it a couple of times in the room, and literally were grinning at each other thinking 'that's it!'. Fourth time we ever played that song together was the album take. Only 'Epitaph' required a lot of work in the rehearsal room, which is no surprise given it's 11 minutes long. We recorded '21st Century' and most of 'Nadir' on a Friday afternoon, 12 hours later we were in Barcelona to play. A productive weekend to say the least. Also, I knew with family commitments, I became a father for the first time last October, that we couldn't afford in time terms to ponder on mixes endlessly. I also knew from obsessively mixing the last album that you soon lose perspective and love for the album for a short while too.

All your releases have been via your own Holy Are You Recordings. What are the advantages and disadvantages of working this way?
Self-releasing for us has been amazing. The advantage is that we take full ownership/proceeds from the sales. A huge shout-out has to go to Guy Sirman at Southern Record Distribution. Without him/them we would not be able to put the albums out. We are now in a position where we can put a record out without having to pay upfront for it, and then see it distributed in the best possible manner. The downside is that we can only have a certain reach whilst being DIY. We employ our own PR in UK but we deserve to be getting full releases throughout the world with thorough PR campaigns.

How does it affect sales?
We are punching way above our weight self-releasing. This album has been one of the top sellers at the independents, and I have been told that had we have went through the corporate route that we would probably be charting top 50 this week, and very likely top 10 on the vinyl chart. No word of a lie, when we put an album up for pre-order our inbox is flooded. We had 100 direct copies of this new album and they sold out in a couple of hours. The figures at the likes of Piccadilly and Norman have been abnormally high.

Music, like the majority of work in the creative arts, appears to have become marginalized these days. Is being in a band like yours financially difficult to sustain, particularly with touring?
We do well in that respect, which I guess stems from self-releasing. We pay for absolutely everything - recording, mastering, PR, art etc. The only thing we don't directly pay for are the manufacturing costs. We always do well out of albums though as they sell very well for our level and touring does well for us too. We aren't a band to be careless in the studio so studio costs really are minimal. We can get a song-a-day recorded, easy.

Do you think some have an issue with you bringing out your releases? Certainly if you self-publish books people’s attitude is often it must be a bit crap if no ‘real’ publisher will touch it.
I think the people mainly to be culprits of that are the bigger label/agent arseholes and pretentious websites. Let's be honest, a self-released band from Carlisle isn't marketable but the proof is out there to see that we have a very intelligent, non-judgemental, comparatively large fanbase. We aren't a band to suffer fools gladly, and the message to all those judging us without listening is 'fuck you'.

The reviews for Compulsion Songs have been uniformly positive but I remember Shindig! magazine giving you a bit of a hard time in the early days. How do you react to criticism?
Shindig! were pretty critical a few years back. The first time was when 'Heartbreak Girl' was released in 2011, and the writer in question accused us of jumping on the psych bandwagon. The irony of that statement was that we had been this for four years at that point and 'Heartbreak Girl' isn't remotely psychedelic, or claims to be. The other time was when we played Liverpool Psych Fest in 2013. We drew one of the biggest, most receptive crowds of the weekend. The writer claimed the crowd were bored or something like that. My simple reply to that - how did our crowds go the following two years? A rhetorical question.

What about your geography? I think you’ve said if you weren’t from Carlisle and was from a “trendier” big city you’d receive more coverage. With communication easier these days via social media and whatnot does where you’re from make any difference?
The problem is that people can't take you seriously in certain areas if you're from a northern 'uncool' city like Carlisle. It is ridiculous and unfortunately is an issue that will never go away. There’s a kind of geographical discrimination that happens in the industry. Also, coming from Carlisle means that you need to work extra hard to get recognition. There's no 'scene' here, people aren't going to be passing your disc around to promoters, writers etc. Once we started in 2008 we went out and played shows in the northern cities, lost a lot of money in the process but made an impact. Every show somebody would be saying 'we've not seen a band as good as you in years' and word-of-mouth developed. If you're from Leeds, you're half-good and play a gig at the local pub you've got the NME and shite like that on speed-dial. Thankfully, in Carlisle that's not a possibility and you've got to work extra hard to get out there; the nearest city is an hour away. We can genuinely say we've never had any 'label interest' ever, not that we care. When we recorded our last album in Liverpool majors were sending scouts up on a weekly basis to look at signing bands who had played a handful of gigs. Says it all.
Mark Emmerson, The Lucid Dream
Let's talk about labels, ‘psych’ in particular. Handy shorthand for journalists or restrictive pigeonhole for musicians?
In fairness, we are a band that's hard to pin down. We're dabbling in psych, dub, garage rock, krautrock. I guess all have 'psychedelic' elements so appreciate we have to accept that as a pigeonhole. To me bands like The Flaming Lips at present, a band who are genuinely weird, do the unexpected and are unhinged are psychedelic, but psychedelic to most appears to be 'has flanger/delay/reverb pedal, haircut and leathers.' To us it means experimental, challenging music. And fuck the leathers and get the shit hats off, get some Adidas, Lacoste, Fred Perry and Paul and Shark on you posers!

How would you describe your music?
Experimental but also in touch with classic pop music. The thing that makes us stand out is that musically we are on fire, but we also know what a great song entails.

What do you want to achieve with the Lucid Dream that you’ve not done so far?
We often have this conversation, and we've achieved more than we ever expected. Initial ambitions were to get a release on vinyl, play outside of Carlisle – honestly! - and have a top time. We've done all those, but also had a lot of records out, played 20 countries and done a few 6 Music sessions, to name a few. The present to-do list for me would be topped by a Maida Vale session and a couple of USA/Americas shows.

What would be a measure of ‘success’?
Has somebody said you have changed their life? If so, that's all. We have been lucky enough to have that acclaim several times. Even things like a fan having 'You & I' as their first dance at their wedding, it doesn't get much better than that.

Further listening. The Lucid Dream’s guide to the five main records to help shape Compulsion Songs:
Neu! – ‘75 (Brain, 1975)
"This is the album that got the ball rolling with this album. Tracks like 'Nadir' and 'Epitaph' are based around that whole motorik beat. You could play those patterns for days and not get bored of it. Love this album. Changed everything. "
Jah Wobble - The Legend Lives On… Jah Wobble In ‘Betrayal’ (Virgin, 1980)
"One of the main components for the dub influences on this album. Jah Wobble is a perfect example of an Englishman who took on board the genius music from Jamaica and inspired it as his own. Something we are tapping into. Check out 'Tales from Outer Space.'"
Singers and Players - War of Words (99 Records, 1981)
"Adrian Sherwood produced dub/and more. Amazing album, all very sparse but proves less is more. Some excellent 'toasting' on this album. We were going to have somebody toast on this album but shelved the idea. Maybe next time!"
Joy Division – Closer (Factory, 1980)
"One of the greatest albums ever. Ian Curtis lyrically on this album was such an inspiration. Dark, dark music, but the impact is second to none. Ian was an example of what you could do with a limited range. One of the all-time heroes. The synths and drum/bass patterns on this album were imperative for forming 'Epitaph' and 'Bad Texan'. 'A Means To An End' has that dance element that 'Bad Texan' does."
Primal Scream – XTRMNTR (Creation, 2000)
Aggressive, confrontational, experimental rock 'n' roll. Everything The Lucid Dream are about live is "in that sentence, and without this album we wouldn't be. See '21st Century' or the last section of 'Epitaph' for reference."

 Follow The Lucid Dream on Twitter or Facebook. Get Compulsion Songs from Holy Are You. 

Thursday, 29 September 2016


1.  Sandie Shaw – ‘Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself’ (1965)
Adam Faith did an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink version of this Chris Andrews song but Sandie’s is stripped back (although still elegantly arranged) allowing her vocal to confidently command centre stage.

2.  The Boots – ‘Alexander’ (1966)
These German loons go go-go crazy on this organ and horn freak out.

3.  Gil Bateman – ‘Wicked Love’ (1966)
Gil’s groovy garage grind. The fourth of his five singles.

4.  Shirley Scott & the Soul Saxes – ‘You’ (1969)
Ms Scott cranked up her organ and was joined by three gentlemen – King Curtis, Hank Crawford and David ‘Fathead’ Newman – blowing their things for an album on Atlantic of soul/pop material. It’s all uptight and outta sight as you might imagine but this Marvin Gaye number is dancefloor dynamite.

5.  Joe Chambers – ‘The Alomoravid’ (1974)
From a super new Ace/BGP compilation Celestial Blues: Cosmic, Political and Spiritual Jazz 1970 to 1974. Chambers made his name at Blue Note during the mid-60s but had to wait until ’74 to cut an album as leader. ‘The Alomoravid’ was the title track with him up front leading, what sounds like, a small army of percussionists including David Friedman on marimba.

6.  Weldon Irvine – ‘Gospel Feeling’ (1976)
Funky, churchy jazz with more than a hint of The Generation Game. Maybe there’s a new genre for enterprising reissue labels to market: Gameshow Jazz. Didn’t they do well?

7.  Roky Erickson – ‘Crazy Crazy Mama’ (1986)
Head down, no nonsense, rockaboogie with Roky in tremendous voice. From the Don’t Slander Me LP.

8.  Teenage Fanclub – ‘The Darkest Part Of The Night’ (2016)
It was a good month to be a non-teenage Teenage Fanclub fan. A love-in at the Islington Assembly Hall and a brand spanking new album, Here. ‘The Darkest Part Of The Night’ one of the many highlights from both.

9.  The Embrooks – ‘Nightmare’/’Helen’ (2016)
Despite a couple of weeks of deliberation and repeated plays I still can’t quite decide which of these two songs I like best. Luckily for us the reconvened Embrooks have put them either side of their new 7-inch waxing. The sawing, chugging freakbeat of ‘Nightmare’ sends sparks flying and buildings tumbling while the springy pop-psych ‘Helen’ do-do-doos in joy like the climax of a Euro-Mod weekender. Were the Embrooks this good the first time around?

10.  The Missing Souls – ‘Sweet, Sweet Sadie’ (2016)
Don’t know anything about these cavemen other than, like the Embrooks, this is also on State Records and they can only give us everything: lead riff fuzzed to eleven; organ swirling in its own stroppy stew; lyrics rhyming Sadie, maybe, crazy, lady; hey-hey-hey backing vocals; chomping break; and all wrapped up in two minutes. Exhilarating and a garage-punk masterclass to boot.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016


The intensity which defines Carlisle space-cadets The Lucid Dream remains but they continue to expand their boundaries on their third album, Compulsion Songs.

Although broadly ‘psychedelic’ they’re far from clichéd and one-dimensional; keen to poke, prod and pulsate the body as well as the mind. Magnificent opener ‘Bad Texan’ has a baggy - almost acid house – influence, reminiscent of when guitar bands suddenly claimed there’d always been a dance element to their music. It soars, then swoops, exploding with multi-specks of light and glitter. A hypnotized field of ravers lost in its bass propelled groove and metronomic yet aggressive beat.

The tension between heavy-limbed dub, shooting reverb and melodeon on the eight minutes of ‘I’m A Star In My Own Right’ recalls Primal Scream’s finest hour, Vanishing Point, while the Stone Roses would do well to adopt ‘Stormy Waters’ now.

Their stock-in-trade are lengthy excursions. The 20-minute Krautrock finale ‘Nadir’/’Epitaph’ might not be for the faint hearted yet is thrilling nonetheless but they can cut to the chase too. ‘The Emptiest Place’ is a galloping spaghetti western nightmare and on the burning urgency of ‘21st Century’ they cry “Let’s take ‘em on! You gotta push on!”

The Lucid Dream are doing that, from the front. If they could clean the slight muddiness from their recordings, the sky’s the limit.

A slightly edited version of this review first appeared in Shindig! magazine.

Friday, 16 September 2016


The Locarno Dance Hall on Streatham Hill, South London was opened by band leader and former footballer, fighter pilot and bus driver, Billy Cotton in 1929. It was Britain’s first purpose-build ballroom and held 1500 people. Like Cotton, the ballroom saw many changes over the years - from hosting appearances from Charlie Chaplin to Miss World to cage fighting - but it remained a nightclub, of sorts, until finally knocked down in 2015.

I remember it as Caesar’s nightclub from when circumstances dictated a short-lived residency the wrong side of the river during the late 90s. Its façade featured a Roman chariot with four horses protruding above its sign in bold red letters. Needless to say I never passed through its doors. In 1969 it was rebranded and refurbished from the Locarno to The Cat’s Whiskers, where gangsters and suedeheads rubbed shoulders as the stage revolved and one band would magically be replaced by another while the DJ played ‘Time Is Tight’.

The footage below shows the Locarno in 1967 playing host to a Saturday morning club for teens and pre-teens. These kids are all dressed up in their finery and dance - either awkwardly or enthusiastically - to records and young (presumably) local band The Reaction, drink Coca-Cola, eye each other up and partake in a bike race around the hall. Unfortunately, the ten-minute sequence is silent (if you want sound you’ll have to pay Huntley Film Archives) but even so it’s a wonderfully evocative piece of film.

Ice creams on their way to Rich Turnham and the soul children of Epping for tipping Monkey Picks the nod to this treasure.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016


UPDATE: To catch up with this show, and to hear Paul Orwell's exclusive and incredible track recorded especially for the show, go here: MWWS on FUSION.

“When are you next doing your radio show?” you’ve both asked. Thanks Mum, thanks Dad. Well, the wait is nearly over as this Sunday, Monkey’s Wandering Wireless Show returns to the airwaves of the hippest station on the dial, Fusion.

If you’ve listened before don’t let that put you off and if you’ve not done so it’s one hour of songs you know and songs you might not all thrown into a big aural pot of monkey magic. Spanning about 60 years and they’ll all be great of course.

I’m still finalizing the playlist but fans and admirers of Paul Orwell should definitely tune in… 

Ensure you click on for an 8.30pm sharp start. If you want to join Mixlr beforehand to join the chat/abuse with the Fusion family as the show goes on help yourself but not essential to listen. See ya there comrades.

Fusion runs every Sunday night 8.30-9.30pm with different listeners selecting a playlist. An essential, and great fun, end to the weekend.

Saturday, 10 September 2016


In Miles Davis’s autobiography, Miles, he calls ex-wife, Betty (Davis nee Mabry) ‘a talented motherfucker’; it’s the highest form of accolade given by a man not known to freely dish out the superlatives.

In May 1969, approximately halfway through their year-long marriage, with a band assembled by Miles featuring Mitch Mitchell, Harvey Brooks, Billy Cox, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Larry Young and John McLaughlin, Betty Davis recorded a session for Columbia Records in New York with producer Teo Macero. Unheard since, not even known to bootleggers, The Columbia Years finally reveals not only the roots of Betty’s raunchy funk - she’d wait another four years to unleash the first of her four super-funky albums – but also Miles tentatively exploring the jazz-fusion groove that he’d begun with In a Silent Way and would soon manifest in Bitches Brew.

A couple of points to note. Most importantly, this was not, as it could appear, a husband using his influence and clout with his record company to cut a deal for a wife of limited abilities. Betty had already cut a few singles and seen her songs used by others. She had (motherfucking) talent, looks, attitude, knew her own mind and was also the one who, still in her early 20s, hipped Miles (by then, virtually ancient, in his 40s) to the psychedelic rock stew of Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone and James Brown’s latest bag and kitted him out in the latest with-it clobber. The second point is if you consider Bitches Brew an instrument of torture, don’t let that put you off here as the results are far more accessible.

Why Columbia passed on the result is a mystery on this evidence. The playing – jazzy R&B with a funk twist – cooks and Betty’s vocals are sassy as hell yet less abrasive than they’d become. Cream and Creedence Clearwater Revival are covered by ‘Politician Man’ and ‘Born of the Bayou’ respectively but mostly Betty brings her originals to an exuberant party and the snatches of conversation between Betty and Miles demonstrate they both brought ideas into a shared creative process. These were only demos, and only enough for one side of an album, but it’s abundantly clear how much fun everyone had in the studio. Miles at one point asking, “What’s Jimi Hendrix drummer’s name? The one they call Mitch…” before falling into a fit of wheezing cackling laughter.

Three 1968 Hugh Masekela backed numbers, including a footstomping ‘My Soul Is Tired’, round things off in a more traditional full 60s soul style. As always with Light In The Attic releases it’s well packaged with interviews and commentary in the accompanying booklet. Stripped of historical interest this is an engaging half hour; with it, utterly compelling.

The Columbia Years is released by Light In The Attic Records on LP and CD.
An edited version of his review appears in the current issue of Shindig! magazine.