Archive for March, 2015

Sara LowesNorthern uproar. Manchester’s on the rise, again. And here’s Sara Lowes with her second album to prove the point.

Lowes’ The Joy Of Waiting (Railings records) is achingly poptastic with gems such as I Find You that gush forth with melodies and heart-achingly simple lyrics. A logical comparison is Sarah Nixey formerly of Black Box Recorder, but you don’t detect in Lowes a sense of the macabre, just an easy-going approach to life, music and a love of chocolate-topped oat biscuits.

Little Fishy goes full-tilt into the chorus: “on the end of my line, little fishy of mine, heading straight to my plate” which could be reference to the test of survival in some communities, or, well you could look beyond the basic lines and wonder what Lowes is actually fishing for. There’s an incredible burst of Hammond-esque organs midway through, which is a bit of a jolt because for the first couple of minutes the song is a gorgeous, one-verse classic. Reality is resumed after a spell and the song ends gloriously drenched in the vague-pop so beloved of Cate Le Bon.

And then there’s Chapman of Rhymes, which is strangely reminiscent of 70s rock revivalists in the opening stanza but is actually a harmless and mundane track that is easily passable. I haven’t fallen in love with the song, but I adore  its formation, and I’m taken in by the strange turns this album can take, from the effervescent and the beautiful to the dark and sublime.

After this I played Marc Almond’s Velvet Trail (Cherry Red records). Until two EPs released last year, both harking back to Marc Almondhis 80s glam-new pop phase, I hadn’t listened to the man for a decade and a half. I guess a lot of people could say the same.

Those EPs, which included illuminating tracks like Death of a Dandy, were a return to form of sorts for Almond, so I place this in the tray with intrigue and confidence.

It was an album forged online, via emails with producer/ songwriter Chris Braide containing lyrics and instrumental tracks. Soon, three basic initial tracks had become a full-blown album, an unintentional one given that Almond had all but vowed that 2010’s Variete was to be his last of original material.

Despite the alien workings, Velvet Trail is very much a typical Almond album, bursting with torch songs, ballads, pop beauty and heart-on-the-sleeve confessions. Bad To Me sees Almond trying to forgive a lover for a vicious act; Winter Sun reflects on a fading romance; The Pain of Never is Almond in typically heartbroken mode and When The Comet Comes is a curious duet with the Gossip’s Beth Ditto, a delightful, overblown epic that has ‘radio friendly’ written all over it, though Ditto’s contribution sounds contrite and unnecessary.

The Velvet Trail beats no new ground, and that is its endearing quality: it’s Almond from Soft Cell, 80s solo diva, through to recent camp veteran.

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This is an article that appeared in R*E*P*E*A*T fanzine No.39, and Horse Party’s Shut The Fuck Up mini-zine. It’s written by Seymour Quigley of Horse Party, who graciously permitted me to publish it on this site. Quigley is from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, where Porky spent two-and-half productive years watching bands at Priors Inn and nearby Cambridge.

A DJ Saved My Life

People never ask me about John Peel, because I never talk about him.  We weren’t related, and we weren’t close friends; I can’t tell you what motivated him, what kind of a husband or father he was, or how many sugars he had in his tea.  But the simple fact is that John Peel, who passed away ten years ago this month, saved my life.

When I was 21 I formed a band. We were called Miss Black America, and we were grotty, irate indie-punks. We weren’t particularly good in the early days: Half the band were still at school, we had little in common beyond all liking The Stone Roses, and I, an anorexic, self-destructive, bleakly depressive, periodically insufferable rent-a-punk, had a habit of drinking to the point of collapse and singing like ants were crawling up my anus.

Our first EP sounded dreadful, like it was being played through a transistor radio in a giant metal dustbin, but we sent a copy to John Peel’s home address and to our bemusement and delight, he not only played it on Radio One, but invited us – a bunch of rotten misanthropes from a backwater nowhere – to come and do a session (we ended up doing four Peel Sessions – two at Maida Vale, two live – a fact which absolutely floors me to this day).


John’s patronage meant that other people started taking us seriously, and before we knew what was happening we were signed to an indie label, doing radio sessions galore (Steve Lamacq on Radio One, 6music’s Tom Robinson, XFM’s John Kennedy, Virgin Radio), the music press were bigging us up as “The Next Big Thing” (ha!) and we were touring, and drinking, relentlessly.  It couldn’t last – and it didn’t – but by the time that band split up, seven acrimonious, boozy, maddening yet oddly glorious years later, everything about my life had changed.

Through our DIY exploits, I had become a musician, record producer, fanzine writer, radio DJ and gig promoter; I met some amazing people, many of whom I’m still friends with to this day; and one night in February 2003, at Tunbridge Wells Forum, at the end of a 30-date tour, I met my future wife, Kate, the woman who made me want to carry on living, and who is now the mother of our beautiful son.  Kate had found a copy of our most popular single in her local record store and liked it enough to come to a gig; a single that existed because the label had heard our first John Peel session and liked it enough to sign us.  I am still alive because of John Peel; my son exists because of John Peel.  Judaism teaches that “He who saves a single life saves the World entire”.  How many lives did John Peel save?

I met John a few times and he was lovely. He used to turn up at gigs with his wife, Sheila, and we’d talk about ordinary stuff – family horrors, house prices, the weekly shop. Sometimes I’d bump into him outside Pizza Hut in Bury St Edmunds town centre and we’d have a little chat.  That nice guy you heard on the radio was exactly the same guy you met walking down the street.

My bemusement at the fact that he’d ever played my band at all was explained in a story told to me by Greg McDonald, frontman with fellow Peel-endorsed Bury band The Dawn Parade. Whilst setting up for their Maida Vale session, the BBC postman had delivered four sacks, bulging with CDs, tapes and vinyl, all addressed to John Peel. Greg sidled up to John and suggested that most of the bag’s contents would probably go unheard. On the contrary, replied John: Every single envelope would be opened and every single record would be listened to, because “each envelope contains somebody’s dreams”.

This is why John Peel was the most important and most celebrated radio DJ in broadcasting history: He understood the value of all recorded music, appreciated the hours, days, months and years of toil and sweat that went into every release, particularly with DIY acts and labels who went out on a limb to do something new and exciting. Rather than cushioning himself behind an impenetrable wall of producers, you could send something directly to his house and if he liked it, he’d play it on the radio, regardless of genre.  It was that simple. The only context that mattered to John was the universe each record occupied in itself; he understood implicitly that music can only be judged on its own terms, not based on transient and whimsical popular trends.  He excluded nothing, and loved everything. Far from the snobby curmudgeon his despicable Radio One peers (Jimmy Savile, Dave Lee Travis) presumed him to be, his radio shows were a beacon of inclusivity, the sound of purest joy.

People never ask me about John Peel, because I never talk about him. I never talk about him because he saved my life, and 10 years later, all I can think to say amounts to, “Thank you.”

Seymour Quigley

R*E*P*E*A*T fanzine: http://www.repeatfanzine.co.uk/homepage.htm

Horse Party: http://horsepartyparty.bandcamp.com/

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PORKY WAS DELIGHTED TO recently receive a copy of The Primitives’ first album of new songs in humpteen years.

Until then he had almost given up hope of hearing pure pop again, then The Fireworks’  Switch Me On (Shelflife records) was dropped in the mailbox by a hard-working postie due to become redundant any day now. Damn you technology. And corporate greed.

They clearly have a record collection devoted to jangly guitar bands stretching from The Byrds through to the Bobby McGee’s, and like all the best shambling bands take the best of garage punk and the very worst of The Osmonds.

They know how to hit the guitar strings hard, and do with some oomph on the opening two tracks, With My Heart and Runaround. I fret at the pace of this album, as I’ll be out of breathe by track six if this continues. But on Let You Know, the Fireworks become a sparkler; it’s a fantastically melodic, short track that, like the Prims, is a belter with its heartfelt, plaintive vocals and tidy drumming. It’s full of summer, and a summer spent on the beach getting a tan and watching the love of your life waltz by.

A great aspect of this London four-piece is the alternating girl-boy vocal interchange. Matthew Rimell takes charge of the mic on Let You Know, and Which Way To Go, which with its chainsaw fuzz-drenched feedback and distortion pedals is somewhat reminiscent of early Jesus and Mary Chain. Elsewhere Emma Hall takes charge. This egalitarian method works perfectly with both having different attitudes toward singing.

Switch Me On is my end-of-winter upper, a fantastically unpretentious, superfast with slower bits, dreamy pop supersized album. Play loud. Anyone remember the Shop Assistants?

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Taken by Porky Prime Cuts

Taken by Porky Prime Cuts

WITH ONE HAND ON her keyboard and the other on the mic, Estere Dalton makes a concocting brew of rhythms that are inspired by New Zealand, West Africa and all points inbetween – and beyond. She calls it “electric blue witch hop” …. the witch because of the magic in her music, and hop an obvious nod to hip-hop. Blue is the colour she would imagine her sounds to be.

Estere, as she known simply, performs with an MPC (music production centre) that she affectionately calls Lola.

Before she headed to Taranaki for Womad 2015 I caught up with my fellow Wellingtonian for a chat. It was an, ahem, curious conversation, that began with my young daughter grabbing the recorder from me.

Porky: Tell us about your … (encourages the bairn to give up the recorder) … music and how you approach it.

Estere: “I like to use samples from random things like a cutlery drawer opening and closing, or my afro-combs scraping against the mirror, and I record those sounds and I put them into my computer and mess around, maybe change the eq, or put some reverb in, and then I put them into Lola, and then [ten seconds missing as I grapple with the recorder with the wean, but it’s not that crucial.]

Porky: It’s basically you and [give up and let the littlie hold the recorder] Lola. How is she to work with?

Estere: “Lola has a bit of a personality, a bit like a car. If you buy a car you might call it Lucy, so she definitely has her own personality even though she is not quite human.”

Ohhhkay … moving swiftly on.

Estere also plays in a nine-piece soul-funk band called Brockaflowersaurus Rex, or just Brockaflower now because “Brockaflowersaurus Rex was just so ridiculously long and no-one could say it, including ourselves.”

Porky: So you’re solo much of the time, and then in a big band which must be quite a contrast?

Estere; “It is the polar opposite of what I do with Lola, where I have complete creative control, whereas with the band it’s like a complete collaboration and there’s a lot of compromise and a lot of people all with different ideas. But we all work really well together and we’re really great friends. It’s definitely the other side of making music.”

Estere was born and brought up in New Zealand, with her Cameroonian father living in France, where she visits regularly. So, inevitably, her music contains the sounds and rhythms of various cultures and influences.

[Brief interruption as the bairn grabs the phone and begins calling someone. I then tell Estere about a song called Estere I heard on SoundCloud and she informs me that she doesn’t have a song called Estere .. damn you Sound Cloud. Anyway, I eventually ask the damn question]

Porky: This particular track did sound a bit African, so you clearly draw on a lot of different influences.

Estere: “African music is awesome and it makes its way into my music. There are elements of Cameroonian or Senegalese rhythms in my music. Much of the ‘world’ music I love is through searching for stuff, or people introducing me to these sounds, and also what my mum would play in the car. And I have a strong interest in music from Cameroon and other parts of West Africa through my heritage, and my father has introduced me to different types of African music, like Miriam Makeba and Manu Dibango.”

Porky: What kind of subjects do you write about? [repeated as the sprog tries to say hello and get Estere to sing]

Estere: “I like to write about all different sorts of subjects, but I do like to sing about definitive contexts, so I talk about lizards and one of my songs Reptilian Journey is about reptiles and how they’ve been on the planet for 320 million years. And also about being a child of culture clash [in the song of the same name], having parents with completely different cultural backgrounds, and another song is about a fake ex-boyfriend, who I completely made up.”

I caught Estere at Womad, performing on the quaint Dell stage which is hidden to the side of the main stage. This was one of two performances over the weekend. Estere is an all-singing, all-dancing, all rounder who is bound for a long and productive career. But let’s hope that the media drop their tired and lazy comparisons to Erykah Badu and Kimbra and let her develop by herself. I also wonder if it would help to relieve the pressure on Lola by having a band member or two join her onstage.

Taken by Porky Prime Cuts

Taken by Porky Prime Cuts

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PORKY  was the guest of honour at WOMAD New Zealand at New Plymouth at the weekend, and had a jolly good time. He has decided to post some photographs of the happenings there. The snaps aren’t professional level, as you’ll see. But you are most welcome to share, however if you do, credit the website. and post a link. That’s all we ask. Well, bottles of pinot gris, and milk chocolate too, if you’re feeling generous.


Latin ska-punk-bit-of-everything cheery chappies Che Sudaka


Man up a tree, at Lucky Star entrance

Man up a tree, at Lucky Star entrance

New Zealand's Mel Parsons

New Zealand’s Mel Parsons


The masses collect at the main stage. Note the moat in front of the stage to protect the talent from the rabble.


Retro-obsessed electro boffins from England, Public Service Broadcasting


Cooking is the new rock’n’roll don’t you know.

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FLIP GRATER COULD HAVE, some might say, the best of both worlds. The Christchurch-born musician is back home, taking in the end of the summer, enjoying married life and appreciating the country’s efficient banking service. But she spends much

Photo by Dave Richards

Photo by Dave Richards

of her time in Paris, where she can soak in the wonderful Gallic attitude toward food and wine. She pens highly personal, nostalgic and at times melancholic indie-folk songs, that’s led to her being compared to Hope Sandoval and Cat Power. She has also written cookbooks (“It’s a nice way to explore the long-form of writing”), possibly with some cheese-based recipes. Speaking ahead of her upcoming performance at this month’s WOMAD festival in New Plymouth, Grater told Porky that Paris is a city of inspiration, and, of course, ideally located. “The reason I moved to Paris was because I just wanted to tour in Europe and go on short trips without spending 24 hours on a plane.”

Last year Grater released Pigalle, her fourth studio album, which was named after the Paris quartier where you could, let’s say, take in a few life adventures.  Nevertheless, her next album will be recorded in New Zealand as she takes her husband around the country, while touring and writing. “I find that I write different parts of songs in each place so I’m hoping to write the next album in New Zealand. It will probably be more folky, with a few lovey-dovey songs. I’ve always played fairly melancholic music, that’s what inspired me but I am keen to experiment, and perhaps write about things other than relationships; perhaps telling other people’s stories or, I don’t know, maybe some politically-inspired material.”

Grater’s material so far has been highly emotional, and as she says, largely about the intricacies, joys and difficulties of relationships. Writing outwith these spheres takes a small amount of bravery as it is too easy for people to shoot down the writer because of their own political leanings. Grater will test the water with issues that shouldn’t be regarded as overtly controversial. “I’ve been an animal rights activist for most of my life, and right now there are many, many animal rights issues, and environmental issues, that I am involved in and am quite passionate about. This is not something that has come out in my music so far. While I don’t how the next album will be like at this stage, I’m keen to explore such issues.”

Grater starts work on the next album after her appearance at WOMAD in Taranaki.  And she has also started writing about mushrooms and hunting for wild mushrooms. “I have a massive passion, you might even call it an obsession, with mushrooms and mushroom hunting.”

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