"Most rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read." - Frank Krappa

Monday, 2 March 2015

Ode to Porridge Radio (An artist, a lost soul)

It is hard to tell where my love for Porridge Radio begins and where my love for Dana Margolin (the creative force behind PR, as well as The Spineless Seal clothing company and the Hey Day 'zine) ends. What's easier to tell is that I would definitely still love them both as much as I do now, even if they were completely divorced from each other. That being said, attempting to look at an artists work divorced from the artist, or one's personal relationship to the artist, is completely impossible, so I won't bother trying.

I first heard Porridge Radio's music when she was part of a freak folk duo (supposedly a trio, but actually a duo) called Butter Dust, back in the good old days of 2011. At the time, Porridge Radio was a wee little lass of 18 years. After meeting her at Mad Kid Library Trap's* festive winter get-together, she sent me her incredibly badly recorded songs. I thought they were quite good - they had surreal lyrics and an offbeat (literally, there was almost no sense of rhythm) charm. They played their instruments in the way I like - like people who couldn't really play them. They sang in the way I like - like lost and confused teenagers. Initially it sounded like a contrived quirkiness, a post-Mighty Boosh pop wank. Upon repeat listens, there seemed to be a sprawl of emotionally evocative meaning sown between the words that, on face value, were completely incomprehensible.

In all honesty, I actually didn't like them quite as much then as I do now. I was aware at the time that their music was an acquired taste, as is so often the case with diamonds in the rough, so I appreciated it moderately and quietly. Now, in my wise old age, I can see that they had something special going on. Butter Dust stopped for some reason. You should check out their legacy and weep. They joined soundcloud and put (what I think are) their best songs on there, which I've embedded below. The rest can be found on their tumblr. Hopefully financial pressures in their middle aged lives will force them to do an economically lucrative, but artistically bankrupt, tour in 2033.

At one point we tried to make music together, but for some reason I never finished editing what we started, and that project is lost on a hard drive somewhere (this actually happened again very recently but whatever). Later Porridge Radio sent me burgeoning solo tracks over email and facebook chat with a billion different artist names. Most of the songs were really fucking weird and I spent a lot of time trying to coax her towards something a bit more sensible, a bit more normal, a bit more understandable. I was an idiot. At the time I was playing in a band on the London low level indie circuit, and for some stupid reason thought that my experiences there were of blanket importance to anyone who wanted to make sounds for other people to hear.

Porridge Radio continued making weird music despite me, and it got better and better and better. The music continued to have very little correlation with anything normally described as good songwriting, but - incrementally, accidentally - the abstract combinations of terribly played guitar and hit-and-miss vocals began to amass a heavy emotional weight. A particular stand out track called 'p2', still not publically available, containing the repeated phrase "This is the worst thing to happen in the 20th century". Another project of note from this period is the (still uncompleted) concept album/lo-fi opera about a boy in a hospital who falls in love with a girl with an eating disorder or something. It is, to this day, one of the weirdest fucking things I've ever heard. She eventually set up a soundcloud with the name "Porridge Radio", started sending me songs on that instead, and the name has stuck ever since.

By the upload of the song 'ok', I began to realise that Porridge Radio's songwriting talent definitely went beyond my fetishisation of the obscure. The relentlessly simple chords and sing-song sweet vocal melodies transport the absurdly morbid lyrics straight to the small bit of my brain in which I feel real actual emotions, just like any other real human. The slightly later songs 'Please' (an aborted cover of Neil Young's Danger Bird) and 'Glossy Magazine' made their way on to my record label's incredible debut release because they are incredible sucker punches that couldn't have been written by anyone else.

'eurgh' cycles 3 chords over sweet pop heaven until gradually, the terse and ambiguous darkness creeps in so subtly that it takes a few seconds to realise why you've started to cry. By the time you get your head around it, you're taken (through the multitude of smaller chord pattern circles) in a large circle back to the sweet pop beginning. The musical simplicity allows for the emotional complexity of the conflicting tones existing within a singular plane of reality. With the simplest words, the most haunting terrors are conjured. You think you've heard this kind of thing before, you let your guard down, Porridge Radio goes in for the kill.

Imagine if Porridge Radio followed my advice a year earlier! How worse the world would be! It would be awful!

To my credit, I showed her the Sentridoh (Lou Barlow, from Dino Jr./Sebadoh, to any of you unworthy people reading this who don't have the BASIC KNOWLEDGE required to be a half-sentient human) song Losercore. She liked it, tried to cover it, failed, and then wrote what is (in the right circles) an anthem of our self disgusted '90s revival generation. It's post-modern. It's like the Brian Jonestown Massacre. It's quite '90s really.

'and i was like' strings 3 lyrics together that don't make sense individually, let alone united. It is somehow one of the most perfect pop songs I've ever heard. I've seen Porridge Radio onstage 3 times (I think), and at the most recent time (at the first Fat Dog Party) she played this for the first time and I found myself singing along completely involuntarily. And dancing. I don't normally do that kind of thing, I'm really, really cool.

Come to think of it, I haven't yet expressed the live genius of Porridge Radio. I watched her at two open mic nights in Brighton and she yelled deeply inappropriate (i.e. heartfelt) lyrics at the old men surrounding her with the zealous passion of a suicide bomber. I have no idea what other people thought of this weird show of actual emotion... but I was cathartically burnt to a crisp and then a gust of wind blew me out the window and into the sea. At Fat Dog Party, everyone knew they were seeing something that needed to be happening. Genuinely, I fucking hate and want to kill 99% of acoustic singer/song-writers I see live. With such a limited sonic pallet (and the usual limited imagination it implies) they all sound the fucking same and the only emotion they bring out in me is a very beige kind of murder. Porridge Radio transcends the medium through a pure act of will, a complete lack of respect, and perhaps an element of the idiot savant. She is punk in the way that isn't a cliche. I really can't overstate how vastly brilliant all 3 of those sets were.

I'm going to stop posting tracks now, because you can go listen to the brilliance on your own without my guidance.

Actually, no. Here's another one. If it wasn't so good, I would be upset that she plagiarized not just one, but two of my songs.

What sparked me writing this blog post/essay/public diary entry was hearing some top secret recordings of Porridge Radio practising with her new backing band, The Cosmic Sadness. They did their debut gig at the second Fat Dog Party, which I very very very unfortunately couldn't attend (despite us living in the so-called future). They play with as much beautiful imprecision as Porridge Radio herself, yet somehow play imprecisely together. Just like a band should. They play her relentlessly simple songs relentlessly simply. And just as emotively. I was so excited to hear this latest development that I was forced to write a very long essay to no one in particular, in order to contextualise this great news for no one in particular.

One of the best solo acts alive (Leonard Cohen is actually dead) is now wielding the hefty sledgehammer force of a punk-as-fuck power trio. It won't go to waste. It will smash the system, the patriarchy, the machine, the global capitalist system, the western hegemony, white supremacy, heteronormativity, and all sorts of other smashable shit things, and it won't even be all annoying and self-righteous about it.

Hopefully over the summer Porridge Radio and the Cosmic Sadness will be adequately recorded and then released on Memorials of Distinction. If they don't get the deserved massive positive response they deserve I might kill myself, because it will then be fully evident that the world is a meaningless place full of pain and suffering with all too few decent bits.

*I feel like it's necessary to note that I well and truly believe that Mad Kid Library Trap is one of the greatest artists of our generation. The first, and so far only, gig by the Mad Kid Library Trap Orchestra (at the first Fat Dog Party) proved this without doubt to everybody present. This is no overstatement, it is fact. Ask anyone that was there. Sadly, the full extent of his pure genius has not been captured adequately in any recordings to date. This is something I wish to help rectify in the future - but I am worried that MKLT's genius will be smothered to death by my clammy, foolish, meddling hands if I get too involved. I am a control freak. MKLT needs to be set free with the ability to utilise any resource he wants. Then, and only then, will we get the art we so desperately need.

Satanic Ritual Abuse Presents: Navelgazer

I am currently figuring out how to do my second live performance, after being inspired by reading the whole of Stewart Lee's How I Escaped My Certain Fate (you have to love his ability to subtly show off his knowledge of alternative musics)  and watching ALL OF HIS WORK in two days. I guess in a similar way to Stewart Lee, I'm reflecting on my artistic choices in the past before hopefully developing them further in the future. I'm not saying that I'm the Stewart Lee of pop music... that's for other people to say.

Anyway, at the inaugural Fat Dog Party, at The Green Door Store in Brighton, I handed out 50 copies of the below piece of paper to about 70-80 audience members (some of them shared):

Following this, I instructed them all to sit down. Then I did what I said I would do. I was helped along by a large bank of guitar effects pedals, most of which I never used before. While playing I was washed with alternate waves of self-loathing and pure ecstasy - so much so, that it almost felt like a normal day.

It went quite well and people like it more than I thought they would. At least one person claimed to have their life changed. I was kind of hoping to piss everyone off.

As I am a complete genius, I am now aiming to top this performance in concept, content and form.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

About 'Let's Talk About Cancer (1st Draft)'

The title of this song is based on a MacMillan Cancer Support advert slogan I misremembered. Maybe the one I thought I was quoting was "It's Okay To Talk About Cancer", or maybe it was another one. I guess it doesn't matter. I first saw the slogan when I took my Dad to one of his final radiotherapy sessions. The artwork for this song is a cameraphone picture I took of his radiotherapy mask, an eternal, medically tailored, sculpted scream.
Around six months before that radiotherapy session, he was diagnosed with tongue cancer. This quickly led to extensive surgery, which involved cutting his throat open ear-to-ear, taking out half his teeth and then removing half of his tongue. There were complications in the surgery.
We had an anxiously quiet, tense Christmas period without him, often visiting him in the Intensive Care Unit. He could not speak. Communicating with him through text-based means was difficult, slow and frustrating for both parties, especially as much of what he had to communicate was founded in pain and confusion. The sounds in this song are meant to simulate the sounds that were surrounding my Dad in the ICU, the sounds produced by the machines keeping him alive.
Sonically, this song is an attempt to empathise with my Dad in that period of his life: alone, horrified, dehumanised, pained, numbed, bored, helpless and confused. It goes without saying (so why say it?) that it's not supposed to be beautiful, enjoyable or exciting in any traditional sense. Lyrically, the song is straightforwardly autobiographical, to the point of relentlessly immature emotional solipsism.
My Dad is currently cancer free, and doing well, but the echos of this explosive period in our family's history still quietly rebound between the people who bore witness.
All of the sounds, other than the singing, beeping and snare drum, were produced by an air conditioning unit, and then manipulated. This was the first song I created using Logic, so I didn't really know what I was doing and I'm not entirely happy with the results. If I have a good reason, I'll make it better.

I'm just trying to get my mother drunk,
I'm just trying to help my headache.

While carrying sound my phone rang,
News from outer-space,It stopped my disco dancing then,
I'll never disco dance again.

No one believes I care.


I'm coming back on here, because I like the blog name and fuck making a tumblr or whatever. (I H8 TUMBLR).

Disregard everything written before this post as a stupid bullshit heap of crap stupid rubbish.

This blog will now purely (or at least mainly) be used for me to write about, and analyse, my own projects, which are already self-obsessed enough to require yet another platform for self-analysis.

...this is that platform...

To clichedly paraphrase some dude that everyone probably misquotes:


Sunday, 26 June 2011

Gig: The Sonics + Wire @ Royal Festival Hall, Southbank 18/6/11

(This is over a week late, but no one reads this so it doesn't matter)

I was incredibly excited about seeing two legendary almost-punk bands in one night, proto-punks The Sonics and post-punks Wire, the only catch being it would be a seated gig. Despite that mislocation, I can now tick both bands off my mental "things to see before I die list", which is probably the most important thing.

Anyway, Wire were really awesome. I'm not such a fan of their newest album (it reminds me of U2 for some reason), but live they really delivered. With the help of a long haired guitarist who appeared to be half the age of the rest of the band, they played a mixture of new material (which was actually really ace live) and old classics and ended with a long noisy electronic sound jam. The noise combined with the lights was completely dazzling throughout, and I was actually pretty glad to be sitting down so I could just absorb what was happening without fear of collapsing with awe.

After a break Ray Davies came on to introduce The Sonics, describing how scary they were to the young and relatively innocent Kinks. The Sonics' set constantly veered between being the rock and roll experience of a life time and making you wonder if they should all go home, get a cup of tea and some rest before they break a hip. They played lots of their old awesome classics, but also some of their new songs (mostly with the new bassist singing) that sounded kinda like AC/DC or Deep Purple. The new songs weren't bad, but no one wanted to hear them, highlighting the fact that these old men were on stage to try to replicate what they had done over 40 years ago - an impossible task.  However, about halfway through people started standing up and going to the front and dancing. Sadly by the time I got there security were blocking access, but the band responded brilliantly and the atmosphere really picked up.

Obviously, I had a great time. Sadly, the fantasies I had of these bands' sets time warping me into 1979 and 1964 respectively were unrealistic.

Friday, 10 June 2011

New Male Bonding music!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Possibly my favourite album of 2010 was Male Bonding's Nothing Hurts. It combined that reverby indie pop sound with a giant dollop of lo fi PUNK ROCK in the best possible way.

They have returned, with promises of a much less lo fi album, Endless Now, coming out on the 30th of August.

They've also put this track out for free download (in exchange for an email address). I think it's pretty awesome, but you can't escape the fact that they now sound like a mixture of their old selves and Blink-182.

It's no bad thing in my book.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Evans The Death are an awesome band that everyone should like

This is Evans The Death's new video for upcoming double a side Threads/I'm So Unclean on Fortuna Pop!. They combine pop brilliance, witty lyrics and a punk rawk attitude reminiscent of all my favourite bands. They are one of my favourite bands.

I've heard that there'll be another video for 'I'm So Unclean', which is probably my favourite of theirs. They're soon to be recording an album with Rory Brattwell (who also did the single and unreleased EP on their MySpace) and I eagerly anticipate what will surely be (judging from demos and songs I've heard live) an incredible debut.

The single release partay is on the 7th of July at the Brixton Windmill. If you don't go, you're an idiot.