Live Review: Insecure Men, The Scala, London, 9/03/18

In a museum in Berlin there’s a replica of a flat from the communist era, designed to demonstrate to tourists how sparse and unfulfilling life in the East used to be. If you look at the expressions of the young people, you can see them doing the maths in their head – and coming to the conclusion that between a job for life with a medium sized flat, or living in a shoebox and working for an app, they’d take their chances with the Stasi.

The world was supposed to be better, technology and modernity was going to save us. In the future (about 10 years ago) war and want would be over and a united mankind would be on its way to the stars.

Instead it stayed just as bad – got worse even – but in new and dispiriting ways. Instead of the workers “holding the country ransom” with their unions, its the corporations and their algorithms holding the gun to our back. Even more depressing, we’re now expected to like it.  Free at last from stifling conformity and an overbearing public realm (or “nanny state” as we’re now obliged to call it), we’re dying of loneliness in a sea of meaningless individualism.

Western capitalism has finally crushed its old rivals in the socialist world. It stands alone and victorious, riven with parasites and infections of its own making, lashing out at its own shadow – from the Middle East to the East End of London. Private interests are God and the struggle for the collective good is the sin of our fathers, to be cast off and forgotten.

With a drabness deliberately crossing over into the uncomfortable, Insecure Men are an appeal to the bad old days. In both their lyrics and imagery, they contrast scenes of boring everyday life with jarring fascism, machismo and sleaze. Images of smiling children are placed suggestively next to writhing child abusers. Worn down, decaying council housing is framed lovingly next to glossy corporate advertising, sinister by comparison.

Insecure Men know the world is bad and they know it has always been bad. They write semi-sincere love songs to a time when society’s sickness was borne as an open wound, before the cancer grew up in the heart and lungs and mind – harder to see, but infinitely more deadly.

Their performance at The Scala last night was a stroke of genius. A genuine work of art presented through the medium of pop music. An eight piece band turned the lethargic, delicate album tracks into expansive, immersive pools of sound. The music is neither aggressive nor imposing, it just hangs over you and around you like a smog, or like a feeling of sadness that you just can’t shake.

If this ironic humour and resigned attitude to the failure of modernity is the spirit of our age, Insecure Men are the right people in the right place at the right time.

Audiophile, Terminal Communications

Ten LPs That Changed My Life


By Robert Maisey. In biographical order…

afa7b61787f4ae5ea245b927aa301ab3a1f263c7Queen – A Night At The Opera

Queen were the first band I ever loved. At about age 13 (around 2002) they ignited my joy in music. My parents bought me the Platinum Collection after I came home singing the Bicycle song after hearing it at school. A Night At The Opera was the first album I tracked down and bought for myself and it was my best friend for years. I listened to this album the way only a teenager can listen to an album, lovingly pouring over every detail – which in the case of this monumental rock epic is rather a lot of detail! I’d probably cite the harder rocking Queen I and  Queen II as my favourite Queen albums now, but A Night At The Opera gets the spot for how throughly it rocked my world when I first heard it. I also loved to listen to A Day at the Races alongside it, which had obvious aesthetic and musical similarities, but also felt like a more mature piece to enjoy after one had been thoroughly inducted to A Night at the Opera. I was very lucky to have an older friend named Luke, who kept a big brotherly eye over me and would lend me CDs whenever I showed curiosity (including the entire Queen back catalogue). He lives in Plymouth and has a family these days and I don’t see him as much as I’d like too, but I still consider him a great friend and a very formative influence.




The Darkness – Permission To Land

This record followed pretty hot on the heels of my discovering Queen. Coming out in July 2003 it seemed like manna from heaven for a kid with a new found mania for screachingly camp hard rock. In hindsight, Permission To Land is naff as hell and utterly derivative – but lacking the context of any wider musical knowledge at the time, I loved it. I still love it to be honest and regularly return to it, guilt free.

Honourable mentions at this point go to Meatloaf – Bat Out of Hell – which I pilfered from my Mum’s record collection – and to my new (at the time) friend Shelley, who was already an expert in all forms of music ever made in my eyes. Spotting a burgeoning rock fan, Shelley introduced me to loads of albums that would be on constant rotation for me in my early teens, including  Nightwish – Once and Mortiis – The Smell of Rain, the last of which I still listen to all the time and maintain is one of the best electro-goth albums ever made. I didn’t have very many friends at school to be honest and Shelley was the first friend I ever made based on shared interests. I was in awe of him then – and very grateful to him for sharing his musical knowledge with me – and I’m in awe of him still. He’s grown up to be a very refined, complicated and good humoured man who I still learn from all the time.



first-and-last-and-always_1426323527_crop_560x550.0The Sisters of Mercy – First and Last and Always

This was probably the first album I got into that Shelley hadn’t vetted first, and really set the tone of my own personal musical self identity. The older I got, the deeper my appreciation of this very fine record became. What started out as theatrical gothic soundtrack evolved into druggy invitation into subculture, which become a complex criticism of rock music and then finally morphed again into just a solid pop record, as I started to level out as a human being. Honourable mentions at this point go to The March Violets – Natural History which I never found as emotive, but did find more fascinating, The Mission – God’s Own Medicine, which probably pushed the same buttons in me as The Darkness, Fields of the Nephilim – The Nephilim, which I found extremely immersive with its rich production and occult obsessions, Ghost Dance – Gathering Dust which, like First and Last and Always, hides a heart of pure pop brilliance under fuzzy post punk pretence and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry – Talk About the Weather, which still feels intimidatingly strung out at the end of its tether. Another honourable mention here goes to one Robert Cowlin, who I first met in 2006 in the queue to see The Sisters at the London Astoria and who has been one of my closest musical allies and respected friends ever since. He and I are in the habit of jumping into Hussey and Eldritch personas when we’re together – which is occasionally tortuous for us both, but mostly good fun and artistically fruitful.



1f60f2e8458d86411d7810fd50daf12d.jpgVNV Nation – Empires

My gang of collage friends was about as much like Breakfast Club gang as you could possibly wish for in the mid ’00s. There was my first love, Hazel Kenway, who was avant-garde as fuck for a 16 year old, there was Cyber Chris, who was the most thrilling person I had ever met (not only was cybergoth  – a brand new idea at that point – but he was also the first out-of-the-closet homosexual I’d ever been friends with) and there was Tara Allen, the ultra cool girl who dated older boys, was already tired of “the scene” and knew literally everything about sex and drugs that it was possible to know. I shared my love of 80s goth bands with them, Hazel taught us all about Kraftwerk (I lost my virginity to Minimum/Maximum!) and Chris and Tara introduced us all to pounding pounding EBM music and nightclubbing, by way of the infamous Slimelight.  Of all the stuff I listened to in this period, Apoptygma Berzerk‘s first two albums, Soli Deo Gloria and Seven still get regular rotation and pretty much everything VNV Nation did up to 2005’s Matter+Form I still regard as essential, although Empires is by far my favourite.



R-27704-1284252029.jpegThe Human League – Reproduction

By this point (I guess around age 17) I was starting to develop a pretty inflated sense of self regard, in the way of all young people who have had their first taste of serious drinking, consumption of illegal drugs, a small variety of sexual partners and have stayed up all night on more than one occasion. I was ready for music as clever as I was, and The Human League was definitely it. I’d started buying music on vinyl, in accordance with how clever and refined I was definitely becoming – and the proprietor of 101 Records in Farnham had my number straight away. He recommended I purchase this weird and wonderful album – which I believe is the the original and best British synth pop record ever made. Honourable mention also goes to The Human League – Travelogue, their second and equally bizarre album, and final LP before they disbanded; Phil Oakey carrying the name forward to make a breakthrough alongside Martin Rushent with DARE. This period of ego inflation also saw me getting wildly into Depeche Mode – Violator, which was the most sophisticated thing I’d ever heard.



Rosetta_Stone-An_Eye_For_The_Main_Chance-FrontalRosetta Stone – An Eye For The Main Chance

My deep, deep obsession with Rosetta Stone started around the time I started my first band. It was the distillation of all the things I’d grown to love over the previous 5 years or so and it consumed me for a very long time. I would listen to Rosetta Stone every single day, and did my best to track down live recordings and demo versions so that I could listen to every possible iteration of every track. An Eye For The Main Chance is the greatest purposefully recorded Goth Rock album ever made. Every single note is sculpted to absolute perfection. Choosing to create music within a genre often draws critical scorn (“have they no ideas of their own?!”) but the results are immensely satisfying to enthusiasts. The love and dedication that plainly went into every single aspect of this LP is bolstered by the awesome technical ability of the musicians. This record doesn’t do much, but what it does do, it does better than anyone else. This marks the beginning of several years of committed goth rocking on my part, which lasted my entire period studying at university. Other records I was into during this time that still receive near constant rotation include Children On Stun – Tourniquets of Love’s Desire and Dream Disciples – Asphyxia. A very special mention goes to Pretentious, Moi?, who’s self titled album inspired my first tattoo and who’s mastermind, Tim Chandler, produced the first Terminal Gods 7″: Electric Eyes/God Child.



thestooges-rawpowerIggy and the Stooges – Raw Power

Towards the end of university, around the time I moved to London and formed Terminal Gods I had something of a revelation. I discovered, for the first time since I was a school kid, ROCK MUSIC. I’d gone along with the post-punk view that all-out rock and roll was passé nonsense, but Iggy Pop changed all that. This album reset everything and sent me spinning back to first principles. This revelatory moment goes a long way to explaining the persona of Terminal Gods as a struggle between a snobbish goth band and an extremely obnoxious rock band. Around this time I also got heavily into Motörhead and The Ramones, the latter introduced to me by Jake Griffiths, the bartender at the restaurant in which I worked for my first full time job after graduating. He couldn’t believe I’d got to something resembling adulthood and had never even listened to The Ramones, so he leant me their first 4 albums there and then. Needless to say, Jake is now one of my most trusted friends. My favourite Stooges album is actually Funhouse, and my favourite Iggy Pop album is Blah, Blah Blah, but Raw Power was the record that blew the world open for me, yet again.



a1487697532_10Ulterior – Wild In Wildlife

I discovered Ulterior in 2009, around the time they released the 10″ single Sister Speed. Up till then, my music taste had been entirely retro – I’d come to terms with being an anachronism and that modern music just didn’t do it for me (although looking back, there’s loads of stuff that came out around those years that I overlooked because of this retromania). Ulterior were the first band in the here and now that I became really obsessed with. They had such awesome power and attitude and were just everything I wanted to be. They screamed into my life like a great leather and chrome juggernaut and their delirious machismo informed nearly all my tastes over the next few years. They turned me on to all sorts of amazing electro rock n roll, especially Suicide and A.R.E. Weapons. I also developed a serious hard-on for Big Black and James Rays Gangwar around this period, both of whom embodied a particular brand of techno and amphetamine infused guitar noise that I have loved like an addiction for the entire subsequent decade.



R-483725-1124699640.jpgLeonard Cohen – Songs of Love and Hate

My infatuation with Leonard Cohen began in earnest only a few years ago, and represents something of a coming down from the extended high that filled the 10 years between my Rosetta Stone and Ulterior obsessions. Cohen’s songs were the first that didn’t have to have a solid backbeat going at 110mph for me to get sucked into them. I also simultaneously started getting seriously involved with Nick Cave and David Bowie around the same time. Although this period represents a serious mellowing out in my tastes and lifestyle in general, it also represents the introduction of complexity into my artistic horizon and self doubt into my self perception. Everything before this point had, more or less, been simple. I was into bold colours, high contrast, metal and monochrome. I was into self satisfaction, self realisation and ignoring the opinions of others. Although I sometimes miss being that guy,  I’ll happily sacrifice a bit of lunatic self assurance for a bit of dignified introspection if that’s what it takes to be an adult.



R-101831-1445625302-3074.jpegLaibach – Nova Akropola

You’re not going to like this album at first, its really unmusical, but I want you to persist with it“.

Forewarned is forearmed! I’ve listened to this album several times a week, and some weeks daily, since it was bought for me as a Christmas present by Stacy Picard in 2016. It’s not only opened my mind to how much enjoyment can be got out of seriously abrasive music, but how perfectly a band can be grafted onto a much larger artistic and political message. Over the last few years, I’ve begun to have a serious crisis of faith in rock music as an answer to complicated questions posed by society and politics. Having invested a lot of my personal identity in my artistic choices, I find myself wanting and at a loss to explain the world. Consuming niche cultural products in an attempt to accumulate social capital is hardly a heroic achievement in the great scheme of things. I’ve been finding both Laibach and Einstürzende Neubauten incredibly soothing in this context, as I feel like their struggle to make sense of the late Cold War world mirrors something of my own confusion at the late capitalist one. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Public Enemy, who’s assaults on the racial and class fault lines in American society are equally compelling. My top recommendation for an album which suits the mood of our current moment is Alex Cameron – False Witness (which I talk about in depth here), which captures the ironic self awareness and earnest radicalism of the social media generation.



Cassette Archive

SOFT RIOT PRESENTS: White Belt Hardcore/Improvised Waves


Early influences and electronic education

by Jack Duckworth:


This mix is a balance between being about influences, about being a bit autobiographical and also about documentating bands in a general nation-wide “scene” I was in at the time. It starts off with some key influencial bands for me that were more in the early 90s punk/hardcore scene and then newer bands that appeared in the fold that shifted things in a more post-punk and synth direction out of the more “punk” sound they had been more associated with years earlier. A lot of these bands were favourites of mine, or I vaguely knew some of the people involved. Overall, I felt it was important to provide notes for each entry as the whole playlist would actually make no sense to anyone who didn’t grow up without knowing at least half of these bands.


I thought originally about doing an wave/synth mix for the “un-educated” but there’s soooo much stuff out there and I really wanted to avoid all the standard bands. Although I kept it to bands from way back in the day, this mix is actually a lot more random and unplanned than how I’d approach doing an educational mix. It’s stuff I’ve listened to recently, or stuff I found scouring through records or old mixes or just chucked in for no reason. The mix does however work more coherently than I’ve described in this overview.


Fugazi “Walken’s Syndrome” (In On The Kill Taker — Dischord 1993)

I always pin this one is the first record I actually planned to buy as I bought it shortly after it’s release date. I was 15 and already a fan of their previous albums which older friends introduced me to. This is a decidedly more expansive and “darker” record than their previous output as well as being a bit more discordant and noisy. Fugazi never were as big in Europe (especially the UK) as they were in North America and most people will associate them with Ian Mackaye or their infamous politics. Fugazi however for me was more about the other foil and vocalist Guy Picciotto, who was an absolute force in the band and the main attraction for me. This track features Guy on vocals and one thing I always note in this track is riff around the 1 minute mark and switches to a tight 7/4 time signature. I like the subtle, unexpected harmonics the muted guitar and bass create in this section. Over the years I found out that the title and lyrics to the song reference Christopher Walken’s performance in the film Annie Hall, quoted by the lines: “Can I confess something? I tell you this as an artist, I think you’ll understand. Sometimes when I’m driving. . .on the road at night. . .I see two headlights coming toward me. Fast. I have this sudden impulse to turn the wheel quickly, head-on into the oncoming car. I can anticipate the explosion. The sound of shattering glass. The. . .flames rising out of the flowing gasoline.” — this sample was used in a track by the punk band Jawbreaker as well.

Nation Of Ulysses “A Comment On Ritual”(Plays Pretty For Baby — Dischord 1992)

Through Fugazi I started digging through a lot of releases on the Dischord label at the time, all the way back to 80s classics like Rites Of Spring, Grey Matter, Embrace and Ignition to the current stuff happening in the early to mid 90s. Nation Of Ulysses stood out from the politically correct atmosphere of early 90s punk and hardcore with their slightly tongue-in-cheek far-left situational politics and unique fashion sensibilities at a time when fashion was sort of looked down about (but aren’t we all into fashion, whether it’s “anti” or not?). Their live shows were were to be reckoned with although I never actually saw them. Their influences came from the Motown and funk/soul groups of the 60s and 70s but imprinted in a noisy, post-hardcore format. Ian Svenonious, their singer and “mouthpiece” for the group is still active today having fronted groups like The Make-Up, Weird War and more recently Chain And The Gang. He’s authored several books on “rock n’ roll” and politics which are genuinely entertaining. Moreover, he’s carried on his unique identity, showmanship and personality for close to three decades now. Quite impressive.

Antioch Arrow “Picnic Pants” (Gems Of Masochism — Amalgamated 1995)

While Nation of Ulysses were turning things up on the east coast, their attitude and direction started triggering new bands elsewhere, including Antioch Arrow on the west coast. Part of the infamous Gravity Records-based “San Diego” sound of the early to mid 90s, Antioch Arrow polarised many in the scene at the time and got a lot of flack from the “PC hardcore” types at the time. But they certainly shook things up! They started out as more of a conventional hardcore band and quickly progressed into something far more manic, pretentious and weirder when how they started. This track comes from their third and final album released posthumously in 1995 called “Gems of Masochism” — the title and album cover are as ridiculous as the music itself. Here they started merging in a lot of “gothic” influences, most notably the Birthday Party, Christian Death or The Damned. This particular tracks sounds like the Birthday Party on high-grade amphetamines. I love how it sounds like it’s going to fall apart or crash at any minute and no real coherence except for some vague melodies from the distorted organ and at times the vocals. It’s like the soundtrack to falling down several flights of stairs very quickly or briefly turning on a broken industrial vacuum cleaner (check out some of the archived live clips on YouTube for a better idea). It packs in so many riffs and ideas within the 2 minute span that this song runs, and sort of crumbles nicely at the end.

Shotmaker “Failure” (Mouse Ear [Forget-Me-Not] — Troubleman 1996)

Shotmaker were a Canadian hardcore band from Ottawa and well-known in the underground and with friends of mine in the scene at the time. For me they’re one of the select bands from my youth I can still listen to and get energised when I listen to them. I think this in part has to do with their rhythm section. Whereas most hardcore drummers lifted their chops from the metal or 80s punk they grew up with, Shotmaker’s Matt Deline used mostly a four-on-the-floor kick drum within synchopated beats, making the music sound a lot more propulsive and primal. Add this to Nick Pye’s gain-heavy, rumbling bass and they were a rhythm section to contend with. They released a few albums in the mid-90s, this being from their last which was released on Troubleman Records, a record label got more attention paid to it starting in the 2000s as it was the launching pad for acts like Glass Candy, Black Dice, The Walkmen, Zola Jesus and more. I should also note that I think this is the first LP I bought where the band put an internet website URL in the liner notes for more information, which was the catchy and memorable “”

Unwound “Corpse Pose” (Repetition— Kill Rock Stars 1996)

I think across the board I think Unwound might be the post-hardcore band that I grew up with in the 90s that ticks all the “boxes” for me. I still listen to them often. Their tracks could range from noisy bursts, hypnotic grooves to more expansive, darker plotting dirges. Again, this is band with a great, unique rhythm section made up of drummer Sara Lund and bassist Vern Rumsey. I like how their sound locks together mechanically and even myself working within synth music these days I’ll reference their compositions at times when writing for that reason. It’s hard to pick a favourite album of theirs — it’s sort of a split between 1994’s “New Plastic Ideas” and 1996’s “Repetition”, the latter from which this tracks is from an more tighter and focused. This track is more “Hypnotic Groove” Unwound. Some great guitar figures here and Sara and Vern’s locked rhythm in this track is still a bit of an enigma to me even after over 20 years since first hearing it.

The Audience “Love A Doorframe” (Das Audience— Hymnal Sound 1997)

I was really into the final album by the San Francisco-based hardcore band Portraits Of Past that was released on the Ebullition label in 1996. After that band split up most of the members re-surfaced to form The Audience which was a total shift in direction. I have no idea how to describe this record but they adopted an overall glam/proto-goth image, incorporated analogue synths and what might be loosely described as new wave — at least that’s what people were calling it at the time. It’s post-punk, a bit goth, a bit no-wave and overall really dissonant. You really have to listen to it yourself. It released on Hymnal Sound (San Francisco), which was run by a guy I used to know called Julian and that was the label that The Rapture put out their first releases on. One of my old bands played our first show with them in 1998 in Vancouver. At that point they were starting to shift to a more garage rock sound and later morphed into Vue, who released a few records on Sub Pop back in the early to mid-2000s. This record I guess foreshadowed some of the post-punk revival that would come into swing a few years later.

Six Finger Satellite “Babies (Got The Rabies)” (Severe Exposure— Sub-Pop 1995)

The first album “The Pigeon Is The Most Popular Bird” is one of my all-time favourite records. It still totally freaks me out when I listen to it and sounds totally fucked and alien for when it was released in 1993 — sort of like atonal, cyborg-esque no-wave disco but with no synths used at all. The guitar work is insane on that record and both guitars are panned completely left and right for maximum disorientation. However, this track is actually from the following record which on the surface was a little more “straight forward” sounding but it was when the band started to incorporate analogue synths into their sound; probably one of the first punk/post-punk bands to do so in a revival sense. It was noted by me at the time when I was a teenager, hearing synths used in that timeline of music i was listening to.

Satisfact “Life Abroad” (7” single— Up Records 1995)

When I listen to Satisfact now I’m amazed at how this first wave revival record was released in the tail end of the first half of the midway point (is this making sense?) between right now and when the original “new wave” started coming out in the late 70s. They were a band from Seattle that were loosely affiliated with the Olympia K/Kill Rock Stars scene (Bikini Kill, Unwound, etc.) at the time. It’s a 90s indie/post-punk band with heavy influence from new wave — Gary Numan and Ultravox come to mind. I’m sure their influences weren’t as specific as many current listeners with a good internet connection and time to read obscure music blogs that exist nowadays. Satisfact put out a few records in the mid-90s then split. Their drummer played in the far more well-known indie group Modest Mouse as well.

The VSS “Lunar Weight” (Nervous Circuits— Honey Bear 1997)

Whenever I get asked about my “top 5 influences” or whatever this record is always on the list. I own the original pressing on Honey Bear when it came out as well as the CD and vinyl re-releases that were released in the late 2000s and early 2010s on the Hydrahead and Sergeant House labels. Again, this was a band that started out as more of a noisy hardcore band on their initial 7” singles and then they dropped this as their last release and was a pretty bold statement for the time, especially the “wet” style production more associated with the 80s, totally at odds with the school of production that was more in vogue in the 90s (read: Steve Albini, Bob Weston, Don Zientara, Steve Fisk, etc). I can’t describe this one really: bits of Public Image, Gary Numan and horror sci-fi analogue synth texture. Very tense and alien. You just have to listen the whole album to get the vibe and I admit, it’s not for everyone, especially if you have no context not being involved that general scene at the time. Sonny Kay’s lyrics are totally way out there and reading them on their own makes for some interesting poetic prose. It was one of the key records I was listening when my tastes turned more out of punk and into discovering classic synth and post-punk bands leading to what I’m doing musically and listening to today. Unfortunately I never saw them live and missed out on chance to see them in Seattle when I was 19. Oh well.

Long Hind Legs “A Curtain Is Drawn, A Veil Is Worn” (s/t— Kill Rock Stars 1996)

This two-piece band was a side-project of Unwound’s Vern Rumsey. I don’t think they actually played live but just released a couple of records in the 90s with a bit of that bedroom-recording aesthetic that was popular at that . There’s a lot of influences from the previous decade on this album, most notably with the use of drum machines, effected guitars and sullen vocals. With this track Jesus and Mary Chain, Psychedelic Furs of House of Love come to mind. This is one of the more “pop” tracks which balances out some of the more odd, experimental tracks that have a slight Coil feel to them.

The Faint “Victim Convenience” (Blank-Wave Arcade— Saddle Creek 1999)

When I first heard about The Faint I was already well into listening to a lot of the bands that were formative influences for this band. As they were from a more punk background their initial reviews were in magazines like Punk Planet, resulting in major confusion or severe backlash from the purists. This is probably one the key records that triggered the synth revival of the 2000s: a nice mix of the hedonism of early Duran Duran with some post-hardcore grit. I’ve seen them an many occassions around this time and shared a few stages with them in old bands I was in. This is a standout track for me. One “easter egg” for me on this record is how they use one riff in two tracks if you listen carefully: “Call Call” and “In Concert”. I found that pretty clever and have always wanted to do that myself.

Beautiful Skin “Sex Is The Triangle For the Perfect Square” (Sex Is The Triangle For the Perfect Square/Work Will Set You Free 7”— GSL 1999)

Sonny Kay from The VSS had started the Gold Standard Labs label sometime in the early 90s and by the late 90s it was thee “go to” label for all things post-hardcore that involved a revival of synth, new wave and post-punk styles. I always thought he had a good balance between putting out the releases that would sell to “the kids” but also taking a chance on some more daring stuff. Beautiful Skin was such the case, who formed by Nick Forté (guitarist from the early 90s hardcore band Rorschach) and Ross Totino, an analogue electronics guru from Brazil. This band sounded nothing like them, opting for an analogue-synth heavy sound remiscent of “154”-era Wire, John Foxx or even “minimal wave”, before the term was created retrospectively years later and got rediscovered by a larger audience. They released the “Revolve” album in 2000, did one short tour and that was it! A unique blip on the post-punk revival radar. It’s hard to find any info about them online, as it is with many bands from this time in the few years proceeding the social media/YouTube explosion.

Glass Candy & The Shattered Theatre “Metal Gods” (Metal Gods 7”— self-released 2000)

Before the far more well-known Glass Candy that we know today, there was Glass Candy & The Shattered Theatre who were DIY road warriors constantly playing small venues and basements across Canada and the US. I’m trying to remember how I found out about this band but I do remember buying their first 7” in Portland in 1999, on the recommendation of this guy Mark Burden, who was the drummer on the first record and later in Get Hustle (with members of Antioch Arrow, covered earlier). Anyway, this was a more synthier number from their early theatrical glam/no-wave phase. It’s great seeing where they started and where they’ve got to over the years. Much deserved.

Adult. — Lost Love (Resuscitation— Ersatz Audio 2001)

Closing off this playlist is a track of the Adult. release that put them on the map I guess, that being 2001’s Resuscitation. It was mainly an LP collection of their early singles and more. This was probably one of the first current bands at the time I got into that was purely electronic. I think their sound was right at the time; they had a punk approach and incorporating the darker, cold electronic sounds that appealed to people like myself that sort of avoided the whole EBM, rave, industrial scenes of the 90s so they had some wider appeal. And they’re still going today, now as strong as ever.

Closing out this side is one of the more dronier, abstract tracks from Labradford’s “A Stable Reference” LP (Kranky, 1995). It is one of my usual top 5 LPs and had been a large influence I suppose. Most of the tracks have reverb saturated guitar and bass but I used this track to drone out side A. I didn’t get this one in the mix as it didn’t really fit the program I had set out for with the mix.


SIMPLE MINDS – “Citizen (Dance Of Youth)” (Reel-To-Real Cacophony – Zoom Records, 1979)

MARTIN DUPONT – “He Saw The Light” (Hot Paradox – Facteurs d’Ambiance, 1987)

PARADE GROUND – “Gold Rush” (Dual Perspective EP – Play It Again Sam Records, 1987)

HELEN – “Witch” (Witch 12” – ZYX Records, 1983)

NOVEMBER GROUP – “Put Your Back To It” (Work That Dream – A&M Records, 1985)

ROBERT GÖRL – “Darling Don’t Leave Me” (Night Full Of Tension – Mute Reocrds, 1984)

JYL – “Mechanic Ballerina” (Syl – Inteam GmbH, 1984) 8. SHOCK – “Dynamo Beat” (Dynamo Beat 7” – RCA, 1981)

HARD CORPS – “Je Suis Passée” (Je Suis Passée 12” – Polydor, 1985)

SHINOBU – “Ceramic Love” (Ceramic Love 7” – Kang-Gung Records, 1984)

ANNA – “Systems Breaking Down” (Systems Breaking Down 12” – RCA, 1982)

SECOND LAYER – “Fixation” (World Of Rubber – Cherry Red, 1981)


Ultra Leftism! What it is and how to avoid it.

2016’s vote to leave the European Union has shed some long overdue light on the priorities of Britain’s liberal left. As one political earthquake follows another we are called upon to articulate clearly what it is we actually believe in, many for the first time. As the yawning gap opens up between the two main parties, sanctimonious cries of “they’re all the same” no longer hold water – in an era defining clash of ideologies, your vote matters once again.

The crushing of working class militancy, mass privatisations and steady reversal of redistributive fiscal policies that occurred since the end of the 1970s was followed by a long period of capitalistic growth: “The end of boom and bust!” claimed a young Gordon Brown. This, plus a large variety of other factors, resulted in the slow abandonment of the traditional left to a group of dedicated ultras, characterised more by their intellectual wildness than by the actual threat they posed to the established order.

Radical thinking has an essential place at the vanguard of every political movement, it is vital to generating fresh ideas to replace failed orthodoxies. Ideas that were once considered lunatic come, in time, to be viewed as fundamental – gay rights being one obvious example. However, if allowed to become an end unto itself, in which competing “radical” egos continually disrupt the collective discipline of the movement, ultraleftism must be either abandoned or repressed.

Below are a few areas in which ultraleftism can be observed in this day and age, with some proscriptions for its avoidance.


Despite the many sensible reasons to object to the European Union, there’s no denying that the campaign for Brexit was visibly spearheaded by some of the most reactionary elements of British civil society: an unholy alliance of xenophobes, nationalists and globalist financiers, for whom even the most basic regulatory proscriptions were too much to bear.

None the less, the time has come again for the left to once more examine its position on neoliberal Europe. For those that believe that the competitive forces unleashed by the free movement of capital and labour are the genuine engines of progress, the argument stops here. This article isn’t aimed at Tories. Let us examine instead the tempting “left” justifications for unconditionally going out to bat for European capitalism.

1. All borders are fundamentally evil, and free movement in Europe is the first step to a borderless world.

This has a nice feel to it, doesn’t it? It falls down in two fundamental ways though. Firstly, we already live in a borderless world, if you are wealthy and powerful enough. While the nation state has remained the basic unit of democratic power, the erosion of its integrity has resulted in ever more influence being handed to those global elites that are able to function outside of the realms of democratic (and legal) accountability. The implicit understanding that the forces of globalisation are operating primarily in elite interests is what has pushed so many voting populations into the poisonous embrace of the only groups that are even willing to acknowledge that fact.

Want to #StopTrump? Stop pretending that capitalistic globalisation is an irresistible fact of life and start taking the democratic integrity of your own nation seriously.

Secondly – even if you do wish to take the hardcore anti-borders position – that isn’t the purpose of free movement of labour in Europe anyway. It’s a market for increasing the competition between workers for jobs and wages, to the benefit of bosses. It is not some kind of moral commitment to liberty, as the mountain of corpses at Europe’s borders attests to. Maybe there would be greater consent for the humane treatment of those fleeing war if the workers of each country hadn’t become convinced immigration was being used as a tool to increase precarity, wage competition and outsourcing.

Great Britain has absorbed wave after wave of enriching immigration, from Jewish refugees fleeing the pogroms of Tsarist Russia to the West Indians that sailed here aboard the Windrush nearly 100 years later. Free movement of labour is by no means an essential prerequisite for a liberal and humane immigration system, and if it radically decreases the democratic consent for a live-and-let-live attitude towards newcomers, its can be viewed as an actively racist policy.

2. We’re helping improve the lives of people from low wage economics, by allowing them unrestricted access to working in Britain.

There is so much wrong with this methodist, charitable approach to working class emancipation its hard to know where to begin.

For a start, we’re allowing our own government to abdicate responsibility for investing in the education, skills and infrastructure needed to power the engine of our own economy. We’re effectively outsourcing training and using the investment of other, poorer nations as a resource. It is right to celebrate the contributions of  migrant workers to our public services, especially in the NHS, but it is also important to join the dots between unlimited access trained nursing staff across a whole continent and the fact that our government has managed to get away with eradicating nursing bursaries here.

Using low wage economies as workshops for outsourcing our productive industry while importing workers to plug the gaps at the very bottom of our own labour market – that might otherwise be filled by offering higher wages – is the opposite of sustainable economic practice for the UK.

More fundamentally, this bleeding heart mindset ignores the role of the national governments and trade unions of developing economies in improving their own living standards. The fast tracked absorption of the Eastern Bloc into an integrated European economic zone has been dressed up in leftist language by the anti-socialist right, who’s primary motivation was to profit from the rape of the collapsing Soviet economy. In doing so, they’ve duped many western liberals into supporting them. These same liberals are the first to express shock and outrage when the Eastern populations turn away from the corrupt lickspittles installed to facilitate this process and instead look to reactionary strongmen promising a return to national self assurance and dignity. Once again, an ultra leftist view is revealed to prop up an extremely right wing agenda on both sides of the divide!

We’ve stumbled onto a rather neat definition of ultra leftism:

A position so wild, unreasonable and detached from reality that it facilitates the opposite situation in practice to the one it claims to support in theory.

You can apply this definition to the Militant Tendency in the 1980s, screaming at Labour to nationalise the top 200 companies while Thatcher convinced the electorate to support the total destruction of the public realm. You can apply it to the campus radicals and postmodernists of the new left in the 1960s and 70s and even go right back to the Spanish Trotskyists and Anarchists of the 1930s, who spent their time creating chaos in the dying Republic’s rear, while Franco’s fascists marched to victory on every front.


The other prominent trend on the ultra left in this day and age is the desire to always represent yourself as a radical, oppressed minority, boldly speaking truth to power. In some ways, there’s nothing wrong with this approach, especially for those embarking on a career in the arts or standup comedy. For a long time this type of attitude was represented almost exclusively in those areas, to great effect, resulting in conspiracy theories about “cultural marxism” from a disorientated right who, although they found themselves winning the economic argument, kept losing the social one . Upon the curtailment of Margret Thatcher’s tenure in office, her husband Denis remarked that she’d been “stitched up by the poofs and trots at the BBC”.

Although the fight for social and economic justice is its first priority, the organised left is not a coalition of the oppressed. The reason the working class are the focus of Marx’s theory of history is because they are the most powerful section of society, not the weakest. Ultimately it is our combined labour, not the capitalist’s money, that actually creates the wealth upon which we all thrive and that is the source of our collective power, if we can find the tools to wield it.

This is diametrically opposite to the radical individualism which consistently attempts to usurp the position of socialism as the public face of the left. The appropriation of liberation struggles as a vehicle for building a radical self image is one of the most destructive manifestations of ultra leftism. Unlike the pseudo-liberalism described in the paragraphs above, this political practice doesn’t simply prop up a right wing agenda indirectly, it attacks the organised left directly from within, like a cancer.

In its most mild form, this manifests itself by the overuse of exclusionary, academic language. Where the great socialists of the last century strove to break down the enormously complex forces of their age into compelling, comprehensible arguments, sections of today’s left seek to dress up the simplest of ideas in impenetrable language. This is because they – like the new oligarchs of Silicon Valley – were asocial nerds at school. Bullied relentlessly, they now seek to wreak vengeance on their former tormentors by exercising their supposedly superior intellectual power. Although this is an understandable impulse, it has no place on a picket line and therefore no place in a socialist party.

As it reaches critical mass online, this impulse becomes a malevolent shibboleth – vampirically sucking the energy out of any remotely normal person seeking to become politically active, with constant denunciations, cry bullying and hyperbole. Remember comrades, referring to people as “normal” is ableist against the mentally ill, workplace organisation is exclusionary to the disabled and having meetings in pubs is racist against people with anxiety disorders. The best thing you can spend your time doing is arguing with other lofty minded ultra leftists on twitter.

Ceding the territory of liberation struggles to those most inclined towards self aggrandisement, faux-victimhood and politics-as-performance-art once again conforms to the ultra left modus operandi of making themselves useful idiots to the right. Hardcore capitalists maintain a veneer of progressiveness by tacking towards these operators, as they perceive that this rabid individualism is in no way incompatible with their own piratical agenda. It is a smokescreen behind which a hollowed out centre left is transformed into the neoliberal right. Not only this, but it acts as a foil to emerging mega-reactionaries such as the neo-nazi alt right. It’s part of the reason why Trump’s brand of barely disguised fascism was still allowed to present itself as having more in common with the American working and middle class than the Democrats, who are have traditionally been supported by labour unions and blue collar workers, as well as educated professionals and minorities.


For most Labour voters, working class politics are instinctual and don’t require any kind of dressing up in socialist theory. For many young people however, growing up in the new, precarious economy with expensive educations, huge piles of debt and little hope of substantial assets or opportunities, socialist ideas are something we learn over time. Those great ideas that shook the world throughout the First Red Century are intoxicating, exciting and intellectually thrilling. There’s a tendency to read half a pamphlet of Lenin quotes and subsequently make a Marxist analysis of what you had for breakfast. I’m more guilty of this than most.

The feeling of having your mind opened by radical ideas, that reshape your understanding of everything around you is a thing bordering on ecstasy. The world can be a confusing, demoralising place and finally having a mental toolbox for comprehending it is extremely powerful – but it is just the first step. The sword sheathed is often more effective than the sword brandished, and stepping back from the ledge of political exhibitionism is the next challenge for the new generation of 21st century socialists trying to wrest power from the corrupt, the privileged and incompetent. The task ahead will require clarity of thought, unity of purpose and strategic moderation, as well as unvarnished radicalism, if we are to win through.


Representation, the false god?

Feel free to read this while listening to the latest Heavy Leather Mixtape.

By the peak of the civil rights movement in America, a powerful strand of black nationalism had emerged. It argued that black Americans would never be represented adequately in white society and it was impossible to be fairly compensated for generations of barbaric exploitation. Even if they did find a form of inclusion, the total erasure of their history would mean they would be integrated on the white man’s terms, forever impostors in the land built on the backs of their ancestors.

Some of these nationalists argued that America should be partitioned, and a new black state should be founded. This would be built with liberated black labour on the principle black self determination. There were plenty of legitimate criticisms of this plan from within the civil rights movement itself. Even Malcolm X argued that it would be financially untenable. He pointed out that although black America represented a huge portion of the national wealth, that wealth was tied in too heavily to the white economy to be extracted for use in nation building. That’s leaving aside the potential for a military conflict with that section of white America unwilling to be annexed into the new nation.

Whatever criticisms the likes of Malcolm X had of this plan, it was nothing compared to the objections of the white American body politic. When black separatism began to emerge as an actual possibility, they heavily softened their stance on black representation. Martin Luther King became a national saint, partly because of his genuinely heroic struggle, and partly because he represented a way of nullifying the more radical demands of the black movement.

Although these ambitions seem ludicrous in hindsight, are they so different from the demands which gave us the Muslim state of Pakistan, or the Jewish state of Israel?  Does it have a parallel with the struggle taking place right now for a free and independent Kurdistan? Maybe not so fanciful after all, but consigned to the dustbin of history none the less.

The point of all this exposition on black nationalism is to ask a broader question: Is representation a false god? Does it serve the oppressor by giving his institutions legitimacy, while giving the less courageous among the oppressed a way out of a potentially painful, but necessary confrontation?

This question has plagued subjugated people, and therefore the political left, for generations.

A similar conundrum faced socialist parties in the early 20th century. Did they militate for new forms of working class government, or did they contest seats in the parliaments of the ruling class, which had so long excluded and exploited them? Many Suffragettes argued that the first act of women upon enfranchisement should have been to withhold their votes, and refuse to legitimise a single male politician or party so heavily invested in a system which still treated woman like second class citizens.

This isn’t to say that immediate revolutionary action is always the best path for the oppressed class – many is the failed revolutionary that would have benefited from a long term strategy for reform, often realising this too late, as the latest reports of massive crop failure come in from the provinces… or as the firing squad takes aim for their forehead.

On the other hand, timidity (or even out right treachery) has often lead progressive forces to squander historically important opportunities. Many members of the British Labour Party will bitterly recount the many times they’ve finally been in a position to reform the balance of power in favour of the working class once and for all, but capitulated most decisively to the forces of capital at that very moment. Let’s not forget it took David Cameron and George Osbourne barely 6 months to undo nearly all the work of the most electorally successful social democratic government in British history.

So what’s my point? My point is that although representation of the historically unrepresented is hugely important, it is not always the cure it appears to be. In fact, those that cheer for representation the loudest are often those that have reached the limit of society’s tolerance for the misdeeds they’ve been gladly perpetrating for years. They realise that by allowing a section of the exploited up to the top table, they can save their own sorry skins and continue their nefarious activities in some new form.

Every single political choice is a calculation between what is ideologically desirable and what is strategically achievable – anyone that tells you any different is probably either a swivel eyed lunatic or a quisling bastard. However, before unthinkingly cheering on a *black* president bombing kids in the Middle East, or a *female* CEO extracting punitive rents from the families of the poor, ask yourself: is representation furthering the cause of humanity, or validating the institutions of the enemies of progress?

Too often, liberalism represents the capture of progressive demands by the forces of capital and reaction. Never allow someone with more money and power than you to try and convince you that you have more in common with them than the people you work with every day. Never allow yourself to be conned into thinking they will fight for your economic interests over their own, even if they look and sound like you.

By all means celebrate the achievements of those who have succeeded against all the odds their race, gender or economic background have thrown against them, but do not be conned that just because someone wins the lottery, you will too.

Combat liberalism. Rise with your class, not over it.


**note on the choice of image**

Despite not being a black American, I’ve decided to take a risk and illustrate this piece with the image above. The reason I’ve picked this photograph is because of the way it is used in Spike Lee’s 1989 film, Do The Right Thing. A slightly simple character carries this photograph around with him throughout the film, as it depicts both of his heroes smiling beatifically at each other, and gives a glimpse into the world which he desires, and his reduced mental faculties believes to be possible.

The reality, however, is that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were often bitter foes in their visions for the progress of the civil rights movement – each believing that the other’s methods would bring disaster to the black race in America. In a bitter reminder that despite these antagonisms, we often have more in common than divides us, both men ended up murdered for what they believed in – leaving those that survived to face the impossible choices they faced.

Audiophile, Cassette Archive

Mixtape – Good Sound


It’s hard to overstate the severity of the damage done to recorded music during in the first decade of the twenty first century. In times to come, the strata of fatally damaged recordings will be viewed much like a fine layer of radiation blasted ash, such as marks out an apocalyptic meteorite strike in the geological record.

A perfect storm of new technologies, changing consumption habits and rapaceous profiteering in an era of sharp decline saw a race to the bottom in the quality of recorded music. Not simply in terms of the information being stored (the MP3 etc) but the artisanship that went into preparing the music for release.

Buy a cult record from the UK in the post-punk era and you’re likely to see “A Porky’s Prime Cut” scratched into the run out groove. This was the signiture of record cutting engineer George Peckham, who’s diligence and skill in producing top quality master discs for vinyl  production meant that even the most DIY 7″s of the 1980s have more depth and longevity than much of the expensive trash churned out in the last few decades.

Good sound is a combination of ingenuity, excellent equipment and technical skill, although the first can often compensate for a lack of the second.

Different genres require different treatment. In classical or jazz, you might want to capture the breadth and scope between the virtuoso’s lightest touch and the full band’s thundering crescendo. In rock and roll, the producer might seek to evoke the intensity and saturation experienced when facing off against a band in a jam packed concert hall. Both require entirely difference approaches and skill sets, neither requires a one size fits all deformation of the master wave form into one uniformly loud sausage.

This tape was made for me by Terminal Gods singer and close friend, Robert Cowlin. He put it together a few years ago at the height of his crusade against badly mastered and remastered recordings. I felt at the time that his obsession with the shape of the wave form was distorting his ability to hear the shape of the song. Although he was somewhat overzealous, in hindsight I’ve come to agree with him. Once you can identify this vandalism for what it is, its hard to un-hear it. The idea that, for all our advancement, we seem incapable of making anything that sounds even remotely as good nearly anything from the mid 20th century is almost offensive – a metaphor for late capitalist decline.

Never one to admit defeat on a technicality, he can take some satisfaction in knowing that this wonderfully compiled (and indeed, good sounding) tape made his point neatly.

Cowlin now works as an audio archivist for the British Library. Never was a person so well suited for such a role.


1. Miles Davis – So What
2. Tom Waits – Waltzing Matilida
3. David Bowie – Aladdin Sane
4. John Foxx – Europe After The Rain
5. Morrissey – November Spawned A Monster
6. Bob Dylan – Tangled Up In Blue
7. Al Green – Let’s Stay Together
8. The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter
9. Talking Heads – Psycho Killer (Live)
10. The Sisters of Mercy – Neverland (A Fragment)
11. The Fixx – One Thing Leads To Another
12. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – A Woman In Love
13. Iron Maiden – Can I Play With Madness?
14. The Beatles – Flying
15. The Beatles – Blue Jay Way
16. Dave Brubeck – Take Five
17. Lou Reed – Andy’s Chest
18. War On Drugs – Under The Pressure