ACID ZOO EP – Bomb Sniffing Dogs by K A Laity

Artwork by Jason Vaughan

From the press release:

Through the bars of ACID ZOO you will hear 3 tracks – THE ICKE AGE, BLACK POOL & THE NATIONAL + – and 4 remixes by Leyland Kirby (The Caretaker), Richard Fearless, Lille Cykel (Posh Isolation) and Christoph de Babalon.

Tragically fractured like the screen of a dropped phone, THE NATIONAL + is a 7-minute symphony of absurdity and raw imagination set outside WILKO and inside TESCO’S CHAINSAW MASSACRE. 

Around the day in eighty worlds, we have caught the wrong train to a new neurotic terrain.

Come back to bed. We won’t make love. Love will make us.

Review:

From the wilds of Salford, land of bards, poets, and other non-conformists springs this EP that offers a collage of words, music and sounds that you might imagine muttered by a character from a lost Ballard novel who has gone in search of Blake’s Jerusalem only to find themselves shoved into lockdown in the midst of the spreading virus. We’ve all been discombobulated by the quarantine life but this EP speaks to fractures that were already there. Late stage capitalism blows (meet me at the meat queue) and people who find solace in paranoid fantasies of lizard overlords (is this Cafe Latte/the work of the Illuminati?) have only themselves to blame but they poison the world for the rest of us, too.

Neither waving/Nor drowning/Nor swimming/Into the world of the future.

Liam Power is the main songwriter and Austin Collings also has a hand in all the songs, co-writing ‘The Icke Age’ with Nick Power AKA BEAT LES, and ‘The National’ with Eleni Poulou & Sophie Sleigh-Johnson. ‘Black Pool’ is all Collings own and offers up a tone of reminiscence without sentimentality. In contrast to the opening track with its scathing observations of the follies of those who seek easier answers producing idiot winds, ‘Black Pool’ creates a collage of memory that captures that sense of dislocation childhood leaves behind: Everything was forever/Until it was no more.

‘The National’ is a textured soundscape that bottles the strangeness of 2020 and all its betrayals and lies and death and horrors while keeping a sense of humour about it all: the bold will define the new normal/like a load of paracetamol, falling from a drone. It spins and reels between images and ideas and voices, Collings alternating with Poulou: The revelations of the conversations I have daily/ are so different/nobody does small talk anymore. While the title invokes both the French anthem and the self-harming isolationism ripping through COVID-infested Britain, it’s really an international piece that works to evoke the strangeness we all recognise even living in our isolated spheres.

The remixes are great, highlighting passages and bringing them to new prominence in the mix as well as taking different paces and rhythms. Kirby’s remix in particular has a truly chilling effect with its lugubrious pace and manic laughter.

Or maybe I’ve just been in lockdown too long…

Buy the EP at Bandcamp and find the band’s social media links and other recordings there.

David Nolan talks about The Mermaid’s Pool

THE MERMAID’S POOL : DAVID NOLAN

Detective Inspector John Smithdown is a good man with some bad things to deal with. It’s 1988 and ecstasy is flooding the streets of Manchester. The Second Summer of Love is here. Tell that to the locals on DI Smithdown’s patch.

Over one weekend, Smithdown is faced with a missing single mum,  machete wielding gangs in Oldham, simmering racial tensions across communities and a mutilated body found at the edge of a remote lake with a mythical reputation. People say bad things happen at the Mermaid’s Pool.

They’re dead right.

David Nolan – author of Black Moss – brings you a second helping of Manc Noir. Things just got even darker.

Noirvember Review: John Bowie’s Transference by KA Laity

Noirvember can be a little too much of a look-back-bore at times (at times!) so it’s good to remind ourselves that we’re living in something of a heyday of new noir (neo-noir too, but let’s not nitpick about genre borders just now: life is hard enough at the moment). Maybe we don’t want to think too much about why that is and how much the current landscape blows, so let’s just enjoy what there is to be savoured now.

Mother-Manchester swallowed the train with a blanket of grey. Rain and the smog of industry, breweries and relentless traffic were all around. With no gradual build-up of population, houses and industrial units to the city, it just happened; it was there. Everywhere. Its presence hit me out of the blue like a brick in the face thrown from its many factory walls. I’d been there before, travelled that line, entered it many times. Each time I still got the same awakening, eyes opening; a realisation to the endless brick. And the dank soup of it all.

John Bowie is best known for Bristol Noir, a terrific site where, in full disclosure, some of my writing has appeared (and I received a review copy of this book in hopes of an honest review). There’s a reason for that: a shared love of noir’s dark crystalline beauty. Transference distills that rich vein of noir and blends it with a pure Manchester poison. Too much can brutalise as his protagonist John Black knows. Like so many noir characters, he reluctantly heads back to the city that slapped him down for a final reckoning with the scars and bars he couldn’t put behind him.

As soon as I entered Manchester. As the smoke of the factories stung at my nose. He was in that band once. Now, he’s in another.

Three women look over his shoulder as he navigates the return to his haunted past. My favourite was his agent: ‘an ex-burlesque dancer, stage name M. Pampelmousse’ but there’s also a cop named Cherry, and emphasising the deep roots of the past, a therapist (there’s all kinds of juice in the book’s title). This is noir: their motivations may not be as clear as John believes, but he desperately needs to have faith in someone.

Fittingly for a book that knows where the border between Salford and Manchester lies, it’s suffused with the pulse of the music and familiar lyrics pop up in the prose and the chapter titles, running the gamut from Dice Man to Some Velvet Morning. This is a book for some whisky and a turntable. You can hear the crackle of needle on every page.

Transference by John Bowie is available from Red Dog Press.

Recommended Read: 100 Unhip Albums That We Should Learn To Love by Ian Moss

Ian Moss has been an integral part of the Manchester music scene since god was a lad. His latest band is the brilliantly named Fourcandles, and 100 Unhip Albums That We Should Learn To Love is his massively enjoyable tribute to the flotsam and jetsam of music. Interesting – and sometimes odd-records that seem to have passed many people by.

As someone who worked in a second-hand record shop for many years, quite a few of these LPs were familiar from the 50p section – Montrose! – and there are just as many records in this scattershot collection that I’ve never given the time of day to. 

But Ian Moss’ enthusiasm is infectious and have led me to dipping more than a toe or two into this proudly unhip selection. 100 Unhip Albums That We Should Learn To Love is a cracking read with more than a few top musical tips.

Highly recommended.

Spellbound: The Story of John McGeoch

john mcgeoch

From Wikipedia:

John Alexander McGeoch (25 August 1955 – 4 March 2004) was a Scottish rock music guitarist who played with several bands of the post-punk era, including MagazineSiouxsie and the BansheesVisage, and Public Image Ltd.

He has been described as one of the most influential guitarists of his generation. In 1996 he was listed by Mojo in their “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” for his work on the Siouxsie and the Banshees song “Spellbound“. Signature characteristics of his playing style included an inventive arpeggiosstring harmonics, the uses of flanger and an occasional disregard for conventional scales.

Musician and producer Steve Albini praised McGeoch for his guitar playing with Magazine and Siouxsie and the Banshees, qualifying as “great choral swells, great scratches and buzzes, great dissonant noise and great squealy death noise What a guy” and further commenting: “anybody can make notes. There’s no trick. What is a trick and a good one is to make a guitar do things that don’t sound like a guitar at all. The point here is stretching the boundaries”.

I am the Resurrection by John Bowie

Max’s Filipino Taxi Dancehall was a real shithole… And it didn’t have a dance floor. A stench came from piss that ran out the front door, down the street and to the beach outside. A make-shift urinal fixed to the bar-front meant they drank, pissed and worse without moving for days. It was a real hit with the flies, lowlife drop outs and my target.

‘I used to hate the taste of it, until I got shot. Ironic I know. Then, each glass full cushioned the blow,’ he said…too drunk to look up to recognise me.

I smashed the glass ashtray into his nose. He fell bleeding a trail of glass, blood and mucus along and off the end of the bar — out cold.

I left wondering why I’d left it at that. I had more hurt for him. For a moment I’d seen him for what he used to be, before becoming the origin of my pains. He’d said what I used to think about myself. I deserved a hit alright and I’d given it to him.

Like me, the fucked up ex-services barfly was due that much, for now. His final dues were coming. I’d already had mine.

The Stone Roses played in the background — It fitted. He had dropped through gutter level but I was moving on; out the door.

‘…and I am the light,’ crackled over the speakers. For a moment, a mass of dead flies were resurrected as they vibrated, danced and bounced around in the dust on top.

I waited in the shadows on the corner outside as he finished his last drink.

The night darkened as he stumbled out, followed by a gust of smoke and more stench.

I watched. Still. And smoked.

On my last smoke of the night, hands free, I looked deep into the night. I breathed out rings at the moon and it stared back cold-hard-empty at me. In the sand, my hands choked the life from him. I released a fraction, so he could take a last breath, but that was it…all he was getting from me.

I’d written and drank myself through hell and back. I’d drowned out the loss of her with each glass. The loss he’d given me was irreconcilable, even with his neck in my hands as a pulse weakened, and he faded out.

The stars grew over the black ocean’s surface ahead.

Each bar and drink had drifted him closer and closer to me…one shot at a time. Each word I’d written had set it in stone; it was my confessional.

It was only the start. As I was beginning to be untethered from my past.

He had stolen my dreams of a future. And I took his life, but the memories ran deep. I’d have to choke more pain from the world to ease my own.

In the distance, at the end of the beach, under the pier…a girl winced. She was being held down by an angry shadow. She didn’t want what the man that grasped at her arms had in store for her…

And he wouldn’t want what I had for him.

I opened the knife and locked the blade into place. Soon, she would cry out, run and hide. Then eventually she’d smile again as she realised: finally, she was free of him.

In morning two gulls took a break from searching for stale chips, and wrestling washed-up condoms.

There was fresh meat on the beach. And his eyes were a much tastier treat.

THE END

Bio: John writes dark fiction and crime noir full of dirty realism. His articles, short stories and novels are online and in print for the likes of Bristol Noir, Storgy Magazine, Litro Magazine and Dead Man’s Tome. He grew up on the coast in rural Northumberland, a region steeped with a history of battles, Vikings, wars and struggles. These tales and myths fascinated him as a child, and then as an adult. In the mid to late nineties he studied in Salford enjoying the bands, music, clubs and general urban industrial-ness of Greater Manchester, including the club scene and the infamous Hacienda. He was also there when the IRA bomb went off in 1996.

John Bowie

Recommended Read: Frank Sidebottom-Out Of His Head by Mick Middles

The mind of Chris Sievey was clearly a treasure trove – indeed, a veritable Aladdin’s Cave – of bright and shiny ideas, many of which, thankfully, came to fruition. Most notably in the effervescent forms of The Freshies and Frank Sidebottom.

The Freshies were a brilliantly eccentric power pop/ new wave band who cheekily surfed the Manchester pre-punk, punk, and post-punk scenes, and came painfully close to success with a bouquet of great singles such as ‘I’m In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Desk’ and ‘I Can’t Get ‘Bouncing Babies’ By The Teardrop Explodes.’

Sievey’s later creation, Frank Sidebottom, was a surreal half-man/ half-puppet version of George Formby whose anarchic performances enlivened kids television shows and late night TV alike in the ‘90s, and whose live shows seemed to have garnered an strangely obsessive fan base. When Chris Sievey died in 2010, however, he left behind a hell of a musical legacy that showed the he was more than just a novelty act.

Out Of His Head was written by Sievey’s friend the journalist Mick Middles and is as intoxicating and sobering as Sievey’s life seems to have been. The book’s timeline spans more than a quarter of a century and includes cameos from Sievey’s family and friends as well as the likes of Mark E Smith, Steve Coogan, Jon Ronson, Caroline Aherne, Chris Evans, Mark Radcliffe, and, er, Bros.

Frank Sidebottom – Out Of His Head is a fascinating and bittersweet read, and is very highly recommended.

out of his head

Gerry and The Holograms

Gerry meet the disisidents

Manchester post-punk band Gerry and The HologramsCP Lee and John Scott – released their debut single Meet The Dissidents on Absurd Records in 1979.

The ‘theme song’ – ‘Gerry and The Holograms‘ – clearly served as a blueprint for New Order‘s mega-hit Blue Monday, though neither band seems to have admitted to this!

Later the same year, they released their second single, ‘The Emperor’s New Music‘, which was literally unplayable. The record was actually a badly pressed Slaughter and The Dogs record that was glued to its sleeve.

They became one of Frank Zappa’s favourite bands. They eventually released an LP in 2017.

David Nolan Author Visit in Lees Library, Oldham.

David Nolan

‘Join multi award-winning author, television producer and crime reporter, David Nolan, to discuss his latest book Black Moss (set in Oldham!). Includes a talk, Q&A and book signing. (Books will be available to purchase on the evening).

David is a multi award-winning author, television producer and crime reporter. He has written a dozen books including Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil, the true story of the largest historic abuse case ever mounted by Greater Manchester Police. He presented a BBC Radio 4 documentary based on the book called The Abuse Trial. It won both the Rose D’Or and the New York International radio awards in 2016. Officers involved in the case helped David with the police procedures featured in Black Moss, particularly the way the system deals with missing children.

‘It’s set against the backdrop of the Strangeways riot because that’s a story I know very well,’ says David, who won a Royal Television Society award for his documentary about the riot, the biggest prison disturbance Britain has ever seen. ‘I spent three and a half weeks outside the jail covering the story in 1990. It was an astonishing experience.’

Find out more here.

black_moss

Recommended Reads: Nolan, Gadsby.

black moss

Black Moss by David Nolan.

In 1990, Manchester radio journalist Danny Johnston looks into the murder of a child while the eyes of the world are on the Strangeways prison riot. More than a quarter of a century later, he again takes up the investigation.  Black Moss is gripping, fast paced, moving, authentic, and funny, too! Very highly recommended.

Back Door To Hell

Back Door To Hell by Paul Gadsby

Jen and Nate work in a Snooker Club and decided to rip off their gangster boss. A desperate chase across the UK quickly ensues, with violent consequences. Back Door To Hell is a realistic and riveting slice of Brit Grit with marvellous, well-drawn characters and sharp twists and turns.  Great stuff.