January 28, 2008

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the great, lyric ‘I’

goes on and on,

impervious to the outside world,

unimpressed by other people and their travails.


The New City Radio

proclaims the abolition of pain

by our new civic leaders,

swept into power

by a mandate of the majority

of 28% of the voters.


The other 72% were working,



watching television,


away on business,

on holiday,


or incapacitated.

Against The Pricks

January 28, 2008

 I used to kick against pricks,

But then l logicked the pricks

Out of existence and now,

I have no reason to kick.

I have no habits to kick

I have no demons to shift

I have no burden to lift,

I have no reason to kick.


I’d write a letter to you,

I don’t have time for that now.

I’m far too busy today,

I don’t have time for that now.


I’m in a hurry to state

an unequivocal case,

It’s just that money is time

and time is money.


It’s in how I see myself.

Am I here to please others,

Or to act for myself?


It’s like a battle of wills.

If you have an agenda,

You have the initiative

On unsuspecting opponents

Who don’t know how to play.


Fall over themselves to help,

Because it’s nice to be wanted.

It’s a dangerous game to play,

Cos folks are explosive,


They blow up in your face

And you lose all that you’d gained

And if you’re badmouthed, you’re dead,

So just accept it.


You have to give if you take

Or you end up on your own,

It’s a simple equation

that becomes so complex.


A person looks pretty simple,

 from the outside at least.

If you get yourself sucked in,

you may not ever get out


And you can drink all you like 

And you can drink all you like

And you can postpone your life,

It will still be happening


And you can miss all your chances, 

You don’t have to succeed,

Which is why most people don’t,

It’s pretty simple.



January 28, 2008

It looks like blood,

but it’s red wine,

that slash across the wall.

A faded scarlet sash.


I piss

and shake my head

to chase away the nightmares.

What happened in the night


to send me hurtling,


in the throes of visions,





It is so different,

there is no control.


Involved in a private show

and unable to leave.

There is a switch-off,

but I cannot throw it.


At some point,

I am beached,

ejected by the raging miasma,


left gasping for air

and fresh water.


January 28, 2008

If I only dared say what I think.


Why the aversion?

Why litter the path towards me with diversions?


A man should be assertive,

impose his will upon the situation,

state his case clearly,


firmly and with the charm engendered

by the keyword to the world,



But what if I’m not sure?

But I was sure.


What if I am wrong?

Then I will find out.


What if it isn’t true?

Then I’ll get over it.

What if it is true?

Some day, it will not be true.

Protest Song

January 28, 2008

If there is to be another war,

I will oppose it.


It will not matter,

because I am not at the controls,


not a shot-caller.

No leader of men,


I am one of the herd.

I will march around uselessly,


shouting half-heartedly.

Ringed by policemen,


I will walk from one place to another place.

My dictated movements


will be monitored,



I will move on,

volitional or otherwise.


I will end up in the Gardens,

where I will be part of a gradual dispersal.


Drink will seep in

and dope.


Angry young women

will shout through megaphones,


their messages lost to the wind.

What good does it do to take part?


To blithely say,

in future months,


‘I marched against it’.

So what?


January 28, 2008

In love with order

but earthly order is never enough.


Spirits moving

behind the curtain.


The sun is setting,

the day is ending.

Alone with truths

I have to combat,


with pain that is nothing,

with words that mean nothing.


The sun is setting,

the day is ending.


January 28, 2008


Tis the season for consumption!

Sit on yr fat arse and eat too much,


then shit it out!

Yay, no work for ten days,


Give thanks, give praise

For a respite from the shite.


I can’t wait for the break.

Bachelor Pad

January 28, 2008


£50 a week.







Fridge / freezer,



False wall.



Furnished cheaply,

Fish expiring

in a dilapidated corner.


Stereotypical art garret,

Clothes strewn,

Empty bottles,



Draw the curtains

and block out the night.

Under artificial light,

rage against nothing

in a calming zone,

an ocean of freedom,


of clutter and contentment,

of overruled resentment

suppressed in support

of the greater good.

Communal living

is never easy,


but these are the days

I will always remember.

The trivialities,

the little things,

I will forget

and gloss over.

Oldham Street

January 27, 2008

The first gig poster I saw was for a band called Desolation Angels.  I felt at home straight away. 




At the Piccadilly end, walking past Fred Done’s bookmakers as a man strides across the road, dragging a tiny Yorkshire Terrier in his wake.  The dog is shitting as it is dragged, leaving little clumps of poo and disgusted women in its wake.  “It shouldn’t be allowed”, one of them says. 




Back room of The Castle, a duo on the stage, older fellas, middle-thirties if a day.  I remember hearing the little mistakes in the songs, especially from the bald electric guitarist. 


“This one’s from our album”, said the singer, with pride.  Our little group were six of the nine people in the audience and we weren’t there to see them.  Just to have a drink.


I wondered what his songs were about, what stories he wanted to tell. 


There was something very right about the scene.  The irrelevance of the group, the faded old room, the wrong end of Oldham Street.  I tried to imagine being that old and playing gigs to no one.  What passion kept him going? 


She suddenly asked me, “is there any chance that it could happen again, do you think?””No.” I said, meaning it. “No.  We need to go back to being friends.”   





Sitting on the street next to a kid a little younger than me, two or three years younger, giving him a cigarette. 


“I feel like a tramp”, he said.


“You’re not a tramp.  You’re better than that.” I said.


“I sell The Big Issue”, he said.


“Exactly.  You try to earn money, you don’t beg”.  


Of course he begged. 


He was a good-looking young lad who could have been anything he wanted.   He wanted to take drugs and sit around in parks with people who packed up and went home at the end of the day and left him there.  He was lost, he would squat, he would stay alive day to day.  Days and days and days stumbling by.


Acres of time.  Decisions that consign months, years, to waste.  How to recover when you’re older?



Singing at the Night and Day, singing to 20 people, if that, then getting home and being told by a friend that my singing was absolutely terrible. 


That night, I sat, I drank, I smoked, I couldn’t believe what I’d heard.  I was terrible.


I knew I was struggling, but to be actually told I was bad, for the first time.


I remembered the heat of the stage, the lights.





The Night & Day, again.  Talking to a friend and realising that it was all she would ever be, a friend.  As much as I wanted it to, nothing would ever happen between us, the moment was gone.


I Am Kloot started to soundcheck behind the screen.  The music expressed everything, the static, the emptiness.  Another Oldham Street bard sang of loneliness.  Another-not-quite couple drank and couldn’t bridge the space between them.  Another day ticked by.





Wandering into Oxfam Original and talking to the fashionista behind the counter, in my blue workman’s jacket, with my dull grey spectacles and lank hair.  Talking to him about my band. 


What the fuck did he care?  We were never going to be the next Libertines.  We had absolutely not clue one about what it took.  We were the wrong side of 24 and had no style, we had no look.  It didn’t matter if we could play our instruments well, because that’s not rock’n’roll.




People wash up from all over the country and play their guitars, sell second hand CDs, buy cheap jackets from Affleck’s and look at the teeny Goths, wondering why.  Go home and write poems, sit uselessly alone and dream.  Complain to well-meaning, well-adjusted people who ply them with alcohol, because it seems to help.  Keep booking gigs, keep writing, keep drawing, keep being told that practise can’t be until next week now, it’s Sharon’s birthday / I’m working late. 


To them, it is not futile.  Driven, alone, they go on and on and on.



The Monochrome Set were fuckin' ace.

The Monochrome Set were fuckin' ace.

I’m not entirely sure why, but this is a band that fascinates me like no other. Is it the obscurity? Is it the fact that they failed so heroically? The fact that they are not really remembered, despite being the first ever band to release a record on Rough Trade? The fact that nobody seems to know anything about them these days?

I grub around in Kingbee Records in Chorlton, occasionally sidling up to the guy behind the counter, asking him if he has anything. Three records have turned up so far.

‘405 Lines’, a 7” single from the magnificent Love Zombies LP… An utterly quixotic choice for a single, a seemingly tossed-off instrumental, with a few noncommittal backing vocals added to the single version as a concession to commerciality.


Love Zombies - Great album, wrong single!

Why the hell did they put that out, when there were such obvious choices for two or three other singles on the record? I need to know, did they put out the brilliant ‘Adeste Fideles’? What about ‘Apocalypso’? What was going on at the time?I was introduced to the Set by Rob Fleay, who got involved with my band Lazer Guided in 1997 and helped us to self-fund and released a split 7” with another local group, Stumble, then a second split single, this time with the Reading-based Saloon – Saloon went on to top John Peel’s Festive Fifty in 2001.

As a Christmas present, Rob made a C90 for me and our guitarist, Will Stone. This tape was peopled with figures from the seventies and eighties in the main and whilst I am sure the majority of it was seriously worthy (the curmudgeonly mutterings of William S. Burroughs featured, alongside Captain Beefheart and many others), the standout winner for me was the Monochrome Set’s awesome ‘Lester Leaps In’. It, well, it leapt in with a snake-hipped guitar riff, then in cracked the snare, then an insanely busy, beetling bass part, then the guitar ripped into an amazing motif and the band chugged along, watching the lead guitarist go, powering his solo. Then in the middle 8, they suddenly change the melody again and in come the handclaps. It was exquisite, so formal, so perfect, the absolute quintessence of formal rock’n’roll, which is something I’m totally obsessed with.

It makes me feel nostalgic for a time and place that simply doesn’t exist. One or two other songs do the same thing, but The Monochrome Set seem to be able to do it to me all the time. They hit me in a spot that no other band does, maybe ever will.

Years later, I had moved cities and moved bands. We had a group called Stars on the Water, who made, under the influence of a lot of hashish, some very beatific, naïve records, described in one of the few reviews we got as a new sort of clean post-rock. The only label to ever take a serious interest in us was Dreamy Records, an indie from London, run by an ex-pat Californian named Tracy Lee Jackson. Tracy’s favourite ever band was … you guessed it. So when her birthday came around, she booked ourselves as her favourite current UK band (an honour), supporting Scarlett’s Well, the new incarnation of Bid, the man behind the Set.

I dug out the old tapes and found ‘Lester Leaps In’. Still worked. My house at the time was something of a music download centre, so I tapped in the Monochrome Set to a P2P site we used and waited to see what came down. Not a lot, was the answer. On the whole web, it seemed that hardly anybody had the band on their hard drive.

In the end, I found an LP called Strange Boutique, along with bonus tracks, including ‘Lester Leaps In’ and something called ‘Eine Symphonie des Grauens’ – ‘Eine Symphonie’ proved to be an instant classic and my heart was won.

I read through what history I could find, noted the arch interview quotes, the masses of art-school pretension. The Lester of ‘Lester Leaps In’ was Lester Square, of course. Bid, I thought, looked like a slightly shifty character, but one I would have killed to have known. I was thrilled with them. No other band had made me want to be there at the time. People would probably go on about ‘The Rolling Thunder Revue’, or Led-bloody-Zeppelin, or The Beatles, or whatever, but no, I would have liked to have been around this group in the early 80s. If I could teleport back any place, any time, it would be to London, to see them play, around the time of Strange Boutique.

The Peter Saville-designed cover of the fantastic 'Strange Boutique' LP

The Peter Saville-designed cover of the fantastic 'Strange Boutique' LP

So, Stars on the Water frove down to London to play Tracy’s birthday party at the Water Rats in Camden, in support of the mighty Bid himself. Struggling to navigate the vicious one-way system, we drove into the heart of the capital and found ourselves circling the venue, noting the double red lines outside. Double red lines, we knew, meant that if you stopped at all, for whatever reason, you risked Instant Death, but desperate to get some sort of soundcheck / stop driving around in circles, we ultimately ran out of ideas and simply parked outside the venue, red lines or none.

I ran into the venue to be confronted with a small, shifty-looking individual with wiry hair, deep in conversation with an enormously florid, bespectacled man, sat on a chair on the stage twiddling on a bass guitar. The florid man was talking about his time in the seventies, hanging out with CAN. I suspected it must be nonsense.

I gabbled quickly that we were parked outside. The small, shifty-looking character started, said ‘oh, blimey’ and darted out of the door. ‘Come on’, he shouted over his shoulder, ‘hurry up’.

So it was that Bid of The Monochrome Set humped my bass amp into the venue for me. This is a task I have, in vain, been trying to delegate to lesser mortals for years.

Bid (left) - Leapt into action to save SOTW from a certain parking ticket

Bid (left) - Leapt into action to save SOTW from a certain parking ticket

I seem to recall hanging around, vaguely hoping to talk to Bid, but not really having much to go on. I knew only a very little about the Mono Set, which didn’t help.

So Scarlett’s Well soundchecked, we soundchecked, the venue started to fill up. Friends started to come over and say hi and the nerves started to flow. A gentleman named Matt Dornan, who ran an exemplary magazine called Comes With A Smile, came over to chat and exhorted us to record an album ourselves. ‘Don’t wait for someone to give you the money, just do it’, he counselled. Tracy had been feeding him all our stuff and he was impressed.

Finally, some recognition and some encouragement. We had been sending records to all the wrong places, labels like Twisted Nerve and Infectious, or tiny micro-indies that were essentially only extensions of somebody else’s band. Tracy hadn’t the money to do a record for us, but she was dying to help in any other way she could.

The gig would prove to be one of Stars on the Water’s very last, but it was a triumphant affair. We played well and the new song we had written especially for Tracy (she was supposed to be putting together a compilation CD with a Valentine’s Day theme, but it never happened) went down great. We had another new song we were pretty excited about, entitled ‘No Kicks’. We played that last, as a showstopper, replete with screams and as much thunder as we could muster (Stars was not a very heavy band).

I walked off and backstage, feeling rather happy with the set. I rounded the corner and the first person I saw was that man Bid.

‘Good’, he said, levelly, looking me dead in the eye. I was somewhat unnerved. ‘Particularly that last one’.

Duly noted.

I was thrilled and started blathering about the Monochrome Set, hoping I could maybe blag a CD off him or something – such is the way my mind works. He puffed out his cheeks on hearing the name of his old group.

“That’s going back years now”, he sighed. “Maybe try Cherry Red (Records)?” I was surprised. I would have thought that the records would have been easily available, that he wouldn’t have been at a loss if asked about his old band. Clearly, they were far more obscure than they should be.

This was a band I couldn’t bear to see languishing in the dustbin of history – they were far too good. But the back-history was so sketchy. Signed to Virgin, dropped after a couple of albums, careering on through the eighties with constant line-up and stylistic changes.

Scouring Manchester second-hand stores such as Kingbee, Vinyl Revival, I managed to pick up a few bits – I slavered at stupidly expensive 7” copies of ‘He’s Frank’ and ‘Eine Symphonie des Grauens’ on eBay. It is perhaps fortunate I didn’t “remember” to bid for these artefacts after a night out, as happened to me with the early Pavement 10” Perfect Sound Forever. Which is terrific, incidentally.

After a few drinks whilst watching the Slow Century DVD, I felt compelled to spend £40 on this badboy.

After a few drinks whilst watching the Slow Century DVD, I felt compelled to spend £40 on this badboy.

The problem is, I am no sort of record collector, as I’m incapable of keeping things nice and believe that records exist in order to be played and enjoyed, not kept shrink-wrapped in a vault to accumulate value. So although I try to pick up records when I can, they will certainly be played and not kept locked away for future re-sale.

Suddenly, a total fluke in Vinyl Revival! Scouring the racks, on a random search, I noted something hidden behind a plastic board that read ‘Indie & Rock, J-L’. Pulling it out, the moment of realisation, it was Strange Boutique! Not in the greatest nick, but who cared?

£6. The cover was silver, with a small, silver-on-black photo in the dead centre, of a woman diving into water. I turned the cover over and read the credits to discover that it was designed by Peter Saville. The glorious mystique around this band only grew.

That’s about as much as I know, for now, but any more info would be great. Jesus, maybe I’ll write a book about them some day!