Sunday, 30 June 2019


When Simon Inglis penned The Football Grounds of Europe, Croatia was still part of Yugoslavia. As such, the former Socialist Republic constitutes the book’s final chapter, and Inglis elects to use Split’s Stadion Poljud as a sort of lament for football stadia as they once were: utilitarian, in service to the local community. He paints the Poljud as an example of modernity, alludes to its costly upkeep, an atmosphere-inhibiting running track, as well as nostalgia for Hajduk Split’s former home, a ground the locals referred to affectionately as Plinada (Gasworks). I take his point, but there were/are probably more pertinent examples with which to labour it – just none to be found in countries beginning with the letter Y.

Stadion Poljud was conceived of with the 1979 Mediterranean Games specifically in mind, and I suppose this might be more indicative of the theme that Inglis was warming to. As with Munich’s Olympiastadion, Seville’s Estadio La Cartuja or London’s London Stadium, Stadion Poljud caters for athletics first and football second. In modern parlance, one might say such grounds offer integrated solutions designed to maximise functionality. In any case, the implication is that the football supporters who inherit them are merely incidental. Or worse, that sentimentality plays no part in sport, when in fact without it sport is nothing.
Whilst I’d go along with all of this, I’m not so sure it applies to Stadion Poljud. It may have once, but not now, and not even in 1990 when Inglis’ hallowed tome was originally published. For starters, with a capacity of just under 35,000, Poljud isn’t that big. Moreover, the sight-lines are good and the running track doesn’t seem particularly intrusive. It’s the done thing these days to bemoan the presence of running tracks, yet nobody minded the old Wembley, with its greyhound/speedway circuit and ridiculously shallow rake. Nor will you often hear anybody berating the atmosphere at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico or Belgrade’s Stadion Rajko Mitić. Might the problem be, then, not so much the athletics’ facilities themselves but the sort of structures built to accommodate them?

The elliptical nature of a running track precludes the incorporation of rectilinear terraces and advances the case for constructing something seamless. The architect may endeavour to disturb the monotony – for example, the breaks in the two upper tiers at Turin’s ill-fated Stadio delle Alpi, or the single gap present in Berlin’s Olympiastadion – but these are mere gestures that do nothing to detract from the uniformity of the thing. They remain, in essence, rotationally symmetrical forms. Stadion Poljud, on the other hand, exhibits a very obvious reflective symmetry (plenty of stadiums do: Porto’s Estádio do Dragão; the Olympic Stadium of Athens, Marseille’s monstrous Stade Vélodrome). This has the effect of dividing it into four distinct sections – or rather two pairs – generating a more open sense of space.
Actually, the Poljud is very much a unified structure. Circular from without, elliptical from within, the stadium’s form is that of an undulating concrete bowel, its outside edge rising gently on both sides culminating in two indistinguishable grandstands. These stands, which contribute the bulk of the ground’s capacity, are covered with crescent-shaped roofs arcing upward on a gracile latticework of steel. They are impressive feats of engineering, even if the translucent Lexan panelling – a polycarbonate developed specifically with the US space programme in mind – that forms the actual canopy has become drably discoloured over time.
The shallower areas behind each goal have been left exposed, offering views towards the Dinaric Alps to the north and the Marjan Peninsula to the south (or a large block of apartments, depending on one’s position). The northern sector provided for standing room only up until the late 1990s, and it is where Hajduk Split’s hardcore supporters – Torcida Split – like to vociferously congregate. At the opposing end an electronic scoreboard, various utilities, and what could reasonably be described as landscape gardening.

And what of the Poljud’s exterior, its setting, its milieu? To maintain a relatively low profile, the lower half of the ground – including its offices, gyms and ancillary facilities – is subterranean. Despite this, the stadium’s exposed, parabolic concrete shell is an imposing sight when approached head on. The building’s periphery has been sculpted to create a sort of verdant concourse, as well as access via a series of tunnels. To its left, docks, harbours, jetties, and the Gulf of Kaštela beyond. South-west, the aforementioned Marjan peninsula, peaking at 178 metres and strewn with Mediterranean pines. To the north, the twin peaks of Kozjak and Mosor, with Klis Castle, and the pass it was built to protect, in between. Split’s old town centre is about 15 minutes’ walk away in a south-easterly direction. All in all, it is a very attractive setting.
Whether the Stadion Poljud enhances its environment or brings it down might depend on how the individual feels about raw, reinforced concrete and Lexan panelling. The stadium does look tired in places, yet it is well maintained generally, and the amenities are good. But in terms of atmosphere I get the sense that the place isn’t short on it, especially at night, when the whole thing glows and the full weight of Hajduk’s support is thrown behind its football team.

Sunday, 28 April 2019


Unione Calcio Sampdoria’s iconic shirt was not contrived but fortuitously arrived at when Sampierdarenese merged with Andrea Doria in 1964. Sampierdarenese had worn white shirts with a red and black band around the middle, paired with black shorts and socks. Andre Doria’s strip was comprised of a blue and white halved jersey, blue shorts and blue socks. A number of configurations were possible but the shirt’s creator opted for blue shirts with a white-red-black-white horizontal set of stripes around the middle and the stemma San Giorgio – ‘cross of St George’ – at its centre. This cross was also present on the shirts of Andre Doria’s. Whether Sampierdarenese’s fans felt aggrieved by this is not known. The symbol is a homage to the patron saint of Genoa, so maybe not.
In any case, in 1980 Sampdoria decided to introduce a proper club crest and came up with one of the most weird and wonderful emblems of its kind. For the uninitiated, the Baciccia, as it is known, depicts the silhouetted profile of a bearded sailor smoking a pipe, with blue, red and black stripes bending sinister behind him. So not only do Sampdoria possess one of the finest looking shirts in football but it might also be said they have the best badge.

For much of the 1980s sportswear manufacture Ennerre was Italian football’s prevalent brand, supplying strips for, among others, Roma, Napoli, Fiorentina, Atalanta, Bologna and Sampdoria. As the decade neared its end so too did Ennerre’s dominance. In 1988 Fiorentina turned to ABM for their gear, Bologna to Uhlsport, and Sampdoria to Kappa. (Napoli, Roma and Atalanta would remain affiliated with Ennerre until 1991.)
1987/88 had been a good year for Vujadin Boškov’s team, finishing fourth in the league and defeating Torino in the final of the Coppa Italia. Kappa’s first outing as Sampdoria’s kit supplier would therefore feature the coccarda sewn upon the left breast. Ordinarily this would have necessitated relocating the club’s badge to the shirt’s sleeve, except it was already there – had been since Ennerre moved it in 1981 for reasons unbeknown to anyone but them. Other distinguishing features included the Kappa logo embroidered in white upon the right side of the chest, the slanted, uppercase font of new sponsor ERG sublimated above the jersey’s distinctive hoops, and a rather natty collar. (Unlike the shirts they were now providing for Juventus and A.C. Milan, Kappa saw no need to incorporate micropatterned textures.)
The partnership got off to a good start. Sampdoria retained the Coppa Italia, beating Maradona’s Napoli 4-1 over two legs, and made it into the final of the 1988/89 European Cup Winners’ Cup, losing to Barcelona in Bern. They finished Serie A in fifth place, one place down on the previous season, although 18 teams had competed for the title as opposed to the mere 16 the year before. Gianluca Vialli netted 14 goals, his highest return of his career thus far, Roberto Mancini scored 9, while Gianluca Pagliuca established himself as the club’s first-choice goalkeeper.
Having won the Coppa Italia for a second consecutive year, Sampdoria’s shirt remained unchanged for 1989/90. Indeed, the campaign took on a very similar flavour to the last: another fifth place finish in Serie A and a consecutive appearance in the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup. This time around Sampdoria were victorious, beating Anderlecht in Gothenburg courtesy of two extra-time goals from Gianluca Vialli, who was also the competition’s top goal scorer. Conversely, Sampdoria’s Coppa Italia challenge ended prematurely when Juventus knocked them out in the group stage.

Who could have predicted what was to happen next to the Genovese side? A quick word regarding personnel. In 1989 Vujadin Boškov had made two significant signings: the Italian winger Attilio Lombardo from Cremonese, and the Yugoslav defender Srečko Katanec from VfB Stuttgart. In 1990 the Ukrainian Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko replaced Victor Munoz in a midfield that also featured the play-making talents of Toninho Cerezo and Giuseppe Dossena. Pietro Vierchowod and Luca Pellegrini were solid in defence; Gianluca Vialli and striking partner Roberto Mancini were indomitable up front.
Meanwhile, Japanese sportswear manufacturer ASICS replaced Kappa as Sampdoria’s kit supplier. Or did they? Aside from the now absent coccarda, the shirt was ostensibly the same. I suspect that it was the same jersey and that Kappa had been subcontracted by ASICS to make shirts under their brand. Whatever sort of arrangement may or may not have been in place, ASICS was the main beneficiary for Sampdoria were about to win their first (and, so far, only) Coppa Campioni d'Italia, finishing ahead of both A.C. Milan and reigning champions Inter by a comfortable five points. (Gianluca Vialli scored 19 goals – his highest tally in any one season – and Mancini added another 12.)
Apart for the scudetto that now adorned Sampdoria’s shirts, their kit remained little altered for the following season. Unfortunately, the club’s form did not. Sampdoria finished a disappointing sixth in the league and were knocked out of the Coppa Italia in the semi-final by eventual winners Parma. However, in what would be Boškov’s final year as manager, Sampdoria did make it to the final of the European Cup only to lose to Barcelona (again) after Ronald Koeman drilled home a free kick in extra-time from some 25 yards out. Interestingly, Sampdoria used this opportunity – or had the opportunity pressed upon them – to wear next seasons’ shirt. Gone was the slim-line V-neck and in it’s place was a snap-fastened collar. Hardly a radical change, but the damage was done.

Roberto Mancini, 1990/91

From 1988 through to 1992 Sampdoria’s shirts were much the same. If the club hadn’t been winning trophies that brought with them symbolic, physical motifs – the coccarda and the scudetto – then anyone would be hard pressed to tell them apart. Fortunate, then, that this tenure coincided with what can be seen retrospectively as the high watermark in football apparel.
And yet Kappa/ASICS never showed quite the respect Sampdoria’s colours deserved. We can be grateful that the shirt was never micropatterned, which would have distracted from its extraordinary design. But at the very least they could have sewn the bloody badge on, as pretty much every other sportswear manufacture was doing at the time. Instead the Baciccia was subjected to dye-sublimation, which looked cheap.

Friday, 22 March 2019


What is Venice? It is an agglomeration of over 100 islands, but it is the city’s six historic sestieri that more usually defines it: Cannaregio, San Polo, Santa Croce, Castello, Dorsoduro (inclusive of La Giudecca and Sacca Fisola) and San Marco (including San Giorgio Maggiore). La Giudecca, Sacca Fisola and San Giorgio Maggiore are separate islands, while Cannaregio, Dorsoduro, San Polo, Santa Croce, Castello and San Marco are contiguous, despite the serpentine Canal Grande’s best efforts to split them down the middle. And of course each district is in turn riddled with smaller, more easily traversed channels.
San Marco gets given the job of representing the municipality. The Piazza San Marco (St Mark's Square) is overlooked by two of Venice’s most iconic buildings: the Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco and the Campanile di San Marco – the famous bell tower. Adjacent to this is Piazzetta di San Marco – St. Mark’s little square – which rests beneath the Palazzo Ducale, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana and two columns supporting two patron saints – Saint Theodore on one and the Lion of Venice, standing in for Saint Mark the Evangelist, on the other. St Mark's Square is where tourists predictably gather, to queue for a view from the campanile, to marvel at the mosaic-encrusted domed interior of the Byzantine basilica, or just to take photographs of themselves. This is all well and good but it’s not a reason in itself to travel to Venice. The fact that there are no roads, and so no cars, is.
In truth, there are some roads. The Ponte della Libertà connects mainland Veneto to Venice but doesn’t get very far, terminating at Piazzale Roma, which acts as a sort of bus station; cars are siphoned off into a number or carparks nearby. Unless you’re exploring west of Dorsoduro then you would be none the wiser. It’s worth doing: head for Campo Santa Margherita for some light lunch, then follow the Rio de Carmini down towards San Nicolò dei Mendicoli (the church that Donald Sutherland’s character is tasked with restoring in the film Don’t Look Now), wend your way south before walking east along the waterfront, where you will find the Gallerie dell'Accademia, Basilica di Santa Maria, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and the Corner Pub Venezia on Calle della Chiesa.
Despite the crowds, San Marco itself rarely stifles. If you feel the need to escape then simply follow the path of least resistance. Such diversions will invariably lead to another bridge over another canal, to an irregularly shaped ‘campo’, or to vistas that have barely altered since they were conceived. This is consistent with Venice’s reputation: all grand squares and labyrinthine alleyways, which is generally the case and precludes much in the way of flora. The eastern tip of Castello proves to be the exception. There you will find the Giardini della Biennale (gardens), Parco delle Rimembranze (a park), and Pier Luigi Penzo (a stadium), home to Venezia’s football team.

Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo is not of much interest architecturally, because architecturally it isn’t really a ‘thing’. Built in 1913, it is Italy’s second oldest football ground (the first being Luigi Ferraris in Genoa) but very little remains of how it once stood. The stadium was almost decimated in 1971 by a particularly virulent tornado, leaving only the concrete tribuna partially intact. Venezia F.C. were playing in Serie C at the time, so rebuilding the ground wasn’t a top priority, although had the club not narrowly missed out on promotion in 1972/73 it might have been a different matter. As it happened, Venezia mucked along for a few more seasons in Serie C before succumbing to relegation. By 1987, they were facing administration and an enforced merger with mainland-Venice team Associazione Calcio Mestre, who played their football at the modest Stadio Francesco Baracca. The alliance appears to have been an uneasy one, but was temporary. In 1990, ‘Venezia Mestre’ was reborn as Associazione Calcio Venezia 1907 (whilst A.C. Mestre carried on as they were). Promotion to Serie B followed in 1991, which facilitated a move back to a rehabilitated Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo.
In 1998, Venezia (as the locals insisted on still calling them) finished the season as runner’s up. They lasted two seasons in Serie A and then dropped back down into Serie B, but were promoted again in 2001, before being relegated for a second time. The club descended into bankruptcy, eventually reforming as Società Sportiva Calcio Venezia in 2005 (still referred to colloquially as ‘Venezia’ one would assume). By 2009 the club once again became insolvent, and yet another name change was legally enforced: Foot Ball Club Unione Venezia. This latest incarnation made a good go of it, winning Serie D in 2011/12 and attaining promotion to the old Serie C in 2013/14, before finally going bust in 2015. As it stands, Venezia F.C. S.r.l.d. are currently competing in Serie B.

(Courtesy: Giacomo Cosua)

Since returning to their old stomping ground in 1991 not much has changed. The idea for a while has been to build a new stadium in the suburb of Tessera, not far from the airport. In the meantime, Pier Luigi Penzo must suffice.
Only the tribuna centrale exists as an actual building, while the other three sides of the ground accommodate the sort of tubular metal structures you see plenty of all over Italy – scaffolding, effectively. More often deployed as a means of bringing the crowd closer to the pitch where a running or cycling track has stood in the way – at Brescia, Cagliari, Siena, Como – the makeshift stands in Venice are merely expedient. An effort has been made to beautify these right-angled triangular prisms by randomly installing black, green and orange plastic seats – the club’s colours. This combination works well and the temporary stands appear more substantial than they otherwise might. On the west-side opposite the tribuna, white chairs spell out ‘VENEZIA’. The masts of yachts can be seen behind, the Church of Saint Elena rises to its side. Beyond the curva sud, a row of trees. Above the curva ospiti, clear sky. Of these three provisional gantries, only the curva sud measures the full width of the pitch. The open spaces in-between are left bare.
Amongst this utilitarian simplicity, the central tribuna stands proud. Running eight rows deep and made of concrete, it is the only stand that has a roof. Resting upon this canopy’s middle third is a row of executive boxes – the tribuna d’onore. To the front a parterre – really just a gap between the building itself and the fence that runs around the pitch’s perimeter. It’s a modest set-up but a well maintained one with plenty of character.
There are probably a good many lower-league grounds like this in Italy, but I doubt many enjoy such beautiful surroundings. Behind the tribuna runs the Rio Sant'Elena, which cuts off the island of Sant'Elena from the rest of Venice. In truth, it’s a fairly narrow body of water, and not particularly long either. What it does, though, is force a certain perspective of the stadium from the river’s western edge: of the river itself, the small boats moored along it and the small bridges that cross over, the trees and bushes planted beside, the path above the opposing bank and the external rendering of the stadium itself – stucco painted yellow, flaking in places to reveal the brickwork beneath. This is the view that any visiting football fan will encounter after walking from the nearest ferry terminal. Should that same fan choose to follow the ground’s perimeter, they wouldn’t be disappointed. A bricked wall obscures the metal struts that support the curva sud but leads to the Church beyond. Walk in the opposite direction, past the tribuna, and one will come across a marina stuffed with yachts.

Venice’s football ground is the antithesis of Siena's Artemio Franchi, which, despite being comprised mostly of the same temporary, gossamer-like structures, comes across as beset upon and untidy. Conversely, Stadio Penzo feels open, neat and accessible, almost like a minor-county cricket ground. The problem is its size. A capacity of 7,450 is just about enough to get by on in Serie B but would be problematic in Serie A. Then there’s climate, which can be unkind, and the location, which is hemmed in. Could a solution to these problems be found that is simultaneously sympathetic to the environment? You can understand why a move to Tessera has been proposed.

Friday, 1 February 2019


1.    Come Again – Au Pairs
2.    Nice – Kleenex
3.    Lie Dream of Casino Soul – The Fall
4.    Cathedral – Felt
5.    Speaking Terms – Snail Mail
6.    If I Was an Animal – Chain & the Gang
7.    Drained – The Brian Jonestown Massacre
8.    Mountain - Stereolab
9.    Rated X – Miles Davis
10.  Inner City Blues – Reuben Wilson
11.  Maria Tambien – Khruangbin
12.  Out on the Tiles – Led Zeppelin
13.  Colorado – Manassas
14.  Wicked Gil – Band of Horses
15.  Total Football – Parquet Courts
16.  Secret for a Song – Mercury Rev
17.  When It Grows Darkest – Laura Veirs
18.  Heat Wave – Snail Mail
19.  If Not Tomorrow – Comet Gain
20.  Postcards from Italy – Beirut
21.  John's Theme (Children Play) – Pino Donaggio

The 1960s saw a large number of female artistes making a credible impact across a wide range of genres: selected randomly, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Etta James, Fontella Bass, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, Bobbie Gentry, Patsy Kline, Emmylou Harris, Jacqui McShee, Sandy Denny, Nico, Carole King, Dolly Parton, Nancy Sinatra, Tammy Wynette, Dusty Springfield, Carol Kaye, Dorothy Ashby, Tina Turner, Tammy Terrell, The Supremes, The Shangri-Las, The Chiffons, The Ronettes.
The early 1970s weren’t nearly so inclusive. The nascent heavy metal scene, the glam-rock scene (ironically) and the southern rock scene were movements orientated towards the male. Patriarchy re-asserted itself by way of the sex, drugs and rock & roll myth, which encouraged women to prostrate themselves before the icons of the day: Mick Jagger, Robert Plant, David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Steven Tyler, etc.
It’s no coincidence that punk and new wave carried a strong female presence. Despite its provocative stance and reputation as anti-social, punk was actually a fairly conservative movement, rebelling simultaneously against the perceived decadence of the establishment and the music industry. Its supposed nihilism was playful and masked a high moral stance. The previous generation, who had sloganeered and campaigned through the 1960s, had sold out for a life of material worth and part-time licentiousness, and punk existed to shine a light on uncomfortable truths. Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Tina Weymouth, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson from the B52’s, Siouxsie Sioux, bands like the Au Pairs and The Slits and Dolly Mixture, Poison Ivy of The Cramps, Gaye Advert of The Adverts… imagine what punk might have mutated into without them.  At the very least, it wouldn’t have been half as interesting. At worst, ‘Oi!’ may have triumphed as punk’s prevalent strain, and machismo would once again have held sway.
Having been made redundant at the end of 2017, which I was sanguine about, the first half of 2018 brought with it weekly walks into Twickenham, whereupon I discovered Eel Pie Records. Although not financially stretched, my predicament demanded that I exercise caution and avoid buying records impulsively. On one such visit they were playing the Au Pairs. It certainly sounded like my sort of thing, but to be sure I returned home and looked into it. A comparison with Gang of Four was enough to convince me, and by the end of the week Playing with a Different Sex was mine.
Whilst conducting my research, YouTube wondered if I might like to listen to Nice by Swiss all-girl post-punk band Kleenex, which I did. Kleenex changed their name to LiLiput after the Kimberly-Clark Corporation threatened to sue them for infringement of copyright. Eel Pie Records didn’t have a copy of Kleenex/LiLiPUT (The Complete Recordings), so I downloaded Nice to follow on from Come Again by the Au Pairs.

People who get upset over the death of someone famous like they would do a friend or relative are weird, or just pretending. I thought it sad when Arthur Lee died and when Prince died and when David Bowie died but I didn’t know them personally, and they were completely oblivious to my existence, so there was limit to how low I could go. And yet, when I was told that Mark E Smith had passed I did feel something approaching sorrow, albeit for a short time. I put this down to the unusually high regard in which I held him as a lyricist, the manner in which he delivered his verse and length of time I’ve been listening to The Fall (over 25 years at the time of writing). Such is wealth of material available to Fall fans that I’m still discovering favourite tunes to this day, but how the hell did Lie Dream of Casino Soul evade me for so long?
The record label Cherry Red are in the process of re-issuing Felt’s back catalogue on vinyl. I intended on buying Forever Breathers the Lonely Word, which includes A Wave Crashed on Rocks, a song that I included on the compilation I retrospectively put together to reflect my listening habits in 1997/98. However, I found footage of Felt performing on Spanish TV and was very affected by their performance of Cathedral, which comes from their first LP, Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty. I am presented with a dilemma, because although I’m working again I still can’t afford to spend 20-odd pounds willy-nilly, which is the going rate for vinyl these days.
This is why I purchased the album Lush by Lindsey Jordan – aka ‘Snail Mail’ – on CD. I first heard the record in Eel Pie Records but ended up buying it from HMV in Wimbledon on a whim. Had I been set on owning Lush on vinyl then I’d have returned to Eel Pie Records. Anyway, Speaking Terms is my favourite track on the album. The record as a whole brings to mind American indie-rock of the early 1990s, before Lindsey Jordan was even born.

Early in the year – late February, a few days before the ‘beast from the east’ announced itself – and Ian Svenonius’s group Chain & The Gang were back in town. I’d been trying to find a copy of the band’s sixth album, Experimental Music, since its release in September 2017, but to no avail; Rough Trade, Banquet Records, various independent records stores in Brighton – nowhere stocked it. As expected, copies were available at the Oslo in Hackney, where Ian and his band were scheduled to play. The only tune Chain & The Gang deigned not to play from their latest offering was If I Was an Animal, maybe because it doesn’t lend itself so readily to Ian’s high-energy live performance.
Anton Newcombe was throwing demos around on YouTube. Drained sounded like it was ready to go, but when the track-listing for The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s new album was announced it was found to be missing. I purchased Something Else regardless – from Eel Pie Records, although not until the end of the year – and downloaded Drained. (Drained will feature on The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s next eponymously titled record, due for release in March 2019, although in what form is as yet unknown).
Like Felt, Stereolab are in the process of re-releasing a large portion of their back catalogue on vinyl. They began in 2018 by reissuing their ‘Switched On’ series: three separate compilations that gather together singles, B-sides, rarities, oddities. I already own Aluminum (sic) Tunes (Switched On Volume 3) and used to have a copy of Refried Ectoplasm (Switched on Volume 2) taped off of the Former Cohabitant from Brighton back in 1995. I’ve been without a cassette player for many years now, and so I thought I may as well purchase Refried Ectoplasm (Switched on Volume 2). I wouldn’t normally include material like this on a contemporary compendium – tunes that date back to a completely different time and place – but it’s been so long since I’ve listened to this record that I’ve been able to enjoy it from a relatively fresh perspective. Mountain was originally one half of a split-single released in 1993 (Where Are All Those Puerto Rican Boys? by Unrest was the other).

In summer – after the FIFA World Cup had finished, I’m pleased to note – I began work at The National Archives. One day there, I caught my supervisor talking music with a colleague, specifically about this track called Rated X by Miles Davis. He was saying how he’d once heard it played at a club and that it cleared the dance floor almost at once. Since hearing Rated X for myself, I can appreciate why this might happen, although it is actually quite danceable. Rated X starts with a discordant keyboard, played by Davis, before Al Foster on drums, James Mtume on percussion and Badal Roy on tablas all jump in on about 14 seconds with a funky, but quite aggressive, rhythm. After another 15 seconds Reggie Lucas joins in with a repetitive wah-wah guitar riff, which he will play relentlessly for the duration of the record. Michael Henderson’s bass chugs along in the background and Cedric Lawson and Khalil Balakrishna make weird noises with an electric piano and an electric sitar. Every so often the rhythm section will pause abruptly, just for second or so, before carrying on as if nothing ever happened. It’s one of most wonderful things I’ve ever heard.
Perhaps galvanised by this strange groove, I entered into another one of my hip hop phases. These can typically last for a  number of weeks – sometimes even a month – but don’t usually involve listening to anything I haven’t already got. They can, however, prompt me to investigate particular samples, especially where they’ve been borrowed from jazz or funk. I derived Inner City Blues by Reuben Wilson from Youthful Expression by A Tribe Called Quest, a lesser known tune taken from their debut album People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. Reuben Wilson is a jazz organist in the tradition of Jimmy Smith, or even Lonnie Smith. Marvin Gaye fans may have guessed that Inner City Blues is a cover. Ramon Morris on tenor saxophone, Lloyd Davis on guitar, and so on.
I came by Khruangbin in Banquet Records, Kingston, where they were playing this group’s latest record, Con Todo El Mundo. I thought about buying it there and then but was on my way to meet someone and didn’t fancy carrying it around. Their music is hard to describe: soul-jazz, psychedelia, world? I detect a sort of Moorish, middle-eastern vibe emanating from this trio, although they’re actually from Huston, Texas, and I’m still pondering whether or not I should go back and buy the album.

Cover bands are a funny thing. In September I went to see Boot-Led-Zeppelin playing in Putney. I didn’t have a ticket and so arrived early in an attempt to get one. I needn’t have bothered because a friend of a friend sorted me out, and I just ended up drinking more than I ought. The gig itself was pretty good. Listening to actual Led Zeppelin after, at volume on a boat in the middle of the River Thames, was even better. Again, I shouldn’t really be including music on a current compilation that already has connotations. I justify it like so: Out on the Tiles lives in the shadows of Zeppelin’s better known songs, and it was Houses of the Holy that I listened to incessantly in 2001/02, not Led Zeppelin III.
Manassas is the name of the group Stephen Still put together in 1971 after he crossed paths with The Flying Burrito Brothers whilst they were all touring the States. The Burritos were on their last legs, Stills sensed an opportunity and invited former Byrds man Chris Hillman, pedal-steel guitarist Al Perkins and fiddle player Byron Berline to join him and his band in the studio to work on what would become Manassas. I’ve written before about how Chris Hillman seemed content to play a more supporting role, be it in The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, or Manassas. But that’s an impressive palmarès, as a song like Colorado aptly testifies.
When I returned to Eel Pie Records to buy Playing with a Different Sex by the Au Pairs, they had on Everything All the Time by Band of Horses, who are from Seattle. Not knowing what it was, I made enquiries and almost left the shop £40 lighter. Wicked Gil was the track that nearly persuaded me, since downloaded. I was quite surprised to find that this album was 15 years old, which just goes to show how little indie-rock changes nowadays.
If you’ve read my liner notes to 2014’s The Big Nod then you’ll know I’m partial to Parquet Courts. The first song I heard from their new album – Mardi Gras Beads – didn’t do it for me. The second – Total Football – did. Previous works by Parquet Courts (as well as Parkay Quarts) brought to mind the Velvet Underground. Total Football sounds like Harmony in My Head by Buzzcocks with Devo doing the chorus. I should probably buy the album Wide Awake!.

It’s about here that I start to build towards some sort of resolution. I had Secret for a Song by Mercury Rev knocking around on my laptop, completely neglected, so in it went. This inadvertently provided a convenient platform from which to launch When It Grows Darkest by Laura Veirs, yet another new release chanced upon in Eel Pie Records. Her music reminds me of Kristen Hirsh from Throwing Muses, although I don’t know how helpful it really is to say that. Nevertheless, When It Grows Darkest is one of my favourite contributions to this playlist.
Heat Wave was the song by Snail Mail that I could remember playing in Eel Pie Records. It has more vigour than Speaking Terms and serves as the compilation’s apex, because If Not Tomorrow by Comet Gain, which follows, has something rather doleful about it. (I’m hoping that an album and live performances will follow in 2019.) For those less familiar with my anthologies, they rarely pander to the year in which they’ve been compiled, but If Not Tomorrow is one of six tunes here actually released in the year 2018 – seven if you include the re-release of the Stereolab track, eight if you allow for the fact that the Chain & the Gang album wasn’t available to buy in the UK until the group brought it with them in 2018.

Campo Bandiera e Moro, Venice

Italy was the first foreign country I ever visited. My parents took me there in 1993 as a sort of last hurrah before I went away to university. We stayed in Pallanza overlooking Lake Maggiore but made excursions to Como, Milan, as well as Lugano across the border in Switzerland. Since then I’ve been to Volterra, Siena, Florence and Genoa, and in 2018 I made it to Venice. Later this year I’m off to Palermo. I also want to visit Turin and Bologna, maybe Naples and Bari.
I never got around to buying The Flying Club Cup by Beirut in 2017, but it’s on that ever expanding list of records to potentially purchase. In the meantime I’ve downloaded Postcards from Italy, which is joyous, celebratory. The fact that I have recently been in the habit of sending memos from the same place is mere coincidence. The addition of John's Theme from Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now, set in Venice, is on the other hand contrived.

[This compilation can be heard here.]

Monday, 7 January 2019


It used to be compulsory for cyclists riding the Tour de France to wear black shorts and white socks. As far as I can tell there was no practical reason for this, but the surfeit of colour that plagues the modern peloton suggests that it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the regulation was reinstated. Where clothing is concerned, chromatic colour – as distinct from achromatic colour, which has no hue – is something to be used sparingly; humans beings are various enough without throwing a riot of iridescence into the mix.
There are exceptions, although not many. The all-red garb Bill Shankly conjured up for Liverpool is one of them. When they favour it, Roma’s strip is another.

A.S. Roma’s history may not be as illustrious as those of Juventus, Milan or Inter, but they’ve not done badly. Some statistics: Roma, alongside Juventus, have competed for every Scudetto bar one (only Inter have a better record, having played every season in Serie A since its inception in 1909). They have triumphed thrice and finished as runners up on 14 occasions. Nine Coppa Italia victories have been recorded, second only to Juventus with 13. I Giallorossi – ‘the yellow and reds’ – have also played their fair share of European football, although they failed to win either of the two finals they contested.
All things considered, being a Roma supporter has been worth the bother, and especially so during the 1980s. They kicked off the decade with two consecutive Coppa Italia victories – both won on penalties against the same opposition, Torino. Concurrently, Roma’s league form gradually improved. They ended the season in sixth place in 1979/80, came second in ‘80/81, third in ‘81/82, before finally securing their second ever Serie A title in ‘82/83, wearing gear manufactured by Belgian sportswear company Patrick.
Despite failing to defend their scudetto, Roma made a good go of it in 1983/84: they came second in the league, bagged their fifth Coppa Italia, and were runners up against Liverpool in the 1984 European Cup final (Liverpool decked out in red, A.S. Roma in white). By now Roma’s shirts were supplied by Kappa, an association that would last three years, culminating in yet another Coppa Italia triumph in 1986, beating Sampdoria over two legs. Thereafter, Roma formed an alliance with Ennerre that would run until 1991, whereupon they switched to Adidas.
Mutatis mutandis, the Ennerre kit was neither very different to the Kappa strip that preceded it nor the Adidas version that came after: coloured Tyrian purple, which inclines towards red, with shorts and socks to match. The most significant disparity between the Kappa shirt and the Ennerre iteration was the tone of the trim – orange in the first instance, a golden yellow in the next. The difference between the Ennerre and Adidas shirt was even slighter, the only discernible change being the addition of Adidas’s iconic stripes upon the shoulder. All three shirts even brandished the same sponsor – pasta producer Barilla.

Ennerre hooked up with Roma during what was supposed to be Sven-Göran Eriksson’s third season in charge – 1986/87. The corresponding jersey – more than likely made from Ennerre’s infamous cotton/wool blend ‘lanetta’ – bore the coccarda but failed to inspire anything higher than a seventh place finish in the league and a second-round exit in the Coppa Italia (courtesy of Bologna). Eriksson was shown the door in May, Angelo Sormani took temporary charge before Nils Liedholm – the man who had guided A.S. Roma to their title win in 1983 – re-joined the club, no doubt intent on resurrecting past glories.
Notwithstanding the loss of Carlo Ancelotti to AC Milan – from where Leidholm had just came – Roma looked a decent proposition ahead of ‘87/88. Club legends Giuseppe Giannini and Bruno Conti were still present and correct, Polish midfielder Zbigniew Boniek had another season left in him, and the new coach was able to lure promising defender Gianluca Signorini from Parma (who would leave after one season for Genoa) and the highly coveted German striker Rudi Völler from Werder Bremen. And so it proved to be. Völler took time to settle but Giannini rose to the occasion scoring 11 times from his position in midfield, helping Roma to secure third place behind Napoli and AC Milan, thus qualifying for the UEFA Cup.
1988/89’s campaign failed to meet the expectations the previous one conferred upon it. Roma were knocked out in the third round of the UEFA Cup by East German minnows Dynamo Dresden, only made it as far as the second round of the Coppa Italia, and finished a disappointing seventh in Serie A. Nils Liedholm was sent packing, as were the under-performing Brazilian pairing of Andrade and Renato. On a brighter note, Rudi Völler appeared to be finding his feet, having scored 15 goals in all competitions.

Perhaps conscious that A.S. Roma’s form had begun to stagnate, Ennerre switched the configuration of the club’s crestthe classic ‘wolf’s head’ emblem the club introduced in 1977, abandoned in 1997 – with their company logo; the badge was transposed to the right, Ennerre’s logo to the left. It seemed to have the desired effect. Roma finished the season in sixth place and made it to the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia, losing narrowly to eventual winners Juventus. The slight improvement in the club’s fortunes may more realistically be attributed to the appointment of Luigi Radice as coach.
At any rate, club president Dino Viola had already decided he wanted Ottavio Bianchi to assume coaching responsibilities, and would have employed him a year earlier if Bianchi’s contract with Napoli had allowed for it. (Radice had not been made aware of this and it left a sour taste in his mouth when it became clear that he’d merely been hired as temporary cover whilst Roma waited for Bianchi to become available.) Ottavio Bianchi, when he finally arrived in the summer of 1990, enlisted the services of his ex-Napoli employee Andrea Carnevale, who was very quickly caught out on a doping violation, along with goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi, and banned from competing for the next 12 months. Brazilian defender Aldair signed from Benfica, shoring up a defence that already included the German centre-back Thomas Berthold.
Meanwhile, Ennerre decided to ditch the lanetta and embrace polyester. In every other respect the shirt was pretty much the same, save for two strands of yellow piping running diagonally from the neck down to under the arm. Further, as at Napoli, the manufacturer appeared to supply two versions of the same shirt: one in unembellished polyester and the other micro-patterned to create a motif out of Ennerre’s magnificent logo.
Roma’s league form was subsequently erratic and they could only manage ninth place. However, in the UEFA Cup they ran riot and lost only narrowly over a two-legged final to Italian rivals Inter (Rudi Völler was the competition’s leading scorer with 10 goals). Then, less than a month later, Roma sealed an empathetic 4-2 aggregate victory over Serie A winners Sampdoria in the Coppa Italia.

Rudi Voller, 1990/91

The Curva Sud faithful would have to wait another ten years before their team lifted another trophy – A.S. Roma’s third scudetto – by which time they’d reverted to wearing white shorts and black socks. Actually, Roma’s kit has fared better over the years than many of their rivals’, but there’s something untypically attractive about the all-red, collared iteration they wore throughout the 1980s.

[This article also features in The Gentleman Ultra.]

Saturday, 1 December 2018


1.    Nissim – The Gaslamp Killer (with Amir Yaghmai)
2.    The Zoo – FEWS
3.    Deceptacon – Le Tigre
4.    Low – Traams
5.    Sunday’s Coming – Eddy Current Suppression Ring
6.    Lake Superior – The Arcs
7.    Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings – Father John Misty
8.    Sketch for Summer – The Durutti Column
9.    Hard Hold – Jaala
10.  Tarantula Deadly Cargo – Sleaford Mods
11.  Excitissimo – William Sheller
12.  Soul Vibrations – Dorothy Ashby
13.  Balek – Placebo
14.  More Mess on My Thing – Poets of Rhythm
15.  All My Tears – The Frightnrs
16.  Nightbird – The Brian Jonestown Massacre
17.  The Wheel – PJ Harvey
18.  All I Wanna Do – Splashh
19.  Tied Up in Nottz – Sleaford Mods
20.  Gosh – Jamie XX
21.  Get Innocuous – LCD Soundsystem
22.  Star Roving – Slowdive
23.  Come Over – Chain & the Gang
24.  In the Mausoleum – Beirut

The Gaslamp Killer is the stage name of a hip hop producer and DJ from California. Nissim is a reworking of an instrumental track called Yekte by Turkish guitarist Zafer Dilek, which itself seems to have been influenced by a track entitled Gurbet by singer/songwriter Özdemir Erdoğan. To capture the flavour of the source material, The Gaslamp Killer worked with a guitarist named Amir Yaghmai, who in turn brought in a number of Middle-Eastern musicians he knew to really nail it. The tune takes a while to get going, suggesting that it might have worked better further down the playlist, but Spotify introduced me to it very early in 2016.
FEWS are a Swedish band that play post-punk, although The Zoo also echoes the sound of shoegaze. It was issued as a single first, in 2015, and then surfaced on the album Means a year later. The Zoo is reminiscent of British band TOY, but with a greater sense of urgency. Unfortunately for both acts, I get the feeling that the post-punk/garage rock revival has just about run its course. Or perhaps we’ve reached a state of ‘perpetual revival’ where nothing ever really goes out of fashion but is recycled again and again by way of the internet.
To add to that thought, you wouldn’t believe that Le Tigre recorded Deceptacon as long ago as 1999. There are a few clues – the use of an Alesis HR-16b drum machine, a spot of sampling – but it wouldn’t feel out of step played next to anything around today. The same could be said of Low by UK band Traams, released in 2013, and Sunday’s Coming by Australian group the Eddy Current Suppression Ring, released in 2008. What does this all say about the evolution of music? Is Devo’s theory of devolution being played out before our very ears?
There are subtle differences. As I said, I detect the hint of shoegaze in FEWS; Le Tigre are quite lo-fi; Traams are sort of punk revival mixed with indie rock, as are the Eddy Current Suppression Ring. All emanated from Discover Weekly on Spotify, bar the Eddy Current Suppression Ring which the Australian at work accurately identified as something I might appreciate. What these songs all have in common is that they’re quite noisy, loud and faintly aggressive. Such sonic qualities can be sustained for only so long.
The Arcs are the side-project of Dan Auerbach of blues-rock band The Black Keys. I don’t mind the Black Keys but I prefer the lo-fi dreampop of The Arcs. Or rather, I prefer the lo-fi dreampop of 2016’s Lake Superior, because the record put out the previous year by The Arcs does sound quite a lot like The Black Keys. Perhaps this is the type of thing that’s now in fashion? Whatever, Father John Misty (real name: Josh Tillman) inhabits the folkier end of the spectrum, which isn’t surprising given his involvement with Fleet Foxes. Yet Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings is no folksy ditty: it stomps along, demanding your attention. Only the vocals recall Tillman’s work with his previous band, for whom he played drums.

The Durutti Column derived their name from the Durruti Column, a phalanx of anarchists who fought against Franco’s Falangists in the Spanish Civil War. The name ‘Durruti’ acknowledged one of the column’s most admired commanders, Buenaventura Durruti, who led a pre-emptive attack on General Goded’s barracks in Atarazanas/Drassanes, ensuring that Barcelona remained under Republican control. Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus intended the group as a sort of art statement and set about gathering musicians to implement their vision. By the time Wilson and Erasmus had established Factory Records and arranged for The Durutti Column to cut an album, only guitarist Vincent Reilly remained. Vini Reilly is one of those talented types who struggle within the music industry (see Syd Barrett, Dan Treacy of the Television Personalities, Lawrence from Felt). I’d given his music a go before but didn’t get very far with it. Discover Weekly offered up Sketch for Summer, which is an oddly beautiful instrumental backed by the sound of tweeting birds.
Jaala: another Australian band, again from Melbourne, but this time The Australian had nothing to do with it. Singer Cosima Jaala’s delivery is reminiscent of Lene Lovich – she of Lucky Number fame, which I included on 2007/08’s Harmony in my Head. Hard Hold jumps about in a way that can be divisive. Personally, I like their playful time signatures, but my lady friend can’t stand them.
I used to share a similar antipathy towards to the Sleaford Mods. A chap who I worked with during my days as a transcript writer inadvertently brought ‘the Mods’ to my attention after he posted a video on his blog of them performing Fizzy outside of Rough Trade West. It’s not entirely comfortable viewing. To start off with, one of the crowd – perhaps mistaking the occasion for an open-mic event – attempts to get in on the act, and for a moment it looks like it’s about to turn nasty. Then there’s the way the group presents itself. Andy Fearn, bedecked in a baseball cap, nods along nonchalantly. Meanwhile, Jason Williamson’s twitches angrily, constantly rubbing the back of his head and flicking the end of his nose like he might be on amphetamine. I think I watched it about three times on the bounce. At first I tried to suppress the memory but soon found myself watching videos for Tied Up in Nottz, Tarantula Deadly Cargo, Jolly F*cker. I met up with one of the guys who hadn’t turned up for last year’s Dickensian Pub Crawl, and when I asked if he’d heard of Sleaford Mods I saw the same glint in his eye that there must have been in mine. Before long, I was sharing my experience with my bouldering buddies. Even my managing director was intrigued (although The Australian and the South African sales manager weren’t – I’m not sure it’s the sort of music that travels well). Come November, I’d bought tickets to see them play live at The Roundhouse in Camden.
I try to avoid doubling up on artists but I’ve made an exception for the Sleaford Mods. Tarantula Deadly Cargo is taken from the album Key Markets, which was released in 2015. Like most of their music, it’s fairly minimal: a deep, plodding bass-line layered over a brisk, repetitive beat. Their other contribution comes later.

An opportunity had been missed to visit Florence whilst we were out in Tuscany for a wedding in 2005. Instead, we’d been persuaded that Siena better catered for day-trips: it was smaller, slightly nearer, and parking more convenient. Florence is certainly the more prodigious town, and an afternoon would have never done it justice. Not that it did Siena justice either, but I was glad now to be going to Florence rather than Siena.
Walking through Piazza Pitti, we turned down a narrow street – Sdrucciolo de’ Pitti – and came across the sort of shop that my lady friend likes to browse in, selling a variety of disparate things. What wasn't for sale was the turntable, playing a compilation entitled Wizzz! French Psychorama 1966​-​1970, Volume 1. I made a note of details in the back of my guide book and went about trying to find a copy. Couldn’t locate one anywhere, so ended up ordering it directly from the record label, Born Bad Records, in France. The track that had been playing in that small shop in Italy had been an instrumental, which means it could only have been Exitissimo by William Sheller.
Wizzz! French Psychorama 1966-1970, Volume 1 isn’t available on Spotify, so at work I settled for playing the Blue Break Beats series, which had previously given rise to the inclusion of Ain’t it Funky Now by Grant Green on my 2000 compilation The Ladies of Varades. The algorithm switched into gear and before long Discover Weekly was offering up tunes as delectable as Soul Vibrations by Dorothy Ashby, a jazz harpist who recorded for the Chess Records subsidiary Cadet. Ashby had struggled to find acceptance within the jazz community; the harp was a ‘classical’ instrument, and a novelty one at that. Fortunately, in-house arranger Richard Evans, who had been given carte blanche to work with pretty much whomever he desired, saw potential and signed Ashby up. Afro-Harping was the result, released in 1968, garnering positive reviews, and where you’ll find the tune Soul Vibrations. (Ashby went on to add the koto to her repertoire, specifically on 1970’s The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby.)
Balek is not an obscure B-side by alternative-rock act Placebo but an obscure album track by a Belgian jazz combo of the same name. A guy called Marc Moulin was the prime mover, and his version of Placebo recorded three albums: Ball of Eyes in 1971, 1973 in 1973, and Placebo in 1974. Balek is the fourth track on 1973 and it also makes a showing on It’s a Rocky Road: Volume 2, a ‘mix’ compiled by that man The Gaslamp Killer, which might explain how it ended up here. We’re talking jazz-funk. I might have let it go if it weren’t for the fact that the second blast of the trumpet is truncated and set slightly ahead of the beat.
The Australian used to put on The Poets of Rhythm, often when he couldn’t be bothered to look for anything else. They play funk, but as the guy who used to own a pager was quick to point out there’s something not quite right about it. This is because they are German. Or rather, it’s because they’re not black Americans recording in the 1970s but white Europeans performing in the 1990s. This was not something I was entirely sure of, but the guy who used to own a pager, who is a musician, immediately was. More Mess on My Thing is typical of their album Practice What You Preach, and if you like this sort of thing then don’t let my friend’s musical snobbery put you off.
The Frightnrs [sic] had me completely fooled. When Spotify generated them, I assumed I was hearing original rocksteady music from the late 1960s, when in fact it had been recorded as recently as 2015. The effect is deliberate: the band’s Brooklyn-based record label, Daptone Records, eschew digital recording techniques and work using analogue equipment (it’s where Amy Winehouse recorded Back to Black). Moreover, The Frightnrs’s debut LP, Nothing More to Say, was recorded monophonically. Tragically, their singer Dan Klein died from motor neurone disease while the record was still in post-production. His vocal possesses a delicacy that seems all the more poignant in light of this, but he leaves a powerful legacy.

After the bearing witness to the depredations on show in the so-called documentary Dig! it had been gratifying to discover in 2015 that Anton Newcombe continued to produce music to such a high standard. This is not to say that I'd purchased The Brian Jonestown Massacre album Revelation, but I had least deemed another of its tracks worthy for inclusion here  the acoustic Nightbird. (Rest assured, I shall be parting with actual money for future BJM products.)
I was excited to discover that PJ Harvey had a new album on the way and bought it almost on the day of release. Plenty of good tracks to choose from but I plumped for The Wheel with its epic 1 minute-plus overture, replete with Iberian hand clapping, wailing guitar and saxophone. The lyric concerns Kosovo and the atrocities that have taken place there.
The single All I Wanna Do by Anglo-Antipodean band Splashh appeared on Discover Weekly, despite being approximately four years’ old. It seems the group were a victim of what’s often termed ‘difficult second album syndrome’. By the time their sophomore effort hit the shelves in April 2017 I’d completely forgotten about them, yet All I Wanna Do remains one of my favourite tunes on this compilation – and I consider this to be a very strong compilation.
The Sleaford Mods in a more urgent mood: the ‘Nottz’ they’re tied up in refers to Nottingham, a town that gets a bad press these days but which I thought was quite pleasant when I went there some 20-odd years ago. (Take a drink in Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem if you’re ever passing through).
I don’t like The xx. My primary objection is Oliver Sim’s vocals, which sound like they’ve been cut four sheets to the wind. This is particularly evident in the song VCR. So when my Australian co-worker went to put on In Colour by Jamie xx, who’s the principle songwriter for The xx, I wasn’t expecting much. How wrong I was. Gosh is a very odd tune, at once industrial and harmonic, that draws you in slowly. As The Australian rightly pointed out, it’s best played at a very high volume.
The Australian returned to Australia in early 2017. Before leaving he made a final, unwitting contribution to my playlist by utilising some sort of function on Spotify that randomly plays songs by the same artist, in this instance LCD Soundsystem. Daft Punk Is Playing at My House was massive in the UK, but I never liked it enough to include it on 2005’s Aka 'Devil in Disguise'. Had I heard it, I would certainly have made room for Get Innocuous! on 2007/08’s Harmony In My Head. At seven minutes and 11 seconds, it’s quite a long track and serves as a kind of payoff. Stylistically, it sounds like David Bowie doing disco.
In October, my bouldering buddies and I travelled to Fontainebleau for a third year in succession. I again roomed with Mr Wilkinson, who brought along a musical device and the means by which to amplify it. Star Roving by Slowdive was subsequently amplified, from their new album, their first in 22 years.
My enthusiasm for Chain & the Gang was reinvigorated after 2014’s Minimum Rock n Roll and I made a point of buying their new album upon its release. It proved impossible to get hold of on vinyl, and I would have to wait until the band toured the UK in February 2018 to obtain a copy. In the meantime, I familiarised myself with the record by way of Spotify and downloaded the track I wanted for my compilation: Come Over.

After numerous trips to Spain, Italy and France, I advocated for a return to central or eastern Europe. And so in the summer of 2016, my lady friend and I flew to Krakow for what should have been a relaxing four days and nights. On the third night we ate bad goulash, and the rest of the holiday was spent in bed, in the bathroom, or tentatively wandering around the city’s main square, Rynek Główny.
Before consuming the offending meal, I had been privy to Krakow’s ‘Fair of Folk Art’ (Targi Sztuki Ludowej), centered around Rynek Główny, which consisted of artisanal market stalls and traditional live music. These musical performances were a delight. They were more like plays really, acted out by players of various ages wearing traditional costumes, sang in that distinctive timbre that often typifies the vernacular.
The following Easter and we were back in Spain, just in time to celebrate Holy Week in Seville (Semana Santa de Sevilla). This was not a deliberate move on our part, but it made for an interesting holiday. We arrived on Holy Monday and departed on Good Friday, and on every day we were there, at about 16:00 the festivities would commence. Large floats called pasos, depicting various scenes pertaining to the crucifixion, were paraded around the city by their respective cofradías (brotherhoods). In front, cloaked nazarenos holding candles; behind, brass bands playing a maudlin sort of mariachi.
There must be so much music from around the world that’s worth listening to, but who has the time – or even the ear – to sift through it all and decide which of it is any good? There was a new guy at work who generally played stuff that didn’t interest me. One day he put on an album called The Flying Club Cup by a group called Beirut. ‘Balkan folk’ is how Wikipedia describes it, but the band are from the state of New Mexico. In the Mausoleum was the track that jumped out at me, and I made a note of it. Although sung in English, it feels authentic, even though it can’t be. Or can it? Band leader Zach Condon travelled around Europe in his early teens, and he cites the films of Federico Fellini, the mariachi music he was exposed to growing up in Sant Fe, and French chanson as influences. He’s not appropriating anything but absorbing various influences and reinterpreting them. And now, like Bombay Bicycle Club did, he’s stopped doing that, and Beirut’s music, like Bombay Bicycle Club’s, has taken a very average turn.

[This playlist can be listened to here.]