Friday, 24 June 2016

Aftermath of 23rd

I went and did recycling. The clouds are heavy with rain. I didn't see anybody smiling but then at 8.30 on a work day who is?
Somewhere nearby someone's using an electric strimmer. I can hear it. There are some birds singing. What the fuck do they know?
And what the fuck do I know.
And what the fuck does anyone know.
Knowledge doesn't seem to include access to facts anymore. Just a belief in... no. That's not right. It's a belief against.
Throw it away. Don't try and fix it.
And the seas are choked with plastic.

Monday, 13 June 2016


Disquiet moulds itself to me
As I chew the gloopy rain.
Prisms of sanctity, or sanity,
Wherewithal-washed clay,
A golem, I suppose, simple
Of thought, destiny, drear:
To follow or to flee –
The future scolds, scalds.

Demented, perhaps now, the
Past eschewed, droopy, fain
Rhythms of slurry, of vanity
Here venal-varnished stay.
Impotent to unfold into
A clout, stytmied by fear:
To wallow or to be –
The question tramps, damp.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Melt Banana live review (2003)

This review, for Logo Magazine, actually got a fan letter comparing me to Lester Bangs...

Melt Banana
Magnet, Liverpool

Like being woken up from dreamless stupor by a blueblooded 17-year old schoolgirl dominatrix horsewhipping your cock with a car aerial, Melt Banana’s craft of cryogen castigations and fearful force will raise sonic welts and let loose lurid madness in a shockshank, redemptive moment. The utterly deranged quartet, y’see, are absolutely and inviolably masters of their honest filth, and inspiringly torpor-trashing when viewed at close and crazed quarters.

The Magnet – a brilliant venue that combines the heavy-stereo décor of A Clockwork Orange with heaven-sent misfit melodic-core conscience – is jammed, rammed, slammed with dirty boys and sweaty girls in a pearly-skinned, sex-fried protoplasmic orgy, genuflecting frantically in insane, spazzed-out and scuzzed-out unison to these godbaiting priestprodders of fang-frenzied, gyroscopic sonic grime.

Spinning and screaming, this is an erotic explosion, an evocative intrusion, a fretfuck limbmash of hardcore chicanery that shoots shards of sheer sharkspite energy atcha in a humbling harangue. And Rica is ineffably beautiful and unfairly, majestically, technically, bassingly, brilliant, with moves reminiscent of a pissed-off-but-grinning speedsniffing panther providing a classy and crashzoom couterpoint to the sharpshapes of Yasuko O as she strips paint from the ceiling with her voice and vitriolic vitality. The rapid fire ray-gun gonzo geetars and devilbeaten drums command every fibre of my being to dance and shout and roar with life. I’m not alone. I fuckin swear that The Magnet itself is slamdancing down the street, forcing taxis off roads to ramraid kebab shops, scattering half-cooked meat of dubious origin hither and thither.

Melt Banana are an act that smash together some quite extrordinary musicianship with the terrorscamp bloodscurry of pure dynamic control. It’s served them well over four albums and a host of compilation releases – and on the eve of their fifth LP proper, jaws drop and eyes pop at this most nefarious of bands. You ain’t gonna get ballads with this lot – but you will fall in love with them. Fact. Fucked. Final answer. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred Yen. My face and my soul now bear some new, ballsy, beautiful scars, and the world will forever echo with these tarnished tremors of power and poise. Perfection.

The Smoothing Iron (2008)

There was nearly, nearly a book called Hyperkinetic which me and Paul Sullivan edited. The publisher ran out of money though so all that was left was a collection of orphaned stories by music writers, and a mix of the songs they chose to soundtrack their own work. I spent ages on it when I first moved to Cayman and didn't have a job. It's very strange but I love that about it.

Here's my orphan story. It's quite long, and not much happens. Such is life.

The Smoothing Iron

Once upon a time, there was a man who went to work every day on a train. He saw the same people and looked out of the same windows. If he could, he sat on the same side in the same seat. He didn’t get agitated if he didn’t sit there but he would have rather been sitting facing the direction he’d been so he could see everything he’d left behind him. He didn’t think that this had any kind of further significance aside from the fact that when he sat in the direction of travel sometimes the trees made him feel sick because they jumped his eyeballs around a little. But it wasn’t too bad. He had been going to work on the same train at the same time for several years. If he’d counted the times he’d travelled he thought he would probably be upset in some indefinable way so he didn’t bother with that sort of thing.

When the train pulled up at his station he’d get off and buy a coffee if the morning was a bit cold. He liked to warm his hands round the paper cup as much as anything else, and by the time he’d walked the seven minute journey to his office he’d have usually got bored of the drink and thrown it in the bin. He worked in a windowed cubicle counting lots of different numbers but the game was always the same: to make the ones at the bottom match each other. He rather enjoyed the challenge of it and didn’t understand when people said that it was dull, difficult or somehow boring. It was just his job and he didn’t mind doing it. It was just nice, he thought, when it was done because at the start sometimes there were so many numbers that you didn’t think they were ever going to balance. But in that same moment he knew that there would come a day when it all would work out and he trusted himself to work through methodically and accurately until it was finished.

At half twelve he liked to eat his own sandwiches, sometimes by his desk, but mostly he hoped it wasn’t raining because he liked to get out of his office and walk, alone, down the street, munching on cheese and onion and not really thinking about anything in particular. It wasn’t of any consequence to do this, he knew, but it seemed to break up the day and he often looked forward to feeling at least a bit of wind on his cheeks occasionally. It stopped him feeling sleepy in the afternoons. In the past, if he’d stared at the numbers all day sometimes it made his eyes swim a little and it meant he’d make a mistake which wouldn’t do at all.

Sometimes at about half past three some of the guys from downstairs would come up and walk past his window on their way to the toilet or just to meet each other and talk about anything except for work. Sometimes they waved at him and he either waved back or ignored them depending on how much he really needed to concentrate on the sum he was calculating at that precise time. From time to time the exact visages would change, as would the length of the collars or the flare of the trousers or the design of the fringes, but the type of face would invariably be the same: early twenties, not long out of university, he supposed, with a twinkle around the eyes and a smile never far from breast-fresh lips. After a while passing his window he could see the smiles fade a little, the twinkle gone and replaced by a curious minim of what he took to be a kind of sly desperation. The faces would be fatter and a bit greyer, and the clothes would hang with a subtly distinct but distinctly sadder aspect. At that stage the waving would invariably also stop, at which point the man would know that the faces would soon change and reboot to younger models with bluer eyes and the bodies attached would have ever-so-slightly tighter buttocks. It’s just how it was: in here time was unique and he quite welcomed it, probably for many of the same reasons that would provoke the faces to change every now and again. The outcome, of course, was different. Not everybody was born to whistle.

By five o’clock the offices around and about would start to wake from their post-prandial slumber as the buzz of finishing work came around in waves. The man would usually finish his sums before he went; it was easier to do that than to try and retrace some often-complicated steps the next day. But if he finished his sums early he would spend the rest of the day double-checking them because it might well mean that he’d missed something important and he was as sure as sugar that he knew how long these things usually took. But he would have always got the sums right and secretly he liked to go back over the worksheets because it pleased him to see the journey had been a good one. It was good to finish and it was good to start anew. He didn’t get bored with it.

When it was time to go home again he’d put on his coat and try and wander quietly toward the train waiting in the station for him. Although he was surrounded by people it always seemed that it was more like a taxi back; he knew which carriages to go for to try and get a seat, and he knew where everyone would get off. It was nice to get home, with a cup of tea and some television perhaps, and Michael Stripe would occasionally deign to make his appearance if he was hungry. The man knew that the cat was only really going through the motions in order to get fed but he didn’t mind that either because as long as the two understood each other then nothing could really go awry. It was an easy relationship with distinct rules attached and – occasional small bird and turd-slipper aside – nobody really got hurt in the ever-repeating process. Sometimes the man thought about going out to the cinema, and occasionally did so, but mostly he was content with a cup of hot chocolate, or perhaps a glass of red wine, his armchair and updating his blog. Whether anybody ever read it was irrelevant. He knew it was there.

Time passed without much trouble and though the seasons changed the scenery outside the window the man took little notice. If it rained, he reasoned, he would use a brolly and that would be fine. If it was fine, though, he wouldn’t use anything. It wasn’t the best joke, he knew, but then there probably wasn’t one of those anyway. So it would suffice.

One dark and stormy night after work sometime in the wintertime he saw a girl. He’d seen many girls in his time and survived the experience; they had every right to be on the station and go on their way to wherever and that was clearly nobody’s business but theirs. He seemed, however, to somehow know this girl’s thoughts from the outset. He suddenly, and with something of a start, came to the realisation that this was, beyond a doubt, the love of his life. Charming, intelligent, kind, beautiful, she was none of these things and therefore everything a man could ever need. At this sudden flash of clarity, he did the only thing he possibly could do and immediately walked rapidly in quite the opposite direction, head down a little and hand over his drying mouth stifling an unnecessary cough. Perhaps he might have become an alcoholic at this exact point, returning home to weep over the lost opportunity, growing sad stubble and contemplating the curse of his own clumsy shyness. As it was, however, he was more than content in spending the evening searching for grammatical and proofing errors in the curry house flyer that, to his reasonable delight, he found nestling paperly on the black rubber mat when he opened his front door.

The truth was that of late he’d rather have liked to have become infected with a kind of exquisite melancholy of paralysis. Ideas, dreams, he hoped to muse, were best kept preserved in amber, filed away in boxes and neatly stacked within dusty-drawered oak trunks, to be taken out only on very rare occasions, and even then merely gazed upon for the briefest of moments in case they somehow broke out and were ruined by drearily familiar disappointment. Better, much better, he wished he could say, to treasure them as pure possibilities without any chance of acting upon them, rather than rashly allow them freedom and therefore risk destroying them – or, worse, that (God forbid) they came true.
He knew that it wasn’t all that much of a philosophy, but he’d never much cared for that type of thing in any case. Apparently, though, it was advisable to always keep one handy in case of conversational emergency. Permitting himself a satisfied half-smile, he reminded himself that all this was suitably grand-sounding and would do for now, but when it came down to brass tacks actually believing in it was another matter. All of which exhausted him to the extent that he immediately forgot what the point was, which also suited him very well.

Day turned into evening which became early night and suddenly it was midnight and he found that he was still staring into space. With a start he realised that usually by now he’d be in bed. The television was burbling in the background showing some reality show about clubbers in somewhere beginning with an unexpected letter of the alphabet, probably in Greece. Wherever it was, there was a girl washing water onto her shirt whilst lots of orange-faced men called Guido sporting spiky hair danced around gleefully. Lights flashed and bottles of beer were raised along with a guttural cheer as suddenly from all directions blasts of grey-white foam came in and enveloped the girl and boys alike in wan globules that popped and left streaks down their faces. It was all so obvious, so preposterous, so beautiful-desperate that the man snapped himself out of his reverie and actually laughed out loud, something that was rare at the best of times. As he turned the television set off he felt a little porridge in his heart. But it soon passed, and he padded over toward his bedroom, scratching his balls and yawning.

The morning came, as often it was prone to do, and a bleary hunger sighed through the man. He decided it was an egg day today and he rose smiling because he knew the secret of a perfect poach. It was the pinch of salt that was important because it stabilised the boiling point even whilst it seasoned the water, saving cooking time and energy. He set a pan to heat on the stove and as he did so his mind wandered back to last night’s dream. Such a recollection was unusual but as the bubbles began to insinuate through the warming water so snatches of recall came back to him. He was, he’d felt, young, very young and in his grandmother’s old house, romping around on their carpeted old floor, gazing at this strange but somehow brilliant noisy brown box in front of him. It seemed massive, certainly big enough to fit in a few people, and judging by the sounds coming out of it there was definitely a woman trapped in there making the most peculiar and beautifully-tuned screams he’d ever heard in his life. He chomped on the thick slice of currant bread and pondered this magnetic wonder. At that point his reverie was interrupted by the pan starting to shudder as the water boiled furiously. Quickly, he stirred a clockwise vortex in the pan and cracked an egg into it. It formed a beautifully satisfying, near-perfect oval shape, comforting and somehow otherworldly in aspect. For the next two minutes he admired his handiwork and by the time his toast had popped up it was time to eat and the dream was entirely gone.

The train was busy that day but despite the packed carriage the man was somewhat astonished to find that he was able to sit down. The seat was facing forwards rather than back, but that wasn’t too much of a problem. There was a free paper on the floor on the table in front of him which he picked up and began to read. There was a story about a guy who looked a little like Barack Obama, except he really didn’t and the man wondered if that made him or the paper racist. Such philosophical conundra were only a passing thought these days and as quickly as it entered his brain it passed like the trees and the fields, blurring into one indefinable blob along with all the rest he’d endured over the years. To find a seat, though, was a stroke of luck and as he gazed half-detatchedly at the paper he found a quote he rather liked, attributed to Groucho Marx this time but he was shaking-sure he’d seen it before.


he read

            Is the interval between meeting the most beautiful woman in the world

But his thoughts were cracked by the man opposite starting to croak and cackle and gurble and hack. With every cough he seemed to be getting louder. The man reading Groucho Marx dared not look for fear that the cougher was about to expire: he saw, in his mind’s eye, a busting, purple-faced balloon; the Arnold Schwarzenegger character in the film about Mars. About to pop, eyeballs distended and skin utterly stretched for want of air. The paper needed his concentration and he tried to focus on the quote once more.

            And finding out

It was no use: the man with the newspaper was quite angry by now. Not at the rankle-lung opposite who was still in fits of cawking, but by the people in the carriage for not letting on as to why there was a seat free in the middle of the busiest train of the morning rush hour. It made him almost nauseous to think of how irritated he was at himself for not questioning it earlier. He’d never been one to complain overly and he wasn’t going to start now, but, well, really. The crescendo of coughing continued, reaching toward hitherto unthought-of heights and it seemed that the carriage seemed silent as all eyes and ears rested in thrall; even the train’s own buzz and clatter seemed to recede into the background. Faster, more numerous and more racking were the exhalations until finally and almost triumphantly a ball of luminous mucus bounced out of the coughing man’s lungs and stuck to the window.

The man with the newspaper felt quite happy that this was the end of the matter and he knew that as long as he didn’t look too hard to his side things would be just fine because all told he’d rather not have the noise anymore. Gradually, though, the phlegm that had now begun glooping down the window beside him insinuated into his periphery making him think of the yolk of his breakfast egg. He very quickly became very ill indeed as his stomach started to bubble of its own accord. Surely everyone could see it boiling like lava and he felt that if he pressed down it would burst. He also knew that this train had no toilet and he was twenty minutes from the office. That all made for a sum that would never, ever add up.

Therefore, for the first time – well, ever – he jumped out of his seat, startling himself and a few faces that no doubt would recognise him if they allowed themselves to do, and he got off the train at the next stop. It was a matter now of urgency for all he could think of was his predicament. He was never late for work but there again in a sense it was only really important that the sums were done. It was such a rarity of unpunctuality, he reasoned, that people would never believe it if he turned up quietly a few minutes later than normal and probably would adjust their watches instead, leading to all manner of missed appointments and transports as the week rolled on. It was an amusing thought, but a thought that was usurped within a split second by a knife-sharp pain deep in his guts. The station platform was empty as the train rolled and roared away without him as he shuffled toward the public lavatory. But when he got there he found a long-bolted door heavy with rust and graffiti and a sign indicating that due to vandalism the facility was regretfully closed. He groaned out loud and jumped from foot to foot as waves of nausea racked through him. It took every last essence of an ounce of self-control to keep himself together. He breathed and he counted, breathed and counted, breathed and counted until the pain subsided to a near-manageable point. Sweating profusely, he glanced up and as he did so he thought he caught the eye of a jumper-wearing man who held his gaze for a slight moment then scurried off over the footbridge toward town with a most startled manner.

The first place he came to was McDonald’s – always a good bet, he’d read on the net once, for this kind of thing. But the toilet door was locked, probably because people on the net talked about the restaurant in those kinds of terms. The man was bent double again, the perspiration soaking his every footfall. Perhaps if he bought something they would let him have the key so he stood in line behind several people, two of whom looked like schoolgirls and one who looked like their teacher. Although they couldn’t be such, as the teacher appeared to keep accidentally brushing up against their buttocks, eliciting squeals of mock-horror from the pupils. The man’s head was now lolling from side to side. He studied the menu. It looked like food, somewhat, but it was really the last thing he needed and as the smells came from the back of what is technically called a kitchen a new wave of nausea came over him. He put his hand to his mouth as he felt the spume rise inside at another blast of McEgg but there was nothing to be done and – eyes drying in pain - he had to dash out of the bright lights for fear of losing control entirely. This would not do, not at all.

He staggered down the street, moaning; morning shoppers moving out of his way. They think I’m drunk, he thought, and I wish I was. But the mere suggestion of alcohol itself set off another smash of horror within his lava-gut until – finally, and after quite some time – he came upon a dilapidated, but obviously in service, public convenience. There was graffiti, there were green paper towels strewn all over the floor. The stench reminded him of the puma house at the local zoo. The puma that had stared back at him, the most malevolent stare he’d ever known. A laser-eyed glare of challenge, of power. But for these bars, the stare said, but for these bars. You alone did this to me. But for these bars. The smell was unbearable, there and here, then and now. Paralysed then by fear, now by necessity. Another stab and he almost lost it entirely, but he managed to clench for another few moments and collect his thoughts again. Deep breaths, deep breaths as the glutinous warmth moved and bungled its way through his hellishly undulating bile.

Panting with gravel-chested terror he picked the most stinking cubicle, putting into practice the old army saying that If You Want Something Doing, Give It To A Busy Man. And as this particular loo was considerably more noxious than the rest, and stained in quite an utterly disgusting manner, then clearly it was the most popular and therefore by definition the best. He pulled from his pocket his never-ending roll of toilet paper, measured out four strips, and placed them with loving exactitude over the seat lest his buttocks should kiss the cracked plastic directly. Wrinkling his nose, he did what was necessary in divesting himself of the badly-poached egg that had troubled him so, and the thought came into his head that one of life’s greatest pleasures is in letting go of unwanted ballast.

Surprised but rather pleased at this unexpected and entirely unwanted barrel-roll of insight, he shifted his weight on the seat so his left foot could push shut the lockless door again. Insodoing, he noticed that when he turned his head to the left there was an average and somewhat unremarkable cock poking through a hole in the wall to the next cubicle.

Somewhat puzzled, he blinked at it. It blinked back. He knew that this was something of a situation you didn’t really encounter every day, and, fully-emptied so feeling brave, he reached out and flicked it a couple of times. This elicited a strange guttural noise from next door, which subsided into a low moan as they went back to blinking at each other for quite some time. After several minutes of this wordless contemplation, the airing cock withdrew itself. As he listened to the slamming of doors and the scurrying of feet into the distance he realised that he was, once more, quite alone. Moreover, and to his great chagrin, the carefully-placed paper had somehow fallen off the seat and no doubt the plastic had left tangible impressions in his buttocks. When he flushed the chain, even the cistern chortled.

Feeling quite pleased with himself after washing his hands properly as directed by the poster he saw in dad’s hospital the man peered out into the growing sunlight and realised that it was shaping up to be a reasonably nice day. He strode past the dry cleaners wanting to wave at someone but nobody seemed to be there so he changed his stance into a swift glance at his own reflection and seemed to get away with it well enough. He set off once more toward the station, humming a tune to himself.

            Twas on a Monday morning la la la la la laa la-la

The faces seemed different to those he’d see at work at this time of day. Usually people would be rather professionally-communicative until around 11am when they’d be resigned to their fate, full of caffeine swagger and chunter about football, weather, girls, boys as they relaxed into the social aspect. But here on the street, there was a different kind of talking going on. The street had opened up into a small market that he didn’t remember passing before. Hang it, he thought, I’m already late so I’ll have a look around. The incident with the penis had not left his mind entirely and he wasn’t quite sure he knew what to think about it. In the past there had been girls, but never boys, although online there was always some body or other to admire and he’d realised that it wasn’t really any bother to anybody which gender he masturbated to. He put it down to experience, which was another thing that people seemed to value in life, so he was above all rather pleased to have notched up another experience to add to his experience in general. It might come in handy one day, he reasoned, as he stopped near a fruit stall where a woman in her lateish sixties was fondling some red peppers for firmness.

            New innis mornin neearmyluv

Said the greengrocer

            Ger aurafit, they’re more wrinklier than me, sjust I duntek sa ma chaionin

She replied

The man smiled and moved on; this was clearly not the first time that this conversation had taken place and both seemed to be enjoying it. A rather surly chap smoked hard and stood in the man’s way for a second, staring him down, before moving to reveal a book stall behind him. The smoking man had an expensive watch and freckles. The books were mostly conspiracies about 9/11 and remaindered biographies of Trivium and Kasabian.

            Too forafeyvurmeat

Smokey said.

But the man shook his head with a smile and moved on; he was enjoying the chatter and buzz of the streets around him. The colours and smells and sounds of the market were bruisingly exhilarating and he swelled with a new-found happiness. This was wonderful. There were stalls selling curtains and a fish van, fresh not stinking; there was a T-shirt stall, a behatted man with a display of cheeses and a chubby, pretty enough lady with watches, buttons and sticky toffee bars; there was even a tent with a display of electric wheelchairs. He loved every second of it. Standing underneath the town clock, he surveyed the scene. Maybe he could get his morning coffee here instead and take a half day. It wouldn’t make much difference now.

As he walked toward the church he could see at the top of a road, he spotted a small crowd outside a tired-looking hardware store. They gathered round a group of gentlemen dressed in what he took to be some kind of old-style finery; all tight black pants, rosy cheeks and strangely billowing white shirts. The group stood staring back at surrounding souls. It was serpent-tense.

The wind blew, flumping at the dressed-up group’s wigs, and as it did so they sprang into action as one. One mimed playing a cello; another a violin; the third another violin and the fourth something inbetween. They played so well that it seemed that they had merely forgotten to bring their actual instruments but, not wanting to attract attention to themselves and too proud to admit it, they carried on playing without them. The crowd, marginally confused but mostly disappointed, began to disperse. Soon the man was alone with the quartet, watching their busy fingers and their concentrated, semi-ecstatic faces. It was all very familiar to him and, maddeningly, he very nearly had the tune in his head but whenever he tried to pin it down it danced a little out of reach, coquettishly. He stood, and closed his eyes, and swung and danced in his mind like a music box, becoming part of the music and notmusic which cycled round and around and around and around and around and around and around.

After a while he heard a small cough and peeped a letterbox blink to find that three of the performers were now standing limp like marionettes, gazing through the floor. The other one, one of the violin players, was holding out a hat, to which the man who wasn’t at work mimed getting his wallet out of his pocket, opening it, licking his fingers, peeling off three crisp notes, folding them and putting them into the proffered headgear.

He walked away very pleased with himself. Before he had reached ten yards, however, it struck him that he ought really to have paid for his entertainment, and he knew that the four players were surely following him one breath behind, hands clawing toward his neck in virulent anger at demeaning their art. The man felt their growling behind him and broke first into a jog and then a run, a mad dash away from the scene of his crime. He ran, and ran, and ran, dashing away through an underpass, shoes clattering devilsong echo before he realised that the only footsteps he could actually hear were his own. He bit his teeth and stiff-grittedly looked back.

There was nobody there.

Shaken and smiling, he left the underpass and found himself in a twisty concrete skate park. There were ramps and pipes and all kinds of undulating concrete surfaces on which to play. He rather liked the idea and remembered the time he and DD had gone out on bikes and done skills. A long time ago, now, he thought. A long time. Somewhat exhausted from his exertions he stooped and began to read the graffiti around him.
bad grilled hymen
                        EDGE higher
                                    maNaNa TeCH GriNd 09
He took them to be names of bands and DJs; there was definitely amount of artistry in some of these colourful pieces and liveliness, even in hoppus is a fag and Fuck Off PEEDO’S, although he had to admit that he was a little lost with Nigarz Nunrape. Nonetheless, he surveyed the park and thought it on the whole to be a better use of space than whatever may have been there before. Heart pumping brine, he climbed to the top of the nearest half-pipe. It was a lot steeper up here than it appeared on the television for sure. He sat down a little gingerly and stared back toward where he felt town to be. He could see very well how he’d gone wrong, confused a little by the market more than likely. It was half-blocking the station road, after all. Pondering his next move, he absent-mindedly picked up a stone that was half-wedged in a small hole at the top of the pipe. As he made to throw it away he realised it was encased in cling-film. Oh dear, he thought. But he put it in his pocket anyway and carefully made his way back toward Station Road, humming a folky tune to himself and promising himself that he would beyond doubt set to avoiding any lurking mimes that may be gunning for him on the way.

He reached a newsagent’s shop. It was entirely unremarkable but for the fact that seemingly as soon as he’d noticed it he suddenly found himself standing outside it again clutching a lighter, ten Silk Cut and a pack of blue Rizla papers. The braver thing to do was to get back on the train and get the sums done, he knew, but it had been a relatively long time and something in the aspect of the midday sun glinted at the back of his brain. The consequent itch was becoming irritating so he made his way into the church grounds, checked all around was clear and made himself a scruffy, mouse’s sleeping bag of a spliff.

Ten years since? Maybe more. But he was surprised his fingers retained some kind of memory even if his lungs didn’t quite. As the smoke hit the back of his throat the nausea of the morning returned and he nearly, very nearly, lost what remained of his breakfast. But after a few puffs he felt his shoulders sag back and his essence start to diffuse into the sonics that surrounded him. Cars beeped; the church bell sounded; somewhere a couple argued, or fucked, or both. It was an unstintingly gorgeous cacophonic symphony, fluidly unpredictable in amplitude and timbre, themes and melodies intertwining, rankling, scheming to create something messy and quite magnificent. As he listened and let himself become part of the village song he let his mind drift toward a vague point of light in the middle distance.

When he got there he realised that it turned out that here was life all along. Here, of all places, inside a village long-subsumed into a conurbation but in its own way timelessly raucous once the commuters had left for the day. Of course, there was death, too, shrugging at the end of it all. It was a paradox that the most peaceful place in the villageytown was the place where those who least needed it now lay. God bless us, every one. And the man allowed the thought to come that he’d seen enough graves in his time to know that one day, and one day all too soon, he would have his own. Because if and where choices exist, they exist only in life.

The man who didn’t smoke anymore sat on the grass, peering at the stones subsided and slates straight that surrounded him. The clouds and the sun dappled leopardskin onto his hands. As he studied his fingers it all suddenly made a bizarre, puzzling sense. As long as the sums added up, he mused, nobody should really take any notice what happened in between. The problem was that people always did take undue notice and because for the sake of… something… it seemed hysterically important to be seen putting hours in, days in, neat and nimble, stretching out the work until such a time that it was right to preen and parade the results in an effluent-brief explosive show of finery and ostentation. And then the only thing that could be done was to start all over again. And again, and again, and again, and again, and again the same until your buttocks sagged along with your soul and with your heart. How beautiful, how pointless, and how addictive it all was. It was an unbidden realisation, and one that both saddened the man to his baked core as well as freed him. This kind of circular nonsense was the reason, he knew, that he kept himself away from these moments. As sugar was spice it made no salt of sense. All of which made him rather upset, which would for once simply have to do because now there was no more arguing about it, at least from any angle that he could see.

And so the man with the slumped cheeks trudged once more toward the station. He knew that it wasn’t worth the trouble to bother himself too much with this sort of thing, but apparently this sort of thing was going to bother and trouble him regardless no matter how long a route he took around it. It was unavoidable, inevitable, ludicrous, and above all comforting in its finality. There was really only one sensible option and it was quite the relief to allow himself to go along with what he now knew to be the single honest and true way to resolve this nonsense once and for all. A few minutes later and he found himself standing on the very edge of the platform, looking over toward the footbridge where a girl was crossing, much as the man all those hours and years and lifetimes ago had done. She looks like a duck, thought the man, with a tight smile.

The man with the arched eyebrow and the wry heart stood straighter and stronger than ever before, and looked at the iron tracks that converged in the distance into a single point. He knew he would never reach there. Nobody ever would. A horn tooted in urgent, deafening panic as the man kissed his entwined knuckles and gazed up and down at the warm, smooth metal. The waiting man breathed deeply at the decision of what was to come so quickly. It was the deepest decision of all – but it was his decision, and his alone, and he knew that by taking back ultimate control he had therefore finally stolen back his heart. It was good to start, and it was good to finish.

And the train came for him.

A month later or thereabouts a woman walked alone in a graveyard. Charming, pretty, intelligent, funny, she was none of those things. Clutching a tired bouquet, she paused at a rather new grave, and stooped to lay the flowers there before reading the stone’s inscription and, realising her mistake, set them down at her grandmother’s grave next door.

As she crossed herself and walked back the way she came, she felt quite peculiar when the thought came into her head, quite unwarranted, that she’d never taken a train in her life and she sure as sugar wasn’t going to start now. Just as suddenly, her heart seemed full of hot porridge: warm, glutinous, and rather uncomfortable. She dashed away and didn’t look back. She was, perhaps, the woman of someone’s dreams, but of whose, it was rather difficult to tell.

Honey Mead (2008)

From the Stories from the City anthology

Honey Mead

It was the honey mead that really did me in; the first few strangulated swigs from the bottle crackled in my throat, burning through toward my stomach from where the blasted heat of the Lithuanian liquor overcame me. Suddenly I felt filled with a sadness beyond any immediate justification as I sat and watched DD and Ralphie animatedly talking about microphones and massive jugs. But mostly microphones.

Here in L8, heroes have walked, have risen against injustice, culminating in a frustration that eventually raged further than ever before. That ultimately imploded. And in the aftermath justice shrugged and subsequently flooded the streets with fire-soothing smack. And sometime stilled were our heroes of music, of the Caribbean, fighters, lovers, the illegal drinking clubs and the singers and the sailors. Home-grown and proud; whatever the genealogy.

Outside the window a distant alarm sounded. Sometimes I lie awake wondering where they are and what they might signify. Perhaps it’s the weeping of a car simply parked outside the wrong house, like my friend had done once whilst visiting one of his we-think-he’s-making-it-up conquests. His little preposterous Ford, customised with ridiculous wheel trims, a £200 steering wheel and a ludicrous gearstick with a flashing light. But when he returned to his pride and joy the windows were stoved in, not in search of booty but because someone had seen him drive down the wrong street and stick his cock, perhaps, in the wrong honey. We know this cause someone had carved Fuk Off Niggar (sic) into the Ford’s bonnet. Here, in L8. Toxteth, older than Liverpool itself, where the Vikings landed and not conquered but integrated with the locals. Where sometimes it’s easier to find plantain than potato.
You worry when the alarms stop; it could mean anything.

The honey mead did me in. I thought about why and when I’d bought it the month before on a work trip to Vilnius. After three days of visiting amber factories, being submerged in mud in spa baths and incredulously walking round ex-Soviet Monument parks, the evening was spent in some glee bar-hopping and eating pig’s ears up and down Pilies Street and Gediminias Avenue, each bar more fun and beery than the last. It was magical; drinking with the ghosts of my Grandfather and his siblings. This is truly the way to communicate across the ages, so į sveikatą! to good ol Harris Barnet Schuster and all the ones who were left behind and I hope you found a way through: words do not start to express how deep my luck is. Lithuania’s past testifies to unimaginable horrors. The recent past, too. I was in school getting kicked out of French lessons for drawing boobies on the table in tipp-ex even as kids my age were being tortured to death for looking at the KGB too closely. That the country is so upbeat now is true bravery - better to say, maybe, it still exists because of it. I went to bed in my four-star hotel still looking above and toasting them all for my fortune, vowing to never let them down.

The honey mead did it. I bought it in duty free; viciously overproof and spectacularly beautiful, packing a punch of truly painful decree, it fit Liverpool perfectly.

Drinking it brought a wave of sadness at the cunts who’d put a severed pig’s head on the steps of the mosque round the corner; front page news, mission accomplished. Every golden mouthful seemed to let in more misery; in the bottom of the third glass I could see a replay of my birthday celebrations culminating in a gang of coked-up spazzers stamping on my mate’s head, hitting out at anyone in sight and blacking the eye of Hat who’d tried to reason with them. She fell to the floor, my mate had to hide under a taxi to escape the boots (though the compensation cash did buy him a car so he reconciled it in his usual way). Me la? Well la, I was rolling in the gutter, covered in kebab, la, and oblivious to anything else because I am unwittingly fuckwittedly lucky.

The fourth shot of mead brought back lost friends. The kind that are lost but still in the same city, rendered miserably distant after a horrendous maybe-unbridgeable rupture in business and music and whispers and, perhaps, lies. That’s sad because there were many lost nights and harsh hangovers together. Headaches and confused mornings tempered by the knowledge that an adventure had been accomplished. That we’d partied and sung and done daft things and carried on regardless and met footballers and met girls and boys and just been around and fizzing and, fuck it, alive. It’s shoulder-roundingly sad, too, because there is another kind of lost friend, and that kind will never have the chance to have an argument ever again, let alone kiss and curse another morning with all its headaches and possibilities. I drank to those lost friends; dukes all. I vowed to go to bed that night hoping to meet them, maybe, in a dream, so I could take them down to Bold Street and let them loose one last time on Yums Buffet and give the old scratchy violin guy a quid. Not to do anything special. Just to do something again. You never realise at the time what you’re going to miss when people are gone and it’s never the big things.

Amidst this swirling miasma I felt a start as Ralphie prodded me with a D112. Oi dickface, he said, we’re going to Korova, you coming or what? And as we three started to walk down Park Road in search of a taxi I felt the second effect of the Vitatis Medus, this fashioned Krupnika. In a beat my heart’s heaviness was lifted because at the end of it, someone’s always there to call you dickface and take the piss out of your trabs. Liverpool has seen it all before; there’s no real need to panic when these streets are still filled with music and speeding ideas and immigrants and emigrants, imaginative and harsh. Degenerate beautiful bastards all, some gone but not forgotten. I will toast you a thousand times and I vow to try my best not to let anyone down. The beat goes on, motherfuckers.

Inner City Sumo Review (Unpublished, 2004)

Intended for Plan B Magazine, 2004

Thurs. 6th May 2004 7.00pm £5 - SPECIAL EVENT!
Thrashgig, Inner City Sumo, Crustgig and Artcore Fanzine Presents
This is an exhibition of 25 years of punk rock flyers which is coming over from the States. It features stuff from the Sex Pistols, Minor Threat, Black Flag etc..The Biscuit Boys who feature members of the legendary early US punk band The Big Boys, headline a top bill of punk and hardcore bands from around the world. It's a celebration of DIY art and culture. Bands and promoters are encouraged to bring their own flyers as part of the exhibition.
For more info go to: or

Masque Theatre / Bar, Liverpool / DD’s house of panic and disorder / wrinkled-synapse 5AM-land / revulsion / revelation / confusion or redemption

1991 Stage Right Ouch BANG Bass BARK BARK dogcollar NO MAKEUP I WEARING THE JELLO BIAFRIC MARIGOLDS roarrrrrrrrghhhhh my song this one called VEGI FACE it go like this: akakakakakakaakakBADABABABDBBBBEBBBEBEBakakakBVAAAAAAAAAAGakakakakBOBOBOBOBBAAAARGH KA
Now we 1994 Knock Knock at YOU FRONT DOOR etc an now longer time PUT UP POSTERS WITH ME LOOK I hav coppied them all up on the PHOTOCOPY MACHINE AT WORK AND now I HAVE 100 Look I KUT OUT LETRAS from PAPERS and STICK together cause I hav CUTUP pics of there are oh soldiers and flower an a punk baby an the like an maybe some dinosaurs for some reason here we have WHEATYGLUE oh it 4am Cops no it better now now better at 7PM IT OK IF YOU LOOK LIKE YOU MEAN TO BE THERE they no never will say because after all it art an that.
An now lookit A SINGLE ON VINYL I CAN DO THIS BECAUSE IT IS MINE AND YOURS now my FRIENDS our mateys our people they like to do INDEPENDEMENTATED STUFF IN Switzerland Thailand USA Finland Germanland FRANCE an SPAIN and all sorts look here my fanzine you swap for yours thank you WE FEEL SIMILAR MAYBE nor THE SAME completely but COMPLIMENTARY of MIND an IND£P£ND£NT an ALT£RNATIV£ more pointed POLITICOSOCIO-FUN than anything else.

 Wot it now 96 oi I HAV LOTS BOOKS Readed SITUATIONISMISTASIC stuff an Englandsdreaming heres imagery foryou the SKILL is in the CHASE in the lost art of the STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART Reappropriation reintergration reinterpretation of subtle harsh intracontextual imagery AS YOU WALK DOWN ANY CITY STREET the art is ALSO to be found in the decay of its ephemera as LOVE and MADNESS be the same hale and hearty energy of course over thirty forty years or suchlike perhaps of CUTUPANDANCEORBEDAMNED political personal paradoxy.

Now it 2004 2004 aii KENNEDYS mark III or idiotical something but still PINK PUNK PAIN an BRAIN in tandem Biscuit Boys omygod THAT still A GOOOOD NOIZE even if I sometimes now buy ORCHIDS an get new coffee tables not always spending timecash on terribledrugsclothesrecords ALL THE TIME I find I have found I STILL FEEL IT SOMEWHERE sparkling not quenched extinquenched by DOURNESS of DENSITY and so burbling inside I throw aside my DRUNKEN shell try and reclaim some some sort of hash-stumbled selfrespect now I remember myself an the art an the passion an the interaction an the creation the ACT OF creation is almost and always and suddenly as important as the results and PUNK and ART and ZEN and sometimes yes even those crummyhairfaced FUCKING HIPPIES actually inhabit some of the same space because NO MATTER HOW BADLY PISSED UP or cack handed the ultratradeoffs get as you are assimilated bashed down by corporations corporate onanism then the TRIUMPH is forsure and forever therein and thereof the WILLING to LOVE for the sake of the journey.

IF I write another song in 2004 WHICH I WON’T but IF I do then it will be probably on alovelyexpensivesweetacoustic an it more than likely goes strumstrumstrumlalalalakiss rather than akakakakakakaakakBADABABABDBBBBEBBBEBEBakakakBVAAAAAAAAAAGakakakakBOBOBOBOBBAAAARGH KA but then it somehow seem just as powerful just not very good maybe but powerful nonetheless maybe somehow even moreso than whatever come before because like the music much like the bands of the night tonight and definitely like the lovers and the proper people of the world it we and they know that bands people lovers artists are different in as many ways as they are the same and so as it is and shall be; and as PUNK always held inside itself, and myself should I have only ever been able to maybe realise this, that it is the embracing of these differentisms that create a world of colour and magic that holds you tight and kisses your neck with imagination and electricity, and all else is just PHYSICS.

This Is A Dunk (Automatic writing, Nov 2008)

Sometimes the words don't make any sense at all and that's OK I think. Is it worth reading? Probably not.

Elegance lasts only for the last time of bakelite hum gimmick finely swinging in colour, whilst style of similar seventies makes hard macines flimsy; solid, rigid, colour lost but hahahaha it is music now and a hoover comes fast. Multicoloured machines move splo, splo, short of splendid space. Motor, courting rewind, things spaceage and constellation, a satellite conversation lovely in its fighting dog replacement. See you next time electric chores, far more, hand pen another day history dark furthest reaches an ass ass  in. In o lloss. Loss. One mile away from hiroshit end of earch, rich, baked acme camembert and gammon. Full fruit food. Money supermarket. A humdrum unique credot transfer., casjback is easier for deals whatever. Market in a second of price comparison site. Bosh. Eyes liu. Without elle. New fragrance today ladies another roast rack. Very freezer til ping, any colleen e. press red a cpsto to; s;pts pn te;;y omc;idom gbn;ack kac lomg pf s;ig raomnb- riehiubop. Skun fpress red jiust mpw/ yeah MOV ED BY ACCIDENT,
PEOPL AREOPHBT THHBE THEYHBHE_HOT:?> becua beszaun. Hitelers women next Sunday at chantl just after esebvem pm adam changed frige it is wel good WHAT FDOD WE FO WITHOUT NMJKEO}?
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Piklimg acient acid kill bqackteria smoking story go soke nhu tepee or in real litfe le tipi kil mcrpb s antiocisfoat saly fdeanwater opiut ot oof unsmoked backon joing firth salt underneath more salt on top not good for no salt bias but once saliute last for eer come out lie this it real nice it tasty bty np onvindn eBBBBBBBBBBBBBBAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSTARDNo;k ,r.5qrifienifn

Firfrindlge onk ,mhg ijoL:M/. vgyhn  I DO NOT KNOW
My diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiea is to do this all god and make I all AUTHORITYZ and byut oh god it is all importanted anitb but thisn make it good I need o do good
Oo I se lot
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Wprl pf p fof tjj os I wat ebana lebbe

I do a scrabol play sKrabol I do ok no one want plat now tho rest work down balansdone bna;j0fojml; casqi0opm sponr. Hot liquid own, gkwe,gn eeeeeit COOOOls dumps air winds up as col liquid evaporates continuous cuce pump into itvchen.

Eek A Mouse (unpublished, 2004)

2004 rejected review of Eek a Mouse LP for Plan B

Eek A Mouse
Mouse Gone Wild

Tales of
Girls. Dread. Jah Rule.
(out) Of America. (out) Of Jamaica. (where)Of Schizo-rascal-phrenia.

Trashy. Tetchy.

Spike. Live. Strike. Alive. Convenience. Convention. Imperious Insurrection. Getyours. Haveme. Have.

Pristine Pride
Leonine, Wired,
(into) favour (anti)


(Bad Boy Mouse:

Hey America

I made it

Jacko Is A Whacko

Everything is not what it seems

I’m an Uptown Dread

I will turn you on from Dusk til Dawn

Give Back You Heart

Everyone wanna talk inna Jamaicanese


Alabama 3 live review (2003)

For Logo Magazine (I think) - 2003


The Masque Theatre is a magical place. All vaudeville and red and steppy and intimate and intimidating at the same time. Happily, this slides in supremely well with the mighty Alabama 3, whose tecknopolitic grace n flavour is a genuine joy at the best of times, and the walls of the Theatre tonight are undulating with pure THC as the sardined groovers mash together in slinky groove. The reason why this works so well– daft alliances with The Presleytarian Church Of Elvis the Divine (UK) aside – is that Alabama 3 write, consistently, manically, inspiringly, simply, exceptional songs. It’s a suicidally fastfisted melange of Oik-Skool Acid House and classy Country; throw in shades of Punk and a gloop of Gospel and what you get is squalid sonic supremacy performed with ebullient menace. With a sense of righteous humour underpinning their every move, tracks of the calibre of Too Sick To Pray and Mao Tse Tung Said in their repertoire, and a sumptuously manic stage presence, Alabama 3 are one of the more inventive bands knocking about.            

Larry Love’s drawling deepthroat and rockin-raven ravemoves have always been of filthy quality, and the ten-gallon headwear marks him out as an inviolably sordid preacher, wherever the religion of this insistent beat and the tabernacle of these alarmingly absolving tunes are conjoined. His chubby, squinting, whisky-addled rapscallion rapper-cohort Reverend D.Wayne Love, however, seems more incoherent than immoral tonight; but then hell and heaven always were ultimately two sides of the same tarnished and speckled dime. Because, as it ever was, the band’s terse tightness is at once perverse and passionate as they lay down despicable devilry behind, and time is stilled in stumpwaving sympathy with the moment.

Alabama 3’s genius lies in their experience, their experimentation, their expansive hold over the etheral and the evil. Musical alchemists that have stared down into the cocaine iniquity of the void to become greater than the slum of their parties, it’s impossible to resist, and it would be unholy so to do. The exit doors are locked between the set proper and the encore – not that anyone’s hyperventilating to leave this church of chaos – and the venue heaves and humps harlot-red with the immaculate sweat of the wasted and the sainted.

On Liverpool (2006)

Written in 2006

So there I was, punking it round Europe on the DIY scene for a few years there, crazy tours of Spain without a translator and scary jaunts to Holland staying with major speed dealers and a cast of insane friends of varying psychotic tendency; not bad for a quartet of spluttering hicks who’d not left the blanket of Bangor before. Radio sessions, self-released singles and tiny indie deals in Germany, fun, filth, fucking about. And completely unsustainable. People have their own locus to follow, and, as bands are generally made up of people, when it all ended it was with a not-entirely-unpredictable fizzle. And slightly frazzled but back on the dole – a succession of cruddy office temping jobs merely holidays from watching Minder repeats, eating bacon butties and drinking far too much Frosty Jack white cider – I was kicking about looking for things to do. One of those things was very nearly settling down into soul-death, kids and destroyed dreams.It is astonishing to me that this did not happen. But fatalism is a disease as much as a philosophy; que sera sera, but yous has gotter make it sera, bozo, kapeesh?

 A handful of good reviews for plays I’d written as a kid, an under-the-bed full of unsold 12” singles, a clutch of barely sentient local newspaper reviews I’d written for local bands: none translate into prospects, plans, melodies to sing for a tune-filled future. Bangor. Cider. Farmfoods for £1 packs of square sausages every other Friday. Pissed up at Bangor City games on the Saturday. Sniffing poppers on the terraces. And on, and on, a spiraling midrange and a sprawling midriff.

The singer started it. It’s his fault. He was even better at being on the dole than I was. About to get a gold watch for his long service, a succession of lucky escapes from work and well-planned bad job interviews, all culminating in the best blag imaginable. Toothy Tony Blair’s New Deal For Musicians. And consequently an offer of a place on a college course to learn how to not ever get a proper job. To whit: a one-year postgraduate sound engineering degree. The singer, a fine footballer boasting also much wit, charisma and willfulness, couldn’t actually be arsed to do it. 

So I thought, fuck this, may as well have a pop, gotta be better than Real Work / Real World; promptly I dyed my hair an inadvisable shade of blonde and managed, through much manouevering and sheer luck, to get on the course and complete it reasonably successfully and usually monstrously hung over. I’d not gone to college after school, see: the band with whom I was playing bass, and cod-managing, were much more fun than all that shit. Indeed, one of our first – and favourite – tracks was the intense existential epic, ‘Shit Student Wankers’.

 despised the stereotypical nobbers with grants and southern accents that flowed through Bangor like pus-filled lava. It’s a small place: 14,000 locals, but at term time, add 8,000 knowitall little cunt-kids into the equation and it ain’t pretty. Some of the lasses were very pretty, of course, so me, the old band, various mates and drinking cohorts, would spend hours, days, licentious lifetimes, sitting on the bench outside Safeways in Upper Bangor drinking cider and rating the ladies’ relative charms. (I think one of us talked to one of them once but I can’t be sure.) Other revenges: crashing parties and necking the ale, skinheaded, speeding and vile, three or ten fuckbags called Rupert and Ameiliacacalia cowering in the corners whilst we filled our pockets with packets of cheese to take home. Not pretty, not good, not proud. But that’s how it was. How we were. Pricks, really.

Things end. The course ended. Back to doledays and takeaways and evermore bitter midnight Bennett plays. The gang was breaking up. To corners of the UK, to college. Too much to deal with. Worse off with this new pig-faced, pygmy knowledge than the days of happy idiocy that had preceded it. Uncontrollable; pained; FUCKIN BOREEEDDDDDDD.

So, my mate Huw mentions this music college type place in Liverpool that sounds like a laugh. I apply, for a laugh. Me and my other mate Dave go to the same interview in Scouseland, for a laugh. We sit in the bar afterwards drinking brandy and I say hello to the bloke who’d interviewed me 20 minutes before. He clocked the brandy, and he laughed. It was the best part of any interview I’d ever done.

Cause, six weeks later, back in Bangor, I stumble downstairs in the mid-morning (2pm in those days) and open a letter that makes me laugh cause it’s an unconditional offer to do a three year Sound Technology degree in Liverpool. I laugh because I’d signed up to some cruddy Sound Tech A Level in Colwyn Bay, for a laugh, but I could never be arsed going: fuckin miles away it was. This all meant I had approximately 9 months of bacon butties and cider ahead, and the dole could fuck off with all that job shit they’d been hassling me with recently. Top. (Dave didn’t get in, not at first, he came 2 years later.)

By which time I’d been alternately scared, stoned and finally solid with a city that seems tiny and huge at the same time. I hated the kebabs we’d get, not a fucking patch on Shahin’s in Bangor High Street. The curries were ok, and the course was ok, and I nearly pulled on my first day there cause I told this very tall lass I was writing a book or some such shit, and she fucking fell for it. I was sposed to meet her in the college bar but I’d accidentally necked half a bottle of Courvoisier in the afternoon and I couldn’t actually focus on walking properly. But I had a wank about her that night anyway.

So yeah anyway I’d ran out of cash by October, and the choice was clear: get a job in a pub, or try and restart the tangled mess of music reviews I’d done on and off for various papers over the last few years. And the dicks let me do it! This is and was key to Liverpool: local papers, Big Issue, all wanting someone on the ground to write about bands. About gigs. About excitement and magic and electricity and when I did my first ever review for Big Ish, it was a punk night called Inner City Sumo, and it was all of these things, and it reawakened the senses of the dullard napping within me. It was Flamingo 50, a genius spark of in-yer-face punk with a lead singer, Louise, throwing herself into sparkling shapes of sheer belief – no pose in sight – and I fell in love. With the band, yes, with the night, and with the people: this was a local crowd, and I was the student. I threw myself into it. Every night a new gig, a new band, new faces and new mates. Liverpool had hundreds of gigs on: Bangor had one a week if you were lucky (or unlucky, given I used to arrange most of them). 

Concurrent to the ICS crew’s shenanigans, the cosmic scouse shit was going down in the Zanzibar. I pretty much hated it, but I went to quite a lot of the gigs anyway. I liked the buzz. It stank of weed, as did I, and this kinda nonchalant fug of self-belief and repressed violence always got me off in the old punk days. Liverpool has a punk spirit: it absorbs influences, intelligences, talents, from all over the world and regurgitates them in an enormously confrontational and unique way. Halls of mirrors reflecting life in all its gory glory: musically, this is the equivalent of a bullshitter in a plate glass shop. As soon as you think you’ve sussed it out the whole perspective changes and you’re half a step off the pace. Like H from Steps. Or Gary Barlow. Or the Crucial Three. I realized then that I knew nothing about anything. And I fucking loved it. It meant the possibilities were limited only by imagination.

And my imagination was running wild. I started doing PR for a local label; I joined up with the magical PMS show on Radio Merseyside, the longest-running on local radio. Music everywhere, from Africa, from Rock Ferry, from France, from Wales. Two hours a week of absolute unthought of excellence, and me involved in broadcasting it. Roger Hill, the presenter, and old hand of Liverpool and Eric’s and the punk spirit. Circularity. Maybe. College was much less important than hooking up with bands for interviews, lager and watching them shit on cars at 4am after gigs. Scummy, funny, in this pretty, shitty city. And now, it’s major magazines, book deals and traveling to different countries to get quotes from a succession of bands for me. Possibilities all over the place. Liverpool – as much as Bangor – has allowed me to believe in a world where a new shade of emotion is only round the next corner. In the next gig. In the next lyric, the new riff, the bottom of the next glass. Keep going, says Scouseland, because you’re part of everything if you choose. It is a power and a devilry and a mélange of heady superlatives. 

That I landed here is – from one point of view – lucky. But luck is a concept as vague as time, happiness and the rules of rugby union anyway. Because, linearly, I can plot my trajectory backwards and see now that everything I have done, all the tearing around and the tears and the frustration, and the nearly-destroyed dreams, and the obscenities and the holey-clothed skintness and the punk scene, everything has brought me to this moment; sitting here, a pile of reviews for Record Collector, The Fly, Metal Hammer, Plan B, Mixmag, Music Mart, fucking whoever’s stupid enough to let me do them, Sepultura on full blast, a book coming out in three weeks - and a freezer full of duty free vodka. It makes sense, but only if I try not to make too much sense of it.

Liverpool’s changing. Physically changing. Capital of Culture, aye, but knocking aside the ground-level culture all too often. But I know it’s difficult: progress don’t have to be a dirty word and Liverpool also often needs a kick up the arts to get the rampant rage of ideas and innovation up to stellar speed. It will always be so: this is a place with the mindset, the venues, the people and the intelligence to survive, to thrive, and to blast itself a new arsehole if it needs to. The clichés are always tempting, but clichés are clichés because at one stage they were truths.

And one version of one truth is this: Liverpool fucking rocks.

Sometimes it whinges, and sometimes it fights, sure. But it undeniably fucking rocks. And the people who pass through tap into a wider mimetic consciousness that allows and demands a perpetual reinvention of the utterly timeless artistry and elegance and squalid roaring that makes music, and life, so piquant and wonderfully unpredictable.

It’s made me have a career. It’s made me feel like I can have a career. Unimaginable once, but I was a prick in those days. I guess I still am: the difference is, these days I know it.
And I don’t drink white cider any more.
Not as often, anyway.

I’m alive.