Thursday, 15 November 2007

Ex Mass Fizz


Dear reader, ‘twas suggested to me by the editor of this venerable publication that a waxing lyrical on something other than music may provide an interesting aside. Well, I was more than happy to oblige…

So, giving you plenty of time for forward planning, this month I thought I’d advise on Champagne and sparkling wine. Some of you may be wanting to drink more than mulled wine come Ex-Mass time – ‘tis, as they say, the season…

Now, you may have noticed, in retailers with a certain ‘bling’ to their swing, the arrival of bottles of Moët NV tarted up with Swarovski glass crystals, and in a box bearing the legend “Be Fabulous” – BE CREDULOUS more like, says this noble scribe. These monstrosities are retailing at around 40 quid a bottle when you can get EXACTLY THE SAME CHAMPERS for around 20 notes in many supermarkets and even the odd pub chain (i.e. Wetherspoon’s) – not that I’d drink the stuff myself of course! However, before you accuse me of snobbery, allow me to clarify. Over 40 million bottles of Moet (and, by the way, you pronounce it MOW-IT, like your lawn, NOT ‘Mo, eh?’ – like a pseud) Champagne are produced every year. Think you get quality at that volume? No, neither do I. It tastes thin and compliments that with a rapier-like acidity. Nice.

So, If you’re gonna shell out some hard earned cash on a nice bottle of pop, I’d like you to get your money’s worth. For around the same price you’d waste on a bottle of Moët you can pick up either Vilmart Grand Reserve (small, independent producer – available via independent wine merchants and also Fortnum & Mason’s wine department) or Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve (more widely available, for example on and in branches of Oddbins) – both of these are round, ‘classic’ styles of Champagne with acidity that’s ‘palate-cleansing’ rather than teeth stripping.

Hell, you don’t even have to stretch to the real thing if the budget won’t permit. Jansz, from Tasmania, do a cracking line in sparkling wines and you can pick up their ‘Premium Cuvee’ for just over a tenner all over this Fair Isle. Perfect for making Christmas Pud palatable.


Markus Keaney will be doing a Guest DJ slot at The Vapour Trail on December 12th. He is also a poet, vocalist and bassist as well as being a wine expert.

'Carcass In Pitta Bread, Please..'


Writing an article about vegetarianism….what is the first thing that comes to mind? (Apart from the fact that I could have simply copied and pasted the lyrics to the Mozfather’s ‘Meat Is Murder.’ Well you can still go and listen to it, I should hope that most of you own this record, not just because of the subject addresses, also for the obvious reasons.

If you are one of those people the support the ‘food chain’ attitude, you think humans are naturally meat-eaters , the thought crosses my mind how you think this is possible – if humans naturally were meat-eaters, why do they have to cook it first before they can actually stomach it? (Ever tried eating raw meat?) Do you think you are allowed to let animals die ‘cos you fancy a bit’a steak’ or was it that you ‘had a craving for a dodgy kebab,’ or simply the thought of chewing on a dead animal’s organ that once filtered their urine is utterly enticing?! I wonder, how come you hardly ever meet thick vegetarians….

I also find it quite interesting how people that eat meat suddenly don’t fancy eating it as much anymore after seeing what it was and how it became that lovely grill on their plate. A scene springs to mind of a lady ordering a squid dish in a restaurant but not wanting to touch it once the food arrives because of being able to make out the suckers on it. Anyone, tell her Santa doesn’t exist, err, I mean meat/fish isn’t made in a factory and neither does it grow on trees…

Also, seeing it from a general point of view nowadays with all the diseases about (mad cow being the obvious example), even if you were still very much a meat-eater surely you’d question the point of it because of the risk of catching god-knows-what. Those diseases haven’t been around long enough to even know what long-term effect they might have on people, even if they don’t make them ill for the first, say, twenty years.

For those who like the taste of meat, you get so many alternatives these days. Some of my non-veggie friends that tried them now even buy alternative products for various reasons such as they taste nicer, they’re low-fat, healthier, quicker to cook…with those products on the market and, more importantly, eating killed animals generally being morally wrong, I don’t see why there are still people out there who don’t get that you can’t just have an animal killed because you fancy eating it! Maybe they’re just too lazy because their uvva ‘alves cook their deathly dinners or simply because they haven’t given the subject any thought before….

So now off you go and listen to ‘Meat Is Murder.’ It was written for a reason.

Julia Sieradzki

Feature: The Drowners


THE DROWNERS hit the capital with a show at The Vapour Trail. A showstopping three piece very much in the classic mould, they are Robert Hardy (vocals, guitar), Simon Hidson (bass) and Tim Smerdon (drums.) Very much an anomaly in today’s largely vacuous and still rather corporate alternative music scene, not only do they look good and sound good but they also have something to say. And right here is where you can read what they wish to get off their chests…

Like the best rock bands, The Drowners have something of a penchant for drinking. Well, when we say ‘penchant’, what we really mean is ‘an abusive habit that could well result in cirrhosis of the liver by 35 at the very latest.’ The story of how they came to be illustrates exactly that. “We formed in January 2007 out of the ashes of our (Simon and Rob’s) old band, which fell apart following the departure of our guitarist who was becoming increasingly concerned about our spiralling drink problems. We’d usually be too drunk to play our instruments and often verge on falling off the stage. In the end, both our guitarist and drummer had enough and moved out of the house we shared and left the band. We were left with each other, a shared passion for the Manic Street Preachers and drinking. So we regrouped and found our drummer Tim in January and played our first gig in April.”

When the group got together, the initial aims in terms of style, sound and overall direction were simple. They wanted to mix a frenetic kind of fury with a poignant kind of gloominess. And they partly took their cue from the aforementioned Welsh rockers. “We wanted to marry the ferocity of Holy Bible-era Manics with the overt melancholy of The Cure and make a more aggressive sound than before. Becoming a three-piece actually helped in that regard as it enabled us to get rid of parts that weren’t necessary and encouraged us to play more violently to make up for that. We never wanted to be a ‘jeans and t-shirt’ indie band singing about nothing over whatever middle of the road sound was fashionable. We wanted to be something that people could fall in love with, a band that people would want to be in instead of just thinking ‘that’s a good song.’ We recognize that it’s not just about the music, it’s everything, the band sets the context for the music in the way that they look, the artwork, the things they say. We wanted to change people’s lives like bands changed ours ten years ago.”

Which conveniently brings us onto the discussion of those bands, exactly who they were and exactly why you never seem to get those bands anymore (until now, of course.) When prompted, the band list Nirvana, The Cure, Joy Division, Smashing Pumpkins, The Smiths and Placebo as being the main offenders in question. “There seems to be very few signature sounds these days and that was something we were keen to produce. All the bands we’ve mentioned are instantly recognisable. None of the bands around at the moment are going to make the impact on people’s lives that the bands we’ve mentioned have. The fucking Killers aren’t going to change the ideals of anyone. It comes back to the old Morrisseyism ‘it says nothing to me about my life.’ There doesn’t seem to be music for those who are different and relish the fact. There’s nothing for those who question God, their friends and their own actions. We want to be that band.”

Clearly The Drowners have what it takes to be a classic outsider’s band. Their refusal to settle for anything and will to question everything goes a long way to supporting that theory. “Most people float through their miserable existence with little regard for what is going on around them and inside them. We want to make people look at their own lives and be disgusted, with the things they do, the things they say. We want our songs to be a mirror for people to be able to see the worst qualities in themselves and those around them and to maybe do something about it. We write about the things we recognise in ourselves, the people we know and society, as repugnant. The only reason we can sing about these things is because we are these things, we’re the same selfish islands, but we’re desperately seeking some kind of thrill to numb this realisation simply because we realise it. We’re not so depressed about this that we’re going to write slow, pseudo-ballads or bland anthems like Snow Patrol. We’re fucking angry.”

And with all this in place, it only seems right that The Drowners will cultivate a huge hardcore following of like-minded people; the young, pissed-off and dispossessed. We wonder if this is an aim or just the likely and natural conclusion. “We think that is something that is more important to us than achieving a general malaise of benevolent indifference. We’d rather mean the world to a few people than very little to many. It would be difficult to even really think about being mainstream simply because we’re not prepared to sacrifice what we think and believe in for the sake of success. Success has to be on our own terms and we’d rather spectacularly fail but know we tried to do it our way than change what we are and do. I think that kind of single mindedness naturally attracts similar people so for that reason, it’s both an aim and a natural conclusion.”

With a band as exciting as this, and one who seemingly know exactly what they want and where they ought to be going, the final question has to be an inevitable one. What is next for you? ‘Who knows? Obviously, we’re going to carry on gigging as much as we can. We’re just so desperate to break out of Birmingham, there’s nothing there for us. We’ve seen so many bands from Birmingham supposedly ‘achieve’ things but what that inevitably means is that they’ve managed to get a gig in a slightly bigger venue and played to more of their friends and family at once than usual. We have no interest in playing to the same 50 people week after week, or being part of some pointless indie scene that isn’t going anywhere. We want people to actually hear us, it doesn’t matter if they hate us; an opinion is better than nothing.”

And to us, that certainly is the hallmark of a classic outsider’s band. One day, you’ll find yourself kissing in his room to a popular tune – and that tune will be by real Drowners.

Feature: Monocle Rose


Welcome to the world of Monocle Rose. Four immaculately dressed freaks who play the sort of manic shows the usual dullards might only turn in were they to be told they only had half an hour left to live. They speak of ‘Fast Day-Glo Defiance’, mix cherry coke with marmite and cheese into their music, and above else, they want Britain. And that means you….

Rosa and Richey are the toxic twosome that take care of the vocal and guitar duties. Richey takes up the story of how they met. “Rosa and I met last summer when our old bands played on the same bill at the Pleasure Unit. They both broke up by October so we thought it’d be a good idea to get together and write some songs. We found Matt (drums) through friends in February and Teo (bass) has just joined, this’ll be his first gig.”

And what a gig it should be. When the group tread the boards for twenty minutes of clipped, snarling mayhem, it must be said that performance is everything. On guitar, Richey is seemingly switched on at the same mains as his amp and finds it rather difficult to stay still at all, even for a split second. Visually, you are reminded of a young Pete Townsend all punked-up to the nines. Rosa, on the other hand, while being just as lively (if not more) has a tendency to end up rolling around on the floor at the climax of the set; you are then also reminded that bands just don’t put this much into their performances anymore. “Our shows are important because they give people a 20 minute break of dullness,” says Richey. “Playing live is the best bit about being in a band so when we’re up there we go for it.” Rosa also sees the importance of the band’s shows. “Live, we want to make maximum impact,” she says. “Every gig’s a chaotic show!”

The only bands they all truly have in common as influences are “probably just Blondie and The Ramones. We’re all into completely different music.” The carnal sound they make does recall the pop made by both those bands, but as things spiral further and further out of control, you are reminded of the likes of the Banshees, Patti Smith and X-Ray Spex, along with some of the classic sounds of the early 90s – most notably very early-period Manics and the riot-grrrl likes of L7. This, as you can imagine, is a very good thing. And it is something that nobody is doing.

“The aim is to create something a hundred times more original and exciting than all the rubbish that’s been in the charts and music press for the last ten years and to make British music great again” says Richey. You only need to take one look at them in their always-excellent get-up to see the potential. “We just wear what we want to wear but I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to look good, or different from other people,” he replies.

“Image is insanely important” states Rosa. “I was already working with a photographer from my previous band (Amanaboutadog) and one of the first things this band did was get a professional photoshoot with Pete. We wanted to get away from the clichéd photoshoots of sullen band-members outside feckless buildings.”

As you can well tell, we’re dealing here with a band that sees the value in the sonic and the visual; the combination of audio and aesthetics. Once again, this is an absolute rarity these days, with the hordes of careerist clones doing it purely for the corporate dollar and not actually seeing this thing they call music as what it is: a form of expression; an art, if you’ll let me have that one.

The next step for the band is to compliment their excellent visuals by “getting some decent recordings done.” The whole package should then be complete. In the meantime, be sure to catch them in the flesh; an impression will most certainly be left, and it won’t be an impression you’ll forget easily.

Style & Substance vs Oversubstantiality


In the 50s Elvis inspired dodgy fringes and greasy suits; in the 60s peas-loving, world-embracing tunes encouraged men not to shave and wear flared trousers and in the 70s iconic figures like Bowie and Bolan sparked off the glam era. Most of you are probably old enough to remember yourselves what happened in the 80s, and if not you’re probably lucky you didn’t get asked for identification when paying your admission fee at the door.

Well, all this is no news, is it? Why write a poxy article about all this? There is a point to be made – music inspires style, not the other way round. It has in the past anyway, but does it now? Should bloody hope so you think, or that’s the way it should be anyway, but I begin to wonder when I see eccentrically dressed people standing in corners, sipping their drinks in a rather suggestive pose in a not too dimly lit corner so you can (just about) make out their outfit. Now the suggestive pose turns into a rather uncomfortable one for a split second (…’I shouldn’t have gone to Camden Best Kebab with this corset on before going out…’)

There is nowt wrong with looking great and clearly it is to be encouraged. But there is a huge difference between the music fan and the poseur. Having caught fractions of bog chats while in the toilet queue, it is clear many people’s main purpose of going out is to simply show off their wardrobe, it’s not really about the music anymore.

So you guessed it, there’s even a purpose behind The Vapour Trail (apart from the obvious like playing you good music and putting great new bands on) - partly inspired by the C86 movement, where bands had their own clubnights, playing records that inspired them and they felt a kinship with, making fanzines and putting them about in the club, and the general message and purpose of it all was their ‘DIY’ scene that was built on creativity and belief in music.

So if your reason for being here tonight was spurned on by your latest addition to your wardrobe rather than an interest in music then you should probably ask yourself some serious questions.

Or you’re just in the wrong club.

Julia Sieradzki is the boss of The Vapour Trail, one of its DJs and plays low slung bass in The Firm.

A Rant Down The Rave: Nov 07


THIS MONTH: Well, everything.

It’s been nearly ten years since the so-called ‘phenomenon’ we know and loathe as Reality TV hit our screens. You’d think by now they’d have learned. But, alas, no. As per usual we are endlessly subjected to moronic and talentless dogturds infiltrating our screens and generally making a headache-inducing nuisance of themselves.

Popular culture no longer applies to me. In fact, it no longer applies to anyone with half a braincell but still, the likes of Big Brother, X-Factor and I’m A Z-List Loser Who Nobody Quite Remembers Because I Was Fairly Pointless (And Totally Vacuous) The First Time Round, Get Me Out Of Here are seemingly watched by millions. I do have a confession to make though – but I’m sure it’s one many can reluctantly make. I always tend to end up ‘catching’ the first ones, but am always left wondering why. Is it the fact that the advertisements have seeped into my being so much that I just can’t resist a sneaky peak? Or is it that same morbid curiosity you might get when someone goes ‘Yuck, you really don’t wish to see this’, although you always end up somehow seeing whatever it is anyway?

Anyway, surely it’s time for an end to this inexcusable arserot. Here are just a few reasons why:

Vulgar Shit-Eating Celebrities With Zero Talent And Less Personality

Why do these people get fawned over? They are plainly vile people. Hitler was a vile person. You wouldn’t give him his own TV show, would you?

Davina McCall


The X-Factor Panel Pantomime

You just know when the ratings have started to drop because Old Trout Osbourne will be required to pull one of her ‘controversial’ stunts – be it anarchically chucking a glass of water at Louis Walsh’s rubbery fizzog or sensationally storming off. And Cowell might well be a bit of a comedian but the joke is now very, very old.

Phone Voting

Come on, you didn’t seriously think it was kosher, did you?

Listings: November 07


The Old Kings Head
382 Holloway Road
N7 6PN