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Outsideleft Week in Music. We're hearing from... Such Small Hands (ft. David Gedge), Cuba Las Vegas, Count Shaw, Miles Davis, Soft Cell, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, David Duchovny, Big Red Machine, Taylor Swift, Nas (ft. Lauryn Hill), Angel Olsen, Debbie Gibson, Wanda Jackson, Lorde, The Dowling Poole and The Cookers

Outsideleft Week in Music.

We're hearing from... Such Small Hands (ft. David Gedge), Cuba Las Vegas, Count Shaw, Miles Davis, Soft Cell, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, David Duchovny, Big Red Machine, Taylor Swift, Nas (ft. Lauryn Hill), Angel Olsen, Debbie Gibson, Wanda Jackson, Lorde, The Dowling Poole and The Cookers

by Toon Traveller, Travel Correspondent
first published: August, 2021

approximate reading time: minutes

All I Want is once more, a shared inner monologue on a lonely acoustic guitar peninsula. But yo'... There's an interloper, and David Gedge interpolates with deftness and grace.

Despite the summer distraction-doldrums, what a great and intense week for music, everyone of these records is worth listening too... Over and over. So you'd get value for money.


by Ancient Champion

Oh. We're such big fans of Such Small Hands, which is principally, and generally only, Melanie Howard. Melanie's voice, hmmmm, that's really a beautifully distantly wistful thing. And a little like last weeks' record of the week artist, Tasha, Melanie dares to be quiet. But no less emotionally devastating in the connection made for that. Check Melanie's LP, Carousel. Wow! All I Want is once more, a shared inner monologue on a lonely acoustic guitar peninsula. But yo'... There's an interloper, and David Gedge interpolates with deftness and grace. Sounding for all the world like a giantly pained untethered Crusoe. As Howard wrestles with... Gedge is the emotional support animal on a long flight. Cat Lady and Dog Man, how do they work it out? Together then, for one week only, the Peters and Lee of indie rock. That good. Even if you keep your fingers stuck in your ears for the rest of the week (in Music and out), remove them to hear this. It's a beautiful thing. 


SOFT CELL - Heart Like Chernobyl ()
by John Robinson

With bands such as OMD and Blancmange having made successful, and well regarded returns to the scene and to form, it surely gives a rush of nostalgic yearning to any resident of the sorely missed New Pop era to hear that Soft Cell have reformed to produce a new album, their first for twenty years. Sad to report that the first track released as a consequence is bland, poorly produced and drab. The backing percussion and keyboards are insipid, the melody non-existent. Of course Soft Cell are now older men, and Marc's voice can hardly be expected to soar, but an opening line such as "Oh dear, I feel like North Korea in the winter", with the last word delivered in a comic, clipped way, is just depressing. The lyric tries to marry modern political concerns with a personal downward spiral, but the interesting aspects that could be explored in our dissociation with the world, as in "When I'm faced with people dying, no emotion, it's like watching a soap", are overshadowed by clunking lines such as "Watch out for Reactor 5, nobody gets out alive". This wouldn't matter too much if the music impressed, but it drifts by meaninglessly, and the delivery sounds forced and lifeless. I still have hope for the album itself, perhaps this was a poor lead single choice, we shall see.

COUNT SHAW - The Way U Shaketh It (Discount)
by Ancient Champion

Count Shaw's beautiful subsonic r'n'b meandering gets his new single, The Way U Shaketh It underway, but that gives way to all manner of Yves Tumor-esque epic eccentricity. There are no boundaries to what's happening here and that is a great thing. The Count's multi-instrumental magicianism sees us through what becomes a pretty, iterated and in parts gloriously grandiloquent psychedelic journey. Yet still at all times underpinned with a mere slight delight. The insidious ambition here is so great, so almighty, in almost any other hands this would be a hopeless, overwrought, unedifying mess. Count on Count Shaw though to get you shaketh-ing your finger over the repeat button. I listened all morning.

NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS - Vortex (Courtesy Of...)
by Hamilton High

Vortex was recorded in 2006 and is the first track available from the forthcoming 27 track Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds collection of rarities and B-sides, due in October - is this my first mention of "perfect timing for Christmas for alterna-dads?" Vortex has lovely staccato interplay and all this and all that. Fell between being a Grinderman song or a Bad Seeds song apparently, and lay listless on the studio floor for a decade or more. Nick Cave says he loves his b-sides so you can too. Add it to your list.  

BIG RED MACHINE, TAYLOR SWIFT - Renegade (Pop Version) (Jagjaguwar)
by Lee Paul

Sure, Taylor does this so effortlessly so when she sings that she tapped on your window on your darkest night it's easy to believe she just might. And if you're feeling like she's about to do that, there's a Psychologists' Desk Reference at the local library that might be of greater help than Taylor ever will be. Unless your'e a character in a pop song, even a great pop song like Renegade. But... Is it a bit too long do we think, maybe? What about you? I'd sort of forgotten how much I'd enjoyed the start before I got to the end. That's the National connection probably. Like some astute observer once told our writer Mr. Lake, unforgettably, "The National? Like U2 without the choruses." 

THE DOWLING POOLE - Saccharine Drip (369 Music)
by John Robinson

The Dowling Poole are Willie Dowling (Jackdaw 4) and Jon Poole (The Cardiacs), multi-instrumentalists working in the power pop realm, with politically informed lyrics and earworm melodies. Dowling has also worked on music for TV shows including Spitting Image, Armstrong and Miller and Human Remains so he knows how to get a point across succinctly and with humour. Their output last year included Fuck You Goodbye (their US Election song), unsubtle but lovely in itself. The new single is a bitter-sweet attack on the sugary bile drip-fed to use by government and media sources, the song itself a melange of 60s and power pop influences: the opening alone references The Beatles and Queen, and the whole thing swims in deliberately infectious riffs and hooks. Think somewhere between XTC and Pugwash, a sound somewhat out of time but with sentiments that bear examining. The video uses a variety of the droste effect to zoom repeatedly through an Alice in Wonderland themed zone, representing the fake imagery society is trapped within and the illusion generated. There's a warning within that changing things: or failing to change things: will have consequences. Great, engaging stuff if power-pop is your thing!

THE COOKERS - Travelling Lady (Gearbox)
by Toon Traveller

What is it with Jazz  bands, reviews, and promos? Let me be clear I love Jazz and was at the Tyneside Jazz festival last weekend where the range of UK national and local performers was inspiringly great. But all too often the promo's out have a load of info on the band, where they've been, who they've musically travelled with, and their influences, then you have click through screens to get to the music. The route The Cookers promo material takes is a case in point. Perhaps I'm slow on picking my mu way through, perhaps I've missed something in the read through, but really it feels as if it's expected I'll read a load of blurb, consider other reviews, stroke my beard, sip a contemplative cappuccino, and wait baited breath for the cool sounds to emerge. Instead for me the temptation is to give up before the music begins. This more a mild mannered rant on marketing than music ,but I want to get this of my chest, it does seem to be more prevalent with self described Jazz than other music. Rant over, blood pressure down, breathing steady, it's 10:02, The Cookers are exceptionally cool though. Onto the next review.


ANGEL OLSEN - Aisles (Jagjaguwar)
by Spanish Pantalones

As an quarantine exercise, Angel Olsen covered a handful of songs she heard while out shopping, hence the EP’s title. As an exercise, it's an interesting if dull collection of ‘80s-era hits you’ve heard a million times before. Of the five songs, three are forgettable, one should have never been committed to tape (“Gloria,” which I reviewed a few weeks ago), and the standout, “Eyes Without A Face,” which gets tarted up with delicate keyboards. Ultimately, a forgettable curiosity.


WANDA JACKSON - Encore (Big Machine / Blackheart)
by Spanish Pantalones

The original, and arguably still the best Wanda Jackson. You know the history, now buy the record.

LORDE - Solar Power (Universal)
by Spanish Pantalones

Bummer. Lorde was sort of forging her own path with her 2013 debut (Pure Heroine), which incorporated bits of dream pop and sampled loops. But with this new one, it sounds like she’s following Taylor Swift’s playbook of blandness. Lorde’s better than acoustic guitars and using her ass for cover art to shift units.

DAVID DUCHOVNY - Gestureland (GMG/King Baby)
by Spanish Pantalones

Methinks Duchovny, a self-described sex addict (not judging), only produces these sensitive, rootsy albums as bait in order to chum the water and attract hot middle-aged ass. A few live gigs around the States, maybe a few one-offs in Europe and a weekender in Australia if the season is right, some record store appearances. Opportunities like these are why Duchovny maintains his “signed recording artist” status -- constant contact with his sexually-available fan base. His Jeff Tweedy-esque take on lightweight folk rock must keep him tits deep in groupies now that the acting rolls are getting scarce, in spite of the flat vocals.

CUBA LAS VEGAS - These Crappy Years (Remastered) (Funzalo)
by Toon Traveller

I am standing in the middle of the Bearwood Mexican festival and two muso's are mithering on about remastering and its essentiality. And lo, here is a remastered Cuba Las Vegas LP. Right off, the cover looks like the Fun Lovin' Criminals, dark and sleazy as in their NY dark side of the street, dismal alleys city view days. Throw in a voice from Nick Cave, and dash of Early Tom Waits,  splash of Lou Reed at his most New York wistful, and your getting close to this band, not forgetting the Tinderstciks who'd never heard any of the above. Anger and rhyme, beautiful guitars, portents of doom, love lost in the cities gutters, sad people life's losers, locked in, and no escape, sorta "The Boss Born to Run" but without the hope the last chance whimsy the pervaded his 70s music. Cuba Las Vegas have the soundtrack for cities closed boarded and forgotten, lives left on the shelf in small towns, too old, tired, and life beaten to spout resentment, a tired sad acceptance, that seems to come to us all. A set of songs that capture the spirit of those towns and people abandoned in the post COVID, post next crash world, that's a coming down the track. These resigned desperate songs with small diamonds of hope that float in the hugs and dreams of lovers straight jacketed in the city limits, with dreams only half-realized in the bars and clubs. Ain't no Starbucks, skinny latte, decafs, in these streets. BUT BUT BUT in there, there, there's hope, there's something captivating. The Crappy Years is this one of the best Albums I had the honor of hearing and reviewing this year. 

DEBBIE GIBSON - The Body Remembers (Stargirl)
by Spanish Pantalones

I like Debbie Gibson. She’s very normal, and seemingly always game for a good time. I met her backstage at a concert a few years ago at one of those ‘80s pop revival festivals. Tiffany was there, too, and at one point, she walked towards Gibson and I while we were chatting about her CBGB’s performance with the Circle Jerks by the open bar. She drank bottled water. Gibson and Tiffany exchanged hellos and were chatting about that afternoon's gig. You could literally feel the energy swirling in the air as these two pop behemoths casually mixed it up. In a split second, I thought to myself, “You must get a photo sandwiched between these two legends.” (After all, Gibson and Tiffany are still the biggest teen-girl pop stars of the '80s -- the Bird and Magic of MTV's formative years.)

Gibson, who was backstage solo, looked at Tiffany and gave an enthusiastic, “Yeah, sure.” Tiffany, a little slower on the take, looked at her handler, and shrugged, as if to say, “What do you think?” The handler immediately said, “Tiffany’s not taking photos today,” then he guided her by the arm and they continued walking. Gibson looked at me, held up her hands, chuckled a bit, and said, “Sorry, I was up for it.” And for all of that, I will always defend Gibson when I hear her name besmirched. The new LP? It’s going to sound great on the dance floor of your local gay discotheque after a few mojitos.

Other Materials

MILES DAVIS - Kind of Blue (Sony)
by Toon Traveller

3235 weeks ago this week Miles Davis released Kind of Blue. As it ever was, one of the greatest records of all time. Toon Traveler gives it a spin. Read the whole review here.

NAS (FT. LAURYN HILL) - Nobody (Mass Appeal)
by Lee Paul

New Nas, Nobody is from the new full length, King's Disease II, noteworthy because Ms Lauryn Hill steps up to the mic, but more about that in a moment. Nobody is so effective, the smooth languid archetypes are given a succinct sense of urgency by Nas even before Lauryn Hill arrives. And oh boy does she. "I am going to give it to you balanced and with clarity, I don't need to turn myself into a parody..." Lauryn Hill, bringing us up to speed on the bullshit she has to wade through as an artist everyday. "I don't do the shit you do for popularity..." And on... You've gotta hear this.

Main Image: Melanie Howard from Such Small Hands by Jessica McMillan

Toon Traveller
Travel Correspondent

Born - happy family, school great mates still see 7 / 8 in year, degreed, beer n fun, work was lazy but usually happy, retired. Learning from mum and dads travel exploits.
about Toon Traveller »»



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