Woah, Lucky Soul!


I have been championing London’s Lucky Soul (think ’60s girl group pop
meets Dusty and St Etienne, but with a nod to indie guitar sounds,
too) for absolutely ages; well before their 2007 debut album The Great
Unwanted garnered great reviews from the critics.
The good news is that they’re back – and they’re better than ever.
I saw them play a storming set at The Lexington in Angel last week,
supporting The Pipettes at new club night Technicolour. The band has
undergone a line-up change, with a new drummer, bassist and keyboard
player, but the nucleus of Lucky Soul – gorgeous female vocalist Ali
Howard and rhythm guitarist Andrew Laidlaw – remains the same.
It’s not just the line-up that’s changed, either – the sound has got
darker and ballsier, and Ali has come on leaps and bounds as a
performer – ooozing more charm and stage presence, whether she’s
wielding a tambourine, stomping across the stage, singing a lovelorn
lament (Baby, I’m Broke), or dancing like some kind of cool, kooky
chick from a ’60s mod movie.
The band are also tighter and more confident, too – not afraid to rock
out on tracks like the rampant, driving soul of White Russian Doll.
Their new songs (the band’s second album will be out early next year),
while retaining Lucky Soul’s knack for a classic chorus and a neat
melody, are edgier and more grown up than those on their debut.
As the lyric from ‘Woah, Billy!’, which you can listen to on their
Myspace, says, ‘Dark times ahead’.
Starting with a glammy guitar riff that sounds like it was found
nestling in Noddy Holder’s sideburns, it soon turns into a big disco
monster of a tune, with Philly strings, pounding keys and a killer
groove goin’ on.
“If I don’t do it now, I’m dead,” proclaims Ali.
Well, what are you waiting for? Give ’em a listen – before it’s too late.

Keeping the British end up!


As you may or may not know, along with two collaborators, I am
currently writing and recording a James Bond song. Why? Because we
felt that there hadn’t been a great Bond song for a while – and we
were fed up with Bond songs being given to American acts who failed
to capture the spirit of 007. We want to keep the British end up. Late
last year, I wrote this article for http://popjunkietv.com on why
Americans shouldn’t do Bond songs….. It’s a bit of fun, but as our
song nears completion, I thought it was timely to add it to my blog.

 James Bond, that suave, sophisticated British secret agent is back in
Quantum of Solace. Yes – that’s British. Why then, do we keep on
having to endure second-rate Bond theme songs that have been penned or
co-written by American artistes?
Who better to capture the sexy and stylish vibe of Her Majesty’s
Government’s most famous spy, than, err, Jack White – that swamp-rock
blues maestro from Detroit.
Let’s hope the new film is better than White and Alicia Keys’ pitiful
attempt at a Bond song – Another Way To Die. A blustering, long-lost
White Stripes guitar riff over what sounds like some Garageband
software brass stabs, indecipherable R’n’B hollering and a few piano
flourishes just doesn’t leave me shaken or stirred, I’m afraid.
It’s a shame Amy Winehouse couldn’t get her act together to record her
and Mark Ronson’s composition for Quantum of Solace – I bet it would
have been a killer update of the ‘60s Bond sound. From Rehab With
Love, anyone?
Why not ask John-Barry-lovin’, glam disco darlings Goldfrapp to do it?
Or maybe edgy soundtrack noir experts Portishead, or Bond obsessive
Robbie Williams duetting with theatrical pop legends the Pet Shop
Boys? And then there’s Welsh soulstress Duffy – surely a natural
choice to write and perform a 007 song? The new Shirley Bassey? Well,
maybe not quite, but I’m sure her and her musical partner Bernard
Butler could have penned a suitably epic, bombastic Bond song – all
booming drums, Bacharach trumpets and sweeping strings.
How about Richard Hawley? He’s a dead cert to compose a grandiose,
heartbreaking ballad to rival We Have All The Time In The World from
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In fact, there’s a song on the new
Tony Christie album, Made In Sheffield, which has been co-produced by
Hawley, which sounds just like a Bond song. It’s called Danger Is A
Woman In Love and is dramatic, deadly and deliciously over-the-top.
It’s even got a fantastically camp lyric that’s straight out of the
“Goldfinger/coldfinger” school of thought, rhyming “Medusa” with
“abuse her”. Genius.
Staying with the Sheffield theme, what about the Last Shadow Puppets?
I’m sure Alex Turner could write a top Bond tune. Their cinematic new
single, My Mistakes Were Made For You, is a sultry, swooning number to
die for, with its twanging guitars and lush orchestral backing.
Just look at the Bond soundtrack legacy. All the best Bond tunes have
been penned by Brits – Lionel Bart and John Barry’s From Russia With
Love, Barry and Leslie Bricusse’s You Only Live Twice and Goldfinger,
written by Bricusse, Anthony Newley and Barry. What happens when you
entrust this most hazardous of musical missions to the Yanks? You get
Madonna’s techno tragedy Die Another Day or Sheryl Crow’s risible
Tomorrow Never Dies. You wouldn’t let the CIA run an MI6 operation
would you? Do you remember You Know My Name – the limp soft rock
effort from dodgy ex-grunger Chris Cornell that soundtracked the title
sequence of Casino Royale? No? Exactly.
Over the last few years, the Bond filmmakers have continually made bad
choices for title tunes – a total and utter Thunderballs-up, if you
like. Current Bond soundtrack composer David Arnold once wrote a
killer song with vintage 007 lyricist Don Black. Peformed by KD Lang,
it’s called Surrender and is a brassy, Bassey-style belter with a
great sleazy arrangement of big, bolshy horns and sinister strings.
It’s easily up there with the best of Bond. What happened to it? It
was relegated to the closing credits of Tomorrrow Never Dies, while
Sheryl Crow’s sub-standard effort was given all the glory. St
Etienne’s attempt, Tomorrow Never Dies, was also never used – you can
find it on their Built On Sand rarities album. It’s well worth
searching for – a nifty, ‘60s-style pop tune with cool funky flutes.
Pulp also offered up a track for the movie. It was called Tomorrow
Never Lies (the film’s original title), but it too was rejected and
ended up as the b-side of their single Help the Aged. It’s great –
very atmospheric with more than a hint of vintage Scott Walker. And
talking of Scott Walker, what happened to his performance of the song
Only Myself To Blame – a haunting, jazzy number by Arnold and Black
that was intended for The World Is Not Enough? It could have been the
perfect accompaniment to a Bond bedroom scene – instead, it never made
the final cut – tossed aside, like one of 007’s sexual conquests.
After years of trying – and often failing – the makers of the Bond
films have finally got the movies right. They’ve reinvented and
rejuvenated the franchise by adopting a thriller-based style that’s
closer to the earlier Connery classics, but when it comes to choosing
the title songs, they’re haunted by the, ahem, S.P.E.C.T.R.E of
Next time, give the mission to a British pop act – nobody does it better.

Dark psyche of the soul


I think I may have just found my album of the year. Earlier this week,
I promised you that I’d tell you about some great dark tunes that can
be currently be heard on heavy rotation on my stereo.
And when I say heavy, I mean heavy.
Soulsavers’ latest offering Broken is by no means an easy listen, but
it’s one of the most atmospheric, haunting and downright brilliant
records I’ve heard in a long time.
The third album from the English production duo of Rich Machin and Ian
Glover sees them reunited with gloom-monger Mark Lanegan (Screaming
Trees, Queens of The Stone Age) who lends his whiskey-soaked and
nicotine-ravaged  vocals to the majority of songs.
Sheffield baritone Richard Hawley also puts in as appearance, as does
Jason Pierce (Spiritualized), Mike Patton (Faith No More) and Gibby
Haynes (Butthole Surfers).
Yep, it’s one hell of a (funeral) party, soundtracked by sinister
pysche-rock, sombre ballads,edgy trip-hop and spiritual soul and
gospel. It’s both unsettling and beautiful. You Will Miss Me When I
Burn, written by Will Oldham, is a piano and strings lament, with
Lanegan crooning, “When you have no-one, no-one can hurt you.” If it
doesn’t move you, then truly you do not have a heart.
The twilight country shuffle of Shadows Fall (with Hawley on backing
vocals) is one of the highlights – all Midnight Cowboy harmonica and
‘weeping’ strings, while Pharoah’s Chariot (with Pierce) is a deathly
Nick Cave-esque track – with a mournful orchestral arrangement and
murderous twangin’ guitar. There’s also an epic take on Gene Clark’s
Some Misunderstanding, with some ragged Neil Young-style riffing.
Sometimes when I’m playing Broken I have an unsettling feeling that
maybe I’m listening to the sort of music that serial killers have on
their headphones when they’re going about their business.
Then to lighten the mood, I just look at the sleevenotes; ‘Recorded in
Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, London, Berlin, Sydney &
Stoke-on-Trent’. . .


Listen on Spotify here: http://open.spotify.com/album/2B5gjVqJC2RzNUXgQgqkDt



The Return of Pop Junkie TV

Were you all wondering what happened to Pop Junkie TV?
Of course you were.
Well, I fell into a deep coma, caused by pricking my finger on a
stylus when flipping over an LP by The Smiths, while my co-host
Victoria went off travelling, to knit her own socks out of yak’s milk. Or
something like that.
But just like Blur, we’re back… Phew.



It sounds just like New Order, but without the bass!


I get very excited whenever I hear a new song that features New
Order’s Bernard Sumner.
It’s just something about his deadpan voice, dry delivery and jangly
guitar that turns this 35 year-old cynic into a giddy, excitable
teenager all over again.
Sink or Swim – the debut single from his new project Bad Lieutenant –
is no exception. It’s a rushing indie-rock tune with a killer chorus.
Unsurprisingly, it sounds just like New Order, only without Hooky’s
thundering bass riffs.
Over chiming guitars, Sumner issues a stark warning to a friend: ‘What
you doing with that stupid little girl? Stop your fooling. Don’t you
know it’s gonna hurt when she leaves you.”
Throw in some swooning, soulful backing vocals and you have a song
that’s up there with some of New Order’s best moments. Now, if only
Hooky had played bass on it, then it would have been a stone-cold
For a limited time, you can download Bad Lieutenant’s Sink or Swim
single for free from: http://www.badlieutenant.net/
Bad Lieutenant formed in 2007, with Sumner on guitar and vocals, Phil
Cunningham (guitar) and Jake Evans (guitar and vocals).
Their debut album, Never Cry Another Tear, is set for release on October 12.

Skinny Lister ??? exclusive performance of their debut single in the Pop Junkie garden

As the last few days of, ahem, the Great British Summertime, slip
away, why not listen to some lovely pastoral folk-pop before the
leaves start falling from the trees?

 Dan and Lorna from Skinny Lister popped into the garden at Pop Junkie
HQ to give us an exclusive acoustic performance of their debut single,
Plough and Orion, which is out this week on iTunes and Amazon.


 I was lucky enough to attend the recent single launch party at The
Slaughtered Lamb in Clerkenwell and saw the full Skinny Lister band
play an intimate set of charming, rustic tunes.

 Their performance ended with a full-on on sea shanty-style hoedown,
complete with mandolin and ukulele.

 Talk about keeping it reel!


Baritone balladry from Sheffield’s son of sadness


I’m a bit of an old romantic at heart and I’m a sucker for a rich
baritone voice, a lovelorn melancholy ballad and an orchestral

My favourite singers include Scott Walker, Roy Orbison
and, of course, Sheffield’s son of sadness, Richard Hawley.
For his latest single, Hawley has made a brave choice, but he’s also
written one of his finest songs ever. For Your Lover Give Some Time is
so good that it sounds like a standard from the ’50s or ’60s. It could
have been sung by Matt Monro or Sinatra.
Over a simple, sparse arrangement of just acoustic guitar, cello and
violin, Hawley croons this gorgeous love song that he wrote especially
for his wife, Helen. When he promises to drink a little less, give up
cigarettes and come home early every now and then, it makes me weak at the

You can listen to it on Spotify:  http://tinyurl.com/ksrhbc

In an article in the Sheffield Telegraph, Hawley said: “I wrote it for my wife.

“It’s about the two of us getting older together.

“I’ve always thought the strongest marriages are the ones where you can have a laugh at yourself, and we can certainly do that.
“She’s normally quite taciturn about my music. I could have good reviews piled from floor to ceiling but I’d still have to wash the pots. That’s how it should be, it keeps you grounded. When she heard  this one she said ‘that’s really nice’ which in her terms is a bit
like getting honours from the Pope!
“I wrote it on the spot one day and it’s the best song I’ve ever written. 

“I think it’s a fairly honest and slightly wry look at lovers. It’s a warning not to take things for granted – now and again you should buy a bunch of flowers randomly. Don’t let the calendar push your buttons. Don’t buy flowers just on Valentine’s Day.
“It’s just being honest about the way love changes. As time goes by you become more aware of the other’s weaknesses but because you love them, it’s OK.”
The single precedes Hawley’s sixth album, Truelove’s Gutter, which is
out on September 21. It’s rumoured to be his most experimental and
darkest work yet, with lengthy orchestral passages and some strange
sounds thrown into the mix. 

In a press statement, Hawley said: “I use a load of odd sounds on this
album that are not heard on many other records. The sounds in my head
on a lot of the tracks – I didn’t even know what they were called! I
wanted it to be a listening experience from start to finish, where you
couldn’t just pause it and go off and watch Coronation Street or
whatever. Sonically, it flows. It’s not jumping all over the place. It
just has a mood that goes through the whole thing.”
In a Twitter conversation I had with The Guardian’s rock critic,
Alexis Petridis, he told me it was Hawley’s best work to date.
I’m already putting money on it winning next year’s Mercury Music
Prize – and I haven’t even heard it yet.
I have, however, heard a live version of another track from the new
album – Ashes On The Fire. It’s available on the CD of Hawley’s
legendary gig at the Devil’s Arse caves in the Peak District, last

It’s a lovely, country-tinged ballad about a man who late
one night leaves a love letter for his woman, only to find the
following morning that’s she’s burnt it on the fire. Oooh, I can feel
myself going weak at the knees again.
Highlights of the Devil’s Arse gig are available on Youtube. Here’s
Hawley’s take on Presley’s Devil In Disguise.

See what he did there?


Summer of Hate


Yes, I know it’s the summer and I should be out enjoying the sunshine,
but to be honest I feel that my time is best spent alone in my flat,
listening to some seriously dark new music offerings.
You should be thankful – it saves you the effort and means you can go
to the park and do all those things that ‘normal’ people do in August
like having a picnic or sunbathing, safe in the knowledge that I’ve
found you some great new music to get you through the long, cold
winter ahead.  So, over the next few days, I’ll be posting details of
some of my fave new tunes up on Say It With Garage Flowers.
OK, so I admit I have made a sole concession to the hot weather by
listening to the album Summer of Hate by deliriously, scuzzy, fuzzy,
f***ed up, lo-fi indie-rock duo Crocodiles. Hailing from San Diego,
they sound and look like The Jesus and Mary Chain with their cool
shades, big hair, drum machine, feedback, droney guitars and
death-obsessed lyrics.
Their recent single I Wanna Kill is one of the best things I’ve heard
all year – a deliriously dumb, druggy pop tune that mixes the sound of
Phil Spector (on a track called I Wanna Kill, that is somewhat ironic,
don’t you think?) with Psychocandy/Darklands-era Mary Chain.

Just as you’re thinking it can’t get any better, they thrown in a
cheap, tinny organ solo that could have been half-inched from some
long-lost ’60s pop song – simply brilliant. It make you want to grab a
girl, get high and drive an open-top car down the freeway and off a
cliff, while listening to the Shangri-Las on the tape deck. Yep – it’s
that cool.
So, before you head out to the park, go and listen to Crocodiles. And
make it snappy.