heard on the wire

This one’s called…


It takes some band to release an EP that manages to reference Led Zeppelin, Margaret Thatcher, social security hot water allowances, Billy Graham and a brief moment of classical music that I can’t quite place.

That band was the Larks, a London-based, ska-influenced collective that, based on the evidence of one of the most ebullient live performances I’ve ever seen, comprised around a dozen musicians, many toting shiny brass.

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The dream has gone, but the baby is real


They were going to build communities,
It was going to be pie in the sky,
But the piss-stench hallways and broken down lifts
Say the planners’ dream went wrong.

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They’d send a limousine anyway

Burton Suits

They were my first love, from the moment I put the self-titled debut LP by The Clash on my primitive teenage turntable nothing would ever sound the same again.

I think I probably love the Clash more than their uneven output deserves; for every moment of genius, of brilliance, there is an equally indifferent track, or, in the case of triple-album Sandinista, around two LPs’ worth.

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Live: the 2014 Socks

Smithsocksimon brings you its alternative to the annual celebration of dosh that is the Brit Awards.

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Starting at the violent sound

Play for Today

It had never been my intention to write about the Cure. Enough words have already been uttered about the band formed in the shadow of Gatwick Airport in 1976 and there’s nothing I can post here that hasn’t been heard, listened to, analysed, loved and hated myriad and more times before.

Suffice, therefore, to say that I remain ambivalent about a band capable of reaching heights few can ever hope to attain but one that all-too-often produced unremarkable records that belied their huge talent.

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The birds fly a lot better than we do


Since it began broadcasting in 2006, the estimable Dandelion Radio has been the home of the “official” Festive Fifty, the annual listeners’ chart that John Peel started in 1976.

That first chart was compiled from listeners’ favourite records of all time and, with Led Zeppelin at number one, stands as a pre-punk anomaly. Henceforth the top spot would be shared by the Sex Pistols and Joy Division until 1982, when Peel retired the all-time list and introduced an annual chart. The ’82, ’83 and ’84 versions are perhaps the finest end-of-year countdowns ever compiled, reflecting a time when Peel truly was shaping the musical landscape. Later, 90s charts tended more to the dull and predictable, to the extent that Peel threatened to abandon the rundown altogether, not least because he was still totting up the votes by hand. But it survived, the last Peel 50 being chosen and broadcast in the wake of his untimely death in 2004.

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I must confess you always were the best

Ketchups decorations

Decoration are a Leeds- and London-based outfit who first came to John Peel’s attention 10 years ago and to mine shortly afterwards. They remain the only band I know whose bass player’s day job saw him working with one of my brothers, which I learnt while travelling to a brewery.

They recorded a Peel session and the following year saw the release of the band’s debut LP, Don’t Disappoint Us Now, which is full of great tunes and thoughtful lyrics.

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You can’t justify it, not a word

Wah Nah Poo

Pete Wylie encapsulates everything that bemuses me about popular music. Despite being one of the greatest singers of the last 30 years, yet he remains a marginal figure, famous, or at least reasonably well-known, for a single top 10 hit, yet worthy of much wider acclaim.

In large part, of course, it’s his own fault. Despite an ego the size of his home town, Liverpool, he has restricted himself to just five studio LPs in a career that began in the late 1970s.

And that from a man who, it has been said, believes that if there were only seven minutes left to live, you should spend three of them recording a song.

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