Monday 25 March 2013

Parma Violets

Parma Violets were the sweets that it seems no bugger liked.  But if you visit any of the multitude of the 'Retro Sweet Shops' on t'intereweb, they appear to be popular sellers, along with aniseed balls, liquorice and cough candy (the usual candidates for the "last things left in the sweetie jar" award.

But now, with a subtle spelling change, thoughts/nightmares of confectionery past can be banished.

The album "180" by the Palma Violets does not have a soapy taste, or indeed leave a floral aftertaste in your mouth.

In short, it's the latest offering from the latest in a slew of bands the NME may well be calling 'the best since The Libertines'.

Palma Violets were formed in 2011 in Lambeth, London. A four piece band in the usual style of vocals, guitar, bass, drums and keyboards.
Their first single in 2012 was "Best Of Friends" and was the NME's Song of the Year for 2012, and the band were nominated as 'The Sound Of 2013" by the BBC (they didn't win it though)

So what is the album like?
Well, first thing first, it's released on Rough Trade which is a pretty good indicator, at least to me.  Rough Trade - along with Stiff, Yep Roc and Proper - is one of the labels that I trust, and am rarely disappointed.
The sound is one of high-energy and lo-fi recording, sometimes sounding as if it was recorded with the band altogether in a small room with slightly duff equipment (this is not a bad thing, by the way).
There are many influences which can be heard throughout the album, but none to the detriment of the Palma Violets own sound.  In the first couple of listens I heard influences such as Iggy Pop, Richard Hell and The Doors, with touches of Billy Bragg, Joy Division and Richard Hawley's voice.

Is it any good?
There is nothing wrong with this album - it is stuffed full of good tunes, and is not trying to be something it isn't, or to copy someone elses sound.
It's certainly better than OK in places, but it's not exactly earth shattering.  I'd certainly listen to it again, but I'm not finding it truly exciting (yet, maybe I never will), and I don't think it's breaking any new ground.
However, a little less hype and given a bit more time (a rare commodity in the world of music these days), I'm sure the Palma Violets will blossom.

What does it sound like?

for 'Billy Bragg does Indie with a touch of 80s' try "Best Of Friends":

for 'a bit Garage-y, with a touch of Joy Division, with a church organ on it as well', try "Step Up For The Cool Cats"

If you're partial  to a bit of indie rock, as played by the likes of The Vaccines, The Courteeners and (yes I'm going to say it again) The Libertines, then this is the album for you.
If you're not a skinny-jean wearing, floppy haired, callow youth with a tendency for self-harming, then you'll probably enjoy the music too.

Tuesday 19 March 2013


Formed in 1976 by Bolton Institute students Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto, their name was chosen from (supposedly) a line uttered in the TV series Rock Follies stating 'its the buzz, cocks' (interpreted meaning: buzz = excitement, cock = friends/mates/people)

Anyway regardless of my rubbish explanations of meaning, Pete Shelley & Howard Devoto were responsible for bringing the Sex Pistols to Manchester for the infamous Lesser Free Trade Hall (attended by about 2.5 million people apparently)gig.  They met bassist Steve Diggle at the venue that night, and hired drummer John Maher through an advert in the music press.
The Sex Pistols were back in Manchester a couple of months later, and The Buzzcocks opened the show, playing their first ever gig.

In December 1976, the band recorded their debut EP with Martin Hannet producing.  With no record company interest, and in the spirit of "Do It Yourself", The Buzzcocks pressed 1000 copies of the 'Spiral Scatch' EP on their own New Hormones label.  This act is generally accepted as the first of the independent record labels, which sprang up around the UK in the late 70s.

Following the release of 'Spiral Scratch', Howard Devoto left the band, officially due to "academic workload", or un-officailly because he foresaw the increasing commercialisation of the punk movement.

With Devoto gone, the band re-modelled themselves with Pete Shelly taking over vocal duties, Steve Diggle moving to guitar and Garth Smith joining on bass.
It was this line-up that signed to United Artists on 16 August 1977 - any other date would be just a moment in history, but this was the date that Elvis Presley died (although this probably has no relevance to the career of the Buzzcocks).

Their first single in October was "Orgasm Addict", which for some reason didn't get played on the radio.  In November, Garth Smith was fired for enjoying a bit too much falling down water, and was replaced by Steve Garvey.
Their next single "What Do I Get" started a run of 8 singles over the next 18 months which are some of the best noises committed to vinyl.

And then in the midst of record company problems, financial problems and band lifestyle issues (OK, drugs) they split.
It is either impeccable timing, or sheer luck, that the Buzzcocks were (a) right there at the start of punk, and (b) got out before the whole shebang turned into the cartoon facsimile that it became.

For the archetypal pop-punk singles band, the first album ('Another Music In A Different Kitchen') is essential, the second album ('Love Bites') maybe not as essential as the first, but is definitely worth owning and the third ('A Different Kind Of Tension') should be got so you have the complete set.  The prime reason for owning the third album, is that it includes one of their last singles, and possibly best songs, "I Believe".  Record company difficulties (ie UA being swallowed up by EMI) seemingly consigned this single to the sidelines, resulting in the single failing to make the Top 40.
"I Believe"

And I Believe (d'ya see what I did there?) that The Buzzcocks are the fourth members of the (un)holy trinity of Punk, alongside the Pistols, The Clash & The Damned.
And also they have possibly the most perfect singles collection with "Singles, Going Steady"

Released in 1979, and contains 16 absolutely perfect pop-punk nuggets, recorded between 1977 and 1979 (sadly missing the two singles from A Different Kind Of Tension, but this does not detract from its absolute necessity of ownership)

Footnote: The Buzzcocks have re-formed a couple of times with varying line-ups since 1989.  They have released 5 albums since then, the pick of which (in my opinion) being 2006's "Flat Pack Philosophy".
They are also on tour in 2013 - more info at

Saturday 16 March 2013

Undiscovered Britain

With the sterling work performed in the past by Ordnance Survey, and now the on-line visuals of Google Maps and Google Streetview, you would think there are no parts of Britain left undiscovered.

I beg to differ.
A little research has shown there are still a number of small villages/hamlets as yet uncharted, but have somehow become common, everyday phrases.

Acrimonious Circumstances
A small village on the Llyn Peninsula, about 5 miles west of Abersoch.
It appears that this village has some strange effect on visitors personal and/or professional relationships.

"Are those two still married?"
"No, they split up in Acrimonious Circumstances"

"The band continued for another 3 years, and then split up in Acrimonious Circumstances"

Often taken to mean "the split was a pretty rough thing for all to deal with", it turns out that they probably just had a bad holiday in North Wales.

Authors, film makers and songwriters are often said to be looking for Inspiration.
This village is somewhere between Wakefield and Dewsbury, just off Junction 40 of the M1.

Humble Beginnings
A small hamlet on the Essex/Kent border.
Supposed birthplace of many film stars, footballers and boxers - all of whom have claimed to come from Humble Beginnings.
Shares it name with a small town in the middle of the Arizona Desert, which was the supposed birthplace of a plethora of 1930s Hollywood film stars.

Apparently things happen at Random.  A very small market town about 10 miles south east of Bourton-on-the-Water.
Home to a series of strange, unexplained events.  If something odd happens, chance are that it happened at Random - something to do with astrology, ley lines and other cosmic mumbo-jumbo apparently

A tiny village in the Highlands of Scotland.  Apart from a couple of crofters cottages and a small area of woodland, this village is also home to a Royal Mail sorting office for second class post.
So when you ask someone where a cheque, invoice or tax disc is and you get the answer "oh, it's in the post", it is not necessarily a delaying tactic (or a downright lie in some cases), but probably a genuine statement.

Saturday 9 March 2013

Car Names

How do car manufacturers come up with the names for their vehicles?

Some are essentially logical:
BMW & Mercedes use a signifier for the model range and then the engine size.  For example 323 or C180.
Audi employ an equally logical (if not more logical) naming convention with the entire range starting A, and then the subsequent number showing he size of the vehicle.
Peugeot (despite being French) also employ this type of logic in their naming

Others are possibly based on derived words:
Zafira = Sapphire
Chevette = sounds a bit like Chevrolet.
My first car was a Vauxhall Chevette, and even bore a Chevrolet badge, along with 2.8i, Turbo & Ghia.  It wasn't a Chevrolet, had a 1256cc engine and the nearest it came to a turbo was when it was cleaned out using a vacuum cleaner

In the 1970s/80s, there were a collection of cars named after 'Gentlemans Interest' Magazines:
Mini Mayfair

was there ever a Hillman Razzle?

Named by mistake:
The Mitsubishi Starion (and this is purported to be an urban myth) should've been called the Stallion, but following a telephone conversation between he Japanese car firm and an Amercian printing company, as a result of an 'Engrish' mistranlstion, all the brochures were printed with the name 'Starion'

"Not really thought through":
Cars given names without a thought for the colloquial translation in other countries.
- Mazda LaPuta (in spanish: "the whore")
- Mitsubishi Pajero (in spanish: "wanker")

- Opel Ascona (in Spain and Portugal: "female genitalia")
- Honda Fitta (see above, but in much blunter form (c***))
- Rolls Royce Silver Shadow (in Japanese: "pissing in the wind")

Bad Choice:

Mistsibishi Carisma - a name given to a car that didn't have any

Harry Enfield, in the guise of Mr You-don't-want-to-do-that, spoke of sensible cars such as as a Nissan Cedric (which does actually exist) and a Fiat Humberto (which doesn't). The use of 'real' names, such as these two, doesn't sound right when referring to a ton or so of metal and mechanicals (or mostly electricals now).
But now Vauxhall have launched their new supermini model called ... Adam.
Who thought of that name?  Probably the same people who re-named Mr Dog to Ceaser
(cue Eddie Izzard)

Did someone at Vauxhall just open a Book of Baby Names and choose the first name they focused on?
This may be a whole new strategy employed throughout the car industry.
In the next 12 months, expect to see the Ford Graham, the Renault Susan and the Volkswagen Steve.

The Vauxhall Adam is probably a fine car, it just has a daft name