SPECIAL SOUNDS FOR STRANGE TIMES: Romy Vager (RVG)

Over the last few months, one of the things many people have been turning to during periods of isolation during the pandemic is music. Music for distraction, companionship, solace and joy. Whatever the reason, putting on a favourite album or discovering something new that pulls you in and hits the spot, intellectually or emotionally, can be a great and wonderful experience. In this series we check in with musicians, journalists and broadcasters to see what has inspired repeat listening and provided some special sounds for these strange times.

RVG have always garnered great reviews but they’ve hit the jackpot with the recent release of their album Feral, gaining stellar reviews locally and internationally. Romy Vager, the creative force behind RVG (Romy Vager Group) kindly took the time to give us an insight into what records she’s been listening to and loving over the last few months.

Read our review of Feral.

“On Feral, Vager’s dissection of how it feels to be sidelined and disenfranchised is treated poetically and ultimately there’s a sense of hope and resilience that rises from the near perfect musical backdrop.”

Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains (2019)

“I’ve been forced to watch my friends enjoy ceaseless feasts of schadenfreude”. That’s a magic line, it’s a line Leonard Cohen could’ve written. The whole album is killer but those first three tracks, they’re like Harry Dean Stanton smoking bongs with the four horsemen of the apocalypse. 

I really also love the song ‘She’s Making Friends, I’m Turning Stranger’. I feel that one in my soul. Sometimes it feels as if some people are Eloi and some are Morlocks and there’s not a lot anyone can do about it. 

Daisy Chainsaw – Eleventeen (1992)

I’ve been listening to this again because it reminds me of a dear friend who passed away recently and who I always thought was the personification of this record. She liked this band and I feel the connection to her when I play it. Music’s good for that. I love how unhinged this record sounds. It’s like nothing else. I love the childlike language of it. It’s like a fucked up Alice In Wonderland but in a good way, not in a Tim Burton way. 

The Kinks – Face To Face (1966)

I keep thinking about when we were in London, we went to listen to Ray Davies in conversation at Rough Trade. You had to buy his new record to speak to him afterwards so instead we just stood in the corner and silently stared at him. We were in awe. I mean there was THE Ray Davies. He’s better than the fucking Beatles! 

Every Kinks record before 1974 is my favourite record but Face to Face is hitting me the hardest in quarantine. ‘Too Much on my Mind’ is the song I keep singing to myself in the shower. I love the simplicity of it, it’s beautiful and it’s true.

Sleaford Mods – Eton Alive (2019)

“He’s dead, yeah, he died. Can’t you remember? That’s what you’re here for”. I love that delivery. Adelaidians have a similar deadpan reaction to death as British people do. People from the East Coast are taken back by it. I guess that’s why they think we’re all serial killers.

This record has barely left the turntable since December of last year. One thing I’ve learnt about punk music, if you don’t have a touch of humility and tenderness then it’s just vanity and posturing. Unrelated but there’s a line from The Residents that says “ignorance of your culture is not considered cool”. I can almost hear that sentence in Jason’s voice. I love this band. 

ALBUM REVIEW: Sleaford Mods – English Tapas

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The masters of minimal post-punk and street poetry return with their first album for Rough Trade, In the last four years the duo have gone from something of a curiosity to an established act with a cutting line in socio-political commentary and stark, primitive music.

English Tapas continues the sound and content of its predecessors. On Divide & Exit (2014), Andrew Fearn concocted a sound reminiscent of The Fall, it was muddy and ragged with a sense of disdain and an embrace of lo-fi grittiness. Their last album Key Markets signalled a cleaning up of their music, more rhythmic and groove-based, though still utterly primitive. In 2017 they’ve continued that process of refinement with the addition of subtle and detailed programming elements – a twinkling hi-hat here, bass-lines that feature more than three notes and on ‘Cuddly’, their closest attempt at digital dub.

Jason Williamson is still the focus with his heavily-accented, ranting approach. It’s part poetic attack, rap-leaning in its rhythm and rhyme and a glorious mix of colloquial and slang deployed to deliver commentary on issues of unemployment, social media, greed and the monotony of modern life. If anything, Williamson has become more abstract in his lyrics, cutting up sentences, fragmenting phrases so they are as suggestive as they are direct. When he does take straight aim at a topic there’s definitely no room for mis-interpretation – “Try scrolling down a website, the NME, without laughing, I’ll give you ten quid if you can keep a straight face. Honestly, just fucking try it, mate”.

There’s a lineage from Sleaford Mods back through grime, The Streets, P.I.L, The Fall and Suicide and here they continue to collated the sonic influence of those acts and others into a unique sound that marries ideas and gonzo simplicity that comes off as satirical, witty and critical without an ounce of musical fat or holier-than-thou preaching.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Sleaford Mods – TCR

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The minimal electronic punk duo Sleaford Mods have a new single/video out for the title track from their forthcoming EP TCR, due out on Oct 14th via Rough Trade Records. It finds them unleashing the same sarcastic, ranting critiques on modern culture over an 80s-indebted bleeping melody, robotic bass-line and incessant primitive drum machine.

“Elvis has definitely left the fuckin’ building”

NEW MUSIC: Sleaford Mods | Tied Up In Nottz

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Duo Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn are starting to make waves with their new album Divide & Exit and they’ve definitely got a great no wave, krautrock/post-punk sound going on with Lydon/Mark E. Smith type rants splattered on top. They describe themselves as electronic munt minimalist punk-hop rants for the working class and under from Nottingham, UK.