Bristol Archive Records Blog

Archive for March, 2009

Do It Yourself – The Rough Trade Story

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

Check this amazing film out about Rough Trade

It includes mentions of The Mighty Revolver Records and pics of the Cortinas records…

New X-Certs website

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

Check out the new X-Certs website as notified to us by Chris Bostock. Also check out their sensational album ‘Fussing and Fighting out now……

Fear of Darkness Album Review ‘Phobia’

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009



(Bristol Archive Records)


Review published by




I always enjoyed this band live, like a feckless brother act to the sterner, darker Music For Pleasure, and there’s evidence aplenty of their melodic qualities on this retrospective, which Mike Darby has put out (his brother Neil being in the band) during his impressive work chronicling bands form the various Bristol indie scenes. He’s even extricated part of an old gig review of mine (…. Incisively pretty, with a polished veneer of pop-rock which needs an urgent sandpapering for full effectiveness, Fear of Darkness unveil a set positively burning with possibilities; not too long, not too repetitive, soft but leanly energetic. I admired the taut control, as it included regular doses of camouflaged fire and dirt for all their lightly flashy look. I like the disclaimed lonely chuckles and would recommend you heave your enormous buttocks down to the Timebox in early October. In fact the only thing I didn’t go for was the penchant for pointy boots. That’s Shoe Business – Melody Maker, 1987) Always the puns, eh?

Anyway, the record comes steeped in 80’s stodginess, which they do try and fight their way through. ‘Lay Me Down’ catches them wielding vocals following the classy Psy Furs blueprint, and that sub-stadium cool, with guitar inserted by tweezers, sounds a little weird now, while live they were more naturally tenacious. ‘Friends Like You’ is quieter, ‘Just Another Day’ moodier, but it’s all very precise, the melodical mane tossed and imperious. ‘Not For Love Nor Money’ is thoughtful, nagging pop which saunters through its own doldrums, while ‘She Said’ sounds all grown up, and the rigidity to these studio recordings that sums up the late 80’s, also brings some Jim Kerr stateliness into the vocals.

 ‘Shut Up’ seems happy in its Duranny ‘Reflex’ pomp, ‘True’ is positively laidback, like some credible Spandau aftershock, but it’s a shame ‘So Cold’ lumbers around as there’s more heartfelt emotional woes here. ‘Talk To Me’ follows that feel, with a sombre flair, then ‘It’s My Nature’ finishes, twice, including a ‘Phobia Mix’, and it’s a gently thoughtful piece, almost fighting against itself. Retrospectives often perform a real service, and it’s good this band have their own release. They burnt out at their leisure, but did so with style. (Neil and Angela then went on to the more Indie pop stylings of Love Jungle, and are apparently working together again. She was a bit mental, so that could be

interesting too.)

The Escape ‘Is Nothing Sacred’

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009



(Bristol Archive Records)


Review published by


Bristol Archive Records is a welcome addition to retrospective delvers of vinyl, as there were some great bands from that area during Punk/Post-Punk and they’ve started with releases by The Cortinas, The Escape and Electric Guitars, all much undervalued due their existences, and the website contains some fascinating details. Check out the arcane equipment which cost a positive fortune back in the day! Mike Darby also runs Sugar Shack Records, of which BAR is a subsidiary, which is worth rooting through as further glories lay lurking there, including the wonderful Fear Of Darkness.

It’s fitting I review this now after recently expressing how fundamentally Manchester had been so disappointing, when Bristol’s bands seem more interesting but yet lacked the media support to highlight their activities. Given a full blooded but glossy production, all of The Escape’s songs rustle with vibrant activity, with ‘Eden’ sliding along with stiff drumming, little dramatic pauses, nicely visual wordy lyrics (‘your umbrellas of torture, hang over me everywhere’), chiming guitar and flowing, gluey bass.

 ‘Twenty Four Hours’ has a central prodding, plodding bass, and a disciplined direction, dour guitar and drums hemming the doomy vocals in. The mood lifts in a sublimely strident ‘The Retrospect’ as the bass scoots along with the drums, and the guitar ascends onto the shoulders of the burbling singer and it stamps off hotly towards a curving horizon. From this point onwards things remain imposing but involving. ‘I’ll Pretend To Kill You’ is tossed around by the wily guitar, with taut vocal drama gathering force in a mutant catchy drift. Now they’re up they bolt and bustle through ‘Nogo’ with mildly top and ticklish guitar riding the bucking and wonderfully fluid bass to a histrionic close. ‘The Difference Between’ is more deadpan and deviously gloomy, with ‘Unknown War’ finding more shady guitar slipping into a fitful mood, with the distressed singing and fleet of feet rhythm keeping things springy in quite a pretty atmosphere. ‘Desolation’ is also dark, as their sound fits in with a Gothier edge to Post-Punk activity as the great Music For Pleasure once did (the band I would most easily compare The Escape to), all elements tugging on the same immoveable mental enemy.

The looser, lubricious ‘Truth Drug’ is dank but spiky, and restless with a turbulent spleen, as the crisply delineated ‘Girl In The Phone Box’ survives despite being fairly undemanding. The angsty ‘Murder’ shudders more urgently, like a simplistic burly Bauhaus. Keeping the variety going throughout ‘Is Nothing Sacred’ is agitated angles and nodules with closer ‘Silent Running’ relatively upbeat but ambivalent allowing the album a graceful but clever end, in that nothing I emphatic and leads you back into a circle of listening. It’s an excellent album and the only thing I think both label sites need to ensure they do is set up a myspace page per band that you can access from their own myspace pages, because we need easily obtainable info on them all.

Wavelength Records and The Bristol Recorder

Friday, March 6th, 2009


by Dave Cohen – Jan 2009


I don’t normally begin by talking about my bedroom, especially to strangers. Or indeed this particular bedroom, given that I was a student at the time. Most of what went on in there you really don’t want or need to know about. And I can assure you that with regard to the bed itself, there was disappointingly little activity to report anyway.


But this otherwise innocuous sleeping quarters had an interesting role in Bristol’s popular culture, and I am proud to be a footnote in any story of Bristol and punk. Because my bedroom at 16 Ambrose Road in Cliftonwood was home, in the late 70s and early 80s, to two of the lasting creations of the Bristol post-punk scene – Venue magazine, and, to a smaller but no less significant extent, the WOMAD festival.


Bristol got punk sooner than much of the rest of the country, courtesy of The Cortinas, the only non-London band playing the capital in the early days. Us long-haired, scarf-wearing, Genesis-loving student-types were slow to catch on, but by the summer of 1977 were fully on board. That was a good summer for Bristol’s barber shops. The sneering ultra-cool London journalists, perched high in their NME tower, had already pronounced the movement dead and buried, but unknown to them, in the provinces punk was changing the musical landscape for ever.


Everyone who was a teenager around that time will have their own story of how they became punks. For me it was sitting in my hippy friend James’s smelly windowless living room, in a rambling basement flat in Royal York Crescent, and watching this man – for whom re-filling his bong was usually the highlight of his afternoon (James didn’t do mornings) – jumping up and down unable to contain his excitement, as he brushed away his Steve Hillage albums and placed The Cortinas’ ‘Fascist Dictator’ on the turntable. By the time he turned the record over for a blast of the superb B side ‘Television Families’, I was hooked.


During the next year I took charge of organising live gigs at the University, and so began a struggle with the staff to put on as many local punk bands as we could get away with. My one supporter at the union was someone involved in student politics, who like me had ditched Genesis for Generation X. Martin Elbourne knew all the staff at the Students’ Union, and with his help we were able to sneak the odd local band into its revered if brutal surroundings.


It wasn’t always easy – for a long time punk was as much a breeding ground for the National Front as it was for the all-inclusive anti-racist movement it became. There were fights with skinhead gangs and battles with the union porters who were not ready for the onslaught of punk. To even look like a punk as late as 1978 was a brave and defiant gesture. Nowadays you can walk down any street in any town and you wouldn’t say ‘boo’ to a goth, but it’s amazing to remember just how challenging the standard punk uniform was to the vast majority.


I don’t remember me and Martin covering ourselves in glory during this period. Our low point was in the summer of 1978, when we were asked to help put on The Sex Pistols at the Students’ Union as part of the ‘secret’ SPOTS tour. We were told the staff would go on strike and shut the building if we went ahead, so instead  were ‘offered’ to promote the gig at the Bamboo Club in St. Paul’s. Or we would have done, had the club not mysteriously burned down two days before the scheduled appearance.


We should probably have quit while we were way behind, but by now Martin and I were ready to conquer the world, or at least Hotwells. The success of the 1978 Stiff Records ‘Be Stiff’ tour of the label’s bands, led us to create our own ‘Be Limp’ tour (ahh, student humour, dontcha love it), featuring me as a pre-alternative comedy alternative comedian, Martin’s band Candado Palado, and our favourite live Bristol groups Joe Public, Gardez Darkx and The Spics.


By now every city and even the odd village had its own record label. Three or four local record shops, including Revolver and Focus, were shifting picture disc singles by the lorry load, from bands who made their own records in Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool and even Norwich.


BBC Radio had just altered the radio wavelengths, and in response Martin and I had put on a gig launching ‘Rock Against Radio Wavelength Changes’ (no please, stop now, my aching sides). The gig was such a huge success (ie it didn’t lose money), that we decided to build on the brand and so in April 1979 Wavelength Records was born.


Full of brilliant ideas, we got an office in West Street, which we never seemed to have to pay for, and a telephone, which we did. We found out how to make records, print DIY labels and sleeves, and sell to the independent record shops. All Martin and I lacked at this point was the knowledge of how to sign up bands, book them into recording studios, and choose what songs they should record.


Luckily the drummer of The Spics proved to have some knowledge in this field. Thos Brooman was also a student, (although as a post-graduate he was clearly much older and wiser than us) and former Genesis fan. Unlike me and Martin, Thos displayed some ability as a musician, and he offered to produce our first records.


Unfortunately he chose the most expensive studios in the area, so Wavelength more or less went bust before we’d even printed the records. Clearly, even at this early stage in our music-promoting careers, we were displaying the kind of financial acumen that was to feature so spectacularly during the first Womad festival of 1982 (‘Brilliant But Bust’ if I remember the NME headline that followed it).


Having said that, those two records – ‘Herman’s Back’ by Joe Public and ‘Bliss’ by Gardez Darkx – were exceptional. I still think ‘Bliss’ was one of the finest tracks to come out of Bristol’s post-punk era – an era where there was bountiful competition from such brilliant bands as Glaxo Babies, Essential Bop and The Electric Guitars.


The Great British Public were yet to be persuaded, however, preferring Dr Hook’s ‘When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman’ to our jangly guitars and rock trumpets. Our next two releases, ‘You And Me’ by The Spics and ‘Leaves of China’ by Color Tapes fared little better, and we were forced to make a quick getaway from the office.


So began role number one for my bedroom – Wavelength Records warehouse. There were days when I practically prayed for a burglar to break in and run off with the 3,000 units of unsellable vinyl taking up valuable joint-rolling space.


I have to say that at this stage my Record Label-owning career was not looking promising. And as luck would have it, in the summer of 1980, I was approached by a businessman from Bath who believed the West Country was ready to support its own version of ‘Time Out.’ He had already appointed local journalist Dougal Templeton as editor, and ‘Out West’, soon to become ‘Venue’, was born. The businessman was as far from punk as it was possible to be, apart from his philosophy that you didn’t need money to set up a magazine. He assured us that he would find offices in Bristol as soon as possible, but in the meantime we needed to produce the magazine from a base in Bristol, and would I mind if we used my spacious Cliftonwood residence?


There was at this stage a small amount of room for the Cohen business empire to expand, so I agreed, and shifted the modus operandi of Wavelength Records to the Ambrose Road living room – much to the irritation of my flatmates, who had to be careful not to confuse their pizza boxes with each 25 unit collection of ‘Leaves of China’ every time they sat down in front of ‘Tiswas’.


That summer, I came back from my holidays to discover that one or two irritated flatmates had moved out, (‘it’s either the cardboard boxes or me’ said one) and Martin had moved in, along with a mate of his I’d met maybe twice in my life, called Dave Higgitt. Dave at this stage had never expressed any interest in writing about music or producing magazines. The perfect qualification for the next 28 years of his life, editing ‘Venue’ magazine.


Martin, meanwhile, had been thinking hard about how one could produce local records without losing bucketloads of money. He came up with the genius idea of the Bristol Recorder. Produce a record, and then pay for distribution and costs by selling advertising space in the record sleeve. The sleeve then becomes a newspaper with articles about the Bristol music scene.


And the idea worked instantly. The first, live album made all its money back through sales and ads on the cover, and enough to subsidise an immediate studio follow up. The boxes of seven-inchers were replaced by twelve-inchers, the difference was that these were genuinely being shifted.


By now ‘Out West’ was up and running and I didn’t have as much time to work on Recorder. And real differences were emerging between us – I wanted the content of Recorder to include jokes and comedy, Thos wanted it to be weighty and properly serious about music. Luckily for Bristol, and WOMAD, Thos won that argument.


By chance, and as always seemed to be the case in the random world of punk, my mate Jonathan was looking for a job and I suggested he take over from me at Recorder. Qualifications for the job? None whatsoever. But he had one skill that Martin, Thos and I had always lacked. Jonathan Got Things Done. This was when the idea of WOMAD became a possibility.


With the next Recorder album, it became clear why in the past Thos had chosen the recording studio that broke the bank at Wavelength. It was the studio where Peter Gabriel worked. Thos and Peter hit it off straight away, and after a few meetings, Thos persuaded Peter to donate a couple of tracks to the next Recorder album. Gabriel was at this point looking for an outlet for his increasing interest in world music. The final piece was in place.


In early 1981, Bristol Recorder 2 was released, and of course with those previously unreleased Gabriel tracks was an instant sell-out. Within 18 months Martin, Thos, Jonathan and Peter would create the first WOMAD Festival. Two months earlier, ‘Out West’ had been launched, from the similarly unpromising geographical beginnings of my bedroom. Amazingly, nearly 30 years on, both ventures continue to thrive.


I often think the story of punk is best summed up by one song – ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’ by Eddie and the Hot Rods. There really was a sense that you could do anything, and be anyone, as long as you had the right attitude. Enthusiasm was more important than musicianship, or promoting skills – ‘I’m sure I must be someone, now I’m gonna find out who,’ as the song states. It was the attitude that created both ‘Venue’ and WOMAD.


Unfortunately attitude can only take you so far. Yes you can do anything you wanna do, but Eddie and the Hot Rods never did anything again after that single hit. There comes a time when expertise is vital, and while the first WOMAD was incredible, financially it was a complete disaster.


But that’s not a story for me to tell. That story belongs to Martin Elbourne, Jonathan Arthur, Thos Brooman and Peter Gabriel. They were the people who created WOMAD out of nothing, and whatever else happens in their lives they should be justifiably proud of that monumental achievement.


All I’m saying is, none of it could have been achieved without my bedroom at 16 Ambrose Road.

Bristol Archive Album Reviews

Thursday, March 5th, 2009



The Various Artists

‘Solo Album’

(Bristol Archive Records)



One of the more confusingly titled releases out there, part of the ever increasing Bristol Archive Records roster – and an absolute belter of a post punk best-of it is too, in the main, simultaneously period-piece dated and absolutely fresh, despite the fact that they were rocking Ashton Court when I was barely out of nappies. Recorded on BrisBath twixt ’79 and ’82, you can almost hear the Thatcher-era discontent, the porkpie hats and skinny ties.Maybe it’s because the late 70’s sound was so influential, but much of this sounds eerily familiar, seemingly channelling everything from Squeeze and The Specials to Elvis Costello and The Jam. The rhythm section’s superb, powering through ever-relevant credit-crunch bounce along ‘Money Matters’,whispery,early Cure-ish noir funkier ‘Still Building Pyramids’,ska-tinged,The Beat-like ‘Hard Luck Stories’- plus no less than 16 other box fresh bites of Bristol pop history. A treat.

(Mike White)




Electric Guitars


(Bristol Archive Records)



Is this the new Brooklyn boho sensation mixing up tribal funk with an oh-so-fashionable Talking Heads influence?Nope.Instead,it’s another offering from Bristol Archive Records-the band date from a bygone era of Kid Jenson radio sessions and Thompson Twins support slots. Try and find a more 80’s lyric than ‘Limbo dancing with language problems’. But its nervy scratching funk, interlaced with metal percussion and marimbas, has aged surprisingly well and would sit comfortably alongside Gang of Four, The rapture and Radio 4.’Fatman’a and ‘Scrap the Car’ are timeless twitchy funk with a fine post-punk rhythm section, shouty singer (‘there’s something in my yoghurt!’) and the irresistibly groovy ‘Food’ has propulsive keyboards straight out of ‘Stop Making sense’. Perhaps they should reform and get a tour support slot with Vampire weekend? Definately deserving of reassessment.

(Kid Pensioner)