Tuesday 26 April 2011

R.I.P Poly Styrene

Like Ari-Up's untimely passing last year, it is sad to hear today of Poly Styrene's death. Although I was never a big fan of X-ray Spex, more a casual admirer, the singles Oh Bondage Up Yours, World Turned DayGlo, and the ever brilliant Germ Free Adolescents were striking, the latter always sending shivers down my spine. I didn't need to by their album, as I heard it on near constant replay for an entire summer as it blasted out of the room of someone I lived in a house share with many years ago, (thanks Helen). Poly, like Ari, challenged the male dominated punk movement.

Excepting Pauline Murrey of Penetration and Siouxsie Sioux of the Banshees, there weren't enough women in punk, and Poly would have helped the confidence of strong female fronted groups that were to follow in her wake. Bands such as The Rezillos, The Selecter, (the sometimes female fronted) Crass and Poison Girls spring to mind, and I'm well aware I'm probably missing out plenty of others. Then there were the countless female fronted or all female indie bands of the mid-eighties that formed well after New Wave, Post-punk, Anarcho-punk and 2 Tone had died out. And because of this, like Ari-Up, Poly Styrene's importance can not be underestimated.

And reading Poly Styrene's obituary on The Guardian website just now, I also found that I share my birthday with her. I'll toast you this year Poly, truly, rest in peace.

The Guardian obituary.

Monday 25 April 2011


Saturday night saw the launch party of the double CD, 'The Ugly Truth About Ipswich'. The CD features many bands from Ipswich's 30 year back catalogue, along with more current bands doing the rounds. I'm particularly pleased, as one ex-half of Pindown, to be sandwiched between Earth Mother Fucker and Tender Lugers, two of my favourite tracks on the release. Alongside such delights are Extreme Noise Terror, who are the only band on the CD who can claim the duel boast of inventing a musical genre and to have appeared on stage with KLF at the Brit Awards (R.I.P Phil), and the short but perfectly quaffered 1980s pop icon Nik Kershaw. Ipswich's musical history is nothing if not diverse.

The launch party featured Henry Homesweet, The B. Goodes, These Are End Times, Jack Rundell, The Waxing Captors and Broken Shapes (ex Life And Times Of) across two rooms in an Ipswich venue, with a CD being given away with the ridiculously cheap admission price of £1. However, fear not if you didn't make it and want to get your hands on a copy of the CD, it is available from the Antigen Records online shop for £0.99. More details about Antigen Records can be found on their Facebook page.

Antigen shop
Antigen Facebook

Thursday 21 April 2011

You don't have to be Prince

In a less than regular feature highlighting the album sleeves currently residing in the Album Art frames on my landing, I've just recently been up in the loft to choose 3 new LP sleeves to showcase there, and here. This is my current selection:

According to Andrew Sherman's blog, Age Of Chance did three things right:
1 they wore cycling clothes,
2 their artwork was done by the fledgling Designers Republic,
3 they did a great cover version of Prince's Kiss.

I have to agree with all three. Looking somewhat dated now, (see video for Kiss below), it is impossible to gauge the reaction I had to seeing them live at Essex University in 1986, as I was just starting to pick up on hip hop, sampling and ironic intent in music. They went a little too pop for me later on in their short lived career, toning down some of the sonic guitar frequencies they were keen on dropping into the middle of their songs and polishing up their drum sound. I liked the fact that rawness and technology gave them an industrial bite to their hybrid pop sensibilities.

All very 1980s. If you wonder what Wolff Olins researched in order to design the 2012 olympics logo, then I think you'll find a few pointers in that video.

On the subject of Designers Republic, for whom Age Of Chance were one of their first clients, they have an exhibition coming up in Croyden. Details here.

PS—Since my last post on Album Art frames, the Wire triptych of Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154 have been displayed. These regular favourites will return and I'll post about them then.

Saturday 16 April 2011

Old Town

While in Holt, north Norfolk, last week, Claire and I popped into the Old Town clothing workshop and showroom. If you like your clothes made to order, in the UK, with a certain 1940s understated styling, then this is the place to go. I imagine British Sea Power would love it.

If the clothes aren't to your liking, then the shop is well worth a visit for its interior design alone. Resembling a store in the 1940s, it feels honest and a breath of fresh air in comparison to the majority of soulless and generic clothes shops; Fat Face this aint!

Old Town have a novel way of selling their wares as well, one that should thankfully keep immediacy seeking fashionistas away, (should the 1940s ever come back into fashion that is). No clothes are available to buy on the spot—you try on the styles you like to get a size fit, then trawl through swatches to pick the fabric and colour you want. Then you wait 4-6 weeks for your garments to arrive by post once they've been hand built. This avoids over production and ensures quality items that have had time spent on them rather than knocked out as quickly as possible in a sweatshop in China.

I also like the fact that they produce their own newspaper; above, with typographic jokes on the front page; below:

Images grabbed from the Old Town website.

Friday 15 April 2011

Norfolk types

Claire gets pretty frustrated with my constant photographing of found type wherever we go. This last week, a spring holiday on the north Norfolk coast, was no exception. However, even Claire was impressed with this village sign using the local vernacular:

It's rare that I stop the car specifically to take a photo, as I did with the above. However, I did again for the image below. A sign from a bygone era, impressed as I was by the awkward diagonal stacking of the letters and the Norwich City colours (almost):

Is the E trying to eat the cross bar of the T?

After a stroll through a particularly poor market (I'll not name the town involved for fear of provoking a Suffolk/Norfolk dispute), Claire spotted a row of antique's shops she wanted to look around. One was held in an old church building, and above the entrance I found this ghost of where type had previously been:

I now feel a new project coming on: recording ghost typography. This was reinforced as an idea when across the road I saw an abandoned shop with this above the window:

It also struck me as odd that the shop with the word 'technology' above its emptied shop front was across the road from a row of shops selling antiques. Technology has less longevity than antiques, obviously. Or is it that each piece of technology soon becomes an antique, and in this case, just moves across the road into a different shop?