I Found Love to I Must Have Been Blind

MY diary for much of 2020 has not exactly been full. It has been – and remains – pretty much empty. My routine was sorted on the road, did not need a diary.

But the morning of April 21 has long had an entry inked in – Oasis Trans South America trip ends, Hotel Majestic, Quito.

It is still there on the Google Doc which acts as my calendar, diary, life organiser, time-wasting tool and handy record of where my travels have taken me.

What actually happened on the morning of April 21 involved being woken by a whining Labrador, rolling off the sofa, throwing some clothes on parts of me that can be seen in a Zoom chat, grabbing some toast and plugging myself into my laptop for another day working from the dining room table.

Not exactly what was planned, but that goes for pretty much all of us at the moment.

So instead of getting up in Quito, probably grabbing some breakfast at the bakery on the corner and checking out for somewhere slightly less ironically named for a couple of night’s before the final, sad farewells and a flight home, reality finds me back home and falling into some form of new routine.

Well, sort of back.

And some sort of reality.

Rather than bringing you up to date on the events of the final stretch through Colombia and retreading some familiar ground back to Quito in the South America blog – we will get there with a few mop up posts and some advice for anyone, eventually, following in our footsteps – we have the rather sooner than planned return of the A-Z iPod blog.

For any new readers who have stumbled across this site expecting tales of travel – or even marmots – the A-Z is an alphabetical journey through my iPod, listened to in order and chronicled in these posts amid a torrent of tangents and whatever is running through my mind when tapping away at the keyboard

Me from the past can explain how it works here:

A to Z – How To Get There

There are a few big differences between the return of the A-Z and when it went on its holidays in September ahead of my South American adventure.

For starters, until just before the off was single, ensconced in my flat, working on a paper and was free to wander, headphones in and working my way through the rising number of tracks on the journey – 14,739 tracks and rising.

Now am not single, know an awful lot more about Australian time zones, am locked down at my sister’s during the coronavirus pandemic and doing some freelance reporting with the avowed aim of writing an article that does not involve the words coronavirus pandemic.

And listening to the A-Z is mainly being done during my daily, government-sanctioned exercise – a walk around a variety of routes along the pavements (and middle of the road to maintain social distancing) close to home, invariably via a bit of shopping for some essentials. Wine, crisps, beer…

It has also been exclusively on the new iPod Touch bought not long before the off due to fears that my battered, well-travelled iPodClassic was not going to make it all the way round.

Those fears were grounded as, pressed into action for the first time when its new cousin had been borrowed by the person sitting next to me on the truck, it coughed, spluttered and gave up the ghost, the screen showing nothing but some bizarre pattern which was pretty easy to interpret – this is an ex-iPod.

So my daily wanderings and still fairly new, if much-used, companion have been continuing the lengthy meander through songs beginning with I.

I Am The Resurrection to I Found A Way

There are a lot of them. An awful lot.

It’s been an eclectic section from Palma Violets to Brendan Parry with a fair few familiar faces, plus a few you might not expect.

We had a fair few people declaring their hatred for things – Nerys Hughes (Half Man Half Biscuit) and This Town (John Grant) while The Jesus and Mary Chain vowed both love and hate of Rock ‘n’ Roll in different entries.

Other declarations of love came for NYC (Andrew WK, who with I Get Wet twice raised questions about why there was, briefly, so much excitement about him) and You (Billie Eilish – one for the kids there and perfectly good, bar the insistence on refusing to use capitals letters).

Half Man Half Biscuit were also back in this stretch with I Love You Because (You Look Like Jim Reeves) and Sun Kil Moon with I Love My Dad, all six minutes and 16 seconds of it in contrast to just one minute forty seven seconds of the rather more wordy I Know It’s Pathetic But That Was The Greatest Night of My Life.

Maybe that is what The Smiths were referring to in I Know It’s Over but I Might Be Wrong, which brought us two outings for Radiohead. The live version is better.

And there were notable outings from The Boo Radleys (I Hang Suspended from the wonderful Giant Steps album), the almost inevitable Billy Bragg (I Keep Faith), The Sundays (I Kicked A Boy) and Paul SImon (I Know What I Know).

Blink-182 popped up with I Miss You, a reminder that they had the ability to turn out a good tune, if not pronounce head properly. Which still grates.

But last word in this entry goes to John Prine.

When I Have Met My Love Today popped up fairly early in this section, it was just another in the long list of songs sending me towards further exploration of a veteran artist who had passed me by for many years.

His death from COVID-19 adds poignancy and has sent me down the rabbit hole of his substantial back catalogue to discover quite why so many artists name him as a major influence.

And provides a sobering moment of quite why we are going through this strange form of existence.

  • As well as John Prine, it would be remiss not to mention two other musicians lost to the coronavirus – Andy Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne, who certainly crops up on this journey, and former Soft Boys (among others) bassist Matthew Seligman. Not sure if he plays on anything on my iPod, but we were fellow members of a Facebook community which has provided me with plenty of fun and musical tips over the last few years. A member of David Bowie’s band at Live Aid, he is spoken of in nothing but glowing terms by fellow members of the group.
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I Am The Resurrection to I Found A Way

A FORMER colleague took a risk this week with an article on signs with grammatical errors.

Focusing mainly on missing apostrophes – and ignoring the erroneous A in the name of my home village in a sign opposite the office – it really is poking the bear.

Readers do not need much excuse to point out errors or call an article’s news worthiness into question, so putting your head above your parapet and highlighting any grammatical faux pas is asking for criticism of any mistake, imagined or not.

Once received a letter listing 10 errors in an article (among many others, the writer explained). Had to resist the temptation to write back and explain he was wrong on all but one of them and could easily have made a longer list of errors from his letter.

Was not as slow pointing out errors – grammatical or factual – in my years as a sub, but then that was my job. Until a couple of weeks ago.

That job included stewardship of the office style guide – we did not have a physical one like the ones waved at me by subs as a young reporter, but a series of weekly emails running through common errors (how to refer to a councillor tops the list), spelling issues and settling debates.

Often two options are both right but the house style is to stick to one for the sake of consistency.

It may come as a surprise, but this blog has its own style guide, tucked away in a corner of my mind. Which has the advantage of being endlessly flexible so when the need arrives, the rules can be bent to suit the needs of the blog.

Which it really needs to be for this stretch of the A-Z journey through my iPod.

One of the simple rules is to avoid the first person wherever possible. It will come as a shock to a couple of ex-colleagues whose (lengthy) pieces were littered with I this, I that. Gave up counting in one opening paragraph when it reached double figures, all of which were subbed out.

Have broken that rule a couple of times in posts but they were personal tributes. It would have been odd to write them any other way.

And for the next few paragraphs, will have to break that rule again or this post will become impossible as it takes in the very long run of songs beginning with I (by far the most common opening word of this entire, expanding journey).

This section takes us from a second outing for The Stone Roses’ debut album finale to First Aid Kit.

There has been, seemingly inevitable at the moment, a fair amount of The Beatles with I Am The Walrus (twice) and I Feel Fine (three times) as well as, less inevitably, a blast of The Stones, although this was a rather different version of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – bereft of chorus – by Cat Power.

The Clash popped up once with I Fought The Law, but with two different versions by Joe Strummer, while there were welcome visits from the Arctic Monkeys ( I Bet You… can probably work that one out), Sun Kil Moon (I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love), Idlewild (I Don’t Have The Map), The House of Love (I Don’t Know Why I Love You) and Altered Images (I Could Be Happy).

There was (probably, it was a while ago, been a bit busy) screaming along to I Bleed by Pixies, who provided a very welcome soundtrack in session on the radio while cleaning my flat ahead of moving out. Very jealous of anyone seeing them in-store at Spillers in Cardiff.

As a believer in coyotes and time as an abstract, always great to hear I Believe by REM from Life’s Rich Pageant – probably edging ahead of long-time favourite Reckoning as my favourite REM album.

They have featured quite heavily as my musical intake has embraced the ability to raid the whole of Apple’s library since the decision was finally made about whether to upgrade my iPod for travelling.

The trusted Classic will add overlanding around South America to Africa on its list of places visited but this time merely as a back-up to a new Touch with instant access to a huge selection of music new and old (been adding a load of vintage stuff ahead of departure).

It is not perfect. Much prefer the wheel control than everything having to be touchscreen digital, the battery life seems shorter and it does not give updates on tracks in the collection – or exactly how many hundreds of I songs we have to wade through – but getting used to it.

And have plenty of time to do just that over the next 31 weeks as the A-Z journey goes into hibernation while travelling.

It became clear very quickly in Africa that keeping the A-Z going alongside blogging from on the road was too much to ask – I blog because I am travelling, not the other way round (to break the rules one more time).

The travel pieces (starting tomorrow from Heathrow. Probably) may well take a diversion into what is soundtracking the trip, but the A-Z is taking a few months off.

This time by design, not just because I have put it off. Again.

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I to I Am The Resurrection

Day 29 of the blog post a day in May with something a bit different – the A-Z iPod Challenge written and posted live

I – Cheatahs
Interesting start – 41 seconds of largely fuzzy noise. Not even enough time to think of something interesting to write, let alone write it.

I Ain’t Got No Home – Billy Bragg
As my musical tastes completed their trip from indie guitar jangle to Americana, the Big Nosed Boy from Barking completed the same trip with his Tooth & Nail album.

He’s been pretty much a constant in my life for 30-odd years and (when we get there, possibly in several years) one of his songs will have the rare distinction of a blog post all of its own.

Not his best era but he did coin the best definition of Americana – “Country music for people who like The Smiths.”

I Ain’t Tha 1 – NWA
Added to the collection when Straight Outta Compton was part of a bout of adding supposedly classic albums. Several failed to live up to the billing, but this is always pretty welcome when it pops up. Even with my limited rap knowledge.

I Ain’t The Same – Alabama Shakes
Never really looked ahead to see what was coming on this section of the iPod, just knew it was a load of tracks beginning with I.

One of those bands who got talked up a lot for a while and downloaded this pretty much unheard. Much of it has remained that way. It’s perfectly OK, just….

I Almost Fell – Axxa/Abraxas
Nope, absolutely no idea what this is doing here. But this is pretty good, sort of psychy, vaguely California-type sound (although quick check on Wikipedia reveals he is from near Atlanta.

Ooh, Michael Palin’s on the TV. Sadly, on The One Show, not travelling.

I Almost Killed You – Billy Bragg
Told you he was pretty much a constant. This was when he was emerging from the part of his career when our paths had sort of diverged.

Not among his best, but that’s a pretty long list and what’s on it could make a lengthy debate – The Saturday Boy, Levi Stubbs’ Tears, Tank Park Salute… this could run and run.

I Always Fell Apart – Sharon Van Etten
Had an end-of-year ritual since first really started buying music, scouring the music papers and magazines’ best of lists to see what had been missed.

It inevitably ended in an armful of CDs or a load of downloads, not all of which got as much attention as they deserved, purely due to a lack of time – it’s sort of what this A-Z idea was about to dig out some overlooked stuff.

Sharon Van Etten has made the end-of-year shoppings spree more than once and falls very much in that last paragraph.

I Always Knew – The Vaccines
Yeah, it’s OK but… Am away watching baseball the weekend of Glastonbury so will have limited chance to roll out the phrase indie landfill. Will do it now.

I Am A Rock – Red House Painters
Finally a song long enough to think of something to write… if only wasn’t trying to work out how they have produced a cover about twice as long as the original. That’s Mark Kozelek for you.

Red House Painters are littered through my iPod, courtesy of raiding the music collection of the friend who gave me a home on return from my first bout of travelling.

Perfectly welcome visitors and Kozelek went on to soundtrack much of my Trans Africa trip with his wonderful Benji album (which manages to mention his role as the bassist in the band in Almost Famous).

I Am A Rock – Simon & Garfunkel
A friend once got very upset because none of his colleagues were old enough to know who Simon & Garfunkel were. Which is a sad reflection on both the ageing process and the education system – they should be among the music people are taught about compulsorily.

I Am A Wanderer – Steve Earle
Told you had wandered off into Americana. No idea where picked this one up from but looks like sometime after Earle had been playing a recovering drug addict in The Wire – the greatest TV series of them all (no debate on this one).

Just checked this is actually working and appears some people are actually reading it (or one person is clicking on it a lot). Hi, whoever it is. Not watching the football?

I Am All That I Need/Arroyo Seco/Thumprint Scar – Fleet Foxes
Remember buying this album, no recollection of listening to this but almost certainly did. Prefer their early stuff which is much better, controversial view, than Father John Misty.

I Am Columbus – Guided By Voices
It’s all been a bit gentle up to now, time to crank it up. One of those bands was aware of for ages but was never familiar with. Like it, but does sound rather like a Sugar B side.

I Am Fire – The Afghan Whigs
Have to pick my words carefully, given the high esteem The Afghan Whigs are held in by at least one person who might be reading this. Never quite got them to that extent – one of those bands you enjoy when you hear, but rarely seek out. Ducks for cover…

I Am Gonna Watch You Sleep – Hamell On Trial
Bought this album on the strength of a track on an Uncut magazine sampler which still pops up occasionally when wandering through old playlists. The album not so much.

I Am Goodbye – Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy
The Prince wandered in to my collection in the same raid on a friend’s collection as Red House Painters (we had no TV or internet).

Also one of the subjects of the overheard line: “Want to come back to mine and listen to some miserable music?” Remarkably, she did.

I Am Here – Savages
Sort of shied away from Savages because kept being told would really like them – sort of the musical equivalent of being told to clean your bedroom – so came to them late. This backs up the feeling that should have listened earlier (my bedroom is tidy, but could do with a vacuum, thanks for asking).

I Am Home – Massive Attack
Wow, been doing this an hour and struggling to shake the feeling that really should have looked at what was coming up in the A-Z before trying this.

It does happen sometimes on this journey, you get a load of album tracks, stuff cribbed from compilations or have just not listened to. Other times it is just loads of tracks which bring back a load of memories.

I Am Not A Game – Ty Segall & White Fence
Fits in the much-touted category, bought unheard and largely remains that day. His stuff does pop up from time to time and feel he suffers from Ryan Adams syndrome (not that one), bit too prolific for his own good sometimes.

Got over-excited for a minute then, the comment icon flashed. Just checked it, take it nobody is posting comments in Russian on an old post about travelling?

I Am Still What I Meant To Be – Will Oldham
Refer you to the comment under his Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy moniker. Otherwise going to start repeating myself.

What’s happening in the football?

I Am The Cosmos – Chris Bell
Just had to look him up as had no idea (this one’s another from an Uncut CD when it was my regular source of music reading).

He was in Big Star with Alex Chilton – could probably have worked that out from listening to this -for which we owe him huge thanks. If only for being a huge influence on Teenage Fanclub.

I Am The Mob – Catatonia
Just a couple more – been doing this long enough, getting hungry and, having just checked, not sure can stomach back-to-back Beatles (work it out).

There was a time when living in Cardiff when it seemed illegal for any pub not to go more than 10 minutes without playing Catatonia, the Manics or the Stereophonics. Believe me, we did a lot of research on that.

Used to wander past Cerys Matthews a lot by our house. Chances are one of us was going to Chapter or The Cameo Club (it would have been her going to the Cameo).

I Am The Past – Eleanor Friedberger
Another in the Sharon Van Etten end-of-year list purchases. Sounds a bit like Thea Gilmore.

One more track, just the first outing for it as it’s more than eight minutes long. Gives you some time to work it out.

I Am The Resurrection – The Stone Roses
It has just taken me about four goes to spell resurrection… time to wrap this up.

Am a member of a closed Facebook group which features a load of music fans – some of them music journos and the odd member of bands you might have half heard of -who basically post a load of tracks, sparking debates and sending us off down memory lane and voyages of discovery.

Been quiet in there for a while before indulging my Fontaines DC obsession the other day.

One member ranted against The Stone Roses to mark the 30th anniversary of the release of their debut album. Get where he was coming from and while never a huge fan, still think it was a really good record if sounding a little dated.

And to the last strains of John Squire’s guitar, thanks for following this live effort (just checked, people have actually been reading, remarkably) or catching up later.

Normal service will be resumed next time.

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About the Light to Hey Heartbreaker

Day 24 of the blog post a day in May (and the 200th post on Travel Marmot) with a bit of tidying up in the A-Z iPod Challenge – with a little bit of politics thrown in.

A FORMER editor once stared at the list of sports stories presented at Monday morning conference for that day’s paper, glared at me and shook his head.

That was not that unusual, but this was for different reasons to normal.

No, he was not interested in what was being put forward for the back page or what we had spent much of Sunday coaxing into the pullout. He had his own idea for the big story from the weekend.

As all eyes turned to me – my colleagues revelling in the complete state of confusion taking over my face – as he outlined what he had in mind.

The entire golf club, he explained, had been gripped by TV coverage of one our golfers fighting for victory in a leading US event. Appalled that nobody else seemed to be covering our local boy’s achievements, he wanted that all over the back page.

It was all anyone could talk about the night before, one of ours beating the best in the world, it would be what our readers wanted to see on a Monday.

Totally confused, returned to my desk to find out what was going on. My colleagues were not much use, so scanned the news wires… still nothing. Eventually, went in hunt of the TV listings to find out what had been on and discovered what had happened.

Armed with the listings magazine and a cutting from a past paper, returned to the editor’s office to explain what was going on. And why, as he had demanded to know, we had missed it.

As diplomatically as possible, pointed out he and his golf club friends had been watching a re-run of the previous year’s event after the live coverage had been washed out by rain – our local guy having missed the cut two days earlier this time around.

His success the previous year was reported in the cutting.

Have used this tale a few times over the years to illustrate the dangers of listening to a small group, special interest or section of readership, however vocal, when deciding what we should concentrate on as journalists.

And it seemed somehow apt listening to the reaction and fallout as Theresa May finally succumbed to the inevitable and announced the schedule for her departure as leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister.

As those who have been messily plodding on with their prolonged political assassinations – a milk shake would appear to carry more cutting edge than any of their thrusts – came out of hiding to push themselves forward, the golf club could easily be substituted for the Conservative Party and various subsets within it.

Confined to listening to the people around them – largely there because they share the same views and ambitions – they are unable to contextualise anything and see the bigger picture. That what they are claiming is for the greater good is really for the greater good of their immediate peers.

Take one Steve Baker MP.

Sure confirmed politicos know exactly who Steve Baker is but for the uninitiated (had to check this), he is the Tory MP for Wycombe and deputy chairman of the European Research Group (basically the Brexit wing of the Conservatives).

That’s deputy to Jacob Rees-Mogg, having succeeded the odious Mark Francois.

And he filled the empty time on BBC News just before Mrs May emerged from Number 10 to announce her decision by explaining he could be in the running because “some colleagues” thought he should.

That’s some colleagues in a small – if powerful – part of a governing party which cannot command a majority in Parliament as a mandate for a run at the top job in the land.

And according to reports, around 15 other Conservatives think they have the same sort of backing to take the job.

Some of my colleagues have suggested my performances in the office quiz were enough to apply for Pointless. Other stupider ideas have been suggested by friends over a few pints.

They have as much weight as Steve Baker’s claim to the iron lady’s old throne (zeitgeist meets political gag there). But were soundly ignored (well, bar a few of them after a few pints)

Baker and his pals have summed up a lot of the problems gumming up any progress in British politics – not just Conservatives by the way, before someone accuses me of bias (they just happen to be the ones, supposedly, in power).

More than happy to lob a verbal milkshake in the path of other parties. Or anything whatsoever to do with Farage.

They are all so cloistered in their own clubs – golf or otherwise – watching their own interests, hearing what they want to hear on social media and disregarding (or discrediting) the rest, they cannot break out and see that for all the talk of compromise, it is destined to remain elusive if they see everything as binary and insist only the other side should be making any changes.

What do they know of Brexit, who only Brexit know?

(To quote Kipling – or more accurately steal a Billy Bragg line – for the second time in a week).

What they need to do, in a desperate attempt to get this away from politics to the matter at hand, is have a look around and see what else is going on.

Which is what the A-Z iPod Challenge has been doing (told you it was desperate) with a catch-up on the tracks from A-H which have dropped into the alphabetical list after that section was covered.

Been a while since we did this so there’s a lot which does not seem new – tracks from last year’s joined album of the year from Idles for starters

Same goes for the likes of Low, Mogwai, Jason Isbell’s live album and Five Eight among others.

Deafheaven soundtracked all 20 minutes on a gym bike – very loudly – with two tracks and there was promising new(ish) or largely unexplored stuff from Drema Wife, The Orielles and Better Oblivion Community Centre.

We also had some vintage Madder Rose, downloaded after a night sidetracked by the suggestions on You Tube.

And it was rounded off by two great white hopes from Ireland – Fontaines DC, who were raved about in the last post but make no apologies for banging on about, and The Murder Capital.

We certainly don’t want any sort of border keeping that sort of stuff out.

  • One last thing on the whole milkshake throwing debate. As much as the sight of Farage, Yaxley-Lennon and co being cut down to size is to be savoured, not a fan of them being thrown – however much they have brought it on themselves. Mind you, the prospect of large numbers of people merely holding them as they walk by…
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How Cruel to Hysterical Strength

Day 21 as the blog post a day in May gets back to plan with a return to its roots and reaching another landmark.

TRACK 5,160 on the journey through my iPod from A-Z is not one that jumps out as significant.

No disrespect to St Vincent who rounded out the latest section (which started with The Kingsbury Manx – bought, if memory serves, after they appeared on an Uncut magazine CD and failed to live up to the billing) with Hysterical Strength, it would not normally be a track worthy of note.

But as the 679th and final track beginning with H, it represents a notable point in the trip.

Have mentioned before that, like any long journey, the final stretch of each letter can become a bit of a slog. The musical equivalent of ‘are we nearly there yet?’.

Not that there’s necessarily anything more exciting on the horizon, but there is something fresh, a new impetus to the journey lurking just over that horizon.

Having taken a peek, there is a pretty big expanse laid out in front of us as the start of I offers up something to rewrite the records of this journey and will need one of my personal rules to be set aside for a while or it will get very confusing.

Also plan to do something a bit different with one of the upcoming posts which may well be more of a test – for writer and reader – than the blog post a day for a month idea. Which is saying something.

More of that nearer the time – it will be trailed in advance – but before then we need to do a quick catch-up on the songs from A-H which have been added. A while since done that so some of them are a bit of a shock as being supposedly new tracks. Others had forgotten about totally.

But before all that, we’ve got that final stretch of H songs to work our way through.

It might just be the nearing the end of the journey feeling, but the standard final stretch of tracks for each letter tends to throw up little in the way of excitement. A sense of wanting to eat up the miles rather than savouring the scenery.

This has not been the case with the final 80-odd H tracks throwing up enough gems to keep things bouncing along (actually listening to the last dozen or so while writing this to get totally caught up and REM’s Hyena was a welcome distraction – their second in this block after How The West Was Won And Where It Got Us).

Amid all that was a track that just sneaked in rather than being shunted into the catch-up playlist from a young Irish band that has me about as excited as any for a long time.

Knowing it was coming, been trying to come up with an accurate description of Fontaines DC – best advice is click on the video up top there of Hurricane Laughter and crank up the volume. And repeat.

Most common point of reference is Fugazi or Killing Joke, but personally hear a collision between the joint winners of last year’s Travel Marmot Album of the Year, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and Idles. Fronted by a cross between Ian Curtis and Shane Macgowan.

Maybe that’s just me.

Whatever their influences, they are bloody good. Suggest Dogrel may be in the running for album of the year this time round.

Not that everything in this section was so worth a listen, scratching my head as to how any Muse (Hyper Music, which is currently playing) has made it into my collection.

Always totally baffled by their popularity. Akin to fingers on a blackboard and, thankfully, over.

Still fighting with the listening to Ryan Adams issue and he cropped up a few times, most notably (courtesy of some weird downloading issue) four times with a live version of How Much Light.

But there were plenty of great moments to savour, starting in Manchester with How I Wrote ‘Elastic Man’ by The Fall and two outings for How Soon Is Now (one with, one without the question mark) which is from the top echelon of Smiths tracks.

Jason Isbell’s two offerings (How To Forget and Hudson Commodore) were not from his top echelon, but still worth a listen, while there were familiar faces in The Wedding Present (Hude Dnipro Hude, twice) and Mercury Rev (Hudson Lines) while The Be Good Tanyas popped up with the free track which first brought them to my attention, Human Thing.

And from two ends of the the career scale, we had some Johnny Cash (it comes towards the end of H, work it out) and Camp Cope.

Something is happening in Melbourne. After Courtney Barnett and Rolling Blackouts CF, this lot complete a pretty good hat-trick. Album has a way to go, but ones to watch.

And so on to I…

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