Simon Raymonde on… The world is bad, but music isn’t

Bella Union’s founder Simon Raymonde takes stock of 2018’s political landscape – and concludes it’s probably best to hunker down with Nick Cave and take solace in new music…

Simon Says #9: The world is bad, but music isn't

If you’re reading this in 2020, then somehow we must’ve made it through the Dark Age Of Orange-u-tan, a ghastly period in our planet’s history, where all the dreadful stereotypes we’ve spent a lifetime being told to be afraid of (aliens, robots, communists, Bono, etc) turned out to be cuddly and utterly adorable after all, at least in comparison to The Man-ster In The White House. Our most vivid imaginations, born from decades of sci-fi comics and horror fiction, in film and literature, never prepared us for this.

Or just perhaps we didn’t make it through after all, and you are indeed reading this in an alternate universe. In which case: “Hi! Pleased to a-meet you! My name is ‘Bootsy’ and I am a small dog – most probably a labrador cross, though I don’t know what that means, because I’m always happy!” (wags tail furiously). Note: in a parallel universe, I would still be good old human ‘Simon’, but in the superstring theory of my alternate universe, I most certainly would be ‘Bootsy’!
A new year is traditionally the time for wiping the slate clean and embracing fresh starts, when a dawning of great optimism will permeate the atmosphere. This time, however, no matter how hard we try, the slate won’t wipe clean, caked as it is with the kind of stubborn blood Lady Macbeth had such trouble getting off. Soon, we won’t even be able to head off to Europe anymore to escape the gloom.
We are well and truly trousered. Marooned – or rather Camer-ooned – and quite likely doomed. Brexit stage far-right. But wait, look yonder! A big black cloud come. Comes to Tupelo-o-o!
A song of prophecy. Written 33 years ago by Nick Cave, Mick Harvey and Barry Adamson, about the terrors awaiting the town when that twisted tornado will surely come ripping through, destroying everything in its path. And like all classic songs that stand the test of time, they take on added meaning, and often even greater significance to each new generation.
The ‘tornado’ in 2018 is in many ways full of exactly the same stuff – wind, deceit in how it changes direction with no fair warning, the dregs and debris it carries around in its belly to spit out when it suits – except it is not a rotating column of air, it is a rotund man with an orange face who, with a permanent smirk, wreaks more havoc than any funnel cloud ever could. What we do know, that history has proven, is that tornadoes don’t last long. We are in the eye of the storm all right, but it will be over. Until then, keep listening to Nick Cave. There’s a lot of treasure buried there.
When you’ve listened to all of Nick Cave’s albums, you should save some time for some new music. There is, in much music-based print media, an overwhelming emphasis on artists from our distant past. There’s clearly a market for it, but let’s not think that there is in any way a dearth of new music worth writing about. New music has never been as good as it is right now, and that’s exactly how it should be, too.
Giving my ‘tips for 2018’ isn’t something I feel altogether comfortable with, for a number of reasons. You have enough lists already, be it the BBC Sound Of 2018 list or the albums of the year lists; plus any list I do as a label person tends to lead to unnecessary speculation about which bands I’m keen on signing, etc… But in these two cases, I’m just thrilled to pass on the recommendation, regardless of which label they end up with.
Weirdly, as I was keen on them both separately, they were recently on the same bill in Brighton where I live and, on this and subsequent shows, they’ve blown me away.
Firstly, there’s a four-piece from Norway called Pom Poko. Their sound is thrilling post-punk, at times spiky and high tempo; at others, soulful and psychedelic, with soaring sensual vocals weaving in and out of the angular sounds. Watch them and go home and form a band.
Another four-piece I’m obsessed with are based here in Brighton. Called Penelope Isles, they have that hard-to-describe ability to be all my favourite bands in one, yet never sounding like any of them. Neither band have records out yet and both already have the songs – that’s usually the bit most bands fall down on. So, most importantly, i hope you find something to enjoy. Here’s to another great year of music ahead.

Read more: Simon Says #8: Getting the band back together