Wednesday, 30 November 2011

reviews: bill wells, butcher the bar, m+a

Bill Wells - Lemondale

Bill Wells - Lemondale (****)

Following his collaboration with Maher Shalal Hash Baz on 2009’s GOK, Bill Wells returned to Japan to record Lemondale, corralling an impressive array of musicians to breathe life into its eleven tracks. The unorthodox orchestra featured the inimitable Nikaido Kazumi, Saya and Ueno from Tenniscoats, and Tokyo-residing experimentalist Jim O’Rourke amongst its numbers, and the disparate members evidently gelled.

Lemondale is a sweet treat for the ears throughout, from Toon City’s opening jazz-strains – suggestive of Joe Hisaishi’s soundtrack work – to the delicate title track’s cooed refrain. The latter borrows chords from Procol Harum (or Bach, if you want to split hairs), while Mizo Tur is Windmills of My Mind in all but name, but while the echoes are blatant, such similarities are never detrimental. Lemondales thirty-four minutes are imbued with a gentle charm by turns wistful, romantic, bittersweet and playful, cementing Wells’ status as both gifted composer and well-connected bandleader.

Out 5th December

Butcher the Bar - For Each a Future Tethered

Butcher the Bar - For Each a Future Tethered (***)

For Each a Future Tethered does everything a second album should, evoking its predecessor’s blueprint whilst comfortably improving on it. On his follow-up to Sleep at Your Own Speed, Joel Nicholson has added busier instrumentation and even a guest star in the form of Seasick Steve (barely perceptible on X), without sacrificing the breezy atmosphere that marked out his debut as promising if imperfect.

There are, it must be said, limitations to Butcher the Bar’s sound: Nicholson has a knack for crafting instantly-pleasing melodies, but his work lacks the painful undertow of the likes of Elliot Smith (to whom Nicholson owes a definite debt of gratitude), and consequently risks blandness. But let’s focus on the positives, for there are many: Blood for the Breeze pairs haunting alt-folk with some of his best (and most bitter) lyrics, while tracks like Bobby and Sign Your Name generate a warmth that’s impossible to deny.

Out 5th December

M A - things.yes

M+A - things.yes (**)

The ‘M’ of ‘M+A’ is Michele Ducci, the ‘A’ is Alessondro Degli Angioli, but the ‘plus’ affixing them is less easy to identify; though a pleasant listen, their debut is hardly overflowing with positives. They’ve a simple set-up – M sings gobbledygook over the pair’s joint electro collages, which run from flute-swept opener Yeloww, through to ambient-ish closer Ly (with multiple genre detours along the way) – but the duo remain oddly un-engaging.

The clutter is one culprit, the air of pretension another: in their own words, they’re less a band, more ‘two people moving forward parallel to one another’. Of course, they could witter any old nonsense were the album itself sufficiently strong, but, save some not-inconsiderable exceptions (Bam’s piano-backed digital ballad; Liko Lene Lisa’s playful textures), it’s rather dull. They’re young and ambitious and will no doubt effloresce in future, but things.yes garners a reluctant but firm ‘no’.

Out Now

Thursday, 24 November 2011

GFT programme note: The Deep Blue Sea

Terence Davies' new film is out tomorrow, and jolly good it is too old boy. Here's my programme note for the Glasgow Film Theatre to whet your appetite...


‘Was it so hard to stay and continue?’ The question is naively asked, yet it encapsulates the emotional upheaval at the core of The Deep Blue Sea. It is posed by Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale) to his estranged wife Hester (Rachel Weisz), as he pleads with her to return to their comfortable but staid marriage – a life left behind for romantic fulfilment with pilot Freddie (Tom Hiddleston). But the petition is moot: logic and reason are, the film indicates, impotent in the face of love – even (nay, especially) a desire as self-destructive as the non-reciprocal adoration which Hester feels for Freddie. After a sad soliloquy in which she expresses her wish to die, Hester attempts suicide via pills and an open gas fire, before being revived by her neighbours. The remainder of the film details the fallout of this desperate act over a twenty-four hour period, as relationships strain and tear, and flashbacks fill in the gaps.

As might be expected from director Terence Davies, time and memory are prominent thematic hallmarks: in the opening sequence alone, a ticking clock is heard over the credits, while the passage of time is emphasised by the elliptical editing, the image fading in and out from black caesuras, mimicking Hester’s failing consciousness. Davies freely modifies Terence Rattigan’s 1952 source play to match these interests, altering chronology so as to more openly evoke the associational cycle of memory. Stylistically, there are overt echoes of Davies’ past work; for example, the opening panning shot across the outer-wall of Hester’s home recalls a similar shot in Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988), which carried similar implications – the move beneath an outer façade, to the emotions that teem within.

William’s question, ‘Was it so hard to stay and continue?’, is also suggestive of another protagonist’s sacrifices – that of Laura in Brief Encounter (Lean, 1945), when faced with a comparable choice. Where Laura forsakes possible happiness with Alec, opting to ‘stay and continue’ with her husband, Hester cannot ignore her passions. This comparison has its limits – Alec’s quiet humanitarian is a world away from Freddie’s tempestuous Ace, while class complications are more pronounced in The Deep Blue Sea than in the middle-class triangle of Brief Encounter – but nonetheless, the films make for complimentary viewing. Davies inserts frequent nods to this cinematic bedfellow: a shot of Hester and William sitting together in a room, but in separate frames (physically proximate, yet nonetheless distanced) is reminiscent of Brief Encounter’s book-end scenes of internal confession; while the scene in which Hester contemplates stepping into the path of an approaching train is a self-confessed homage.[1]

Throughout, period detail is well observed, from the thick smoke that hangs in the air of pubs and living rooms, to the antiquated language used by Freddie, but Davies is uninterested in naturalism per se, with dialogue self-consciously suggestive of its own artificiality (‘this isn’t a line’ promises Freddie when he and Hester first meet; ‘I’m not the villain of the piece!’ William later protests). Yet its theatricality does not detract from the principle characters’ believability, with motives, flaws and impulses expertly delineated. The supporting characters, too, have been sketched with a certain level of verisimilitude, with Davies drawing on personal recollections to refine those elements of Rattigan’s play which, to him, didn’t ‘ring true.’[2] His alterations bring not only authenticity, but heart to potential caricatures like Freddie and Hester’s landlady, who provides Hester with a humbling dose of perspective in the film’s latter stages. ‘Because I grew up in the 50s, I know not only what it looked like,’ Davies explains, ‘but what it felt like.’[3]

Naturally, the Second World War looms large, its aftermath apparent in ways visible (the bombed-out building next door to Hester and Freddie’s home; a flashback to sheltering from the blitz in an underground station), behavioural (Freddie’s struggle to readjust to civilian life after the adrenalised (and traumatic) experience of flying sorties in the Battle of Britain) and metaphorical. ‘It’s [Hester’s] story, but other lives go on’ says Davies. ‘And at the end, without making it sound unbearably pretentious, Hester’s life has been broken, but she’ll carry on, as the country did. It’s a small implication… but it’s just saying that we’ve looked at one life over one day, and look how rich it was! And all these people have lives and stories.’[4]

In his study Britain in the Second World War, Mark Donnelly comments upon the increase in divorces from 1945 onwards, and contemplates the possible cause for the spike. ‘Part of the explanation could be that women developed higher expectations of marriage in the post-war world and greater self-confidence to break a marriage that was not meeting these expectations.’[5] Hester’s dissatisfaction with William is suggestive of this altered attitude towards romance and companionship, emphasised by their age gap. ‘Beware of passion Hester – it always leads to something nasty,’ William's mother warns her, ever respectable and reserved; when asked what it should be replaced with, she suggests ‘a guarded enthusiasm – it’s much safer.’ ‘And much duller,’ Hester rejoinders, her desires intractable. Later, William exasperatedly asks what happened to her to make her so unhappy. The reply is idealistic and fatalist: ‘Love, Bill, nothing else.’

Dr Christopher Buckle
Researcher and freelance writer
University of Glasgow
November 2011

[1] Geoff Andrew (2011) ‘Reckless Moment’ Sight and Sound December 2011, p. 22

[2] Ibid, p. 20

[3] Stuart Jeffries (2011) ‘Terence Davies: Follow Your Hormones’ The Guardian, accessed 22 November at

[4] Andew, p. 20

[5] Mark Donnelly, (1999) Britain in the Second World War (London: Routledge) p. 44

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

dvd review: poetry

Superficially, Poetry is a miserable tale of rape, suicide, and the onset of Alzheimer’s, yet its most important keyword is its title. While the plot components may suggest a relentlessly grim wallow (a teenage girl takes her life after terrible suffering at the hands of her classmates) or heavy-handed melodrama (a woman diagnosed with dementia is inspired to pen verse), the reality is neither. Deteriorating memory and poetic aspirations instead knit into an affecting metaphor for fully appreciating the world around you, and every moment spent in it.

Jeong-hee Yoon, in her first role since 1994, is superb as aspiring poet Mija, her subtle performance anchoring the film through occasional periods of narrative slackness. But the unhurried pace feels appropriate, as Mija searches for inspiration in the present, whilst her past is stolen by illness and her future threatened by a heavy familial burden. When her writing is eventually voiced in an enigmatic denouement, the emotional impact is considerable.

Out 28th November

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

reviews: she and him, simian ghost, charlotte gainsbourg

She & Him - A Very She & Him Christmas

She and Him - A Very She and Him Christmas (***)

A She & Him Christmas album feels as natural a fit for the yuletide season as tinsel, turkey and strained family relationships. While she already had a handful of acting credits to her name by 2003, most were introduced to Zooey Deschanel’s dulcet tones via twin tunes in Elf, the film which ignited her career via a thousand hopeless crushes.

A Very She and Him Christmas declines to restage Elf’s Santa Claus Is Coming To Town finale, but Baby It’s Cold Outside is present, nestling in a conservatively chosen, safe but snug selection box of covers. Its obviousness is a limitation (everything sounds precisely as you would expect) but also its strong suit. A Christmas album isn’t the place to seek strong artistic statements or surprises; this is cosy, warm and nostalgic, and would soundtrack chestnut roasting, decking the halls, dashing through the snow, and any other cliché you care to suggest, perfectly.

Out Now

Simian Ghost - Lovelorn EP

Simian Ghost - Lovelorn EP (****)

With Simian Ghost, Sebastian Arnström of Swedish post-rockers Aerial swaps out sprawling guitar epics for frothy electronic pop sheen with impressive results. The cynical might detect an element of opportunism in the blogger-friendly chillwave shimmer, but Arnström is such a smooth operator that any such charges slide right off.

Lead track Free Agents is the EP’s sparkling high-point, with warped-tape effects ruffling a pristine synth melody, while Bicycle Theme is blissed-out pop of the finest calibre. Where Simian Ghost’s debut full-length Infinite Traffic Everywhere (released in Sweden earlier this year and available online/on import), felt like a compromise of sorts, Lovelorn is the sound of Arnström embracing his new guise vigorously – as well he should; it rather suits him.

Out Now

Charlotte Gainsbourg – Stage Whisper

Charlotte Gainsbourg - Stage Whisper (***)

‘Brave’, ‘searing’, ‘extraordinary’: Charlotte Gainsbourg’s acting has quite rightly prompted many a critic to splutter enthusiastic paeans (even those who hated Antichrist took the time to praise her ladypart-lopping performance). Her music has had a more mixed reception, with praise often measured, or, somewhat insultingly, directed at her collaborators – Jarvis Cocker and co on 5:55; Beck on last year’s IRM.

The latter returns for the studio-half of this double album, though you wouldn’t necessarily detect his presence on the Goldfrapp-aping Terrible Angels, a strong opener that sees Gainsbourg confidently embody her role as electro-pop siren. Thing is, Terrible Angels has already appeared on its own EP, as has closing gem Memoir (written by Conor O’Brien of Villagers, for anyone keeping track). Which leaves just five tracks (less than twenty minutes-worth) of previously-unreleased material – a slightness that makes the live disc seem less like a bonus, and more like compensation.

Out Now

Sunday, 20 November 2011

playlist for november bottle rocket!

a hearty 'thank you' to everyone who came out and danced with us last night - twas a pure belter. apparently okkervil river were there and everyfin!

1. wild nothing - drifter
2. slow club - 2 cousins
3. allo darlin - kiss your lips
4. patti smith - till victory
5. best coast - gone again
6. veronica falls - bad feeling
7. silver jews - animal shapes
8. rem - strange
9. talking heads - burning down the house
10. duran duran - girls on film
11. kate bush - cloudbursting
12. jens lekman - maple leaves
13. electric light orchestra - all over the world
14. the go! team - buy nothing day
15. tune-yards - bizness
16. kid canaveral - cursing your apples
17. libertines - don't look back into the sun
18. vampire weekend - a-punk
19. pixies - i've been tired
20. dananananaykroyd - think and feel
21. idlewild - i'm a message
22. superchunk - where eagles dare
23. archers of loaf - web in front
24. the fall - psycho mafia
25. del shannon - runaway
26. elvis costello - i can't stand up for falling down
27. wilco - i might
28. dexy's midnight runners - geno
29. super furry animals - golden retriever
30. david bowie - queen bitch
31. beat happening - bewitched
32. blondie - call me
33. the velvettes - needle in a haystack
34. ladybirds - shimmy shimmy dang
35. kenickie - come out 2nite
36. the ramones - i wanna be sedated
37. genesis - jesus he knows me
38. manic street preachers - faster
39. los campesinos! - you! me! dancing!
40. the rezillos - i like it
41. surfer blood - territorial pissings
42. the specials - a message to you rudy
43. otis redding - love man
44. smokey robinson and the miracles - shop around
45. hall and oates - you make my dreams come true
46. ash - angel interceptor
47. terrorvision - perseverence
48. prince - my name is prince
49. beastie boys - shake your rump
50. beyonce - single ladies
51. altered iamges - don't talk to me about love
52. fleetwood mac - everywhere
53. the smiths - bigmouth strikes again
54. bon jovi - runaway
55. b52s - 52 girls
56. adam ant - ant music
57. joan armatrading - drop the pilot
58. j geils band - centrefold
59. jeff wayne - the eve of war
60. dire straits - money for nothing
61. zz top - gimme all your lovin
62. deacon blue - wages day
63. shirley ellis - the clapping song
64. bruce springsteen - born to run


Saturday, 19 November 2011



Friday, 18 November 2011

toomarra! toomarra! ah luv ya! toomarra!

it's only a daaaaaay awaaaaaaaay!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

los campesinos! @ oran mor, 10th november

With low slung guitars and double denim uniform, Strange News From Another Star resemble a rockabilly-flecked Future of the Left (with whom frontman Jimmy Watkins also plays); all teeth, riffs, claws and barbs. “You’re in for a treat” Watkins promises as they depart. “I still get a raging erection every time I see Gareth on stage…”

The trouser-bothering Los Campesinos! are indeed on fine form, showing off the pick of Hello Sadness without over-loading on new material – not that a little thing like release-dates has prevented sections of the crowd from memorising every lyric already. LC! continue to inspire keen devotion, which makes for an exhilarating atmosphere: You! Me! Dancing! still fizzes electric joy; Miserabilia manages to feel life-affirming despite its less than cheery message (“a song about how every one of us is going to die alone”, as Gareth puts it), while new track To Tundra confirms there’s much more to their songwriting than infectious energy and a witty turn of phrase. But it’s Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks that steals the show at the close, uniting all with its defiant chants and earning the band their exclamation mark.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Arab Strap discuss motivation to reform...

Here's a brief follow-up to the cover story i wrote for this month's skinny. in a nutshell: if you haven't already got tickets for the arab strap gig tomorrow night, you've missed the boat...

Tomorrow night, Arab Strap will perform together at Nice 'n' Sleazy as part of the bar’s month-long 20th birthday celebrations. Tickets, predictably, disappeared faster than subatomic neutrinos (that's science, kids), resulting in a lucky few fans taking to the streets and bellowing “I’ve got a golden ticket!” like a lifetime of Wonka bars had suddenly paid off (probably).

But those left pouting and cursing slow broadband connections can at least cling on to the hope that more gigs might follow, right? Is there any chance of a repeat down the line? “None at all, not a whisper nor a hint,” kiboshes Aidan Moffat.

“What happened was that Sleazy's asked us to do a night together – i.e. a set by Malcolm [Middleton] and a set by me – but I love the place so much that I asked Malc if he was up for doing a few of our old songs, and he was. I suspect that might have been Sleazy's intention all along, right enough, but I don't mind; I love the place dearly and it'll be a pleasure. We're doing it all for free, too – there's absolutely no commerce involved, it's purely from love. Although I have been promised all the beer I can drink, which sounds like a challenge to me.”

Not as big a challenge as wrangling your way in to this hotly anticipated reunion without a ticket: the bereft may commence their greetin' now...

Friday, 11 November 2011

bottle rocket november!

Hey guys! Bottle Rocket cordially invites you to boogie till the wee small hours to all manner of wonderful music, from Arab Strap to Otis Redding, Prince to Los Campesinos. Plus, it’s Nice N Sleazy’s 20th birthday month, so if you don’t come along, you’re effectively shitting in their birthday cake. DON’T SHIT IN THEIR BIRTHDAY CAKE.

11:30pm START!
3:00am FINISH!

(and as always, stick requests on the facebook wall so that we can bitterly disappoint you by completely forgetting about them on the night).

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

november skinny!

the november edition of the skinny has malcolm middleton and aidan moffat on the cover. and whaddaya know? arab strap will be playing in nice n sleazys as part of their 20 year celebration! wizard! tickets are all long gone like, but it's cool nonetheless...


as i might have already mentioned, i wrote this month's cover story, which features interviews from the aforementioned arab strap blokes, plus members of franz ferdinand, the twilight sad, mogwai and the phantom band, on the subject of nice n sleazy's 20th birthday celebrations. Read it here if you haven't already.

also in this week's issue are the following me-penned pieces:

- herman dune live review (read here!)
- envy live review (read here!)
- simian ghost - lovelorn' ep review
- charlotte gainsbourg - 'stage whisper' album review
- ane brun - 'it all starts with one' album review (read here!)
- wooden wand and the briarwood virgins - 'briarwood' album review (read here!)
- portugal. the man - 'in the mountain, in the cloud' album review (read here!)
- johnny foreigner - 'johnny foreigner vs everything' album review (read here!)
- seafieldroad - 'seafieldroad' album review (read here!)

pick up a copy from all the usual places!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

dananananaykroyd @ O2 ABC, 29th October

It’s in no way a slight to suggest United Fruit are pretty peripheral to tonight’s euphoric highs. They hurl out riff after riff with dependable vigour, but stage left, the slowly snaking queue for the merchandise stand indicates the anticipation with which the ABC awaits its headliners.

Dananananaykroyd’s ‘closing down’ sale sees brisk business as fans clamour for last-chance mementos of a soon-to-be fondly-remembered career. Technical gremlins mute David Roy’s guitar for the opening number, forcing early improv from the band’s irrepressible vocalists (“I said to myself before tonight, ‘don’t turn it into a stand-up show…’” Calum deadpans as the jinx drags out the banter), but a lead swap later and then they’re off, with all the zeal fans have come to expect. It’s a full-house of highlights: the disco swagger of farewell single Think and Feel makes their impending dissolve all the more bittersweet; The Greater Than Symbol and the Hash socks the crowd with a nostalgic sissy hit; while the ‘Wall of Cuddles’ is resurrected for the encore, as Some Dresses rounds out the sextet’s tenure on the Scottish live scene. And then it’s over: but in the words of their namesake (after accidentally conjuring a giant marshmallow man, blowing up a high-rise, and getting sued by half of New York): yeah, but what a ride.

Friday, 4 November 2011

film review: marwencol

I just found this review up on The Skinny's site, which i wrote back at the beginning of the year and promptly forgot about. Marwencol's already been shown on 4OD under the name Village of the Dolls, and it's well worth checking out should it get repeated any time soon...

Eleven years ago, Mark Hogancamp was beaten into a coma, wiping his memories. Unable to pay for professional therapy, Mark built the tiny titular town of Marwencol and populated it with 1/6 scale alter-egos of real-life friends, family and acquaintances, exorcising fears and realising hopes through a miniature world of his own creation. He photographs his Lilliput for prosperity, and the World War 2-themed images soon catch the eye of the art world. They’re remarkable not only for their lifelike detail, but for the poignancy evoked by their painstaking positioning, the tableaux brought to life by Hogancamp’s surreal storytelling (stocked with buxom beauties, Nazis and time-travelling witches). The film might be accused of exploitation if Hogancamp didn’t appear so comfortable with the filmmakers’ presence; director Jeff Malmberg even earns a diminutive twin of his own. Throughout, the mixture of whimsy and suffering is well balanced, inviting the viewer to empathise with Mark’s pain, yet marvel at his unfettered imagination.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

reviews: ane brun, wooden wand and the briarwood virgins, seafieldroad

Ane Brun - It All Starts With One

Ane Brun - It All Starts With One (***)

A couple of years ago, a Cyndi Lauper cover for a Sky HD ad looked like it just might break the stalemate scenario whereby Norwegian-born, Sweden-residing Ane Brun would conquer charts in Scandinavia, yet was largely unknown beyond the Baltic. It didn’t, it transpires, so It All Starts With One presents a fresh opportunity for international recognition, and as ever, Brun’s voice is its principal selling point.

Her remarkable range and tone are as striking as ever (occasional excess warble notwithstanding), particularly when offset by José González’s earthier tones on Worship. On Do You Remember?, First Aid Kit add velvet backing vocals to the pot as well, but there’s more than Nordic semi-celebrities to recommend Brun’s latest. Her songwriting has taken a turn for the darker, particularly on the aforementioned Worship, where swirling strings crackle with drama. But it’s Undertow that best showcases her talents; simple in melody and metaphor, though with a potentially huge impact.

Out 14th November

Wooden Wand and the Briarwood Virgins - Briarwood

Wooden Wand and the Briarwood Virgins - Briarwood (**)

James Jackson Toth, the phenomenally-prolific songwriter oft-known as Wooden Wand, recorded Briarwood in Alabama, and boy, does it show. This is Toth’s Southern rock opera, a sour mash concoction of country rock and gospel, Hammond organ and lonesome-road lyrical journeys. He sings of stays of execution, bourbon and salvation in the kind of rough-hewn drawl that renders the word ‘man’ as ‘may-an’.

And all of that is, of course, pretty cool, but only if taken as knowingly recycled: if Toth is self-consciously channelling oft-reprinted hymn sheets, his odes to good whiskey, bad women and other such clichés warrant a hallelujah from the congregation, but take Brairwood straight-faced and it's exasperatingly limited, with little to recommend it over a re-spin through The Band’s back catalogue with a whiskey chaser. Pedal steel and aching breaking hearts are an irresistible combination, but ultimately Wooden Wand’s latest resembles a Drive-by Truckers you’ll wish had kept trucking on by.

Out 7th November

Seafieldroad - Seafieldroad

Seafieldroad - Seafieldroad (****)

Released almost exactly a year after his debut as Seafieldroad (itself released a mere six months after Swimmer One’s Dead Orchestras), Andrew Eaton-Lewis’s latest makes this stately adult-pop piano-ballad bag look effortless – though to be fair, he’s been at it a while, with hundreds of home-recorded albums already on tape. On this self-titled release, evocative titles like What Became of Pinky and Honker are backed ably by Eaton-Lewis’s redolent croon and deftly sketched narratives.

Though erudite, Eaton-Lewis evidently knows not the meaning of the words ‘diminishing returns’, as this is a comfortable improvement on There Are No Maps For This Part of the City, despite operating from roughly the same stable.The only real complaint is its brevity – just seven songs, plus a nicely-arranged cover of Empire of the Sun’s Walking on a Dream – but at the rate he works, album three is no doubt already on the horizon.

Out 21st November

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

20 years of sleaze

As mentioned previously, the cover article for this month's issue of the skinny was written by yours truly - gwan, have a wee read.

When Nice‘n’Sleazy first opened its doors, Sauchiehall Street looked rather different: The Garage was yet to set up shop across the road, the CCA was a year away, while ABC was still a cinema (fancy that). Twenty years later, and the shabby-chic saloon has come to inhabit a significant role in Glasgow’s alt-music scene.

Paul Thomson (The Yummy Fur/Franz Ferdinand) is one of several regulars happy to dispense memories of the bar’s formative years: “I’ve been coming to Sleazys since I was seventeen, which is about eighteen years ago. I went to see AC Acoustics, and John Peel was there too. I'd only recently started listening to Peel as he played a lot of hardcore, like Napalm Death and Extreme Noise Terror, and through his shows discovered The Fall, the Wedding Present, Captain Beefheart, King Tubby and hunners of other artists that never really fit into what was fashionable at the time. In a way Sleazys has always been that way – venues and bars come and go, but Sleazys continues, and hopefully will for another twenty years.”

Aidan Moffat shares Thomson’s appreciation of the Sauchiehall mainstay. “I’ve been going the full twenty years! I used to come through from Falkirk and we'd go there and get drunk before we went to the Art School and got drunker.” Any particular nights that stand out? “I remember being woken up on a downstairs couch by the cleaner one morning, and being very surprised she knew my name. Couldn't tell you what happened the night before though…” Foggy memories are a recurring theme (“and now it’s open till 3am, things are even hazier,” rues Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite), but some nights are evidently too eventful to slip the mind. “Our first gig was in there,” recalls Andy Wake of The Phantom Band. “We had bits of exercise equipment on stage with us for audience members to work out on, plus the smoke-breathing bat-wolf thing we used to take everywhere. We didn't really have songs to speak of, so we were mostly improvising and having a hoot. It was rammed and stupid, and it's been all downhill from there.”

Now that it’s reached the venerable age of twenty, the venue is taking stock via the age-old method of A Massive Party, with a month-long shindig boasting a pretty fly line-up of gigs. Talking it over with programmer Fielding Hope, the roster seems deliberately designed to cover all bases. Firmly un-run-of-the-mill touring acts? Acid Mothers Temple will be over from Japan (9 Nov). Secret shows from big names? Yep, but don’t expect to learn their identities here (“I’m not allowed to tell a single soul, or the world might turn on its head…” Hope protests when pushed for clues). A who’s who of current Scottish talent? Take your pick from Meursault (10 Nov), United Fruit (12 Nov), The Twilight Sad (18 Nov), John Knox Sex Club (19 Nov), Django Django (26 Nov), FOUND (30 Nov), and dozens of others. “Yeah, there’s a real variety of stuff – we’ve tried to get a lot of Scottish representation, both fresh acts and some of the bands that have been associated with Sleazys in the past. I think the result reflects the bar’s open-minded programming over the years.”

It’s that open-mindedness that presumably led to twenty-three year old Hope’s appointment in the first place; twenty years in, Nice‘n’Sleazy can hardly be accused of fossilising when its gigs are booked by a guy who’d likely have been more interested in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles than Teenage Fanclub when the first pints were pulled. “I’ve been doing Sleazys for about a year,” he explains. “I’d put on Cry Parrot shows here, and I was just asked to take it on really. I think they wanted to get that feeling back that Sleazys is an important venue. There’s a sense that, with the Captain's Rest, PCL have a big stronghold over bookings, King Tut’s have a stronghold over bookings, plus there're new venues opening all the time. I think some people forgot that there is a venue downstairs because it’s always so busy upstairs – which is fantastic, don’t get me wrong – but we wanted to make sure that when people come in for a drink, they’re checking the gig listings as well.”

Not that the bar’s basement stage is the only place to spot bands and artists; over the years, Sleazys has developed a reputation for attracting famous punters. “I think the obvious regulars are Aidan Moffat and Mogwai,” Hope suggests, but locals are only part of the picture. “Touring bands playing the Barrowlands or ABC tend to drop in after – when Sonic Youth played Daydream Nation, they came by.” Any others that have made a particularly strong impression? “Loads: Pavement, Elliot Smith, Animal Collective… more recently, John Maus, but he got chucked out. Elliot Smith got chucked out as well actually.” The Skinny suggests Brett and Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords as a personal favourite. “Yeah, it’s a never-ending list. Lou Barlow as well – he did a residency here a while ago. He spent three days doing sold-out gigs, so Lou’s got his place in Sleazy history as well.”

Ask around, and the bar’s appeal seems obvious. “It just has a good atmosphere, every night of the week,” offers Malcolm Middleton. “A lot of this is probably down to [long-term music programmer] Mig's choice of bands over the years; the whole aura of the pub has soaked them up.” Then there’s its diverse roster of club nights, encompassing tastes from rockabilly to post-dubstep (full disclosure: this writer runs another of its clubs – Bottle Rocket, since you asked). “The DJs know they can get away with anything,” Hope laughs, “and they generally do. Some people expect it to be exclusively indie music I guess, but we don’t want to rest comfortably within that bracket. It’s got to be, well, challenging isn’t quite the right word, because you don’t want it to be pretentious, you want it to be fun, but it’s got to be slightly alternative.” For Wake, who DJs the Hot Club as Nobodaddy, it’s a long-term commitment. “If I'm lucky enough to be there for the fortieth anniversary, I'll probably be behind the decks playing the same shite records as I do now,” he ponders.“Otherwise, I'll be above the bar in an urn, sat next to that cuddly rat thing.”

In light of recent events, talk of cremation is perhaps a sore subject. Earlier this year, a fire broke out in neighbouring restaurant Steak and Cherry; surrounding businesses were evacuated, and many (including Sleazys) stayed closed for days as safety inspectors gauged the structural damage. For an agonising moment, a twentieth anniversary seemed far from guaranteed, never mind a fortieth. “We were very concerned at first, but I think it was only one week we were actually closed,” Hope notes. “It was obviously a big concern at the time, but we were very lucky.”

Indeed. So, barring any acts of God, Nice‘n’Sleazy have November all sewn up. Of course, just because it’s your birthday doesn’t mean everyone has to be nice to you, though when asked what changes they’d welcome in the bar’s twenty-first year, the proposals are mild (Malcolm would like Munich Red or Bitburger on tap; Sierra Nevada for Stuart – oh and, James requests Abba in the jukebox, cheers). So we’ll leave the final words to the infinitely-wise Aidan Moffat, when asked what he’d scribble in their suggestions box: ‘You don’t need advice from me’. True, that.

Sleazy Does It: A few notable regulars explain the venue's timeless appeal

Malcolm Middleton

We’re toastin the occasion – what’s your beverage?
A White Russian please. I usually move onto these when I've had too much beer. Which probably isn't a good thing.
Here’s a quid – what’s going on the jukebox?
Sonic Youth – Shadow of a Doubt, and maybe some Twilight Sad.
Best gig (as either performer or punter?
Viva Stereo, 15th Feb 2002. I nearly met my wife.
Describe Sleazys in five words…
Safe. Friendly. Aidan. Comfortable. Hangover.

Paul Thomson (Franz Ferdinand)

What are you drinking?
Maker's Mark and Coke please. If it's after 1am and I'm still drinking, I'll have a Jaeger with that.
What’s going on the jukebox?
I'd probably stick on Mogwai Fear Satan – that loud bit always catches me off-guard.
Best gig?
Recently, Thee Oh Sees tore the place apart. Franz Ferdinand played there the weekend we got signed, at one of the 16 band bills where you got to play for 15 minutes for a case of beer. They were always pretty messy with just the right amount of band rivalry, all good fun.
Sleazys in five-words?
Does it does it everytime. Sorry, that was terrible.

Andy Wake (The Phantom Band)

What are you drinking?
Wouldn't normally be my tipple, but I’ll have a tumbler of tonic (Buckfast).
What’s going on the jukebox?
Sometimes I am the fucking jukebox, so can I just keep the pound and stick on The Stooges? If it has to be in the jukebox then maybe Take a Worm for a Walk Week, but only since it's your quid – mine's going in the arcade machine. The jukebox is brilliant, but I'm scared to check what's there in case anyone thinks I'm just checking that The Phantom Band albums are still in there. They better be…
Best gig?
One that sticks in my mind is when Triple School played at the Hot Club birthday party a few years back. I'd never seen the place so packed – the door staff said it was the biggest number of turn-aways they'd had to do since the pub started staying open late, so that was a nice accolade.
Sleazys in five words?
It has ruined my life.

Aidan Moffat

What are you drinking?
I usually have a pint of Heineken, but if you're paying then I'll have one of those expensive cherry beers.
What’s going on the jukebox?
How much does a pound get you? I haven't looked at the jukebox for years – I never have to, there's always something good on without my input. Although when one of my own tunes pops up, I still get a bit embarrassed. That's if I even recognise it, mind you.
Best gig?
Seeing Mogwai there was good, but my favourite would have to be the Arab Strap Acoustic Request Show we did. We enjoyed it so much we put it out as an album! I hosted a karaoke night downstairs once too, which was good fun but I ended up singing most of the songs myself.
Sleazys in five words?
Very, very difficult to leave.

Stuart Braithwaite (Mogwai)

What are you drinking?
Now, Brooklyn lager. Twenty years ago, whatever was cheapest and least likely to draw attention to the fact I was under age.
What’s going on the jukebox?
Mudhoney, if I think.
Best gig?
I recall a show with Bis, Yummy Fur, The Delgados and Spare Snare. Amazing!
Sleazys in five words?
Ned free pub Sauchiehall Street.

James Graham (The Twilight Sad)

What are you drinking?
I'll have a buckaroo and a pint of cider. Since you’re buying I'll also have one of those £2 White Russians. Cheers and that.
What’s going on the jukebox?
Probably put us on as I would get some PRS money. In all seriousness I'd choose the usual suspects: Mogwai, Arab Strap, Errors, Phantom Band, Frightened Rabbit, Pixies, Remember Remember, Desalvo, Pixies, The Smiths, Take a Worm for a Walk Week and Rihanna.
Best gig?
I've been to loads but cannae remember any.
Sleazys in five words…
Biggest fun in a million years! That's six words though…