Is guitar music dead? This has been a pervading question for several years. Many, many journalists, musicians and other people who perhaps think they know better (not that I know better, but clearly these people haven’t been looking hard enough) have moaned and grimaced over the demise of guitar music. Sure, what with technology becoming what it is, it’s much simpler to download some software, click the mouse a few times and hey presto, you have a trap beat to rival most of the drivel in the charts. But that doesn’t mean that guitar music is dead.
And neither is the London music scene. Many have repeatedly whinged about the death of music in London, how there are no longer any scenes, how no-one is doing anything original blah blah blah. Clearly their writers need to unstick themselves from their Macs in their Dalston bedsits and take their fixie bike down to the Windmill in Brixton - the unofficial home of the ludicrously marvellous Trashmouth Records events.
Trashmouth Records is a label established in 2002 by brothers Luke and Liam May, who both form the DJ duo Medicine 8. They signed the Fat White Family back in 2012 (or 2013, my facts aren’t entirely straight) and after the release of ‘Champagne Holocaust’, Trashmouth started to gain more traction. Yet it is not only the Fat Whites who dazzle on their roster. They have Meatraffle, described by Saul from the Fat Whites as ‘the best band ever’, No Cars, an all female Japanese pop-rock outfit (Knutsford Hanoi writes ‘You are stupid if you pass up the chance to see No Cars. Stupid.’), Pit Ponies (who’s music has a ‘shabby magnificence’ and who describe themselves, quite rightly, as ‘Upminster soul’) and Bat-Bike, a trio of brilliant young chaps who play ear-shattering surrealist rock’n’roll, to name but a few. This article will aim to elucidate the vibrancy and magnificence of the bands on Trashmouth Records, and hopefully make people realise that guitar music in London is very much alive and kicking.
Trashmouth Records use the Windmill as the hub of a large proportion of their events. I have been to several events hosted by these titans of music, for a Fat White Family show, for the Warmduscher (a band who will be featured later on in this article) album release party, and several others. However it was at the Warmduscher album release party where I realized that these chaps were on to something. A line-up featuring Madonnatron, Bat-Bike, Pit Ponies, Meatraffle and Warmduscher, all for £4, also featuring the frontman for Childhood on the door. That’s less than a quid per band. Plus the beer isn’t too expensive either. Plus it’s always an absolute riot.
So let’s begin!
Fat White Family
For those who have a) been living under a rock, or b) have no interest in music, I will commence with the Fat White Family. I came across the Fat Whites (or at least heard of their genesis) way back in first year, as my housemate and room-neighbour Tom was cousins with Saul, the guitarist and singer. He occasionally did artwork for their shows, and at that point they seemed to largely be a Charles Manson tribute band (dubbed the Fat White Manson Family). I first got to witness their live show at the Brighton Arts Centre, which is basically an art gallery. At the time they had an exhibition focusing on vaginas and the clientele were a curious bunch. Most of my friends had made up the audience (there were about 20/30 people there), and there being no bar, we grabbed some tins from the off-licence down the road and admired the art. At this point, I hadn’t actually heard any of their songs, so when they shambled to their instruments (there was no stage) I had absolutely no idea what I was in for. Lias, front-man extraordinaire, was topless before the show began, and you could smell him from 20 paces. The bassist had no strap for his guitar so was slumped in a corner. The keyboardist ran out of the venue mid-song to have a piss. And during one of their tracks, Tom turned to me and said ‘this song is called Cream of the Young‘. ‘That’s absolutely horrible’ I replied. And they were. But they were truly, totally and utterly magnificent, and it remains, hands down, as one of the best shows I have ever seen. Afterwards, my friend Rory bought their album, Champagne Holocaust and asked them all to sign it, and they left some of the most magnificent scrawls I have ever seen (I believe one of them wrote ‘slap your mother’s dirty tit’ along with ‘struggle on’). We hung around with them a bit afterwards but they quickly vanished off to find a ketamine dealer and go to Volks, so we sauntered home. Find out more about them here, in one of the most brilliant articles I have read. Plus, their second record ‘Songs for our Mothers’ is about to hit us round the faces, so keep your eyes and ears skinned!
Now mentioning Warmduscher here is something of a continuation of the Fat White Family as it features nearly half the band. But they still deserve the mention as they are truly remarkable. Saul (guitarist and singer of Fat Whites) plays bass, Jack (drummer) plays drums, Dr. Rapefingers plays Monotron (I don’t know his real name/if it is his real name) and Clams ‘Grief Bacon’ Baker (from Paranoid London/Mutado Pintado) is the vocalist. They are occasionally joined by Ben Romans-Hopcraft (from Childhood) on guitar for live shows as well. It’s probably best to put their own description of themselves as it’s nearly impossible to describe their sound. It’s sort of garage-y, psych-y, dada-ist, proto-sexual sleaze/sweat punk. Here’s what they write:
Gentrified executions, color coded colostomy bags, and mayonnaise dripping off the chin. A subway sandwich ride to heaven, kisses on the pink parts. WARMDÜSCHER want it all.
To be quite honest, that kind of nails it. Here’s one of their best:
Meatraffle have been around for quite a while now, but have just released their debut, pictured above, and it is rather special indeed. The first time I heard any of their music was when they supported the Fat White Family at the Windmill back in January, and I was confronted by a bald man with a hammer and sickle tattooed on his arm playing the trumpet in sunglasses. This was the first time I laid eyes on the near-legendary Zsa Zsa Sapien, the guitarist Tingle Lungfish (who, after I said I admired his style of guitar playing, admitted that he knew no chords), Cloudy Truffles the bassist (who I believe is married to Clams Baker), Chris OC the keyboardist (who also features in Pit Ponies AND Phobophobes) and their drummer Fats McCourt. Their music I would describe as Marxist post-punk jazz reggae, but the genres they supply are far more oblique -
Personally, I say just listen to them. They’re brilliant. They are also on the latter half of a tour with the Fat White Family around England, so check if you can go see them.
Pit Ponies are formed from the ashes of The Bombers, and feature Euan on vocals, Matt on guitar, Chris on keys, Dean on drums and Drew on bass. They describe themselves as (aforementioned) ‘Upminster soul’ and that just about gets it - from Chris’ 60s organ squelches to Matt’s Malkmus-esque guitar licks to Euan’s honesty in his vocal delivery, underpinned by the power-house duo of the unequalled Dean and Drew, it is soul music for modern day London. The music they make is just incredibly joyful and epic, which is clearly heard throughout their album ‘Magnificent Second Occupation’ released earlier this year. The 10 tracks whizz by and instantly become familiar favourites, and closer ‘Chasing Skirt’ is one of the most magnificent pieces of music released this year (in my opinion). Hear below!
Bat-Bike could be the most prolific artists on Trashmouth Records, as I believe they have recorded and self-released 9 full-length albums and several EPs and singles. Their ‘first’, officially Trashmouth Records released album is going to drop on the 29th January and apparently we’re in for some surprises. It’s again difficult to know where to start with Bat-Bike. Josh, Tim and Alan veer from straight up garage-grunge to proto-techno via soulful ballads - all genres they seem to master. They are absolutely phenomenal live, switching over instruments with ease and sharing vocals. Choosing just one of their songs is nearly impossible as they probably are nearing the 100 mark with released songs, but this one is a definitive cracker.
I could go on and give you info about Taman Shud, Lewis Idle, Madonnatron, David Cronenberg’s Wife, No Cars and others who have appeared on the various compilations (such as the magnificent ‘Thinking About Moving to Hastings’ compilation released earlier this year) but I hope the brief introduction to these few bands gives you some idea of the musical diversity and brilliance represented by Trashmouth Records. These are all bands who have passion, personality and who do what they want to do. And Trashmouth Records are right behind them, supporting them all the way, putting on countless gigs across London for next to nothing, keeping the independent torch burning brightly. Guitar music is alive and well, and if you disagree, go to a Trashmouth night, drink some beers, watch some bands, buy a record and regret nothing. London is alive and kicking. And that’s largely thanks to Trashmouth Records.
I raise my glass of Buckfast to Liam and Luke.
So what are you waiting for? Head over to the Trashmouth Records Bandcamp, have a listen to the music (all of it preferably), spend all your money and regret absolutely nothing.