Author Archives: normanbradio

Cathal Coughlan – genius of Irish rock

As the very first moments of my conversation with Cathal Coughlan began I knew that 60 minutes were not going to be enough time to enjoy what this adventurous musician had to say. Born and raised in Cork, Ireland Cathal began singing in the late 70s and by 1980 he had met Sean O’Hagan and formed Microdisney. A band that was hard to (thankfully) slot into a nice neat genre. On Discogs, Cathal is described rather aptly, as an anti-Bono. His music and lyrics some may call challenging, I on the other hand was fascinated and loved playing Microdisney alongside the plethora of post-punk-one-hit- wonders that cursed new music in the early 80s. The temptation to slide easily into a lovable New Wave outfit was enough for Mr Coughlan to see Microdisney dwindle down to a two-piece with O’Hagen and eventually reassemble as The Fatima Mansions, making, splendid yet hard to categorize music. The eventual demise of The Fatima Mansions in the mid-90s led to Cathal stepping away from being in a band to releasing solo albums, taking part in collaborations and making guest appearances. For a while he was involved in musical theatre, mostly in France. In 2006 he was described in The Irish Times as the ‘genius of Irish rock’. Cathal has been back in the studio recently and the result is his new album, Songs Of Co-Aklan.

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“So many beards. So much smell of farts”. A Chat With Slum Of Legs

One fan describes Slum OF Legs as “The Fall meets The Raincoats in this noisy, bloody-minded, defiant, lo-fi collage art-punk” we wanted to look beyond the references and learn who the band really are. Three of the six members, Kate, Emily, and Alex couldn’t make the group chat, all the same Tamsin, Maria, and Michelle were eager to speak for everyone. The conversation weaves from discussing the band’s beginnings to writing the songs, to performing live and ending up in a “slum pile-up”. We also explore sensitive topics – being transgender; the unreasonable demands put upon women; illness and low self-esteem. All the, while their audacious honesty and humor come across as Tamsin Chapman recounts on starting the band, “I went to a festival and there were all these bands with lots of beards & I thought this is boring! I wanna form my own band!” Adding, “So many beards. So much smell of farts”. Slum Of Legs self-titled album is essential listening.

LEM Vol 226

A Conversation About Keats’s Odes With Anahid Nersessian

In 1819, the poet John Keats wrote six poems that would become known as the Great Odes. Some of them—“Ode to a Nightingale,” “To Autumn”—are among the most celebrated poems in the English language. Associate professor of English, Anahid Nersessian has gathered the odes to write a personal account of what they reveal in our troubled world – and hers. She explains why these poems still have so much to say to us, especially in a time of ongoing political crisis. Her Keats is an unflinching antagonist of modern life—of capitalism, of the British Empire, of the destruction of the planet—as well as a passionate idealist for whom every poem is a love poem. Her book, Keats’s Odes – A Lover’s Discourse emerges from Nersessian’s lifelong attachment to Keats’s poetry; but more, it “is a love story: between me and Keats, and not just Keats.” Drawing on experiences from her own life, Nersessian celebrates Keats even as she grieves him and counts her own losses—and Nersessian, like Keats, has a passionate awareness of the reality of human suffering, but also a willingness to explore the possibility that the world, at least, could still be saved. Anahid is a delightful guest, her animated enthusiasm for Keats is a mix of the poetic and personal, perfectly captured when she announces, “My ambition for the book was to make it sound like a New order album – Power, Corruption & Lies”

Music in this program

Barzin – In The Morning

New Order – Leave Me Alone

Barzin – The Territory Of You & Me

The painting of John Keats, created by Joseph Severn in 1845; depicts the poet resting in Hampstead Heath while he listens to a Nightingale

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Life Elsewhere Music Vol 225

The selection for this volume was prompted by Erika Bach AKA, Lola Demo. A couple of weeks back the Athens-based artist kindly sent us her latest recording, along with a cool video she made to accompany, I Can’t Live Like This. Her serious, reflective tone suggested we look for similar atmospheric new releases for LEM Vol 225. We begin with the mysterious, Girl One And The Grease Guns who say they formed in late 2012. With no photographs, no live appearances, their identities remain a mystery. The current status of Girl One And The Grease Guns…disbanded. No Longer Spellbound is from the LP, A Figure In The Underpass, comprising of tracks from their singles and albums, which were originally released between 2013 and 2019. The electronic combo hail(ed) from Leeds and are/were/always will be – Sissy Space Echo, Warren Betamax, Charles Bronson Burner, and Bruce LeeFax. Their notes add, “all tracks were recorded in black and white”. Available on the excellent, Squirrel Records. Kg Banjoko moved to the UK and began making music with friends at the University of Kent. The songs on her EP, Elusive were made during lockdown Kg says. Tumbleweed is a perfect example of such promising music. You are advised to check out her website to be informed about Kg’s ideas and hopes. In certain circles, there will be a reverent nod of agreement if you mention Dead Can Dance, which begs the question, how many of those devotees have ever quickly strung those three words together? Noyalain (Burn) is the first single from the forthcoming LP, Burn by Lisa Gerrard and Jules Maxwell. “Noyalain is a song of welcome,” they say, “an invitation to walk in peace, unlock the passive passion within, engage in the diversity of life and celebrate.” Next up is I Can’t Live Like This by the aforementioned mentioned, Lola Demo, the first single from her new album, Stone which will drop in a few days. Lola (Erika) is a one-woman creative-powerhouse, she likes to do everything herself from writing to playing to recording and mixing to making videos. Erika Bach was an original member of the alt-Melbourne band, Hard Candy, she is also one half of the Transatlantic electronic duo, m1nk. Do make sure you check out the video, startlingly brilliant use of found footage. Nick Hudson, also known as Academy Of Sun has a new EP, Come Back When There’s Nothing Left, the Brighton-based artist is on piano, vibraphone, and vocals, plus programming on Voyeurs Who Offer Nothing. The strings are by Lizzy Carey on this haunting cut. Trainspotters will no doubt spend hours dissecting the references they may hear in Nick’s voice, piano-playing, and songwriting. I prefer to simply enjoy what the man has to offer – masterful talent. And so we go back in time to 1981 to indulge in a welcome round of nostalgia for a 12” single I must have played in clubs a zillion times, Tainted Love by Soft Cell. Who could have known back then, certainly not vocalist Marc Almond and instrumentalist David Ball that their reworking of Gloria Jones’ Northern Soul classic would become a tune everyone and their uncle would sing-along to. Another version may seem like overkill, but hey, the original is so fantastic, a super new remix is worth the price of admission. Here then we present the Jåck Ford, Jamieson Hill Mix segued into the Acapella version. If you search out this version, it’s on pink vinyl! Glorious! Mariah Fortune-Johnson has been releasing music under the name Woven In since 2013. Profess is her 9th album, self-recorded without any guest appearances from other musicians and it is the first time Fortune uses samples in her music. The album is on the Grimalkin label administered by Nancy Kells, a pedigree to be acknowledged. Listen carefully to the lyrics to Sad For The Season. When Tiawa joined us for a chat with the Roots Garden posse, it was obvious then she would deliver more effervescent gems. Meandering between neo-soul, hip-hop, and jazz Shine Bright bursts with positivity. Produced by collaborator and multi-instrumentalist Jack-Chi, the song sets the stage for a new chapter in Tiawa’s career. “The song is about staying positive and upbeat. I hope it will make people feel happy when they hear it, that’s the main thing. It’s strength to be vulnerable sometimes, we are only human.” Says the Brighton-based chanteuse. Compilations are an excellent way to discover excellent new music, Heavy Dub Vol 6 on Cold Tear records out of Lithuania being a fine example. Giriu Dvasios feat. Aistė Motiejūnaitė give us Nepasakyta a chill cut you’ll want to hear again, perhaps late at night? The first time I heard Penelope Trappes I admit to not shutting up about how impressed I was. Then the emails came in, all agreeing – “Who is that?” So, here we have the third and final installment of the Australian-born, Brighton-based musician’s trilogy, Penelope Three, (The culture reference there may be a little too subtle for those who don’t adore the 60s). This is an ambitious, other-worldly-ambient-gothic journey into a release from fear and into love. On Nervous, Penelope proves again she knows how to produce a disturbing, yet evocative recording. A song about a hoodie may surprise you, Guy Gormley and Thomas Bush as RAP have succeeded in doing just that with Bright Blue. Albeit a menacing but intriguing commentary on a youth’s clothing, this cut from the album, Junction on London’s Jolly Discs will have you searching for more. The two-track EP, Connect/Distance from Anatta Sound on Snd System Cltr out of Leeds is a tasty way to segue into possibly one of the most surprising cuts to come my way in a while. Who thought that a cover of Springsteen’s song about being pulled over by a State Trooper could be so, well, sexy! Then you add King Hannah’s name to the proceedings and you’ve got a whole different perspective. Hannah Merrick and Craig Whittle who captured the hearts of many listeners on Volume 214 of LEM have gone and recorded a cover version of State Trooper. It’s chilling. It’s extraordinary. It’s King Hannah letting us know to expect a whole album of delicious new music. How interesting then that the selection for this 60 minutes of new music was prompted by Lola Demo’s I Can’t Live Like This. King Hannah takes us to close in perfect style. 

As I was about to record my voice-over for this volume, the nice lady who runs the office downstairs below my loft came knocking at my door. “Hi Norman,” she said almost apologetically, “are you about to do some recording? You may want to wait for a while, we have some guys here about to install new equipment. They say there will be a lot of loud drilling and all kinds of banging and noises.” I’m still in isolation, the room I record in does not have adequate soundproofing, so I quickly recorded an intro and an outro, thinking I may be able to add my commentary later. As it happens, the drilling and hammering and banging went on for ages. I have no idea what they were installing. It’s kind of scary to think the nice lady from downstairs may have a penchant for building a dungeon or two!


  1. Girl One And The Grease Guns – No Longer Spellbound
  2. Kg Banjoko – Tumbleweed
  3. Lisa Gerrard and Jules Maxwell – Noyalain (Burn)
  4. Lola Demo – I Can’t Live Like This
  5. Nick Hudson – Voyeurs Who Offer Nothing
  6. Soft Cell – Tainted Love (JÅCK FORD, Jamieson Hill Mix)
  7. Soft Cell – Tainted Love (Acapella)
  8. Woven In – Sad For The Season
  9. Tiawa – Shine Bright
  10. Giriu Dvasios feat. Aistė Motiejūnaitė – Nepasakyta
  11. Penelope Trappes – Nervous
  12. RAP – Bright Blue
  13. Somah – Deep Sea Dreaming ft. Zahra O’Shea
  14. Anatta Sound – Connect
  15. King Hannah – State Trooper

Artwork by Charles Yamamoto “My god loves me, she will question you” 1989 6’ x 6’3” acrylic and gold flake paint on raw canvas. Courtesy of Norman B’s collection

What Animals May Tell Us About Aliens. A Return Visit With Katherine May.


Was Arik Kershenbaum’s intent in writing, The Zoologist’s Guide To The Galaxy to make the reader reconsider – everything? To look at our world from a new perspective? “Yes!” the zoologist, College Lecturer, and Fellow at Girton College, Cambridge responds rapidly. His new book will not only make you think, you’ll also find yourself wanting to share your discoveries. Kershenbaum has a quirky, yet delightful knack of setting up a question, answering it, then questioning what you’ve just learned. He is a gifted storyteller who uses colloquialisms and common-day language, while his studious research is paraded before us without a hint of laborious, long-winded academia. The book gallops along at an agreeable speed, yet never once do you feel the author is only giving you a précis of his knowledge. Arik says Scientists are confident that life exists elsewhere in the universe. However, while we often imagine that life on other planets is the stuff of science fiction, the time has come to abandon our fantasies of space invaders and movie monsters and instead place our expectations on a solid scientific footing. Short of aliens landing in New York City, how do we know what they are like? Could there be an alien planet with supersonic animals? A moon where creatures have a language composed of smells? Will aliens scream with fear, act honestly, or have technology? Kirksenbaum draws on his own expert understanding of life on Earth and Darwin’s theory of evolution, which applies throughout the universe to answer these questions and more. The Zoologist’s Guide To The Galaxy is an engrossing book. Arik Kershenbaum will open your eyes to the marvels of our planet and the universe beyond.

Katherine May, author of Wintering: The Power Of Rest And Retreat In Difficult Times returns to the program to talk about where we are now at the second anniversary of the Covid pandemic. Katherine wrote her book before she or we had any knowledge of Covid 19. The unlikely timeliness of her book was and still is remarkable. Katherine has insights into what we have all been going through in the last year, not least of all because she had written a personal narrative about the unexpected. In the conversation, Katherine shares her thoughts about coping and explores the ways we can repair ourselves when life knocks us down.

Over on Life Elsewhere Music Vol 225, talented Liverpool-based duo, King Hannah offers a remarkable cover of Bruse Springsteen’s State Trooper. Plus, sixty minutes of very cool new releases.

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