Monday, 31 January 2011

The Shrieking Violet Issue 12 (and why you should read it whilst listening to Haha Sound by Broadcast)

Issue 12 of the Shrieking Violet has no theme. It does, however, pick up on topics covered in previous zines such as public transport — Tom Hiles has created an imagined map of how a Manchester Underground system might look, whilst poet, artist and public transport enthusiast Stuart Vallantine explains plans in the 1970s for a tunnel to connect Piccadilly and Victoria stations, with an illustration by Alex Boswell — and the media — Steve Hanson recounts a strange but true experience working for the Daily Sport in the Express Building and I have included my interview with artist Maurice Carlin about his project The Self Publishers.

Artist Daniel Fogarty (whose work can be seen at the BlankExpression 2011 show at BlankSpace at 43 Hulme Street until 13 February) has contributed a design essay on Granada idents and Anouska Smith from Cause and Effect art asks why it is so hard to make a living being an artist.

The zine also includes a letter from Joe Troop to his childhood home in Moss Side — part of his project My Hero — and creative writing by Michael Cassidy. Instead of a food recipe, Issue 12 contains instructions by Tom Hiles for making a seed bomb.

The cover is by Fuchsia Macaree.

Small numbers of black and white paper copies of the Shrieking Violet have been left in Piccadilly Records, Nexus Art Cafe, Cornerhouse, Magma books and Good Grief! in the Soup Kitchen as of Wednesday.

Issue 12 can be read online here (in an unfortunately low resolution PDF):

Download a copy to print yourself here.

To have a paper copy sent to you free of charge email your address to Also use this email address if you would like to contribute to future issues or join the facebook group.

Issues 2-12 of the Shrieking Violet can be read online here and issues 1-12 can be downloaded here.

Tom Hiles is hoping to sell merchandise featuring his Manchester Underground map in the future. If you are interested in finding out any news on this when it becomes available email or follow him on twitter.

At the start of the year, when I was putting Issue 12 of the Shrieking Violet together, I started listening to Haha Sound by Broadcast a lot again. So I was shocked when, a couple of weeks into the year, it was announced that Broadcast’s singer, Trish Keenan, was battling pneumonia in hospital and had been on a life support machine since Christmas after contracting swine flu on tour in Australia. Sadly, the next day, on Friday 14th January, it was announced that she had died at the age of just 42.

Since it was released, Haha Sound has rarely been far from my record player, and it is one of the records that came to define for me a certain stage of growing up. Haha Sound was released in August 2003 during, in my case, the long, extended summer between GCSEs and sixth form. At that awkward age when you’re too underage to do much, but old enough to want to do something, being a shy teenager in a small, sleepy seaside town the highlight of my (not so) social life was listening to John Peel on Radio One and daydreaming about moving to a big city. Having fallen in love with Broadcast after hearing him play Pendulum and Before We Begin from Haha Sound on a regular basis, I got the bus to the nearest place with a decent record shop, Canterbury, when the record was released to buy it (from the unfortunately now long since closed down Richards Records) on a thick slab of Warp records vinyl. Over the next two years — the final two years I spent living in Kent before I moved away to go to university — it is only a slight exaggeration to say that Haha Sound was all I listened to.

I had previously obsessed over the wonky genius of Syd Barrett and early Pink Floyd. Broadcast, too, are a brilliantly skewed pop band but, whereas Syd Barrett’s eccentricity was familiar and recognisable, grounded in an everyday, typically English setting of big bands, curly hair (in contrast, Steve Lamacq mentioned on the Evening Session around this time that Trish Keenan had ‘the straightest hair in pop music’ and seemed genuinely amazed by it), floorboards and bicycles, Broadcast’s experimental take on pop music was a different kind of weird altogether. Trish Keenan’s smooth, icy, precise vocals floated over pop beats and sounds I had never heard before, including percussion that, in my mind, made me think they were hitting an assortment of boxes, bells and bits of scrap metal. They even sang the odd word in German. The record sleeve, too, was like nothing else I’d seen, featuring collaged fragments of photographs, scattered boxes and clusters of warped, typewritten letters in strange arrangements.

Syd Barrett’s comforting, flat, boy-next-door vocals reminded me of quaint, leafy cathedral cities, but Broadcast, from far-away Birmingham, were glamorous, exotic and arty and, I decided, sounded like what living in a big city would be like. They referenced the past, borrowing musically from everything from nursery rhymes to sixties pop, and creating an almost chant-like effect at times, but also remained somehow futuristic and timeless. I still have yet to hear a song I like more than Before We Begin, a swooning slice of warm retro-pop gorgeousness that never fails to give me slight butterflies in my stomach as it swirls around me.

Broadcast played at the Night & Day soon after I moved to Manchester in 2005, promoting the follow up to Haha Sound, Tender Buttons, a more straightforward, but still brilliant, pop record. Pathetically, as a first year I hadn’t yet made any friends who liked Broadcast and was too nervous to go to a gig alone, so had to wait until December 2009 to finally see Broadcast live, at the Deaf Institute, when they were promoting their last release, a mini-album with the Focus Group. It was everything I had expected — an enveloping combination of swirling visuals, captivating pop music and a mysterious stage presence — quite unlike any gig I had been to before or have been to since.

This fanzine is dedicated to Trish Keenan and the inspiration I found in Broadcast's music.

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