Darren Stockford

What’s all this, then?

Hello, there. I’m Darren, and this is a collection of stuff I’ve written over the years, mainly about music but there’s some other stuff too, such as film, TV and merch. You’ll also find the odd bit of promo for videos and music I’ve made. Thanks for dropping by.

Swab the (record) decks! Tommy Hale is All At Sea

Album cover of All At Sea by Tommy Hale

I’ve been following the career of Texan singer-songwriter Tommy Hale, as a fan and writer, since the late '90s, and was recently gifted a preview of his new album, All At Sea, which comes out this Friday.

Yep, in five days’ time, this weighty vessel will be pulling into port and dropping anchor – and you can rest assured that, as tempted as I am to go overboard, these are the only ocean-based puns I’ll be floating in this review, so call off the coastguard.

Nearly eight years on from his last album, Magnificent Bastard, Tommy and the British department of his band the Magnificent Bastards – ie, Simon Moor, John O’Sullivan, Nick Beere and Dan Tilbury – have crafted another fine collection of toe-tappers and sorrow-drowners. And, as with every record Tommy’s ever made, it’s a pleasingly eclectic listen.

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Three’s a charm: In the studio with Slyder Smith & The Oblivion Kids, March 2022

Slyder Smith & The Oblivion Kids, Brown House Studio, March 2022

Producer Pete Brown does a 180-degree swivel in his battered but comfy looking chair, and announces to the room: “It’s a lovely sounding Hammond, innit?”

Who doesn’t love a good, solid organ?

Yep, more than four years after my last visit, I’m back at Oxfordshire’s Brown House Studio – the recording complex formerly known as Henwood – to dream up double entendres and other cheap gags, under the guise of fly-on-the-wall music journalism.

Also present is singer, songwriter and guitarist Slyder Smith, bassist and footwear connoisseur Tim Emery, and keyboard player and guest star Neil Scully.

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Track record: Last Train Tonight by Marc Valentine

Single sleeve for Last Train Tonight by Marc Valentine

Below is a video I made with the mega-talented Marc Valentine, frontman of Last Great Dreamers, for his new single Last Train Tonight.

Give it a watch/listen and, if you enjoy it, give Marc a like/subscribe on YouTube; perhaps even leave him a comment. This is his first release outside of the Dreamers, so it’s a leap into the unknown and I’m sure he’d love to hear what you think.

If I, a mere listener, was asked what the song’s about, at first I’d reply: “It’s about 2 minutes 45 seconds” – a terrible gag in service of me trying to say that this is a great pop record. Upbeat, with well-crafted hooks, the song is as catchy as the Northern Line in rush hour, but a lot more fun.

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Just like a movie: In praise of When You Grow Up, Your Heart Dies by Gunship

Over the summer I fell for Gunship - a vocal synthwave band formed in 2014 by a couple of the chaps in British rockers Fightstar - and I keep coming back to a track called When You Grow Up, Your Heart Dies - especially its video (see below), which I think is just lovely.

The band don’t appear in it; the visuals are fan-sourced tributes to popular cinema of the '70s, '80s and '90s - those films many of us first watched on VHS or as a bank-holiday treat on analogue telly - while the idea behind the song seems to be pretty much the old Star Wars meme: “Don’t grow up - it’s a trap!” (though its title is a line in The Breakfast Club).

There’s a cool Tubular Bells-type melody, and the chorus is catchy as heck. But for me the best moment comes halfway through, when the track segues into a string of messages from fans, the remit for which was: “…something uplifting, perhaps words you live by, perhaps something that helps you get through troubling times.”

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It’s in the music: Darrell Bath, 1966 - 2021

Darrell Bath at the Garage, London, 15 January 1999I was stunned by the news, yesterday evening, that Darrell Bath has died. It doesn’t seem possible. Darrell was a constant.

I first stumbled across Darrell in '91. The Crybabys (such a great, ego-popping name for a band) were playing a support slot at the Marquee on London’s Charing Cross Road, and I fell for them straight away. They had it all: the Keef-esque swagger, the dual-frontmen thing, and a bunch of well-crafted songs with lyrics that winked at me. When it came to boozy, Brit-flavoured, good-time rock ‘n’ roll I thought they were perfect, and Darrell soon became a guitar hero of mine.

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A short piece about a short film about Richard Davies & The Dissidents

Screenshot of a Richard Davies & The Dissidents video on YouTube

I’ve made a little documentary with Richard Davies & The Dissidents, about their debut album and their activities over the last year.

If you’ve a spare 11 minutes I’d love it if you’d click ‘play’ below and give it a watch. I’ve been told that it whips along.

The band - a rockin’, rollin’, power-poppin’ quintet from Wiltshire - were thoughtful and funny in their interviews, which made stitching this together an absolute pleasure.

If you enjoy the music in the film, check out Human Traffic: a 36-minute toe-tapper of an album that’s had reviewers unanimously going “ooh!”, “aah!” and “cor blimey!” (artist’s impression).

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Some enchanted evening: Revisiting The Blair Witch Project

The Blair Witch Project DVD in front of some shelvesI hadn’t seen The Blair Witch Project since the early Noughties, so last night I decided to cast a fresh eye over it. It’s always going to be a divisive film, for various reasons, but I enjoyed it upon release, and this latest viewing left me with an even greater appreciation.

So here’s a string of numbered thoughts about the film, because it’s easier than writing a proper review. And, yes, there are big spoilers.

  1. The acting and dialogue (which of course was improvised) are brilliantly naturalistic.

  2. The characters’ moods almost jump cut from scene to scene. One minute they’re raging at each other, the next laughing, without any on-screen making up. It suggests both the passing of time and the ebb and flow of real-life relationships.

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The Hopley Moor Incident: A short musical film about childhood wonder

Single sleeve for The Hopley Moor Incident by Haunting The AtomHere’s a vid I made: the latest bit of fun from my audiovisual alter ego, Haunting The Atom.

It’s the most upbeat track from my folder of synthy noodling, and it reminded me of childhood, which I figured was the perfect subject matter for a lockdown film.

Leave the house to collect footage? Not me. All I needed was my old photo albums and a portal to a parallel universe - which, as luck would have it, turned out to be the very same thing.

This is for the '70s and '80s UFO kids. Keep watching the skies - once you’ve finished that Close Encounters Blu-ray, of course.

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On with the show: Last Great Dreamers release Live At The Tivoli

Live At The Tivoli by Last Great DreamersThe new Last Great Dreamers album landed on my doormat yesterday. It’s the band’s first official live release since their demo days, and I relaxed my three-day quarantine rule for this particular piece of post - it was a mere three minutes before the CD was in the player. In fact, it would have been even sooner if I hadn’t had to peel a sticker to get inside.

I’d forgotten that this gig, at the Buckley Tivoli in October 2019, was a benefit for mental health awareness and suicide prevention. So Marc telling depression to do one (in even blunter terms than that), a few tracks in, caught me off guard and I had a cathartic sniffle. And then, later, came Werewolves, a song that always makes my throat tighten: “Running away from my mind…”

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I zest my case: A quick thumbs-up for Songs For The General Public by The Lemon Twigs

Songs For The General Public by The Lemon TwigsYep, it’s my biannual plug for The Lemon Twigs, whose new album has spent the last week making sweet lurve to my lugholes.

Their last record, Go To School, was a rock opera about a chimp called Shane. Presumably, the title of their new one winks at the fact that it isn’t - though, actually, Songs For The General Public is just as theatrical and fabulous, darling. And there seems to be a loose concept too (relationships, in various forms).

I blummin’ adore it.

Lemon Twigs reviews tend to reference a bunch of highly regarded pop and rock acts from the ‘60s and ‘70s. To make things simple, though, I’ll just say that if you think Jellyfish are a bit of all right, have a go on the Twigs.

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