(review n pix by neil crud)

I was trying to explain to 12 year old Dec the importance and significant part Record Shops played in my youth. A place to hang out on a Saturday afternoon and be cool (and failing miserably on that count!). He didn’t get it, something within me kinda hoped he’d grasp this occasion and would start a quest to amass music at all costs. There again, the thought of him attacking my own record collection would really piss me off; so it was a small mercy that he prefers to get his sound therapy from my iTunes account, 6music and Guitar Hero.
The Record Shop will soon be condemned to history. We’ll be sat in our nursing homes, stinking of piss and cabbage and reminiscing of the days we’d annoy the old lady in the record shop at the top of Vale Street in Denbigh. I was about 13 or 14, and would get the poor old girl (she must’ve been 139 years old!) to put on the Cockney Rejects latest single while I decided to buy it or not (I usually did). Then it was a Saturday trip on the bus to Rhyl to moider Scratch or Magic Pete or Happy Dave or Kev Cripps at Kavern Records. They’d keep obscure punk, post-punk and complete shite under the counter for my pocket money or paper round earnings to be spent on. Most of those gems found their way onto Ebay, and despite making a small fortune on them, I now regret selling them.
Phase One from Wrexham also benefited immensely from my brief stint in college, where rather than buy drugs like all the other students I bought vinyl… Sack loads of it… I was high as a kite.
Of course, the independent record store had competition even in those hazy days. I bought a shed full of stuff direct from the punk labels (No Future, Riot City, Xsentrik Noise, Rot Records), proudly possessing every release the labels put out, from the top bands like Blitz to the dustbin of punk like Chaotic Dischord.
Bangor became my spiritual home in 1986, after chancing upon Anhrefn playing an open air gig in Colwyn Bay. I began frequenting the city for gigs for years, both Anhrefn’s and ‘name’ bands at the Uni, and often as a member of 4Q. By coincidence I began working in Bangor in 1998 for 10 years, and moved there in 2010. So Cob Records has been a place I’ve frequented on many an occasion. As time went by, my music collection grew so big that more often than not I would leave Cob without buying anything, always with a sense of guilt.
We met Huw Prestatyn outside and he shook my hand and said, ‘We are the people who have closed Cob Records.’ He was right; today the place is buzzing with people clutching that distinctive yellow carrier bag (5p), but it’s our purchases from Amazon and Ebay that have closed Cob Records, and while Efa Supertramp screamed ‘Fuck HMV’, it’s not HMV that saw off Cob.
Virgin and Our Price have both been and gone in Bangor while Cob soldiered on – it is simply a sign of the times. HMV too will go to the wall eventually, and while you’re very unlikely to find a fanzine or local band being pushed in store, we, ‘the real people’ will be fucked when we realise ‘the kids’ are buying their music from fucking Tesco. It’s all packaged, it’s all safe, it’s all manufactured and it’s all complete and utter fucking bollocks. But hey! The music industry has always been that, which is why we have the likes of Irma Vep, Efa Supertramp and Y Niwl.

Irma Vep
(pic above) release their debut album ‘Ha Ha’ on Turquoise Coal Records today at Cob Records. I’ve still not opened my neatly packaged vinyl, and thankfully it comes with a CD as my record player hasn’t been used for years. Without playing the album, I now know what to expect. Twisted cyber country and western from a fly agaric version of that weird Yul Brynner film, Westworld. When the duo who are so closely connected to Klaus Kinski picked up their guitars we half anticipated a crazed noise fest with zombies feasting on what was left of the second hand vinyl on sale. So to hear / see heavily reverbed chilled down countryfied aural van gogh was refreshingly cocaine-cola.

Efa Supertramp
(pic above) first burst onto the scene as a teenage punk rock fallen princess in torn tights, rasping voice and full of opinions at the forefront of The Stilletoes. That was in 2006, and the torch shone blindingly bright and was soon put out by Efa herself. A couple of singles and a red raw album, ADH Dreams was enough. By 2009 The Stilletoes were gone, and quite right too. Get in there, get the job done and fuck off. Result. Efa took off round the world, came back, pissed off punk royalty (Viv Albertine), when she should’ve gone one step further punched her for being far too holier than thou, then went back round the world. Politically active and still angry and without a band she now gets up with guitar and will happily growl at anyone who’ll listen, and scream louder at those who won’t.

Y Niwl (main pic) don’t have a political bone in their body; being an instrumental band it’s hard to get any message across. They could title their songs Cameron The Cunt or North Korea Oh Dear, but they use a numbering system and title their tracks (in Welsh of course) 25, 24,  15, 6 etc, so politics is not an Y Niwl agenda, and neither should it be. They are here to entertain, and like Efa, they too have been all over the world, although not with a rucksack, but on the more luxurious confines of Gruff Rhys‘ coat tails. Entertainment is sprung out of the top drawer and there’s not an untapped toe in the house. It’s such a simple formula – surf music… why has no one thought of it before? Well, obviously they have, but not as well as this band have.
Surfs up for Y Niwl – Times up for Cobs…

(more photos here thanks to Huw Prestatyn)