Richmond Fontaine – Wake Up Ray

It must be a dozen years now since I first heard Richmond Fontaine. They were the flavour of the day in a magazine that I regularly read. I’d just moved into a little flat in the centre of the city. I worked from that flat and bought lots of CDs from the local record shop to stop myself from getting lonely. 

At night, I’d go to a bar just around the corner and drink. I never had much to get up early for and I enjoyed the company.

Different continent but similar desperation, I found something in the roaming bleakness of your typical Richmond Fontaine song. Their album, Post To Wire, was played a lot that year. Laced with dark humour and pedal steel guitar, this became the soundtrack to my summer. Here was an offer of particularly effective comedown music once the effects of the ecstasy and whisky had worn off.

When a local promoter put them on to play at the Music Cafe, it was a gig I had to go to. It was incredible. Willy Vlautin was a new Springsteen; his poetry and storytelling came from that place that Bukowski occupied; desolate drinkers and pawn fuelled paupers were his characters of choice. I got them to sign a poster for a good friend who had a birthday coming up. In conversation, they were true gents. 

Since then life has moved on. It had to. I bought a house and tidied up my act a little (some would contest this). I’ve continued to follow Richmond Fontaine although I don’t think I’ve played subsequent albums as much as I did with ‘Post To Wire’ that summer. I’ve read Willy Vlautin’s novels and envied the tautness of his prose.

I’m happy to see that they’ve got a new album coming out in March 2016.  Décor Records are releasing ‘YOU CAN’T GO BACK IF THERE’S NOTHING TO GO BACK TO’ , their first in five years. 

Willy Vlautin says this about the album “This record was written for all the guys we know who have hit the wall, are about to hit the wall, or are in the middle of slamming into it, It’s a record about paying the price for the way one’s lived.  All of us in Richmond Fontaine are at the age where the bill starts coming due for the decisions we’ve made along the way.”

It might be a record made for me. They’ve pre-released a tune from it and I’m delighted to share it here on Sonic Breakfast. 





PJ Bond – Broad Street

On 20 September 1898, 15 people were injured when a service from Richmond approaching Broad Street at slightly excessive speed ran into the buffers at the end of platform six. A Board of Trade report on the incident stated: “Fifteen passengers are reported to have complained of bruises or shock, and a few others have claimed compensation for damage to their hats.” The train’s driver testified: “I committed an error of judgment in not applying the brake quite soon enough.”

I love the idea that, over 100 years ago, people claimed compensation for damage to their hats.

The scene of this minor incident – Platform six at Broad Street station – has long since disappeared. Once a thriving London station, the development of new networks rendered Broad Street economically unviable. A shopping centre and office block now stands where the station once was.

PJ Bond has announced a new single from his forthcoming album that’s out in May. It’s a finely crafted piece of Americana that excites more on each listen. Titled ‘Broad Street’, I very much doubt that it’s about the long-forgotten London train station. Indeed, I’m quite sure that there are 100’s of Broad Streets across the world.

But, it is a song that reminisces, a song that remembers a scene from a few years back. We find PJ thinking about a previous, ultimately doomed relationship. Broad Street is the place where they’d last met. “The last time I heard from you, I’d grown tired of listening“, sings PJ in the opening line to the second verse. Miscommunication has done for the protagonists. The happier meeting, listening to choirs in church aisles on Broad Street, is but a dim and distant memory.

There’s something of Springsteen about the lyric here. Place is used to define a moment. Broad Street is PJ’s Thunder Road, Kingstown or Atlantic City. The very best Americana aligns a moment within a place – Broad Street achieves this expertly. It’s easy to see why PJ Bond has drawn comparisons to Elliot Smith, Wilco and Micah P. Hinson.

Sonic Breakfast gives regards to Broad Street and concedes that it’s anticipating great things from the new PJ Bond album.