What’s On Michael Portillo’s iPod: Vennart

Here at Birthday Cake For Breakfast, we like to get to the heart of what an artist is all about. We feel the music they listen to is just as important as the music they make. With that in mind, following the surprise release of his latest album ‘In The Dead, Dead Wood‘, we’re delighted to have Vennart talking us through a host of records that helped shape and inspire the release.


So I thought I’d start with something nice and obscure. This record is something I return to from time to time. Sure, we’ve all heard of The Cure. I thought I had too, until my mate tricked me into listening to this album, at battle volume, in his posh new car. The opening section of ‘Plainsong’ were pure ecstasy, and I had no idea who it was until the singing started. God, that voice. So unmistakably English, so pained, but so expressive…. So adaptable too. Every song is pretty much a continuous loop with Robert Smith pouring his heart out over the top, scoring out the sections with his sheer poetry of loss and impossible sadness. It’s almost too much to swallow in one go, but it’s so wonderfully psychedelic and floral. Kyle from South Park declared it ‘the best album ever’, and he’s not far wrong.”


This is pure narcissism, as Sugar Horse will tell you I’ve influenced THEM somewhat, and being an egomaniac I like to surround myself with folks with a common interest. Whatever, this is my favourite new band just now. They soundtracked some frankly unfathomable goings-on in my life, being both colossally doom-y and achingly beautiful. Theirs is an outrageous rage. Over-the-top, but never camp. The out-of-nowhere ‘YEAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!’ In ‘Drugs’ might be the greatest ever captured since Lennon’s ‘She’s So Heavy’. I fucking adore this band. Cannot get enough of them. They should be massive, but they wont be, cos most people are dicks.”

THE FOR CARNATION’s Self Titled album

Holy hell. Some records don’t make sense when you first hear them, but once they stick their tongue in you, you never, ever let them go. Some records contain so much magic, you save them for very special occasions, ones where you can really take them in, feel them in your heart, lest you wear out that magic. This is one such record. The gentle ascent in ‘Moonbeams’ is a homeopathic shot in the arm, one so subtle you can’t tell what they did and how they did it, but your empty fucking heart skipped a beat nonetheless. ‘Who did this to us?’ asks Brian (formerly out of Slint) and you wish to fuck you could’ve written it yourself.”


There was a period where I declared metal to be complete. We’d reached peak twin vocalists/Mesa Boogie/double kick drum middle-class white-boy-crywank metal. Po-faced songs of fuck all, misogynistic ‘break stuff’ lyrics propped up with one-fingered, Drop-D mosh-riff bollocks. Then someone stuck this in my face. Shamefully, it was already about 13 years old. This is metal returning to its base element – the tantric alchemy of the distorted perfect fifth chord. Famously, it’s a a one hour-plus single song ode to getting stoned. No whinging about your parents. No extolling the virtues of statutory rape. This is just merciless, minimal and magically heavy. It’s loose, just like their holy mentors Black Sabbath, giving it the swagger, the poise and the swing to make metal do the impossible – to make it GROOVE. Proceed.”


Admittedly, this record only influenced the bonus, not so secret track, ‘Concierge’, but I fucking adore this album. Like all ‘career-suicide’ records, it holds up as more ambitious, more obtuse and more DARKERER than anything they’d done before. It initially appears to be a one-dimensional lounge record, but repeated listens reveal an incredibly rich tapestry of textures, ideas and instrumentation. The arrangements often remind me of ‘Pet Sounds’, but with that wry Yorkshire dryness in the lyrics, which are absolutely incredible. They took a vicious pasting from a large portion of their fanbase for this record, which is always something that’s gonna make me pay more attention.”

‘In The Dead, Dead Wood‘ is out NOW! They’ve been selling like warm-through cakes, but you can try and pick up a copy or two here!

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