Neil Sheasby @Koko, November 2022. Copyright Allan McKay 2022.

It’s become pretty much a tradition over the years that the first contribution to appear in our annual High Fives comes from Neil Sheasby, bass player and co-songwriter, along with Neil Jones, of British soul legends Stone Foundation. There’s a reason why Neil’s contribution usually opens the feature – he’s always the first one to reply when we ask for contributions. Simple. Congratulations are in order as well this year as Stone Foundation prepare for their 25th anniversary in 2023.

Music I think it’s been a really strong year for new releases, I’ve heard some great albums over the past 12 months, very complete pieces of work but if I have to select one to wear the crown then it will be Drugdealer – ‘Hiding in Plain Sight’. Golden grooves that embrace that warm LA / FM sound, dare I say it’s Yacht Rockin’ territory. Yes, it sounds like 1974 but surely that’s cool? Well, if you dig the Dan, Little Feat and even hints of Lowe & Lynott then it’s time to get your fix. 

Vision I got hooked on a series called “This is Us” on Amazon prime, there’s about 9 seasons of it so it’s unusual for me to commit to something so lengthy but I got recommended it by my friend Mark who owns Loafers record shop in Halifax and I watched the first couple and was hooked. It’s all about the lifespan of an extended family and we watch their journey unfold from cradle to the grave. It’s emotional!


Jarvis Cocker’s book ‘Good Pop, Bad Pop’ really struck a chord with me.

It’s not a life story but a loft story where he delves up into his attic to find treasures such as tickets, clothes, photos and souvenirs that really map out his life.  Anyone that follows me on social media will be aware that I have a fairly hefty archive of ‘stuff’ stashed away up in my own loft so I could really identify with Jarvis and his plight of what to keep and what to bin. 

Copyright Allan McKay 2022


On a personal note I found our Stone Foundation gig at Koko in Camden in November to be a real highlight. I think it was maybe the accumulation of having played every pub and bar along Camden High Street over the last 25 years finally leading to the glitz and glory of the old Camden Palace. 

I didn’t really take it in on the night but it hit me afterwards and I was able to process the vision and noise of that audience crammed over three floors of the venue. It was humbling and heartening in equal measures. A real moment for us. 


‘Grown up in Britain – 100 years of Teenage Kicks’ showing until Feb 2023 at the Herbert Gallery in Coventry. I’m a disciple of The Saturday’s Kids so this exhibition kind of knocked me out. 

The Museum of youth culture is an emerging museum dedicated to the styles, sounds and social movements innovated by young people over the last 100 years. Championing the impact of youth on modern society. The Museum has been collecting photographs of youth and subculture movements for over 25 years. From the bomb-site Bicycle racers in post-war 1940s London, to the Acid House ravers of 1980s Northern England, the Museum of Youth Culture empowers the extraordinary everyday stories of growing up in Britain.

And yes…there was a photograph of an 18 year old me featured. 

Complete SurrenderPreviously forlorn and just on the doable side of twee, Sheffield girl-boy duo Slow Club decided they wanted a change. Their two previous albums, the second a great improvement on the first, were a mix of shoe-gaze and rattling, nurturing indie-folk; it was sweet but had a dark and more interesting undercurrent. “Complete Surrender” doesn’t rattle and isn’t folk music but the dark tendencies and songwriting style have, in part, remained. Colin Elliot, who has worked with Jarvis Cocker, Kylie Minogue on her Abbey Road album and, most notably, Richard Hawley, has been enlisted to produce and in doing so has in part become what feels like a third member, such is his presumed impact. Retro, northern soul and Motown girl-group stompers dominate in what is now a fully formed and lushly intricate backdrop that accompanies Charles Watson and, in frequently spectacular fashion, Rebecca Taylor’s tales of heartbreak and determined, if not always successful, reinvention.

Slow Club’s emphasis has always been on their centre-stage vocals and their self-written durable melodies so, although the sonic energy here has been intensified, and, on tracks like the endlessly ascending title track, is pitched to equal a song’s mood, it’s always the songs themselves that shine through. There is not a case for style over substance here and this is before taking into account the duo’s vocals; Watson’s doleful white-boy falsetto, pitched high and yearning, like a northern Ben Gibbard, and Taylor who sings with tremendous power and a nuanced, technical ability to express a catalogue of emotions without ever over-egging. Unlike her male partner who is certainly competent but not awe-inspiring, Taylor sounds closer to firmly established female singers who have earned iconic status. Maybe closer to Sandie Shaw, on songs like the frail but fighting “Dependable People and Things that I’m Sure Of”, a slow solo performance, she astounds with a plaintive but rousing vocal documenting the fresh pain of a terminal relationship.

‘But I can run further than I could before
And I can laugh louder, I can dance ’til I’m sore
Then in the morning, I can do it again
I just have to keep moving, don’t ever stop moving

And all of this envy and all of this fear
Will just be a memory of this shitty year

The pair share vocal duties throughout the album’s eleven tracks with songs dedicated to either one or the other but on occasion their voices merge in the most surprising way considering how different they are. On “Tears Of Joy”, Taylor’s wistful voice is actually underscored by Watson’s throughout although at first this isn’t obvious, clearly initially taking the lead his vocal gradually morphs into the ecstatic whoops of his partner’s – the joy of the title expressed. On “Everything is New”, with its strings, ahhh-ahhh serenades, spirited chorus and rock guitars their vocals – again led by Watson – collide and separate again, beautifully. “The Queen’s Nose”, another glorious ballad delivered solely by Taylor, and an obvious high point, is so exquisite that it is hard not to begin wishing that the power-couple had weighed out their responsibilities differently when it comes to vocal duties. Songs like the playful and more electronic “The Pieces” don’t stand up to the weightier performances here many of which do belong to Rebecca Taylor, but it is also the various shades of their vocals playing together that make tracks such as “Wanderer Wandering” such a multi- layered, rich but still airy pleasure.

“Complete Surrender” has elevated the duo to a position where they will be at the very least heard in the same context as some of pop’s most soulful big hitters; Jessie Ware, Sam Smith and even Adele are their contemporaries now. Whether they experience the same level of commercial success is another issue of course and realistically, extremely unlikely – only a tiny percentage will after all.  But to make a record like this and to take strides that enables your sound to be both mainstream but wholly grounded in a lyrical sensibility that is essentially British in its self-deprecation and rejection of sentimentality is admirable and is what gives Slow Club their edge. “Complete Surrender” is an album that eventually becomes a part of you and as much as it is nurturing, moving and empathic; it also thrills with its new ambitions and ends up sounding unlike anything else experienced over the last eighteen months.