I've been on holiday for three of the last five weeks, which has meant travel. And that has meant rampant splurging in the record stores of Brighton, Cardiff, Manchester and Glasgow (and remarkable restraint in Newcastle). Here are some notes on the best and the rest that those cities had to offer.
Brighton (28 July, 2010)
The first charity shop I walked into had a Ran Blake LP so that was a good omen. The ocean was calling so I left it for the time being (and didn't get around to going back for it). The beach was stony, the souvenir shops were exceptionally tacky and the Tai-Chi-in-the-park hippies were shirtless. The West Pier was astonishing. Burnt out, intriguing, isolated from the shore. Please don't tear it down or rebuild it. Please.
Resident, 28 Kensington Gardens
The Breeders Title TK CD
Brilliant Colors Introducing LP
Inca Ore Silver Sea Surfer School LP
Swell Maps Train Out Of It CD
Kensington Gardens is one of the more interesting shopping areas. There's an incredible tat/trash/treasure market, Snooper's Paradise, which has records but I gave up pretty quickly. Someone else can have those barely playable Wedding Present LPs. After the sensory overload of Snooper's Paradise, Resident is positively minimalist and serene by comparison. All new stock but they have a good range of £5 CDs and a small vinyl sale section (from whence the Inca Ore came). The man who served me was approachable and happy to recommend other record stores in town. Nice change from surly, hard-bitten London record store clerks (I don't live in London but do most of my physical music shopping there).
Across The Tracks, 110 Gloucester Road
Anthony Braxton This Time ... LP
My Bloody Valentine Loveless LP
David Toop/Max Eastley New and Rediscovered Musical Instruments Split LP
The Velvet Underground VU LP
Just around the corner is this classic dusty secondhand record store with classic secondhand record store characters and yarns (bargains, rip offs, run out groove message this, tan label that). Good stock, ok-ish prices. Bonus points for use of manual carbon copy zip-zap credit card machine. Also for having a decent jazz section (lacking elsewhere in Brighton).
Rounder Records, 19 Brighton Square
Black Flag Everything Went Black 2LP
The Can Monster Movie LP
Roky Erickson Gremlins Have Pictures LP
Rounder's secondhand section was almost entirely charity shop trash but they had a good selection of reasonably priced new vinyl. I had several of the recent My Bloody Valentine bootleg vinyl reissues in my paws until the last minute, when I put them all back. They're so confusing and messy! The You Made Me Realise/Feed Me With Your Kiss twofer combo LP is an exact replica of the YMMR EP with no mention of FMWYK and certainly none of the artwork or anything. You've got to figure out what they've done by looking at the tracklist and checking against Discogs or something. What a mess. They've done the same with Sunny Sundae Smile/Strawberry Wine and Glider/Tremolo too. Dumb.
Cardiff (30 July, 2010)
I'd been lead to believe Cardiff was "a bit rough" but what I saw was mostly pretty flash. The ultra-modern library is striking and the view from the top floor is useful for getting your bearings. Don't bother with the waterfront area near the Millennium Centre though. The brown-water harbour is bit of a turd and unfortunately attempts to polish it have only highlighted its faecality. Actually, I'm sure it was fine when it was just an unassuming brown-water harbour. Maybe those eateries and bars are the true turds. On the more Ye Olde side of things the animal wall outside the castle is a must see and the castle itself is worthwhile too. Oh, and the smokestack near the train station with the word "BRAINS" down the side in huge letters is brilliant. Was almost disappointed to find out Brains is a brewery. Cool that you can drink a pint of brains though. Gruesome.
Spillers Records, 31 Morgan Arcade
Cromagnon Cave Rock (aka Orgasm) LP
Now this is a strange one. Spillers is "the oldest record shop in the world" (founded in 1894) so my expectations were pretty high for some kind of something. Unfortunately it's not in its original location - they'd just moved into their third premises when I visited. It's a nice enough shop in one of Cardiff's many little arcades but don't expect any feeling of historical gravity. The shop was also very sparsely stocked. I figured this was due to the recent move but was later told by a friend that their old shop was like that too. Still, the stock they did have was reasonable and I was very pleased to find this strangely under priced (by about £5 compared to elsewhere) Cromagnon reissue LP. It was a happy end to the woeful tale of a poorly packaged eBay-bought copy of the same album suffering brutal treatment at the hands of Royal Mail. Spillers couldn't find the Islaja/TV-Resistori split 7" that I also wanted to buy but the girl was very apologetic and nice about it so no hard feelings.
Kelly's Records, The Balcony, Central Market
Babes In Toyland Fontanelle LP
The indoor Central Market is great in a tatty kind of way. Antipodeans excited by the sight of raspberry lamingtons (see below) should not be fooled by the disgusting imitations on offer though. The one I had was like a piece of student flat couch foam dipped in pink toilet cleaner and toenail clippings. Kelly's Records looked to be a goldmine at first but ended up being more a case of "water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink". I persevered because there surely had to be something amazing amongst all those records but mostly found multiple copies of 80s and early 90s pop. I'd been thinking about Babes In Toyland recently though so it was cool to come away with Fontanelle anyway.