We've updated our Terms of Use. You can review the changes here.

Futile Exorcise

by Paul Rooney

  • Record/Vinyl + Digital Album

    RELEASED 3/4/2017

    Includes unlimited streaming of Futile Exorcise via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    ships out within 3 days
    edition of 300 

      £10 GBP or more 


  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    RELEASED 3/4/2017

    Includes unlimited streaming of Futile Exorcise via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    ships out within 3 days
    edition of 500 

      £7 GBP or more 


  • Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    Purchasable with gift card

      £5 GBP  or more


  • Full Digital Discography

    Purchasable with gift card

      £14.10 GBP or more (70% OFF)


Sunday Best 02:36
Please keep your seats, pray thee, and don't be afraid I'm only a ghost, just a poor harmless shade My name is James Christopher Benjamin Binns I was cut right down in the midst of my sins. When I lived on this earth, my wife often said If I should die first, then she'd never get wed. Tonight I called on her, through keyhole I crept If ghosts could have tears, oh I'm sure I'd have wept. A man held my wife in his tender embrace, She called him her husband, he'd taken my place. To make matters worse, and to crown all my woes The fellow was wearing my best Sunday clothes. I'll try to forget my old false-hearted wife And give you a flavour of my present life: I get good engagements, with cash in advance Attending a medium's midnight séance. I rap on the tables and kick up such scenes, I ring clanging bells and I bang tambourines.
How about some more music? What the hell. I face you, so to speak. It’s now. You sit, you stare at the moulding cards. Your glaring sockets. That rictus. That hand is something else. So here we are. You sit inside, we sit inside, your poker room of stone. Your right hand’s holding the cards up: like an offering to heaven! We’re in this together, in many ways. How about some music again? Yes? But in your head… but in your head it’s different. In your head you return: the fumes through the hood. A jerry can of petrol is open in front of you, it seems. I have opened it, I am there then, as now. I pour liquid on your hood, drenching your body. Pulling your hood off, I light a match. Now you sit in the dark, but in your head it is light, it is then, there is light, you are seeing me then in the dim glowing, my brightly intelligent pale green eyes, your mouth still gagged, the can of petrol, I am holding the fizzing flame. Fancy a cigarette? The walls of the stone pyramid where you sit at the table, then as now. You are there in your head. You return to the smell of the petrol through the hood on your head, in your head. You are seeing the walls again emerge, then not now, soot-black cobwebbed dripping stone baring down around you in the flickering. My flashing white teeth, the dimples in my cheeks as I smile. I am offering you a packet of fags, you see me waving them towards you. There is a strange taste, on the cigarettes, a hint of silver ragwort petals toasted in rapeseed oil. I offer you the fags. I’m simply being polite! We should approach our situation in as civil a manner as possible, right?! Shall I jam one in your gag?! Your gagged rictus?! What was that?! You groan?! You are tired?! We are both tired! We are both trying our best, we are seeking the same goal, after all! The match. Near your face. The heat on your face. Will he set me alight?! You wonder! Will I?! Will I? Mm. The liquid I poured over you wasn’t petrol but water. An old conditioning trick from the Theatre Internment Facility. The match light diminishes. You’re back, staring in the vague direction of your hand in the gloom. It is now. That hand is something else. The hand you’ve been dealt is a winning hand. You couldn’t be more certain of it! What a hand!
Her William sailed on board the tender And where he is she does not know, For seven years she has been waiting Since he has crossed the Bay of Biscay-o. As Mary slept, her love came creeping Up to her bedroom door so slow, Saying, “Arise, arise , my lovely Mary, For it is I your lover William-o.” Young Mary rose, put on her clothing And to her bedroom door did go, And there she found her own true lover His cherry cheeks were white as lily snow. “Oh, William dear, where are those blushes, That you had some long years ago?” “Oh Mary dear, the wild waves claimed them; I'm but the ghost of your William-o.” “Oh Mary dear, the dawn is coming, For now the cock’s begun to crow. And I must leave you broken-hearted Since I have crossed the Bay of Biscay-o.” “If I had all the gold and silver And all the money in Mexico, I would grant it all to the Queen of England To bring me back my lover William-o.”
OK. We are recording. It’s a lovely sunny day. On the tour bus. The City Tour. ‘Its always sunny here’, Aileen the tour guide says, ‘but sometimes the sun is behind the clouds’. She says this with a wry smile. Utterly charming. And here we go. The statue coming into view is in Carrera marble; he has his lovely dog beside him. Marvellously pretty. You have to be called Margaret to be a cleaner in the castle on the hill to the left. It’s a rule they have there. Rich in tradition, this place. Unquestionably. I’m sat here with my video camera, recording it all. For posterity. Or, I sometimes imagine, as part of some larger, secretively unspecified knowledge gathering process. I have a fertile imagination. The English opium eater confessed there, on the left. He admitted it was fifteen ‘quid’ for a dead body. Gosh. Rather a lot of money. Fifteen. Mmm. Alistair Sim born in the cinema to the right. Aisle G, cinema 2. Well, well. I was just a kid, nearly 22. Neither good nor bad, just a kid like you. And now I’m lost, no fixed abode. Just rolling down the lost Lothian Road. Aileen talks us through it all, yes indeed. In her brown fleece and dark brown glasses. She says we have to re-train ourselves to stop and look at the places we visit. But the bus keeps going. She’s perverse like that. You can’t have a cathedral without a bishop, she says. There’s no bishop, but it’s still a cathedral. Remarkable. I have dim recollections too, as I listen to Aileen’s stories, of rambling around god-forsaken towns, decks of cards and women’s lies. Vague memories of an apprenticeship, in an attic room in a city far from here, writing jokes for crackers, or dedications for gravestones. Or both. The pub, on our right, Defoe used to drink there, Aileen tells us, he was a secret agent for the empire. That’s why he became a writer, he learnt to observe and report through spying, then got a taste for the treason of art: betraying with its immaculate deception. A blue blazer was hanging outside this other pub, it’s there, to the right, but Percy Shelley never went inside. He couldn’t have, he was underage. If tears could build a stairway, and memories create a lane, we would walk right up to heaven, and bring him home again. Aileen sings a song to us as we go: I was just a kid, nearly 22. Neither good nor bad, just a kid like you. I’ll acknowledge now that I’m good and lost, On lost Waverley Bridge I pay the cost. Dim recollections impinge more and more often. Of some other time, some other life before the bus. Some memories are clearer to me than others, and get clearer by the day. These recollections seem like songs that have been taped over on an audio tape – songs that can start to become audible again as the tape degrades with age, spurts of choruses screaming through the verses of the songs covering them like the clashing discord of a congested radio dial. I remember pretty clear fragments, for example, of watching a tourist video on a TV set. A shaky camera is panning up and down spires, we see the fuzzy washed out winter colours – mausoleum greys, guard-uniform blues – we hear the young man talking as he’s filming, telling us about what we are looking at. He is videoing an old city not unlike this one, the capital of an empire, the Eastern Union of Republics, that we from the Western Economic Community, where I come from, were enemies with. The two empires had missiles pointed at each other, so that fear contaminated the air of the whole world. The man with the video camera was allowed to be there because he had been invited to a youth conference, to promote peace between young people in our empire and theirs. The WEC was not at war with the EUR, they were just irreconcilable enemies. So the fellow is going round this place in the EUR, on a tour bus I think, telling us about the sights, mostly jagged, mountain-brown government buildings sullenly brooding in the grey winter light. The camera pans down into some public gardens below a dark castle right at the heart of the city, and zooms in on the craggy face of the volcanic rock the castle is built on. Suddenly the man behind the lens says: “An extraordinary business. There’s an aeroplane. Its landing.” And sure enough a little bright white Cessna is flying around the shadowed public gardens, slight as brand new polystyrene on an endless grey-green sea. It lands, near the bandstand at the west end of the gardens, and everyone rushes over to see who it is. It turns out to be a chap from the WEC, saying he wants to promote peace and understanding. He says he’s just a man with a plane, not a spy, just a man, on his own. And the people of the capital of the EUR have hardly seen any foreign people, so they ask him what its like to live in the WEC. The man’s eyebrows nervously rise as he looks around the gathered crowd, his tongue pushing out his bottom lip, like a child in thought. “What's green and can fly? A cucumber in a Cessna,” the pilot says. “Want to hire a Cessna? Stand it on some bricks.” "Will you be able to fly away free?" one woman asks him. But then the EUR soldiers arrive and take the chap away, because, obviously, he is not allowed to fly his plane from the WEC all the way into the heart of the capital of the EUR. “Why is 6 scared of 7?” the pilot asks the soldiers, with fear in his voice, as he is dragged away, “Because 7 ate 9”. “To the world he was but one, to us he was all the world,” a bystander says. And some other soldiers then see the man with the video camera on the bus, they start shouting at him and running over to the vehicle. Because, of course, he is not allowed to film things like the fellow flying his plane all the way into the heart of the capital of their empire. The soldiers storm the tour bus and take his camera off him, and then probably destroy his video tape. He in his prime was called away. That is all I remember, but it is as clear as a spring morning. We go round and round on the tour bus, the same route, always the same. Nothing different. It’s all lovely though, of course. Always sunny, always beautiful. I don’t get on or off; I’ve never been on or off, not that I can remember. And I would remember that. I record and re-record over the same tape, again and again, but it’s always the same footage in every last detail, the tour never changes one tiny bit. A modicum of variety would ameliorate any numbing monotony. If there were any monotony. I’m not saying there is. Variety wouldn’t be a problem, is all I’m saying. Being able to get off the bus, one could say that this would be some variety. This is a for instance. And sometimes, as yet another tour winds its way round, I think of the man who flew the plane into that tourists video. I think of the fear on his face. And sometimes I think that maybe that chap with the video camera was me. Maybe I never saw the video on TV, or anywhere else; maybe I was the one behind the camera. That’s how I can remember it all so clearly. And then I think that this – me being on this bus – this is my punishment for being there, for videoing it all. My punishment for being a spy. I could have been slapped about so much by the soldiers when they stormed the bus that I fell into a coma. And my dream, in my coma, is of the tourist bus endlessly going round this capital city – which is probably the capital of the EUR, going by that massive castle over there – my coma dream looping forever like an Alesis drum machine. Until the power is turned off. But then I realise that’s all rather silly. Silly. How can you know if you are in a dream? Only at the moment of waking, I would guess. Am I about to wake up? No. Still here. And I point my camera at Aileen. And she sings her song. And we go round and round. Thoughts return to scenes long past, years roll on but memories last. In a way, I would like it to be true. That I was, that I am, a spy. Turning over secrets, that’s what I want to be doing, if I could find any, smuggling them through borders in the dark. Bringing them all back home to a hero’s welcome, then wondering who will play me in the film. I was just a kid, nearly 22. Neither good nor bad, just a kid like you. And now I’m lost, I admit defeat. Just another soul on the lost High Street. The souls of the dead haunt the place where they died, Aileen says, as she points over at the display boards for the walking ghost tours. The souls carry on doing what they were doing just before they left us, repeating it without variation forever. They are stranded like this if they die far from home and they’re body does not return there, or if they have committed an unabsolved crime. I will lift up mine eyes, up to yonder hills. I look up from my viewfinder every now and then, hoping for the speck of white in the sky, quickly looming towards us, like a chip of lens glare splintering out at us from the ever-blazing sun. Another plane to video. Then there would be more soldiers to take me away. To somewhere else. Rest after weariness. Sweet rest at last.
You're dead, you're dead, but your troubles never cease. They’re moving father’s grave to build a sewer. They're moving it regardless of expense. They're shifting his remains To put in 9-inch drains To irrigate some rich bloke's residence. Now what's the use in having a religion, And thinking when you're dead your troubles cease? If any city chap Wants pipelines to his crap. He doesn't let a workman sleep in peace. Now father in his life was not a quitter, I don't suppose he'll be a quitter now. And in his winding sheet, he’ll haunt that toilet seat And only let them go when he'll allow. Oh won't there be some fuckin' consternation; And won't them city toffs begin to rave! It's more than they deserve: They had the bloody nerve To muck about a British workman's grave. You're dead, you're dead, but your troubles never cease.
Black Ear 06:47
And this is the hutch where my pet stoat lives. And there is the bottle of water on the outside of his hutch. Like a little hospital drip. And that is my dad opening his hutch door, to give him his dinner. Is that a child's voice? ... Are you hearing things? ... The room is very large and bright ... It was dark before ... You can definitely hear the child's voice, can't you? ... It is the voice from that film you saw here ... You remember it ... It was dark ... The filmmaker showed a film of his own sons pet stoat ... The filmmaker used his own son to do the voice over of the film ... You read about it on the gallery leaflet ... He made his own son narrate the film ... A horrible thing happens in the film ... But his son did not know it was going to happen ... You enjoyed that film, didn't you? ... You remember now ... Of course you do ... A stoat, a dog ... Dog savages stoat ... The filmmaker wanted to record how his son would react to the horrible thing ... The filmmaker knew this would be cruel ... But you had to laugh ... Life and art are cruel and funny ... You know that ... You had to laugh ... You are looking at a film of my stoat. And he is eating a boiled egg my dad has given him. And he is very hungry. And it is winter so he is white but he has black around his ear hole, there, that ear, now you can see it. And he also has a black tip on his tail. Why does he have a black tip on his tail Dad? Because stoats do, some stoats do. And my stoat is called Black Ear. And now here comes the dog from next door, he is called Henry. And he is ugly brown. The voice has departed the film, you presume ... Maybe it has wandered the earth ... Then returned here ... It is not in your head ... Not this time ... You have memories in your head, don't you? ... Of course you do ... Memories that are awoken when you visit a place ... Memories that are the tattered, blood-drenched remains of another time, that bestir themselves when they want to ... You have no say in the matter ... So this voice is like a memory ... But it is not in your head ... Perhaps you have failed in your obligations to it ... To this memory ... Sorry, to this voice ... Maybe that is why it has stirred ... Perhaps you need to lay it to rest ... You need to lay it to rest ... Perhaps you should lay it to rest. Perhaps you need to lay it to rest ... You do, don't you? ... You need to lay it to rest ...
She leant her back against an oak, All alone and alone. 
 She pushed and she pushed 'Til her back near broke, 
 Down by the greenwoodside-o. 

 She laid her head against a thorn, 
 All alone and alone. 
 And two pretty babies she has born, 
 Down by the greenwoodside-o. 

 She took a knife so keen and sharp, All alone and alone. 
 And pierced it through each tender heart. Down by the greenwoodside. She walked alone one moonlit night, 
 All alone and alone. 
 She saw two babes dressed all in white, 
 Down by the greenwoodside-o. 

 Oh dear babes, if you were mine, 
 All alone and alone. 
 I'd dress you up in scarlet fine, 
 Down by the greenwoodside-o. 

 Oh dear mother, when we were thine, 
 All alone and alone. 
 You never did dress us, coarse or fine, 
 Down by the greenwoodside. 

 We are in the Heavens so high, 
 All alone and alone; 
 And in Hell's fires you will die, 
 Down by the greenwoodside.
Spit Valve 06:56
There is, in the matter of my anatomical form, something that needs frank admission. On the physical front I have changed, in a rather extreme way. I have taken on the form of a trumpet. Apologies. I have taken on the form of a quantity of pooled liquid, situated inside a trumpet. I am fairly sure. Inside the pipe work. In other words, my body is now a small quantity of water within some brass tubing, water constituted from a mixture of breath condensation and spittle. Yes, that is it. I seem to have occupied this form from the moment enough liquid had accumulated inside my brass tube to sustain my existence, which was about twenty-three seconds ago. Though it is clear that a mistake of substantial proportions has occurred, I do not, in my current life-state, have much recourse for appeal. One minute I was admitting to a Building Control Officer that I had failed to inform him of the fitting of a 13-amp plug on a built-in electric oven I had installed (which I did not realise had to be notified under Part P of the regulations), the next minute I was here. I do not even play the oboe. Or rather, the trumpet. At least I do not recall doing so, unless my mental faculties have been affected by my metamorphosis. This is possible, on the face of it. I have certainly been speculating, in the few seconds that have elapsed since being installed here, about the reason for my perplexing situation. I fancy I will not have the time to truly get to the bottom of it. Evidently, or as far as I understand, my existence as this small pool of unpleasantly odoured liquid will be fairly brief, because at any moment the trombonist will open what he calls the ‘spit valve’ (appropriately named) and blow me away into an airborne spray – I meant trumpeter there, of course – at which point my ‘identity’ will dissipate to such an extent that I will cease to exist as a unified persona. I am confidently assuming that this personality dissipation will occur. It would be difficult to imagine a spray of water drops, molecules even, cohering in any way, particularly after they hit the quite possibly porous ground and soak into its surface. Apparently, notifiable works being done by a qualified ‘non Part P registered’ electrician or DIY’er are subject to application to Building Control before starting the work (unless it is part of a larger job like an extension in which case it is included in the main application). Even wiring a plug these days is quite a minefield. It is definitely a trumpet. Hold on, I can feel some movement, the tubing is shifting into a horizontal position. The trumpeter’s mouth is pressing on the, what is it, the cup? There. A lovely little tune. This is definitely a trumpet. He plays it rather slowly and haltingly. Hauntingly, I would say. Each time the tuba player plays a little I feel my brass body tingle with the sound waves… No, this is incorrect. What I am feeling is my liquid body expanding with a touch more spittle, but mostly with breath moisture. My tiny watery mass also vibrates quite shockingly as the air is blown past me, but you would expect that. I am not the air, the breath, I am the condensation that results from it. I am now fairly certain of this. Fingers a bit stiff there, I can hear the bugler sigh. It is a dying art. Speaking of which, the spit valve is being tampered with. My nigh, as they say, is end. Ah. Here we are. The expurgatory blow is on its way, how dramatic, the clarinet’s tubing is now flooded with light as if the…


"Futile Exorcise, the brilliant new album from Liverpudlian multimedia artist Rooney... a record to return to again and again." Julian Cowley, (The Wire magazine). June 2017.

“Futile Exorcise… is arguably the Liverpool artist’s most accomplished collection to date… a richly layered sound that builds on the dubby spaciousness of Lucy… with a greater range of instrumentation, effects and, importantly, voices, both Paul’s own and guest vocalists.” Bryan Biggs (Bido Lito magazine). September 2017.

"I'm not terribly adept at unqualified outlandish statements of praise so forgive me if this sounds clumsy: this is the most extraordinary album I've heard in at least seven years, and probably for much longer than that... It's a work to be absorbed, laughed at, unsettled by but, above all, enjoyed over and over again." Mark Whitby (Unwashed Territories blog). 14/5/2017.

We at Owd Scrat are very proud to present our first full length LP, in beautiful transparent ectoplasm coloured vinyl and CD digipack, which is also the first by Liverpool UK based musician/artist/writer Paul Rooney under his own (full) name. Following on (though ten years later) from his acclaimed 2007 single Lucy Over Lancashire – a dub folklore epic narrated by a Satanic Lancastrian sprite – this long awaited album delves even further into the demonically possessed everyday. It is an album of revenant songs, in which various dead people return from beyond the grave to visit their lover, play poker or haunt a toilet seat. The record features many collaborators including actor Gregory Cox, mesmerizing ethereal harmonisers Lutine, and artist Leo Fitzmaurice, whose image graces the cover.

The narrative song lyrics range from unjustly wronged music hall ghosts (Sunday Best, Father's Grave), or lost souls stranded on tour buses (Lost High Street), or stuck inside trumpets (Spit Valve), to a child's voice from a film soundtrack come to restless, spectral life (Black Ear). The album's stories recall darkly comic absurdist writers like Barthelme, Beckett or O'Brien (Flann), married to a kind of post-punk dub synth-folk. The result is gloriously unique. How about Ivor Cutler collaborating with Xiu Xiu on the soundtrack to a low budget folk-horror about stoats? Robert Ashley creating a music hall song-cycle about breath condensation with This Heat? As these comparisons reveal, this album is both hard to describe, absolutely distinct, and bloody great. And thank the undead for that.

Daisy Hyde (The Wire magazine, online preview). 22/3/2017. goo.gl/zj87nf

“That was The Cruel Mother… and it’s fabulous. The whole LP is just amazing, as expected…” Ian Jay (Fat Latch (Radio) #101). 16/8/2017.

“…from the album Futile Exorcise, it’s just astonishing, it’s such a wonderful release, and that track was Father’s Grave… absolutely stunning stuff.” Mark Whitby (Dandelion Radio). July 2017.

“Coundn’t wait to play you something else from that again… that was Paul Rooney, from the album Futile Exorcise, and Mackenzie (Smell of the Petrol). Absolutely masterful.” Mark Whitby (Dandelion Radio). June 2017.

“Further evidence there of the greatness of Paul Rooney. That’s another track from his fantastic album Futile Exorcise… that was Bay of Biscay.” Pete Jackson (Dandelion Radio). June 2017.

“I’m really, really chuffed to be able to tell you that Paul Rooney has not only returned, he has returned with a full length album… There’s a lot of great stuff on there, the album’s called Futile Exorcise… That’s just amazing stuff, fantastic to have Paul Rooney back with us.” Pete Jackson (Dandelion Radio). May 2017.

“…you may well not hear a better song than this [Lost High Street] throughout the whole of 2017… probably my favourite album for several years.” Mark Whitby (Dandelion Radio). May 2017.

“I think there is a slylistic integrity between [Lucy Over Lancashire] and that one. You can see. You listen to it and you say: that’s Paul Rooney that.” Steve Barker, On the Wire (BBC Radio Lancashire). 29/4/2017.

“It is a proper good album this, all round.” Michael Fenton (Fenny), On the Wire (BBC Radio Lancashire). 29/4/2017.

“Talking of acoustical experiences here is a very surreal idea, it’s by Liverpool’s Paul Rooney, it uses spoken word… from the point of view of a bit of spittle stuck inside the tube of a trombone.” Verity Sharp, Late Junction (BBC Radio 3). 18/4/2017.

“It’s a remarkable album actually, its called Futile Exorcise… very welcome indeed… Highly recommended.” Roger Hill, PMS (BBC Radio Merseyside). 3/4/2017.

“That’s Paul Rooney, excellent stuff, that’s called Spit Valve...” Rocker (Dandelion Radio). April 2017.

“[Lost High Street‘s] spindly punk theme song, ‘performed’ by tour guide Aileen, could be a kindred spirit of Lucy’s, and suggests a kind of Rooney-verse, parallel or not, in which all his characters eventually connect up to create some kind of six degrees of separation soap opera.” Neil Cooper (MAP magazine #15). Sept. 2008.

“Rooney’s successful prose and ability to entertain are not merely incidental features of some more abstract critical engagement, but are integral to the force of [Lost High Street].” James Clegg (Art Review magazine). Sept. 2008.

“…Lost High Street consists of the rather wayward observations and autobiographical musings of a loner sitting at the back of an open-top bus as it tours Edinburgh. Rooney empathises and charms us into feeling the subjectivity of his protagonists. Who else but him could achieve such deep pathos with such down-to-earth subjects, methods and materials?” Robert Clark (The Guardian). 14/6/2008.


released April 3, 2017



all rights reserved



Owd Scrat Records UK

Vinyl, CDs, cassettes and downloads from a dark corner of the land.

contact / help

Contact Owd Scrat Records

Streaming and
Download help

Redeem code

Report this album or account

If you like Futile Exorcise, you may also like: