The Cigarettes

It is easy forget how many great underground bands there were in the 76 - 80 period, who have left a treasure trove of records to go out and discover afresh. The Cigarettes are a prime example. This is superb in my view. Sharp, explosive, alive with raw energy. Enjoy.

 

Eddie Piller's Modcast And The New Faces

I spent a highly enjoyable lazy Saturday afternoon rifling through various instalments of Eddie Piller's excellent Modcast. Highlights included Chris Sullivan waxing lyrical about my old stamping ground from my London days, the Wag Club in Wardour Street. Then there was Paolo Hewitt and Mark Baxter talking about The Mumper and Outside Bet. Not to mention the Quadrophenia special.

One particular interview, however, deserves special mention. I had seen pictures of an exhibition entitled "The New Faces" on Modculture. They were impressive, there's no question about that. But I hadn't heard the more detailed story behind them. That was to be put right by the Modcast in question, with photographer Dean Chalkley, the auteur behind the short film of the same name.

The film can be found at SHOWstudio and the description is as follows:

Focusing on the sartorial passion and commitment of young British Mods in the twenty-first century, 'The New Faces' is a documentary showcasing the continuing popularity of the sixties-born youth cult. A study of eight Mods bound together by a shared passion for smart dressing, rare soul, socialising and dancing, this film short is directed by photographer and filmmaker Dean Chalkley. 

What's clear from the outset is that the subjects of the film are at top sartorial end of the modernist spectrum. They quote the simplicity of Ozwald Boeteng and enthuse about Claudio De Rossi at DNA Groove. And they look the part, right down to their inch wide ties.



The attitude of the protagonists is an eclectic one. There is talk about mod being a personal passion, that develops from within, and of picking up bargains in charity shops. Then there is the shared love of music, especially northern soul.

Chalkley has created a small piece of social history, one that will be used as a reference point in years to come. In a sense, it is a time capsule, portraying the essence of a moment, in the same way as Absolute Beginners, Mark Feld's interview for Town magazine and Bronco Bullfrog.

It stuck in my mind for the rest of the day, kept me thinking about the visuals and what had been said. It struck me that modernism is wonderfully diverse. Maybe it always has been. Not everyone will agree with what is said here and, in a double dip recession, many will not be able to afford the bespoke tailoring. But, in a sense, that doesn't matter. There is no correct way to "do" modernism. There never has been. It's all so individualist.

This short film will inspire. There will be clued up kids out there who will see these boys (rightly) as examples to aspire towards. They will visit charity shops, save up for clothing they can't afford, search out old northern soul tunes. In doing so, they will create their own scenes, with their own logic and impetus, as well as their own individual approaches to all things modernist. And that's how the whole thing continues to evolve. In fact, there are no doubt some doing exactly that right now, who have taken an influence from the film and are  moving in their own unique direction. And, if that happens to be the case, this excellent film will have played it's part in the ongoing, evolving modernist process.

The Strypes

You can see this band being huge. It isn't just the fact that they're still only fifteen that makes you sit up and listen, but how accomplished they are, the great sound they make. Cavan boys Ross Farrelly (vocals), Josh McClorey (lead guitar), Peter O'Hanlon (bass)and Evan Walsh (drums) produce harmonies that could have come direct out of mid-sixties Liverpool, as could their look. Not to mention the guitar sound and how the whole thing fits together so perfectly.

The Strypes wear authenticity in their sleeve. Check the polo neck sweaters and those haircuts. And it's made even more authentic on the video for You Can't Do That when you get a brief glimpse of their footwear, Converse All Stars, the one element that tells you it's 2012 and not 1964. They're the trainers they'll wear on the streets, with their mates, hanging round record shops and cafes on a Saturday afternoon. It's a moment of imperfection that somehow makes the whole more perfect.



And they're not that young anyway. They're only a year or two younger than than the likes of Lennon, Townshend and Weller were when they were recording the best of their early music. Perhaps it's just that the rest of us are getting older.

Whatever, they're ace. Listen and enjoy.

The Benders

I have to admit that I know next to nothing about The Benders, except for the fact that they were an American garage punk band from the sixties. Further research tells me that they came from Wisconsin and had a guitarist called Gerry Cain, a vocalist and drummer called Paul Berry, a bassist called Geno Jansen and a rhythm guitarist called Tom Nofke. Gerry Cain was the main man and was also in a band called The Why Four.

I found all this out on this excellent website called 60's Garage Bands. It's a site I will be checking out regularly.

http://www.60sgaragebands.com/benders.html

Of course, it doesn't actually matter who The Benders were, where they came from or who was in the band. I came across this by accident and the only thing that struck me was what a brilliant record it is, how raw, how in your face, how much energy there is. That I just needed to turn it up loud and let those distorted guitars and that voice get inside my consciousness. And then I realised, like so many times before, that this is what makes rock and roll so amazing - you can think you've heard it all and then an obscure band from long ago comes along and totally blows you away, so that you feel like you did when you first heard My Generation all those years ago.

And then it hit me that they looked as cool as hell. Which is what really counts, of course.

J C Brooks And The Uptown Sound - To Love Somebody (That Don't Love You)

Another great tune from last year is this monster from Chicago's J C Brooks And The Uptown Sound. To Love Somebody (That Don't Love You) is a delicious slice of contemporary soul, with a definite taste of the golden age of Motown and Stax. The voice, the harmonies, the arrangement. Each is exquisite. This is one of those records that grows in stature as time goes by. It should be on everyone's playlist.

DC Fontana - Abbesses

Just been listening to this little gem from last year. The video was filmed on location on Montmartre and it still looks and sounds ace.

Outside Bet

I read the novel, The Mumper, by Mark Baxter and Paolo Hewitt, on its publication a few years back. It was an enjoyable, read, at times humorous, at others moving, telling the story of some South London print workers and their purchase of a race horse. It was set in the eighties and the grim realities of the unfolding post-industrial world hit home strongly, contrasted with the importance of good times, friendships and family bonds. It was all there. Privatization, the decline of trade union power, redundancies and tragedies that hit families when least expected.

The novel has now been given the big screen treatment. Outside Bet stars Bob Hoskins, Jenny Agutter, Rita Tushingham, Philip Davis - legends of British cinema in other words. Along with younger actors, such as Emily Atack (The Inbetweeners) and Calum MacNab (The Football Factory).

It's a film that looks very promising indeed and is being greeted with not a little excitement from those in the know. It's out on Friday. This is the trailer:

Andy Lewis - The Best Of Days

Formerly of Pimlico and DJ at Blow Up, and now plucking the bass strings for Paul Weller, Andy Lewis has for some time released great music in his own right. The albums "Billion Pound Project" and "You Must Be Hearing Something Now", as well as his northern soul inspired "Are You Trying To Be Lonely" (with the aforementioned Mr Weller) are cases in point. Not forgetting last year's mini-album "41" and the wonderfully soulful single "Good Soul In The Good Times" with Jess Roberts.

Fast forward to now and he's just released a new single. "Best Of Days", with Wesley Doyle,on vocals, is a quality, upbeat tune. And very danceable. And it's available on iTunes now.

Electric Warrior


I've still got my old, battered copy of Electric Warrior by T Rex. It was the first album I owned and, as such, has an important personal significance. In my view, it captures Marc Bolan at his artistic peak, when lyrics were strange and interesting and the music had a hard edge that appealed to rock and roll afficionados as well mainstream pop pickers. In short, Bolan was the coolest thing on the planet in those days. And when Electric Warrior was released he was emerging from the hippy fringes into the spotlight of media and adolescent attention.

Tunes like Mambo Sun, Cosmic Dancer and Planet Queen were classics which sit neatly alongside the more well known tunes, Get It On and Jeepster, which adorn the album. They demonstrate fully that there was more to Marc Bolan than the records that hit the top five. Not that there was anything wrong with those classics, of course.

It is pleasing to see that Electric Warrior has been given the Deluxe treatment, all of which include rarities, b-sides, outtakes. There are a variety of options available, from the box set (including DVD, poster, collectibles) to the single cd.

Details are here:

http://www.facebook.com/T.RexBolan/app_208826489134895

All in all, the album still sounds as fresh as always. And I've always said that you can see true genius by the quality of an artist's b-sides. To put Life's A Gas on the flip of Jeepster shows true belief, an intimate and unflinching confidence in your music and star quality.

This is Life's A Gas:

Illegal Notes - Soho Junkie


Illegal Notes have been a band worth keeping an eye on for a while. Frontman Charlie Phelps has written some quality tunes both with his current band and, prior to that, with The Reaction. One tune to especially look out for is Twisted Beginnings, which they released a while back.

Now they've gone one better and produced what is perhaps their best tune yet. Soho Junkie is an infectious, dirty little tune with lyrics that exude sleaze and a guitar part that just drags you in. It's a little bit glam, a little bit indie and a little bit mod. And I love it.

What's more, they're making the demo available as a free download.

Here is their Facebook page and the link:

http://www.facebook.com/illegalnotes

http://illegalnotes.bandcamp.com/track/soho-junkie-demo

They Could Have Been Mods

Got round to watching the 70s programme from Monday night.


It was certainly an interesting insight into early seventies Britain. There was an in depth look at cultural changes, especially the growth among the lower middle and working class of home ownership and foreign holidays. And plenty on the politics of the time - from Ted Heath, to the miners strike of 1972 and entry into what was then known as the Common Market.

I do wonder, however, whether the changes all had their roots in the seventies. The aspirational and bohemian trends would seem to have started in the sixties, or earlier. The narrator in Colin MacInnes classic 1958 (published 1959) novel Absolute Beginners would have hated the conformity of the new housing estates that were springing up (see Bob and Thelma's home in The Likely Lads from 1973 or Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party from 1979) but he would have recognised the aspirations towards escaping from working class roots and towards a sharp, clean modernity.

It was good to see David Bowie and Marc Bolan covered extensively, as well as their teenage fanbase. Watching the kids, in the latest fashion and with their cutting edge haircuts, made me think that the whole modernist outlook reinvents itself. Constantly. There was a clip of a group of fans walking along when Sandbrook was talking anout Bolan. How they strutted, the way they looked, the attitude. They could have been mods.

Fay Hallam And The Bongolian



This one's well worth a listen and a download. Former Makin' Time vocalist Fay Hallam has recorded an album - Lost In Sound - with multi-instrumentalist The Bongolian (Nasser Bouzida). The album's not out until May. But, as a taster, they've released a single, Dancing, which is rather impressive, complete with an infectious Hammond sound. What's more, you can, for a limited period, download the single here.

http://www.fayhallamandthebongolian.com/

I Can't Explain

There are times when you just need the best music vid ever made to get the weekend moving. Check out the Smedleys, the desert boots, the haircuts. Not to mention the beat combo on the stage. Filmed at The Goldhawk and The Scene, this is the High Numbers at their emerging best. And I love the dancefloor moves of the Face in the French breton top.

White Heat - conclusion


Final episode of White Heat and the story is brought up to date. It was brilliant, moving, sad, yet uplifting at the same time. There were surprises, shocks, revelations. I had wondered whether using two sets of actors for the earlier and later scenes would detract from the overall effect. It didn't. The flashback technique overcame that issue and it worked perfectly. Best thing on television I've seen for a while.

Marnalade Sky

One band worth keeping an eye on is Marmalade Sky from Bristol. They're a five piece who are at the forefront of the Uprising tour, which has received attention in elements of the media. Marmalade Sky play the type of trailblazing guitar-based anthems that we have loved over the years (and which have been threatened by the blandness that is everywhere in mainstream culture right now). This was recorded last year at the Hope And Anchor. It's called British Boy and it rocks.

Best NME cover for a long time

New single - Miles Kane


Miles Kane's new single First Of My Kind is spot on. It's not out until later this month but the tune - with its positive, individualist,  flamboyant message and upbeat delivery - is worth waiting for. This is the video:

Paul Weller - The Piper

A brand new Paul Weller tune has emerged, one that didn't make it onto Sonik Kicks. It's called The Piper and is the exclusive b-side to This Dangerous Age on a single he is releasing to mark this year's record store day. It has a definite northern soul feel and, if I'm not mistaken, there is more than a little hint of early seventies Trojan reggae in the mix somewhere as well. I've always said that you can see an artist's true brilliance by his b-sides. This little gem is no exception.

Likely Lads



Another great new band are Likely Lads. Well worth checking out. They could be huge. But, right now, they're one of the best kept secrets in the underground music scene - which is just the way we like it.

White Heat


Watched the fifth episode of White Heat. Its 1982 and the Falklands campagn is gathering pace. Jack the public school proto-new Labourite is doing cold turkey, Lilly has big ideas and Charlotte's love life is in usual turmoil.

This is proving to be a gripping, tantalising series. We still don't know who is the reason for the flatmates visit to the flat, although there is a strong implication. I have a feeling there is a surprise in store on that point but it would be so like the series to draw you in and then let it turn out that your initial assumption was right all along.

And what of the politics? The trailer for next week implies that someone is about to revert to type and follow the party of his ancestors.

Claire Foy gives the standout performance as Charlotte. But, equally worthy of mention is Jeremy Northam, as Jack's father. For my money, easily the most sympathetic character.

Wideboy Generation

For the new radicals, you don't have to look a lot further than this lot. Wideboy Generation. This is a socially aware tune from last year that I think is especially strong and that should be huge.

Old Grey Whistle Test


Watched the Old Grey Whistle Test compilation on BBC4 last night. Various luminaries, obscure and not quite as obscure. New York Dolls, Captain Beefheart, Johnny Winters. The Jam, The Specials, Patti Smith. Curtis Mayfield, Gladys Knight, The Wailers. Among many, many more.

What struck me was how conservative most music, and society in general, is today, in comparison.  My initial reaction was to ask where are the new radicals.

Then I reminded myself. As if I needed to. There are some great radical bands out there, mainly the underground ones. Bands like Likely Lads, Wideboy Generation, Lost Boys. They are the bands to shout about. They are the ones to make the great tunes of tomorrow.

A tale of two albums

Went through Newark yesterday. Two establishments caught my eye, for their names alone. A shop called The Gift and a restaurant called Cafe Bleu. The Jam's last album and The Style Council's first album within streets of each other. Amazing, eh.


Saturday

Great new tune from the Enemy, a band who are destined to blast back into our midst very soon. They're doing some gigs in the ruin of Coventry Cathedral. An inspirational setting. They have an album - Streets In The Sky - out soon as well. But, for now, lets enjoy this little gem.

Baby Strange

Another genius with a mod background who I've started listening to a lot of again is Marc Bolan. Digging out all the old T Rex records. Particularly the early to mid period, around Electric Warrior and The Slider. Tune I've particularly picked up on is Baby Strange, one of three tracks on the Telegram Sam maxi single from 72 (other was Cadillac). This is an impressive version at a gig at the Wembley Empire Ballroon, that is featured on the Born To Boogie DVD. Looks impressive.


Rebel Rebel

Been revisiting the music of my misspent pre-youth of late. Especially David Bowie. This one from 74 is a particular favourite of mine. That guitar signature is superb.

He was a mod as well. That fact mustn't be forgotten.