June 21, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Chardon Square

What is there to say about Chardon Square other than that as I grew up in the mod scene the were my favorite local mod band.

[Ed Note: This blog is updated from one originally posted 1/22/08]

In 1983 ska was declining, punk was old hat, and power-pop was in many ways on the rise again. Chardon Square came into being September of that year when ex-Targets guitarist Perry Tollet formed up with ex-Patterns bassist Bill Sass and guitarist Phil Cuzimano, with Doni Costello on drums. With The Jam, Buzzcocks and the Clash heavily influencing them, they quickly garnered a large following in the Orange County/Los Angeles mod scenes in Southern California.

With their raw power and agression they epitomized what a power-mod band should be. Their first single in 1983, "'65 Film Show" (backed with "Moving Bright Colors"), showed their potential as a serious post-punk band with sixties pop overtones. Shows in 1984, '85, and '86 with bands like The Bangles, The Ramones, Fishbone, Big Audio Dynamite, and The Three O'Clock, kept them in the fore-front of the Southern California mod scenes. In 1986 they released a second 7" single, "Lost in the Cartoons." It was both more powerful and less polished, which showed a lot of sophistication on the part of the band in eschewing that sort of overproduced sound so many groups fall prey to on their second time around.

Chardon Square always turned in a dynamic show with a good mix of covers like The Records "Starry Eyes", and "All Night" by Beggar. But their originals caught on with audiences as well, who demanded the band perform "'65 Film Show", "Lost in the Cartoons" and "Home With a View" sometimes more than once in a single show.

For me the highlight show for Chardon Square came at Insight Out magazine's American Mods Mayday '89 at John Anson Ford Theater in Hollywood. As was their habit, Chardon Square weren't the sharpest dressed mod band (or the best behaved I'm sure), having always been more concerned with sounding good, as opposed to looking good. It was about as unmod an attitude as a band could have, but proved a good move for them as they always sounded way better than they looked. That night in Hollywood, they pounded out a set of mod songs that eclipsed most of the other bands there -- no small feat since there were bands there from all over the country including mod heavyweights like Manual Scan, The Funseekers, and The Question.

Chardon Square have always been, for me, one of the best memories I have of growing up as a mod in the 80s in Southern California. Watching them move seamlessly from soul infused R&B to 70s fueled power-pop in a single set, you could always see that a love for the music came first. What more could a music lover ask for?

(Adapted from Insight Out Magazine #5, 1989)

Chardon Square -- '65 Film Show

Chardon Square -- Lost in the Cartoons (live at Fenders Ballroom 1988)