December 31, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Specials

In the late 70s The Specials spearheaded the new ska sound of the ere, the two-tone sound. The band's first self-titled album was produced by Elvis Costello and was a tour de force of covers of ska songs, or semi-originals that were largely based on sixties ska. Based on Jamaican ska and northern soul, The Specials spiced up their sound, turning it into a kind of punkified ska. Songs like "Concrete Jungle", "Too Much Too Young", "Dawning of a New Era", and "Little Bitch" fit perfectly with the Britisk punk explosion of the day.

The Specials were as much a cultural force as anything else. They had their own label, 2 Tone Records, that helped to establish a racially diverse, politically progressive cultural movement that included ska lovers, skinheads and mod revivalists. Along with The Beat, Madness and Bad Manners, The Specials drove the ska revival to the top of the UK music charts with seven consecutive top ten singles between 1979 and 1981.

Their second album was more divers than the first. Jerry Dammers directed their sound into wildly new territory for a rock type act. It has a heavy loung feel and incorporates not just ska and soul, but lounge music as well. Gone for the most part was the punk angst that had dominated their first release. It was replaced by synthesized keyboards on "Stereotypes", lilting male/female vocals on "I Can't Stand It", loungy and syncopated rhythms on "International Jet Set", and a much more caribean island feel as on the instrumental "Holiday Fortnight". I'm certain that this album along with Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66's first release are what pushed me into my love affair with lounge music.

The band broke up in 1982. Terry Hall went on to Fun Boy Three, but Jerry Dammers reformed the group as The Special AKA. As always Dammers' timing was perfect, capitalizing on the anti-apartheid movement that was growing world wide their politically inspired album was fairly sucessful in 1984 spawning the top ten single "Free Nelson Mandella". Other members of the band worked with a number of the other two-tone bands, most notably in Special Beat with members of The Beat.

The Specials are back together celebrating 30 years, though sadly without Jerry Dammers. For whatever reason, the rift between he and Terry Hall, and the rest of the band really, doesn't seem to be one that will be mended anytime soon. Still, if the band does make it to Seattle someday you'll find me in the front row.

The Specials -- International Jet Set

The Specials -- Holiday Fortnight

The Specials -- Too Much Too Young

December 30, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Paul Weller aka The Modfather

You don't get to be called the Modfather unless you've had a huge impact on the mod scene. No one has had a bigger impact on mods in the last 30 years than Paul Weller. In the mid-70s he fronted The Jam and launched the mod revival. In the 80s he moved forward by melding soul, jazz and new wave with The Style Council. And in the 90s, he reestablished himself as a leading figure in British music by ushering in the first wave of Britpop and acting as a mentor to bands like Oasis, Blur and Ocean Color Scene.

His solo work really took off with his second solo album Wildwood, and has had it's ups and downs as Weller mined the sounds of the past with each new release. His influences flowed from the heavy sound of Traffic and Humble Pie to the melodic psychadelia of Cream and as always the northern soul sound. At times he even took inspiration from more modern bands of the Britpop scene and produced a number of indie rock type tracks, and has worked with Graham Coxon, Noel Gallagher, Steve Craddock, Andy Lewis, Amy Winehouse and a number of other contemporary artists.

In addition to the music, he made himself a fashion icon. Like Madonna, he changed his looks often when he was with The Jam and The Style Council, taking retro sixties styles and reinventing them with modern flourishes. As an elder statesmen of rock he has settled on a mature, distinguished, very sixties styled look that suits him perfectly.

Here are three of his solo tracks, the first off of his debut self-titled disk "Round and Round" which could have fit into a number of The Style Council's albums. The second comes from Stanley Road, "Broken Stones", is a soulful number finding Weller getting back to his roots in many ways. The last is from his 2005 release As Is Now and is an upbeat floorshakin' rock and soul number, "Blink and You'll Miss it".

Paul Weller -- Round and Round

Paul Weller -- Broken Stones

Paul Weller -- Blink and You'll Miss it

Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher -- That's Entertainment

December 29, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Who

More than any other group The Who is the public face of the original mod movement. Coming in to their own as a part of the British invasion of the mid-sixties they share a love of melodic pop music with their contempories such as The Beatles and The Kinks. At the same time they also incorporated blues into their amphetamine fueled R&B, though not to the extent that The Stones or The Yardbirds did.

Their sound was bombastic from the very beginning. The punching power chords of Pete Townsend's guitar, backed by the crunchy basslines of John Entwistle became the trademarks of power pop. Propelled forward at a breakneck pace by Keith Moon's animal like drumming was one of rock music's most powerful and distinctive vocal talents, Roger Daltry. Four different parts that came together to make one incredible whole.

Thanks to having these four distinct voices at play, The Who did something unique in melding all of the different influences at play in the British invasion into a whole package and deliver it with both aggressive intensity, and youthful sensitivity. That package found a home with the nascent mod movement, which was more of a lifestyle than a style of music. The Who embraced that lifestyle of living life in the moment, along with its love of soul and blues, and incorporated those into their early recordings and stage shows. The made the Union Jack suitcoat a mod icon, along with the RAF target, two-tone arrows, and a penchant for overzealous stage antics that led to infamous moments of destruction.

Backing up that bravado though was some of the best musicianship of the era. Their simplest songs were anthemic in nature like "My Generation" and "Anyhow, Anyway, Anywhere". As time moved on the band incorporated more blues and psychadelic influence into their ringing power pop, that wasn't the pure freakbeat sound of Small Faces or The Creation, but was definitely headed in that general direction like with "I Can See For Miles" and "Magic Bus".

The band's greatest contribution to mod though has to be Townsend's rock opera Quadrophenia. It was set against a backdrop of the tumultous mid-sixties mod era with its drug use, teen angst, and violence. The album is one of the greatest concept pieces ever produced. Ultimately it led to the 1979 film version which helped to make the mod revival a reality and ushered in a whole new era of suit-clad, vespa riding, soul dancing, power pop lovers.

Below is my favorite song from Quadrophenia, "Cut My Hair". And a more obscure song, a Quadrophene demo version of "Four Faces (aka Four Hang Ups)" that was cut from the original rock opera, but was recorded in 1979 for the soundtrack to the movie.

The Who -- Cut My Hair

The Who -- Four Faces

The Who -- Can't Explain

December 28, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Jam

The Jam are arguably the most famous mod band ever, perhaps more so than their biggest influence, The Who.

Alongside The Sex Pistols and The Clash, the band's first claim to fame came in 1977 as they headed up the inaugral class of British punk rockers. Fronted by Paul Weller, the band eschewed the typical punk rock ethos of destruction and violence, opting instead to wrap themselves in a more traditional British angst. Initially, nothing suited that better than the power pop styled R&B of their 1960s heroes like The Who, The Kinks, The Small Faces and The Creation.

The Jam took ths sixties R&B sound and fed it through the punk rock era they lived in. Out came the beginnings of the mod revival in the form of 1977's In The City. It was an album full of blistering power pop anthems and kick started The Jam's rise to become the most dominant force in British music for the next five years. The title single was the first of a stunning 17 straight top 40 singles including nine in the top 10 and four #1 hits. Few bands have had such phenomenal success in the charts for such an extended period.

Their first three albums all fit neatly in that same superfueld R&B power pop vein and are the most representative of Weller's infatuation with Pete Townsend's style and Ray Davies lyrical voice. By 1979's Setting Sons, the band was moving slowly towards a more soulful sound, but keeping to the melodic power pop that they'd always embraced. At the same time Weller's songs were maturing, as well as becoming darker and more cynical.

The Jam probably became the definitive mod band when they fully embraced a serious soul approach to their music. Sadly, that came at the band's end and so there's only one full album, The Gift, and one EP, Beat Surrender that benefitted from the evolved sound. But those two releases delivered some of the band's finest work. The Gift has the full on funky soul of the instrumental "Circus", the soul floorshaker "Precious", the jazzy soul of "Trans Global Express", and of course the amped up Motown sound of "Town Called Malice".

Their last release, Beat Surrender, delivered five fantastic tracks of soul laden power pop unamtched by anything the band had done previously. Three were covers that offered new and interesting interpretations of the soul classics "War!", "Move On Up", and "Stoned Out Of My Mind". The other two were Weller originals and fit with the classics like hand in glove, the swank sounding melancholy of "Shopping" and the swaggering soul anthem, "Beat Surrender". With those two tracks the writing was on the wall for where Weller was headed next: the full on mod soul sound of The Style Council. In fact, Weller had the band record an early version of the upbeat and bouncy soul number "Solid Bond In Your Heart" which was later one of The Style Council's early hits.

The Jam -- Saturday's Kids

The Jam -- Circus

The Jam -- Going Underground

December 27, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Little Girls

The Little Girls were an obscure 80's power pop band from Los Angeles that was equal parts Toni Basil and The Bangles, with a heavy dose of The Knack, and a splash of Nikki Corvette thrown in for good measure. Their sound was typical of the era, power pop with some synthesizers and thanks to the female vocals a very poppy, at times surf like feel.

They started out in 1980 and like many others I discovered them thanks to Rodney on the Roq playing their singles. With two female leads, backed by an all boy band, they quickly built a solid following in the Southern Californiaarea. But, by 1985 they'd broken up leaving behind an EP and one sole album release. Only recently have they have gotten back together with three original members still in the band.

Little Girls -- How To Pick Up Girls

December 24, 2009

Modcast #150: Mr. Suave's 2009 Mod Christmas Extravaganza

No matter what the neighbors think, this is one cool and smooth modcast. I've enlisted Ken from The Shingles to join me in delivering a Christmas dozen -- that's 14 great songs. This is one holiday modcast that will go down in the history books with some great stuff from Miles Davis to The Very Foundation, from Farrah to Girl Trouble. It's all good, and it's all merry, and you're going to love it.

Listen now

Paddy Roberts -- Merry Christmas You Suckers
Jimmy Severe and the Blue Christmas Boys -- Silver Bells
Boss Martians -- 3 Ghosts
Girl Trouble -- Holly Jolly Christmas
Farrah -- Christmas is Cancelled (This Year)
The Very Foundation -- All Lit Up (For Christmas)
LeeVees -- Applesauce Vs. Sourcream
Jeffrey Foskett -- Christmas Time Is Here
Eugene Edwards -- Dear Mom And Dad
Miles Davis & Bob Dorough -- Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)
Mike Sammes Singers -- Do You Hear What I Hear
Tahta Menezes -- Happy Christmas (War Is Over)
Lou Rawls & Brian Setzer Orchestra -- So They Say It's Christmas
Martin Newell & Andy Partridge -- Christmas In Suburbia

The Hungry Dutchmen -- Lookin' For Santa

Beatles Christmas 2009

December 23, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Small Faces

In the pantheon of the original sixties mods only The Who stands taller than the Small Faces, and it is arguable that, above and beyond all other sixties groups, the Small Faces are actually the kings of mod. It wouldn't surprise me to look up mod in a dictionary and see a picture of Small Faces and a list of their best their songs used to represent what mod is.

The Small Faces played a hard driven sort of rythym and blues rock and roll, all with tinges of soul and blues throughout. They had the power chord guitars of other sixties rock gods, but they also had a sort of soul that try as they might none of the other bands, not even The Who, were ever able to match.

Most of that was in large part to the big, bold, bluesy voice of frontman and guitarist Steve Marriott. Marriott's voice was one of a kind. The kind that can only be understood when you're hearing it; words don't do it justice. Marriott wore his emotion on his vocal chords. His voice dripped with a honeyed sort of sound that could be both sweet and bitter, both sharp and soft.

Marriott was backed by one of the most accomplished bands that the British invasion had ever seen from the bass licks of Ronnie Lane to the frenzified drumming of Kenny Jones, to the swirling, psychadelic sounds of Ian McLagan's keyboards. As good as the band was, it was still Marriott's voice that propelled them to the heights of the British music scene.

Small Faces took the British invasion R&B sound and highlighted it over the power pop of bands like The Who and The Kinks. They emphasized the blues, and incorporated a very soulful, sort of delta blues style into their early works. Marriott's voice suited such a style, and the band was able to produce a number of critically acclaimed songs that did well in British charts, but were virtually unknown in the US. Songs such as "Whatcha Gonna Do About It", "Sha-La-La-La-Lee" and the UK #1 hit "All Or Nothing". And that was just off of their debut album.

From 1967 to 1969 the band changed labels, had fights with their producers and business minders, and still managed to produce some mind-bendingly fantastic music. Their sound ran the gamut from the soul laden R&B of their earliest work, to poppy psychadelia, to down and dirty freakbeat. Through it all is the blue-eyed soul of Marriott's voice, some of the era's best drumming courtesy of Jones, and a superbly honed and polished late-sixties sound from Lane and McLagan. While they didn't tear up the charts in the UK (and other than the achingly poppy psychadelia of "Itchycoo Park" never made a run at the US charts) they did produce a catalog of some of the sixties best music. Songs like "Tin Soldier", "Don't Burst My Bubble","Understanding", and "Get Yourself Together", became the foundation of the mod sound of the sixties. Eschewing the crashing, crunching, almost threatening guitar assualts of The Who's power chords, Small Faces instead opted for a an intense type of soul music that went beyond the dancefloor and invoked a sort of non-violent aggression.

They originally lasted only four short years (never mind a short attempt in the late seventies at reuniting -- with less than sucessful results), and yet have impacted as many decades of music. The bands of the first mod revival in the late 70s and early 80s mined the Small Faces' catalog, never able to do the songs justice. The Britpop scene of the 90s fared better, as many of the bands invoked the Small Faces as their biggest influence rather than trying to parrott their sound. The effects were most vivid with that era's two biggest groups Blur and Oasis, both showing signs of having studied and absorbed the Small Faces best points.

Small Faces -- Tell Me Have You Ever Seen Me

Small Faces -- Don't Burst My Bubble

Small Faces -- Tin Soldier

December 22, 2009

Mod-A-Day: J. J. Jackson

Soul man J. J. Jackson was primarily a song writer, penning tunes for soul jazzsters like Brother Jack McDuff and Jimmy Withrspoon, but also for The Pretty Things, The Shangri-Las and others. But, he managed to save one great song for himself, 1966's "But It's Alright", which he later rerecorded for even more chart success. Even though that's one of the great soul songs ever, in my opinion, I'm forgoing that one to bring you another, grittier, floorshakin bit of soul from Jackson. This is "I Dig Girls", complete with its cool Dragnet styled opening.

J.J. Jackson -- I Dig Girls

December 21, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra may not have embodied the sound of mod, but he certainly had the essence of it in his life and works. He spanned too many decades to count and in every one had some sort of musical impact, right up until his death in 1998. I could go on and on, but most readers are familiar with the Chairman, and if you're not, let me recommend you listen to his music (all of it, but especially his work with Capitol in the 50s and 60s), and check out a few of his films like The Man With The Golden Arm, Guys and Dolls, and Ocean's Eleven -- the last for its cultural cachet, not it's acting chops.

More than anything though it wasthe voice, the musical charisma, that Sinatra had that pushed him head and shoulders above all other entertainers. He could lay down a jazz patter, swing with the best of them, and deliver a pop song in such a way that would blow it right to the top of the charts, no matter how new or old it might be. He collaborated on musical projects with everyone from Count Basie to Burt Bacharach to Nelson Riddle, and mead each his own. When Sinatra sang a song, it pretty much became his.

The song here isn't one of his most famous, but it is my favorite, "Bim Bam Baby". It's a swingin' tune that he turned out somwhere between 1949 and 1952. No matter, it was during one of the lowest points in his early career, and right after that he left Columbia for Capitol records. Still, it's a fantastic song, a harbinger of the rock and roll to come later in the decade, and perfect for Sinatra's over-confident delivery. There's no not liking 'ol blue eyes.

Frank Sinatra -- Bim Bam Baby

December 20, 2009

From The Vaults: Ghosts of Christmas Modcast Past

Once more into the vault my friends, once more into the vault. Step back in time, to a time when the modcast was young and fresh. Take a giant step outside your current listening constraints and journey with me back to Christmas of 2008. I've opened up the vaults and dusted off a classic modcast that I think you'll enjoy. Again.

And coming later this week a brand new Christmas modcast from Mr. Suave and friends, so stay tuned!

The temperatures in Seattle have dipped uncomfortably low so that must mean it's about Christmas time. So, here is my annual foray into holiday shenanigans. This year's modcast has all the elements of a classic -- old and new, power pop and punk rock, garage and indie faves, traditional --and not so traditional-- holiday cheer. Everything from The Wombats to the The Yobs, and some interesting stuff inbetween from The Andersons, Young Fresh Fellows, The Shambles, Girl Trouble, The Wondermints and more.

Merry Christmas to all.

December 19, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Bishops

It dawned on me today that I've been doing the mod-a-day posts for nearly a year and haven't highlighted The Bishops. So, I'm rectifying that little mistake with this post about one of the best contemporary mod bands around.

The Bishops are twin brothers Mike and Pete from London and got their start back in 2002 along with drummer Chris McConville. The trio have released a number of singles, and now have two solid LPs to their credit.

Kicking off their 2007 self-titled debut was "Menace About Town", reminiscent of both The Monkees and The Tell Tale Hearts, and that was followed by the driving, power pop of "Breakaway", and then the powerpop stylings of "The Only Place I Can Look Is Down". In just three short songs the band staked claim to the sixties as one of their foundational influences, as well as proving they had more modern, indie rock cred as well.

Their sophomore effort, For Now, came this past year and didn't disappoint. It is smoother, and shows signs of maturity, but without losing any of the intensity that The Bishops brough to their earlier work. The album is lighter, sharper, at times a bit softer, and at the same time has a more rockin' feel to it with lots of melody. It's got more modern echoes than their debut as well. Where the influences of The Who, The Hollies and The Jam were front and center before, here there is a bit more of a Britpop sound with tastes of everything from Blur and Oasis to Ordinary Boys and Kaiser Chiefs. There is more orchestration, which at times makes the album seem more poppy and less garage like. The band rides this change with super tight musicianship and an overall professionalism that definitely moves them from the bush leagues to the big show.

The Bishops -- City Lights

The Bishops -- Breakaway

December 18, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Lefties Soul Connection

A bit of good ol' blue eyed soul. Twice over no less. Lefties Soul Connection.

Lefties Soul Connection - Move What You Got

Lefties Soul Connection - Fais Do Do

December 17, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Holiday

Holiday is an indie band with that twee sound that borrows so heavily from the sixties, and is so obviously influenced by soul music, and yet is somehow reluctant to make that too obvious. Nevertheless, you can't hide good taste in influences. They have a way of shining through, just like crappy Nightranger influences have a way of sinking an album before it rises, thankfully.

Anyow, Holiday is a twee like band that produced some absolutely dreamy pop music in the 90s. The sound was very orchestrated, in that sort of soft, dreamy, sugary way that most indie pop bands were during that period. The vocals are sweetly harmonized, the guitar is just oh-so-slilghtly reverbed, there's some nice placed hand claps, and some twanginess throughout that will never make you think country music, even though that's where it originated. The songs are all full of catchy hooks, dreamy melodies and very, very well polished, to the point of being overrehearsed.

There's a self-titled debuted, and then there's a second album that shows the band advancing lightyears ahead, Ready Steady Go. Both are good, but Ready Steady Go is not to be missed if you're a fan of sixties styled pop music rounded out by modern sounds and sensibilities.

Holiday -- Who's Gonna Find Out

Holiday -- How Do You Know

December 16, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Kinks

Well, we're nearing the end of the mod-a-day project and I'm entering that territory where I have to start giving out mod-a-day lifetime achievement awards. Scratch that. That makes it sound like the bands don't deserve it. Rather, they don't deserve it from me. I mean who the hell am I to tell you about The Kinks or any other great band, mod or otherwise.

In the case of The Kinks it's not hard to make a case for them being a mod band. I mean, have you ever listened to the band? They eschewed the label in the early part of their career, but I wouldn't be terribly surprised that they would like to be seen in that light now.

Everyone knows that The Kinks are somwhere in everyone's top ten list of greatest bands ever. I can't add much to that. All I can do is let you know that they had some great mod tendencies both early and late in their career. The enjoyment of that career is all up to you.

Here's a couple of good ones. The first, "Powerman" is from a rather obscure 1970 album, and the second is one of the band's all time greatest hits, and one of my all time favorite songs, "Waterloo Sunset".

The Kinks -- Powerman

The Kinks -- Waterloo Sunset

December 15, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Pipettes

There's The Pipettes and then there's The Pipettes. The Pipettes these days are not much more than a tribute band to the original line-up, and won't be more than that until such time as they produce an album as good as the original. All of which just shows that the band's theme song, "We Are The Pipettes" can apparently be sung by any trio of young women with an all male backing band.

The Pipettes first line-up change came before they had an official full length release. That release landed in 2006 to many accolades, and the delight of listeners of everywhere. The group that carried those vocals were RiotBecki, The Duchess of Darkness and Rosay. They are the lineup then that most people are familiar with, even though a scant 19 months after their release two of them had left the band. And, that meant that any lineups after 2008 would lack a founding vocalist -- though much of the boy powered backing band has stayed in place throughout.

That's the drama. What about the music? The band's album "We Are The Pipettes" is 14 tracks of girl-group goodness. It's tight, well written (mostly), and reminiscent both of girl groups of the sixties, and attitude strutting girl groups of later eras. The attitude though is all channeled through a very "girly" sort of filter that takes the angst and puts ruffles and sparkles on it.

No matter, the sound is what counts and The Pipettes had that in spades back then. There's a definite sixties foundation, a sort of Ronettes first floor that every other floor is built on. While some of the lyrics are tongue in cheek, none of the music is -- they take that very seriously, fortunately for us listeners. If you like tightly crafted pop songs with catchy hooks and harmonies, than The Pipettes are for you.

The Pipettes -- Because It's Not Love (But It's Still A Feeling)

December 14, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Headlights

After hearing the delightful sixties pop sounding, soul influenced "Catch Them All" by The Headlights I had high hopes. You know what happens to high hopes, they get dashed -- which is why low hopes are so much more realistic, sadly.

The Headlights Some Racing, Some Stopping saw them mature into a much more serious musical combo. They ditched the overdone emo-laden shoegaze pop that had so weighted them down previously. Instead, Some Racing, Some Stopping let the band free to float into new stratospheres of pop music blending bouncy, soulful melodies with sweet vocal harmonies, all backed with a nice design of atmospheric guitars and keyboards. It seemed to good to be true. And some of the songs were just that -- "Catch Them All" and "Cherry Tulips" especially.

Alas, perhaps it was too good to be true. Their latest EP seems to have drifted back down to the depths of overproduction, more shoegaze than light hearted.

The Headlights -- Catch Them All

December 13, 2009

Modcast #149: About Time

Welcome to Mr. Suave's Mod Mod World. Got a little bit of everything for you this week from the synthesized soul of The Style Council and The Truth to the ska of Bad Manners and The Selecter to the psychadelic pop sounds of The Moody Blues and The Monkees. Even got a great insturumental from The Smiths, "Oscillate Wildly", which is simply a fantastic song. So, I think that you will not be disappointed in this show. In fact, I'm so sure of it, I promise your money back if you don't like it from beginning to end.

The Ordinary Boys -- A Few Home Truths (2005)
The Truth -- A Step In The Right Direction (1983)
The Smiths -- Oscillate Wildly (1987)
The Style Council -- A Man Of Great Promise (1985)
Bad Manners -- Stop Making Love Beside Me (1993)
The Selecter -- On My Radio (1979)
Madness -- Sugar and Spice (2009)
The Moody Blues -- Ride My See Saw (1968)
Strawberry Alarm Clock -- Incense & Peppermints (1967)
The Monkees -- Daily Nightly (1967)
The Odd Numbers -- About Time (1996)

The Selecter -- Three Minute Hero

The Truth -- Exception of Love

December 11, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Killermeters

The Killermeters were just one of hundreds of mod revival acts that sprang up in the late 70s, and not particularly memorable. However, their single "Twisted Wheel" was one of the first mod singles I ever heard and so I've always had a sort of soft spot for it in my heart. Their sound was pretty typical sixties styled power pop, at times a little more punky, at other times incorporating horns for a more soulful sound. While they never released an album during their run, a few years back a compilation of their singles and b-sides was released, called Metric Noise.

The Killermeters -- Twisted Wheel (demo)

December 10, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Alan Hawkshaw

–adjective, groov-i-er, groov-i-est
1. Slang. highly stimulating or attractive; excellent: groovy music; a groovy car.
2. Alan Hawkshaw

If ever there was a mod session man, Alan Hawkshaw is that man. In the UK in the sixties he was a leading Hammond organ purveyor incorporating the sound into ... well just about everything. He composed and arranged music not just for artists, but for commercials, TV, and movies. And it was always with the organ as the center piece of a funky, go-go, groovin' sound. At times he was like Walter Wanderly and at others like Georgie Fame, but overall he was simply stunning in his focus on what sounded hip and cool, always infusing his work with soul, boogaloo and funk. Lounge and beat afficianados will know his work from countless compilations such as the Music For TV Dinners and Blow Up series or the Lounge Deluxe box set. To get a serious handle on his sound pick up the very "now sound" release The Champ by his own "band" The Mohawks.

Alan Hawkshaw -- Beat Boutique

Alan Hawkshaw -- Girl In A Sportscar

December 9, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Chords

The Chords were one of the more sucessful of the mod revival bands on the early 80s. Following in the footsteps of The Jam it was inevitable that they'd have a similar sound incorporating the power pop of the sixties along with heavy doses of soul and R&B. They nevertheless carved out a sound and following of their own. Like other mod revival acts they were combining sixties sounds with seventies attitudes. But, where The Jam's soul numbers sounded more or less like soul, The Chords managed to make their soul sound like punk. Case in point, just listen to either their frantic cover of Eddie Floyd's "Knock on Wood", which features more shouting than singing, or their wild and wooly take on "Hold On I'm Coming". Along with Secret Affair and The Purple Hearts, The Chords carried the mod banner into the 80s, and managed to get a top 30 album with their debut LP So Far Away. Regardless of that, in many ways The Chords share as much or more in common with The Buzzcocks, The Undertones and even The Damned than they did with any of the mod acts of the day.

The Chords -- Hold On I'm Coming

The Chords -- Maybe Tomorrow

December 8, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Quincy Jones

At first glance, the producer of Michael Jackson's "Thriller", and "We Are The World", may not seem like much of a candidate for recognition on a mod website. But, Quincy Jones best work came from a deep love of jazz, blues and soul, all of which played a big part in his early career. And, since Suave HQ is in Washington state, and Jones grew up here and attended Garfield High School, famous for its jazz bands over the years, I figured the local connection cinched the deal.

Jones got his start touring with Lionel Hampton's big band, but then in the 1950sstarted writing and arranging for some of jazz musics greatest stars like Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Gene Krupa, and Ray Charles. In the 1960s he became a VP at Mercury records and his view shifted to popular music. He helped discover Lesley Gore, and was one of the key composers and arrangers for Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Maybe more importantly, he was the arranger for Sinatra's collaborations with Count Basie, including much of the music during the Rat Pack era.

The song here, "Call Me Mister Tibbs" is taken from They Call Me Mister Tibbs the sequel to In The Heat Of The Night, with Sydney Poitier reprising his famous title role. Jones scored both soundtracks, but I prefer the second which is funkier, looser, and more free flowing coming as it did in the early 70s. The organ dances wildly, constrained only by the funky bass and guitar riffs, and a sort of Batmanesque flourish repeated throughout.

Quincy Jones -- Call Me Mr. Tibbs

December 7, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Hawaiians

The Hawaiians are a garage rock trio from Germany, playing a surf sort of pop punk. They owe as much or more to the Ramones and the Groovie Ghoulies than they do to the Beach Boys, but all were obviously influences. From the fratrock sound of "Hully Gully" and the Beach Boysesque "Waikiki Playbat Club" to the more Ramones-like "Vampire Girl", the band has a simple sound that nevertheless is fun to listen to and might inspire a road trip if not a trip to the beach. The Hawaiians have two fun-filled, garage rockin' full CDs to their credit, and the song here, "Wild Cat Stomp", comes from their latest, 2007's Hula On Mars.

The Hawaiians -- Wild Cat Stomp

December 6, 2009

Modcast #148: The Mods Are All Crazy Now

Bienvenue au monde de M. Mod Suave's Mod, ce qui était français mod Beat Band Sheetah et Weissmüller ouverture du salon. Or, as we say in English, -- which I have to since my French is really terrible, Welcome to Mr. Suave's Mod Mod World. This week's show is opened by a swingin' freakbeat bit of a piece from French mod combo Sheetah & les Weissmüller. The track here is from their brand new album which is all in French, but does sport one song in english, a blistering cover of "My Little Red Book". Lots more brand new stuff on the show from Lucky Fish, Dwight Twilley, The Rifles and Reel Big Fish, as well as some old faves from Elton Motello, Elastica, The Len Price 3 and more.

Sheetah & les Weissmuller -- Pire que le Silence (2009)
Lucky Fish -- Lights Out (2009)
Dwight Twilley -- Little Sister (2009)
The Rifles -- The Great Escape (2009)
The Len Price 3 -- Lai-Ha Lam (2005)
Elastica -- Waking Up (1995)
Elton Motello -- Pogo Pogo (1978)
The Fleshtones -- Late September Moon (2005)
Mystic Eyes -- Enough of What I Need (1984)
Wild Fang The Band with 1001 Names -- Like Ringo (1984)
Reel Big Fish -- Mama We're All Crazy Now (2009)

Sheetah and Weissmüller -- le Vengeur Masqué

The Rifles -- Repeat Offender

December 5, 2009

December 4, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Chocolate Watchband

If The Standells were the godfather's of punk, than The Chocolate Watchband were the rougher, tougher, probably drunker, uncles of punk. A decade ahead of the Ramones and well before The Stooges, here was a garage punk band in the mid-60s belting out blues tinged rock and roll with serious attitude. They never had a hit, they never made TV appearances, and they lasted only five short years. But, ever since they have been the bar against which all garage punk are measured, and against which almost all fall short.

The band went through a few lineups and released only three albums before breaking up in 1970. Arriving jsut at the peak of the British invasion, they managed to ride that wave with a hard-edged R&B sound that incorporated pop rock only enough to keep the band from falling into further illrepute with the then gentler eared listening public. They covered a number of songs, "Come On", "I'm Not Like Everybody Else", "In The Midnight Hour", turning each into their own buzz-sawed guitar bit of garage goodness. Thier originals were even better, especially "Let's Talk About Girls" (later a bona fide punk rock hit for The Undertones), and the bluesy pscyhadelia of "Gone and Passes By". One of my faves was the title track to their first album, "No Way Out" and is a sort of psychadelic blues number with a Doors-like vibe to it.

The Chocolate Watchband -- No Way Out

December 3, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Klark Kent

From the obscurity files it's Klark Kent, or if you're in Japan it's Klerk Kant. Either way it was all a goof for The Police's Stewart Copeland. He'd penned some songs that the big man -- Sting -- didn't deem to be Police-like, and so Copeland along with his IRS Label head brother Miles created the post-punk power pop band Klark Kent. They produced this single in 1978, "Don't Care" and followed that up with an eight track EP in 1980. Don't expect to ever hear The Police breakout any of these songs in concert, as they weren't written by, nor do they further the adolation and career of, Sting. You know if it isn't about him it isn't worth wasting time on.

Klark Kent -- Don't Care

December 2, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Smiths

Still on the road so this is short and sweet. Oh so sweet. One of my favorite instrumentals and what finally turned me on to The Smiths, years after they broke up. They were more mod friendly than I had ever realized.

The Smiths -- Oscillate Wildly

December 1, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Sorrentinos

When I first listened to this CD it was so achingly familiar that I couldn't say exactly what band it reminded me of. I have to admit that this is my first taste of The Sorentinos, who have been around for a number of years making "Americana" music, which may be part of why I've never run across them before now. That's usually a sign that a band is a little more honky tonk than what I am looking for. My loss. Their latest album, number ten, "If Not Now When" is exactly that, an album of American influenced rock. It has more than that to offer though, including hints of sixties pop, garage rock and folk. And over all there's a nicely honed indie vibe, not surprising for a band that's been making music for nearly two decades (check out the documentary about them on Youtube). "Troublebound" could be a Mike Ness or John Doe penned piece of country punk, without the punk, but with all the melancholy and cynicism you might expect. Both "Fifty Year Old Punk" and "Change Isn't Always Good" are garage rockers that, for all their polish and softened edges, would do most aging power poppers and punk rockers proud. There's also a great instrumental, "Santo on the Beach", a twangy, slow, surf piece with exotic overtones, that is a great way to finish off a long day. Next to a bottle of scotch. The song here is probably the most power pop like of the lot, "Summertime", with a sort of Smithereens on dude ranch feel to it. The Sorentinos may not be my normal cup of ... whiskey ... but a change is good every now and then.

The Sorentinos -- Summertime

November 30, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Modest Proposal

Modest Proposal's Neal Augentstein reports that the band's reunion show last week was packed out and a big success (though maybe not financially).
The sold-out crowd packed the small performance area even before openers, The Reply, took the stage. Many in the audience had seen the bands in the 1980s. Through the years many had fallen out of touch, but retained the commonality of being in D.C.'s mod music scene more than two decades ago.
His reports the past couple of months around the band's reunion have been fun to read and hopefully will inspire some other "old timers" to get back together as well.

Here's pretty cool video from the show. This is HD size and doesn't fit all that well in the blog, but you can watch it all on Youtube.

Modest Proposal -- Nobody Says No

November 29, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Swinging Cats

Busy travel day today for me and about a bazillion other Americans. I'm hoping to have time tonight to final Modcast #148 and get it posted. In the meantime just a quick video to keep you satisfied. This is from 2-Tone labelers, The Swinging Cats. Over at the excellent blog Marco On The Bass you can read about the band's newly announced reunion plans.

The Swinging Cats -- Never on Sunday

November 28, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Saints

One of the great original punk bands, The Saints were Australia's answer to The Ramones and The Damned. Over the past four decades they've continually turned out great punk styled garage rock, and have finally evolved into a down and dirty rock and roll band with a heavy 60s blues sound.

The Saints -- Stranded

November 27, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Low Miffs and Malcolm Ross

Sparks? No. Talking Heads? No. Queen? No. Bowie? Killers? Martha & the Muffins? Franz Ferdinand? Television? No. No. No. No. No. The Low Miffs and Malcolm Ross? Of course! Aztec Camera, well only a bit. That bit being the addition of Malcolm Ross, formerly of the Aztecs (as well as Orange Juice, a band I'd desperately like to forget but keep running into) to The Low Miffs for a brand new release. The Low Miffs are a Glasgow band in the same vein as Franz Ferdinand (who happen to be some of the Miffs' biggest fans), pop tunesters with a keen ear for unique hooks to blend with familiar sounds and styles. All of that gives you a band that sounds fresh and new, while at the same time sounding for all the world like Sparks, as they do on "Cressida" or bringing to mind Queen like on "Dear Josephine". Meanwhile, this new video showcases the big, bold voice of Leo Condie, all the while echoing The Killers in sound and style.

The Low Miffs and Malcolm Ross -- Cressida

November 26, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Madd

The Madd are a garage rock, power pop band from Rotterdam. Their debut release Beat Incurable in 2007 was a tour de force of garage rock, a straight forward sixties beat album. The group attacked those songs with a raw intensity and unbridled energy. Their latest release, Are Pretty Quick, has the same levely of energy, but there's a polish and maturity that the first album lacked. Interestingly they also have collaborated with hip-hop rapper Dio, producing a unique blend of rap and beat music.

The Madd -- You, Can Be My Baby

The Madd -- Going All The Way

Dio feat. The Madd -- Baby

November 25, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Irene

Every once in a while, more often if your lucky, you stumble across a band that just does it for you. You know what I mean, every song they sing, every hook, every jingle, every jangle, every single vocal drop, just works. You like it. That's how it is for me with Irene. Here's a nice pop band, dare I say it, a twee sounding pop band, with a crooner for a singer. No, really. The band pumps out this perfectly beautiful pop music, and there's this bold, loungified vocal over the top of it all. It's gorgeous in both it's surprise and likability.

Irene is a Swedish pop band, with loads of sixties influences, a clear love of soul and power pop both. And over the top of it all is this sort of lounge thing, thanks to big, bold, deep and booming voice of "Bobby" on vocals. The music isn't lounge music at all, but the voice is one that cold martinis and manhattans are served behind all the time (at least in the cool cocktail universe where stuff like that really happens). The music is an ifectious concoction of northern soul horns, power pop guitars, and a firm grasp of what make a good pop song. The band has released a slew of singles, a record's release to be sure, with even a Christmas holiday offering in the mix. From 2005 through 2008 they have turned out some really great recordings, the standouts being "Stardust", one of their earliest, it's short and sweet, and has a great soul vibe under the pop guitars. Also good is their cult "hit" "Baby, I Love Your Way" which could have dropped off any Style Council album in their early days. It's a straight forward bit of pop with soulful horns and catchy hooks and melodies.

It seems that the band members have gone their separate ways with different projects for the time being. But one can hope they all decide to collaborate for one or more new songs.

Irene -- Baby, I Love Your Way

Irene -- Stardust

Irene -- By Your Side

November 24, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Fleshtones

They've been dubbed America's garage band. They were one of the original bands that made CBGB's cool in the 70s. They're the subject of their own documentary, and a great biography called "Sweat". They took their own first single from 1979 and turned it into the theme music to Tom Hank's Bachelor Party in 1984. Amazingly, they've never charted higher than 174 on the Billboard charts, and yet are a favorite band of artists both mainstream and indie. They're The Fleshtones. here they are some 30+ years into their existence and they just produced their 19th full length release. Part of the New York punk/new wave scene of the 70s, their sound has always been less punk, more pop, with a sort of frat rock vibe, which seems to have suited garage rock fans just fine. It's a great mix of 50s rock, 60s R&B, and 70s power pop, which the band has the uncanny ability to make sound fresh and new. Here is "Soul Struttin" from their 1982 release Blast Off, and "Late September Moon" off of what might be the band's best release ever, 2005's Beachhead.

The Fleshtones -- Soul Struttin'

The Fleshtones -- Late September Moon

Pardon Us for Living, But the Graveyard is Full [Trailer]

November 23, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Powder

You can be forgiven if you think Powder was a part of the British invasion, as there's no doubt they wished they'd been. Instead, they were a four-piece band from San Mateo, California that managed to pound out a freakbeat sound echoing The Who and The Creation. The band covered a lot of Who tracks, and their originals were definitely mod. The sound was pure sixties power pop with some folk and country overtones spread through some of the tracks, similar to some of the things Mike Nesmith and The Monkees were doing at the same time. Here is their take on one of the most covered of Who songs, "So Sad About Us" which Powder does justice, and the best of their own tracks, "Gladly".

Powder(The Art Collection) -- So Sad About Us

Powder -- Gladly

November 22, 2009

From the Vaults Modcast #48: Back to the Mod

Once more into the vault my friends, once more into the vault. Step back in time, to a time when the modcast was young and fresh. Take a giant step outside your current listening constraints and journey with me all the way back to the spring of 2007. I've opened up the vaults and dusted off a classic modcast that I think you'll enjoy. Again.

Welcome to Mr. Suave's Mod Mod World. I've got a nice mix of power pop. garage rock and brit pop. And, I've got one of my favorite garage bands, The Funseekers. In 1989 they came out and played the American Mayday 89 show I sponsored in LA and I while they slept on my kitchen floor I got a chance to know the guys and have to say they were probably the most authentic bunch of garage rockers I've ever met.
  • The Jags -- Evening Standards
  • Gore Gore Girls -- Hard Enough
  • The Movements -- Cry For You
  • Groovie Ghoulies -- Criswell Predicts
  • Dodgy -- Waiting for the Day
  • The Rewinds -- Ghostriders
  • Elastica -- Annie
  • The Penthouse 5 -- Today is Just Tomorrow's Yesterday
  • The Sorrows -- So You've Got What I want
  • The Move -- So You Wanna Be a Rock-N-Roll Star
  • The Funseekers -- Welcome to My Love

Bonus Video
The Groovie Ghoulies -- Island of Pogo Pogo

November 21, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Anydays

British band The Anydays are a guitar driven power pop band with a heavy sixties mod influence. The band has quite a range moving easily from the sixties flavored "Backyard", to the garage power pop sound of "Here She Comes" to an almost bubblegum pop sound of "Monday Morning" complete with la-la-las. Not as aggressive as The Len Price 3 with whom they share a certain affinity, they still bring an intensity to some well written, tightly played songs.

The Anydays -- On My Way

The Anydays -- Rollercoaster

The Anydays -- I Feel Free

November 20, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Naomi Star

Power pop bands that smartly blend sixties pop with indie rock and infuse it with folk rock don't come along too often. The Naomi Star do (maybe did?)exactly that, and they do it exceedingly well. The band has lots of influences from The Monkees and The Beatles to Badfinger to The Posies. Seeing that list you might think you know what to expect, but you'll get more than you bargained for. They take those influences and mix them together in an intoxicating blend of kinder, gentler power pop, maybe more akin to the seventies than any other era. The first of their releases I became familiar with was Sunshine Girl, with its fabulous power pop title track that has the seventies bubblegum and rock mixture that Sweet made famous, sans the glam. Their latest release Through The Eyes, is a smooth record styled after late sixties, early seventies pop groups like The Bee Gees, and Badfinger and popsters like Dwight Twilley and Marshall Crenshaw. Surprises abound as the songs flow effortlessly from one to another, even when you go from the seventiesesque S"he Told Me" to the more modern indie rock of "Moneyman" and "Powerpop Nugget". And then another slick shift sideways to the Mike Nesmith-like "Anjoulie". From what I've read online it looks like perhaps they've gone on hiatus or broken up, if anyone knows for sure let me know.

The Naomi Star -- She Told Me

The Naomi Star -- Powerpop Nugget

November 19, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Parties

The best $.95 I ever spent got me the new EP from San Francisco mod combo The Parties. The EP, Cryin Shame, wasn't supposed to be out until next week, but you can get it right now at Amie Street. This new release picks up right where their 2008 record Can't Come Down left off. The title track is a great bit of sixties sounding pop music blending jangling, at times twanging, guitar hooks with bluesy harmonica and some great vocal harmonies. While all five tracks are great, I was particularly entranced by "Kensington Avenue" which with it's psychadelic overtones sets it a bit apart from the soft sixties feel of the rest of the EP. Overall it's a tightly produced release with nice, tight musicianship. The whole thing gave me a nice warm, beach like feeling, which is nice when you're listening to it in Seattle at the bus stop during a typical November downpour.

The Parties -- Kensington Avenue

November 18, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Quantic

If you like jazz and soul, then you will definitely dig DJ Will Holland's work as Quantic. In the past decade he has produced a fistfull albums that blend jazz, soul, and modern latin, hip-hop and electronic sounds into some very beautiful music. Besides recording his own original music -- on which he plays guitar, bass, drum, or sometimes all three -- he has also recorded a number of releases of deep funk and soul with the Quantic Soul Orchestra. His sound is most obviously soul and jazz, but clearly owes a debt to trip-hoppers like Portishead, acid-jazzsters like Corduroy, and latin-soul maestros Pizzicato Five (no, really). Giving them a nod is fine, but Quantic's music whether solo or in groups is clearly his own. He mixes old and new together in a beguiling, and at times eclectic, way. His 2004 release, Mishaps Happening, is probably his best solo release with some nice light bossa flavored songs like the title track, but also some serious acid jazz like the album closer "So Long". In his role as leader of the Quantic Soul Orchestra his collaborations with soul singers Alice Russel and Spanky Wilson have produced some of the finest deep funk/nu-soul around -- such as "When You're Through" and "Feeling Good". Of late he's removed himself to Colombia where he's put together a latin jazz group Quantic and his Combo Barbaro, producing a marimba based batch of soul jazz songs. If Quantic is heading up the project, from funk to jazz to marimba, you can be sure it's going to be good.

Quantic feat. Alice Russell -- So Long

Quantic Soul Orchestra - End of The Road (Live)

November 17, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Ella Fitzgerald

The First Lady of Song, that's Ella Fitzgerald. She is the greatest female jazz singer and carried a voice that could hardly be rivaled. It was like a sunbeam bursting through a cloudbank, it came shooting at you only to bathe you in the sweetest, silkiest sounds. If you're not greatly familiar with Ella the best thing to do is familiarize yourself with her early work with Dizzy Gillespie. While she started out at places like the Savoy Ballroom doing big band swing and jazz, it was the bebop sound of the mid to late 40s that fit her freewheeling style. Her work with Gillespie kicked off her scat singing, where she "tried to do [with my voice] what I heard the horns in the band doing." And it was amazing. From the 1940s on Fitzgerald established herself as one of the greats, if not the greatest, scat singer in jazz alongside of Scatman Crothers and Mel Torme. Over the years she knew how to tap into the current music scene zeitgeist and was able to do some great cross-over work during the sixties -- as she did with her 1968 cover of Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love". In the seventies she returned to a more pure jazz sound that solidified her as the genre's leading lady. "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" was recorded with the Tommy Flanagan Trio in 1974 in Paris. The song's sound amazingly winds it way right through her own life history from belting boldness, to spunk scatting, to that deap and throaty greatness that epitomized her later years. It's an amazing retrospective of her signature sounds, complete with zound-zound-zounds and bah-bah-bawawadoozooya-yeahs at the end.

Ella Fitzgerald -- Sunshine of Your Love

Ella Fitzgerald -- I Can't Give You Anything But Love

Ella Fitzgerald -- One Note Samba