February 28, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Dexy's Midnight Runners

Dexy's Midnight Runners might be remebered for "Come on Eileen", but they were known before that as a northern soul staple. In fact, they were named for the scenes most favorite pick me up. Dexy's were always much more of a northern soul scene artifact than a mod scene staple. They were soul brothers more than they were mods. But many of the mods loved them, and more so as time went along.

Their first full album The Young Soul Rebels has a number of really good tracks on it, including their first big hit Geno. But, it also includes this oft overlooked number that is as good or better than anything else they ever did. "Tell Me When My Light Turns Green" features the distinctive warbling of Kevin Rowland, but it also has some great horn playing, and an overall soulfulness that makes it a really great dance song, as well as a song that is easy to listen to.

Dexy's Midnight Runners -- Tell Me When My Light Turns Green

February 27, 2009

Mod-A-Day: GeTSet

Ready. GeTSet. Go. I just stumbled across this New York mod band on Myspace recently and really loved this track, "If I Were You." It looks like they've got an EP out, but for the life of me I couldn't really find any info about them. Who cares, the music speaks for itself.

GeTSet -- If I Were You

February 26, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Trio Valore

This is a fairly new group, Trio Valore, who just started playing together and recording last year. But the combined experience of the members has got to be many, many decades. The mod, funk supergroup boasts Steve White (The Style Council) on drums, so you know that drums are going to be key. And it's got the hammond grooving of journey man organ player Seamus Beaghen so you know that there will be some serious gettin' down. And finally, on bass is Ocean Colour Scene's Damon Minchella, laying down some phat beats. The group blends jazz and soul into a really pitch perfect combination. This track was their first single last year and is a really heavy cover of Amy Winehouse's Rehab.

Trio Valore -- Rehab

February 25, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Shy Guys

[Note: player below has been fixed and is now playing the right song! Sorry for the confusion.]

This track by The Shy Guys (the garage rockers not the sixties doowop group) was my favorit on the very first sixties garage compilation I ever bought.  I picked it up in 1983 at what was then the Inland Empire's only independent record store, Rhino Records in Claremont.  I remember being amazed at the title Florida Punk Groups From The Sixties, and totally thrilled by the idea that even in the sixties there had been punk rock.  It's a great comp and I have to give a nod to the blog PARADISE OF GARAGE COMPS! where it popped up last week and reminded me of what a great album it is.

Couldn't really tell you much about the band, but the song "Black Lightning Light" is a fuzz busting, guitar crunching, psychadelic romp.

the Shy Guys -- Black Lightning Light

February 24, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Sam & Dave

Every mod knows that nothing beats good soul music. When Sam & Dave signed with Altantic Record's Stax label in 1966 it marked the end of their hitless obscurity and delivered an explosion of raw, powerful, gospel tinged, blues laden, good soul music. Singing songs written by Isaac Hayes, the duo had a string of hits, and dozens of other great soul songs. Growing animosity between the two, drug problems, and a break with Stax basically did them in by the end of the decade. They reunited on and off over the next couple of decades, and for a while in the 80s some fans were duped by Dave's touring with a completely different Sam.

But for a few shining years there was beautiful soul music. Of course there were the dancing hits, "I Thank You," "You Don't' Know Like I Know," "Soul Man," and "Hold On, I'm Coming." But there were also gospel ballads like "Just Me," and blues styled soul like "If You Got The Loving" and "You Got It Made." My favorite has always been "It's a Wonder" from their first Stax release, 1966's Hold On, I'm Coming.

Sam & Dave -- It's A Wonder

February 23, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Undertones

Everybody loved the Undertones. They straddled the line between mod and punk throughout the late 70s and early 80s better than just about any other group besides The Jam. When lead singer Feargal Sharkey launched his solo career in 1983 the band broke up. John and Damian O'Neill went on to form That Petrol Emotion and it looked as if the days of the Undertones were done and gone. Unlike so many other groups that slowly spin down into irrelavance the Undertones went out, if not on the top of the charts, at least still at the top of their game. The last EP issued in 1982 barely dented the charts even though it boasted a sixties psychadelic number that was quite good, The Love Parade.

The band reunited in 1999 with a new lead singer who sounds amazingly similar to Sharkey, and they've produce three new albums. The last one in 2007 -- Dig Yourself Deep which showcases the band's range with some garage rock numbers, some more contemporary indie pop numbers, and some straight ahead good ol' '77 punk rock like the title track.

The Undertones -- Dig Yourself Deep

February 22, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Mad Parade

Mad Parade were one of my favorite So Cal bands in the 80s. Their shows were a kick, the lead singer Billy was tough, arrogant and swaggered around the stage with a sneer to rival Billy Idol. Although a punk band, their sound owed as much to The Who and The Jam as it did to the Pistols or The Damned. It was adrenaline igniting, pulse pounding, power pop in the spirit of 1977 punk rock. 

Their first, self-titled LP in 1983 is a classic piece of punk rock. The band's sound was sharp, but raw. Their second LP "A Thousand Words" dropped in about 1985/86, and had better production values which sort of took the edge off the band's sound. But, the songs were sharper, even better written, and showed Mad Parade's real potential. I was always surprised that they didn't break out and establish themselves as one of the top tier punk/alternative groups of the late 80s. This track is my favorite off of that second LP, "Calling Out." Billy is apparently not in the band anymore, and while they continue to record and tour, the lack of his vocals has sort of put me off the new stuff. Not that it's bad, it's just not classic.

Mad Parade -- Calling Out

Here's a classic look at Mad Parade from 1985, doing one of their signature songs from their first record.
Mad Parade -- Hollywood Vampires

February 21, 2009

Modcast #120: It's Lonely At The Top

Welcome to mod headquarters - Mr. Suave's Mod Mod World, and welcome to a new track or two -- at least new to us on this side of the pond. Such as Q, with "Through Your Eyes", from their new release on Time For Action records. Also, brand new tracks from The Rakes and Franz Ferdinand, as well as a few golden oldies that are sure to make gettin through the day just a bit better.Alright you want to bitch at me? You can do so right here by posting a comment. Or you can shoot me some mail at rob@mistersuave.com, or you can look for Rob Suave on Facebook, or Mr. Suave on Myspace. Just pick your poison.

I've had a few guest DJs in the past who've done some great shows. So, if you're interested in putting together a modcast of your own just let me know. I'm sure we can work something out.

Bonus Videos

Electric Shadows -- Secret Affair

The On Offs -- This Town


February 20, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Hammerbox

In every good mod collection there are decidely non-mod additions. Hammerbox is one of those in my collection. Hammerbox is without a doubt the least mod band I'll ever feature on this site. And, they're also one of the bands that evokes the most mod sort of sensibilities, and embraces the core mod influences in a way that many so-called mod bands never do. So, hmmm. How to explain Hammerbox? You can't really explain them. The best you can do is tell people about them and know that those who didn't see them will never understand.

Maybe it's because I was in Seattle in the heyday of the great grunge debacle when anybody who could vomit outside a club was offered a record contract, or because I just like good music. Either way, I have a thing for Seattle's most underrated, least appreciated, and never acclaimed band. Hammerbox.

While one after another we watched Mudhoney, Mother Love Bone, Soundgarden, Nirvana, 7 Year Bitch, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Temple of the Dog and too many more to be mentioned move onto the national stage, everyone wondered what the hell happened to Hammerbox. In 1990 if you owned your own instrument you could get a record contract as a grunge act. Unless you were Hammerbox. They were always the next big thing to come from the Jet City. And the next. And the next. And so on.

They were the Doors of the Seattle scene, they were Seattle's version of X, they were the underground, bluesy, poets of the local scene. They incorporated all the elements that made the Seattle sound popular in the early 90s -- edgy punk, heavy metal-bluesy garage rock, and strangely, a pop sensibility that made this grating, aggressive music relevant to FM listeners from Aberdeen to Galveston to Hackensack. Fronted by the stunning vocals of Carrie Akre, the band seemed destined to hit it big. But they never did. Maybe there were at times too bluesy, or simply not grungy enough. Who knows. For whatever reason the big boys never came calling, and the national stage never got set.

Never the less they had something that attracted even then aging mods like myself to their shows. They had it, whatever it is. It's like obscenity, I know it when it see it. And though everyone else in the world missed it, us Seattlites had it good for a few years when the band headlined all the worst bars in town like the OK Hotel playing originals such as "When 3 is 2," "Bred," "Numb," "Size of the World" and the very jazzy and bluesy song here "Under the Moon". They only did two covers that I know of, and killed with both of them: Cheap Trick's "Surrender" and "Van Halen's" Ain't Talkin' About Love. Both of which caused explosions in the audience when belted forth.

Hammerbox -- Under The Moon

Hammerbox -- Size of the World

February 19, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Monochrome Set

The Monochrome Set early on could have been considered Adam's original Ants, since the band started out with Stuart Goddard (Adam his grandself)in tow, and were at that point in 1977 calling themselves by the less than formiddable name of The B-Sides. Goddard went on to ... well whatever it was he got on to, and the rest of the band went on to morph into one of the great post-punk bands of the day. The Monochrome Set.

This track, "The Jet Set Junta", was a 1982 single on Cherry Red Records. The song never made a big impact ("He's Frank", was a much bigger hit for the band), but was undoubtably one of the Set's best releases. From the first Ennio Morricone notes and melancholy whistling you know this song is going to have attitude, and it does. At least as far as Monochrone Set was willing to push it. The band always seemed to make understatement a sort of hallmark, and this song is no exception. It's a great song, the writing is clever, and the arrangement is both anthemic and still unique, but even so it never seemed to really catch on with the masses. But, there was a great, almost two dimensional video made that because of its lack of color and depth made it stand out against the backdrop of videos of the day that featured all too many gimmicks. The deadpan delivery of lead singer Bid and the fact that only solos got any sort of action attention made the video extremely minimalism, but in a way that so suited the song that you hardly notice nothing else is happening.

Monochrome Set -- Jet Set Junta

February 18, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Nirvana Devils

Don't you think of me no more/I'm going to some foreign shore

This is a fantastic blend of power pop, garage rock, and pop vocals. The jangling guitars peg it as mid-80s right off the bat, and the song has a sixties sensibility that also plants it firmly in the garage revival of the era. You'd think it was produced as part of the Paisley Underground in the US right? Wrong underground. Nirvana Devils were part of the Berlin Underground in the 80s -- West Berlin -- which spawned lots of garage punk bands. I picked up the Devil's second release in 1985, a 7" single on Exile Records that featured this track "Some Foregin Shore" (which later sadly warped into a piece of art in the back window of my Chevy Impala sometime around 1990). At the same time I also picked up the Exile release of a 4 song EP by The Legendary Golden Vampires who had several other singles released in the mid-to-late 80s. By all accounts the bands either shared some personnel or might in fact have been completely one and the same. Either way this is a great piece of sixties styled garage rock. (If anyone knows anything more about either of these bands I'd love to hear from you.)

Nirvana Devils -- Some Foreign Shore (Exile Records 1985)

February 17, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Graduate

In 1980 pretty much everyone was either a mod, or into a ska, or a mod who was really into ska. So it should come as no surprise that Tears For Fears founders Roland Oszabal and Curt Smith were no different. The difference wasn't a big one. (Although, apparently in those days record deals were handed out with scarcely a thought to what would actually be produced -- not unlike Seattle's big grunge scare of '89 when if you could fog a mirror and wore flannel you were presumed to be fronting the next big grunge thing.)

So, in 1980 (years before Tears For Fears was even a gleam in their producer's eyes) Graduate released their biggest single, "Elvis Should Play Ska" -- a debatable thesis to begin with. But a not totally worthless bit of new wave bandwagoning, power pop coattailing, music with a bit of ska overtones. Just a bit.

Graduate Elvis Should Play Ska

February 16, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Mooney Suzuki

Loud. Bluesy. Rawkin. That could describe any number of bands from The Doors, to Zeppelin to even Jet and Lenny Kravitz. But, add in huge, overwhelming doses of garage punk, a sixties sense of how to balance soul with screaming, and you get something totally different. Mooney Suzuki.

If you like drums pounding, guitars crunching, and a vocal driven band that knows both how to mix it up, and how to play by the rules, then you will love Mooney Suzuki. Mooney Suzuki? Where the hell do you get a name like that? Apparently like this.
"Their name is taken from the first two singers of the 1970s German Krautrock band Can: Malcolm Mooney and Damo Suzuki."
(As much as I detest Wikipedia [a public written info source? really? you're kidding right?] I have to say that on this occassion they delivered a couple of tidbits that were otherwise unavailable. Of course this means they could be total bullshit like a lot of wikipedia, or they could be undiscovered gems of info. I'll let you decide how I categorized these nuggets. Now, back to our post.)

Mooney Suzuki have produced a fisftul of serious releases including a fistful of singles and EPs and four full-length releases that back in the day would have been called LPs or long players. They're earlier sound was rawer, more closely associated to a sixties power pop type of sound. Later releases were bother bluesiers and more elaborately produced. So comparisons to the British Invasion ala Kinks and Stones, and to early metal ala Sweet and Led Zeppelin are all appropriate and completely justified. Through it all, the band keeps a steady focus on sixties based R&B, and on a more modern sort of crunchy rock and roll blues not unlike Jet, though much harder. For me the earlier stuff is the best stuff, but the later stuff is addictive with it's aggrssive approach and unashamed grasping for something a little more mainstream. Too bad the mainstream never grasped back, had they done so we'd be enjoying a modern day Rolling Stones.

The track here, "Yeah You Can" is from their 2000 release People Get Ready. It's a great piece of garage rock with just enough injection of sixties psychadelia to give it the perfect garage rock edge.  Later tracks lost some of the raw energy, but kept a great focus on blues and pure rock-n-roll. 

Mooney Suzuke -- Yeah, You Can

February 15, 2009

Modcast #119: Direct From Mr. Suave's Swingin' Cocktail Lounge

This week on the modcast you can get lost with some swingin' suave songs of yesteryear, as well as some smooth, cocktail tracks right out of the the now sound of the lounge music revival.  Welcome to Mr. Suave's Swingin' Cocktail Lounge. Step up to the bar, place your order and prepare to be charmed by some of the swinginest singers to ever accompany a martini.

Bonus Videos

Bobby Troup -- (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66

Frank Sinatra -- Fly Me to the Moon

Nicola Conte talks about Rituals his 2008 release(takes a while to get going)

Like that? Then check out this clip.

Chet Baker - Time after Time


February 14, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Plimsouls

Soul-punk is the appropriate and oft used term to describe 80s power pop wonders The Plimsouls. Fronted by singer songwriter Peter Case, the band was formed on the heels of the breakup of his first, and legendary, power pop trio The Nerves (famous for Case, and Paul Collins, and the original recording of "Hanging on the Telephone").

The Plimsouls hit the LA scene in 1978 when power pop was starting to explode into the club scene. Their niche was a sixties and soul infused style of power pop that helped them to stand out in the crowd. The band released a single in 1980 -- "Now" backed with "Dizzy Mizz Lizzy", but didn't hit it big until KROQ's Rodney Bingenheimer started spinning their single "Million Miles Away" on his weekly show. The song became a big regional hit and was all over So Cal radio stations throughout the early 80s. It landed in the Nicholas Cage's cult classic teen romp Valleygirl (She's cool, he's hot, she's from the valley, he's not) and along with a notoriously frenetic live show reported to be one of LA's best, cemented the bands alternative street cred.

This track "Lie, Beg, Borrow, and Steal" appeared on their 1983 major label release Everywhere At Once, and features the band at their most garagish. It's a sixties R&B stomper that would have been right at home on a Standells LP circa 1967. The Plimsouls reunited in the mid-90s with Blondie drummer Clem Burke bangin' the sticks, and recorded a rather forgettable album, Kool Trash. They still play on occassion and the live shows are reportedly as good now as they ever were.

The Plimsouls -- Lie, Beg, Borrow and Steal

February 13, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Madness (now)

More than any other band of the two tone era Madness have managed to hold their fanbase together -- and even grow it in some ways. Over the years from their biggest hits, from the time of their most popularity, the band has managed to hang on to their ccre fans and once again build upon that.

It doesn't hurt to be a sort of British hometown fave, a group that Brits just seem to love. And boy do they ever. These days Madness is as popular or more so than they were thirty years ago at the birth of the whole two tone movement. And that is saying something when you realize that from 1980-1986 Madness "spent 214 weeks on the UK singles charts" holding the record with UB40 of all groups. According to Wikiepdia, which means it has to be true, "the record for most weeks spent by a group in the 1980s UK singles charts."

But this is about how great Madness are now. During the first part of the century they performed and recorded under the name "Dangermen" -- treating audiences to ska an reggae hits of past and present, as well as covers of pop songs done in a rock steady, ska sort of vibe. And it wasn't just recording, they found their live sets more and more popular. So much so that every year in the UK now there is something called Madstock. That's right, they got their own ridiculously outrageous musical festival. And they record new stuff now and again -- now being now, but again being their 2005 CD. So it was new covers on the 2005 release they did. That's okay, when they're good covers! In addition, this spring their slated for an all new release of original material. So far, so good.

One of the recent singles was "Sorry." So "Sorry," indeed. "Sorry" is reportedly one of the first songs from the forthcoming album (coming in March, the single forthcame last year!) The song doesn't know whether it wants to be a cool ska song, or some sort of aging skanksters attempt at hip hop. While it isn't a bad song, it's hard to see it inspire a new generation of ska fans. But the last release by the band, The Dangerman Sessions, was definitely inspirational, and one of those that aging bands should do more of. They don't necessarily have anything new or relevant to say, but you just have to love how they sound when they say something we've heard before. So, why not a really cool covers album. And there you have it. One of the best covers albums of all time (and there have been some good ones by The Ramones, The Dickies and The Postmarks), The Dangerman Sessions. It includes a number of interesting and unique covers like "Lola," "John Jones," "Taller Than You Are," and "Isrealites." But none fit Madness more than one very quirky song with a clever twist.
This song here was one of the faves from that release, a Calypso favorite for years and years before that. And then Peter Tosh made it a reggae favorite as well. "Shame and Scandal" is the perfect sort of song for Madness to cover. It has family quirks, societal taboos, a clever hook, a memorable melody, and is just catchy enough for everyone to remember. All that adds up to Madness.

Madness Shame and Scandal

February 12, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Madness (then)

Madness was one of the earliest of the two-tone bands of the ska revival in the late 70s, having been formed in 1976 by Mike Barson, Chris Foreman and Lee Thompson and going under the name The Invaders. By 1978 the band was seven members strong and called Madness. They were growing in popularity both with the mods and the skinheads as their music was much more than just ska, incorporating a lot of sixties soul, reggae, and power pop (and even some lounge and jazz) elements. Because of that the mods were especially enamored with Madness more so than other ska bands of the era.

Their first single, released by the new Two Tone label, "Prince Buster" was a runaway success breaking into the British top 20. Likewise their sophmore single, the ska instrumental "One Step Beyond" rose to #7, and their third "My Girl" topped that by going to #3. The trend became commonplace after that with the band's first 13 singles hanging around the tops of the charts. Madness were enormously popular in England right through the mid-80s, with maybe only The Jam being more loved by Brits.

Always the core of the group, Mike Barson's songwriting and keyboards gave the band an edge, as well as a different sound that set them apart from the rest of the two-tone movers and shakers like The Specials and English Beat. Barson left the band in '83, and while Madness still did well throughout the rest of the decade, the highest of heights were being left behind.

Here's a great sample of their quirkiness, cleverness, and overall musical genius. "In The Middle of the Night" dabbles with crime and fetish, something many of their songs touched upon though they also sang about politics and culture a fair amount. The keyboards, the trumpets, the guitar, it all just works so well. And the nuttiness of it all makes a song about an underwear theif more charming than creepy.

Madness-- In the Middle of the Night

February 11, 2009

Modcast #118: Go for Mod Groovy

Now's your chance to swing with Mr. Suave. Set up the cocktail shakers and make sure you've enough ice to cool things down when the going gets hot. Tune in the modcast, then take off on a wild ride through some super cool, exotic and effervescent sounds of the cocktail kind. Slice it how you will, no matter how groovy the core is the sweet sound of soul music. That's right, these are super soul songs, made to get your feet moving and your backside shaking along with your martini. From Mel Henke to Burt Bacharach, from Combustible Edison to 101 Strings, it's all here for you to love. What to do now? Go. Go. Go baby go. Go for mod groovy.
  • Burt Bacharach -- Bond Street
  • James Clarke -- Blow Up A Go-Go
  • Mike Vickers -- On The Brink
  • Esquivel -- Que Vas A Hacer (Question Mark)
  • Fantastic Plastic Machine -- Bachelor Pad
  • Roberto Pregadio -- Iena Sequence
  • Ursula 1000 -- Kinda Kinky
  • Mel Henke -- The Lively Ones
  • 101 Strings -- A Bad Trip Back to' 69
  • James Taylor Quartet -- Beat club
  • Combustible Edison -- The Checkered Flag
  • Stan Getz -- What The World Needs Now Is Love
Bonus Videos
Ursula 1000 - Kinda Kinky

The Cocktail Nation

February 10, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Free Design

From the where are they now file, or maybe the how couldn't they have made it file, it's The Free Design. More Cowsills than the Cowsills, more harmonizing than the Beach Boys, and just ever so much and more so than The Hi-Los or the Lemon Pipers, and yet, The Free Design went hitless and largely unheralded throughout their seven year existence. Never mind that they released an album every year.

The brother/sister combo oozed talent. The vocal harmonies were spot on and the arrangements near perfect. The group's blending of jazz with sunshine pop had them riding the edges of two very popular musical genres of the day, but without ever getting the proper accolades they deserved for each. They had a musical complexity that somehow was lost under the sugary surfaces of their pop vocal stylings. Their originals were more folksy then the covers they did, most of which had layers and layers of jazz stylings. Take for instance their cover of Summertime, with the overall jazz arrangement, the jazz riffing trumpets, and a dusky, jazz tinged female singer that wouldn't be out of place on a Portishead album, and a Georgie Fame-like male vocal as well. Really a thing of beauty when you hear it.

It wasn't until the rebirth of easy listening within the cocktail music revival of the 90s that The Free Design began to be noticed. A number of bands and artists were either clearly influenced -- such as Stereolab, Pizzicato Five, and Pink Martini -- or claimed The Free Design as an influence -- such as Moby, Portishead, or even Dressy Bessy -- and the band's hipster cachet went through the roof. As did the prices of their used vinyl.

"Kites Are Fun" the band's only "hit" song wasn't much of a hit at all, not even breaking into the pop charts top 100. Even with production help from the likes of Enoch Light, and distribution on his elite Project 3 label they just never managed to garner much of a following. Interestingly, this wasn't lost on the band at all and in 1969 for their Heaven/Earth album they actually wrote a song about their growing desperation for a chart hit "2002 - A Hit Song."
Promotion will cause a big commotion
So, deejay, teenie bopper answer me this:
How can this hit miss?
We’ve done it all right and sealed it with a kiss.
There’s just one fact that we can’t quite shirk:
We did all this last time, and it did not work!

But! this time we’re sure to have a hit, hit, hit.
Sure to be a hit.
Alas, so much for the power of positive thinking.

The Free Design-- 2002 - A Hit Song

February 9, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Fishbone

For four years, from about 1985 to 1989, Fishbone were a mainstay on the So Cal mod scene, which at the time was increasingly obssessed with ska. No Doubt got their start at the time, and other young ska bands like Let's Go Bowling, Sublime, the Skeletones and others were challenging The Untouchables reign over California as the ska kings of the era. Only Fishbone was able to really make a go of it at the time.

Whenever they took the stage raw agression was unleashed and it wasn't uncommon for fights to break out during one of their many shows at Fenders, The Golden Bear, The Country Club or whichever venue happened to be the unlucky locale of a Fishbone onslaught. The music was raw, and sprang forth from as unruly a group of musicians as had ever been in the mod scene. It had a solid ska and rock steady foundation, but more and more funk and soul were seeping into the show -- much to the audiences delight.

This particular track, "Ugly", first appeared on their 1985 self-titled debut EP along with other faves of mod scenesters at the time, "Party at Ground Zero" and "Lyin' Ass Bitch". "Ugly" seems to be about Ronald Reagan, and indeed I seem to remember Fishbone's lunatic leader Angela Moore donning a Reagan mask at a gig in the late 80s while frantically skanking around the stage. Ah, the good ol' days. Sadly, in the 90s Fishbone melted into a mediocre party band who's schtick of heavy metal mixed wtih funk was never as interesting as their early ska beginnings.

Fishbone -- Ugly

February 8, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Soup Dragons

Before Franz Ferdinand, before the Fratellis, even before Belle & Sebastian, there was born in Scotland another band, the Soup Dragons. The Soup Dragons started life as a mod-like, pop-punk band associated with the C86 sound of the mid-80s. They played short, sharp power pop songs. And they compiled some of those early recordings into their best album, Hang Ten. Sure they went on to produce other albums, and have bigger, ahem, hits, but Hang Ten and the twelve songs on it are their finest. Of those, the title track is probably the best. So here it is.

The Soup Dragons -- Hang Ten

February 7, 2009

Mod-A-Day:PP Arnold

You are forgiven if you think this song was written or arranged by Burt Bacharach. I'm a huge Bacharach fan, so it's no surprise that this song would leap out of the speakers, grab me by the ears and shake my head pretty hard. But, it isn't Bacharach.

The songstress here is PP Arnold, though as of yet I've been unable to determine who penned the lyrics or notes. No matter, it's a great piece of easy listening soul that fits with Ms. Arnold's voice so perfectly that you know Something Beatiful Happened. PP Arnold started out as a child gospel singer --no big surprise there-- and later after a sting as an Ikette with Ike & Tina, she backed up the Rolling Stones, and even more often the Small Faces. She also produced a number of albums for Immediate records, enough to earn the moniker of First Lady of Immediate. She eventually wound up on TV -- on Knots Landing of all things -- but still remains a soul diva. Just listen to those vocals and you'll see why.

PP Arnold -- Something Beautiful Happened

February 6, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Untamed

There was probably no more ignored, no more underrated, no more eclectic mod freakbeat band in the sixties than The Untamed. And there certianly wasn't a group of their caliber that produced less commercial material. The Untamed by all counts only had five singles, and nary a full-length release while they were together as a band. All of that would come later, much later.

They are perhaps the quintessential mod band, incorporating almost all of the sounds that mods down through the decades have loved -- blues, R&B, jazz, lounge, garage and all with a steady rock and roll foundation (one rock steady or ska influenced track and they would have become the most incredible mod band ever). There is simply no pigeon-holing these lads from London. Just listen to any of the compilations of their tracks, from the complete hits of It's All True, or the release of demos and rarities, Gimme Gimme.

You can't not love The Untamed. Overall they certainly fall into that cool, smokey-jazz sort of mod vibe that was perfected so well by Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames. Still they managed to do a lot of different things and produce a lot of different sounds. From the cool, Georgie Fame styled blues-jazz of "Once Upon a Time" and "I'm Asking You"; to the garagish "Daddy Longlegs"; to the Small Face's like blue eyed soul of "I'm Going Out Tonight"; to the easy listening, cocktailish lounge vibes of "Mayfair 4321" (a personal favorite). It's all mod, and all good.

But I've got to highlight at least one track, and the one I've chosen wasn't penned by The Untamed. Here you get a taste of "Kids Take Over" allegedly penned by Pete Townsend for The Who. Both bands were produced for a time by Shel Talmy and I suspect it was at that point that The Who's lesser lights and cast off's (The Untamed also recorded The Who's "It's Not True") were made available to The Untamed for recording. The lyrics and the arrangement of "Kids Take Over" have Townsend's fingerprints on it, but The Untamed's version is both poppier and jazzier than what you'd expect from The Who. One wonders why, when they had so many other avenues to go down, they chose this one. No matter, The Untamed produced some of the jazziest, and best, mod sounds of the sixties.

The Untamed -- Kids Take Over

February 5, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Headquarters

Sometime in the last century Charles Wallace got hooked up with director Kolton Lee and they began to create a short film titled American Mod. I haven't seen the film (which starred Morningwood leading lady Chantal Claret), but from what I've read it sounds a bit like a knock-off of Quadrophenia complete with love sick mods, pill popping mods, drug buying mods, and lots of hip dressed mods on scooters out nightclubbing. (this clip would seem to corroborate my suspicions).

No matter, that's all just the lead up to the best part. Headquarters. In the fine tradition of bands put together for film appearances, Wallace created Headquarters to do the soundtrack. Lucky for us they stuck with it for a few years and a few releases, and also lucky that the band seems far superior to the band. Most notable of their release, and by far the most enjoyable, is 2005's Get Your Head On which featured the track I'm highlighting here, "Tunnelvision". The album is a quick tour-de-force of psychadelic power pop, all of which flies along at a breakneck pace. The band's releases have grown more and more psychadelic over time, culminating with their last O and O in 2007. But "Tunnelvision", for me, remains their best and the highpoint of their highest heights.

Headquarters -- Tunnelvision

February 4, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Crooks

The Crooks were one of the great mod revival bands that never received their due. They were head and shoulders above a lot of other mod bands that got more press and bigger gigs (The Jolt comes to mind). The Crooks had that great ability to blend the sixties sound of the Small Faces (who they covered excellently when they recorded Understanding) with the burgeoning new wave sound and power pop beat of the late 70s. Songs like "Waiting for You" and "Let's Get Together" have a perfect new wave sensibility that so many mod bands of the era lacked. Still, The Crooks' singles "Modern Boys" and "All The Time In The World" are fantastic mod songs, anthemic in the way that only mod revival songs can be. In 2006 "Just Released" appeared, a two-CD anthology that had all of the band's recorded materials as well as a disk's worth of live tracks from a 1980 appearance at The Marquee club. With all that build up how can I give you anything less than a double dose of The Crooks. Don't say I don't love you!

The Crooks -- Waiting For You


The Crooks -- All The Time In The World

February 3, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Paul Weller & Graham Coxon

"This Old Town" is a collaboration between the modfather, Paul Weller, and Britpop's own aging punk, Graham Coxon. They even roped in Oasis drummer, and Beattle offspring Zack Starkey to bang the skins, making the track about as British as you could possibly get. Amazingly, "This Old Town" isn't a terribly great song when you consider the source -- but it is so much better than other contemporary releases it can seem like you're getting a touch ambrosia when you listen in. It's a good track to be sure, but not great for either Weller or Coxon. The 7" boasted two other songs, one each by Weller and Coxon, though neither as good as this collaboration. One can hope that this is just a precursor to more work together by the two aging mods.

Paul Weller & Graham Coxon -- This Old Town

February 2, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Diodes

Uncle Bill, Uncle Bill I took some pills/Mr. French, Mr. French I'm Really Tense

The Diodes never played a song I didn't like. There are only a very, very few bands that can say that -- The Jam and The Shingles. The first because, well, hell, they were the Jam; and the latter because, well, hell they only played one song I know of. No matter, The Diodes were probably my favorite pogoing, power pop, punk band of the 70s set. They were crisp, the lyrics were clever, and the music was both brash and subtle, not something easily achieved.

This track, Child Star, is their ode to Anissa Jones, the lovable, pigtailed Buffy in the sixties sitcom Family Affair. Her child-star story is more tragic than most, maybe than any. There she was the adorable, Mrs. Beasley clutching little girl that TV viewers thought was the cutest thing since sliced bread. That was during the shows heyday in the late 60s. Anissa Jones was reportedly quite a person. When she turned 18 she bought herself a crappy old pinto, and bought her brother, who she loved more than life it seems, a fully-loaded Camaro. All the time though she was a raging drug addict. When she died in 1976 of massive overdose, massive seemed an understatement. Her overdose was a deadly cocktail of mega amounts of cocaine, angel dust, Quaaludes and Seconal. The San Diego County coroner reported at the time that it was one of the most severe cases of overdose ever seen in San Diego County.

The Diodes weren't the only band to sing about Buffy aka Anissa. Angel & The Reruns put out the novelty like and bubblegummish Buffy Come Back To Me. But The Diodes Child Star is poignant without being mocking. A great example of the bands songcraft which was ahead of its time, and always head and shoulders above their colleagues.

The Diodes-- Child Star

February 1, 2009

Modcast #117: Shoutin' To The Top [original broadcast 2009]

It's all smack and tackle thanks to this being Superbowl weekend. The food is great, but I'm not one for the game myself. I'd much rather sitdown and listen to some great garage rock, or some swingin' lounge music.

Or, I could mix up a modcast of epic proportions. Now that's the ticket. Flashback to 1984, and to 1967, and to 1978, and even just back to '02. Flashbacks are great aren't they? So are the tracks on this week's modcast.

Okay, maybe not epic, but pretty damn good none the less. Got a couple of new things to serve up for you: some power pop from The Wishes, and some very excellent mod R&B courtesy of Invisible Lead Soup. And there's a few nice gems here that I blew the dust off of which I think you'll dig from The Standells, the Sidewalks and not the least of which is a great little song from power pop composer Gary Valentine who, sadly, has never received the accolades he's due. I think you'll appreciate the opening track, a cover of TSC's Shout To The Top by Robbers on High Street and part of the really cool Rewind project from Buffet Libre. The crew at Buffet Libre solicited current bands to cover their favorite songs of the 80s -- hence the Robbers selection of TSC. The results are mixed, but always interesting. Some are pretty honest, and honoring, covers like the Robbers, and others are unique revisionings of songs like the very electro cover of the Buzzcocks' Ever Fallen in Love by Sportsday Megaphone. It's a cool collection, and you can download any of the songs, so I'm sure you'll waste more than just a little time there perusing the offerings. I know I did.