September 30, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66

When I was in sixth grade I purchased with my own money two records, The Monkees and Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66. It was 1978 and my neighborhood --if Halloween was any indication-- was crawling with Kiss fans. The Cal Jam II festival at the Ontario Motor Speedway with its stunning line up including Aerosmith, Heart and Ted Nugent was all any of the kids in southern California was talking about -- at least anyone I was likely to talk to. Of course, they almost immediately tore the Ontario Motor Speedway out and turned it into an ugly empty lot that eventually gave way to a shopping extravaganza. You get the picture. I was out of step, even then.

So, it was 1978. Sergio was hardly on anyone's radar besides mine. And my radar was backdated a decade or so. I bought the record because I thought the people on the cover looked cool. And they did. Look cool. But, unbeknownst to me then, they sounded a hell of a lot cooler than they looked. Time went on, the album sat around unlistened to, mostly. I finally dug it out again a few years later when I was getting into the mod scene and desperately trying to get a handle on what a cool, suit wearing guy from the sixties looked like. Strangely enough, for me, Sergio Mendes was that guy (oh yeah, and Dick Van Dyke, but that's another blog post altogether). I could have done a lot worse.

As a young teen in Rio, Mendes cut his teeth in the music conservatory on classical music but threw it over early on for jazz, thanks to time with the likes of Antonio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto, and then later meeting and sitting in listening to American jazz giants such as Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Byrd, and Roy Eldridge. Mendes quickly made his way to New York with his eyes on being a jazz man. He hit paydirt fairly quickly by today's standards after only a few years of playing around town in the early 60s. In 1966 he put together his second lineup, called Brasil '66, that included the magic element -- two female vocalists: the golden voices of Lani Hall (not much later the wife of Herb Alpert), and Janis Hansen. The group was an instant hit. They blended bossa nova with elements of jazz and soul, and mostly soft sixties pop sounds. The combination was a huge hit with American listeners and helped to make bossa nova a household name across the US. The first album went to #6 on the charts, largely on the success of "Mas Que Nada".

Following that the band climbed to even higher heights with the Burt Bacharach/Hal David penned "The Look of Love" which they performed on the Academy Awards telecast -- and won the Oscar for the song.

Sergio Mendes was a household name by the early 70s. Mendes' sound grew more jazzy and big band oriented over the years and Brasil 66 became Brasil 77 and other such stunts. But through it all Mendes kept plying the jazz waters with his bossa nova boats. He had some hits in the 80s and he won a grammy in 1992 about the time that he started incorporating more of a world music flavor into his sound. And more recently he has partnered with The Black Eyed Peas for an updated hip-hop (sort of) version of "Mas Que Nada', and continues to tour. I saw him a couple years ago with his latest lineup and he was as good then as he's ever been.

The songs here are exemplary of Mendes most popular work, from his sixties songbook. "Look of Love" and "Look Around" are classics to be sure, but these songs, the very boss "Bim Bom" and the groovy "After Midnight", capture the quintessential, swinginest sound of the swinger from Rio. Sergio Mendes will always be synonymous with mod to me.
Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 -- After Midnight

Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 -- Bim Bom

September 29, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Pigeon Detectives

If you like your power pop ala pub rock and infused with a fair helping of Britpop then you probably already know about The Pigeon Detectives. They've been plying their trade since '02 and have two excellent albums and some chart success to show for it. Their 2007 album Wait For Me reached #3 on the charts with a sound not unlike the Kaiser Chiefs, Franz Ferdinand or The Fratellis. Their second album Emergency came just a year later and the first single made it into the top twenty. The band plays tight, guitar driven power pop with a bit of a post-punk vibe. There's lots of ringing guitars and crashing drums, and some nice vocal harmonies, all of which seems to cascade together effortlessly in a sort of beautiful accident. The song here, "I'm Not Going To Take This", is a nicely indie flavored, urgent bit of Britpop.

The Insomniacs -- That's Alright

The Pigeon Detectives -- I'm Not Sorry

September 28, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Funseekers

The Funseekers put the fun into ... well, into everything. They were a mod band if by mod band you mean a bunch of garage rockin' guys who loved sixties R&B, had a touch of the "punk rock" about them, and put on a show that could scare your relatives and deflower a virgin from 50 steps, well then they were a mod band.

Seriously, I only met them once briefly before the Mods Mayday '89 show we put together in LA, and they were the nicest bunch of guys. That is, until you turned on their amps and handed them their instruments, then they turned into a seriously frenzifying (to steal their own term) garage rock combo.

They put out three 7" singles, and a full LP --Frenzyfying (Treehouse Records) all of which are branded with their infectious garage sound that is loud and fast, and above all very sixties focused. In 1987 the embarked on an ambitious filmmaking odyssey --The Funseekers A Northwoods Holiday-- the results of which are still with us. It isn't great. At times it isn't even good. (It reminded me in odd ways of The Style Council's ill-conceived Jerusalem film/video thing of about the same time.) Still, it's one of those bad things that in the end just seems to go right. Part of it was that in the late 80s it was still quite difficult to put together your own video, let alone an entire short film. So no mattter how bad the production, or the acting (they were acting right?) it was still really cool because the music was cool, and ... well The Funseekers were just so damn cool. Below are the links to the Northwoods Hollywood video, and here is one of the best damn songs they ever did, "You Can't Have My Love". One of my favorite mod garage bands of all time.

The Funseekers -- You Can't Have My Love

The Funseekers (Live at Mods Mayday '89) -- Make You Mine

The Funseekers - A Northwoods Holiday pt 1
The Funseekers - A Northwoods Holiday pt 2
The Funseekers - A Northwoods Holiday pt 3
The Funseekers - A Northwoods Holiday pt 4

Mod-A-Day: Mocean Worker

Although I've never seen the term acid jazz applied to Mocean Worker, it certianly would fit. Mocean Worker is DJ Adam Dorn, who has a handful of albums to his credit all blending funk, soul, jazz and elecotronic pop. His DJ side comes through with a large dose of drum'n'bass throughout, but overall this is very dancable, soul infused jazz. Acid jazz. The song here, "Changes", features Herb Alpert on trumpet. And be sure to check out his video for "Shake Ya Boogie" on his homepage.

Mocean Worker -- Changes

September 27, 2009

From the Vaults Modcast # 15: Sounds of the Sixties

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 breezy by gone days of 2006. I've opened up the vaults and dusted off a classic modcast that I think you'll enjoy. Again.

Welcome to Episode 15 with all Sounds of the Sixties. There's so much great mod (and mod influenced) music from the 60s that doing a thirty minute show is really hard. But, I've put together some tracks I think you'll enjoy.

  • The Kinks -- I Gotta Move
  • The Smoke -- Victor Henry's Cool Book
  • The Move - Fire Brigade
  • The Who -- Doctor Doctor
  • The Undertakers -- Think
  • The HiFi's -- I Keep Forgettin
  • The Artwoods -- I Take What I Want
  • Chocolate Watch Band -- Let's Talk About Girls
  • The Standells -- Riot On Sunset Strip
  • The Sonics -- Strychnine
  • The Kinks -- Dandy

Bonus Video Here's a great video of The Smoke doing their cult hit "My Friend Jack":

If you would like your band featured on Mr. Suave's Mod Mod World e-mail me at

And be sure to check out the modcast homepage at

September 26, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Insomniacs

The Insomniacs have lived up to their name over the years. Since they first took the stage in 1998 the band has hardly rested at all releasing a ton of singles and EPs in the 90s and finally their first LP in 1997. From their earliest recordings, such as the Wake Up for Estrus Records, to their later offerings on Get Something Going and Switched On, The Insomniacs have delivered the kind of power pop I can believe in -- supercharged guitars, driving drum beats, and very cool cascading bass lines. The sound is one that will evoke memories of The Who, The Small Faces, and The Jam. But it isn't so derivative that you feel like you've heard it all before. They keep it fresh, with just enough of a modern vibe that you wonder why it isn't getting more radio play somewhere? The song here, "That's Alright" has a definite modern garage rock sound not unlike The Hivesor The Mooney Suzuki, less raw than either of those to be sure, but still edgy and with an undeniable intensity. One thing I've always liked about The Insomniacs is their ability to sound so much bigger than they are. How do three guys play with so much enthusiasm, energy, and ambition? No matter how, they do it and with aplomb.

The Insomniacs -- That's Alright

September 25, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Magic Christian

Magic Christian a veritable garage supergroup fronted by Flamin' Groovies founder Cyril Jordan --who's been doing the garage thing for like ever it seems. But it's been in the past couple years that the group has really solidified into a super combo now boasting Fast Eddie Munoz from the Plimsouls and power popper extraordinaire Clem Burke former drummer for Blondie. With the lineup set the band has recorded a new album that is just out from Dirty Water Records. I haven't heard the whole thing yet, but if it's all like this track here, "Tomorrow Never Comes" it promises to be a psychadelic swirl of pounding rhythms, ringing guitars, and pure sixties power pop.

Magic Christian -- Tommorow Never Comes

September 24, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Rubicon (The Elements)

The Rubicon are a mod sounding indie band from London. If you don't recognize the name that might be because until recently they were called The Elements. As The Elements the band sounded like a properly British mod combo that pretty much hit all the right notes from all the classic influences, The Who, The Jam, The Creation.

Recently they've gone through some lineup changes with the core of the group remaining, but there's now a lot more modern influence in the band's sound as well, which distances them from their original sound. The new sound is lusher --has better production values for sure-- but also mellower.

For me, I prefer this song here, their earlier single on the Acid Jazz label, "Caught in a Storm."

The Elements -- Caught in a Storm

The Elements -- Deep Freeze

September 23, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Sade

At last, a moment to breathe in a long and busy day. I've just got time for a quick post, just enough time to get in my one post for the day. Nothing better for relaxing at the end of a busy day than to relax with some smooth, sultry, soulful, jazz flavored, easy listening pop music. Of course, the queen of such sophisticated sound stylings is Ms. Sade Abu, her for whom Sade is named.

Their very first US single "Hang On To Your Love" from the band's debut Diamond Nightlife burst onto the scene in 1984. That track, along with the song here "Your Love Is King", set the course for Sade, vaulting them into the top 20 on the US Billboard charts. Their next album, Promise, a year later went to #1 in the UK. Neither was a fluke as the band would follow that with half a dozen top ten singles, and have sold more than 50 million albums in the past 25 years. That number is likely to grow as the band is back in the studio preparing a new release.

Sade -- Your Love Is King

Sade -- Cherry Pie

September 22, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Attack

The Attack were a short lived and rather obscure mod freakbeat band that only ever released a few singles and one album. Essentialy two guys, Richard Shirman and John Du Cann, the band went through a number of lineup changes in just two short years before calling it quites. But they left behind some great singles with a very fuzzed out, garage psych sound that was rougher than The Creation, and and less soulful than Small Faces, all of which could be a little hard on the ears. Yet this is what made The Attack interesting though, a certain raw, untamed quality that went well with the intensity of their music. A compilation CD About Time The Definitive Mod Pop Collection was released by RPM records in 2006 and is a great addition to any sixties mod collection.

The Attack -- Feel Like Flying

September 21, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Dirty Looks

The Dirty Looks --not the glam band-- were an underrated band in an underrated genre. They should have dominated the airwaves and sold millions of albums, but there's not accounting for bad taste. They started out in 1978 and quickly garnered a following and a record deal. Their first album featured guitar driven power pop, not uncommon for New York bands of the day, but darker in its lyrical content than most of the rest of the power pop scene. Songs like the punky "Love Comes in Spurts", "You're Too Old", and "Love Crimes", also pointed the way to the coming new wave explosion. The edgy song here, "12 O'Clock High", was years ahead it's time and could appear on any modern indie pop punk album. Their second album was reworked by Epic records without the band's permission. That left a bad taste in the band's mouth and some other bad breaks along the way finally led to their breakup.

The Dirty Looks -- 12 O'Clock High

September 20, 2009

Modcast #141: Sophisticated Synthesized Soul

Listen now

Welcome to Mr. Suave's Mod Mod World. Summer is slowly winding down here in Seattle which means this is one of the last shows of the summer, and if it sounds different that's because I recorded this outside on my deck under the glorious star studded night sky here in Seattle. Just getting in one last nice night before winter rains set in.

The show this week features predominately 80s sophistipop: soul mixed with jazz and pop, infused with strings and horns, and synthesized throughout. Lots of mod and mod friendly bands were part of the movement, which helped pave the way for the acid jazz of the 90s. Thanks to my friend Mary who's insistence that it would be worth the trip to Milano to see Swing Out Sister caused me to dig back through some old stuff and come up with a bunch of great tracks for this week's show. Enjoy.

Tahiti 80 -- The Train
Sade -- Hang On To Your Love
Brand New Heavies -- Stay This Way
Swing Out Sister -- Fooled By A Smile
Gentle Tuesday -- I've Never Been So Poorly Insulted In My Life
Everything But The Girl -- Another Bridge
Animal Nightlife -- Basic Ingredients
Simply Red -- Ain't That A Lot Of Life
Haircut 100 -- The Kick Of Love
Saint Etienne -- Spring

Haircut 100 -- Fantastic Day

Animal Nightlife -- Mr. Solitaire

September 19, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Shoes

The Shoes were the epitome of 70s power pop. They managed to influence rock, power pop, new wave, alternative, indie, and twee bands after them. Not bad. Every band in every single one of those genres owes a debt of gratitude to The Shoes whether they know it or not. And the good oens know it, like The Posies, or Material Issue, or Weezer, and even their contemporary colleagues Cheap Trick.

From the very beginning in the mid 70s they had a DIY ethos that always rang true in their recordings, even when they were produced in lavish studios in the latter half of the 80s. The songs were short, tight and ... well exactly what power pop songs should be. Still their best work was their early work especially 1979's Present Tense and 1981's Tongue Twister. The band had quite the range from the jangly, twee like "Your Very Eyes", to the spikey new wavish "Your Imagination", to the Jam like (trust me on this one) "Cruel You", to the ephemeral and very British "Every Girl". The Shoes pretty much drew the map for future indie pop bands to follow.

The Shoes -- Too Late

The Shoes -- Your Very Eyes

The Shoes -- Cruel You

September 18, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Selecter

Ah, the days of rotary dials and girls that dressed like guys.

September 17, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Rifles

Britain, as usual, is flush with good bands these days. One is The Rifles, a band which indie snobs in the US have been following for a few years now. But the rest of the pleebs can enjoy The Rifles now too with the band finally getting a major album released in the states this week -- The Great Escape, which appeared in the UK back in January.

The Rifles are one of the most mod sounding of the current crop of Britpop bands falling somewhere on the spectrum between the power poppin' pub rock of The Kaiser Chiefs and The Fratellis on one end and the modish guitar driven pop of Oasis on the other. They are clearly influenced by Oasis, Blur, and the Libertines, but also by Paul Weller -- and more so The Jam than the modfather's solo outings. (One wonders if their name is a nod to "Eaton Rifles" which Weller has been known to play with the band on occassion?)

Their debut record No Love Lost paid the most tribute to The Jam with songs like She's Got Standards and Local Boy. There were flashes of garage rock ala The Strokes as well like on the spiky "One Night Stand". Overall it was a fantastic debut and along with constant touring has helped the band gain quite a following.

Then came The Great Escape and after delaying the release for a few months people wondered if the dreaded sophmore curse was going to claim another victim. Not this time. The album is stunning, perhaps better than No Love Lost. The songs have a flow and consistency that you'd expect from a greatest hits collection. They sound like old friends, and yet have a freshness to them that keeps them from being derivative. The simple Britishness of "Winter Calls" with its ringing guitars and catchy chorus makes it a contender for the strongest track on the disk. But it has stiff competition from the lushly orchestrated Oasis-like title track, as well as the early single the tightly wound, hard driven "The General" which comes unglued with thundering guitars and keeps the pace racing on for nearly five minutes, make it twice as along as many of the rest of the songs in the mix.

The Rifles are supposed to be bringing the show to the states but so far is only dragging their feet across the eastern part of the country. Here's hoping they turn left and make it out west sometime soon.

The Rifles -- One Night Stand

The Rifles -- Winter Calls

The Rifles -- She's Got Standards

September 16, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Beautiful South

One of my favorite mod friendly bands of the mid-80s was The Housemartins, so it was nice to discover The Beautiful South in the early 90s and hear Paul Heaton's great voice again backed by Dave Hemingway's drumming, this time with richer, more sophisticated songs than previously.

The band scored a number of top ten hits early on thanks to clever song writing, a sharp musical sense that combined sixties pop and jangly guitars, with a more folksy vibe, but all with a kind of 90s post-new wave sound. And it didn't hurt to have a female vocalist, Briana Corrigan, the equal of Heaton. But it was the release of a greatest hits compilation that truly valted them to stardom. Shocking everyone, Carry On Up The Charts opened at #1 on the UK charts and sold millions of copies, making the band a household name. Corrigan left and was replaced by another equally talented female, and the band's next two albums produced more hits, notably the song here "Don't Marry Her." Over time The Beautiful South's sound edged more towards folk and country, fortunately all the while the acerbic, witty lyrics and rye sense of irony remained throughout. Heaton and company have written some the best lyrics ever put to music.

In 2007, after almost 20 yearas together and sales of more than 15 million albums, the band split up with most members launching into solo projects. Earlier this year several of the former members announced their intent to reform as The New Beautiful South, sadly without Heaton, but with British singer Sandi Thom.

The Beautiful South -- Don't Marry Her

The Beautiful South -- This Old Skin
This Old Skin was a single released from the band's 2004 covers album, Golddiggas, Headnodders and Pholk Songs, and was reportedly a remake of a song originally recorded by The Hepplebaums. It was later revealed to be an original written by Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway and The Hepplebaums apparently never existed.

September 15, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Californias

How does a band from Atlanta, Georgia get to be called The Californias? Well, it probably has a lot to do with that sunny, left-coast sounding power pop they play. Their 2006 release Bright is packed with modern, indie flavored power pop that quite obviously owes its existence to The Beatles and The Beach Boys. The band does a good job of taking sixties styled pop, laying on vocal harmonies and catchy hooks, and blending it with a more up to date sense of fun and energy. The guitars are at times jangly, more often crunchy, backed by organ and keyboards that is never overdone. Not sure what the band is up to lately as their website seems to have bitten the dust, and their Myspace is a bit out of date. Hopefully that's because they are just too busy recording their next album.

The Californias -- La La La

September 14, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Julie Ocean

Ringing guitars. Thundering drums. Cool vocal harmonies. Washington DC scenesters Julie Ocean had it all for a few short months. The band dropped their criminally underrated --because it should have topped the Billboard Charts if there was any justice in this world-- album, Long Gone and Nearly There, in early '08 and by the end of the year they were defunct as a band. Too bad because Julie Ocean had a really great power pop sound and could have gone places.

Julie Ocean -- At The Appointed Hour

Julie Ocean -- Bright Idea

September 13, 2009

Modcast #140: On The Right Track (Guest Hosted by The New Fidelity)

This week the modcast is most ably hosted by Dan from The New Fidelity. Hailing from Southern California The New Fiis a well-established mod outift that has produced some fantastic work featured on past modcasts even, and you can look forward to a new release coming very soon. So, I'm pretty happy to be able to turn over this week's program to Dan and let him run wild with some truly great mod music.

101ers -- Keys to My Heart
Billy Butler & the Enchanters -- The Right Track
The Kinks -- I Need You
The New Fidelity -- The Kids Are Alright
Eddie Holland -- Leaving Here
Left Bank -- Haven't Got The Nerve
Small Faces -- Whatcha Gonna Do About It
The Animals -- Boom Boom
The Quik - Bert's Apple Crumble
The New Fidelity -- Setting Son
The Jam -- Town Called Malice

Small Faces -- Rollin' Over

September 12, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Sneakers

Sneakers were a little known, yet excellent, late 70s power pop band from Oregon of all places. Their only album, Ear Cartoons, is a blend of sixties pop, seventies power pop, with hints of new wave thanks to the liberal use of synthesized keyboards. This track "Who Do You Love" is by far the best on the album and sounds a bit like The Cars.

Sneakers -- Who Do You Love

September 11, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Frank Popp Ensemble

Frank Popp Ensemble is a mod combo out of Germany headed up by DJ, graphic designer and farfisa organ meastro Frank Popp. The group blends swingin' go-go music with northern soul, freakbeat, bossa nova, and sixties pop creating a sound that early on in their history was not unlike that of Pizzicato Five, Mother Earth, or early James Taylor Quartet.

Their first album Ride On! was a fantastic tour de force of mod sounds from soul to psychadelia, all with a great sixties meets the 21st century vibe. It was eclectic, bouncing from loungey bossa nova infused tracks, to DJ sampled pieces, to pure northern soul songs. The single, "Hip Teens (Don't Wear Blue Jeans)" was an international success, and the album has been rereleased with slight variations several times over the past eight years.

Earlier this year the group dropped its second full release, this time with a harder, more guitar driven sound. The new album's first single, "Hey Mr. Innocent" has a heavy bass line and ringing guitars punctuated by the fabulous vocals of Ms. Sam Leigh-Brown; "Dead End Street" opens with a thundering Who like guitar riff, while "Countdown To The Sun" and "Change" have a sort of Style Council era Paul Weller feel to them. Still soulful, the new album is not as loungey or jazzy to my ear, but even as different as it is from Ride On!, it's a great new chapter in the group's story.

Frank Popp Ensemble -- Live Wire (from Receiver)

Frank Popp Ensemble -- Belly Bossanova (from Ride On!)

The Frank Popp Ensemble - Hip Teens (don't wear blue jeans)

September 10, 2009

Mod-A-Day: King Dapper Combo

I suppose this post should have been hold until Halloween since it's about a band that seems to have a Halloween fetish. The King Dapper Combo started out in 1991 as a novelty act, and nearly two decades later they are a much more polished novelty act. And I mean that in the best possible sense. After years of playing trade shows and amusement parks, and releasing several DIY records, the Combo has perfected the party garage band sound, complete with acordion. Take the song here, the Wild One is probably one of their wildest. Think a blender full of The Bobby Fuller Four, Mojo Nixon, Elvis, and of course Bobby Picket (with just a dash of the irreverence of the Dead Milk Men). How can you not like such a musical smoothie?

King Dapper Combo -- Wild One

King Dapper Combo -- Go Go Gorilla

September 9, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Social Distortion

Social Distortion is suave punk. The early 80s saw a huge punk rock explosion in Southern California as the raw sound of guitars and drums backed screeching vocals from the valley to the beach. Adolescent angst, new found aggression, and too much free time combined in a generation of bands that pursued independence with a dark, depressing creativity that was tinged with drug addiction, violence and suicide.

Along with literally hundreds of other such bands, a foursome from Orange Co. fronted by Mike Ness, (and originally including Rikk and Frank Agnew from Christian Death and The Adolescents respectively) Social Distortion began playing their hard biting punk in 1978 and in 1981 released "Mainliner" followed in 1983 by their first full album Mommy's Little Monster.

Mostly those early years saw Social D gain a large and loyal following because of so many appearances on local punk compilations such as Poshboy Records comps, Rodney on the Roq, and Hell Comes To Your House (which is the only recording I know of SD's “Lude Boy”). The group wasn't all that different from L.A.'s other front-running punks like X, Circle Jerks or Black Flag. What set Social D apart was their live show. No punk shows lacked energy, yet Social D shows seemed to transcend all that raw aggression and reach a violent, yet controlled new level, thanks mostly to the pure charisma of Mike Ness. They became a mainstay at Southern California clubs like the Whiskey A-Go-Go, Goldenbear, and the Country Club.

The mid-80s took their toll on Social D. Ness succumbed to serious drug addiction and rehab and jail stints followed. The band was virtually unheard from between 1985 and 1988 when Prison Bound their second full-length vinyl record was released. Gone was the unpolished, raw edge that had so characterized their earliest works. In its place was a more mature intensity, and a certain rock-n-blues integrity that so many punk bands lacked. The bluesy, honky-tonk influences gave Social D a more cowpunk sound that previously. The band was back, but the going was no easier than it had been in the earlier parts of the decade.

Finally in 1990 Social D broke through the record industries blindness to real punk, and years before Nirvana, Green Day and "the year punk broke" the band release its self-titled major label debut. Every bit as intense as those early classics like “Telling Them”, “1945” and “Playpen”, this album carried a whole cadre of bluesy punk songs, everyone a hit in and of itself. While “Ball and Chain” was the only chart hit, the video breaking into MTVs "alternative" rotation for a while, the album was loaded with great songs, including terrific cover of Johnny Cash's “Ring of Fire”, and the Ness penned “So Far Away”.
"I write all the songs in my dining room with my acoustic guitar," says Mike Ness, "and every record I write usually is an example of what I'm listening to. The last two albums, I was listening to a lot of Hank Williams and dark rockabilly and blues as well, so that came out. What I've been listening to the last couple years is back to Johnny Thunders and the Clash and Ramones and Dead Boys, as well as early LA bands: X, the Dickies, stuff like that. That stuff all has so much more soul and substance than what's called alternative now."
With the album's success, the band toured again and began to build an even bigger following, breaking out of the small punk circuit and into larger clubs and rock festivals. The follow-up album -- Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell -- came two years later, and continued the group's progression into a more bluesy, almost rockabilly type punk. Ness's vocals began to whine like a blues singer, but the songs continued to pack a powerful guitar and drum punch that kept them, as always, on the edge. And while his vocal style was maturing, Ness's ability to write powerful lyrics to match the music continued to grow as well. His cynicism was even more pronounced with songs like “Cold Feelings”, “Bad Luck”, “Born to Lose”, “99 to Life”, and “King of Fools”.

It would be four years before another Social D album was released. In the meantime the band toured, in some ways returning to their punk roots as they played up and down the West Coast with longtime LA punkers, X. The combination of X and Social D in one evening seemed to bring out the best in both bands. In particular, Ness seemed more gritty, his aggression more apparent, and the band's attitude was more 'fuck you' than on previous tours in the early 90s.

That typical punk bravado spilled over onto the band’s next release White Light, White Heat, White Trash. Musically, the songs all have that blues echo that now is part of the Social D trademark sound. but with a definite nod to the modern alternative rock of the day. It’s clear too that Ness was still fighting his own demons, and religious imagery is prominent, all of which gives the album a rather dark feeling, though restitution and retribution both are hinted at throughout.

A long eight years would pass before Social D released another album. During that time Ness pursued his country punk persona through a number of solo releases each more honky-tonk than the last. Because of that 2004’s Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll is less bluesy and hearkens back to the band’s punk days more than any of the past three releases. The album is the band’s most mature to date reflecting Ness’ own ability to deal with his past and learn how to live in the present. It’s less about drunkenness and violence, and more about living life with honest to god adult relationships and issues. It also has hints of glam seventies power pop throughout, overall making it a solid rock and roll record. You would expect nothing else from Ness and company. Word on the street is that the band is working on a new LP set for release in 2010.

Social Distortion -- Telling Them

Social Distortion -- Live Before You Die

September 8, 2009

Mod-A-Day: I'm One 21st Century Mods

Okay, this isn't a band. Or a song. Or even a video. It's a book. A picture book. When I first started getting into the mod scene it was because of the look more than the music. I already liked cool music. But seeing those mods with their pegged pants, dark glasses, and op-art shirts, well that was cool. Where did one figure that look out? Remember this was way before the information superhighway could deliver whatever you wanted at the click of a mouse. I had to track down a copy of Mods by Richard Barnes. A scooter buddy had a copy and boy was I jealous. I used to go to his house and pour over the pictures, drinking in all the different mod looks, accessories and even hair styles (the french line cut don't you know).

Now days it is much easier for an up and coming teen to make the scene all put together first day out. You simply google mod style and you'll have dozens, probably hundreds of sites to pour over.

So, it was with some surprise that I came home recently to find a package waiting at my door. Not just any old package, but an honest to god, hard back book. I'm One 21st Century Mods -- cram packed with photos by German photographer Horst A Friedricks. Since 1997 Friedricks has been chronicling the modern, British mod scene. The book is full of crisp color shots and sharp black and white snaps of old and young mods dancing, scootering, and doing whatever it is that mods do. It's a fantstic coffee table book that is sure to intrigue your guests whether they know about Clarks or mohair suits or not.

I'm One 21st Century Mods
Photographs: Horst A. Friedrichs
Publisher: Prestel Verlag
July 2009
ISBN: 978-3-7913-4319-8

The Who -- I'm One (Quadrophenia Demos)

September 7, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Blades

Maybe the best pure mod band to come out of Ireland, The Blades popped up in the late 70s during the mod revival and managed to stay together and produce a string of singles in the early 80s and a couple of great LPs. Chart success eluded them for the most part, which is surprising because their songs were sharp, well written, had great vocal harmony and a nice radio accessibility that should have hit the public perfectly. It was guitar focused power pop with soulful horns, and a certain sixties like pop sensibility that made the band one of the most popular Irish bands of the era. "Downmarket" wasn't their biggest hit, but it was the only Blades single to make the chart s1983 rising to #28 in 1983. Thier best song was the title track to their 1985 LP "The Last Man In Europe". Things fell apart after that and the band slowly dissolved.

The Blades -- The Last Man In Europe

The Blades - The Bride Wore White

September 6, 2009

Modcast#139: The End of the Beginning

Welcome to Mr. Suave's Mod Mod World. Meant to have this show posted much earlier today, but better late than never right? You like mod driven music you say, well then this modcast is going to drive you insane. It's stocked with soul infused, R&B driven, power pop exactly like today's mods like it.

Big Boss Man - Triumph of the Olympian (2009)
The Selecter - They Make Me Mad (1980)
Pepper Pots -- You Don't Know Like I Know (2005)
Beat Direction -- Ska Au Go Go (1986)
Broken Jug -- New Generation (1985)
The Aromatics -- Maureen (1984)
Yard Trauma - I'm A Man (1988)
The Risk -- Jobs for the Boys (1986)
The Offsets -- For the Millionth Time (198?)
The Blades -- Chance To Stop (1985)
The Nips -- Gabrielle (1980)

The Blades -- Revelations of Heartbreak

September 4, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Birdland

Snarl. Growl. Sneer. That pretty much sums up the sound, and the poseur image, of late 80s, bleached blond, British garage rockers Birdland. There's not much to know about the band besides that they had a very short tenure and were plagued with problems behind the scenes with their management and label. Oh, and they attacked every single song with an absolutely unbending and blistering guitar assault.

In 1989 their unbridled, untouched, pure garage sound burst onto the music scene in two Peel Sessions as proven by the song featured here, "Paradise". The band was paraded across the cover of numerous music rags, and they were seen as the up and coming, next big thing ... that wasn't from Seattle or called grunge.

Their self-titled 1991 debut was a miracle of production, giving the songs a sheen of polish that maybe they thought was necessary for radio play. Even that didn't cover up raw intensity, the rough edges, the jagged hole you got in your ear from listening to short sharp songs like "Shoot You Down", the melodic punk of "Hollow Heart", the smooth psychadelia of "Sleep with Me", and the methodically drum driven cover of Patti Smith's "Rock'n'Roll Nigger". By 1993 the band was history having laid the foundations for later bands like The Hives and The Strokes and yet never done more than just tease the tip of the top 40 of the UK charts.

Birdland -- Paradise

Birdland - Hollow Heart

September 3, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Mod Fun

In the early 80s in the US mod bands were few and far between and most were emulating the Jam or the Small Faces. New Jersey's Mod Fun were no different, except that they brought a great energy and intensity to music, along with a healthy dose of psychadelia and a clear love of sixties music from freakbeat to folk. Their sound is not far afield from The Three O'Clock and Manual Scan, with less of a garage feel and more of a sixties R&B vibe.

Mod Fun formed in 1983, released a few singles and dropped two excellent LPs before breaking up in 1987. A few years ago the band reformed and has been playing off and on ever since. The definitive collection is the Get Hip records retrospective Past Forward, and no decent mod collection is complete without it.

Mod Fun -- Your Eyes Reflect

Mod Fun -- Hope It's Today

September 2, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Nicola Conte

From the moment I saw the Vespa spread across the cover of the US release of Nicola Conte's first album Bossa Per Due (aka Jet Sounds everywhere else)I knew I was going to love this album.

Nicola Conte is an Italian born, classically trained musician and DJ, who heads up his own acid jazz collective of suave jazz lovin' hipsters known as The Fez Collective. He is undoubtedly a product of Les Baxter, incorporating a very loungy, exotic feeling into his early work especially, but still evident at times in his latest releases.

The man is full of attitude and style, with the music to back it up. Conte's sound swaggers where others' stagger, it soars on the wings of cool, otherly sorts of sounds from Indian music, bossa nova, and straight ahead jazz. Take the title track to his debut album, "Bossa Per Due". It's a five minute journey through some serious jazz, dotted along the way with alluring and sexy vocals, Indian vibes, and an easy-listening sixties styled organ work that any mod couldn't help but love. And then there's the late-nite, Baxteresque "Fuoco Fatuo", the exotic jazz of "Missione A Bombay", and the swingin', Wanderly-like, sixties go-go jazz of "Jet Sounds".

His next release, 2004's Other Directions sort of did just that, it went in other directions, though none that were too surprising. In some ways it was jazzier, but it also included more vocals, while the exotica feel of the past sort of retreated to the background. 2008's Rituals continued Conte's love affair with exotic jazz, but included even more vocals, notably the stunningly luscious coices of Kim Sanders and Jose James, giving the whole release a more jazz club feel than earlier works. The second song below, "Song for the Seasons", is from that album.

Nicola Conte -- La Coda Del Diavolo

Nicola Conte -- Song For The Seasons

Nicola Conte - LIke Leaves In The Wind

September 1, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Les Baxter

Les Baxter is the leading figure in the history of exotica, even though the genre draws its name from Martin Denny's mid-fifites album. Still, Baxter is the father of the easy listening adventure sound of the south pacific and beyond. Wherever exotica went, Les Baxter was there, often leading the way. His work for Capitol Records in the 1950s introduced most of the major movements in exotica. His 1950 album, Music Out of the Moon, featured the theremin and was probably the best-selling theremin album of all time--and also founded the "space" school of exotica.

In 1951, he did the same for the "jungle" school of exotica with his landmark Ritual of the Savage LP, for which he wrote the theme song of exotica: "Quiet Village." He crested the European cover wave with his only number one hit, "Poor People of Paris," in 1956. He produced the first album by the four-octave Peruvian songstress, Yma Sumac (and claimed credit for many of its numbers, which were actually written by Sumac and her husband, Moises Vivanco). And he can be credited with anticipating the percussion school with his all-drums album, "Skins! Bongo Party with Les Baxter."

Baxter started performing in his teens as a concert pianist. He studied music formally at the Detroit Conservatory of Music and Pepperdine College. He worked as a tenor sax player, and then as a singer eventually getting hired as a member of the Mel-Tones, a harmony group formed by Mel Torme around 1947.

Baxter quit to work for NBC Radio as a one of a vocal quartet that sang on Pepsodent commercials on Bob Hope's radio show. He began arranging and ended up as musical director for Bob Hope and, later, Abbott and Costello. He continued with occasional vocal work as late as 1952, when he was in the back-up quartet on Frank DeVol's hit, "Love Letters in the Sand." His first album, "Music Out of the Moon," featured a choir, one cello, one French horn, a rhythm section, and a theremin. Baxter said of it, "No one had heard of a combination like that. It was a little weird. I didn't know what popular records were. I didn't know what I was doing."

At Capitol Records, where he primarily worked writing arrangements and conducting the orchestra on recording sessions for such singers as Frank Sinatra and Bob Eberle, he was involved in a historic session with Nat King Cole that included "Mona Lisa," "Nature Boy," and "Too Young"--although the arrangements for the latter were actually done by Nelson Riddle, not Baxter as some (including himself) later claimed. He also arranged and conducted on a series of LPs released under the name of dance studio entrepeneur Arthur Murray.

Like a number of Capitol's house arrangers, Baxter was able to record his own arrangements and, often, composition. Some arrangers didn't put much energy into such recordings, but Baxter clearly found them vital creative outlets and experimented with a variety of themes, musical devices, and genres. Of these, his "Ritual of the Savage" has become a classic in its own right, a musical travelogue accompanied by recorded jungle noises and bird calls that later inspired Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman, and others.

Baxter recorded for Capitol until 1962, when he began to focus on film scores, particularly for Roger Corman's American International studio. Feature scoring credits include "The Pit and the Pendulum," "Beach Blanket Bingo," "Operation Bikini," and many other now cult-favorite B-grade movies.

Baxter also worked in radio and television. He was the music arranger for the Bob Hope and Abbott & Costello radio shows and wrote and arranged for such TV shows as "Cliffhangers," "The Milton Berle Show," "The Tycoon" and "The Gumby Special." He briefly hosted his own variety show in southern California. He also dabbled in acting, appearing in "College Capers" (1954) and "Untamed Youth" (1957) with Mamie Van Doren and Eddie Cochran.

His last great release was Que Mango!, recorded with the 101 Strings Orchestra in 1970. Here is an album that is ... well, just luscious. Baxter combined his typical sense of adventure with a South American vibe capitalizing on the past success of artists like Sergio Mendes and Herb Alpert with bossa nova and other latin flavored stylings. His arrangements incorporated the era's jet-set sort of soft rock sound which worked perfectly with the 101 Strings Orchestra and is what has endeared it to the space age bachelor pad types ever since. The two songs here, "Que Mango" and "Jungle Montuno" are both from that album and perfectly represent Baxter's suave, go-go sixties style.

Baxter finally retired to Newport Beach, but continued to write and, occasionally, perform until his death in 1996. He was by all accounts delighted with the 1990 cocktail nation's revival of interest in exotica.

Les Baxter -- Que Mango!

Les Baxter -- Jungle Montuno