January 31, 2010

Modcast #154: Give A Dog A Bone

Welcome to Mr. Suave's Mod Mod World. Got a great show lined up for you this week. Some well known things here, but a few more obscure itmes that you might not be familiar with as well. I think you'll dig it.

Morning Benders -- Dammit Anna
Foxboro Hot Tubs -- Highway 1
Naz Nomad & The Nightmares -- (Do You Know)I Know
Mornin Wood -- Beth Olive
Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames -- Bend A Little
Manfred Mann -- She
Eddie's Crowd -- Take It Easy Baby
Purple Hearts -- Gun of Life
The Jolt -- Mr. Radio Man
Sham 69 -- Give A Dog A Bone
Oppenheimer -- Look Up

Purple Hearts -- Millions Like Us

Manfred Mann - Ha! ha! Said the Clown (1967)

January 29, 2010

RIP Ripchord?

If you get all teary eyed yearning for hard and fast power pop then get yourself a clean hanky to dry those eyes. Here's a power pop band that is really good. That means they shred. They tear it up. Get it? Right, then. By the way, you might have to get on down to your local nudie bar to see them on tour. Ahhh, crap. Wait. You can't see them because apparently they're not together anymore. So, you'll have to come up with your own excuse to get down to your the local strip club. Sorry.

was a Brtipop band through and through, with all the requisite retro influences from The Kinks to the The Undertonesto Blur to The Kaiser Chiefs. Overall the band's sound is sharp with ringing guitars, catchy melodies, and clever lyrics. Even some ba-ba-ba-bas. The songs bounce ... no they jump up and down, and at times seem to crash into each other not unlike a friendly mosh pit. Through it all were some pretty damn jaunty melodies speeded up and taken to the next level of intensity, but without losing their innocence. That's what kept the Ripchord's power pop from bursting into out and out punk rock. Along with some cool keyboards, hummable lyrics and a lack of safety pins and barbed wire.

Everyone should find something to like with Ricpchord. If nothing else you gotta like a band that took an insult like "the Beatles on speed" and embraces it through and through. For the record, my new favorite song is the Ripchord's "Lock Up Your Daughters". So what if I'm a little johnny-come-lately.

Ripchord -- My Precious Valentine

Ripchord interview

Ripchord -- Lock Up Your Daughters

January 28, 2010

Pete Townsend opens up on Quadrophenia and being a mod

When I first started listening to The Who in the early 80s it was Pete Townsend that was most Mods favorite. Keith Moon looked like a mod, but Pete to me was the one who always sounded like a mod. And yet, I don't think he very often has ever confirmed that he considered himself one -- during the sixties or ever. Until now.
I was a mod. No question about it.
There's a really great and lengthy interview with him from last summer in Brighton Magazine, about the new stage musical version of Quadrophenia.

Quadrophenia was originally released in the U.K. on October 26, 1973. It reached the #2 position being held out of the top spot by David Bowie's Pinups. In the U.S. Quadrophenia was released on November 3, 1973. Again it only reached #2 in the Billboard charts being beaten out of first place by Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

Regardless, Quadrophenia looms large not just in rock and roll, but specifically in the history of the mod movement. It was a rock opera, which the band never performed in its entirety until some 20 or more years after it was written. It was turned into a film during the first punk era and helped to launch the mod revival. And, it's been a sort of how to manual for countless young mods wondering about what to wear, what to ride and what pills to pop. So, it's interesting that at long last it's getting the full stage treatment.

Here then are a few intersting quotes from Mr. Townsend.
I was a mod. No question about it. The other three guys in The Who were not. My best friend at art college Nick Bartlett and his older brother Tim were the sharpest mods I came across, I hung out with them as much as I could. The thing is that anyone could be a mod. You didn"t need to be working class. I once hung out with a group of mods in Brighton with a girl, and we slept under the pier and chased rockers. The rest of the band had gone home. I wanted to feel a part of something, I always have. The mods allowed me that. When I went our clubbing in Soho, dancing I came across some of the Faces of the day. Phil the Greek, Julie Driscoll, Rod Stewart, David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Micky Tenner, Sandie Sargent and, of course, the Small Faces themselves. I was always close to the greatest Face of them all, Peter Meaden, and if The Who hadn"t got in the way I would have embraced the mod movement far more deeply. But my position on the stage allowed me a good view of what was going on. I became someone who gave a voice to some of those mods. But I was a part of what was happening. When LSD hit London I moved on, like so many others.


I want the show to entertain, of course, but a grander mission is to see it connect with the audience as well. Good rock music, as we now call my kind of pop, must be functional, it has to do something more than just entertain.


One thing is certain, in my original book Jimmy did not die at the end of the story, but I have no idea what happened to him. Any sequel will have to make a huge and arrogant leap to decide what happens to him and I hope it doesn"t spoil our individual fantasies about what Jimmy might have done when he got off that rock in the rain.
Quadrophenia Trailer

January 27, 2010

Couple Delivers Pop That's Not On The Radio

Last year I highlighted one of my fave power pop bands, Kuala Lumpur's Couple, with the warning that you should never ever search Google for "Malaysia Couple". I'm happy to report that things are starting to improve. At least that search now returns Couple's Myspace page in the top spot. Maybe this means they're getting more --and much deserved-- recognition. For a band that's been around since '96, and reportedly does about 90 live shows a year, it's about time. Let's hope the new album brings even more attention.

Speaking of which, I've been trading e-mail with the band's lead singer and super self-promoter Aidil about the new LP, Pop Tak Masuk Radio. (You can see what I wrote about their previous albums here.) My favorite songs on this new disk are "Lagu Cinta Untukmu" -- a very modern power pop number that wouldn't be out of place on a Weezer album; "Semua Tak Boleh" is a tour de force of power pop with it's Who like opening riff and a guitar attack the Hives would be proud of; and the rather sober, rootsy sounding "Mencari Malaysia".
Where the band's past albums were sung in English for the most part, this new album is all in Malaysian. But that doesn't matter because the music itself speaks volumes. The album is packed with all the elements of a great power pop disk -- ringing guitars, crashing drums, catchy hooks and hummable melodies. But, I did wonder and so shot a few quick questions to Aidil which he nicely answered. And, for all of us English speaking hicks he also sent me a run down of each of the songs, what they're about and how they translate into English.

I'm curious why on your last album you did so many songs in English, and then for this one didn't do any in English.
- Actually I just wanted to do an EP of Malay songs at first. I originally found it hard to write in Malay, so to challenge myself I decided to try and write more Malay ones (since I usually write only 2-3 Malay songs a year). But after 2 months, I realised that I've written about 14-15 Malay songs already, so I thought why not just make an album, right?

I'm assuming the songs are all sung in Malaysian, correct?
- Yup, it's all sung in the Malay language, which is also the national language of Malaysia.

What has been the reaction you've received from Americans?
- If we're talking about this new album, I'd have to say I still don't know, cause I haven't started promoting it to Americans yet... I'm hoping we can get the ball rolling with a little help from your website, hehhe.

How is your music received in Malaysia? Is power pop very popular there?
- We're kind of a 'best kept secret' kind of band here, because we're quite popular with the youth crowd, specifically high school kids and university/college students. We don't get much airplay at all, but somehow most of our songs made it into the kids' MP3 players and mobile phones (to the extent that we're probably the only band in the country that can get the crowd to sing along to every single we play at our gigs, which happens at gigs with as little as 50-100 people as well as festivals with a crowd of 5000-15000 people). The mainstream still ignores us, but everytime we play mainstream type shows or alongside mainstream artists, we usually get way better crowd reception than they do (the power of the internet, I guess, hehe). As for power pop, I think we're the only power pop band here. The kids just respond to the songs, I guess, without much thought to the kind of genre we do.

Any plans on coming here to tour the new album?
- We're still trying to get a label in the US to release the new album, so I don't really know yet, but this March we'll very probably be going to the UK to play some shows organised by Malaysian university students there, so hopefully we'll get to play some more shows there too.

Pop Tak Masuk Radio
Radio (Radio) - it's about this unique predicament of ours here in Malaysia whereby the radio stations seem to just refuse to play any of our songs (even if the songs have spread like wildfire amongst the kids + they all can sing along to them). So it's kind of a thank you song to our fans for helping spread the word, and a no thank you song to the radio stations, hehe.
Lagu Cinta Untukmu (Love Song For You) - it's about wanting to write a love song for our loved one so that we can express our feelings better.
Semua Tak Boleh (Can't Do Anything) - on the surface it's a commentary on the Malaysian government's penchant for censorship, but actually it's also a cynical take on the unfortunately very normal Malaysian attitude of one-upmanship, which usually means you'll never do anything right as there will always be people who'll think what you're doing is wrong.
Goyang (Shake) - just a fun song about shaking your ass at gigs
Cari Ganti (No Substitute) - about not wanting to find any substitute for your better half
Bayangkan (Imagine) - basically a song telling someone we fancy to imagine what it'd be like if we got together
Gila Bayang (Smitten) - another love song, the title says it all! Hehe
Whoa Oh Sayang (Whoa Oh Honey) - sweet and sappy lyrics about how that someone brightens up our lives
Hey Kawan-Kawan (Hey Friends) - the one-line lyrics basically translates into "Hey friends, let's tear shit up!", repeated over and over
Mencari Malaysia (Finding Malaysia) - Malaysia has a unique history in which it was at first predominantly occupied by the Malay people and the indigenous people of the land. Then the British colonised it and brought in the Indians and Chinese to work the rubber estates and tin mines. When we got our independence, everyone got their citizenship (including the migrant workers), but not without the bargain that the Malays get some special rights (since it's basically 'their' country and the others are immigrants). All this has resulted in some deep seated racial prejudice in which almost everything here (especially politics) is divided along racial lines. This song is about trying to overcome all that, and for the current and future generations to finally accept that they might be immigrants 2 or 3 generations ago, but they are Malaysians now and they have played their part in the process of nation building, so it's high time that we start looking at each other as brothers and sisters already.

So there it is, a fairly complete description of the songs, hehe. All of them are originals which I wrote myself, no covers. As for the album title, Pop Tak Masuk Radio roughly translates as "Pop That's Not On The Radio".

Couple -- Lagu Cinta Untukmu

Couple -- Semua Tak Boleh

January 26, 2010

A good Omen is when last year's good stuff is also this year's good stuff

Here it is nearly the end of the first month of the second decade of the 21st century, and I'm still stumbling across last year's releases and becoming enamored of sounds from yesteryear. In this instance, it's the sound of last year, and the sound of 20 years prior to that, and the sound of 20+ years before that.

The Omens are a garage band that is reviving the last garage revival of 1984, which was in turn reviving a garage sound from the mid sixties. And they are one of the best such garage rock bands currently playing that I've heard. In a word scathing. Another word, blistering. Another word, frenetic. How many words is going to take to make you sit up and take notice?

I'd like to say I've followed their career long and hard, but it would be a lie. I've followed it since I stumbled across their recent relase Send Black Flowers just around Christmas. The album evokes the sounds of the 80s garage revival with screeching vocals, swirling organs, and an overall punkiness that turns the regurgitated sixties R&B into a thrashed out sort of rock and roll. Here you will find all of the garage rock you can stand, complete with brash echoes of The Fuzztones, The Gravedigger V, and The Moorlocks. This is guitar driven garage rock the way it was meant to be. Welcome back.

The Omens -- Look Away

January 24, 2010

Modcast #153: Doin' The iMod Shuffle II

Welcome to Mr. Suave's Mod Mod World. If you're a slave to shuffle like I am then you know that every once in a while your ipod or whatever digital player you're listening too, serves up a one in a million string of absolutely great songs that even though they they have little in common, at that moment, in that space, in your head, it's the perfect mix. For me this usually happens when I'm walking the dog, just as it did last week. I rushed home and wrote down the list and this week's show featurs those eleven songs just as they came up on my ipod -- and I'm calling it the iMod shuffle. So, here's your chance to peek behind the curtain as it were and see what's on my ipod.

The Rolling Stones -- As Tears Go By
Deee-Lite -- Groove Is In The Heart
The Bangles -- Going Down To Liverpool
The Beat -- Best Friend
The Go-Gos -- Lust To Love
Hammerbox -- When 3 Is 2
Oingo Boingo -- Only A Lad
Squeeze -- Pulling Mussles From (The Shell)
The Kinks -- Set Me Free
Paul Weller -- Science
The Four Tops -- Fool On The Hill

Hammerbox -- Somewhere Under The Moon

The Bangles -- I'm In Line

January 23, 2010

New Modest Proposal live track from their reunion show

Here is a brand new unreleased track from Modest Proposal, recorded live at their reunion show in November. You might say this is the band's theme song, since it is titled "Modest Proposal".

Lead singer Neal Augentstein e-mailed me that:
It's the song "Modest Proposal" -- one of the first songs the band wrote in 1983, which was recorded and used on our first few cassette demo tapes, but was never (and still hasn't) been released on vinyl or CD. We stopped playing it fairly early on. Was last played live circa 1984.

This version was the song that opened our 25 year reunion show at Comet Ping Pong. This was recorded off the mixing board.
Nice way to open the show with a song about Jam shoes, scooters, and being a mod.

Modest Proposal -- Modest Proposal

And here's some cool photos from that show proving that Modest Proposal have what it takes to be rock stars.

January 22, 2010

The Cute Lepers Get Smart

Regular lurkers will know that I'm a huge fan of the '79 sound, and no one has reprised it better of late than Seattle's own The Cute Lepers.

Their latest album has just arrived in the states, titled Smart Accessories. It's just that. Smart. And tight. And, well, excellent. I would say run, don't walk, to your local platter seller and pick up your own copy.

Not to be lazy or trite, but if you like The Buzzcocks, The Undertones, Blondie, The Damned, Generation X, or more contemporary bands like The Briefs (previous band of lead singer Steve E. Nix, and bassist Stevie Kicks) then you will love, absolutely love, The Cute Lepers. Guaranteed or your money back (in general circulation).

The Cute Lepers -- Some Hits Hurt

The Cute Lepers -- So Screwed Up

January 21, 2010

2009 Music Festivals

Cochella has become the media darling music festival, sort of a music festival to end all music festivals. But there are better, namely Britian's Reading Festival.

This year Cochella does have a few bands I'd like to see such as The Specials, The Cribs, Camera Obscura, Devo, Public Image Limited, or Gil Scott Heron. And that's spread over three days at a cost of $269. Too rich for my blood.

On the other hand, the Reading Festival has quite a few groups that I'd very much like to see like The Kaiser Chiefs, Maximo Park, Arctic Monkeys, the Aggrolites, Mad Caddies, and The Rakes. Of course, getting to the UK from Seattle is a bit pricier than a jaunt down the coast to So Cal. So six of one and half a dozen of the other I suppose.

Gil Scott Heron -- The Bottle

Kaiser Chiefs -- Tomato In The Rain

Maximo Park -- Postcard of a Painting

Camera Obscura -- Let's Get Out Of This Country

The Cribs -- Hari Kari

The Specials -- Little Bitch

January 19, 2010

From the Vaults: Modcast #104 Your Big Sister Said You Ain't Never Been Cool

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 ... well at least fresh. Take a giant step outside your current listening constraints and journey with me all the way back to the fall of 2008. 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

What a time it's been gettin' the latest show produced and broadcast. I've been having weird technical problems that just cropped up recently. Problems that make the show sound amateurish and not at all polished. So, picked up a new mic and mini-mixer specifically for podcasting, and dammit all if I can't get it to work with my system. All to say that I hope this show is listenable because the music surely is.

This week's show is a little longer than usual but it's worth it. Got a great big strong soul vibe going. With the new soul revival in full swing it seems there's always new --and old-- stuff to discover and enjoy. Got a great live track from JTQ, some new stuff from the Upper 5th and Buttonup among other things -- such as Lucky Soul, who is fast becoming one of my favorites. One other especially nice treat here is the new track by Adrian Holder, former front man for The Moment. He's putting together a new album and if it's anything like what you can get a taste of on his Myspace page then it will be one hell of a release. Mod on, kids, mod on.

Let me know how I'm doing and what you think. E-mail me at rob@mistersuave.com.

Bonus Videos

New Mastersounds -- Carrot Juice

Lucky Soul -- Add Your Light to Mine

(Meet Lucky Soul here)


January 16, 2010

Washington Wines Finally Get Their Due

The time is overdue for Washington wines to get their due. This year it's finally happened. Chateau St. Michelle, the granddaddy of Washington Wines, has made its mark be being heralded as the best wine of 2009 by Wine Spectator magazine. I'm not much of a wine guy. It's kind of like art. Or anything else. I know what I like. And, while Chateau St. Michelle is a fine wine, I have to say that Washington's finest is Kiona, which produces the finest chenin blanc. No matter, it's just nice to see little old Washington finely gettin' some props.

British band The Rapscallions have captured the whole alcohol thing pretty perfectly with "Great Swines Drink Alike".

The Rapscallions -- Great Swines Drink Alike

January 14, 2010

How The Lack of Vermouth Laid Low The Mighty Martini or Please Impregnate My Gin With Some Vermouth

I recently stumbled across this Slate article dating from 1998, and extolling the virtue of having the proper amount of vermouth in your martini.

In this era of disgustingly superdry and inhumanly exotic martini hybrids, I was surprised to see the author, Fareed Zakaria, give vermouth its proper due:
"The martini is a mixed drink. A goodly portion of vermouth rests in its very essence."
Amen brother. The martini is gin and vermouth. It certainly is not to be made with vodka, and if you cut one half of the ingredients . . . well, you might have a nice glass of straight Beefeater or Boodles, but it isn't a martini. In correctly pointing out the importance of vermouth Zakaria stumbles across one of the unheralded tragedies of the 20th century -- it was the vermouth that ruined the martini, not the vodka.

I have often bemoaned the fact that all too often you get a martini that is all gin no vermouth. That may sound like a good thing, but when the drink usually languishes in a shaker of crushed ice before eventually making its way to the table, you end up with watered down gin. Not exactly the most auspicious beginning to the evening.

The worst thing to happen to the martini though was its bastardization by the vodka companies of the world. With the cold war in full swing, Smirnoff and a host of others pushed the exotic "Russian" vodka on a thirsty American public, mostly by changing the martini into a vodka based cocktail. So, now we have drinks made with vodka --and all manner of ingredients-- masquerading as martinis.

So, it was that the demise of vermouth led to the sad state of martinis today.
"When Paul Desmond, the saxophonist of the Dave Brubeck Quartet, was asked how he developed the glistening, elegant sound often called '50s jazz or modern jazz, he explained, "I think I had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to sound like a dry martini." But as modernism became purer and purer, and its buildings, art, and music all became simpler and shorn of any style, the martini had to follow suit. The dry martini had to get cooler, cleaner, starker--in short, drier. Thus began the race to the bottom, with vermouth levels falling precipitously, from a third to a fifth to a tenth to a splash of Martini & Rossi in a sea of Tanqueray. The superdry martini was the cocktail equivalent of Brutalist architecture, theoretically dazzling in its severity but in fact rather tasteless. Next, vodka began to replace gin as the preferred drink, endorsed by James Bond. Now, good, chilled vodka has a lovely, sinuous texture, but it doesn't mix particularly well with vermouth. Which became all the more reason to toss out the mixer."

Zakaria concludes with very good advice for all martini drinkers out there:
"So the next time you walk into a bar, tell the bartender you want your martini wet--the gin thoroughly impregnated with vermouth."

For the record Mr. Suave likes his martinis with Martini & Rossi vermouth. Noilly Pratt is allright, but M&R just seems to make it right. Buy the big bottle, there's no point in running out all the time to get more, and use the cap to measure your vermouth. Two capfuls is a nice place to start, enlivening the martini without overwhelming it with too much of a wine taste. Of course, you need a minimum of four shots of gin, preferably Beefeater or a brand that has that deep juniper flavor right up front that goes so nicely with the vermouth.

In fact, I think I'll go have one right now.

Nicola Conte -- La Coda Del Diavolo

January 13, 2010

(re)Discovering The Haywains

The Haywains have been around for eons as far as music time goes. Their first recordings were in the late 80s and that was quickly followed by an LP in 1991. Yet, here we are nearly 20 years later and I'm just discovering the band. Not that I hadn't heard of them, and in fact had listened to some of their tracks a few years back. But it didn't strike a chord with me then, as it has now.

I don't know why. The Haywains were fantastic. Recently, I've fallen in love with their third and final LP Desperately Seeking Something. All of their albums were infused with the band's typically catchy pop hooks and clever plays on retro sounds. One of the best was "Kill Karaoke" from their debut album.

But for my money it was Desperately Seeking Something where they really seem to have come into their own. That release combined their youthful vigor and attitude with more mature writing and arrangements, and a certain experience that can only come to those who've been there and done that. The title track is a wonderful example with it's buzzing guitars, it brought to mind some forerunners of the Britpop sound like The Wonderstuff and James, combined with a sort of sixties psych sound that was rather populuar during the 90s. "Bye Bye Boyfriend" is another pop gem that nterestingly has riffs in it are nearly identical to the title track, if in a different key. Even more intersting brings together the male/female vocals in a chorus that in a weird way sounds not unlike Madness's "Bed & Breakfast Man". One of the other songs that really jumped out to me from that disk was "Jerk", which is a kind of twee pop song with a simple arrangement, but one that works in an almost inexplicable way.

If you haven't discovered The Haywains, or if like me you've simply overlooked them for your own inexplicable reason, then now's the time to remedy that.

The Haywains -- Jerk

The Haywains -- Bye Bye Boyfriend

The Haywains -- Desperately Seeking Something

January 11, 2010

The Risk Storming New Sounds of the Sixties Away Back When

Just stumbled across this video of The Risk at the New Sounds of The Sixties show in 1986.

I went to several of those shows in San Diego over the years and they were all great, but no knowing if this was the actual high-water mark or not.

We always had a good time scooting down from the Inland Empire, making a weekend of it in San Diego, seeing the show, meeting new friends, partying like crazy. I can remember staying at the Lucky 7 Motel, with like 40 people ending up crashing there over night. There was some sort of altercation when some skinheads tried to ransack our room -- literally they were kicking people and stole some lawn chairs and ice chests of all things. (Don't ask me why we had lawn chairs, I really don't know.) Eventually, everyone passed out. Wait, am I supposed to be admitting this stuff? Even now?

Oh yeah, in '86 one thing I can't forget is that it was hot, too hot, I had too much to drink, and I think I sort of didn't appreciate The Risk as much as I would have otherwise. Ah, well . . . . .

The Risk - Inside Straight

News of the weird = instant pleasure

Back in 2004 Seth Swirsky, the pop genius behind The Red Button, sang about his -- and probably every mans -- need for instant gratification. Hell, he named an entire album Instant Pleasure -- and it's a fantastic album of sixties infused, pscyhadelia tinged, dreamy, swirling, and about a dozen other complimentary adjectives, power pop.

Anyhow, I stumbled across this article while studying up for quiz night. Roxxy the Sex Robot would seem to fit the bill for instant pleasure (there's a male version as well, appropriately name Rocky). Oh, and the bill is about $7,000. I wonder if you can write that off your taxes?

Seth Swirsky -- Instant Pleasure

And just to prove all that stuff about Swirsky's fantastic album is true, here is another cool cut.

Seth Swirsky -- Only Me Fair May

January 10, 2010

Modcast #152: A Bowlful O' Soul Funkified For Your Pleasure

Welcome to Mr. Suave's Mod Mod World, this week I'm laying the funk down. Since mods cannot live on power pop alone, I've got a full bowl o' soul for you, with extra funkification to help you get your groove on. Dig in.

Download Modcast #152

The Fantastics! -- Stay Hip (Or Die Trying) (2009)
Quincy Jones -- Fat Poppadaddy (1970)
Soul Tornados -- Hot Pants Breakdown (circa 1969)
Wheedle's Groove -- Sea of Grass (2009)
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings -- Pick it up, Lay it in the Cut (2007)
The Clarence Mack Experience -- Runaway Train (circa 1970)
Soulive -- Tonight (2009)
The New Mastersounds -- Chocolate Chip (2009)
Breakestra -- Get it Right (2009)
Lo Fidelity Jet Set Orchestra -- Groovy Motion (2009)
Greyboy -- Lost Boogaloo (2009)

Wheedle's Groove

The New Mastersounds -- Flimsy Lewis

January 7, 2010

Swing it like you mean it, Sister

Immediately on its US release in 1987 I was lucky enough to stumble across It's Better To Travel by a swank band I'd never heard of before. My friend so liked it he borrowed my LP and never gave it back, Fortunately I had made a cassette tape copy for myself. We were huge fans of The Style Council, Sade, and other sophistipop soul bands of the day.

I was working nights as a janitor and had a 2lb walkman clipped to my belt and a backpack full of cassette tapes to keep me company. I was able to ditch the backpack for a couple of weeks as I fell in love with Swing Out Sister's soulful, sophisticated, synthesized pop. As cassettes were want to do, there inevitably came the frustrating moment when I had to try and untangle the tape from the player. I bought both a cassette and another LP version the next day.

Swing Out Sister has had a rollercoaster ride of a career. Currently the goroup is up, up, up in many places around the world, including Southeast Asia where they've been touring of late. (Sadly for me, it seems Seattle --while part of the Pacific Rim-- is not slated for a visit from the group.)

Here's a great interview with Corinne Drewery from the Bangkok Post.
''I think the kind of music we did was quite new at that time, the sound of the horn-riff and upbeat synthesising-sound arrangement,'' said Drewery.

''You could call it electro-pop or jazz-pop. It's a mixture of things. But most of our influence is music from our childhood like Bart Bacharach, Dionne Warwick and movie soundtracks. We also love music by John Barry, who scored much of the James Bond films. We have admiration for beautiful soundtracks and good songs, so we've tried to encapsulate that in the kind of songs we were writing.''

After becoming a ''duo'' band, Drewery explained that after the second album, the musical direction of Swing Out Sister shifted from pop to, what she called, ''cinematic sound''.

''We were more fond of retro music _ beautiful lyrics with smooth and crystalline sound,'' Drewery added.
Read the rest here.

January 4, 2010

It's the end of an era as my gin goes missing

I'm a gin lush, it's true. As Divine Comedy put it, "I'm the gin in the gin soaked boy"(but I'm not Jeff Goldblum in the fly!). You can put just about any alcohol in front of me and I can easily pass it up. With one tiny exception. Put a glass of gin out there and I'll be on my knees lappin' it up before you can sing oh susannah (and she was a gin junky by all accounts, as well).

Gin, aside from being the world's best alcoholic beverage, has inspired many a song. From Snoop Dog to the Reverend Horton Heat, from Muddy Waters to The Ramones, it seems everyone has weighed in on the good --and sometimes bad-- of gin over the years. Gin has long fueled musicians in more ways than one.

Sadly, the reason for this post --and there is one as you will now see- is that the Washington State Liquor Control Board, in its (in)finite wisdom, has discontinued the world's best brand of the world's best alcoholic beverage. Booth's London Dry Gin, with it's near 300 year history, and a royal pedigree to boot, has been tossed aside to make room for some dorm-room distilled brand that would rot a Dutch pirate's liver from the inside out.

Tonight marks the end of an era for Mr. Suave. Even as I write this I'm sipping the last gin martini made with Booth's that I'm likely to get in this lifetime (in this state). I've been drinking Booth's for about 18 years now. I've had family members bootleg it across states lines from Oregon where it sold for less than half the outrageous overtaxed price it sold for here in our puritanical state of Washington. I've considered buying in bulk, especially when the discontinued labels went up at the local WSLCB Store #53.

Booth's was first and foremost a gentleman's gin, as evidenced by their 1950s ad campaigns with Rex Harrison and Basil Rathbone. But, it was a gentleman's gin long before that, thanks to being founded by a member of the House of Lords in 1740, and later championed by his heir, Felix Booth the Sheriff of London. The original label sported a royal crest with the words "by appointment to Her Majesty the Queen." Even as his distilleries pumped out gin barrel after barrel helping amass a lordly fortune, Felix Booth financed an exploration to chart the Northern passage. It failed. But it did result in northernmost part of mainland North America, near the Arctic in the Kitikmeot Region, located in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, being named the Boothia Peninsula. The Booth's Gin that is distilled today (by the same company that now owns Gordon's and Tanqueray) uses the same recipe as that used in the 1740s and the pot still is a replica of the one used by good Sheriff Felix.

Gary Regan's "The Martini Companion" lists the following tasting notes for Booth's:
Soft juniper nose; medium body, wonderfuly perfumed palat with juniper right up front of floral/coriander backdrop; crisp, dry finish. Recommended.
Among gins of note only Beefeater and Tanqueray receive a higher rating from Regan.

My own review of Booth's would be that it is a juniper proper gin. I think its first bite brings the juniper right out front, which any good gin should. Gin is not a drink of soft edges, but rather one that should pronounce itself loudly in your mouth, without being cutting like bourbon or rum. Where vodka is a blank slate all too eager to be fortified by whatever you douse it with, gin stands tall with it's own distinct flavor. That flavor is in the botanicals -- the wildly varying concoction of herbs, spices and whatever else fits, that the distiller thinks will work. Even then, the same recipe can be distilled once, twice, thrice, or even more times, creating a different flavor with each pass through the pot. Booth's gin gives you a nice big juniper pinch at first taste. Following that there is some sense of orange peel, licorice, coriander, and cinnamon that linger on your tongue. It's a traditional gin flavor that favors a full bodied, slightly sweety, juniper taste over everything else. It is, allegedly, from 1740 after all when it's unlikely that they were experimenting with ginger, limes or sundried tomatos.

There have been some quite good gin songs over the years as I mentioned above. But for me there are a few songs that just go well with a bottle of Booth's (and I do mean bottle, friends). So here's my short list of great gin songs. Gin, unlike most other alcohols, require's little additional adornment to be enjoyed, so I've selected primarily instrumentals. Not necessarily songs about gin, but songs that just go well with gin because the invokes a sort of gin reaction in your tastebuds, or at least in my tastebuds.

Au Revoir to Booth's Gin in Washington. If you're reading this, and you're coming to visit, and you are at your wit's end on what to bring as a host gift .........

Divine Comedy -- Gin Soaked Boy

January 3, 2010

Modcast #151: The Last Gasp of 2009

Happy new year, I'm back baby!

Welcome to Mr. Suave's Mod Mod world, 2009 is in the history books, and 2010 is upon. But I'm giving 2009 one last gasp before moving. The first decade of the 21st century is history, but this last year saw great music produced. I've got eleven treats for you to close out the last year from power pop to soul to indie rock. And it's all mod friendly.

This past year I had the Mod-A-Day project, where I posted a different band everyday covering everything from mod to punk, ska, lounge, garage rock, indie pop and more. The idea was to familiarize people with mod friendly music.

When I first got into the mod scene as teenager I was easily influenced by other older scenesters who convinced me that if it was sixties, or soul, or part of the mod revival than it was crap. Unfortunately, taking that to heart, I really missed out on a lot of great music that I could have enjoyed. Fortunately, over the years I've caught up on much of that. In an effort to help keep such from happening to others I decided I would post a band a day. One main idea was to highlight groups that didn't get much attention over the years. So, I enjoyed highlighting a lot of great southern California mod bands I grew up with like The Targets, Three O'Clock, The Question and Chardon Square. Some of it was to remind people of great soul music from the past like PP Arnold, The Flirtations, or Eddie Floyd. Some of it was to remember some of the great mod and ska acts of yesteryear like Secret Affair, Madness, The Style Council or The Who. At times I updated you all about more recent and contemporary mod bands like The Len Price 3, The Insomniacs, The Odd Numbers and The Bishops. And sometimes I went a bit further afield and posted items about new wave bands, lounge acts, rock combos, twee groups, and power poppers like Birdie, The Carrots, Oingo Boingo, Social Distortion, Sweet, Combustible Edison, The Quick, and Love Jones.

It was fun, and I'm proud to say I managed a post every single day last year. I'm not giving up totally, but you won't be finding daily posts this year, though I'll still probably do a few a week. Hopefully with more and varied material from cocktail notes to interviews with bands and artists. As usual there will always be a mod . You will still get weekly modcasts. Those will keep on coming, don't you worry.

Go enjoy this week's modcast and I'll see you later in the week.

Mr. Suave

Last Gasp of 2009
The Parties -- Kensington Avenue
The Raveonettes -- Bang!
The Madd -- The Erroneous Ideas of Mr. Rupert Stapleton
Naomi Starr -- Powerpop Nugget
Franz Ferdinand -- Send Him Away
The Takeover UK -- Main Street Crush
The Bishops -- Laughter in the Dark
The Corner Laughers -- Stonewords
Mando Diao -- Go Out Tonight
The Black Hollies -- Run With Me Run
The Pepper Pots -- Real True Love

Mando Diao - Gloria

The Black Hollies -- Paisley Patterned Ground