Friday 18 October 2019

We Are The Mods, We Are The Mods (Again)

Did Quadrophenia spark a Mod Revival in 1979, or was it already happening?
Well, it didn't to it any harm did it.

Despite Punk's believed ethos of (seemingly) destroying all that had come before it, it did actually open up and several bands looked backwards for inspiration.  A possibly simplistic statement of Punk Rock is "sped up Chuck Berry riffs", and that's probably not too far from the truth.

As Punk died and splintered into Post-Punk, Goth, Art-Rock, and whatever other titles bestowed by the music press, one band stuck to their original stance.
The Jam, in truth, were never a Punk band - but in a case of "right place, right time" their adrenaline-fuelled stage show, backed up with the Mod look and Union Jacks a-plenty caught the attention.
As 1977 turned into 1978, The Jam upped the Mod quotient - their album 'All Mod Cons' was released in late 1978 - and the beginnings of a new "scene" started to appear.

As with most things musical, the Mod Revival started as a London-centric thing - with the Bridge House in Canning Town and The Wellington in Waterloo being two particular hot-beds.
After the tribalism of Punk, Working Class youth were looking/waiting for the next "thing" - and why not the look back to "Clean Living In Difficult Circumstances" ethos of Mod.
The new bands found support and a home in the music press with Garry Bushell (in Sounds) regularly featuring his new enthusiasms (when not bigging up the Oi scene).
Whatever anyone thinks of Garry Bushell (personally, I think him a bit of a smug pillock), he did seem to have his ear to the ground, and knew a real "Sound From The Street" when he heard one.  He called it a "Renewal" rather than a "Revival".

One of the first records of this burgeoning movement was the Mods Mayday compilation, recorded (unsurprisingly) on May Day 1979 at the Bridge House, Canning Town.  The album featured the bands Squire, Merton Parkas, Small Hours, Beggar, and Secret Affair.

Secret Affair's "Time For Action" (released August 1979) was perhaps the clarion call of the movement - despite Secret Affair (sort of) eschewing the Mod Revival, and setting themselves up as "The Glory Boys" (which was the same sort of thing really, but was a "new" thing rather than a revival).
Secret Affair were not the first to release their wares, but they were one of the earliest to make an impression on the charts, radio and mass media.
And that timing also coincided with the release of Quadrophenia which brought further focus to the Mod look, style, ethos and culture.  And it didn't do it any harm - bands popped up everywhere as record companies (burned by Punk) jumped on another bandwagon.

Secret Affair, The Chords and The Purple Hearts were perhaps the Big 3.
But others made their presence known including The Lambrettas, Back To Zero, Nine Below Zero, The Jolt, The Teenbeats, Small Hours and others - all managing a couple of singles, and maybe an album.  Not always to large scale success, but enough to sate their dreams and ensure a legacy.

But the Mod Revival (or Renewal?) was not to last - by 1982, Paul Weller announced his intention to split The Jam, and the Mod world seemed to split with it.
Early Style Council (notably "Speak Like A Child" and "A Solid Bond In Your Heart" had echoes of the 1978-82 period), but they were moving to a more soulful area - the Revival bands who combined the 60s RnB and added Punk/New Wave into the mix were no longer in vogue.  Bands like The Truth and Nine Below Zero enjoyed minor success.  A brief (second) revival headed by The Prisoners came and went in the mid-80s, and then Mod-isms became appropriated by Britpop bands, notably with Blur's second album 'Modern Life Is Rubbish' re-claiming Britishness coupled a Mod-look, and the appearance of Phil Daniels "Parklife".  Ocean Colour Scene appeared to take it one stage further, and almost created Mod Revival Revival.

Cherry Red Records know about this sort of stuff, and have released a 4CD Box Set ('Millions Like Us - The Story Of The Mod Revival 1977-1989') pulling together the key bands and tracks of the period.  And a real treat it is too.
But if you haven't got time for 100 tracks, then luxuriate in these 3:

Secret Affair - Time For Action

The Chords - The British Way Of Life

The Purple Heart - Jimmy

Friday 4 October 2019

Liam Gallagher - Why Me? Why Not?

When a new album bearing the name "Gallagher" arrives, there are usually 4 stock questions:

  1. Does it sound like it always sounds?
  2. Are the lyrics peppered with bad or contrived rhymes?
  3. Is it derivative / a slight knock-off of other peoples work?
  4. Does it break any new ground, or in anyway a departure from the expected?
And the answers, unsurprisingly, are: Yes, Yes, Yes and No

The full title of this album could/should be: 'Why Me? Why Not? What More Did You Expect?'

But this is not a bad thing - it is comfortable, easy to access, and rewards quite quickly.  The only fear is that the "reward" may not last and this will soon be consigned to the "might play again if I stumble across it" pile.

There are many people in this world who perceive Liam Gallagher as "that insufferable knob that used to sing in Oasis".  And, to be honest, his latest advert on Amazon hardly helps his case.
But I maintain he has one of the greatest rock voices of the past few years (well, 25 since the release of Oasis's 'Definitely Maybe').
Just the right combination of sneer, strain, over-diction and emotion - combined together, in my ears, that gives a level of honesty and believability about his performances.  You get the feeling he still can't believe the position he is in, and wants to make each performance, and every syllable, count.
Unfortunately, I think his voice was ill served by his previous sols album (2017s 'As You Were') with only "For What It's Worth" really showcasing his vocal abilities (yes, I think he does have some vocal ability).  The rest of that album seemed to be a sanitised version of what it could've been, and seemed to be attempting to send him towards the edgier end of Radio 2 listening - and why not, Warners obviously wanted a return on their investment.

'Why Me? Why Not?' is his second solo album, and is a step up from the previous 2 Beady albums (which just seemed to be treading water with the odd highlight moment) and the first solo album.
The trademark voice is more apparent, the band sound is fuller and less produced, and the songs feel better written and arranged
(there are moments when (devillishly) you would say they're almost Noel-esque).

The album opens in fine stompng style with the Glam Rock/Slade-esque "Shockwave", and the 70s stomp, udeated obviously for current days, pervadses much of the album's 11 tracks.
He even gets a bit reflective, almost offering an olive branch of acceptance to his older sibling on "One of Us" - the prime "Liam voice" track here, and "Once" continues the reflection. almost to a sign-off of finally putting the rumours of Oasis reunions off the agenda.

So a strong start, and whilst the rest of the album does not perhaps hit these same heights, there is nothing with a whiff of filler, and nothing that is sub-standard.
Liam's Lennon-fixation remains, but on a couple of tracks (perhaps most notably "Alright Now", and also on the psychedelic-y "The Meadow") there's a bit of Paul McCartney melody creeping in, with a touch of a George Harrison guitar soloing to cap it off.
And another influence turned real for this album is The Stone Roses, most noticeable on the bonus track "Invisible Sun" (which surely is a contender for the real album (rather than a bonus) possibly replacing "Halo" (which is probably the weakest track here).

Despite the minor quibble of track choices (and I'm not going to argue with Liam - would you?), this album has enough to want to repeatedly listen.
Job's a good 'un - top stuff our kid!

One Of Us