Thursday, 17 January 2019

The Embrooks "We Who Are" New LP & State Records Launch Party with Les Grys Grys and The Dirty Contacts at The Lexington January 5th

The Embrooks - "We Who Are" LP cover
The Embrooks celebrated the release of their brand new LP "We Who Are" with a cracking value for money State Records showcase and launch party at The Lexington featuring special guests Les Grys Grys and The Dirty Contacts. Of course Mole and Lois of The Embrooks are the brains behind the fabulous State Records who have recently completed work on their very own recording studio North Down Sound in the grounds of their HQ in Folkestone, which is certainly paying dividends.

The Dirty Contacts at The Lexington - Photo Retro Man Blog
The Dirty Contacts at The Lexington - Photo Retro Man Blog
Opening the show after an excellent selection of songs from DJ Suzy ScreamCheese, the Hastings based Dirty Contacts were also celebrating a new release. Their debut single "The World's End" was recorded at North Down Sound and is out now as a heavyweight gatefold sleeved 7" vinyl single. They played a great set of scuzzy Garage Punk with some promising original songs rubbing shoulders with some familiar cover versions such as Wimple Winch’s "Save My Soul" and a superb take on The Wailers "Out of Our Tree". I recognised the Fratcave and Beatwave weekender organisers Ian Greensmith from The Dentists on drums and Justin from The Sine Waves on keyboards. In fact, Justin's futuristic keyboards add another dimension to their sound and give The Dirty Contacts a welcome and original angle that sets them apart from many of their contemporaries.

Les Grys Grys at The Lexington - Photo Retro Man Blog
Les Grys Grys at The Lexington - Photo Retro Man Blog
The fantastic Les Grys Grys have been over from Montpellier to visit North Down Sound to continue work on their forthcoming album. They took time out between recording sessions to headline a riotous New Year show at Weirdsville which featured crowd-surfing, PA climbing, Go-Go dancing full-on mayhem. Tonight they put in a rather more sedate performance that is as tight and rocking as the Weirdsville show was chaotic. They really are one of the best live acts on the circuit and tonight’s set promises that the new LP will be a sure-fire classic, can't wait to hear it.

The Embrooks at The Lexington - Photo Retro Man Blog
The Embrooks take the stage and tonight, with his striped trousers and tasselled hat, frontman Mole reminds me of the Psychedelic shopkeeper in the Mr Ben cartoon, promising us a fantastical adventure ahead. Indeed, there is an element of the unknown to come as Mole announces that they will only be playing songs from their brand new release “We Who Are". I thought it was a brave move by the band to play the album in sequence from side one, track one, however, it all worked out perfectly in the end. This was mainly down to the fact that “We Who Are” is expertly sequenced with each song capable of being released as a stand-alone single in its own right. In fact, I found myself singing along to numbers as though I'd listened to them for years rather than just a couple of weeks. I noticed there were a fair number of people around me doing likewise. You see, “We Who Are” is one of those rare albums where everything just clicks. From the beautifully packaged limited edition 180-gram vinyl LP with its lavish gatefold sleeve and accompanying CD, right through to the production and the sheer quality of the song writing, it’s all here.

The Embrooks at The Lexington - Photo Retro Man Blog
Only one song breaks the three and a half minute barrier but they still manage to cram in loads of intriguing twists and turns into each number, which gives the album a thoroughly satisfying depth. Drummer Lois kicks things off with the snake hipped groove of “Going But Not Gone” and Mole's elastic bass riff is bubbling away nicely underneath. The previously released State Records single "Nightmare" was the only familiar song in the main set and it has a great stinging guitar riff intro from Alex. "Don't Look At Me" is one of my highlights on the album, it starts off as a Garage Punk stomper before shooting off at an unexpectedly pastoral tangent with some wicked flute played brilliantly on the album and at the gig by Tom Hodges. Suddenly a mighty bass riff slaps us back on track and then it all goes off with a crunching guitar riff and the flute going haywire.

The Embrooks at The Lexington - Photo Retro Man Blog
For me the album's centrepiece is the magnificent "Human Living Vampire" and on this track in particular, you really get the feeling that the band are definitely utilising their own studio to its full potential as the multi-layered guitar work from Alex blew my mind. It starts with a beautifully intricate twelve-string motif and then in comes some furiously strummed, almost flamenco styled acoustic. There is so much going on that your ears won't know which way to turn. “We Who Are” certainly distils all of The Embrooks many and varied influences perfectly. From the quintessentially British 60’s Freakbeat era of bands such as The Sorrows and The Attack, they cross the Atlantic to embark on a mammoth Psychedelic road-trip. The journey takes in the dirty waters of the East Coast Garage Punk scene to the Texan Psych of the 13th Floor Elevators and then onto California and the sun-kissed harmonies of The Byrds and "Mr Soul" period Buffalo Springfield.

The Embrooks at The Lexington - Photo Retro Man Blog
There’s some superb Fuzz guitar on "I'm Coming Home" with a melody reminiscent of The Brian Jonestown Massacre's classic "Not If You Were The Last Dandy..." Next up it's "Baby From The South" which has a nice upbeat rhythm and a touch of The Equals Rock'n'Soul about it. A cover of The Lost Souls "Peace of Mind" based on a hypnotic slightly sinister riff, fits in seamlessly among the original material. The excellent "Hang Up" features some classic stabbing organ chords and a great guitar break. "You Can If You Want" closes the album and the main set with Kevin CK Smith joining the band to play some astounding harmonica. I remember seeing Kevin's very first appearance in London when he guested with The Dustaphonics to play harmonica and he blew everyone away. Since then he has gone from strength to strength, joining The Baron Four and The Voo-Dooms as well as DJ’ing.

The Embrooks with CK Smith at The Lexington - Photo Retro Man Blog
The Embrooks encore with a couple of oldies including a vicious version of “Jack” which goes down a storm and then it's over way too soon. The only downside of the Lexington show is that for some reason they omit their superb cover of The Hollies "Have You Ever Loved Somebody" which was a shame as they managed to transform it into the embodiment of a perfect Embrooks song on the album. To be honest, I don’t think they did themselves any favours by officially releasing the album just before Xmas as it was too late in the year to feature in many of the “Best of 2018” lists. Anyway, I'm going to cheat and consider the LP was released on the day of the Lexington launch party as that was the first time I nabbed my very own copy and in that case, this is already a nailed-on “Best LP of 2019”. Now, I know it’s only January but I really can't imagine a better album will be released this year. If it is, I am very much looking forward to hearing it as it's going to have to be something pretty damn special to beat “We Who Are”!



For more photos of the night please check out the album in the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here and you'll find videos of all three bands at our YouTube channel here. Please click on the highlighted links above to access more info on the bands. Finally, "We Who Are" and The Dirty Contacts new single can be ordered from State Records here along with many more of their releases.


Monday, 14 January 2019

The Downliners Sect - Photos by Paul Slattery of the 60's R'n'B Legends Recording a Marc Riley BBC Radio Session

The Downliners Sect at BBC Studios Maida Vale - Photo by Paul Slattery
My Retro Man Blog and Retrosonic Podcast colleague the Rock Photographer, Paul Slattery was recently invited to the BBC studios in Maida Vale to witness The Downliners Sect recording a session for Marc Riley. He went along with fellow Sect fan Rob Symmons, once of Subway Sect and now The Fallen Leaves and kindly filed the following report and photos: "When you get a phone call from one of this country’s most singular guitar players then you know it’s important, and that guitarist happens to be Rob Symmons of the Fallen Leaves. I’ve been going to see the 'Leaves for some years now - they just get better and better. Their mantra is "Punk Rock for gentlemen" and, as I am of course a gent, their gigs are always absolutely perfect. Rob wanted to know if I was interested in going over to the BBC Maida Vale Studios to see a live recording by the doyens of the English 60's R'n'B music scene The Downliners Sect for a Marc Riley 6Music session. I’d only been there once before and was keen to go over and see this cavernous space again. It started life as an ice rink but the BBC took it over in 1933/34 and converted it into the studio that still exists today. 

The Downliners Sect at BBC Studios Maida Vale - Photo by Paul Slattery
The Downliners Sect at BBC Studios Maida Vale - Photo by Paul Slattery
Some of the studios are massive and are big enough to accomodate a complete orchestra. It’s like an iceberg as three quarters of the space is below ground but all the studios have natural light. Rob and I headed for Studio MV3 where we found the band getting in some rehearsal time before their live session on Mark Riley’s show on Radio 6. There is a plaque here commemorating Bing Crosby’s last recording session on 11 October 1977. MV3 had a fairly regular Peel session on Sundays and Peel kept this studio and the next door studio MV4 busy with live sessions for more than thirty years. I’ve always been fond of "Hatful of Hollow" by the Smiths which is mostly a Peel session recording, plus it does use my photo of The Smiths on the gatefold sleeve! 

The Downliners Sect at BBC Studios Maida Vale - Photo by Paul Slattery
You can’t help feeling the music history walking into this place and The Downliners Sect, contemporaries of The Rolling Stones and The Pretty Things are one of those bands who started the English Rock scene back in the early sixties. In this country though we have scant regard for such notables, in France such musicians would be lauded, have a state pension and be heroes of the Republic. I’d seen the band play at the 100 Club a couple of years before and was enthralled. 

The Downliners Sect at BBC Studios Maida Vale - Photo by Paul Slattery
The Downliners Sect at BBC Studios Maida Vale - Photo by Paul Slattery
It’s great chatting to Don and Keith, Don’s a West London lad like myself so there’s a common bond with the West London Rock scene and Eel Pie Island. This is a really class band, and while they are doing their live set they let me wander round and take photos in the studio. Their three numbers "Soup In A Basket", "Escape From Hong Kong" and "Let It Rock" are British Blues at its finest. I was brought up on this kind of music and it’s great to see it being played live. 

The Downliners Sect at BBC Studios Maida Vale - Photo by Paul Slattery
BBC Studios Maida Vale - Photo by Paul Slattery
Tireless drumming by Mark Freeman and fluent bass and vocals from Keith Grant anchor the set while Don’s vocals and guitar give us the soul. Del Dwyer adds more clever guitar and John O’Leary's harp is superb. This is a truly great band, one of the originators of British rock music and I'd recommend that you go see them play at the earliest opportunity."

Rob Symmons of The Fallen Leaves with The Downliners Sect at BBC Studios Maida Vale by Paul Slattery
Thanks to Paul Slattery for the report and photographs, to see Paul's pics of The Downliners Sect live at The 100 Club please check the feature in the Blog archive here. For more information on The Downliners Sect you can check out their official web-site here. The excellent Eel Pie Island Museum in Twickenham has a superb collection of display material on the history of the local music scene revolving around the Eel Pie Island Hotel. From the initial Jazz, Mod and Blues scene through to the raw R'n'B sound of the early Rolling Stones, The Others, The Pretty Things and of course The Downliners Sect. You can check out the archive for the feature on the pop-up British Beat Explosion exhibition that preceeded the opening of the Eel Pie Island Museum here. The Eel Pie Club at The Cabbage Patch in Twickenham puts on regular live events featuring some of the legends of the scene such as The Pretty Things and Geno Washington, check out their site here for information.

Photo Retro Man Blog


Monday, 7 January 2019

The Fay Hallam Group + King Mojo + DJ Lee Grimshaw - Retro Man Blog Night at The Half Moon Putney Sat Feb 9th


Following the success of October's show for Ebbot Lundberg & The Indigo Children, I'm very pleased to announce the next Retro Man Blog Night at The Half Moon Putney will be on Saturday February 9th and features The Fay Hallam Group with special guests King Mojo and DJ Lee Grimshaw from the Spinout Show. Advance tickets are now available from the Half Moon at the link below. Fay Hallam is a hugely respected Hammond organist, singer and songwriter, with over 10 albums to her credit. She first came to prominence in Wolverhampton Mod-popsters, Makin' Time, in the early 1980's, along with a pre-Charlatans Martin Blunt. Fay and Martin, along with drummer John Brookes and ex-Prisoners frontman, Graham Day, then went on to form The Gift Horses, which were the embryonic beginnings of The Charlatans.

Fay Hallam at The 100 Club - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Fay then joined Graham Day again, along with Prisoners bassist Allan Crockford and fellow Medway stalwart and ex-Daggermen drummer Simon (Wolf) Howard, to form The Prime Movers. This took on a rockier more progressive sound, including the 'Earth Church' LP, which was hailed by Sounds Music Weekly, as LP of the year Afer this, Fay went on to make over 10 albums as Phaze, The Fay Hallam Trinity and then as a solo artist initially on the Blow Up label, with her 2015 album release "Corona". Her second solo album release, "House Of Now" was released on Well Suspect Records in October 2016, received rave reviews, and gained airplay on BBC 6 Music and BBC London. Always with one eye on keeping things fresh, and developing her ever-evolving sound, Fay's current incarnation, The Fay Hallam Group, comprising of Paul Weller collaborator Andy Lewis on bass, her son Josh Day on piano, Kieran McAleer on drums, Jim Bishop on guitar, and the brand new brass section of Angus Law on sax and Kenneth Yarham on trumpet, have just completed their latest album, "Propeller", which is due for release in Spring 2019. Fay's current live set features songs from her entire back-catalogue, from classic Makin' Time favourites, right up to the present day.



For more info on The Fay Hallam Group please keep an eye on their recently updated official web-site here, or you can check out their Facebook page here. You can read our feature on Fay's excellent gig at the 100 Club which featured special guests French Boutik and Magnus Carlson in the Blog archive here. There are also some videos from the show at the Retro Man Blog YouTube channel which you can find in the archive here.

You can book your tickets in advance from the Half Moon Putney event page here.  


Thanks to Steve Rowland from Frank Phantom Design for the poster.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Happy Xmas from Retro Man Blog & Retrosonic Podcast!


Happy Xmas from Retro Man Blog and Retrosonic Podcast...! Huge thanks to everyone who contributed and supported us over the past year, especially to those that travelled from afar to attend our Retro Man Blog Night at the Half Moon Putney in October, it really is appreciated. Our next show at the Half Moon is on Saturday February 9th with Fay Hallam, King Mojo and DJ Lee Grimshaw so hope to see you there! We'll do a review of 2018 in the New Year but to get us started here are some of our favourite live acts that we were blown away by. Cheers!

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Graham Day & The Gaolers with The Galileo 7 at Damaged Goods Records 30th Anniversary, The Lexington

Graham Day & The Gaolers - Photo copyight Retro Man Blog
In an early episode of Retrosonic Podcast, we were picking tracks by our favourite bands and artists and the question came up, whatever happened to Graham Day...? There had been no news on the former Prisoners singer/songwriter since Graham Day & The Gaolers had split up a few years earlier. Graham formed The Gaolers by recruiting drummer Dan Eletxro and bassist Buzz Hagstrom from The Woggles, one of his favourite bands and in 2007 they released a stunning debut album “Soundtrack To The Daily Grind”. Buzz was later replaced by Jon Barker from The Daggermen (currently with Graham in The Senior Service) and they released the superb follow up “Triple Distilled” a year later. “Triple Distilled” was one of those rare classic albums where everything just clicks. Right through from the stunning cover art to the blistering production to the mind-blowing collection of top quality songs within, it was faultless. Sadly, The Gaolers were a short-lived affair and things suddenly went very quiet. Then out of the blue came the announcement of a Prime Movers reunion when Graham, Allan Crockford and Wolf Howard were lured back to play some shows thanks to an offer from a German record label. This would eventually lead to Graham Day & The Forefathers when the trio had the idea to play a selection of ‘hits’ from all the Graham fronted bands, not only the Prime Movers but The Prisoners, The SolarFlares and The Gaolers too. They were a “tribute band to himself” as Graham told us in our Forefathers special Retrosonic Podcast

Graham Day & The Gaolers - Photo copyight Retro Man Blog
Dan & Jon, The Gaolers - Photo copyight Retro Man Blog
When I heard the news about The Forefathers, I leapt at the chance to offer them a gig at one of my Retro Man Blog Nights at The Half Moon in Putney. The opportunity to work with one of my musical heroes and make our old Podcast wish to see Graham play live again come true, was too good to miss. We would go on to put on three memorable shows with The Forefathers, in particular one on Graham’s birthday, which included an extra special surprise when they dusted down the legendary Prisoners Star Trek stage outfits. I have to admit I had a lump in my throat when I went backstage before that show and saw the tunics hanging up behind the door as it took me back to the very first time I saw The Prisoners on CH4’s The Tube in 1984. Some of my personal highlights from The Forefathers set were actually tracks by The Gaolers and I had a cunning plan to see if Graham would consider re-forming the band. I knew he had a soft spot for them too and it was discussed in a roundabout way but the timings didn’t quite work out. It did however sow the seeds for our two sold-out SolarFlares reunion gigs at The Water Rats in Kings Cross - by coincidence, the same venue (although then known as The Pindar of Wakefield) where The Tube filmed The Prisoners in their Strar Trek outfits all those years ago. Then we also put on the debut single launch party by Graham’s instrumental outfit, The Senior Service at The Half Moon but deep down, I still harboured ambitions to put on a Gaolers reunion show one day. 

Graham Day & The Gaolers - Photo copyight Retro Man Blog
Graham Day & The Gaolers - Photo copyight Retro Man Blog
So I must admit to having mixed emotions when it was announced earlier this year that The Gaolers would indeed be getting back but only for a one-off appearance as part of the Damaged Goods Records 30th anniversary celebrations at The Lexington. Part of me was disappointed but at least it meant I could be there, down the front, purely as a fan without all the pressure and responsibility of promoting the gig. Anyway, who can compete with or begrudge Damaged Goods Records, they did release The Gaolers albums after all and I knew label boss Ian was a huge fan, as he explained in our Damaged Goods Records special Podcast here. The band take the stage, looking good in their matching black military style tunics with red piping – Graham picks up his cool Gretsch guitar, Dan with his trademark cap is behind the drums and Jon Barker is on bass. There is a real sense of anticipation as they launch into the first number “Glad I’m Not Young” and the roof is nearly lifted off The Lexington with the sheer power of it. It really is a great song, with lyrics harking back to the violence between the youth cults that many of us had to deal with as teenagers and it is refreshing to hear something that’s not all rose-tinted nostalgia. Another plus side of getting older is finally being able to say what you mean and this is perfectly captured in the next song “Better Man”. 

Graham Day & The Gaolers - Photo copyight Retro Man Blog
Of course, the negative experiences are also dealt with in the brutally frank “Part Time Dad” which is a loud and raucous stunner. Although Graham professes to dislike writing lyrics, I think his work with The Gaolers is up there with the best. Both Gaolers albums feature searingly honest songs touching on the issues of a man coming to terms with impending middle age. They are often shot through with a self-deprecating humour though, in particular “Something About You Girl” which is an evocative vignette of a guy getting slightly more than he bargained for from his date. However, I don’t want to look too deeply into the meaning of the lyrics, as Graham is on hand to admonish any such pretensions in the all too modest “Just a Song”. After all, as he sings, these are “not words to analyse or scrutinise”. Graham hands around a bottle of Jim Beam to his two colleagues and to his grateful mates standing side of stage before slamming into a great version of “Pass That Whiskey”. The swirling “Lost Without My Dignity” slows the pace a little and allows for a quick breather and chance to reflect that actually, I do wish I was young. We were treated to the added bonus of two excellent brand new songs “Just a Little” and “I’m Not The Only One” and they were both soulful with memorable catchy guitar riffs. The good news is that the band have recently been in Ranscombe Studios with Jim Riley and have recorded them for a future Damaged Goods Records single. It is a relief to those of us who have been patiently waiting for some new Graham Day material and I guess they might well find their way into a Forefathers set in the near future. 

Graham Day & The Gaolers - Photo copyight Retro Man Blog
Dan of The Gaolers - Photo copyight Retro Man Blog
An explosive “The Most Expensive Sleep” is followed by their classic debut single “Get Off My Track” which is a vitriolic burst of energy and the set draws to a close all too quickly. Of course, there are demands for an encore and “Wanna Smoke”, that fist waving singalong rant at political correctness goes down a storm. A Graham Day show would not be complete without an instrumental tune, after all The Gaolers were responsible for one of his best in “Sitar Spangled Banner”. Tonight though it’s a slight case of sitar-mangled banner and the three bandmates trade sheepish grins as they stumble a bit half way through. Anyway, we didn’t really care whether all the right notes were being played in the right order or not as we were having way too much fun to worry. The band are called back for a well-deserved second encore and play a crunching “Begging You” which ends the show perfectly and they lap up the heartfelt applause. With the new single coming out soon I’m sincerely hoping there may be the possibility of more Gaolers gigs to promote it next time Dan is over in the U.K. and I’m certainly going to be first in the queue with an offer!     

The Galileo 7 - Photo copyight Retro Man Blog
The Galileo 7 opened the show and put in one of their best performances to date. I mean, I was blown away by their set supporting Ebbot Lundberg at the Retro Man Blog Night back in October but this was even better. Allan Crockford certainly seems to have grown in confidence as both a frontman and vocalist, attacking his guitar and leaping around, trying to avoid being injured by Paul Moss, the bouncing bassist to his left, who only stands still when he has to deliver some backing vocals. They are becoming a great visual live act nowadays with Allan and Paul vying for space as drummer Mole kicks up a Tasmanian devil storm behind them. Then there is Viv swaying along behind her keyboard, managing to play with one hand whilst keeping the beat with her tambourine in the other. The band kick off with the powerful “One Lie at a Time” and tonight, the set concentrates on their current album “Tear Your Mind Wide Open”, taking in the superb title track and the melodic Power Pop of “Live For Yesterday”. 

The Galileo 7 - Photo copyight Retro Man Blog
However, it’s “The Mask” that is a real highlight, cramming mind-bending twists and turns into a song that some might call a mini-opera. It’s as if The Who had condensed the whole of “A Quick One” into a three and a half-minute masterpiece. The stunning quick-fire ending sees people standing there open-mouthed watching Mole in awe. He certainly rose to the added pressure of being watched by some mighty fine drummers as I spot Lois from The Embrooks, Wolf Howard and Johnny Symons from The Prisoners in the crowd enjoying a night off. There is a dip into the band’s debut album for the crowd favourite “Orangery Lane”, a classic piece of Syd Barrett inspired Psych Pop, which segued into a cracking version of Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine”. At least they are not shy of acknowledging their influences. The band know how to plan a set-list too; the dynamics are always perfectly plotted and live, the vocal backing harmonies of Mole, Paul and Viv really lift the songs to another level. Viv handles lead vocals on a promising new unreleased track “Too Late” and despite “Tear Your Mind Wide Open” only being a year old, there is a good chunk of the new LP already written. The band seem to be fizzing with a creative energy and have been dropping in some more impressive teasers into their set recently, including the brilliant “Everything Is Everything Else”. This is a classic piece of melodic Garage Pop, which surely must be nailed on as a future 7” single release. 

The Galileo 7 - Photo copyight Retro Man Blog
I can feel there is an impatience to keep moving on, to keep improving and the new songs I have heard are catchy and concise and slot in perfectly among the more familiar material. Just like their gigs, the albums have been getting progressively better too so I am already impatient to hear what is coming next. They end the set with an oldie “Are We Having Fun Yet?” and when Allan sings those words in the chorus we all reply with the cynical response “no, I don’t think so”, but don’t worry, we certainly don’t mean it…! There was a real buzz in the crowd after their set and the talk centred on just how much The Galileo 7 are improving with each passing show. I am hoping that if they can get some more decent high profile gigs such as this one, they are sure to be converting a lot more people to the cause. The band are keen to play more shows so any promoters out there please do get in touch. I must also mention DJ Lee Grimshaw from the Spinout Show who was on hand to keep us entertained between the live music and as usual, his eclectic mix went down a storm. So, a great night out to celebrate Damaged Goods Records 30th birthday and long may they continue!



For more photos of the night please visit the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here and you can find some videos of both bands over at our Retro Man Blog YouTube channel here. Please click the highlighted links throughout the feature to check out further information. 

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Union Carbide Productions - Reunion Show at Stora Teatern, Gothenburg November 9th 2018

Union Carbide Productions, Stora Teatern Gothenburg, Photo Retro Man Blog
Earlier this year came the exciting news that Union Carbide Productions, the legendary Swedish Psychedelic Punk band who were to evolve into The Soundtrack of Our Lives, were getting back together to promote the release of the “Live At CBGB’s New York 1988” album. They played two high profile summer outdoor shows at the Liseberg and Gröna Lund amusement parks in Gothenburg and Stockholm respectively. I was gutted that I had to miss these, even more so when I heard reports about how great they were afterwards. However, following the success of these two gigs there came the sudden announcement of three more quick-fire dates in Malmö, Stockholm and Gothenburg. I could only make the Gothenburg show and the initial excitement was dampened somewhat when I saw that the venue would be the Stora Teatern. Now I like this place, it is a beautiful building right on the canal side at Kungsparken but it is a proper all-seater theatre with balconies and boxes and all that. When we saw Ebbot & The Indigo Children there earlier this year, we nearly got caught out as the gig started promptly at 7pm. Surely, it couldn’t be the same for Union Carbide Productions, one of Sweden’s most outrageous and confrontational bands? 

Union Carbide Productions, Stora Teatern Gothenburg, Photo Retro Man Blog
However, there were clues that it was going to be an early night as we saw advertisements that Ebbot was playing another solo gig in the city at 10pm. Friends speculated that sometimes the Stora held gigs at the back of the venue and that was all standing so we might be in luck. Unfortunately not. We entered the venue into the seated auditorium. Suddenly, the house lights dimmed and the band appeared on stage promptly and crashed straight into the classic “Financial Declaration” with Ebbot screaming the songs central theme “I want more!” as we were still trying to find our seats. There were photos of people stagediving at the Stockholm gig the night before and I saw videos from the Liseberg after-show party where the band played an intense, highly charged set at a smaller venue. Even Ebbot stage-dived at that show, much to the consternation of those in the front row I can imagine. That was more of what I was expecting and looking forward to but there was no chance of Ebbot stagediving at the Stora Teatern, that’s for sure! It is quite difficult to explain the feeling when you are watching a band like UCP sitting down, you want to get up and jump about and go crazy but everyone remained seated throughout the whole show and it was a surreal experience. It must have been a bit weird for the band too, after all Ebbot in particular thrives on interaction and often confrontation with an audience but they channelled any restrictions they must have felt into the music and they sounded amazing. It reminded me of seeing The Brian Jonestown Massacre last month where I had seats at the front row of the balcony at a reasonably large venue. 

Union Carbide Productions, Stora Teatern Gothenburg, Photo Retro Man Blog
Now that Anton Newcombe has managed to curb his more confrontational behaviour and people are no longer turning up at gigs trying to goad him into violence, you are left to concentrate on the performance, and most importantly, the music. This is where I can have no complaints with the Union Carbide Productions show. In fact, just like the BJM, once you take away the unpredictable, chaotic and dangerous elements of each band you just have to appreciate and marvel at the sheer quality of the song writing. It was something that certainly shone through in this environment and proved what a superb back catalogue and musical legacy they have left behind. The Stooges were an obvious influence on early UCP but Ebbot didn’t just take Iggy’s primal howl as his vocal inspiration – he took on his crooning baritone too. I can understand why Ebbot also loves early Misfits with Glenn Danzig’s impressive voice floating over their primitive Punk music. It’s what our good friends The Fallen Leaves spoke about in their Retrosonic Podcast special episode – that juxtaposition of Rob Green’s ‘proper’ singing against the discordant angular guitar of Rob Symmons, it’s a special chemistry. However, Union Carbide Productions also absorbed The Stooges sax driven Free-Form Jazz stylings too and tonight the addition of the excellent Lisen Rylander on Sax and Keyboards was a really nice touch, allowing the songs to develop just like on the records. 

Union Carbide Productions, Stora Teatern Gothenburg, Photo Retro Man Blog
For example the slow and hypnotic “Career Opportunities” which is based on a great repetitive bass riff and Ebbot sings “I'm waiting for change, for a different song" as it segues into the instrumental psych wig-out “Down on the Beach”. One of my highlights of the night is “San Francisco Boogie” which again is built around a snaking bass riff and is shot through with an exotic Eastern feel. In fact they were to record a sitar version and it’s certainly a distinct precursor to The Soundtrack of Our Lives classic “Mantra Slider”. There is so much going on in my head when I listen to UCP, from the Stones swagger to touches of the abstract Post-Punk of bands such as Pere Ubu and the challenging, thought-provoking music of Captain Beefheart. Take the classic “Born in The ‘60’s” which at first sounds just like a straight ahead storming Rock’n’Roll number but then you realise that the drumming is totally off the wall, the time signature is mind-bendingly weird and that is down to Henrik Rylander’s brilliance as a drummer. It also reminds me that there must have been some influence of Krautrock bands such as Can and Neu! in UCP’s relentless groove. The tribal, almost Glam Rock drum pattern that kicks off the immense “Glad To Have You Back” is a reminder that Ebbot has been lucky enough to work with some truly fantastic drummers over the years such as Henrik, Fredrik Sandsten in TSOOL and then with Hugo Mårtensson and Anton Fernandez in The Indigo Children. The rhythm section is completed not by one but two bassists. 

Union Carbide Productions, Stora Teatern Gothenburg, Photo Retro Man Blog
There’s original member Per Helm, who played on the first two LP’s and his replacement Adam Wladis, who despite appearing at the infamous CBGB’s show and the subsequent live album (which, after all was the initial reason for the reunion) didn’t get to record in the studio with the band as far as I know. Rather than take turns on songs they play the whole set simultaneously, both looking cool dressed in black and flanking Henrik’s drum kit. At first, I was a bit sceptical about the two basses but it worked really well, it wasn’t as bombastic as I was expecting, they built a nicely menacing wall of sound. The machine gun staccato attack of “Three Mile Eyes” is counterbalanced by the brooding “Down On The Farm” with Ebbot sounding like Jim Morrison as he draws out the “beautiful friend” line. Patrick Caganis is an undoubted genius on the guitar and I was so pleased to finally get to see him play live. Looking good with his blonde hair and mirror shades, he channels all the best of Ron Asheton and James Williamson into his stinging guitar riffs and as the songs whizz past I’m getting flashes of Denis Tez, Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith and Wayne Kramer all swirling round in the mix. He also sings the main vocals on “Got My Eyes On You” a rare excursion to the third album “From Influence To Ignorance”.  I think everyone was hoping for an appearance by Patrick’s original guitar partner Björn Olsson, even if it was just for the encore, but sadly, it was not to be. It would have made this home-coming show even more special, after all the band are forever tied to Gothenburg and you can even hear it in Björn’s solo music, which is heavily influenced by the stunning local Bohuslän coastline. In recent years, he has shunned the limelight and concentrated his attention on song writing and production work with some high profile Swedish acts such as Mando Diao and Håkan Hellström and has rarely, if ever performed live since he left TSOOL in 1997. 

Union Carbide Productions, Stora Teatern Gothenburg, Photo Retro Man Blog
Björn’s place in the current line-up has been taken by the talented Billy Cervin from Side Effects who has been used to playing some of the old UCP songs with Ebbot & The Indigo Children over the past couple of years. He has already proved himself a mighty fine deputy, having previously stood in for Mattias Bärjed in TSOOL on a few occasions. Billy single-handedly rescued our recent Retro Man Blog gig for Ebbot in London by drafting in equally talented musicians for a new Indigo Children line-up at very short notice and it was great to see him again and chat about the London show. Talking of guitarists…I’m also left wondering if further reunions will see an expanding of the set-list to take in more songs from their last two LP’s and if so will we see appearances by Ian Person who is currently busy with his new band Pablo Matisse, now that really would be something really special. Anyway back to the music, a quite remarkable “Maximum Dogbreath” is another personal highlight, the set draws to a close with the classic swaggering “Be Myself Again”, and finally we can stand up and show our appreciation. The well-deserved encore sees a raucous run though of the early Punk favourites “Cartoon Animal” and “Ring My Bell” from the first album and the band are even coaxed out for a second curtain call and a crunching “So Long”. So despite my initial reservations, Union Carbide Productions triumphed against the odds and I feel emotionally drained from finally having witnessed such a superb show from a band I never thought I would get to see play live. 

Ebbot & The New Places Orchestra at Nefertiti, Gothenburg
As everything was finished by 9:15pm it meant there was plenty of time to enjoy the after show party which took place at the excellent Nefertiti venue and saw Ebbot fronting the impressive 20 piece New Places Orchestra. It was great to hear Jazz takes on some TSOOL songs such as “Galaxy Gramophone”, “You Are The Beginning” and “Second Life Replay” along with Ebbot’s debut solo single “(Drowning In A) Wishing Well” and UCP’s “Glad To Have You Back”. There were also surprising covers of The Misfits, The Residents and a bit of “Pipeline” thrown in for good measure and all highlighted Ebbot’s excellent vocals. It was great fun and nice to catch up with Kalle & Fredrik from The Soundtrack of Our Lives and the music journalist and long-time TSOOL supporter, Andrew Perry. A perfect ending to a superb night’s entertainment.



Union Carbide Productions have another confirmed gig in Oslo in February and there is some more exciting news as it has just been officially announced that the filmmaker Hans-Erik Therus and Producer Hjalmar Palmgren are working on a documentary about the band. It started out as a documentary about Björn Olsson but the idea soon grew to incorporate the complete UCP story. The film is currently under production and there is a start-up Facebook page here where you can get more news on the movie’s progress. For more photos from the Stora Teatern show please check out the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here and there are some videos at our YouTube channel here. Ebbot discussed the reunion and “Live at CBGBs” album in our recent interview in the build up to his Retro Man Blog London show last month and you can check it out in the Blog archive here. You might also be interested in the story of Nymphet Noodlers; the other great pre-TSOOL band in the archive here. For the full story on Union Carbide Productions, you cannot better the immense feature in issue 16 of Mike Stax’s superb “Ugly Things” magazine. 

Monday, 5 November 2018

Joe Strummer 001 - Photos From the Recent Exhibition of Joe's Personal Archive at the Fred Perry Store Covent Garden


To celebrate the release of the stunning limited edition deluxe box set "Joe Strummer 001" the Fred Perry store in Covent Garden put on an excellent free exhibition of memorabilia which ended on October 14th. The majority of the exhibition came from Joe's own personal collection, he left an archive of over 20,000 items including lyrics, set lists and notebooks, artwork, photographs and audio recordings; as well as instruments, clothing and studio equipment and many of these have never been seen before. It was quite moving to see a couple of my Retro Man Blog colleague Paul Slattery's photos were there among the collection too. Here are a few photos from the exhibition, you can see more at the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here.










All photos copyright Retro Man Blog
The "Joe Strummer 001" anthology is a comprehensive pick of the best of Joe's non-Clash related material from the 101ers to The Latino Rockabilly War and The Mescaleros taking in solo various releases and collaborations with other artists such as Jimmy Cliff and Johnny Cash along the way. For more info on the various options please check out the Joe Strummer web-site here.