Monday, 21 May 2018

Ye Nuns: Brand New 7" Single "I Don't Want To Do This Again" and "Nun More Black" Vinyl LP Reissue

Ye Nuns 7" cover photo by Jeff Pitcher
It has been a busy time in the convent as Ye Nuns, the premier all-girl tribute to The Monks, have two new releases out and available for sale right now. First of all, State Records have released a brand new 7" single on heavyweight vinyl “I Don’t Want To Do This Again”/”Don’t Worry” which is limited to 500 copies and it has a very special unique selling point…so let’s get the low down from the label itself…"State Records are very pleased to announce a new 45 from legendary Monks tribute act, Ye Nuns. These seven ladies have been blowing minds for a good few years now, with their spot-on renditions of classic tracks by Garage legends, The Monks, whose story is pretty well known now. Five American GI’s stationed in Germany formed a fairly typical beat band in the mid-60s before hooking up with some avant-garde existentialists who persuaded them to change their image, drop their repertoire and embark on a twisted journey into an originality that set them apart from every other band at the time. Stinging fuzz guitar, bass from hell, electric banjo, barked nonsensical lyrics - these guys were NOT messing around! Fast forward 40+ years and Ye Nuns picked up the baton with a mission to keep the fine work of The Monks alive and out there. Now, they've upped the ante again, recording two previously unreleased songs written by original Monks bass-player, Eddie Shaw. Both sides are deadly, sounding for all the world like “Black Monk Time” outtakes! The single comes packaged in a super cool double-sided fold-over card sleeve and is limited to 500 copies". You can order yours now from State Records at their Ebay store here.

Next up, the Manchester based label Crocodile Records has just reissued Ye Nuns “Nun More Black” album on vinyl in a limited pressing of just 300 copies, so don’t hang around if you haven’t yet got a copy of this work of twisted Garage Psych genius. This reissue follows the original and now out-of-print 2014 release on Tuff Enough Records, which saw Ye Nuns faithfully reprise and update The Monks’ one and only official long-player (1966’s mind-blowing “Black Monk Time”) to a swathe of critical acclaim. It also received the seal of approval from fellow Monks fan, the much-missed Mark E Smith from The Fall, someone not known for dishing out praise lightly. Even The Monks’ original Bassist Eddie Shaw was suitably impressed and went on record to express his admiration for Ye Nuns album: “These songs have a personal significance to me and to see how someone else treats the material and expresses it, was a distinct pleasure and joy. I thoroughly enjoyed the album, it was fun – I laughed and pranced. It is such an honour to be able to have a part in this opera inside the cloister. Thank you, Ye Nuns!” You really can’t get a much higher recommendation than that so please head on over to the Crocodile Records store to order your copy here.  

Ye Nuns photo by Jeff Pitcher
You can check out more of Jeff Pitcher's excellent photography at his Facebook page here.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Hipsville-A-Go-Go Weekender 2018 - A Mighty Garage Rock Rumble in The Margate

The Schizophonics at Hipsville
Well, I seem to say this every year but the latest Hipsville was the best yet! This year the weekend was billed as Hipsville Jungle A-Go-Go following on from previous themes of Hipsville in Space, Horror, Carnival and Seaside and the excellent props and stage decorations were the usual high standard of imaginative design and humour. Mr A, Alex and Ade really surpassed themselves in providing us with a non-stop-fun-packed-value-for-money extravaganza that featured Gorillas, stunning Go-Go Girls and super cool DJ’s including Neil Sick, Carl Combover, Mike Gunn, Fritz Buzzsaw, Adam Diddy Wah and, of course, more Gorillas. There was a Tiki Cocktail Bar, Roller Disco, Classic Auto Show and a Vintage Market. In addition to all of that, thanks to a fully open and functioning Dreamland Amusement Park, we could also take advantage of unlimited free rides on the lovingly restored old-fashioned funfair attractions. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the small matter of the twelve top quality international bands, but more about those later. Whereas at last year’s Hipsville, Dreamland was still under construction and everything was centred on the downstairs Ballroom, this time round the main event was held in the cavernous Event hall upstairs, which was lit up by some fantastic Psychedelic projections and boasted a huge stage. 

DJ's Fritz Buzzsaw and Adam Diddy Wah at Hipsville
I have to say that everything went to schedule and was extremely well organised so it was easy to plan your weekend’s entertainment. I know how stressful it is just to promote a one-off gig so I have nothing but admiration for the Hipsville organising gang. Even if we take away the stress of the financial side of things, they have to deal with a venue that is pretty new to staging music events and which has to take into account the general public visiting Dreamland too. Mr A, Alex and Ade don’t exactly make things easy for themselves either; for example, they rarely have the same bands back twice, instead preferring to offer a chance to those acts that might have impressed at a Weirdsville show over the past year or a band that they just want to see as fans themselves. Then they up the stress ante even more by inviting over acts from all corners of the globe – for example at Hipsville I have seen bands not only from the Continent but from as far away as Brazil, Japan, USA, Russia and Mexico. So, all this means they have to worry about accommodation and looking after the acts they choose, sometimes even helping to set them up with other UK shows through their network of like-minded friends and promoters.

Dreamland, Margate - home of Hipsville
Quite a few of these bands may well be making their first high profile UK appearance, if not their actual debut but what the organisers can rely is the loyal and open-minded attitude of the audience to welcome these sometimes-unfamiliar acts. You can guarantee that you are going to come away from Hipsville pleasantly surprised with a good number of ‘brand new favourite bands’. Having said that, occasionally I do think it would be nice to see a more familiar name such as King Salami & The Cumberland 3 or Oh! Gunquit but then again most of these bands are there in the audience enjoying themselves as ‘regular punters’ anyway. Either that or they are involved in some way or another, for example, Oh! Gunquit’s Simon Wild is DJ’ing and their vocalist Tina is one of the Hipsville Go-Go girls. Over the course of the weekend, I bump into and chat to Kevin from The Baron Four, Chuchi from Oh! Gunquit and members of King Salami, The Fuzillis, Ye Nuns, The Hare & Hoofe, The Sine Waves, Thee Girl Fridays and The Wicked Whispers amongst others. It would appear that there are almost as many musicians in the crowd as there are appearing on stage. I also had a chat to Gwen Ever who was interviewing the bands and organisers for the excellent “A Low Life in High Heels” show on Deal Radio, which is well worth checking out.

The Hipsville Go-Go Girls with organisers Mr A, Alex and Ade
Margate is a great place for a weekend too, not just for the usual traditional kiss-me-quick and saucy postcard seaside attractions and it does have lovely beaches and a stunning sunset but there is also plenty to do for Hipsville visitors. The old town has some great independent stores, pubs and bars such as Olby’s Soul Café and the quite superb Fez Bar, which could have been created by the Hipsville props department. The Cliftonville area also has some great vintage shops, cafes and record stores. Sunny was a particular delight, a treasure trove of vinyl and movie memorabilia and retro-kitsch items and the friendly and knowledgeable owner was playing King Kurt followed by “Stompin’ At The Klub Foot”, so you can’t go wrong there. However, enough of the sightseeing let us take a look at the bands that were appearing over the weekend.

The Jungle Deviants open Hipsville on the Friday
The bad news started filtering through that Davros and the Deep Space Deviants had been held up at Intergalactic Customs just outside the orbit of planet Skaros. Apparently, they were stopped for being over their limit on duty free booze so their earthbound counterparts The Jungle Deviants stepped in to act as house warm-up band for the weekend. They were dressed as the cast of “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum” and treated us to a set of Jungle themed classics such as “Jungle Boogie” and “Welcome To The Jungle” and they did an inspired version of Toto Coelo’s “I Eat Cannibals” mashed up with Magazine’s “Shot By Both Sides”. There was also the odd curveball such as the Dave Allen theme tune thrown in for good measure to keep everyone on their toes. It’s bugging me, but The Deviants do bear a striking resemblance to The Shook-Ups; I wonder what ever happened to them? Anyway, we are introduced to the wonderful Hipsville Go-Go Girls, Wanda De Lullabies, Celia Aloha, Tina Tuna, Nocturna, Alexandra Beatgirl & Miss Diabolik. Sadly, there was no Dottie Gooseberry this year but new girl Miss Ge Veve took her place and seemed to relish her first Hipsville experience. 

Les Lullies at Hipsville
I had seen the Madrid based band Los Wallas at Weirdsville before and their 13th Floor Elevators influenced Psychedelia punctuated with the occasional Bo Diddley beat went down well on the night. They had a nice line in choreographed moves too and ended their set with a cover of Pixies “Isla De Encanta” which was a rather good choice. I was so looking forward to experiencing Les Lullies blistering full-on high voltage Punk Rock ‘n’ Roll again but poor sound sadly rendered Romeo’s vocals inaudible from where I was standing down at the front of the stage. It was a bit disappointing but I still thoroughly enjoyed watching them, they just have that charismatic energy that marks them out as one band you really have to see. I think they are working on their debut LP now so we will update you as soon as we have more news. 

The Oddballs at Hipsville
One of the highlights of my weekend was seeing The Oddballs for the first time and they kindly brought over the sun with them from their hometown of Malaga. They also happened to bring along a cheerful gang of friends and fans too all dressed in matching stripey T-Shirts who seemed to be enjoying the Hipsville experience to the full. The Oddballs wouldn’t have been out of place in the Klub Foot at The Clarendon back in the day, they just have that vibe about them. Maybe it’s Juanillo standing centre stage playing a floor tom with maracas that does it. They play a kind of Frathouse Rock ‘n’ Roll with a touch of Ska and Garage Rock thrown in for good measure all driven along by Dani’s excellent Sax. They even have their own theme song, the insanely catchy “We Are The Oddballs” which really stood out for me, as did a pounding “Slowly Killing Me”. There’s a nicely chaotic Punk edge too with lots of boozy terrace style choruses and hooks. I really enjoyed their boisterous version of Sham 69’s “Borstal Breakout” which was quite apt as the original Borstal prison was opened in nearby Rochester, home of Billy Childish and the Medway Garage Rock scene. 

Black Mambas with Celia Aloha at Hipsville
L.A.’s Black Mambas took to the stage with a couple of familiar faces in the line-up - Romeo from Les Lullies was standing in on guitar and Shauna Faye was on bass. I always thought Shauna was a really cool bassist when I saw her play with Sex Crime at Hipsville a couple of years back so it was a nice surprise to see her making an appearance in the line-up. Vocalist Michael Price prowled the stage as they stormed through a great set of their ‘wild & savage’ songs. There’s a raw R’n’B edge to them that reminds me of pre-Punk bands like The Saints alongside touches of Californian bands such as The Germs and The Zeros. Their super-fast Rock ‘n’ Roll flies past in an instance and I particularly loved their track “Baby I’ll Give It To You”.   

DJ Mike Gunn with Wanda De Lullabies
We started off the day with cocktails in the Tiki Bar with the majority of people dressed in colourful Hawaiian shirts and garlands. Then it was onto the Roller Disco hosted by the legendary international jet-setting playboy DJ Mike Gunn who blasted out Soul, Funk and Disco classics. We were also treated to special guest(s) Double Dutch the three-legged con-joined twin DJ(s) from Holland, dressed from head to fifteen toes in bright orange. I needed a break from watching all the Roller Disco exertions so headed to the fabulous Fez Bar in town for a refreshment break. I spied the Jungle Deviants drummer and asked what the hell the Dave Allen theme had to do with the Jungle and his answer was “well, there was no danger of anyone else playing that over the weekend was there?” Fair enough. You know, it is bugging me but he really did look like The Shook-Up’s drummer and DJ Carl Combover, uncanny! I must find out who these mysterious Deviants are. Anyway, he also promised me that their next set would see them play a fifteen-minute version of the “Indoor League” theme tune, the naff 1970’s ITV Pub gameshow competition fronted by the fiery Yorkshire cricket legend Fred Trueman. Unfortunately, due to a delayed Taxi I only just made the last few minutes of their set as they were accompanying the end of the Fancy Dress Parade so I missed finding out if he was pulling my leg. As usual, many people really went to town with the Fancy Dress and some of the stunning and truly imaginative costumes on show blew me away. 

Chrome Reverse at Hipsville
The Paris based Chrome Reverse were excellent and despite a few technical problems with an amp at the start they soon got into the swing of things. Leopard skin clad vocalist and guitarist Lili Z is a great focal point and their lithe Link Wray inspired classic Rock ‘n’ Roll was thoroughly enjoyable. Guitarist Dave Rockin’ is a real character, bursting with energy and not to be outdone, bassist Ivan climbed into the Go-Go cage to play at one stage. They were a great live act who went down a storm on the night. The Madcaps from Rennes played a nice set of laid back eclectic songs with a soulful groove thanks to some excellent organ work. 

The Schizophonics at Hipsville
I missed The Schizophonics when they played at Weirdsville unfortunately and I had been hearing some amazing reports about their live show. I was really looking forward to seeing them and they certainly didn’t disappoint. Just before their set, my mate Grant told me that I should expect something along the lines of The MC5, Jimi Hendrix and James Brown all rolled into one and he was certainly not wrong. In fact, they kicked off with a cover of MC5’s “Black To Comm” and from the moment he struck the first chord Pat Beers, the singer guitarist didn’t stand still for a second as he bounced, leapt and rolled about the stage in a quite jaw-dropping display of musical gymnastics. He did the splits, jumped off the drum riser and straddled the security barrier and one point teetered off the stage only to miraculously hop back without any serious injury. I had my heart in my mouth for most of their set, at one point the microphone stand was laying on the floor with the base sticking up and I feared for the worse, it was a health and safety officer’s nightmare! With some superb drumming from Lety and a some great playing from the cool longhaired and laid-back bassist, the rhythm section really locked in tight to enable Pat to free form all over the place. It was refreshing to see a band with a hint of danger and unpredictability and Pat makes Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist of The Hives look like Val Doonican. However, The Schizophonics are not just a visual act or a gimmick, they have the songs to back it all and their new LP “Land of The Living” is well worth getting hold of. But seriously, I would recommend that you just have to experience The Schizophonics in all their live glory at least once in your life!

The Electric Mess at Hipsville
I felt a bit sorry for The Electric Mess on the Saturday night, as they had to follow The Schizophonics. Mind you, I would feel sorry for any band having to follow The Schizophonics! Even Kevin from The Baron Four, a wildly exciting live band in their own right, told me he would hate to have to play after them so they were in a tough situation. I first heard The Electric Mess via Little Steven’s Underground Garage radio show and I really liked their “Falling Off The Face of The Earth” LP so I wanted to see what they were like live. They have a cool 60’s Nuggets style of Garage Punk and Frontwoman Esther Crow with her peroxide blonde hair, mirror shades exudes a sassy New York cool but unfortunately, the all-important organ was lost in the sound mix. A girl standing next to me was desperately trying to get the band and the sound engineer’s attention to sort it out, all to no avail. So, all in all it was an excellent day but was Sunday going to be more relaxed I wondered...

Mighty Tsars at Hipsville
The Sunday afternoon perfectly encapsulated the variety of entertainment that can be found at Hipsville. For example, we started off in a relaxed and sedate manner in the Tiki Cocktail Bar again enjoying the soothing calypso skiffle sounds of the thoroughly entertaining Mighty Tsar and ended it with The Parkinsons, once dubbed the most dangerous and outrageous live band in Britain. In between, we strolled around the Dreamland amusement park and took in the classic car show too. 

The No-Things at Hipsville
I was so pleased to see the Edinburgh based No-Things again especially after being totally blown away by their Weirdsville appearance last year, which you can read about here, and loving their debut LP “Here Come The No-Things”. Somewhat ironically, it wasn’t until the Sunday afternoon that saw the bands daring to actually leap the security barrier and get down with the crowd and I wasn’t surprised that it would be vocalist Laurent to be the first. After all the very first time I saw him was when he was in in Les Bof! and he actually started the set from down among the audience before leaping on stage to carry out his duties. I think The No-Things are one of the best bands around now and were definitely one of my highlights of the weekend so it was just a shame that being early on the Sunday afternoon there weren't more people there to witness such a superb set. Their Punky Garage Rock was full of hooks and perfectly crafted songs all driven along by some great bass, visceral guitar and powerful drumming topped off by Laurent’s live-wire performance. “Don’t Get on My Tits” will go down as an all-time classic rebellious Garage Punk anthem. 

The Parkinsons at Hipsville
This was my first time to see The Parkinsons, not sure why really. I remember hearing some early songs and seeing the chaotic images of some of their gigs and I just had the impression that they were a thrashy Hardcore Punk band. So I was more than pleasantly surprised to be hit by the quality of their songs and like The No-Things before them I found their hooks sticking in my head immediately. The Parkinsons play some classic Punk Rock with terrace anthem choruses that at first seem rooted in U.K. Subs or Sham 69 territory. However, Victor Torpedo’s excellent guitar work adds a nice Post-Punk edge reminiscent of East Bay Ray from Dead Kennedys or bands such as Mission of Burma as he pogos and leaps about the stage. The addition of keyboards and percussion lift and complement the sound highlighting that there is much more to The Parkinsons than their outrageous reputation suggests. It is nowhere near just a punky thrash as I feared, they have bloody great memorable songs and it is evident looking around me at so many people singing along. 

The Parkinsons
“It’s nice to be here by the sea in Brighton” Afonso quips, and later “Thank you Portsmouth!” He playfully derides the English attitude to the good weather and their sartorial faux pas in the sun but ironically, he is wearing garish beach shorts himself. Being a Sunday mid-afternoon the gig probably wasn’t as wild and crazy as they might be used to but like The No-Things, it didn’t stop The Parkinsons from putting their all into the show. “Running”, “So Lonely” and “Heavy Metal” - a great track from their thoroughly recommended new LP “The Shape of Nothing To Come” - were real highlights but they had so many great songs that I am now totally hooked. The show ended with Afonso demolishing the bamboo Go-Go cage and it was the only time over the weekend that I saw a look of consternation cross a security guard’s face. What a great show to end a truly memorable Hipsville and I think that both The Parkinsons and The No-Things probably deserved a slot on the Friday or Saturday nights they were that good. Sadly, that was it, all over for another year.

So, clear your diary for next year’s early May Bank Holiday, I have already booked my Hotel up ready and I am counting down the days! To keep up to date with news on the next Hipsville please check out their web site here. If you can’t wait a year then don’t forget the regular Weirdsville Club nights at the Fiddler’s Elbow in Camden on the last Saturday of every month.

Hipsville organisers Mr A, Alex & Ade
Please click on the highlighted links throughout the feature for more information on the bands. You can see photos of all the bands and various happenings over the Hipsville weekend at our Retro Man Blog Facebook page here. There are also videos at our YouTube channel here. Check out Retrosonic Podcast archive for our previous Hipsville special and most bands have featured in regular Retrosonic episodes too. All photos copyright Retro Man Blog. Here's a little taster of what you can expect at our YouTube channel - this is The Schizophonics....

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Ebbot Lundberg & The Indigo Children - The Soundtrack of Our Lives and Union Carbide Productions Front-man on Blistering Form at Stora Teatern Gothenburg 13th April

Ebbot Lundberg & The Indigo Children - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
With a new single "Where Are You Now?" out now and a forthcoming album in the works, Ebbot Lundberg the ex-Soundtrack of Our Lives and Union Carbide Productions front-man is out on the road in Sweden with his current band The Indigo Children. We saw his show at the beautiful Stora Teatern in Gothenburg but nearly got caught out as there was no support band and Ebbot’s set started at the ridiculously early time of 7pm. Afterwards Ebbot told me the timings kind of threw him too but as usual he put everything into his performance despite the early start. Although there is no doubting the Stora Teatern is a stunning place, seated venues are not ideal for Ebbot as he thrives on contact and sometimes confrontation with the audience and it was frustrating having to sit down as the band stormed through powerful classics such as "Galaxy Gramophone" and "Mantra Slider". But at least we were treated to a superb two-hour show and still had plenty of time for drinks afterwards. Maybe early gigs are the way to go? 

Ebbot Lundberg & The Indigo Children - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
So we took our seats at 7pm and a Native American appeared alone on stage and gave a speech in his own language and in English about the environment, nature and coincidence and proceeded to play some beautiful, haunting music on a flute. After the show, I spoke to this intriguing character and he told me his name was Tiokasin Ghosthorse, a pretty cool name if ever there was one. He asked me my name, "errr...Steve" I told him, hardly exotic in comparison…"Steve?" he replied slowly "I like that name" – yeah, right! He told me he was from the Lakota Sioux Nation and had been giving a speech at a Green Cross seminar in the city. Ebbot is now a Green Cross ambassador and that’s how the two got to know each other. He told me about the red cedar wood Lakota flute he used during the gig and that he runs a radio station dedicated to highlighting the causes and injustices of Indigenous people around the world. You can see why Ebbot is drawn towards Tiokasin Ghosthorse particularly in the subject matter of his more recent material on the "For The Ages To Come" album with it’s organic sound and ecological subject matter. 

Tiokasin Ghosthorse at Stora Teatern - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Ebbot and the band appear and treated us to a stunning set that really was a Soundtrack of Our Lives fan’s dream as it dipped into the back catalogue for early songs such as "Rest In Piece", "Four Ages" and "Gran Canaria". They even dusted down the beautiful "Ride Into The Next Sun" from the "Behind The Music" LP and delved further into Ebbot’s past for a blistering version of Union Carbide Productions "Chameleon Ride". Of course, it wasn’t just an exercise in nostalgia as we were treated to current Indigo Children material with the superb "Backdrop People" and "To Be Continued" both the equal of any song from Ebbot’s illustrious back catalogue. Ebbot’s debut LP with The Indigo Children "For The Ages To Come" was a return to the Psychedelic swirl of TSOOL’s second LP "Extended Revelations" (which happens to have just turned 20 years old) and this was evident tonight on songs such as "I Totally Agree" and "For The Ages To Come". 

Ebbot Lundberg & The Indigo Children - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
However, it’s a surprising return to Ebbot’s Punk Rock roots which proves to be one of the highlights of the night and a storming brand new number "Planet Earth Through a Stethoscope" which may well go onto become a classic. One of the best things about Ebbot is that he can always counterbalance his raw and visceral side with moments of pure beauty and tonight this came with "I See Forever" which was made even more haunting by the return of Tiokasin Ghosthorse and his flute. We've waxed lyrical many times on the Blog about The Indigo Children and just how great they are - providing Ebbot with the perfect backing to indulge in wherever his mood takes him. Elias on keyboards, Hugo on drums, Joacim on bass with Billy and Oskar on guitars, each have their own distinct characters and handle the material with real expertise and passion. Of course, the TSOOL classics "Second Life Replay" and the crowd-pleasing singalong "The Passover" close the show to rapturous applause. It’s a great time to be seeing Ebbot with such a superb band backing him and with such a faultless back catalogue to pick from you can’t go wrong. 

Ebbot Lundberg & The Indigo Children - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Ebbot will be releasing a Mini LP "The Principle of Gender, Cause & Effect" to be followed by his second LP with the Indigo Children entitled "The Kybalion" very soon. We will keep you updated on news on the release date and further information but in the meantime please check out his official web-site here. Tiokasin Ghosthorse is the host of First Voices Indigenous Radio and The Indigo Children are also the superb band Side Effects. You can see more photos from the show at the Retro Man Blog Facebook page and videos from the show at our YouTube Channel here. Don't forget The Soundtrack of Our Lives Fan's Group on Facebook, it's not just an archive for memorabilia but we will keep you up-to-date on all the ex-members current solo and side projects too.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Shonen Knife - Feature & Photos from the Legendary Japanese Band's Gig at Sub89 Reading April 17th

Shonen Knife at Sub89 Reading - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog
I first saw Shonen Knife at the Reading Festival in 1992 where they appeared as part of an excellent line-up as special guests of Nirvana. Although BBC DJ John Peel had picked up on them a few years earlier, it was probably Kurt Cobain who introduced Shonen Knife to a much wider audience in the UK. At the time the kitsch Lo-Fi trio from Osaka in Japan were the unlikely darlings of the American underground Grunge scene, even boasting their own tribute album called “Every Band Has A Shonen Knife Who Loves Them” which featured acts such as Sonic Youth, L7, Babes In Toyland and Redd Kross covering a song each. So, 26 years later and I’m back in Reading at the Sub89 to see the band again and it’s good to see that singer and guitarist Naoko’s sister and co-founding member Atsuko has re-joined the band. She was drumming when I saw them at the Reading Festival in ’92 but now she’s moved onto bass. In another line-up change, Risa has replaced Emi on the drums and if I’m honest I was a bit apprehensive in the build up to the show as the last line-up was so fantastic, I wasn’t sure how they were going to follow it. I need not have worried. 

Shonen Knife at Sub89 Reading - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog
Shonen Knife at Sub89 Reading - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog
Risa in particular is a revelation, she’s a quite remarkable drummer, a blur of flailing arms and hair, and she is so powerful and exciting to watch. Atsuko too has taken on the visual aspect of previous bassist Ritsuko with her long hair swinging all over the place and huge smile that proves she is having as much fun as we are. Naoko has hardly changed, she looks amazing and has that wonderful grin and glint in her eyes as she announces that the band are happy to be back in “Reading Rock City”. They kick off with a superfast “Pop Tune” and then it’s straight into “Banana Chips” one of the catchiest songs the Ramones should have written. As The Undertones sang about chocolate and girls, Shonen Knife specialise in food and cuddly animals. For example, tonight’s set-list includes such subject matter as “All You Can Eat” buffet restaurants and looking forward to a Friday night out at the “Sushi Bar”, where Naoko lists various types of this “famous Japanese meal”. Risa takes over the leads vocals to sing about “Green Tangerines” and then it's Atsuko's turn for the Oriental harmonies of “Wasabi” and I wonder if many bands could sing about the pungent taste of the eye-wateringly hot mustard and get away with it. “You’ve had the starter and main course and now it is time for dessert” Naoko grins before slamming into the heavy “Ramen Rock” from the “Overdrive” LP. I was going to shout out that noodles are hardly a dessert but they might have thrown a load of jellybeans at me so I just decided to keep quiet and enjoy the menu...errr...sorry, music!

Shonen Knife at Sub89 Reading - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog
Shonen Knife at Sub89 Reading - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog
One highlight of the night is “I Am A Cat” which shows that Shonen Knife have elevated the Japanese obsession with ‘kawaii’ or cuteness to another level, making it kitsch, humorous yet cool at the same time. The set is a satisfying pick ‘n’ mix of songs from throughout their career with “Jump Into The New World” from their current LP “Adventure” and the single “Buttercup” standing out as particular highlights for me. Their mash-up of Ramones, Shangri-La’s harmonies and the catchy 70’s Rock of Cheap Trick and the Runaways is infectious and they play a nice cover of Nick Lowe’s “Cruel To Be Kind” too. The old classics such as “Twist Barbie” and “Riding On The Rocket” still sound as fresh and exciting today as they did when I first heard them. For the encore, they return wearing Shonen Knife T-Shirts and launch into the song handily titled “Rock & Roll T-Shirt” a nifty and fun way to advertise the merchandise! The Hardcore Punk blast of “Antonio Baka Guy” nearly blows the roof off the venue and then it’s over, the three of them stand there holding their Shonen Knife scarves aloft, lapping up the well-deserved applause. What a great night out! It’s life-affirming good time Rock ‘n’ Roll and I would defy even the most hardened cynic not to crack a huge ear-to-ear grin throughout the duration of a Shonen Knife gig.

Shonen Knife at Sub89 Reading - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog
Shonen Knife at Sub89 Reading - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog
For more photos of the gig please check out the album at the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here and there are videos at our YouTube channel here. You can also see our previous features including exclusive Paul Slattery photographs from London's Cargo in 2012 here and their Osaka Ramones show at the same venue in the Blog archive here. For more info on their current tour dates you can visit the official Shonen Knife web-site here or their Facebook page here.

Shonen Knife at Sub89 Reading - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

The Fallen Leaves at The Hope & Anchor - Exclusive Paul Slattery Photos From the Recording of their New Live LP

The Fallen Leaves photographed by Paul Slattery
The Fallen Leaves latest night in their residency at the legendary Hope & Anchor in Islington was a free gig arranged for the recording of a new live album. The band played two sets including some brand new songs and of course encouraged a healthy dose of audience participation, which might well give them headaches during the editing! The set was recorded on the night by ex-Vibrator turned Producer, Pat Collier, who as the founder of Alaska Studios has worked with Robyn Hitchcock, The Sound, Screaming Blue Messiahs, Makin' Time, The Seers and many more great acts over the years. At the moment no title or release date of the album has been announced but of course as soon as we have more details we will let you know.

All colour photos above copyright Paul Slattery

All black & white photos above copyright Retro Man Blog
Thanks to Paul Slattery for the excellent colour photographs. The Fallen Leaves next show at the Hope & Anchor will be on Saturday 26th May. For more photos of the gig please check out the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

OHMS "Melodies of Our Lives" - A New Album of Electronica From Members of The Past Tense & SuperMinx '70

Well, I didn’t see this one coming. Considering our favourite Garage-Psych-Soul outfit The Past Tense have just released an excellent new LP "7A" and their terrace stomping pals SuperMinx’70 have recently announced their return with a new line-up, I wasn't expecting to receive an album by a side-project featuring members of each band. I thought they would be far too busy. I certainly wasn't expecting what lies within "Melodies of Our Lives" the debut release by OHMS, a new duo featuring Past Tense bassist Ken Halsey and SM’70 frontman Paul R Osborn. Yes, it’s Ken and Paul but not as we know them! The opening track "6-8-1-6-79 (For a City Boy)" immediately conjures up early Tubeway Army around the time that Gary Numan started adding early analogue synths over buzzing Punk Rock guitars. It’s a great song and as we swoop into the next number "Sky Falling Now", an unashamedly catchy Electro-Pop song, I notice a theme developing. Suddenly I’m transported back to the early 80's like the time-travelling cop Sam Tyler in TV’s "Ashes To Ashes".

You see, OHMS wouldn’t be out of place appearing alongside Heaven 17 or OMD on any episode of Top of The Pops from around that era. Blimey, "Our Time Will Come" even has a subtle undercurrent of that 80’s museum-piece, the fretless bass. Talking of bass, "Never Let Them Tell You" is another highlight with its New Order bass line and synths that swell into a great chorus. Indeed, what we have with "Melodies of Our Lives" is an affectionate and superbly executed look back at the birth of Electronica in the late 70’s and early 80’s. The duo’s tag-line, 'Music From The Future When We Were Young', pretty much sums it up as they have captured that period where people were taking the Punk DIY philosophy and applying it to synths, drum machines and sampling instead of guitars. You get the feeling that you’ve just tracked down a rare album from an unknown early 80’s band who were discovering this technology and experimenting with it for the first time. There are throbbing sequencers and bubbling analogue synths, sampled brass, Sci-Fi sound effects, toy-town drum machines and rhythm boxes and even the good old classic cascading chimes effect. It's kind of "Vintage Futuristic". Now there’s a good title for the follow up LP guys!

I'm also taken by "Theme For A Swimmer" which is an Erik Satie style minimalist instrumental with hints of Japan’s "Canton" that would be perfect playing over the opening credits of a Cold War Spy movie or part of a Philip K. Dick film score. However, what saves the album from being a gimmick (albeit an extremely well-conceived one) or merely an 80's concept album – is the quality of the songwriting, in particular three tracks bang in the middle of the record. The album gathers momentum and really hits it's stride with the excellent Bowie influenced "Together Forever". Then comes my favourite track "We Were Young" in which Paul reverts to his more familiar South London tinged SuperMinx '70 vocals and they seem to have hit on a style that could lead to OHMS being more than just a nostalgic trip down memory lane. But I think the album’s centrepiece is the stunning "So Alone" which features the best vocal performance I have heard so far from Paul. It starts with a spoken-word verse strangely reminiscent of a darker Pet Shop Boys, before building to an almighty chorus shot through with raw emotion. The lyrics sting with their honesty. There is certainly enough in these three songs alone to hope that OHMS won’t just be a one-off project.

To order the album and find out more information on OHMS check out their official web-site here.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Here To Be Heard: The Story of The Slits - New Documentary Screening and Q&A with Tessa Pollitt

We recently attended a screening of Here To Be Heard, an excellent new documentary movie about The Slits at the historic Regent Street Cinema in central London. This was followed by a lively Q&A session with Slits’ bassist Tessa Pollitt, the movie’s Director William E. Badgley and The Slits manager Christine Robertson. “Here To be Heard” is packed full of exciting live footage of the band in all their shocking and colourful glory and it’s easy to understand what an impact and sense of danger they must have exuded in their early days. Throughout the film, the main voice of The Slits comes from Tessa and the story unfolds from the pages of her scrapbook. She’s wearing gloves to protect the book, almost like some sort of Punk Rock historian in a museum archive and as she carefully flicks through the well-thumbed pages there are fascinating glimpses of old music press cuttings, reviews and photos. The film really captures the fear that spread through the establishment at the emergence of Punk and of course the violence that this fear provoked at the time. Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten and Paul Cook were attacked in the street as were many less high profile musicians and fans and girls were not immune either. Tessa shows us a photo of The Slits on stage and she is wearing jeans with a big slash across the backside. In the voiceover, she tells us that they were actually Ari’s jeans and the cut was caused by a knife. Ari was slashed by some outraged nutter yelling words to the effect of “If it’s a Slit you want, I’ll give you one!” The only place they felt accepted was among their Punk and Reggae peers and they received some welcome support and help from Joe Strummer, John Lydon and Don Letts in particular. They toured with The Clash on the legendary White Riot Tour along with Buzzcocks and Subway Sect and appeared in “The Punk Rock Movie”. Although the early UK Punk explosion did pave the way for some amazing individual female performers and artists such as Gaye Advert, Siouxsie, Fay Fife and Poly Styrene it is still hard to believe that The Slits were pretty much unique at the time. There were not that many independent non-industry manufactured all-girl bands around back then. 

The Slits at Thames Polytechnic, Woolwich 4th March 1978 Photographed by Paul Slattery
The Slits were also more challenging and more chaotic than the majority of their contemporaries and I can imagine that the male dominated music industry and media must have been scared witless by them. Scared, not only by their attitude but by their music too. There was Viv Albertine’s spiky almost Avant-Garde guitar work, Tessa Pollitt’s fluid Reggae-inspired bass, Palmolive’s tribal drum beats and of course Ari Up’s fearsome voice and presence all topped off by her unnerving confidence. The movie highlighted an interesting reminder that this definitive all-girl line-up of the band never actually released any official records and were only captured on tape by the BBC for the John Peel radio sessions. In fact, The Slits didn’t get round to releasing their debut LP “Cut” until 1979 and by then Reggae had really taken a hold and they insisted on signing to Island Records and working with producer Dennis Bovell. In the movie, they admit that most Punks were disappointed that it didn’t sound anything like their raucous radio sessions and early live performances.

Viv in 1980 by Paul Slattery
It wasn’t just the music that had changed either. There were only three band members captured topless and mud-covered in Pennie Smith’s iconic album cover photo. Palmolive, who had left to join The Raincoats, was replaced by Budgie on the drums and they were no longer an all-girl band. The movie mentions the influence of The Pop Group’s angular Funk on The Slits’ sound even to the extent of them borrowing their drummer Bruce Smith to replace Budgie when he left for Siouxsie & The Banshees. The band certainly wanted to challenge people and break down genres and boundaries – touring Revue style with a revolving line-up of eclectic bands, taking in Jazz, Soul and Reggae. They would also become enamoured by Don Cherry’s daughter Neneh who would join the band as a vocalist before going on to a successful solo career in her own right. In 1981 they released an underrated album “Return of The Giant Slits” but the band were sadly to fall apart in 1982 and they disappeared off the mainstream musical radar. In the movie and the later Q&A Tessa describes the shock of suddenly finding herself out of music as akin to a war veteran coming back home, full of adrenaline with nowhere to channel it. She honestly admits that this sudden void was filled by a heroin addiction and she jumped at the chance to re-form the band when an opportunity came up in 2005. Viv and Palmolive declined the offer to re-join but Ari was back and her chemistry with Tessa was renewed.

Compere with Christine, Tessa & William E Badgley at the Q&A
They recruited Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook’s daughter Hollie as replacement vocalist for Neneh Cherry and started touring. They released an album entitled “Trapped Animal” in 2009 and played dates in Japan and Australia. In America, they opened for Sonic Youth and it was nice to see Thurston Moore was there at the movie screening. However, it was during one US tour where things started to unravel. The band were getting frustrated by Ari’s increasingly erratic, confrontational behaviour, decided enough was enough, and quit. Even Tessa could not handle Ari any more. In the movie Hollie gets quite emotional when discussing this period as in hindsight they realise that Ari must have known she was ill and her behaviour was possibly a defence mechanism. What comes across in the movie from the start is that The Slits all looked out for, supported and defended one another so it is sad that Ari could not discuss her health with the others and instead, pushed them away in her efforts to deal with her situation. In the Q&A session afterwards, Director William E. Badgley explained that the seeds of the movie were sown during this last fateful American tour. Ari had insisted that Jennifer Shagawat, the Tour Manager filmed everything along the way, it was as if Ari knew she did not have long to live. When Ari passed away in 2010, Jennifer passed the footage to him and asked him to make sense of it all. Luckily for us Badgley did just that and he has created a long-overdue portrait of The Slits that certainly fizzles with as much energy and excitement as the band themselves. The film also includes new interviews with Viv Albertine and Palmolive (now a contented Christian school teacher living in the States) and there are talking head pieces from a variety of friends, fans and contributors including Gina Birch, Budgie, Bruce Smith, Don Letts, Dennis Bovell, Adrian Sherwood, Hollie Cook and the later line-ups of The Slits. 

During the Q&A session I asked Tessa if she had ever considered picking the bass up again and she admitted that she had tried a couple of times but that it had been too traumatic losing Ari. They had such an unspoken connection and so far she hasn't been able to find that playing music and she gets more pleasure as a DJ nowadays. Some other topics covered included discussing how the dole and squatting scene in the 70's meant that people could be creative on little income which is far more difficult now. Tessa felt that music has lost it's vibrancy and she wouldn't want to be starting off as a youngster in the music business now. She's not really into any bands at the moment but did express her love Subway Sect when I mentioned their original guitarist Rob Symmons is still performing with Retro Man Blog favourites The Fallen Leaves. However she is still enthralled by Jamaican music and culture and talked about The Slits interest in exploring new ideas and inspirations from World music. Indeed their admiration for Japanese culture led to Ari singing in Japanese on "Earthbeat Japan". She explained that The Slits always wanted to move on and not become a caricature of a Punk band. Tessa also touched on Pussy Riot and how there was still much to be done for Women's rights around the world. If you enjoyed the movie and you are a fans of The Slits and Reggae then you may like to know that William will be working with the Here To Be Heard team again on a documentrary about Don Letts, which has just started filming.

Compere with Christine, Tessa & William E Badgley at the Q&A
I can also thoroughly recommend Typical Girls? The Story of the Slits by Zoe Street Howe, which was published by Omnibus Press. Faber have just published Viv Albertine’s second autobiography To Throw Away Unopened a follow up to the excellent Clothes, Music, Boys. You can read a report on Viv’s book talk at the Social in our Blog archive here. There is a Pledgemusic campaign running for the Here To Be Heard DVD release and you can check out William E Badgley's official web-site with details of all his movies here. With thanks to Paul Slattery for the excellent archive photos.