Thursday, 25 October 2012

Royale Records Launch Night with The Electric Stars, The Past Tense, Mr. Bridger and The Swagger at the Half Moon

Royale Records' Hipster Lee by Steve Worrall
Royale Records had their official launch party at the Half Moon in Putney, featuring performances from four of the bands on their ever-expanding roster, The Swagger, The Past Tense, Mr Bridger and The Electric Stars. One of the label's Supremo's Hipster Lee, was spinning a great selection of Mod and Soul tracks. Also in attendance was Dizzy Holmes of the excellent label Detour Records, who have already released records by most of the Royale Records bands. The Swagger opened the show with a laid back set of songs, and although the band are from London, they seem to take a fair bit of influence from Liverpool in their sound as they reminded me of The Coral and the hugely underrated Shack. I felt that some of the songs could have been edited a bit, but overall their performance made a really nice contrast to the other three bands that were to follow.

The Swagger - Photo by Steve Worrall
The Swagger have only been together as a band since March, and they will release their debut E.P. "Carnaby's Treat" on Royale later this year. The band are made up of Lee Stevens on lead vocals and guitar, his brother Paul on lead guitar, bassist Will O'Connell and drummer Tim Desmond. Paul is an excellent guitarist and most of the songs are built around his riffs and soloing. Next up were Retro Man Blog favourites, The Past Tense, and tonight they finally delivered the blistering set that they have been building towards for some time. The Kingston three-piece were on fire and the occasion, along with the limited set time, just seemed to spur them on to a faultless show. I have been a bit hard on vocalist and guitarist Andy Norrie-Rolfe, I know he is a self-effacing chap, but I have sometimes felt that his habit of apologizing during a set just detracts from how great The Past Tense really are. They seriously have nothing to apologize for, but should have faith in their abilities and most importantly, the sheer quality of their fizzing little Garage Pop nuggets of songs.

The Past Tense - Photo by Steve Worrall
Tonight, Andy really sticks it to me with a brilliant performance, full of confidence, and he attacks the songs with aggression and power. Their two albums "Take Three" and "Pick 'n' Mix", although crammed full of genius songs, unfortunately have a production that doesn't quite capture the power of the band live, and that's where they are best appreciated. There's just something very special about the The Past Tense. Maybe it's Andy's slightly unconventional guitar playing, where he somehow captures a slashing Wilko Johnson rhythm style that just makes you want to dance. He spirals off into little Freakbeat guitar riffs on tracks like the crowd favourite, "Wolfman" and perfects a Pete Townsend strum on their Quadrophenia tribute, "Jimmy's Love Song". It might have been Andy's crowning performance, but that's not to forget that The Past Tense also boast, what is probably the Garage Rock scene's best rhythm section, in bassist Ken Halsey and drummer Warren Samuels, who really power things along.

The Past Tense - Photo by Steve Worrall
Ken's bass runs add counter melody to Andy's rhythm guitar, and Warren is a blur of energy behind the drum kit. The great thing about them is that, although they cram so much into each song, there is no excess, each number may be short but it is perfectly formed! And to top it all, unlike a lot of the current guitar bands on the circuit, The Past Tense have a groove, you have to dance. OK, I'm going on a bit...but I'm totally enthused by the band, they deserve more. So get yourself down to the Retro Man Blog night at The Half Moon, Putney on December 07th, where I have a feeling that The Past Tense will be pushing the headliners, The Len Price 3, all the way to the wire for the title of "Best live band 2012". That's going to be some gig, so make sure you contact the Half Moon to book your tickets.

Mr Bridger - Photo by Steve Worrall
The next band is another three-piece, the Medway based Mr. Bridger, who proceed to cover every inch of the Half Moon stage with an energetic bash through songs from their "Out For Tea" album. Sure, there are hints of that Medway-Delta Garage Rock sound, but there's also a healthy mix of Punk energy. There's a bit of a Mod sensibility in their songs too, and a powerful version of The Jam's "Down In The Tube Station at Midnight" is well received by the crowd. They are a pretty incendiary live act too, with lead Vocalist Dave Hursell laying waste to his guitar at the climax of the set. So, all in, a really enjoyable, fun band and well worth catching live if you get the chance. Headliners, The Electric Stars were being raved about by Hipster Lee, in our Retrosonic Podcast special Edition on Royale Records recently. There has certainly been a buzz about the band around the release of their new album "Sonic Candy Soul", which is out now on Detour Records.

The Electric Stars - Photo by Steve Worrall
The band certainly don't lack confidence, the guitarist is even wearing aviator shades and front man Jason Edge, knows how to work a crowd. They open with my two favourite tracks off the new album "136" which is a storming Rolling Stones style tribute to all that's good about Rock 'n' Roll, with it's refrain "Beautiful music for beautiful people". Next up is "Between The Streets and The Stars", which has a nice, almost French, Sixties Lounge feel to it. The Electric Stars live, are pretty much like the album, polished and professional, and you feel that, of all the bands in the scene, they will be the first to really "make it". So, all in all it was a great night and very well organised by Hipster Lee, it will be interesting to see how things progress with Royale Records.

All Photographs Copyright Steve Worrall Retro Man Blog 2012

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