Wednesday, 5 June 2013

"Little Big Head": New Solo Album from Duncan Reid of The Boys

Duncan Reid by Paul Slattery
Born in a small, English cathedral town, Duncan Reid's early dream was to be the next George Best. There was only one thing standing in his way: a complete lack of football talent! So, having discovered a vintage bass guitar in his father's cupboard, Duncan headed to London in his teenage years to land smack bang at the birth of the 70s punk explosion. Duncan's future fellow band member, Matt Dangerfield, had a basic 4 track studio in the coal cellar of his Maida Vale apartment. It was at this flat that members of The Sex Pistols, Clash, Damned, Generation X and others took their first recording steps along the path which would change Rock 'n' Roll forever. One of the bands which coalesced out of this youthful melee was The Boys, with Duncan Reid joining as the bassist who would also go on to sing lead on some of the songs. The Boys became known as "the Beatles of Punk", a title given to them due to their, at that time, unique fusion of harmonies and pop sensibility with raw punk. By the time The Boys had recorded their 4 albums and toured extensively throughout Europe and the US, their influence had spread far and wide to groups like Green Day and Die Toten Hosen, as well as being quoted by the likes of Joey Ramone as his favourite group.

Photo by David Apps
It was during a tour with The Ramones that Duncan, together with fellow Boys member Casino Steel, provided backing vocals for the live version of their hit, "Baby I Love You". In this way Duncan became one of only 2 people in history to play with The Ramones while not themselves being called Ramone! The Boys also recorded periodically as The Yobs creating a whole genre of comedy punk with their versions of "The Worm Song" and "Christmas Carols", a genre much copied since. 18 years after they first split The Boys were persuaded to reform for 2 gigs in Tokyo.

Pressure for new gigs came from a new generation discovering The Boys for the first time. For the last 13 years the band have again played worldwide, headlining in front of audiences in the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Norway, Sweden, Japan, United States, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and elsewhere. After a further recording with other Boys members under the name "The Mattless Boys", and writing songs for other bands such as The Cute Lepers, Duncan has finally recorded his first solo album, bringing a unique angle to the pop punk genre, and taking it into new realms of melodic sweetness.

Photo by David Apps
Opening track "The One" is a great start, it's pure melodic Pop and paves the way for the delights to follow. Next up it's the clever lyrical word-play of "Thinking", which makes me think of the intelligently crafted guitar pop of Marshall Crenshaw. This is followed by the hand-clapping and stabbing organ of the rousing "Montevideo", which has a chorus to die for, and echoes of Cheap Trick and Tom Petty. "Too Late" is a slower, piano led Beatles influenced number which is followed by the excellent "Kelly's Gone Insane" which is a bouncy Power Pop delight of a song.

"His Name" has a sort of slide guitar Replacements feel to it and then it's probably the album's highlight, the stunning "Gotta Call Simone" which is a faultless piece of song-writing, perfectly timeless with it's tale of having your head turned by pretty girls and it even has a cool little Bass break too. The Country-tinged "If That's what You Want?" really tugs at the heartstrings before you are jolted back down to earth by the muscular Pop of "77" and it's love story played out first of all in a crammed, hot and sweaty Marquee on Wardour Street. The romantic couple then move on, and we find them hanging out at the Speakeasy with Lemmy playing on the fruit machine in the background and The Boys themselves making a fleeting cameo appearance, trying to fit in with the Punk scene.

Album cover art by David Apps
"All Fall Down" is another slower ballad and "Shot In The Back" lightens the mood with it's amusing take on trying to stay on the right side of an angry loved one. "Aren't Women Wonderful" is almost like an immediate follow-up, an olive branch or at least a nice bunch of flowers as way of apology. "Little Big Head" draws to a close with the beautifully drawn "Rolling On" which Duncan claims is "his life story in 3 minutes 12 seconds..." It's a nostalgic, but contented, look back on growing up in a small town, moving up to the big city and forming a band. But it doesn't just dwell on the Rock 'n' Roll lifestyle, instead, Duncan admits to growing older gracefully and realising the importance of his family. It's an honest and heartfelt song that rounds things off perfectly and leaves you with a nice warm glow as the album fades and the melodies continue to linger in your head.

Here's the great video to "Gotta Call Simone" - there are more on Duncan's YouTube channel.

Check out the Duncan Reid official web-site for news, gig news and updates and to find out how to buy the wonderful "Little Big Head" album, which is a must-have for any record collection...!

Thanks to Paul Slattery for the superb portrait at the top. The album cover and official Photos of Duncan were designed and taken by David Apps of Artifical Designs.

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