Saturday, 18 May 2019

Day-Glo: The Poly Styrene Story - A Searingly Honest and Uplifting Biography of the X-Ray Spex Singer by Poly's Daughter Celeste Bell & Music Writer Zoe Howe

As a music fan, I sometimes wonder if it might be better to go through life enjoying an artist or band’s work in naïve and blissful ignorance of the reality behind their public personas. The majority of music biographies might involve various tales of obligatory Rock ‘n’ Roll bad behaviour and excess but that might not particularly come as a shock. However, sometimes you will encounter far darker stories that often seem to lurk behind those façades which you are least expecting. You only have to scratch beneath the surface of The Beach Boys, Abba, Ramones and Fleetwood Mac for example and you will uncover that the truth might not exactly live up to their familiar public image. Some of these eye-opening stories may involve a cast of dysfunctional characters that are caught up in family, relationship or inter-band feuds. There may well be cases of mental and even physical abuse along with nervous breakdowns, drug use, premature deaths and illnesses for our heroes to contend with. There may also be examples of manipulation and mismanagement by shady Svengalis or record companies. Sadly, there’s quite a few of these issues coursing through “Day-Glo: The Poly Styrene Story”. I think back to the moment that I first saw the striking Poly Styrene on Top of The Pops. Exotic, colourful and unconventional, she challenged all the usual pre-conceptions of, not only what a “Punk” should be, but what a Pop Star should be. I certainly had no idea of the demons that were at play behind the cheeky Day-Glo singer that I watched in awe on the TV screen.

This often harrowing and sometimes distressing read certainly does not pull any punches in revealing the true story behind a unique and inspirational talent. However, what stops this book from becoming too bleak is the fact that it has been written by Poly’s daughter Celeste Bell, along with the acclaimed author Zoe Howe and this makes for a unique and intensely personal portrait. The format is based on a series of contemporary interviews with those closest to Poly; family members, friends, journalists, admirers and ex-band members, which I’m guessing are taken from research for the forthcoming “I Am A Cliché” documentary. Don Letts, Neneh Cherry, Tessa Pollitt, Jon Savage, John Robb, Thurston Moore, Kathleen Hanna and many more contributors all share their own personal experiences with Poly. Original X-Ray Spex bassist Paul Dean comes over really well, his down to earth no-nonsense reflections are refreshing and he admits that at the time they were just too young to know how to deal with Poly’s issues. There are archive interviews with Poly herself taken from various sources such as music papers, magazines and TV shows over the years. The book is beautifully illustrated with examples of Poly’s artwork including ideas and sketches of band logos, record covers and posters but what is particularly fascinating is the inclusion of various diary entries, scribbled notes and lyrics, which give a rare insight into Poly’s state of mind.

The main crux of the story is Poly’s struggle with issues of identity, a theme that might be familiar from the lyrics of various X-Ray Spex songs. Being mixed race, her mother was Scottish-Irish and her father Somalian, Poly didn’t easily fit into ether Black or White cultures and she even pretended to be Turkish to avoid bullying from all sides. She did develop a fiercely independent streak, aggressive even, as is proven by the story of her chasing and confronting a mugger. She ran away from home after being attracted to the Hippie movement and fell in love with a posh photographer Falcon Stuart, who would go on to manage X-Ray Spex and who’s excellent early photos illustrate the book. They both saw the Sex Pistols in Hastings and Poly saw the developing Punk scene, with its acceptance of any creative outsider regardless of sex or race, as perfect for her to develop her artistic talents. Initially starting with a clothing and accessory stall, her recycled Day-Glo retro-futuristic designs soon morphed together with her love of music and the formation of X-Ray Spex. However, Poly suffered from hallucinations, insecurity and mental breakdowns and was wrongly diagnosed as schizophrenic but she was in fact bipolar. The saddest thing of all is that nobody really knew how to deal with her meltdowns at the time, everyone was so young and self-absorbed. Anyway, back in the late 70’s and early ‘80’s issues of mental health were undoubtedly nowhere near as understood as they are nowadays. We've certainly come along way in that regard.

Poly soon tired of the aggression surrounding Punk and a harrowing residency at CBGB’s in New York was the final straw. Searching for inner peace and somewhere to feel accepted, Poly got heavily into the Hari Krishna sect but also became disillusioned with the negative side of this cult. She tried to get back into music again with a couple of X-Ray Spex reunions but the first attempt was pretty disastrous. However, later on there was another more successful show at the Roundhouse with original member Paul Dean back on bass; but it was clear that Poly struggled with performing in front of crowds. In 2011, Poly did finally release a critically acclaimed solo album “Generation Indigo”, but she sadly died of breast cancer a month after the release. It’s to Celeste’s great credit that she has been so frank in tackling the story of her mother, writing this book can’t have been an easy journey to embark upon and I doubt you are going to read a more honest, heart-breaking yet ultimately uplifting story for a long time to come. For more information on Zoe Howe’s other books please check out her web site here. Celeste has also co-written and narrated a documentary about Poly called “I Am A Cliché” which is currently in production to be released soon.

With thanks to Debra Geddes at Great Northern PR and to Zoë Howe.You can order the book via Rough Trade here or the deluxe box-set edition (limited to 250 copies) from here. This contains a number of exclusive items, including rare pieces reproduced from Poly’s archive: a specially re-released 7” single ("Identity"/"Let’s Submerge") on pink vinyl, a print of a Pennie Smith photograph, a Poly Styrene tote bag, Poly’s handwritten 'concept of X-Ray Spex' note, an 'Identity' card, Poly’s handwritten lyrics for "Oh Bondage, Up Yours!" and "I Am A Cliche"’, Poly’s handwritten sheet music for "Identity" and "The Day The World Turned Dayglo", three badges, Poly’s hand-drawn draft artwork for the Translucence album cover, Poly’s hand-drawn illustration, with signature, three press releases and two flyers for X-Ray Spex gigs!

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Hipsville Soho-A-Go-Go Margate - Feature with Photos & Videos From The Best Event of The Year

Wanda & Dottie in front of Dave Taylor's lighting - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Hipsville, our favourite musical (and social) event of the year never disappoints and although I probably say this every time, I think this really was one of the best so far. Despite various setbacks with location and venue changes over the years, I believe that the tireless and enthusiastic organisers Andrew, Ade, Alexandra and their team hit on a winning formula that managed to combine all the very best Hipsville elements that we have grown to love. Hipsville is the perfect antidote to all the current greyness, bad news and depression enveloping Brexit Britain – it is a bright and colourful splash of Hawaiian shirts, fez’s and fancy dress. Bands and fans from all over the world congregate to enjoy the music, make new friends and basically, party! After two years at Margate’s vintage Dreamland funfair, Hipsville has relocated to the town’s Cliftonville area to the Lido and the nearby historic Winter Gardens, which once hosted Laurel & Hardy and The Beatles.

The Jack Cades at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
I thought both venues worked perfectly – the suitably scuzzy Lido was ideal for this year’s Soho-A-Go-Go theme with its red upholstery, dark nooks and crannies and sticky carpets – just like an old-school Soho boozer or afterhours drinking den. Dave Taylor from Enjoy Yourself provided stunning lighting and visuals and his impressive oil projections transformed the Lido into a seething multi-coloured Psychedelic dreamworld. This all made for a perfect backdrop for the gorgeous Hipsville Go-Go dancers to strut their stuff - Wanda de Lullabies, Miss Diabolik, Alexandra Beat Girl, Celia Formica, Tina Tuna, Nocturna, and although sadly there was no Miss Ge Veve this year, we did have the welcome return of Dottie Gooseberry. This year saw the official introduction of two Go-Go boys too, Steve and Khalid from The Action Men, who both seemed to thoroughly enjoy the whole experience. The Jack Cades opened up proceedings in the Lido on the Friday evening and despite only just releasing their excellent debut album “Music For Children” on Dirty Water Records last year, they included a few really promising sounding new songs in the set. I sincerely hope this means that there will be more good stuff released by the band very soon indeed.

The Jack cades at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog

The Deadly Spirits from Sweden were great fun and their raw Rock ‘n’ Soul went down really well with the crowd. The band are from Karlstad so it was nice to bump into a couple of them and chat about mutual friends and bands such as Tonbruket, Cat & the Underdogs, Nymphet Noodlers and Mattias Hellberg. The final band, The Anomalys, powered through a set of fast and raucous Punk Rock and then it was over to our favourite Hipsville DJ's who over the weekend included Neil ‘Sick’ Smith, Adam Diddy Wah, Carl Combover and Fritz Buzzsaw who all ensured the party never stopped.

The Deady Spirits at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Mighty Tsar at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
On Saturday afternoon, the Glass Jar hosted the Tiki cocktail Bar and we enjoyed a drink while being serenaded by The Mighty Tsar and theur swampy Skiffle Calypso and some suitably mellow tunes courtesy of DJ Ian Greensmith. We then wanted to see Das Clamps for the first time and just managed to squeeze our way into the superb, but tiny, Fez Bar that was so packed it resembled a Tokyo subway train at rush hour. The duo comprise Miss Tangerine Tassels on guitar and vocals and then there is her sidekick on drums and vocals, Tina Marina who for some reason reminds me of Tina from Oh! Gunquit...anyway, they played foot stomping stripped back Cramps inspired songs from their forthcoming album “Shit Music For Shit People” which is out soon on the excellent Trash Wax Records. Unfortunately, French band The Scaners had to pull out at the last minute due to one of the members breaking their leg, which was really bad news as I was looking forward to seeing them very much. However, the good news was that The Baron Four stepped in at short notice and proved more than capable substitutes with their own brand of upbeat Garage R'n'B.

Das Clamps at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Das Clamps at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Autoramas at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Then it was over to the grand Winter Gardens and there were more excellent visuals from Dave Taylor – movies of Swinging 60’s London and Soho Street signs and the stage had red telephone boxes on either side for the Go-Go girls, boys, and gorillas to dance in. The DJ booth was imaginatively transformed into a seedy sex shop. Tonight’s opening act were the fabulous Autoramas and as regular Blog followers will know, the Brazilian space age retro rockers have fast become one of our favourite bands ever since we first saw them play courtesy of Hipsville back in 2015. Their unique blend of Bubble-gum Garage Rock and B-52’s/Devo style New Wave with crunching bass sound and Gabriel’s trademark vibrato effects pedal was simply mind-blowing. The always glamorous Erika adds keyboards, Theremin and guitar and dances non-stop, even getting down to dance with the audience too. They are a fantastic band, one of those that you really have to try to see play live and such lovely people too.

Autoramas at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The Night Times with Celia & Wanda at Hipsville - Photo Retro Man Blog
Next up it’s the U.K. debut for the hotly tipped Californian band The Night Times who wowed the crowd with their traditional nuggets era Psych. They have a superb drummer who was a blur of hair as she thrashed away behind her kit and the lead vocalist/bassist was throwing himself about so much that his bass kept going out of tune. They were such a great live act and there was a tangible buzz about them throughout the whole weekend. Next on stage it was the turn of MFC Chicken who played a thoroughly entertaining set of Fabulous Wailers songs that had everyone dancing along. Classics like “Mashi” and “Out of Our Tree” went down a storm and they even made the perennial classic “Louie Louie” sound fresh. There was also a surprise appearance by Elsa from The Jack Cades who joined the band to wow everyone with a soulful vocal performance.

The Night Times at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
MFC Chicken at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The Action Men entertained us with an amusing dance routine, which featured a cameo from Mr A, and then the winners of the fancy dress competition were announced. In the sad absence of Davros and his Deep Space Deviants, this year saw The Stags put in a hilarious performance with a Mary Whitehouse lookalike on vocals and a band comprising Policemen in a uniform of helmets, tunics and suspenders. What a perfect ending to a fabulous day. On Sunday, it was back to the Fez Bar to be serenaded by Professor Baba and His Invisible Band who bewitched us with some entertaining Voodoo Blues and general mumbo jumbo. I thought it was strange how the Professor reminded me of Simon from Oh! Gunquit – that band must have many lookalikes running around Margate. We made it into the Lido just as Spanish band Los Wilds were finishing their set and the wild-eyed frontman was down to his underpants and cowboy boots. A normal Sunday afternoon at Hipsville then.

Professor Baba at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The Night Times at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Next came The Day Tymes, the not-so-subtle alter ego of The Night Times who blew the Lido apart with their ‘secret’ show. During a wild version of “Gloria” the singer put his bass down and jumped into the crowd for the duration of the song prompting David Arnold of The Stags to take over on bass duties, he should have quickly tuned it up while he was about it. The good news is that the band are hanging around in the UK for a couple more weeks and as I write they are in North Down Sound Studios with Lois and Mole from State Records recording songs for a new single. They will also be playing Brighton on May 17th and Weirdsville in London on Saturday May 18th so if you missed Hipsville be sure to catch them play if you can, you will not be disappointed. The Hipsville team could finally relax and let their hair down at the Sunday night after show party at the Cinque Ports pub – they had invited legendary DJ Mike Gunn (himself no stranger to a bit of sleaze) over from L.A. to close the weekend in his inimitable style. We all kept our eyes on our wallets and our whisky and ensured that no Go-Go dancer was left unchaperoned in the presence of the lascivious titan of the turntable! What a great weekend, I just cannot wait to do it all again next year.

DJ Neil 'Sick' Smith & Hipsville Organiser Mr A
Hipsville organiser Ade, or is it Mike Gunn...with Dave Taylor
Please take the time to click on the highlighted links throughout the feature to check out more information on the relevant bands. You can find more photos of the Hipsvile Soho-A-Go-Go weekend at our Facebook page here and more videos over here at our Retro Man Blog YouTube channel. Check the Blog archive for lots of features on previous Hipsville weekenders and Weirdsville club nights. We have also played tracks by many Hipsville/Weirdsville related bands in our Retrosonic Podcast and all episodes are available to listen to or download from our Soundcloud site here.

The Night Times at Hipsville - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The Hipsville Go-Go Dancers
For news and announcements on future Weirdsville and Hipsville shows please keep an eye on the You Got Good Taste web site. Dave Taylor runs the Enjoy Yourself club nights in Swanage and more information on this and his lighting can be found here. Finally, once again huge thanks to Andrew, Ade and Alexandra and their team of helpers for once again putting on such a fantastic event.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Soft Cell "To Show You I've Been There" - Details on The New Book & Report From The Launch Party by Ian Pile

Renegade Music will release a limited edition photobook on Soft Cell. It's another impressive addition to Ritchie Franklin's catalogue, as he has previously been involved with books on Felt, which featured some rare early photos of the band by my Blog colleague Paul Slattery, Ramones and Sheila Rock's Punk photography. "To Show You I've Been There" has been officially endorsed by Dave Ball and Marc Almond and features over 150 images from the archives of some of the best-known music photographers, many previously unseen, all fully restored from original negatives. This book will be the ultimate photographic record spanning the whole of Soft Cell's electric career, here's a few more details.
  • Limited edition of 1300 copies only
  • Commentary from new interviews by acclaimed music journalist Mark Paytress
  • Each copy comes with an exclusive free bonus 4-track vinyl 'Magick Mutants' EP with artwork by Dave Ball
  • Free bonus MP3 downloads of the 4 tracks plus edits (see email sent separately including zip file of the 8 tracks)
  • Hardback, quarter-bound glossy and linen cover - 21 x 28 x 3 cm
  • 176 pages - over 200 rare and previously unpublished images
  • Full UK discography
Ian Pile from Podrophenia was at the launch party and kindly submitted the following report.

Photo by Ian Pile
With the start time set at a ludicrously early 6.30, we thought it was a pretty safe bet to nip round the corner for a couple in the Groucho before heading to the event. However on arriving at the Phoenix Arts Club around 7.45, we find it’s in full swing. Marc Almond and Dave Ball were both already in attendance and the dancefloor was heaving. Classic Soft Cell neon lighting throughout the venue ensures a seedy vibe to the evening. The pints are served in Soft Cell glasses, there’s Pink Flamingo cocktails on the menu and even Soft Cell beermats on the tables! There’s no getting away from what we are here for! Tonight was all about the release of the deluxe Soft Cell coffee table book ‘To Show You I’ve Been There’. Tantalisingly, the book is on sale right there in front of me but unfortunately, as a committed fan, I pre-ordered months ago and was still awaiting delivery on the day of the launch. Whereas an impulse buy on the night meant you got it on release day (without P&P fees!) and the chance to get it signed too.  

Photo by Ian Pile
The book is a glorious journey through 40 years of the band's history and how these two working class northern lads were suddenly swept up and deposited in the 1980’s mainstream. They kept the ‘Pop’ hits coming yet were subversive throughout – living a double life of clean cut and perverse. As an ardent fan, I was delighted to find the book wasn’t full of the usual shots I’ve seen thousands of times before. Some real gems have been unearthed, and it’s a book I will come back to time and time again. The cherry on top of the cake must be the exclusive 4 track EP ‘Magick Mutants’. A genius moment that completes the full 40 year cycle – as it’s clearly an accompaniment (and nod) to their very first release ‘Mutant Moments’ (which I have with me tonight and manage to get signed!). Three songs from the early set re-recorded plus a Fad Gadget cover and we are transported back to where we began. If this really is it for Soft Cell then it’s the perfect way to bow out. Marc slips away from the event not much after 8pm, but it’s not anything to do with sour grapes as the night is very much Dave’s, as tonight is also his 60th birthday. He’s still there enjoying himself at 10pm when we make our way out. He’s had people coming up to him all evening and he’s been happy to chat to everyone. We leave to the sounds of 70’s New York punk, electronica and camp HiNRG. How very Soft Cell! - Ian Pile, Podrophenia May 2019 

With thanks to Ian for the report and photographs. Podrophenia will be broadcasting a special 10th anniversary episode on July 4th so be sure to check out more details at their site here. Podrophenia was one of the influences on our very own Retrosonic Podcast and Ian and his colleague Dave Collins, or Mondo & Piley as they are more commonly known, have DJ'd at some of our Retro Man Blog Nights for The Len Price 3 and TV Smith at the superb Railway Hotel in Southend-on-Sea. 

Photo by Ian Pile
Thanks also to Ritche Franklin and Stuart Kirkham. For more details on the book and where to order your copy, please check out the official Soft Cell web-site here

Monday, 29 April 2019

The Fay Hallam Group - Photos & Videos from the "Propellor" LP Launch Party at Water Rats April 27th 2019

The Fay Hallam Group at Water Rats - photo by Retro Man Blog
Fay Hallam celebrated the release of her excellent new album "Propellor" with a Suit Yourself Music Culture release party at the Water Rats in Kings Cross last Saturday night. Fay and her superb seven piece band were on top form as they treated us to a set that included plenty of new songs alongside classics from Makin' Time, Phaze and her collaborations with The Bongolian and Magnus Carlson. "Propellor" is out now on vinyl, CD and download from Well Suspect Records, order it here. Here's some photos and a couple of videos from the show.

The Fay Hallam Group at Water Rats - photo by Retro Man Blog
The Fay Hallam Group at Water Rats - photo by Retro Man Blog
The Fay Hallam Group at Water Rats - photo by Retro Man Blog

Thanks to Alan at Suit Yourself Music & Culture. More photos can be found at the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here and there are more videos over at our YouTube channel here. You can also check out a feature on our last ever Retro Man Blog Night featuring The Fay Hallam Group here.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

The Jackets & The Future Shape of Sound - Photos & Videos from Le Beat Bespoke at Nambucca London April 21st 2019

The Jackets at Nambucca - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The Future Shape of Sound sure know how to put on a show and they opened the final night of the Le Beat Bespoke Easter Weekend in a riotous blaze of colour. First of all, the band take the stage and there sure is a lot of them. Drums, bass, keyboards, saxophonist and then guitarist and frontman Alex McGowan, who’s name not only sounds a bit like Hanoi Rocks’ guitar-slinger Andy McCoy, he bears a striking resemblance to him too. The guys are all decked out in that classic faded voodoo glam gangster style with Fedora hats, scarves and brothel creepers - they certainly look the part. Next on stage appear three excellent backing singers who add some soaring Soul and Gospel harmonies to the swampy good time New Orleans style Rock ‘n’ Roll. 

The Future Shape of Sound at Nambucca - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The Future Shape of Sound at Nambucca - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Finally, there’s the exotic and impressive lead vocalist Suri Sumatra, complete with huge feather headdress that almost scrapes the venue’s ceiling. It all makes for one hell of a visually stunning sight and they had the crowd eating out of their hands by the end of a thoroughly entertaining set. The band describe their sound as Primitive Gospel Blues and if you like the slightly sleazy sounds of “Exile on Main Street” era Stones, Jim Jones, Primal Scream and Hanoi Rocks, then you are going to love The Future Shape of Sound. Here is a video of the current single "Toe the Line" which is taken from their "Shakedown Gospel" album, available now on Gypsy Hotel Records.

The Jackets at Nambucca - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Despite being a stripped back three-piece line-up, The Jackets filled the Nambucca stage as effortlessly as the nine members of The Future Shape of Sound, that's thanks in main to the engaging livewire antics of singer and guitarist Jack Torera. Whenever she is not required to be at her mic stand singing, Jack is a non-stop blur of motion, complete with high kicks, leaps and humorous poses. With her striking Clockwork Orange style eye make-up, she is certainly one of the wildest and most unpredictable of frontwomen that I have ever seen. Drummer Chris Rosales and bassist Samuel Schmidiger not only nail down a mean rhythm but they also both add superb backing vocal harmonies that lift The Jackets fuzzed-up songs to another level. 

The Jackets at Nambucca - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The Jackets at Nambucca - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
During tonight’s electrifying performance, they played a few promising sounding songs from their forthcoming album “Queen of Pill” with “Dreamer” and “Steam Queen” impressing along with the two excellent tracks from their latest 7” vinyl release, “Queen of The Pill” and the stunning show opener “Be Myself”. Familiar numbers such as “At the Go Go” and “Freak Out” went down a storm and on a brilliant run through of “Wasting My Time”, Clementine of Das Clamps was cajoled into joining them on stage to dance. The Jackets are one of those bands you really have to see play live at least once in your life, the problem is that once is never enough!

The Jackets at Nambucca - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The Jackets at Nambucca - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
"Queen of The Pill" will be released by Voodoo Rhythm Records on June 14th, it’s produced by King Khan and mixed and mastered by Jim Diamond and is available to pre-order from The Jackets Bandcamp site here. For more photos of the show please check out the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here and you can find some more videos at our YouTube Channel here. Here's a video of the new album's title track "Queen of The Pill", turn it up loud and enjoy!


The Len Price 3 at The Snooty Fox, Torquay 29th March 2019 by David Leach

The Len Price 3 - Photo copyright Paul Slattery
If someone had said to me you would be going to see The Len Price 3 in Torquay, on a Friday night,  I would have probably laughed as, despite being a long-time fan, it’s 200 miles from where I live. However, when I found out that they were playing the night before my local football team, Wealdstone, were playing at Torquay United, it seemed rude not to have an overnight trip and go to both. The band were playing at an event called ‘Torbay March of the Mods’ which was spread over two days and was primarily a fundraiser for the Teenage Cancer Trust. The venue was a large pub called the ‘Snooty Fox’, a perfect size venue for this type of event and housing a decent stage and live music room. It also has the added attraction of a spacious area for the dance-floor and DJ unit  that kicked into action in between and after the live music. There had been other live performances but, by the time I got to the venue, the final support band were on – a local band called The Underground who were playing together for the first time. Hearing this news just before I was about to watch them, I feared the worst, but their set of ‘event appropriate covers’ by bands such as The Jam, Wings and the Small Faces were well-received and took an interesting turn with a cover of the Kinks’,  “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”, which went down well with the audience. Despite being the headline act, it was clear that the Len Price 3 were a bit of an unknown quantity to many here and, as well as being the only contemporary band playing their own songs, it’s fair to say they were a long way musically from the Northern Soul and Motown end of the modernist spectrum that the DJs (the excellent Vinyl Avengers) were playing between sets with which many associate the Mod genre. Indeed, their opener, "You Got Nothing I Want’ is one of their more spartan, jagged, angry numbers that channels the spirit of Medway pioneers, The Milkshakes, with its venomous lyric targeting a wealthy UKIP-voting builder who doesn’t pay tax…as well as his surgically-enhanced wife.

The Len Price 3 live in Torquay - photo by David Leach
For me, their set really took off with the claustrophobic, psychedelic, early Pink Floyd-sounding, ‘Man in the Woods’, a tension-filled tale that tells a stark story of a hermit lost in time in a hostile world with a new housing development closing in on him. It’s a song that is arranged so that you can hear every word singer and songwriter Glen Page is singing and something that audience unfamiliar with their songs really seemed to feed off. Classic Len Price 3 tunes followed - the catchy sing along, 'Swing Like a Monkey' followed by, arguably, their best song, 'After You’re Gone’, a tale of an elderly person alone after the passing of a lifelong partner that is wrapped in the most perfect verses and chorus the Beatles never wrote.  It was clear than an initially uncertain audience had been completely won over; and a double whammy of the dynamic, ‘Girl who Became a Machine’, and the ferocious ‘Praying Mantis’ focusing on the perils of internet dating demonstrate what a compelling live band they are. It was then time for the three-song encore, amongst which was the dark and disturbing but ultimately triumphant anthem, ‘The London Institute’ which channels the spirit of The Who with its changes of dynamic, pace and direction. It’s fair to say that The Len Price 3 gained a few new fans as a result of their set tonight. I had a brief chat with the band afterwards and was pleased to hear that they have recorded new songs. All that was left for me to do after this was to go off to the dancefloor to do a bad impersonation of northern soul dancing amongst some real experts that only several pints of Otter Ale can give you the courage to do.
- David Leach March 2019

Friday, 19 April 2019

Straight Arrows & Oh! Gunquit - Photos & Videos from a stunning night at The Lexington, Sunday April 14th

Straight Arrows at The Lexington - photo by Retro Man Blog
I must admit I'd never heard of the Australian band Straight Arrows before it was announced that one of Retro Man Blog's favourite bands Oh! Gunquit would be supporting them at The Lexington. I had to have my fix of Oh! Gunquit so decided to check out the main band before buying tickets and I'm glad I did, I was immediately blown away by what I heard! The Sydney based Straight Arrows were over in Europe to promote their latest LP "On Top!" which is a superb collection of fuzzed up melodic Garage Punk. They burst onto the stage, all four band members wearing army fatique jumpsuits and the front three also sported matching sparkling guitars too. 

Straight Arrows at The Lexington - photo by Retro Man Blog
Straight Arrows at The Lexington - photo by Retro Man Blog
Their unbridled manic energy hit you in the face straight away, raw and ragged, the songs bursting at the seams with reverb and fuzz. Cymbal stands, drums and mic stands all went flying as they leapt about the stage, even the drummer couldn't sit down for long! The visceral force of Straight Arrows reminded me of the first time I saw Black Flag back in 1981, that no bullshit, take it or leave it Punk attitude, totally committed to the music. And what great music it is! The songs are packed with melodies and memorable choruses and tracks like "21st Century" and "Out & Down" are surefire Garage Rock classics of any era. I checked out a bit more info on the band after the show and wasn't really surpised to find out that Henry Rollins is a big fan and has been playing them on his radio show. Great band and I'd thoroughly recommended seeing them play live if you get chance. Check out their three albums too, they are all well worth getting hold of and in particular the latest one "On Top!" promises they are getting better with each release so the future's looking promising. 

Straight Arrows at The Lexington - photo by Retro Man Blog

It was lucky that Straight Arrows were such as great live act as they had the almost impossible task of following the support act Oh! Gunquit and admittedly, they did pass the test with flying colours. Oh! Gunquit never cease to amaze me with their mind-blowing performances, I know I am lucky enough to have seen many great live acts over the years, and I must say that Oh! Gunquit are up there with the very best of them. They really do have everything you want in a favourite band. First of all they boast a truly unique frontwoman in the high-kicking Tina with her amazing voice and moves, she's the only person I've ever seen playing the trumpet and hula-hooping at the same time.

Oh! Gunquit at The Lexington - photo by Retro Man Blog
Oh! Gunquit at The Lexington - photo by Retro Man Blog
Tina's bandmates are all superb too, all strong individual characters in their own right. There's Simon Wild and his deliciously sleazy guitar riffs, the blur of energy Chuchi on sax, super cool bassist Veronica and taking the place of regular drummer Alex tonight, it's Ergi powering things along behind his kit. Their perfectly paced and plotted set is packed full of many highlights, "Nomads of the Lost", "Fireballs", "Pony Boy", the great songs keep on coming. They channel all that is great in raw Rock 'n' Soul music from full-on Garage Punk to the Voodoo swamp music of The Cramps and Gun Club, to spiky Post-Punk dance music. I just can't speak highly enough of Oh! Gunquit.

Oh! Gunquit at The Lexington - photo by Retro Man Blog

For more information on Straight Arrows please check out their official Facebook page here. Oh! Gunquit can be found here. There are more photos from the show at our Retro Man Blog Facebook page here and more videos at the Retro Man Blog YouTube channel here.