Friday 30 December 2011

Monica and The Explosion - A Swedish singer and a U.K. Sub!

Monica and The Explosion - Photo by Ken Sharp
Monica and The Explosion is a two-piece band consisting of Monica Welander, a Swedish punk rock singer-songwriter and bassist Paul Slack (original member of the U.K. Subs and The Flying Padovanis). In July 2010 Monica released her second album “SHUT UP!" on Hands Up Music, recorded at Jigsaw Studios and featuring Paul on bass and Rob Bayliss on drums. They have toured in Europe, Ireland, Sweden and Australia as well as gigging extensively around the U.K. Having toured around the world as a solo artist for a couple of years, Monica finds the two-piece line-up retains the original concept of the songs whilst adding a new layer of complexity to the over-all sound which is best described as ”Jukebox Punk". 

Although primarily a two-piece they can sometimes be seen performing with drummer JP Morer, but whatever the line-up the songs are always delivered with a heartfelt passion that has won them fans wherever they’ve played. Monica and The Explosion started in 2005 when Monica left her old band "Lots of Pilots" to focus on writing and performing solo. Her music was described as punky rock with a lot of energy. The debut album "Monica and The Explosion" was released in 2007 on her own label, backed by Peppe Risenberg on drums and David Persson on bass. The three of them played together in Sweden for a while before Monica went touring on her own. The unusual girl playing energetic punk rock on her acoustic guitar awoke interest all around the world. In 2008-2010 she went on solo tours around Europe, India, Australia, New Zealand, and The U.S. Two music videos were released from the debut album: "Hollywood" and "Friday Night", both produced by Daniel Larsson.

Jane Connolly in SO Tunbridge Wells
"Female singers seem to be taking over the world right now, but if you want a break from the power ballads and quirky pop tracks, do not miss this feisty local musician. Strongly flavoured with classic British punk, Monica Welander - a Swede now based in Tunbridge Wells - is not so much a breath of fresh air, as a force-10 gale of honest, funny lyrics and insanely catchy tunes. She doesn't mince her words, with tracks like "Intoxicated" summing up a Saturday night romance in blunt and witty style, while the opener "Take it Or Leave Me" has toes tapping from the very first bar."

Michael Bednar in Big Cheese Review
"Sassy Swede + Paul Slack + Acoustic Punk = Jolly good time.
Acoustic punk? From Sweden? With the bassist of punk rock legends U.K. Subs? It may sound like a gimmick, but one listen to the album and any of those notions are soon dispelled.
Monica Welander is the front-woman of this three-piece band, and she’s got enough sass to pull the album together. Songs like “Take It Or Leave Me” and “Shut Up” are fiery musings with a little bit of Joan Jett attitude thrown in. The album might be a little rough at the edges but that only adds to it’s charm. Let it explode out of your stereo and enjoy!"

Paul Slack also writes a really great Tour Blog which is hosted on the superb U.K. Subs Time and Matter web-site. The Blog is a life-on-the-road tour diary that also doubles as a very interesting travelogue. Paul shares his photos, thoughts and comments on the various venues, bands and characters that they encounter along the way. However, what really appeals to me is the great insight Paul gives to the many Towns and Cities that the band travel through, places that are often totally overlooked in the average "coach-gig-backstage" tour diary. Paul really wants to discover  more about the local history and culture as they tour - Nantes, Mont St. Michel, Hamburg, Amsterdam, all are brought to life with some great photos and descriptions.

Monica and The Explosion have two confirmed dates already for 2012 in January at The Iron Duke in Brighton on the 21st and The Castle in Sheerness, Kent on the 28th. However I would recommend you keep a regular check on their Gig Listing page, as this number is likely to grow quite a lot - in 2011 they played around 100 gigs from the U.K. and Ireland, France, Holland, Germany and Sweden and all the way to Australia!

Photos courtesy of Paul Slack

Thursday 29 December 2011

David Liljemark - "Jakten på Bernhard" Documentary

David Liljemark, the Swedish comic book illustrator, artist, author and musician with The Wonder Boys, has just had his excellent documentary movie Jakten på Bernhard (Traces of Bernhard) released on DVD. First of all here's the official press release: 

"Director and cartoonist David Liljemark tries to make contact with Bernhard Redenstedt, a mysterious 82 year old widower, who has been putting up little hand-written notes all over the streets of Lund for many years. David is deeply fascinated by these strange notes, and gets more and more curious about the lonesome man who writes them. However, Bernhard himself isn't as easy to find as his notes...At the same time as David is chasing him for an interview, Bernhard is threatened to be evicted by the local Council. When the time comes, David turns out to be the only person who is there for Bernhard, and things take a new turn. An unusual documentary about an unusual friendship..."

I thoroughly enjoyed this very moving yet ultimately life-affirming film about an unlikely bond forming between a Film Director and his subject. It is part road-movie, part detective story and part social commentary - a crusade for justice, as Liljemark takes on the ageing Bernhard's battle against the local Council who are trying to evict him. "Jakten på Bernhard" is available on DVD with English subtitles from Amazon. It is released by Silverosa films and produced by the award winning and internationally acclaimed Film-maker Lukas Moodysson.  The DVD has lots of extra features including short films and The Wonder Boys' music videos. A real gem however, is the documentary on Stockholm's very own Harmonica Man, Horst, or Munspelsmannen as he is more commonly known in Sweden. Horst has become a cult figure with a Facebook page dedicated to him and people posting  up various recordings of his performances on You Tube.

David Liljemark has been featured in major newspapers such as Dagens Nyheter and comic books such as Galago and the Swedish edition of Mad Magazine. He has also had a wide range of books published by Optimal Press including "Susanna & Bo", "Ritman Katz" and "Maxine". 

The critically acclaimed "Boltzius" published in 2009, was a superb historical graphic biography about the Faith Healer Fredrik August Boltzius, who was, in fact a distant relative of the author. 

David has also worked with The Soundtrack of Our Lives, illustrating the rare Vinyl/CD "Live with Randy Bachman" release.

The extremely rare and collectable 12" Vinyl Picture Disc and Picture CD pack featuring The Soundtrack of Our Lives and Randy Bachman with artwork by David Liljemark.

Monday 26 December 2011

Sean Bonniwell of The Music Machine R.I.P. December 2011

Sean Bonniwell at Islington Academy November 2004 - Photo by Steve Worrall
Some sad news interrupted the Xmas festivities, Sean Bonniwell of the sixties classic Garage Psych band The Music Machine died aged 71 on December 24th. The band's debut album "(Turn On) The Music Machine" included such classics as "Talk Talk" and "The People In Me" and one of my all time favourite Sixties songs "Trouble". The second album was released under the name The Bonniwell Music Machine and included an equally strong set of songs such as "Double Yellow Line", "Absolutely Positively" and "The Eagle Never Hunts The Fly". In recent years Sean had re-formed the band with a talented bunch of young musicians and toured Europe, he was enjoying a big outpouring of critical acclaim and respect from a generation who were re-discovering the band's inventive and catchy sounds. Sean had written his autobiography "Beyond The Garage" and was continuing to record music which was made available through his own web-site. I saw them play at The Islington Academy in 2004 and Sean and the band were on fine form as they ran through all their classic songs to a delighted audience. We met Sean after the show and he was charming and friendly, happy to chat to fans enjoying the rare chance to meet a true Garage Rock icon.  Here are The Music Machine in all their Sixties glory with "Talk Talk".

Thursday 22 December 2011

UK Subs live at Relentless Garage London December 17th - Review by Paul Mileman

UK Subs live at Relentless Garage - Photo by Steve Worrall
One more Xmas comes around. Time for a UK Subs gig. I have tried to do this each year since 1981. Not always got it together, but when I do, it´s always fun. Never two gigs the same. Early Friday morning flight from Oslo, Norway. The first thing that struck me when arriving in London is how bloody cold it was. The second thing was that I saw a poster "celebrating 40 years of Queen", the band that is, not the monarch (she´s winning that one..). Anyway, it made me think about the Subs. Only 5 years to go, and they may actually get to album "Z" in that time!  

Photo by Paul Slattery
The Saturday started out alright actually (West Ham winning at home 1-0), despite it actually getting colder. Then a swift trip over to the Relentless Garage. We missed the Charred Hearts supporting as we went for the pizza/pasta option in the restaurant over the road, got in to the venue mid-way through The Defects set. Never seen The Defects before, and they surprised me. OK sound. Would see them again. Then they played several Clash songs and went off stage.  

UK Subs time. Swift turn around on stage, and then The Subs appeared, Charlie looking like Kurt Cobain (my mate observed). "Emotional Blackmail" for starters, then all the expected songs…and…"Hey Santa" (wouldn´t be Xmas without it), "Riot", "Bitter and Twisted", "This Chaos", "Creation", "Hell Is Other People", "Strychnine"...Can´t remember all the songs, but they came back for 3 encores, or was it 4? Too much Red Stripe… 

A lot of familiar faces at the front, nice to see the punk rock aerobics is still going strong, but I notice that it´s starting to get difficult for the longer songs…Note: Please shorten all the new songs to 1 minute.  

UK Subs live at Relentless Garage - Photo by Paul Slattery
 You cannot knock the UK Subs for this gig at all. Great sound, great songs, great musicians, great venue, great friendly crowd and Red Stripe on tap. Really looking forward to the "X" album, with this line-up, which does seem to really get better each time I see them. And it was really good to see the newer songs creeping into the set, and not just a "best of" gig. Get down and see them now!

UK Subs Guitarist Jet live at Relentless Garage - Photo by Paul Slattery
Charlie Harper live at Relentless Garage - Photo by Paul Slattery
- Review by Paul Mileman, Oslo, Norway

Check out Paul's band RIOTS at their official web-site or Facebook page. 
Paul also runs the official UK Subs web-site.

There is an excellent UK Subs historical archive/resource site called called Time and Matter which is well worth delving into. It features a huge archive of memorabilia, photographs, news, reviews and interviews. There are also contributions from current and ex-members of the band, including tour Blogs, information on various side-projects and charity appeals.

Paul Slattery photographing the UK Subs - Photo by Steve Worrall
A packed Garage enjoying UK Subs - Photo by Steve Worrall
Charlie Harper - Photo by Paul Slattery

UK Subs - Photo by Paul Slattery

Drummer Jamie Oliver - Photo by Steve Worrall

Bassist Alvin Gibbs - Photo by Steve Worrall

Many thanks to Paul Mileman for contributing the review and to Paul Slattery for photographs.

For more "bonus" photographs of the show please visit the Retro Man Blog Facebook page.

Charlie Harper & Knox live at Signal Gallery London December 17th

Photo by Steve Worrall
This was a very special treat to mark the last day of Gaye Advert's superb and very successful Punk & Beyond Art exhibition at the Signal Gallery. Charlie Harper of the UK Subs and Knox from The Vibrators played a solo acoustic set each and then joined together for a run through of a few classics in front of a packed out gallery. The two used to play together in the Urban Dogs, their first release being the excellent "New Barbarians" album back in 1983, and today they played the outstanding "Limo Life" from that record along with a version of the Subs "Warhead". 

Both Charlie and Knox were extremely entertaining and kept the crowd amused with their between-song banter and humourous asides. On the announcement that signed exhibition posters were going to be sold off for charity Knox quipped "Yeah, for Knoxfam...!" Before that Knox had the crowd singing along with the Vibrators' classic "Baby Baby" and further tracks from their excellent debut album "Pure Mania" such as "Wrecked On You" and "Whips and Furs". Charlie then ran through a selection of old Blues numbers and also versions of UK Subs tracks "Tomorrow's Girls" and "Stranglehold". It was a pleasure to hear these gems played in such an intimate and stripped down manner.

Charlie Harper - Photo by Paul Slattery
But there was no rest for Charlie, as after generously chatting to fans, he was straight off to the Garage in Islington to play what was to turn out to be a blinding full-on set with the UK Subs.

UK Subs have just released their latest album "Work In Progress" which features Charlie being ably supported by the fantastic line-up of Alvin Gibbs on bass, Japanese guitarist Jet and drummer Jamie Oliver. You can buy the album and loads of other merchandise from UK Subs official site.

Knox has a country album out now under the name of Knox & The Trailer Trash Orchestra called "The Knoxville Boy". The album is available now from all the usual outlets or direct from Trashville.

Photo by Paul Slattery

Finally, it was sad to see the Punk & Beyond exhibition finishing, it was a great show and I have thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent there seeing the artwork, hearing some great music, meeting some very nice people - including a fair few of my original Punk Rock heroes (and heroines...!). I sincerely hope that Gaye will consider a repeat event next year as I am sure that it would be an even bigger success due to all the very positive reviews and comments. Here's to next year (fingers crossed!).

Please check the Blog archive to read previous features on the Punk and Beyond exhibition opening night and TV Smith's solo acoustic performance at the Gallery.

Charlie Harper & Knox - Photo by Paul Slattery

Charlie Harper - Photo by Steve Worrall

Charlie Harper - Photo by Steve Worrall

Gaye Advert with Knox and Charlie Harper - Photo by Paul Slattery

 With thanks to Paul Slattery for contributing photographs.

Monday 19 December 2011

Sophie Lo Poster Designs - Rock 'n' Roll Art

Sophie Lo is the multi-media artist and designer responsible for these amazing posters and artwork that just ooze a real feel and love for raw Rock 'n' Soul in all it's various guises. From the original Rockers Eddie Cochrane, Chuck Berry and Vince Taylor to Folk and Country stars Woody Guthrie, Loretta Lynn and Hank Williams. There are Soul songstresses Irma Thomas and Etta James alongside Bluesmen Bo Diddley, Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters. Dr. Feelgood and The Adverts rub shoulders with The Cramps and The Senders. If it's music made from the heart then Sophie has a knack of visualising and capturing that vitality, energy and colour in her artwork. As well as her own original poster designs Sophie has worked on album, book and fanzine covers and has also translated text into French for liner notes and books such as "The Sex Pistols - Rotten by Lydon" (Camion Blanc).

Her album cover designs include Eddie & The Hot Rods, The Senders and Naz Nomad & The Nightmares' "Give Daddy The Knife Cindy". Naz Nomad were in fact, various members of The Damned going under pseudonymns and was a mock soundtrack to a never released movie featuring covers of old Sixties Garage Rock from The Electric Prunes, Human Beinz, The Seeds and Kim Fowley amongst others. This, along with Lenny Kaye's mammoth "Nuggets" box-set were the two releases that sparked off my quest and, dare I say obsession, with Sixties Garage and Psych music. I was also really taken by the Naz Nomad record cover as it perfectly captured the mood and music of the album.
Sophie has also worked on individual commissions for tour posters for The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Cynics and Eddie & The Hot Rods, promo posters for The Cramps and sleeve design for The Damned. 
Magazines such as "Vive Le Rock" and Mike Stax's superb "Ugly Things" have also acclaimed Sophie's work and if this is not enough, she is also an accomplished photographer and painter.

Please check out her Web-site for further examples of what is an extensive portfolio to say the least! Copies of posters are very reasonably priced and if you cannot make a decision easily, then there is a book available featuring a selection of her artwork. 

Many thanks to Sophie for permission to use these images, here are some more examples: 

Friday 16 December 2011

Le Beat Bespoké Weekender Number 8 - April 05th - 08th 2012

London’s wildest rock’n’roll party returns this Easter! Now in its eight year, the Le Beat Bespoke weekender is an unmissable four-day event tailored for all lovers of the retro underground and beyond. Previous weekenders have featured The Sonics, The Horrors, The Flamin’ Groovies, Arthur Lee and Love and many more legendary acts, but this year your LBB hosts have outdone themselves by assembling the hottest line-up London’s ever seen.

Playing their first-ever UK show, surf legends The Trashmen, whose biggest hit, 1963’s ‘Surfin’ Bird’ was a hit everywhere from Sweden to Venezuela, American and Australia. Described by LBB sponsors MOJO magazine as “the best rock’n’roll band on the planet”, The Jim Jones Revue’s explosive mix of Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, MC5, The Stooges and The Birthday Party makes them a totally wild live draw. Sixties psychedelic legends The Pretty Things, July and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown will be recreating their epochal appearances at 1967’s 14 Hour Technicolor Dream concert held at London’s Alexandra Palace.

Reformed freakbeat heroes The Sorrows and The Poets will be playing their mod anthems, while Northern Soul sensation Maxine Brown will be joined by young Catalan band The Pepperpots to recreate the classic sound of the Motown girl groups. From Austria and Spain respectively, Wild Evel and the Trashbones and The Hollywood Sinners will be treating us to their maxiumum rock’n’roll garage stylings.

Live music is only part of what makes LBB so great, though: it's a party planned by people who like good music for people who like good music, so when their international DJ line-up does their thing you can expect to hear the very best in everything from Garage to Rockabilly, Folk to Funk, Psych to Soul, Freakbeat to Britpop, Ska to Club Jazz and all points in between over three different club rooms. Plus there are the most beautiful go-go girls, the trippiest eye-candy visuals, the freakiest cult cinema, guest club nights, an all night bar and a huge retro market selling choice vintage furniture, clothes, vinyl and pop artefacts. See you out on the floor…. 

For more info and tickets check the New Untouchables web-site

Advance tickets from 020 7323 7229 (office hours)

Thursday 15 December 2011

The Rezillos brand new "Out Of This World" video overload...!

The Rezillos have just released the brand new video for latest single "Out Of This World" and it's a cracker! The single itself is available in lovely limited edition and numbered 7" vinyl, with one of the best sleeves I've seen in years. B-Side is a cover version of The Pretty Things "Rosalyn". 
I picked up a copy at the Camden gig, it comes with a download code on a nifty little postcard thing to get the tracks in MP3 format with a bonus re-mix of "Out Of This World".  You can order the vinyl from the band's web-site store here or buy MP3 downloads from iTunes. The title track is written by original Rezillo Jo Callis and is released on their own Rezillos Records.

Here's the spacetastic new official video...

Also, following the Camden Underworld gig review, here's two "bonus hidden extra tracks" from the show...first of all it's the timeless classic "Top Of The Pops" followed by "Can't Stand My Baby"...enjoy...!

Videos by Steve Worrall

Sunset Drive live at The Ruby Room Tokyo December 10th

Sunset Drive - Photo by Paul Slattery
I saw Sunset Drive at Tokyo's Ruby Room last year and was blown away by their powerful and raw good time rock 'n' roll. I bought their two CD mini-albums "We've Got To Talk" and "It's All You" at the end of the gig and they have been constant companions ever since. It's just a shame that I haven't been back and able to see them this year as I really wanted to feature them on the Blog. So the next best thing, if I can't write about them then get someone local to do it for me...! Step forward Kurt Schussler from Tokyo band The Big Nothing, who very kindly and ably, filed this report on the band's latest live show. As luck would have it, regular contributor to the Blog, photographer Paul Slattery, was in Tokyo at the time and has sent in some excellent shots of the band too.

Sunset Drive live at The Ruby Room Tokyo December 10th by Kurt Schussler
"When I saw the size of this bass amp I got really excited, but this is as loud as it goes!" Alastair shouted from the stage as he slapped the side of the misfiring new piece of equipment like a fuzzy telly. No one expects great gear from the Ruby Room, just great local rock 'n' roll. Sunset Drive blazed through such hits as "Not Alright" and "See Your Face," Alastair's vocals trading licks with Tosh's firey flying V. The bass kept the songs driving, defying the weak amplifier, bolstered by Shin's rapid drum attack.
Sunset Drive - Photo by Paul Slattery

The headlining trio played with the well-oiled authority of a band that has been together for 30 years (though they're about 25 shy of that). The band's overall sound is joyous garage rock, like a dirty Ted Leo or a slightly cleaner Jay Reatard. But they're also capable of the sweet melodies found on "We've Got to Talk" and "On Fire". This Kiwi/Japanese combo's energy does not come at the expense of songwriting. The crowd danced, as they always dance to Sunset Drive, specially prepped on this night by the fantastic grooves of the Golden Katies. Like a modern Black Sabbath, with 50% of the members and 200% of the sound, this hard rocking two-piece stirred the appetite for rock. Among the revellers were the Walsh brothers from The Watanabes, Mike from The Mootekkis and Kinlay's mighty frontman Andy. 
Sunset Drive - Photo by Paul Slattery
Later on, Hiroki of  thatta showed up to hang out for a DJ set. Tokyo bands love to whinge about the city's lack of a cohesive scene due to the "noruma" pay-to-play system of its live houses. For them, a night like this restores hope that DIY music is alive and well in the metropolis, thanks to bands that truly admire each other's work. It also helps to have venues like the Ruby, which doesn't charge the bands and requires punters to pay just 1,000 yen per head to see four or five bands on a weekend night. Get past the clouds of cigarette smoke and dodgy sound system and it feels like you're rocking out in your friend's basement (the one with the awesome record collection and the reliable connection). After Sunset Drive's set, before the DJs revved up the turntables, the Ruby clientele filed out into the street to watch the lunar eclipse. The shadow drawing across the vast white expanse felt more like a beginning than an end.

Tosh, Alastair & Shin from Sunset Drive - Photo by Paul Slattery
Many thanks to Kurt Schussler for the review and Paul Slattery for the photographs.

The underground Rock scene looks very healthy in Tokyo, there seems to be a good spirit and camararadie between the bands that are often mixed with ex-pats and locals. If possible, please take some time to click the highlighted links in the review to check out some of the bands.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

The Rezillos live at The Camden Underworld London December 11th

The Rezillos not only rolled away the years they positively ripped them up and kicked the backside out of them. Bursting with energy from the off, they slammed straight into "Destination Venus" closely followed by "Flying Saucer Attack". The crowd went wild and there was no let up from there, "Mystery Action" then the superb "Getting Me Down" kept up the pace. Time has looked down kindly on The Rezillos, Eugene's quiff was intact and Faye danced and bounced around the stage like I remember from their Top Of The Pops and The Old Grey Whistle Test appearances back in the day. It's hard to imagine it's over 30 years since the release of their one and only album "Can't Stand The Rezillos" which certainly must rank amongst the top ten best Punk and New Wave debut albums off all time. With its' super powerful production, razor sharp guitars, inventive bass runs and the shared boy/girl vocals, it was a colourful and upbeat sci-fi bubblegum classic. 

The humourous and irrereverent choice of cover versions such as Gerry & The Pacemakers "I Like It" and The Dave Clarke Five's thumping "Glad All Over" also helped to set them apart from some of their more earnest Punk contemporaries. Tonight it's a short but perfectly formed set taking in most of the album along with the new single, "Out of This World", and two excellent new songs that did not detract from the flow of the set in the slightest. In fact one of them "So Deep", was easily on a par with their much loved classics and I am sure will grow into a real crowd favourite. It also points the way to the highly anticipated hope of a new album.  

Although Faye and Eugene are the main focal points, new guitarist Jim Brady seems to have fitted in extremely well, the chemistry between him and the two vocalists was excellent and he has already built up a rapport with the audience, so much so that you would think he was one of the original members. He took to the task with a refreshing enthusiasm and matched Faye and Eugene with his energetic guitar theatrics. The rhythm section of drummer Angel Patterson and Bassist Chris Agnew, whilst remaining in the background somewhat, certainly played their part in ensuring the songs were driven along at a breakneck speed and reminded me that The Rezillos were always one of those bands that you just have to dance to, it's an involuntary reaction. Well, when I say dance, in my case that would mean stop everything and jump around the room like a lunatic. They played another of their unexpected cover versions in the shape of "River Deep Mountain High" and closed the main set with an awesome version of "Can't Stand My Baby". The band are called back for an encore that culminates in an extremely boisterous "Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight" and the crowd are left as satisfied and happy as the band appeared to be. So a hugely entertaining gig and I seriously hope this is a more permanent line-up with a future of many more excellent live shows to come, and please...a brand new album very shortly!


All photos and video of The Rezillos at The Camden Underworld by Steve Worrall