Saturday 6 February 2016

The Senior Service "Depth Charge" Launch Party with French Boutik and Of Arrowe Hill at The Half Moon January 30th - Paul Slattery Photos

The Senior Service photographed by Paul Slattery
Well, I'd just like to start off by saying a huge thank you to the fantastic crowd that turned up on Saturday to witness the first ever live performance of The Senior Service, the gig completely sold out over a week in advance so I, and of course all three bands, really appreciate your superb support. The evening started off with a short sharp set from Of Arrowe Hill whose spiky melodic tunes really went down well. Of Arrowe Hill are a difficult band to categorize but with those insistent melodies, dry Scouse humour and his ever-present Ringo Starr hat, it's not hard to see where singer songwriter (and Rickenbacker guitarist) Adam Easterbrook draws a lot of his influences from. In fact "She Said She Said" from "Revolver" springs to mind as their songs have dreamy harmonies floating over spindly razor sharp guitar riffs. The rhythm section comprises ex-Aardvarks drummer Ian O'Sullivan and bassist Jason Hobart, who both quietly and unobtrusively go about their business, with simple but mightily effective arrangements that allow the songs to shine.

Of Arrowe Hill photographed by Paul Slattery
Easterbrook has quite a bit in common with fellow Liverpudlians The Coral and Michael Head from Shack as it is all about the tunes even though they are sometimes half-cloaked in mystery and off-set against some jarring guitar work or the odd Psychedelic passage. Having said that, on "She's Leaving? (No, She's Gone)" it's all thrown into one glorious headlong rush of a Pop song that Chris Difford & Glenn Tilbrook would be proud to call their own. I must confess that I sometimes get a bit frustrated though, as rather like Robert Pollard from Guided By Voices, Adam's songs can sometimes appear to be more like an Artist's preliminary sketch rather than the finished masterpiece that they promise to be. You see, there are very few Of Arrowe Hill songs that even reach the three minute mark. Just when you get a hold of that catchy riff or ear-worm melody the song can sometimes end abrubtly and you just want to hear more of it or see how it will develop. It's not necessarily a bad thing though and I guess that's part of Of Arrowe Hill's quirky but undoubted charm, they cram more into those short precious minutes than most bands manage in an entire career!

French Boutik by Paul Slattery
When I was thinking about suitable support acts to complement The Senior Service everything drew me towards French Boutik. The only stumbling block was that the band are based in Paris but I took a chance and offered them the slot knowing that they did play in the UK quite regularly and hoping it might coincide with something else over here. Unfortunately at first the date didn't fit but the band made a quick decision to just go for it anyway and I got my wish! The band are currently working on their debut album following a fine run of excellent vinyl E.P.s and are trying to raise funds for the release via a crowd-funding campaign here. I'd urge you to get involved as, judging by the selection of new tracks they played tonight, the album is going to be something special.

French Boutik photographed by Paul Slattery
I think the new tracks like "Le Mac", "Je Louche" and "Le Casse" fitted in seamlessly alongside their more familiar favourites such as "Les Chats De Gouttiere" and "Ici Paris". The usual band line-up of Gabriela on vocals, Serge on guitar, Zelda on drums and Jean-Marc on bass was tonight augmented by Olivier (Popincourt) on the Hammond organ and surprise guest Graham Lentz on bongos and huge smile! Their Pop Moderniste sound was soulful and rich with Serge's superb Rickenbacker guitar work adding a welcome edge to proceedings. Gabriela is an engaging vocalist and backed up by the impressive harmonies of drummer Zelda the songs really took on a life of their own over the Half Moon's excellent sound-system. A sparkling version of "Tiptoes" by Madness was a highlight and the band seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as we were. French Boutik went down a storm with the crowd and I was really pleased for them, they also charmed everyone they met with their easy going nature and I really would like to thank them again for coming over.

Graham Day of The Senior Service photographed by Paul Slattery
So after the great warm up provided by both support acts, the sense of anticipation for The Senior Service was building and I must admit there was a bit of trepidation too. How would an all-instrumental band go down live? Would the crowd be open minded and go with it or would they start shouting out for "Melanie" after ten minutes! Thankfully it all went rather well indeed - songs from the forthcoming debut album "The Girl In The Glass Case" were all short and punchy and had enough variety and groove to keep the audience extremely satisfied throughout. Of course all of the band's instrumental influences were touched on - whether it was John Barry's Bond themes such as their cover of "On Her Majesty's 'Senior' Service" or the Spaghetti Western Ennio Morricone twang of "Caballo Sin Nombre" with the addition of a trumpet player adding that authentic Tex-Mex feel.

Wolf of The Senior Service (and Sophia...) photographed by Paul Slattery
The Booker T & The MG's groove of opening number "Abandoned" got everyone's toes tapping before the crunching single "Depth Charge" blew our minds with it's scorching guitar riff. Along the way we are treated to a dazzling backdrop of movie projections taking in classic TV shows, Psychedelic movie interludes and even a stripping Sophia Loren, during which the band can't help sneaking furtive looks back towards the screen! Tonight Gerry Anderson, Captain Scarlet, Lalo Schifrin, Bullit and Barry Gray are the order of the day, replacing the more familiar Rock 'n' Roll references. There was so much crammed into the perfectly crafted tunes all driven along by Wolf's pin-point drumming and Darryl's inventive bass lines, all underpinning some great guitar work from Graham and of course topped off by Jon Barker's surging Hammond organ runs.

Jon Barker of The Senior Service photographed by Paul Slattery
Each Graham Day line-up has always included a few excellent instrumentals in their repertoire and tonight we get "Come To The Mushroom" and "Explosion on Uranus" from The Prisoners and my personal favourite "South Avenue" by The Gaolers, which was an absolute cracker. The set comes to a close with The Prisoners classic "Find & Seek", Graham knows what we are thinking and approaches the microphone "I'm not bloody singing it! You'll have to sing it yourselves!" And we do!

Darryl Hartley of The Senior Service photographed by Paul Slattery
I'd like to thank the following people for their much appreciated help: Carrie and Staff at The Half Moon, Ian at Damaged Goods Records, Debbie at Muso's Guide, Mark Raison at Monkey Picks Blog, Alan Powell at Down In The Basement Radio Show, Ged Babey and John Robb of Louder Than War, Wayne Lundqvist-Ford at The Ice Cream Man Show on Radio Andra, Alan May at The Glory Boy Radio Show, PJ & Paul at Dirty Water Records and their excellent Gig listings, Artrocker Podcast, Gideon Coe and Mark Radcliffe at BBC Radio 6 Music. Please do take the time to check out the highlighted links if you can, these people deserve your support too, after all they obviously have great taste in music! There's already a great (and impartial...) review by Debbie at the Muso's Guide web-site which you can check out at this link here, she says it much better than I can!

Graham Day of The Senior Service photographed by Paul Slattery
I'd also like to say how much I appreciate the support of the Retro Man Blog regulars and subscribers, especially those that travelled to attend the show...and a very special mention to the Breakfast Club! Of course thanks to my Retro Man Blog & Retrosonic Podcast colleagues Adam and Paul Slattery, especially to Paul for contributing the superb photos, here are some more...

French Boutik
French Boutik
French Boutik
The Senior Service
For more photos of The Senior Service Launch Party please head on over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page and if you are not already following, hit "Like" for access to the Photo Album. There are videos from the show at the Retro Man Blog YouTube channel at this link here.

1 comment:

  1. Impartial ; )
    Thanks again Steve for your kind words - I'm getting all emotional! X