Wednesday 19 August 2020

Eight Rounds Rapid Release Their Third Album "Love Your Work" (Tapete Records) a Blistering, Visceral Attack on The Senses

Eight Rounds Rapid have just released their third album "Love Your Work" on the excellent German label Tapete (Robert Forster, Monochrome Set etc) and it shows the band taking a big leap forward, broadening their sound and horizons quite impressively. They've seemingly taken the feel of "Johnnie Ray" and "Reverse" from previous album "Objet D'Art" as the template for this new set of songs and while there's undoubtedly less of the full-on cranked-up R&B of their previous releases, it doesn't mean the band have smoothed out any of their edges. Not a chance. If anything "Love Your Work" is more challenging and spiky than ever before. But don't worry, while the album will no doubt appeal to a much wider audience, there's still plenty of those classic trademark ERR sounds to keep all you existing fans more than satisfied. "Love Your Work" is visceral and hypnotic and is packed full of David Alexander's wry observations on the state of our nation. He has the knack of elevating the mundane minutiae of life in Brexit Britain superbly and it's difficult to say where lyrics stop and poetry starts. Opening track "You Wait" sets a scene that's full of simmering aggression and tension and it's this theme that runs throughout the entire album. The song's protagonist seems to be trapped in one of those endless call centre scenarios, waiting impatiently, trying to get through, stuck on hold probably listening to awful piped music "he's in a meeting, can I take a message?" You can feel him gradually unravelling as the "you just wait" mantra twists into the ominous threat of "you just wait!". The threat of violence permeates "Love Your Work" and nowhere is this more apparent than in "Passive Agressive". This is what I would call a classic Eight Rounds Rapid song in that it distils all that is great about the band into a two and a half minute adrenaline-fuelled blast. It places you squarely in the heart of a low-life low-rent criminal fraternity and you can visualize small time drug deals with fidgety thugs in pub toilets - "don't look at me funny, I gave you the money". It's driven along on a blistering guitar riff before the song breaks down into a frantic argument - "there's no negotiation, there's no fucking money you slimy little prick". It's one of the best songs the band have written. Luckily the tension lifts a bit with the next song "Love Don't" which is pretty much a Bluesy swing number with Simon Johnson's guitar whizzing all over the place, floating above Jools Cooper's fluid basslines and Lee Watkins superb jazzy drumming. It proves my theory that they are among the best rhythm sections around at the moment.

Eight Rounds Rapid - Photo by Paul Hughes
The switch of styles throughout the album is really what sets it apart - quite a few of the songs are almost like atmospheric mini-movie soundtracks, initially based around the foundation of the drums and bass with Simon's inventive playing setting the scene for David Alexander's evocative lyrics/poetry. Then you get something like "Retro Band" with it's clicking drum machine and unsettling background noises that is as unusual as it is addictive. David Quantick compared the band to Sleaford Mods in a recent review for Classic Rock magazine and after listening to this track I can kind of see his point. It's not just the backing track they use in "Retro Band" but the way both acts are using their local vernacular to shine a spotlight on the current state of our nation, warts and all. Another example of this shift in sound would be the hilarious "Onesie" which near as damn it, nails today's popular so-called culture succintly with it's simple mantra of "I took a selfie in my onesie". It's a jittery avant-garde Jazz blast with some wicked sax from George Cleghorn that reminds me of the late 70's New York No-Wave scene. "Letter" is one of my favourites on the album, a slow burning song with some great choppy ryhthm guitar. Is it a love song for the Coronavirus times? At first I thought so - "when this is over, when this is through, I'm gonna write a letter to you, I'm gonna make it better for you". However, this is Eight Rounds after all and the sampled atmospheric strings and creepy voice in the background makes you wonder if it's actually something slightly more sinister. "Future Estates" is an absolute classic where David Alexander's idiosyncratic half-spoken vocal delivery of his stunning street poetry clicks perfectly with the musical soundtrack. It's so evocative. You're immediately transported to kicking-out time on a Friday night in provincial Brexit-Britain, waiting in a taxi rank in the pissing rain trying to avoid the seething aggression from the "ragamuffin street urchin toerags" all around you. It conjures up images of dodgy tattoo parlours, botox and nail bars and raucous hen and stag parties - "ticket tout lash out lip pout fell out..." Not only does the song boast what I think are David's best lines yet, it also features some unbelievable guitar from Simon - he mangles the strings just like Pixies' Joey Santiago, cranking up the tension almost to breaking point. What a song. "Tricks" is a return to the old-school ERR sound of rough and ready Canvey Island R&B that you've come to expect from the band. It's topped off with a superb harmonica solo and is probably the closest the album gets to what you might call a traditional Rock & Roll song. However, "Mirror" changes the feel again with its lovely shimmering guitar textures reminiscent of Wire's Bruce Gilbert around the "A Bell Is a Cup Until It Is Struck" period.

There aren't really any other contemporary bands I can think of like Eight Rounds Rapid, they're impossible to pin down or categorize. I mean, their uniform of black suits, white shirts and skinny black ties harks back to classic late 70's/early 80's Power Pop, that most innocuous and feelgood of musical genres. But there's certainly nothing innocuous about Eight Rounds Rapid and not a lot of feelgood (excuse the pun) if truth be told. After all, the band look more like a bunch of bouncers outside a local neon-lit boozer than some frothy New Wave band. It's not easy-listening that's for sure. Their music is challenging and thought-provoking and sometimes it can drive you to distraction just like the best Krautrock and Post-Punk bands have the tendency to do. Sure, there are bits of The Fall, early Talking Heads, Can and Public Image Ltd, maybe not musically, but in the way they push the listener to the edge of their comfort zone. However, when you get it you really get it and it's ultimately rewarding. I sometimes wonder if there's a grand plan behind Eight Rounds Rapid. Some of their press releases and statements are challenging, sarcastic almost, are they taking the piss or what? Are they a parody, some kind of Anti-Rock art statement or are they just four Essex blokes who like to get together and kick up a goddamn almighty racket? A bit of all I suspect. But in the end you can do all the theorizing and pontificiating you like, the bottom line is it's music that hits you in the guts, smacks you in the nose but then makes you wonder just what the hell is coming next from Eight Rounds Rapid. I have no idea but I'm certainly looking forward to finding out.

You can hear "Passive Agressive" from "Love Your Work" in Episode 39 of Retrosonic Podcast.

Useful Links: For more information on Eight Rounds Rapid check out their web-site here or their Facebook page here. "Love Your Work" is available to buy here from Tapete Records. Thanks to David Alexander. Thanks to Sidewinder DJ David Edwards for being the first to tip me off about the band at the very start. Thanks to Mondo & Piley at Radio Podrophenia. They released the band's debut single "Writeabout" on their own label. Hello to all at The Railway Hotel, Southend-on-Sea. One of the U.K.'s best independent Pub Venues where Eight Rounds Rapid played as part of one of our joint Retro Man Blog/Podrophenia Nights. Band photo by Paul Hughes.

Monday 17 August 2020

Ms Sheringham-Boom with a Round-Up of New Releases from Fleur, The Voo-Dooms and Surf Muscle

The Voo-Dooms "Step Inside The Doom!" Mini-LP on Spinout Nuggets - Following 2018's debut "Destination Doomsville" LP on Trash Wax Records, last year's "And It Goes Like This…" EP on Spinout Nuggets, and many gigs later, The Voo-Dooms are back from the grave, if you will. Not that they have been dormant for that long, but I have been looking forward to hearing this new offering and have been following the recording progress from Ranscombe Studios in Kent (thanks to social media). I must admit, a large part of the excitement was because I had heard that the Doomettes, Mary Tee and Jo-Jo A Go-Go, were to be involved. "Step Inside The Doom" opens with "Stop Haunting Me" which is SO darn catchy it catapults me right back to my early teens when I was hearing Garage, Beat and/or Trash (as it was called back then, yes I’m old...) for the first time.

Ah, that life changing moment, if only it could be bottled. Well maybe it has been? The theme continues with "She's Gonna Cry Tonight" a song about dumping a girlfriend, but he does not care and he’s gonna let her know - no no no no no NO! Ouch. "If I Can’t Have You" is a short but melodious affair which could tie in with the aforementioned track and there’s more 'No's' than you can shake a stick at, but this time the track has the added deliciousness of the Doomettes which undeniably elevates their sound. "She Wouldn’t Harm A Fly" is segued in with a voice clip from the 1960 film Psycho, which aptly sets the scene for the closing track "Is She (Dead Or Alive)?". It has that haunting "Johnny Remember Me" feel to it, furnished with Theremin from Jo-Jo A Go-Go. This is a monstrous (in the affirmative) record, and I expected no less. The Voo-Dooms are who they intrinsically are; song-makers, performers, enamoured by vintage horrors and writers of lyrics that evoke a knowing and wicked smile. One cannot deny their clearly overt (thanks again social media) influences. The overall sound pays homage to bands such as The X-Men, The Clapham South Escalators and The Sting-Rays to name but a few. Those and the thousands of musicians who recorded the most horrible hidden gems during the mid-century. My only slight disappointment was that I would have liked to have heard more of the Doomettes integrated in these six tracks. Maybe it’s time to start their own band, what do you think?

Surf Muscle "Theme from Surf Muscle" b/w "Hall of The Mountain King" (Sonido Polifonico) - Surf Muscle present their second single, a follow up to 2018’s "Revenge of The Pencil Necks" entitled "Theme from Surf Muscle" which is a quirky, mid-tempo instrumental offering from Sheffield’s, nay, Earth’s finest Surf band. This is available as a limited-edition lathe cut on clear vinyl, of which I have very generously been gifted No 13 out of 57. Lucky for me! It is always such a pleasure to receive their records because they are DIY in the truest sense. The front sleeve art conjures up cute '60s B-Movie terrors from beneath the sea, whilst the back features the band in an '80s video game. All artwork lovingly created by Guitar Muscle himself aka Oliver Allchin. "Theme From…" whisks me away to a swinging sorority beach party circa 1964. Cut to the resident band in their matching striped regalia, who carry on playing as a groaning monster staggers heavily out of the water draped in seaweed towards the bikini wearing girls, knocking over the rum laced punch and swiping at the incompetent Frat boys. Who can save the teens from this deep-sea terror? The band of course! Drum Muscle beats the monster with her sticks, Bass Muscle mesmerises him with hypnotic pulsations, and Guitar Muscle finishes him off with brain-frazzling reverb. "Hall of The Mountain King" is an instantly familiar tune and synonymous with the video game but the Muscle’s take on it is double the fun because they mix it up with another recognisable melody. Since their first release, the band have gigged around the UK and Drum Muscle, aka Katherine, also has a Garage Punk band with Missy Tassels of The Sleazoids called The Mean Girls Club, go check them out too at their Bandcamp site here. They also run a night in Sheffield called The Green Slime, a club for greasy finks and fiends serving Garage, Surf and trashy Rock ‘n’ Roll. 

Fleur - "Petit Homme De Papier" b/w "La Reine Des Abeilles" (Bickerton Records) - "Petit Homme De Papier", in English "Little Man of Paper", is a very welcome follow up to Fleur’s excellent debut single of 2019 "Mon Ami Martien". It is just as sweet, sultry, swinging and seductive as it’s predecessor. Quintessentially Yé-Yé "Petit Homme De Papier" is full of sunshine and flowers, tinged only with a little sadness et voila! It’s the kind of pop perfection that could have been lifted straight from the Eurovision Song Contest circa 1966. Do check out the dreamy video for this single below which features our chanteuse and her familiar looking paper lover. Sigh, we’ve all been there. The more garage-y of the tracks "La Reine Des Abeilles" (Queen Bee) is my favourite of the two. It is buzzing with fuzz and like the life of a bee it is short but meaningful with a sharp sting if aggravated. All tracks were written, recorded, and produced authentically by Arjan Spies & Dave Von Raven (both of Les Robots) at Studio Teepdek, which may give you an idea of the quality you can expect here.

You can also hear a track from Fleur and her other band The Colour Collection in Retrosonic Podcast Episode 39. Please click on the highlighted links for infomation on the bands and how to buy the featured records. Ms Sheringham-Boom is the bassist in Edinburgh's premier purveyors of Garage Rock, Thee Girl Fridays.

Saturday 15 August 2020

The Stranglers - The Early Days in Guildford, Location and Landmark Tour

The Star Inn on Quarry Street, Guildford
The Stranglers have been on my mind even more than usual recently. I'd been talking to Ian Person the guitarist with two of Sweden's most influential bands, The Soundtrack of Our Lives and Union Carbide Productions for our latest Retrosonic Podcast when he told me that "The Raven" was the first record he ever bought. We both enjoyed revisiting the album and he picked his favourite track to include in the episode. Then, just as we finished the interview by coincidence I noticed that The Stranglers had announced the re-arranged dates for their final tour, of course now due to go ahead sadly without keyboard genius Dave Greenfield who passed away suddenly in May. Like all Stranglers fans I was devastated by this terrible news, after all, the band have been in my life for over 40 years now. I vividly remember "No More Heroes" being part of the soundtrack to my youth and when I was old enough to really get into buying records, "Duchess" and "Nuclear Device" were among the first on my list. So, I decided it was time to pay homage to one of my all time favourite bands and in a little tribute to Dave, I finally got round to doing a D.I.Y. tour of Stranglers related locations in and around Guildford, something I've been meaning to do for ages.

Guildford is where The Stranglers were formed back in 1974, it gave them their original name The Guildford Stranglers and I guess it's the band's spiritual home despite none of the members actually coming from the town. After all, Hugh Cornwell and JJ Burnel were born in London, Jet Black in Essex and Dave Greenfield comes from Brighton. Despite the band's fearsome reputation I was surprised to discover that most of the locations involved are surprisingly posh. Guildford itself boasts an attractive High Street that thankfully still retains a bit of character, rare in most of England's generic town centres these days. Then there's Chiddingfold, Bramley, Shalford, Godalming - even the names conjure up images of cricket on the village green and afternoon tea - hardly the high-rise council flats along The Clash's Westway or riot hit Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove. It's certainly all a far cry from the working class streets of Joy Division's Macclesfield or Salford and the polar opposite to 1970's Lower East Side of New York's legendary CBGB's scene either. But, I guess this suits The Stranglers down to the ground - I mean they were always outsiders - unfairly derided in the music press as being too old, too clever or too musical to be "real" Punks and often airbrushed out of trendy Punk retrospectives and exhibitions. However, despite the leafy suburban commuter belt area that saw the band's formation, The Stranglers always had far more menace, danger and genuine Punk attitude than the majority of their safety-pinned, dyed-haired contemporaries. Music journalists, fellow musicians, record companies and sometimes even their own audiences felt the wrath of their seething anger and distrust. 

Guildford High Street
Bramley Village Hall, an early rehearsal room
Hugh moved to Guildford after studying Biochemistry at Lund University in Sweden where he had also formed a band called Johnny Sox. The idea was that he and the guitarist/keyboard player Hans Wärmling should relocate and try their luck with the U.K.'s music scene. They advertised for like-minded individuals and JJ and Jet joined after seeing an advert in the music press. JJ's parents had moved from London to Godalming, a small town just outside Guildford where his Dad Roger, ran a French restaurant called La Chaumiere. Searches for details on the restaurant are sketchy as one result led me to the English Heritage directory of listed Grade II buildings and it comes up as Gomshall Lane in nearby Shere, currently the site of Kingham's Restaurant. However, I've also just had information from Gill at the Proud To Be a Stranglers Fan group that La Chaumiere was on Meadrow in Godalming which actually burnt down and the site is now a row of houses called Little Thatch. Malcolm Wyatt from the excellent WriteWyatt Blog corroborates this and adds that JJ's Mum ran the front of house and JJ also used to help out around the Restaurant too. Godalming was also home to the Gin Mill, a popular venue and nightclub inside The Angel Hotel on Angel Court that hosted gigs by bands such as Free and Fleetwood Mac. One night out here would go on to inspire the lyrics to "Go Buddy Go". Sadly, the Angel Hotel has since been redeveloped and there is a web-site asking for people to contribute their memories and stories. JJ attended the Royal Grammar School in Guildford and it's claimed that one of his schooltime experiences would go on to contribute the idea for "Choosey Susie", probably best not to delve too deeply into that!

Royal Grammar School, Guildford
The site of Jet's old Off-licence The Jackpot
Meanwhile, Jet Black was something of a local entrepreneur, a former Jazz drummer he was now running a large off-licence called The Jackpot which was also the base for his Ice Cream company. Here I also ran into some problems trying to find the exact location of The Jackpot as in most features about the band's early days the address mentioned is 61 Woodbridge Road. However, Malcolm from WriteWyatt tells me "(it) was nearer the railway station, on Park Street, not far from what's now the Academy of Contemporary Music, where incidentally Hugh Cornwell's current bandmates both lecture". If anyone else has memories or information on The Jackpot please do get in touch. In the early days, The Stranglers used one of Jet's fleet of Ice Cream vans as their 'tour bus' for a good couple of years, even making it over to the Continent to play some gigs. Now with things looking more serious for his new band, Jet bought a new drumkit from Anderton's music shop, a long established and well respected store that at the time was located in the North Street area of the town which relocated to 58-59 Woodbridge Road in 1990. Back to the band, and they decided to change their name from Johnny Sox to The Guildford Stranglers, but soon dropped the 'Guildford' prefix probably due to the reasons stated above that Guildford is hardly very 'Rock & Roll' and certainly didn't have quite the same credentials as say, The New York Dolls. However, Hans gave up on the band and returned to his native Gothenburg to be replaced by Dave Greenfield on the keyboards and with the new classic line-up and name in place they were ready to go.

Anderton's Music Store (new location)
The band's house in Chiddingfold
The band had been living and rehearsing above Jet's off-licence and songs such as "Sometimes" came from this period, but when the premises were earmarked for redevelopment, Jet sold up and rented a large cottage on Coxcombe Lane in Chiddingfold, an idyllic English village a few miles south of Guildford. They weren't made to feel very welcome by their new neighbours or even their own landlord for that matter, who at one stage even tried to evict them, changing the locks in the hope of forcing them out. Unfortunately for the locals, this didn't stop the band and they continued squatting at the property for a while afterwards. Hugh has since stated in interviews that he enjoyed his time at Chiddingfold, he was lucky to have the best room in the house which was conducive to songwriting and he liked to sit in the garden relaxing while JJ played acoustic guitar and songs like "Goodbye Toulouse" and "(Get a) Grip (On Yourself)" were written here. 

Chiddingfold, village green preservation society!
The Crown Inn, Chiddingfold
They were pretty poor at the time and Hugh admitted in one interview that they used to go to the Crown Inn, an historic pub on the nearby village green to consume pints of Guinness and packets of mixed nuts and raisins as it was all they could afford and they thought this would constitute a healthy balanced diet! The band even performed under the hilarious name, The Chiddingfold Chokers so the village had an undoubted place in their hearts! Hugh actually returned to Chiddingfold in October 2000 to play a show at the since demolished Chiddingfold Live Music Club around the release of his "Hi-Fi" album. The Stranglers also held early rehearsals in Bramley Village Hall and in the highly unlikely location of the Shalford Scouts Hut, which still stands to this day.

Shalford Scout Hut
The Royal Hotel Stoughton, now the Beijing Restaurant
In December 1974, they played their first ever gig at The Star Inn in Quarry Street right in the centre of the town and also secured a residency at the Royal Hotel in Stoughton on Worplesdon Road, which is now the Beijing Chinese Restaurant. Fast forward forty five years later to January 2019 and the PRS Music For Heritage 'Plaque-in-Black' on the outside of The Star Inn was officially unveiled by JJ, Jet, Dave and Baz Warne alongside the Mayor of Guildford and I'm sure the irony wasn't lost on the band that day. After all, this was the council that not only banned The Stranglers from the Civic Hall but also any other Punk Rock gigs in the town. In fact, I'm just reading the excellent new autobiography "Remain In Love" by Chris Frantz and he mentions that the Ramones & Talking Heads show scheduled in Guildford was pulled at the last minute thanks to this ban. 

G-Live Guildford, built on the site of the old Civic Hall
The Stranglers on stage at G-Live Guildford, 2013
Talking of being banned...G-Live, Guildford's largest music venue and now a regular stop on Stranglers tour itineraries is located on the site of the old Civic Hall - scene of a riot at one of the band's early gigs that, as alluded to above, saw them getting banned by the local Council. Then there was the infamous gig at the University of Surrey in 1978 that was being filmed for the "Rock Goes To College" TV series. The band were angry that their request to offer tickets to local fans, not just for students was being ignored but they kept quiet right up until the fifth song in their set "Hanging Around" after which Hugh slagged off the crowd and the University and walked off stage. Following this, the Student Union decided to ban The Stranglers too - leaving them nowhere left to play in Guildford. I think you can safely say that this was when the love/hate relationship between The Stranglers and their adopted hometown of Guildford turned into strictly a hate/hate relationship for a pretty long time after!

"Guildford University never represented Guildford, we hate playing to elitist audiences so f**k off..."

All photos copyright Retro Man Blog. Please do get in touch if there are any glaring inaccuracies and I'd also love to hear from anyone with personal memories and stories relating to their own experiences with The Stranglers and Guildford which may be included in a follow-up feature. With thanks to Malcolm Wyatt from WriteWyatt Blog for filling in some of the blanks. Here's some recommended reading..."No Mercy" by David Buckley, "Stranglers Song by Song" by Hugh Cornwell & Jim Drury, "A Multitude of Sins" by Hugh Cornwell, "Peaches: A Chronicle 1974-1990" by Robert Endeacott. Further online reading can be found at the following places: The Stranglers official web-site, Hugh Cornwell official web-site, WriteWyatt Blog, Strangled web-site, FamilyInBlack Facebook Group, Burning Up Time Facebook Group, Proud To Be a Stranglers Fan Facebook Group, SIS Japan Facebook Group.

Saturday 8 August 2020

Alvin Gibbs "Diminished Responsibility: My Life as a U.K. Sub and Other Strange Stories" (Tome & Metre Publishing)

Diminished Responsibility cover
This excellent new book from U.K. Subs bassist Alvin Gibbs "Diminished Responsibility: My Life as a U.K. Sub and Other Strange Stories" (the first from those good folks at Time & Matter) works on all levels – whether it be as an evocative autobiography, travelogue and tour diary or a thoughtful take on the various machinations of the music industry over the years. Take your pick, Alvin has all bas(s)es superbly covered within these fast-turning pages. Starting off with a foreword by Henry Rollins, we are soon plunged into Alvin’s earliest childhood memories and his first love, surprisingly not music but football, both as a handy player and then as a passionate supporter of his local team Crystal Palace. He soon gets hooked by the music bug though and inspired by Glam Rock he forms various bands with school friends and ends up striking up an unlikely friendship with Guy Stevens, the inspired, if somewhat erratic, producer of Mott The Hoople and The Clash’s “London Calling”. Alvin then gets sucked into the burgeoning London Punk scene, seeing early bands in legendary venues like the Roxy but it’s experiencing the Ramones play at the Croydon Greyhound that really seals the deal and he joins Cambridge based Punks The Users. He then lands playing bass for Brian James who had just left The Damned to form his own band, The Brains, later to become The Hellions and there are some hilarious tales of Brian’s less than benevolent handling of the tour expenses. Alvin then recalls his audition with the U.K. Subs which would be the first encounter of an on-off relationship that endures to this very day and, as we are about to discover, would go on to provide so many experiences that he will soon be publishing Volume 2 of these memoirs.

Alvin Gibbs onstage with the U.K. Subs - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Alvin’s recollections are shot through with a conscience which may be one reason why he re-wrote his (initially rather discreet) first book about touring with Iggy Pop. He mentions that he struggled against expected social conventions of the time such as pressure from family versus becoming an all-out Rock ’n’ Roll monster. But therein lies the charm of the story. For example, this paradox leads him to get married at an early age because he felt it was the right thing to do but it only causes him sleepless nights, in more ways than one, when he can’t stop himself from succumbing to the pleasures of being on tour. It’s these frank, soul searching elements that elevate the book to another level and prevents it being much more than just another lurid Rock ’n’ Roll memoir. Don’t get me wrong, there are enough amusing, sometimes eye-opening vignettes of on-the-road bad behaviour, particularly when the Anti-Nowhere League and Hanoi Rocks are also involved. But despite his honest recollections of these wild adventures, Alvin comes across as a likeable and thoughtful person who manages to find the time to discover the joys of foreign travel amongst the hectic tour schedules and after-show carousing. For example, his vivid portrayal of New York and his evident passion for places as diverse as Florence in Italy and Austin in Texas are really evocative and you can understand why he now resides in France, seemingly someone totally at ease with different cultures thanks, I’m sure to his globe-trotting experiences as a touring musician. It’s not all seen through rose-tinted glasses though as is evident in the hair-raising encounters with right wing factions in Germany, a sobering visit to the Dachau concentration camp and even run-ins with Rednecks and Hell’s Angels in the States, which he compares to the movie Easy Rider. 

Alvin Gibbs & The Disobedient Servants "Ghost Train"
However, it’s in his description of the U.K. Subs ground-breaking but ultimately ill-fated tour of Poland in 1983 where his writing really hits its stride. The Subs were the first Punk band to play there and they experienced not only their largest crowds and biggest venues but the intense, claustrophobic atmosphere of life behind the Iron Curtain as the Solidarity movement gained momentum. But let’s rewind a bit and I’ll let you in on a selection of other goodies that you will encounter as we accompany Alvin on his literary tour bus. There are encounters with John Lydon, Billy Idol and Arturo Vega in New York, there’s The Cramps, The Police and Thin Lizzy and some less than pleasant experiences with Adam Ant and Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden. There’s loads of interesting snippets of information and gossip for U.K. Subs fans and various vignettes that could come straight from the movies “Almost Famous” and “Spinal Tap”, from death defying air journeys to Drummer Steve Roberts spectacular ego-driven meltdown. There are backstage punch-ups and the reasons for original rhythm section Paul Slack and Pete Davies leaving the band. We discover the secret behind the ‘live’ album “Crash Course” and how their stint at Jacobs studio in rural Farnham inspired the Guns n’ Roses favourite “Down on The Farm”. We learn how the Subs’ press photos for “Keep On Running” caused a furore amongst the Hardcore Year Zero Punk fraternity and find out how the band got scrubbed from Top of The Pops. It’s all here and more…! 

Alvin Gibbs onstage with the U.K. Subs - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Obviously, Alvin opens up on the relationships with his various band-mates but I was a bit surprised that guitarist Nicky Garratt remains an elusive figure throughout the book. Nicky, it seems generally preferred to do his own thing on tour, not partaking in the usual on the road chaos around him, and in fact even gets labelled a Boy Scout at one point. However, it’s not until the very last chapter where Alvin explains the unexpected twist regarding the band’s split in 1983 that he expands on the importance of Garratt’s role. Admitting that Garratt played a major part in bringing Charlie’s somewhat sketchy ideas for songs to life and how he tried his best in the studio to rescue the disappointing “Diminished Responsibility” LP, not forgetting his incendiary live performances. Yes, the way the band ended here comes as a bit of a surprise, not what I was expecting at all and I won’t go into the details here, you’ll just have to buy yourself a copy to find out! The book is the first to be published by Time & Matter Recordings new publishing wing Tome & Metre and can be ordered directly from here. Keep an eye on their site for news on the forthcoming Volume 2.

You can hear my colleague Paul Slattery's favourite Subs track and a song from Alvin Gibbs & The Disobedient Servants in Retrosonic Podcast Episode 32 (see below). Paul photographed the U.K. Subs for various single and album covers such as "Stranglehold" and "Original Punks, Original Hits".

Useful links - Please click on the highlighted links below for further information

Time & Matter Recordings - Official web-site
Time & Matter Recordings - Facebook page
Alvin Gibbs - Some Weird Sin: On Tour With Iggy Pop
U.K. Subs - Official web-site
Retrosonic Podcast - with Leigh Heggarty from the Disobedient Servants & Ruts DC
Retro Man Blog - Alvin Gibbs archive features

Friday 7 August 2020

Ms Sheringham-Boom reviews brand new releases from Palooka 5 and The Space Agency

- The Space Agency "The Celestial Sounds Of…" (Tremolo Records)
These Brighton based instrumentalists formed out of a serendipitous meeting in 2002 (see for the whole story) and now present their fifth (but first vinyl) LP of 'out of this world instrumental sounds’. The thing I really love about a good instrumental LP (and I do LOVE a good instro) is that the music tells the story without those pesky things called lyrics getting in the way, thus allowing the listener to set their imagination free, and because this LP is fully instrumental (unless you count the chattering birds) there is a requirement to keep things fresh and somewhat varied, which of course The Space Agency do with aplomb. In their owns words they offer ‘music and sounds inspired by places, avian disputes, descriptions of sound, nature, cravings, spicy Eastern foods, other worlds, euphoria and glittering galaxies of nonsense & stupidity’.

Make no mistake, this is an album packed full of all of the above and held within a retrofuturistic context. There may be fads in instrumental music, for example the third wave of Surf with it’s heavy metal connotations and booming basslines, which honestly leaves me stone cold. I prefer a sound that is in keeping with the rawness, energy and experimentation of the original masters, and mistresses. Another thing that endears this LP to me is that I can hear the distant waves of Japan throughout, so much so that I swear it’s Kayama Yuzo playing his Mosrite on "Teringo". "Bombay Potatoes" takes us to South Asia with it’s psychedelic fuzzed-out sitar sounds. "The Devil’s Saddle" evokes the sound of Mr Space Age Pop himself, Joe Meek (we are not worthy), and as hard as it is to choose a favourite track from the LP, this is one of them. So here it is, The Space Agency presents "Celestial Sounds of The Space Agency". What else can one say except superlunary! - Ms Sheringham-Boom (August 2020)

- Palooka 5 "Ultra Marine" LP (Spinout Nuggets)
With a bent for dressing like extras from Apocalypse Now, the Palooka 5 certainly aren’t the fools that their name suggests. With regular airplay already secured on Radio 6, they return  with a follow up to 2018’s "Rough Magic" in the form of mini LP number two "Ultra Marine" this time on the Spinout Nuggets label. Based in the heart of Somerset, the Palooka 5 have broken out of camp and made it to London (which is no small feat) and have done the rounds of a few festivals to boot; a wealth of gigs under their camouflaged belts. Hopefully the other boot will propel them further afield into Europe, the US and beyond. Despite the difficulties that 2020 has presented, with no live gigs since April and an uncertain future for grassroots music venues, I admire theirs and the label's ‘the show must go on’ spirit. Actually, it’s perfect timing because we, the people, definitely need a shot of this upbeat Garage-Surf-Pop conglomeration to brighten up the current climate.

So, just what is it the Go-Go girls are getting their tassels in a twist about? Well, to start, title track "Ultra Marine" comes on like The B-52’s kicking the whatsit out of "Rockaway Beach". Yes, I know every man and his dog uses that comparison when there’s a female vocalist in a band with a certain twang or fuzz, but in this case it’s actually true. I’m grateful that we get to hear more of Mrs BE Baigent other than the backing vox and maraca shaking she so deftly dispenses. It’s my favourite track of the eight for sure.  Other tracks such as "Possession of the Surf Tsar" (it’s where you’ll find the Cossack-tion), and  "Missy Mousetrap" which conjures up mid ‘60s Californian Garage R&B at its very peak, are just a few of the stomp, shout and work it on out numbers on this mini but majestic offering. A great balance of vocal and instro with some crackley radio bits thrown in for fun. If this record doesn’t sell out quickly then the world truly has gone AWOL. - Ms Sheringham-Boom (August 2020)

For more information and details on how to buy the albums please check out the following links:

Ms Sheringham-Boom is the bassist in Edinburgh's premier purveyors of Garage Rock, Thee Girl Fridays. You can hear a great track from Palooka 5 in Episode 38 of Retrosonic Podcast.

Tuesday 4 August 2020

Retrosonic Podcast Lockdown Lowdown Episode 6 with Ian Person of The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Union Carbide Productions & Pablo Matisse

Photo courtesy Ian Person
In Episode 6 of our special Lockdown Lowdown series we welcome Ian Person into the virtual Retrosonic Podcast studio. We take an entertaining and in-depth journey through Ian's musical life - not only as a guitarist, singer, songwriter and composer but as an enthusiastic music fan. We go back to Ian's earliest musical memories - from the very first record he bought, the first gig he went to and the first band he formed. He discusses his favourite albums, 7" singles and the influences on his guitar playing. There's also some of his own memorable shows and tales of touring with Robert Plant and Oasis and working with Denise Johnson, who we found out had sadly passed away just a few days before we did the interview. Along the way there's some great music from The Who, Black Flag, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Damned, Minor Threat, The Stranglers, Oasis, Ebba Grön and Led Zeppelin to illustrate Ian's stories and choices. We also take a comprehensive look at Ian's own music from being a part of two of Sweden's most influential and important bands - the wild, untamed Union Carbide Productions and Psych Rock legends The Soundtrack of Our Lives. We take in his time with P-Funk innovators Stonefunkers and on collaborations with his ex-TSOOL colleagues Fredrik Sandsten and Kalle Gustafsson Jerneholm on such projects as legendary Swedish singer Jerry Williams comeback album to his movie and TV soundtrack work such as Box 21 and The Eternal Road. Then there's new music from his current band Pablo Matisse and we also feature a pick of his own solo music including the superb score to the documentary on his favourite football team IFK Göteborg and his Diamonds In The Rough album. Finally we end the episode with an exclusive unreleased song from his forthcoming solo album, a duet with Swedish singer Alice B.

Full Tracklisting
The Stranglers "The Raven"
Ebba Grön "Hang Gud"
Black Flag "Rise Above"
The Who "Baba O'Riley"
Union Carbide Productions "Golden Age"
Union Carbide Productions "Coda"
Stonefunkers "Mardi Gras Stomp"
The Soundtrack of Our Lives "Instant Repeater '99"
Ian Person "Valencia Theme"
Ian Person & Kalle Gustafsson Jerneholm "Theme from The Eternal Road"
Ian Person "Box 21"
Ian Person "Diamonds In The Rough"
Pablo Matisse "Is There Anybody Out There?"
Jerry Williams "Ghostrider"
Oasis "Champagne Supernova"
Led Zeppelin "Good Times Bad Times"
The Soundtrack of Our Lives "Mind The Gap"
Creedence Clearwater Revival "Fortunate Son"
The Damned "Love Song"
Minor Threat "Betray"
Ian Person & Alice B "Forever and a Day

Ian Person photographed by Paul Slattery
Useful Links - Please click on the highlighted link below to explore further
Ian Person - Official Facebook page
Ian Person - Bandcamp site
Pablo Matisse - Official Facebook page
Pablo Matisse - Bandcamp site
Svenska Grammofon Studion - Official web-site
The Soundtrack of Our Lives - Official Facebook page
The Soundtrack of Our Lives - Facebook Group
(for all things TSOOL related including Fan's Forum, Archive & news on all ex-Bandmembers)
Retrosonic Podcast - Special Episode with Ian Person
Retrosonic Podcast - Special Episode with Ian Person & Fredrik Sandsten 
Retrosonic Podcast - Special Episode on IFK Gothenburg movie "Football's Last Proletarians" 
(with ex-IFK & Liverpool legend Glenn Hysén, Directors Martin Jönsson & Carl Pontus Hjorthén)

This episode can be streamed/downloaded directly below or you can check out our Retrosonic Podcast site at Soundcloud or subscribe for free at iTunes or Apple Podcasts.

Retrosonic Podcast has a valid PRS certificate. Podcover photo courtesy of Ian Person. Check out our previous Lockdown Lowdown episodes with Duncan Reid of The Boys, Leigh Heggarty of Ruts DC, Raymond Gorman of That Petrol Emotion/The Everlasting Yeah, Buddy Ascott of The Chords/The Fallen Leaves and Mike & Elsa from The Jack Cades. Retrosonic intro music by Adam Donovan.