Monday 24 January 2022

Lester Square "Invisible Man" - New Solo LP from former Monochrome Set guitarist

Lester Square, the original guitarist with Adam & The Ants and The Monochrome Set is back with another eclectic and thoroughly satisfying solo instrumental album called "Invisible Man" which could well be the soundtrack to an imaginary movie. First track "Who The Gods Destroy" sets the scene of what's to come perfectly. It's packed with buzzing analogue synth and keyboard sounds, tinny drum machines and all topped off by Lester's trademark twanging guitar riffs. I'm reminded of early Wall of Voodoo, who were originally a soundtrack/score composing collective before they added the vocal talents of Stan Ridgway. "Invisible Man's" evocative songs conjure up images of robots, old computer games and vintage Sci-Fi movies complete with spliced dialogue, swooping aircraft and special effects. The mix of styles flows effortlessly throughout the album, there's the pulsing 90's style Techno of "Disco Bizarro" and then we're on more familiar guitar-led territory with the excellent "Trudi French (Slight Return)". The shimmering, glacial wash of oriental synths in "Shinjuku" is reminiscent of Ryuichi Sakamoto's "Neo Geo" album and certainly brings the 24-hour neon-lit Bladerunner atmosphere of Tokyo's pleasure district to life. "Leaf" is a particular favourite and the crunching chords and jazzy guitar-riffing are reminiscent of The Monochrome Set, all underpinned by some nice Arabic percussion. Lester brings things down to Earth with the bumpy crash-landing of "COP26" which is shot through with chilling sound-bites regarding the failure of the powers-that-be to tackle the effects of climate change and suddenly the outer-space of "Invisible Man" seems quite appealing. The mood is lightened by an unexpected bonus track to end with, a version of John Barry's stirring "Zulu" theme however, Lester has subverted the genre and relocated the action from Rorke's Drift to the Wild West with an uptempo Ventures style Spaghetti Western romp. Lester plays all instruments and has written all the tracks except "Zulu" which was composed by John Barry. "Invisible Man" was recorded at Liberal Elite Studios in Islington and will be available in February from Lester's Bandcamp page. You'll be able to hear a track from the album in our forthcoming episode of Retrosonic Podcast so please subscribe at Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, SoundCloud or Apple Podcasts to ensure you don't miss out.
Lester with The Monochrome Set at Retro Man Blog Night, The Half Moon Putney - Photo Paul Slattery
"Invisible Man, his 5th solo album, sees Lester move to a more cinematic arena. Employing synthesised sound and sampled aural collage, he reels in the reels, brings Sci-Fi to the Hi-Fi, terror to the turn table, romance to the dance floor... and a re-look at some old favourites. The whole is rounded off with a more serious look at science fact, a reaction to the failure of COP26 as well as a 'live' bonus track! So, expect phasers set to stun and more ear worms than you can shake a stick at. Pop some corn, put the headphones on and settle down to an instrumental blockbuster: from Sulu to Zulu, a Saturday matinee of movie mayhem and mirth with a sobering twist. Schlock & Roll!" 
"Lester Square's guitar style influenced The Smiths, the Glasgow and Edinburgh Post Punk scenes, and then their successors, Franz Ferdinand." - Ian Bourne, Gig Soup

"Kind of groovy and danceable, but extremely bookish as well: very clever." - Graham Coxon

Wednesday 12 January 2022

"A Little More Time With…The Senior Service" with guest vocalist Rachel Lowrie. Ms Sheringham-Boom reviews the new 10" Vinyl E.P. out now on Damaged Goods Records

"Instrumentalists find their voice" by Ms Sheringham-Boom (January 2022)

Happy 2022 anyone, anyone? This year has gotten off to a shaky start, and like everyone else, I am totally over this pandemic. It is however shaping up in one respect due to the release of some much-anticipated new music. Hopefully more widespread live events going ahead will follow across the UK and further afield in the not-too-distant future. Hat’s off to the fortunate ones who have managed to continue with their music throughout this time. There is a very welcome return to one band who managed to do just that at Ranscombe Studios in June last year. They are of course our favourite instrumentalists, The Senior Service (who feature Medway musicians Graham Day, Wolf Howard, Darryl Hartley and Jon Barker) whose much anticipated mini-LP is due for release on the Damaged Goods label this Friday 14th January. The band cordially invite us to spend "A Little More Time With…" Don’t mind if I do. But wait, there are vocals you say? 

The story goes that around year ago, The Senior Service (on a drunken night out) decided that they wanted to add a ‘little more’ to their instrumental sound. Enter Rachel Lowrie a local singer/songwriter who has previously recorded with a fair few fellow Medway stalwarts. Cited as their best work to date, four of the tracks on "A Little More Time With…" were written with Rachel in mind, and in a recent interview with Glenn Prangnell for the Groovy Uncle Podcast she declared that it’s ‘probably the best recording I’ve ever done.’ Who are we, readers, to argue with that? So, I put the question to Rachel about the collaboration 

Q: How did you feel about being approached by the band to sing vocals for them? 

Rachel: We were at Mr Unswitchable’s Open Mic night at Rochester Social Club in 2019 and I sang "24 Hours from Tulsa" (me and my ukulele) with some level of intensity. Jon Barker approached me about singing on their album that evening. I wasn’t sure the recording would happen until it had. And it’s a thing because they have made instrumental music and now vocals. I wondered what the songs would be like. I felt like I got a sneak preview.

Q: Were you familiar with the band’s sound, the individual band members, and their musical heritage?
Rachel: Yes of course, but I’m lazy with the details. I have grown up and lived in Medway most of my life, so I knew their names and band names. I’ve been to various gigs over the years, Graham Day & The Forefathers, The Daggermen, The Buff Medways, and The Senior Service etc.

Q: What was it like to be part of the recording process?
Rachel: I got the tracks and lyrics and turned up and sang to be honest, and it was all quite nice. As a bunch they were kind and welcoming and they laughed a lot - they have been mates for years so it felt like a relaxed space to come into. I was excited-nervous of course. I really like the songs they wrote. And I enjoy being at Jim’s studio (Jim Riley, Ranscombe Studios).

Q: What can we expect from you at the launch at the end of January, are you excited about it?
Rachel: I’m just looking forward to singing the songs live, should be fun.

Then there’s Darryl Hartley. As well as playing bass he also designed the fabulously evocative artwork for the cover sleeve. I asked him about his inspiration for this… 

Darryl: The sleeve artwork follows the previous designs we’ve had. I really like the Saul Bass posters of the sixties, so we’ve adopted that look as we believe it suits the music. I think with this record we were going for a jazz/lounge type feel to the whole package, so it ties in nicely with that too. It’s important that the artwork compliments the music and the 10" format also helps with this.

…and whilst he was there, I asked him about his song, the cool and collected "Just A Little Time".

Darryl: "Just A Little Time’ was written some years ago when I was going through a bit of a Bacharach phase or at least trying to go a bit Bacharach (I’d never claim that I’d ever reach those lofty heights). Years later when we decided we were going to do this record I remembered the song and thought it would work well with a female vocal. I had in my head a Dusty Springfield big ballad type of thing, a bit of brass, a dramatic chorus. It has come out pretty successfully. There are some unintentionally Carole King elements to it, which I’m not going to complain about!

Indeed. In fact, each band member has contributed to the writing of the songs on this EP, and it is difficult to choose a favourite, so I won’t. As well as the originals the band have included two covers of more obscure instrumentals: John Schroeder’s "Lovin' You Girl" and "Mysterious Land" by The Chris Lamb Orchestra. With this mini-LP you can expect the sublime, the nonchalant, and music of cinematic proportions; Hammond draped around brass, a sometimes-explosive guitar complimented by a driving rhythm section, and the stirring voice of a cool chanteuse.

You can hear a song from the new E.P. in our latest episode of Retrosonic Podcast.

"A Little More Time With…The Senior Service" the new 10" Vinyl E.P. with guest vocalist Rachel Lowrie is available to order from Damaged Goods Records here. For more info on The Senior Service please check out their Facebook page here. With thanks to Ms Sheringham-Boom. Ms Sheringham-Boom is the bassist in Edinburgh's premier purveyors of Garage Rock, Thee Girl Fridays.

Monday 3 January 2022

Retro Man Blog & Retrosonic Podcast's Music Books & Movies of 2021

Next up we look back on our favourite music related books and movies of 2021 and in number one spot sits Saskia Holling's excellent "Girlsville: The Story of The Delmonas and Thee Headcoatees" - which was not only Saskia's first book but also the very first publication from Lee Grimshaw's Spinout Productions - which of course includes his excellent record label Spinout Nuggets. Despite the title, "Girlsville" is much more than just the story of two of the Medway Garage Rock scene's first and most influential bands. Right from the superb cover art, the rare photos of both bands through Saskia's superbly crafted, sometimes challenging insights into the trials and tribulations of women in Rock 'n' Roll over the years, you know this book is something very special indeed. You can order the book from all the usual places but as always I'd recommend getting it directly from Spinout Publications here. You can also hear our Retrosonic Podcast special where I talk to Saskia about the book and along the way she picks some of her favourite songs from both bands as well as the various influences on her own music with Sally Skull and Lord Rochester.  You can listen to the episode at Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts or directly from our SoundCloud site below: 

Our favourite music movie just had to go to Edgar Wright's stunning documentary "The Sparks Brothers" which perfectly captured Sparks' groundbreaking musical career. It's gleefully crammed full of the Mael brother's trademark humour and features many cool musicians and celebrities talking about the impact of Sparks on their lives. After all, the movie's strap-line is "your favourite band's favourite band". Of course the movie includes contributions from various Sparks band members over the years, including original Halfnelson/Sparks drummer Harley Feinstein and we also have two thoroughly entertaining Retrosonic Podcast specials available where Harley talks in depth about the very early years of Sparks including their breakthrough years spent in London. Both episodes are essential listening for any Sparks fan.

Here's the full list (all books unless noted.)..

1. "Girlsville: The Story of The Delmonas and Thee Headcoatees" by Saskia Holling

2. "The Sparks Brothers" (movie) by Edgar Wright 

3. "I Wanna Be Yours" by John Cooper Clarke

4. "Relax Baby Be Cool: The Artistry and Audacity of Serge Gainsbourg" by Jeremy Allen

5. "Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliche" (movie) by Celeste Bell

 6. "The Fall: Excavate!" by Tessa Norton and Bob Stanley

 7. "Morgan Howell at 45rpm: SuperSize Art" by Morgan Howell

 8. "The Go-Go's: Made in Hollywood" by Gina Schock

9. "The Who: A Band With Built In Hate" by Peter Stanfield

10. "The Sisters of Mercy: Waiting For Another War" by Trevor Ristow

11. "The Damned: On Track, Every Album Every Song" by Morgan Brown

 12. "The Listening Party" by Tim Burgess

13. "The Adventures of Kid Krupa" (movie) by Sean Parkin

14. "Diminished Responsibility: My Life As a U.K. Sub Vol. 2" by Alvin Gibbs

15. "Pete Shelley: Ever Fallen In Love, The Lost Buzzcocks Tapes" by Louie Shelley

16. "The Stranglers: 1977" by Laura Shenton

Saturday 1 January 2022

Retro Man Blog & Retrosonic Podcast's Compilations and Re-issues of 2021

Happy New Year everyone! Here's our favourite Compilations and Re-Issues of 2021.

1. Various Artists "Pop Psychédélique (The Best of French Psychedelic Pop 1964-2019)" LP featuring Fabienne Delsol, The Liminanas, L'Epee, Serge Gainsbourg, Stereolab, France Gall, Air etc.

2. The Delmonas "Hello We Love You! The Big Beat E.P.s" (Big Beat Records 10" Vinyl)

You can hear Saskia Holling talking about her excellent book "Girsville" The Story of The Delmonas & Thee Headcoatees" in our Retrosonic Podcast special episode here.

3. Joe Strummer "Assembly" LP

4. The Selecter "Too Much Pressure" (40th Anniversary Reissue LP)

5. The Courettes "Here We Are, The Courettes" (Damaged Goods Records LP)

6. Various Artists "Gary Crowley's Lost 80's Vol. 2" LP

You can hear Gary Crowley's talk and Q&A session from Sounds of The Suburbs Records about the Lost 80's compilation in our Retrosonic Podcast special episode here.

7. Various Artists "Strange Creatures - The Best of Rebels Vol. 2" (Raving Pop Blast Records LP) featuring The Fallen Leaves, The Galileo 7, The Jack Cades, Palooka 5, The Nettelles etc.

8. The Brian Jonestown Massacre & The Telescopes - "Before I Forget/Come Down My Love" (Split 10" Single on A Recordings)

9. BMX Bandits "The Janice Long Sessions E.P.s" (Precious Recordings 7" Singles)

10. Nancy Sinatra "Start Walkin' 1965-1976" LP

11. Buzzcocks "All Over You" (You Are The Cosmos Records Clear Vinyl 7" Single)

12. Various Artists "Box of Pin-Ups: The British Sounds of 1965" (Cherry Red Records CD Box Set)

13. The Stranglers "A Tribute To Dave Greenfield" (Live CD included with "Dark Matters" album)

14. Sonic Youth & The Pastels "Play The New York Dolls" (Purple Vinyl 7" Single)

15. The Charlatans "A Head Full of Ideas" LP

16. Aztec Camera "Backwards & Forwards 1984-1995" CD Box Set)