Sunday 31 December 2023

Retro Man Blog & Retrosonic Podcast's Favourite Albums of 2023

First of all I'd like to sincerely thank all the Retro Man Blog and Retrosonic Podcast subscribers, contributors and people who have kindly offered encouragement and assistance along the way in the past year, thank you for your support, it is very much appreciated. As always, we would encourage you to check out the highlighted links below to also add your support to the many fantastic, bands, artists and record labels that we have featured in 2023. You can hear tracks from many of the bands in various epiosdes of Retrosonic Podcast which are all available in our archives at Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and iTunes - if you are not already, please like, subscribe and share to help spread the news about the great new music that is being released. Have a wonderful New Year and let's hope 2024 brings us even more superb sounds! 

Retro Man Blog & Retrosonic Podcast's Pick of 2023 Albums

1. "Eternity"

Despite only being released on December 15th - this perfectly plotted debut album from the Liverpool based Tom Powell shot straight into our Number 1 slot. The immediacy of the melodies, the rich production, insistent riffs and hooks and timeless genre-defying sound made it an immediate hit. Tom has been ably assisted by a superb cast of contributors including Tom's 'day job boss' in The Red Elastic Band, Mick Head, Chris Geddes from Belle & Sebastian and Tom's Dad, the guitarist and producer, Steve Powell. "Eternity" is a masterclass in songwriting of the highest order. You can hear Tom talking about the concept behind in our special Retrosonic Podcast here.

2. Jim Jones All Stars "Ain't No Peril"

Absolutely blistering album from the fomer Hypnotics, Jim Jones Revue and Righteous Mind frontman and his new all action outfit. Somehow "Ain't No Peril" manages to capture the intense energy of the band's live performances in it's grooves and the album screams out Gospel, Garage Rock, Soul and downright raw Rock 'n' Roll.

3. Lalalar "En Kötü Iyi Olur"

Taking Turkish Psychedelia and mixing it with modern day Electronica and Dance beats along with some hugely inventive guitar playing - this Istanbul-based trio produced one of the most striking and original albums of 2023.

4. Jah Wobble "A Brief History of Now" (featuring Jon Klein)

Jah Wobble got together with former Specimen and Siouxsie & The Banshees guitarist Jon Klein to release this stunning album which sees a return to the angular Post-Punk sound of Public Image Ltd with trademark bubbling bass and Klein's scathing guitar work.

5. Wingmen "Wingmen"

A collaboration featuring Baz Warne of The Stranglers, Leigh Heggarty of Ruts DC, Paul Fox of The Damned, Marty Parrott of the Johnny Moped Band and Rob Coombes of Supergrass might have signalled a new tribute act to themselves - but bravely they avoided any notion of nostalgia and released a quite magnificent collection of all new original material. The always entertaining Leigh Heggarty joined me to discuss Wingmen and how it all came about in this great episode of Retrosonic Podcast.

6. Sparks "The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte"

The Mael Brothers continued their remarkable 50-plus year musical journey with this great album packed full of their usual wit, originality and inventive songwriting.

7. Pascal Comelade & The Limiñanas "Boom Boom"

A hypnotic and atmospheric collaboration between the avant garde musician Pascal Comelade and our favourite fuzzed-up French duo Lionel and Marie Limiñana.

8. The Blue Aeroplanes "Culture Gun"

Released not long before the terribly sad news of guitarist Angelo Bruschini's passing - this album is simply one of the best of the Bristol based collective's long musical history. Poet/Vocalist Gerard Langley's half-spoken delivery is complemented by the vocal harmonies and contributions of his revolving line-up of collaborators and band-mates.

9. Iggy Pop "Every Loser"

Merging the best of all aspects of Iggy's repertoire from foul-mouthed 100 miles an hour rockers like "Frenzy" to the crooning baritone of "Strung Out Johnny", this album has it all - if you love Iggy you'll love "Every Loser".

10. The Skids "Destination Dusseldorf"

Harnessing all the trademark Skids tricks that I've loved since seeing the high-kicking Richard Jobson and his Dunfermline gang on Top of The Pops as a kid. The huge, stadium sized choruses, ringing guitar and Jobbo's impassioned vocals are all present and correct in this fantastic collection of new material.

11. The Hives "The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons"

The Swedish Garage Rock legends returned with their first album since 2012 and it's their strongest to date for sure, a swaggering beast of a record. New outfits, new bassist but same attitude and energy, proving they were always far more than a cartoon act.

12. The Brian Jonestown Massacre "The Future Is Your Past"

The run of superb albums from The Brian Jonestown Massacre over the past few years continued with this excellent collection of songs that came in a colour-your-own album sleeve complete with BJM crayons, genius! 

13. Fake Names "Expendables"

Dennis Lyxzén from The (International) Noise Conspiracy and Refused teamed up with members of some of his favourite American Punk bands such as Minor Threat, Bad Religion, S.O.A., Fugazi and Girls Against Boys to release this melodic tour de force, building on the promise of their self-titled 2020 debut album. Check out out thoroughly entertaining Retrosonic Podcast with Dennis where he discusses how Fake Names came about and other aspects of his fascinating musical career.

14. Gina Birch "I Play My Bass Loud"

One of the founding members of the Raincoats, Gina Birch released this great album bursting with fresh and inventive ideas tinged with Reggae and Electronica. "Wish I Was You" ranks up there among the very best songs of the year.

15. The Damned "Darkedelic"

There's no doubting that for me personally, the return of bassist Paul Gray reignited my love for The Damned and if you liked the 60's Garage Rock nuggets of their alter-ego Naz Nomad and the "Strawberries" and "Black Album" era, then "Darkedelic" will be right up your street (of dreams...). The news that Rat Scabies will be back behind the drum-kit makes 2024 a very exciting year for fans of the band.

16. Shonen Knife "Our Best Place"

The Osaka based trio have been consistently releasing albums of pure buzzsaw Punk Pop joy for 40 years now but there is seemingly no let up on their cheerful worldview and tales of their favourite food and cuddly animals.

17. Melody Fields "1901"

This Swedish Psychedelic band that emerged from ashes of The Movements are fast becoming one of our favourite acts. This is a masterclass in neo-Psychedelia that almost defines the genre.

18. Vännäs Kasino "Vännäs Kasino"

It's Dennis Lyxzén again but on guitar duties this time with a fantastic album featuring his INVSN colleague Sara Almgren on vocals and a blistering collection of Punk Rock that reminds me in places of prime Dead Kennedys.

19. Altin Gün "Aşk"

Dragging the exotic strains of Turkish Anatolian Rock and Psychedelia into the present day, Altin Gün are becoming hugely popular and it's easy to see why with releases of this calibre.

20. The Jack Cades "Something New"

A kind of contemporary Garage Rock 'supergroup' featuring members of The Embrooks, Speedball Jr, The Baron Four and The Missing Souls - The Jack Cades albums just get better with each release and this memorable collection of great songs with Mike and Elsa's vocal harmonies and nods to The Velvet Underground and early Brian Jonestown Massacre. It makes you wonder just how they are going to top this one. We spoke to Mike and Elsa about some of their favourite songs and influences in this episode of Retrosonic Podcast.

21. Ian Kay "Walk That Road Again"

Elsa from The Jack Cades' former colleague in The Missing Souls, Ian Kay, finally released his long-awaited debut solo album this year and yes, it was well worth waiting for. Ian's highly infectious Garage Soul packed full of irresistable hooks will get you in the dancing mood from the moment the needle hits the groove.

22. Gatuplan "Välkommen Till Underjorden"

Inge Johnansson, the livewire bassist with The (International) Noise Conspiracy released the second album from his band Gatuplan in 2023 and its bursting with a positive, uplifting energy cramming in all of Inge's passion for Swedish Hardcore, Punk Rock and Ska. Have a listen to the hugely likeable Inge on Gatuplan, The (International) Noise Conspiracy and some of his favourite songs and influences.

23. Rhoda Dakar "Version Girl"

A brilliant collection of lovingly curated and performed cover versions from the former Bodysnatchers vocalist, "Version Girl" also boasts stunning cover art from Pete McKee.

24. Duncan Reid & The Big Heads "And It's Goodbye From Him"

The fact that "And It's Goodbye From Him" is possibly former Boys bassist Duncan Reid's best collection of his now trademark Power Pop Punk gems makes the unexpected decision to call time on his musical career even more disappointing, but it's one hell of a way to bow out. I just had to catch up with Duncan to discuss the reasons behind his decision to pack in music suddenly and what followed was a fascinating chat on the life of a post-Brexit musician.

25. French Boutik "Ce Je Ne Sais Quoi"

An immaculate collection of Pop Moderniste songs from the Paris based band oozing class with their high quality mix of Indie, Ye-Ye, Soul and 60's Pop.

Bubbling under... 

Ian Person "Autoimmune", Galen & Paul "Can We Do Tomorrow Another Day?", Per Svensson "Magic Trip", The Coral "Sea of Mirrors", Holiday Ghosts "Absolute Reality", Ruts DC "ElectrAcoustic Vol. 2", The Bug Club "Rare Birds: Hour of Song", Popincourt "We Were Bound To Meet", The Go! Team "Get Up Sequences Part 2", The Sound of Pop Art "Shapes & Shadows".

Sunday 3 December 2023

New Retrosonic Podcast with Tom Powell, Bassist with Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band on his new solo project

In our recent Retrosonic Podcast Episode 53 you would have heard the excellent track by called "Play It Cool", well we liked it so much we named the episode after it and even featured the man behind the project, Tom Powell, on the cover. You might recognise Tom as the bassist with former Shack and Pale Fountains frontman Mick Head's latest outfit, Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band and here, in a thoroughly entertaining show, Tom discusses the concept behind and the superb album "Eternity", some of the varied musical influences that helped to shape the sound and the contributors that played their part in creating one of the best albums of 2023. "Eternity" is a concise and perfectly plotted debut that effortlessly moves between an eclectic mix of genres, from 60's West Coast Californian harmonies, pastoral Folk Rock with lush orchestral arrangements to 90's  Trip-Hop and contemporary Neo-Psychedelia, but despite the varied reference points, it all sounds completely fresh and unique. It brings to mind the similarly studio-based project 5 Billion In Diamonds which was created by Nirvana Producer and Garbage drummer, Butch Vig along with the Bristol based Producers and DJ's James Grillo and Andy Spaceland and a list of impressive studio guests including Ebbot Lundberg from The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Damian O'Neill from the Undertones and members of Ocean Blue, Massive Attack, Spiritualised and The Blue Aeroplanes. 

With, Tom has called on dad, Steve Powell from Ark Recording Studios in Liverpool who has worked with Mick Head, The Stairs, Cast and Echo & The Bunnymen among others and here his production and guitar work, lifts "Eternity" to another level, the album just sounds fantastic, especially on vinyl. Then there are contributions from Tom's Red Elastic Band colleague Phil Murphy on drums, Chris Geddes from Belle & Sebastian on keyboards and Mick Head himself, who adds vocals to a couple of songs and also more intriguing, the bongos! In fact, the time spent working with Mick Head, who the NME once dubbed as Britain's "Greatest Songwriter", has certainly rubbed off on Tom as "Eternity" is packed full of immediately memorable songs, ringing with superb guitar riffs, beautiful melodies and choruses that will stick in your head for days after the very first listen. His Red Elastic Band boss must be very proud. Talking of which, during our chat, Tom also covers the amazing reaction to the "Dear Scott" album and the wonderful experience of playing in Japan with Mick and The Red Elastic Band earlier this year. We were lucky enough to be there to catch one of the Tokyo shows and you can see videos over at our YouTube channel here. Anyway, please enjoy Tom's company in this latest episode which is also soundtracked with a selection of songs from the "Eternity" album - you can subscribe to Retrosonic Podcast for free at Spotify, iTunes, Apple Podcasts or direct from our SoundCloud site below.

You can order "Eternity" directly from the official website here and check out more news and information at the Facebook page here. With thanks to Tom and to John Johnson photography for use of the excellent photo in the Podcover. We recommend the Pale Fountains fan's Facebook group here for all Mick Head music-related chat and resource. Retrosonic Podcast has a valid PRS licence. 

Tuesday 21 November 2023

Retrosonic Podcast Episode 53 "Play It Cool" featuring 20 superb new releases from Jah Wobble, Pascal Comelade & The Limiñanas, Elephant Stone, Jim Jones All Stars and more...

Welcome to Episode 53 of Retrosonic Podcast, featuring 20 superb new songs by some of our favourite international Bands and Artists from as far afield as Canada, Sardinia, France, America, Sweden, Indonesia, the U.K. and Turkey. The episode is out now so please search and subscribe to Retrosonic Podcast at Spotify, iTunes, Apple Podcasts or direct from our SoundCloud site below: 

Tracklisting & Links

Big Boss Man "Do The Backstroke"

Jim Jones All Stars "Gimme The Grease"

Melody Fields "In Love"

Jah Wobble (featuring Jon Klein) "Fashion World"

Pascal Comelade & The Limiñanas "Le Riffifi Brille en Jaune"

Pete International Airport (featuring Rachel Goswell) "Tic Tac" (Anton Newcombe Remix)

Elephant Stone "Lost In a Dream"

Les Kitschenette's "Breuvage del Amor"

Crayola Eyes "Blacker Than Coal"

Jetstream Pony "Sixes & Sevens"

Hipbone Slim & The Kneejerks "Hey Catalina"

Gaye Su Akyol "Love Buzz" "Play It Cool"

Spiders "Hanging On The Telephone"

Palooka 5 "Chetsworth Motel"

The Sound of Pop Art "Beach Life"

The Hangee 5 "Never Have You Ever"

Tiny Flaws (featuring Florence Joelle) "Hazy Recollection"

The Masonics "It's Time That I Moved On"

The Guy Hamper Trio "Cowboys Are Square"

Please click on the highlighted band names above for links to their official web-sites for further information and details on how to purchase the excellent music featured in this episode. For more details on our featured record label, Spinout Nuggets, please check out their official web-site here and their Bandcamp site here.

Allie Beaudouin's new book "Between It All" is available from Amazon here. You can see the live video of Allie joining dad Mick Head on stage in Tokyo for a superb version of "Broken Beauty" from the Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band album "Dear Scott" at our YouTube channel here

Thanks to all featured Bands and Record Companies, Lee from Spinout Nuggets, Shauna from Shameless Promotions, John Johnson and of course all listeners and subscribers. The Retrosonic Podcast archive is available at SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes and Apple Podcasts. It would be very much appreciated if you could please like, subscribe, follow and share. Many thanks! This episode's cover star: Tom Powell of Photo Copyright: John Johnson For more details on John Johnson's excellent photography, which includes cover art for Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band, please check out his Facebook page here.

Monday 23 October 2023

Retrosonic Podcast with Duncan Reid - "And It's Goodbye From Him..." Former Bassist and Vocalist with The Boys and (now) The Big Heads on his decision to call time on his musical career

Following our feature on Duncan Reid & The Big Heads final bittersweet show at The Lexington, I thought I'd invite Duncan into the Retrosonic Podcast virtual studio to get the lowdown on the shock decision to hang up his purple Duncanbacker bass for the very last time. The announcement came just as he released his fifth and arguably best album to date "And It's Goodbye From Him..." calling time on a musical career that started off in 1976 with spells in The Matinee Idols and The Hollywood Killers before a move to London at the very start of the U.K. Punk explosion in 1977 to join the melodic Punk Pop legends The Boys. In this episode, Duncan picks five songs from the new LP that cover the reasons behind his decision and we take a look back at each of the rest of his albums with The Big Heads, discussing some of his favourite hidden gems and overlooked tracks along the way. He also praises his Big Heads bandmates who contributed to making them one of the most visually exciting live acts of recent years. You can subscribe to Retrosonic Podcast at Spotify, Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Amazon Music or download/stream direct from our SoundCloud site below.

Episode Tracklisting

Bill Gates (Finland Is a Myth) from "And It's Goodbye From Him..."

They're Dreaming About Me from "Little Big Head" (2019 reissue bonus track)

Would I Lie To You from "And It's Goodbye From Him..."

Just As Good As I Used To Be from "The Difficult Second Album" 

It Rains On The Good from "And It's Goodbye From Him..."

Confetti from "Bombs Away"

Gilded Cage from "And It's Goodbye From Him..."

Don't Blame Yourself from "Don't Blame Yourself"

Real Good Time from "And It's Goodbye From Him..."

To Live Or Live Or Live Not from "Don't Blame Yourself"

Our previous Retrosonic Podcast with Duncan, Episode 5 in the "Lockdown Lowdown" series, is still available in our archive and is a thoroughly entertaining romp through Duncan's life from his earliest childhood musical memories to his first exposure to Rock & Roll, the first record he bought and the first gig he went to. Along the way he picks some of his favourite singles and albums along with the Artists and gigs that had an impact and influence on him over the years. 

For more info on Duncan Reid & The Big Heads back catalogue and merchandise, please check out his official web-site here. You can see our feature with photos and videos from the final show at the Lexington in the Retro Man Blog archive here. Podcover photo of Duncan with Sophie and Karen of The Big Heads copyright Retro Man Blog. Retrosonic Podcast has a valid PRS licence. Here's a superb (but sad) reminder on what we will be missing from now on... All the best to Duncan and his Big Heads on whatever comes next.

Monday 16 October 2023

New Romantics: From Billy's to the People's Palace - New Limited Edition Book of Photography by Sheila Rock with Text by Dylan Jones Published by Moonboy Books

Moonboy Books will publish an impressive looking limited edition book featuring a collection of photos by Sheila Rock of the early New Romantic Club scene on November 1st with pre-orders now available direct from the publisher here. The book compiles many rare and unseen photographs taken by Sheila at venues such as the Blitz Club, Billy's and the People's Palace of many of the flamboyant Club-goers and influential characters who were there at the time. Sheila Rock came to London from the US at the start of the 70's and became one of the first photographers to document the emerging Punk and New Romantic scenes in London. She was introduced to the music scene by David Bowie when she accompanied her then husband Mick Rock on Bowie's first US tour. She went on to photograph some of the world's most famous bands and performers. Sheila explains in the press release of her involvement in the burgeoning scene. "When I first came to Britain from America, London life was dreary and grey, but then came Glam Rock and after that Punk, which was dark yet flamboyant in a different way. By the early 1980's, there was still no money around but there was a feeling of can-do optimism and freedom. The people at the Blitz, the club in Covent Garden, were the movers and shakers of the New Romantic era and I was fascinated by them. At the time, street fashion was at its peak, the pavements and night-clubs were literally like catwalks, and it was the beginning of gender experimentation and a sexual revolution that's still resonating today. Inside the club, you had a cast of characters from Boy George to Steve Strange. Everyone was dressing up, you could be whatever you wanted, once you discover glitter, it's hard to go back to bland. It was like a dream, a fantasy land". 

Renowned journalist and author, Dylan Jones has written the foreword and supplied commentary for this uniquely insightful visual documentary. Currently Editor-In-Chief at the Evening Standard, Jones studied at St. Martin's School of Art before a career which included editorial roles at i-D, The Face, Arena, The Observer, The Sunday Times and GQ. The Blitz was the first nightclub he ever went to. "The antecedents of the New Romantic movement gave the cult something of a pejorative pall. After all, if you had been originally inspired by the likes of Bryan Ferry and David Bowie, and if the pivots of your teenage expression were the Sex Pistols on one hand, and proto-Disco on the other, surely all you could ever aspire to was going to suffer by comparison. However, the movement itself was further complicated by the fact that in 1976 there were already people in Essex night-clubs who dressed exactly like Johnny Rotten. These complications ultimately underscored the importance of the gender-bending movement, while its obsession with self-expression as a platform for identity foreshadowed much of what passes for culture today. This period in London - which for the benefit of future Pop sociologists, broadly stretches from 1978-1985 - was the harbinger of one of the most creative, most fertile times in British Popular culture, a time when youth cults weren't so much on the margins of the news, as the news itself". 
- The Face Paint War by Dylan Jones, June 2023. 

"New Romantics" is published as a limited edition of 800 numbered copies with a soft back cover and 176 pages with 138 photos (102 in black and white and 36 in colour) and comes with 2 posters. A set of five A5 photos from the book and 2 bookmarks are available only for orders direct from Moonboy Books here. Moonboy is an independent publishing company with offices in London and Paris. They specialise in official, high quality, limited edition photo books on bands, performers and creative cultural movements, past and present. They work directly with photographers and, in most cases, the performers/bands themselves to create a unique insight with rare, previously unseen or unpublished photos. Moonboy's first publication was The Cure "Stills" with Robert Smith and photographer Paul Cox. 

For more information on Sheila Rock's books, news and photographs please check out her official web-site here. You can also check out our feature on her excellent book "Punk+" in the Retro Man Blog archive here. All photos copyright Sheila Rock, reprinted here courtesy of Moonboy Books. With thanks to Ritchie Franklin.

Friday 13 October 2023

Duncan Reid & The Big Heads - Words, Photos & Videos From The Final Show at The Lexington, London, October 7th

It's not often a musician will announce their retirement at the very top of their game - certainly not hot on the heels after the release of what could possibly be their best album to date. Definitely not when they look as fit, healthy and energetic as many people half their age (let alone most of their contemporaries) and have a young, charismatic and popular band backing them up. But that's exactly what former Boys bassist and co-vocalist Duncan Reid has done,  announcing in advance that this Lexington show will be the very last time himself, or the fabulous Big Heads will be appearing live. Yes, it is true, he is hanging up his purple Duncanbacker bass for good. The decision certainly came out of the blue (or purple...) and took the majority of fans by surprise, making the atmosphere at the sold-out Lexington a bit weird at first, especially when the band hit the stage with their customary energy and slammed into the brilliant "Your Future Ex-Wife" and you could sense everyone thinking the same thing - "why the hell are they packing it in now!?" Duncan then announced the bad news that unfortunately, guitarist Sophie Powers had been told by her doctors not to play due to a wrist injury, but then the good news was that she was going to make an appearance on a few songs throughout the evening anyway.


So, Heidi Cotton deputised for Sophie alongside regular Big Heads, guitarist Nick Hughes and drummer Karen Jones but it wasn't long before Sophie joined in on the fun, hair flying everywhere and trading riffs with her guitar sparring partner Nick. There's such a great energy and chemistry between the band, they seem to be having as much fun as us in the crowd are. In fact, Sophie did end up playing on most of the songs, so I am sure she will have suffered the next morning. There are some special guests, former Chelsea and Gene Loves Jezebel guitarist James Stevenson joined in for "The One" and previous Big Heads drummer Ciara takes her place behind the kit for a superb run through of "Kelly's Gone Insane". We get a pick of tracks from Duncan's debut solo album "Little Big Head" and then from each of his four albums with the Big Heads "The Difficult Second Album", "Don't Blame Yourself", "Bombs Away" and the superb new one "And It's Goodbye From Him". My personal highlights included "Montevideo", "Listening To The Beach Boys" and a blistering "C'est La Vie" along with the early Boys track "Soda Pressing".


Unfortunately, they didn't play my all-time favourite track "Gotta Call Simone" after all, we loved it so much, over ten years ago now we named Episode 9 of Retrosonic Podcast after a line from the song, "I'm Going Crazy, Need a Shot of You", but I guess the twenty one other brilliant melodic guitar pop nuggets in the set-list more than made up for its omission. The thoroughly entertaining night ends with a chaotic blast through The Boys classic "First Time" with Nick playing keyboards on his shoulder and the whole thing degenerating into an emotional singalong. The band then have their photos taken in front of their adoring fans and that's it, they skip off stage to rapturous applause, unfortunately for the very last time. Well, I must admit it was a somewhat bittersweet night and with so much negativity and cynicism in the world today, not to mention the amount of dull soulless bands treading the boards, it's quite sad to think we are losing one hell of a special good-time Rock 'n' Roll band that puts smiles on people's faces and guarantees you a great night out. But the memories of such nights remain and we can only be thankful for them and wish Duncan and the Big Heads all the best with whatever comes next in the future.

I hope to ask Duncan about the reasons behind his decision to call it a day in an upcoming Retrosonic Podcast so please keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, you can listen to our Retrosonic Podcast "Lockdown Lowdown" special episode from a few years ago with Duncan discussing some of his favourite songs and influences and a pick of his own material, it's available in our archives at Spotify, iTunes, Apple Podcasts or direct from our SoundCloud site below. 


All photos and videos copyright Retro Man Blog

You can see more videos from the final show at our Retromanblog65 YouTube channel here. You can order the new Big Heads album "And It's Goodbye From Him" from the official site here.

Tuesday 10 October 2023

The Undertones - Photos & Videos from The Electric Ballroom Camden, October 5th (plus links to our Retrosonic Podcasts with Mickey Bradley & Damian O'Neill

Well, I think I've run out of superlatives when it comes to writing about the joys of seeing The Undertones play live, so this time I'm just going to limit myself to sharing some photos and videos of yet another fantastic life-affirming night in the company of Derry's finest hit-makers. A packed-out Electric Ballroom was treated to a 32 song set-list crammed full of their perfect Punk pop nuggets that encompassed rarities such as "Emergency Cases" to great songs from the current Paul McLoone line-up including "Thrill Me" and "Dig Yourself Deep" and of course, all those timeless classics like "My Perfect Cousin", "Wednesday Week", "Here Comes The Summer" and "Teenage Kicks", here we go, I hope you enjoy this little taster of a quite wonderful show...

Don't forget our thoroughly entertaining Retrosonic Podcast episodes with Damian O'Neill and Mickey Bradley are still available to listen/stream/download from Spotify, iTunes, Apple Podcasts or direct from our Soundcloud site.

...and here's one of three great shows we've recorded with Damian...

For more news and information on The Undertones, please check out their official web-site here, and don't forget the excellent Undertones Rocking Humdingers Club fan-site and resource on Facebook here. You can find more Retrosonic Podcasts with Damian discussing his solo music and side-projects The Everlasting Yeah and 5 Billion In Diamonds at our Soundcloud archive here.

All photos, videos and Podcasts are copyright Retro Man Blog.

Monday 2 October 2023

The Blue Aeroplanes at The Electric Ballroom London September 29th - Words, photos & videos from the band's first London show in 6 years to promote new LP "Culture Gun"

It's hard to believe it's been six long years since The Blue Aeroplanes last played London, but finally they are back to promote their excellent new album "Culture Gun" in front of a packed out crowd at Camden's Electric Ballroom. However, there have been some trials and tribulations to overcome leading up to to this long-awaited show. The gig was actually rescheduled from earlier in the year due to frontman Gerard Langley's health problems and the new album carries a touching dedication to the staff at Southmead Hospital and Bristol Royal Infirmary for their great work and thankfully tonight, Gerard is looking fit and well and is on top form. I first saw The Blue Aeroplanes in 1991 and over the years have subsequently seen them play with many and varied line-ups, right up to last summer's superb show at the Harbour Festival in the band's Bristol hometown. Tonight the band feature original members Gerard, brother John on drums and dancer/talisman Wojtek Dmochowski. Then there's spikey-haired Chris Sharp on bass and 'only' the three guitarists, including the talented Mike Youe on lead, charismatic singer-songwriter Rita Lynch and the live-wire Bec Jevons from IDestroy, each one supremely talented in their own right. 

The lights go down, the familiar aeroplane sound intro swoops through the PA, the band take the stage and launch into "Hips Like Cigarettes", the opening track on "Culture Gun". The band have not mellowed, for this song is a scathing attack on today's politics, the decline of culture under years of Tory rule and the general state of modern Britain, "it's fucking Dickensian, man" Gerard spits. Indeed the album is oozing with vitriol which you can tell straight away from the cover art which features slogans like 'Art under attack', 'levelling up', 'deep fake', 'beset by poverty' and 'store closed'. Next up have "Dead Tree! Dead Tree!" from the previous album, the brilliant "Welcome Stranger" and then old favourite "Warhol's Fifteen" calms things down a bit. Gerard has never been afraid to allow his bandmates their time in the spotlight and Mike Youe's powerful, almost Grunge Rock "(Someone) In The Arms of No One" and Bec Jevons sassy and Punky "(An Unlikely Hit of) Adoration" (yes, the new album is heavy on the brackets) are both highlights of the new album and indeed, tonight's show. 

"Waking Up In The Ghost Removal Van" is built around a nice bass riff that suddenly bursts into an immense chorus "Are you happy? You bet your life I am" and "Half A Crown" has a nice stuttering rhythm. The beautifully textured "What It Is" from "Swagger" allows us a welcome breather for a moment and then it's back to the new album with my personal highlight, "Building An Ark For The Anthropocene". There are not many bands that make me reach for a dictionary and apparently, anthropocene is the era of the human race's significant impact on the Earth's climate, geology and ecosystem, well I might not have been aware of the meaning but I do know you're gonna need a bigger ark. This is a great song, subject matter included, in fact it wouldn't have been out of place on "Beatsongs", it has all the classic Blue Aeroplanes trademarks and could develop into a future crowd favourite. There's a false ending that suddenly spirals into some superb guitar work from Mike, who jumps down into the photographer's pit to play. "You've got to get back up on stage again now" quips Gerard, puncturing the cool move somewhat. 

"I appreciate your patience with the new songs, but you'll get your reward", Gerard teases us "yes, Mike's strapping on the twelve string guitar" and we know what that means. Yes, it's the classic intro riff to "Jacket Hangs" and of course there's the obligatory audience participation during the verse "let those arms rotate like helicopter blades", the previously polite crowd finally cracks and I'm caught in a frantic middle-aged mosh-pit that leaves me battered and bruised just like the old days. It's Rita's turn next with her own single "Losing", the only non-Blue Aeroplanes track in the main set but it gets a great reaction and there's some great drumming from John and crunching guitar chords. Next up that immense spiralling guitar intro heralds the 90's Indie disco floor-filler "...And Stones" which raises the roof and the pushing and shoving continue once again. "Yr Own World" closes the main set and needless to say the demands for an encore are met with the blistering riff to one of my favourites, "Broken and Mended". Gerard dedicates this and the upbeat "Fun" (with bassist Chris Sharp on vocals) to Rodney Allen, which is a nice touch. It's great that the band invite former members to join them every now and then, I saw Nick Jacobs make an appearance in London once then last year at Bristol, my favourite guitarist, Angelo Bruschini played which was a real treat. 

Tonight there was a surprise appearance by Wojtek's brother, Jedrzej for a rare outing of the brilliant "Tolerance" from the 1986 album of the same name. Then that familiar striking chord to "Bury Your Love Like Treasure" rings out and things get ramped up to another level, I love the dynamics of this song. Actually, The Blue Aeroplanes totally understand the dynamics of great Rock 'n' Roll, not just in their songwriting but in the way they construct their set lists. The perfect balance of new material, old classics and those rare hidden gems to keep the diehards happy. Having said that, of course, there's no surprise in the traditional final encore of Tom Verlaine's "Breakin' In My Heart", which tonight sees only the four guitarists, as Jedrzej returns to the stage along with saxophonist Alexander (another of the Dmochowski clan), and as usual, it all breaks down into marvellous, beautiful chaos. I'll reach for my dictionary again and under 'multi-faceted' the definition says The Blue Aeroplanes - they effortlessly encompass Art Rock and poetry, from pastoral English Folk music to Americana, all-out Rock 'n' Roll, humour, intelligence, soaring harmonies, killer riffs, angular Post-Punk, intricate Byrds and Love style guitar work (I'm trying my best here to avoid the 'jangly guitars' cliche...) and I'm sure I'm missing more of their many 'facets', but if you want it, The Blue Aeroplanes have got it...! 

"Culture Gun" is out now on Art Star Records, for details on how to order the album and further information please check out the band's official web-site here. All photos and videos copyright Retro Man Blog. For more videos from the show please check out our Retromanblog65 YouTube channel here.