Saturday 20 July 2024

Tours - "Language School" / "Foreign Girls" - 7" Vinyl Reissue of Classic Power Pop / New Wave Single

Bachelor Records have just re-issued one of the greatest Power Pop singles of all time "Language School" backed with "Foreign Girls" by the sadly short-lived Tours which is available as a limited edition of 500 copies and comes with a four page booklet with liner notes and rare photos. It's a classic pairing that sums up all the very best of 1979, that golden year for melodic guitar Pop. It was a huge favourite of John Peel who played "Language School" on his BBC Radio 1 show for 50 consecutive nights, claiming it was runner up only to his beloved "Teenage Kicks" by The Undertones as one of his all time favourite single. Joint singer-songwriters Ronnie Mayor and Richard Mazda were dubbed the 'Lennon & McCartney' of Punk and Richard Branson signed them up to Virgin Records. Unfortunately, the band only managed to release one more single, the equally excellent "Tourist Information" before they split up. As regular listeners to our Retrosonic Podcast will know, my co-host and colleague, the Rock Photographer Paul Slattery, has banged on about how great Tours were for ages and we've played many songs by the band in various episodes. Paul took some great photos of Tours back in their early years and was chuffed to bits when they decided to re-form in 2018 for a gig in their native Poole, so he hot-footed it down to the south coast with camera in hand to capture rehearsals and the gig itself.

Tours "Language School" heard live again for the first time in almost 40 years! I went down to Poole with writer Dave McCullough back in 1979 to photograph the band Tours for a feature in Sounds magazine. They were unusual because there were two songwriters and two lead singers, Richard Mazda singing his own songs and Ronnie Mayor singing his. However unusual, they were a really excellent band with great tunes and a fantastic sound. - Paul Slattery

You can order the new "Language School" vinyl single and download from the Bachelor Records Bandcamp site here or from 14th Floor Music Distribution here.


You can read all about Paul's visit to Tours reunion rehearsals here and the gig at the King Charles in Poole here, both features include excellent photos by Paul, old and new. Don't forget Retrosonic Podcast Episode 47 where Paul Slattery discussed "Retrospectively Yours", the excellent compilation from Ronnie Mayor of Tours, the criminally underrated, short-lived Power Pop/New Wave band who Paul first photographed and championed way back in 1979. There's a special feature on the album which highlights Ronnie's songwriting skills with The Tours and Da Biz and we pick a selection of songs from both bands.


Wednesday 10 July 2024

Ruts DC "Electracoustic Vol. 3"

Ruts DC have just released the third volume in their inspired Electracoustic series, where they revisit and reimagine, not only the old classics, but many of the hidden gems, B-Sides and album tracks from The Ruts and Ruts DC impressive back catalogue. “Electracoustic Vol. 3” is slightly different from the previous volumes, in that it also includes a brand new as yet unreleased track entitled "Bound In Blood”, that proves that the band are continuing in their rich vein of form. The Electracoustic series works on all levels, probably because as the title suggests, these are not just the usual bland acoustic versions that some bands and artists put out as filler or a quick, cost-effective and easy release. Not at all. Often, these are complete re-workings of the songs we have come to know and love, and adding in electric guitars and bass allows them to experiment with the arrangements and add a real texture and variety to proceedings. Hearing the familiar tracks in such a different context also makes you re-evaluate the songs themselves and highlights just what superb songwriters The Ruts were, and more importantly that Ruts DC still are. 

I have written before about Ruts DC and how difficult it must have been for Segs to follow on from Malcolm Owen’s unique vocal delivery, and later for Leigh Heggarty to follow Paul Fox’s unbelievable and singular guitar playing and of course, anyone who has seen them play live in their current guise will understand just how remarkable both have done. So, the Electracoustic sessions are also a chance for both Segs and Leigh to add their own skills and personalities to the old Ruts songs and this gives a totally fresh and invigorating listening experience. I guess first of all, most people will be intrigued as to how they are going to tackle the more straight-ahead Punk Rock songs of the early Ruts and on Vol. 3 you get three great examples, well, three if you get the CD version. The vinyl album ends with “Human Punk” and the bonus tracks on the CD include “Criminal Mind” and “Society”. “Criminal Mind” gets twisted into a blistering Rockabilly shuffle complete with handclaps and drummer Dave Ruffy’s fantastic brush work. “Society” gets filtered down to a sprightly acoustic Folk-Punk classic with an electric blast of guitar from Leigh and Segs’ voice doesn’t lose any of the latent aggression of the original, that most of us only heard as a chaotic live recording. 

“Pretty Lunatics” from the last album “CounterCulture?” is the closest they get to an all-out acoustic number and here it’s a stunningly emotional tug at the heartstrings. Some tracks are not that dissimilar to the originals - the take on the Punky Reggae classic “Jah War” for example but “Dope For Guns” slows down and strips the familiar song back to highlight the mightily impressive bubbling bass line and it really takes on a new life of its own. For me, it’s the tracks from the post-Malcolm Ruts DC albums “Formula Eyes” from “Animal Now” and a brilliant laid-back version of “Whatever We Do” from “Rhythm Collision Vol. 1” that really hit the spot, and dare I say, could well improve on the originals. So, please don’t hesitate in adding this fantastic album to your Ruts collection, if you think you might have heard it all before, then think again and give it a try. You won’t regret it and it’ll have you listening to that almighty back catalogue with fresh ears.  

“Electracoustic Vol. 3” comes in blue vinyl and as mentioned, the CD has three bonus tracks, and both are available to order, along with new merchandise, from the band’s official website here. Don’t forget Volumes 1 and 2 while you’re at it! Ruts DC are also out on a U.K. Electracoustic tour at the moment, culminating in a show at the legendary 100 Club in London on Sunday July 28th so please check the band’s site for the full list of tour dates and how to buy tickets. You can check previous reviews of Ruts DC shows in our Retro Man Blog archive and also original live videos at our Retromanblog65 YouTube channel here. Finally, don't forget our thoroughly entertaining Retrosonic Podcast with Ruts DC guitarist Leigh Heggarty.


Friday 5 July 2024

VIVA Strange Boutique - Tokyo's Post-Punk, New Wave & Indie Store

VIVA Strange Boutique is a fantastic store located near Okusawa station in the south-west of Tokyo close to Jiyugaoka and its packed with vintage Post-Punk and Indie posters, badges, records, music magazines and memorabilia. The emphasis is very much on U.K. Post-Punk and Indie with prominent displays of the more avant-garde and DIY acts such as Alternative TV, Television Personalities, Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV. Store owner Minami, who also sings and plays guitar with her own band, She Talks Silence, designs and produces original, officially authorised merchandise for some of her favourite bands and artists such as Felt, A Certain Ratio, The Raincoats, Durutti Column, David J, The Vaselines, Primal Scream, Sparks and the Japanese band Plastics who were a kind of cross between The B-52's, Wall of Voodoo and early Talking Heads. She's had some well known visitors too, DJ Don Letts and Devo's frontman Mark Mothersbaugh have popped in to visit the store. 

You can check out the VIVA Strange Boutique online store here for the full list of merchandise, as they also offer shipping worldwide. Of course, you can probably guess from the store's name, that Minami is a huge fan of The Monochrome Set and they recently invited the band over to Tokyo to headline a sold-out gig at the WWWX venue in Shibuya to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the store's opening. 

There's also an exhibition space in the basement and luckily we were able to catch an exhibtion of stunning photos by the music photographer Toshi Yajima who also just so happened to be in the store, so we could have a nice chat about this work and career as a UK based correspondent sharing his photos to various publications back in Japan. He took very early photos of the Sex Pistols in their Denmark Street rehearsal room in 1976 and would go on to photograph all the musical greats such as The Clash, The Jam, David Bowie, XTC, Iggy Pop, The Damned, Japan, Morrissey, The B-52's, Devo, Paul Weller, The Specials and Kraftwerk among many others - all are featured in an excellent book entitled "Each & Every One" which was actually published by VIVA Strange Boutique. Hopefully, we will be doing a more in-depth feature on his superb pictures sometime in the future.

With thanks to Minami and Toshi Yajima. For more information on VIVA Strange Boutique please check out their web-site here and Facebook page here, they are also on Instagram.