Garage Meets Power Pop and Begets Punk ….. PLAY BLOODY LOUD!
“BERKELEY, Calif. — On November 2, 1976, Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United States. The events of November 3 were less earth-shaking, although it was the day the power pop pioneers The Rubinoos recorded this album. The group walked into CBS Studios on Folsom Street in San Francisco to, as band co-founder and singer Jon Rubin recollects, “have a ‘set up and get comfortable in the studio’ kind of affair.”
…….and, to some extent that’s what you get …… a Garage Band of young fearless musicians without a care in the world; or more importantly ‘Hit Records’ in the forefront of their mind. All first takes; this in many ways is a Live Recording and to my ears; the forerunner of many Punk album that would follow in the next few years. The only thing that would make opening track All Excited any better would be if the drummer counted everybody in ….. “1,2, 3 ….hit it!” The following couple of minutes is very much ‘of its time’ as is the album itself; mid 70’s Power Pop with edges so rough and ready they all become timeless …. and certainly haven’t dated as much as many of what their peers would record in the next 12 months. That track is one of only three self-penned songs here; and all three sit very comfortably alongside the myriad of cover songs that the Rubinoos put their very own twist on. If I’d had a band in 1976 it’s quite conceivable that I would have insisted the Archies’ Sugar Sugar and my two favourite Beatles songs; She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand were included in the set list; just like Jon Rubin did; but I wouldn’t have had the wit or imagination to have the Funk Classics, King Curtis’ Memphis Soul Strut and The Meters Cissy Strut in the mix too; as both only entered my collection ten or more years later ….. and here The Rubinoos certainly do justice to and show what great musicians they were at such a tender age. For a Favourite Track I very nearly went for the Surf Instrumental Walk, Don’t Run …… but that’s because I’m re-discovering that much neglected sub-genre; which leaves a coin toss between Heartbeat, It’s a Love Beat (DeFranco Family? No; me neither) which has melodies and a chorus that sounds like The Adverts covering The Osmonds! T’other is a Rubinoos original; and a song that blew my metaphorical socks off ……. I Want Her, So Bad …… a genuine contender for the very first Punk Rock song (although there are other contenders) and one I’ve subsequently totally fallin in love with. The all too short album comes to a close with a Jonathan Richmond Song; Government Song done absolutely straight and possibly the one song here that actually is a forerunner to the fun time edgy Power Pop that The Rubinoos became famous for; but everything that precedes it; warts ‘n all, has to be there too to create the magic; doesn’t it? Four weeks ago I had absolutely no idea what to expect; as I’m particularly suspicious of ‘previously unreleased albums;’ but 2021 is probably a case of ‘right place/right time’ for The Rubinoos to take over your car stereo for the second time as you re-live your youth and scare the bejaysus out of your kids and Grandkids ……. PLAY LOUD and PLAY OFTEN!
Raising The Bar For Modern Pop Music With a Neat Retro Kick or Two.
My usual listening procedures for reviewing albums is to stick them on the iPhone and then listen on my morning walks. No interruptions. Nobody talking away in the background. Two or three listens of the whole album and I can commit to print. As I was knocking up the first draft of this album review I was actually playing it on my PC when my wife wandered in to ask; who it was as ‘she has a dead catchy voice’ – praise indeed as it’s fair to say our musical tastes are at opposite end of the music spectrum! On this occasion she was right, as Sarah has a ‘dead canny voice’ and has put out a ‘dead canny album’. For non North East of England readers ‘canny’ is an all encompassing word meaning an array of things; but in this instance it means ‘really jolly good’. I had enjoyed Sarah’s first album ‘Love In The Milky Way’ and it had certainly done well in her homeland of Sweden as a Grammy winner and a chart topping artiste; and then following that up with the equally successful ‘Creamy Blue’ which had led to her being added to a First Aid Kit tour. The opener ‘27 Pounds’ rattles in with a real bang as she immediately hits the listener with her very quirky vocals; while the electro/drum backing hits the tight notes – a mix of an older pop track with a modern twist; and it is followed by a very catchy ‘Fever Dream’ with an infectious beat to lead us to know this isn’t going to be a simple ‘sit back and listen’ set – much more like a musical slap in the face. Sarah admits to a love of 60’s and 70’s pop and this demonstrated at its best on track 3 ‘Canyon’ with its neat American twist; and for me, the high spot of the first half of the album. The guitars are a throwback to those 60’s hits we know and love; with the jangling guitars taking it all it down a notch on ‘Anywhere;’ where the Americana feeling comes through at its best. Song delivery and backing hitting a perfect twosome. This is vintage sixties pop at its best, from ‘the saddest girl in Sweden’ and it’s rare to hear nowadays an album that sets the bar early on and then manages to raise it again and again, as the tracks roll by with the first drop of a few notches with ‘Girls’ – a sad piece of a relationship where no matter what, it’s the same mistakes that control the relationship. A very sad song and beautifully delivered. If you like strident guitars and a different type of vocal, ‘Ghost Killer’ is the one for you – certainly a song that would not be out of place on a Ward Thomas or First Aid Kit set. ‘If I was a ghost killer I would set you free’. Even on the must softer and more laid back tracks like ‘Spell’ I feel Sarah Klang’s delivery and her quirky voice (in a nice way) are spot on to retain the standards set from the first few bars. As we approach the final tracks there is again a more measured sound on ‘Love So Cruel’ and ‘Love Blues;’ where the gentler guitars and the production of Kevin Anderson dovetail on a gentle and haunting backing. The aptly named ‘The End’ brings a smashing album to a delightful finale – another nod to the 80’s to complete an album to be proud of. If there is any justice this album should bring Sarah to the notice of music lovers that may have previously been out in the cold. An excellent album and a pleasure to have had the opportunity to bring it to the attention of others. There are literally loads of high quality female artists and albums out at present – but add I recommend that you add Sarah Klang to that list – it will certainly get me through a good few more walks.
The 1957 Tail Fin Fiasco Don’t Go Anywhere Bandcamp Inc.
Contemporary All-American, Grown Up Pop Music From a Sleeper Unit Based in Essex.
The 1957 Tail Fin Fiasco are riddled with many and various secrets ….. some I am privy too; and others that are part of an elaborate FBI plot to plant American ex-popstar sleeper units deep into the UK countryside; and when the time is right, will send them a codeword (‘Lockdown’ ?) so they can spread jollity and happiness across the airwaves. Or not ….. depending on your imagination. It’s got to be something like that; or why else would this 100% American belter; made in Essex sound so almost perfect and fully formed; if the Tail Fins hadn’t previously spent the the last 20+ years touring the Western Hemisphere and releasing Grammy Winning albums? It all starts with the Reno’s Electric Stairs; funky Contemporary All-American Pop Music in all its fabulous multi-layered glory ….. What’s not to like? Sadly most of the descriptive prose I want to use may likely put you off; and that would be a damn shame; as these songs; one and all, are perfect slices of intellectual, articulate and melodious slices of Grown Up Pop Music in the same vein as RMHQ favourites Barenaked Ladies and most of all; a band I fell in love with by accident when I once bought the wrong LP ……. Steely Dan! While I don’t normally get lost in the rabbit hole that is full of vinyl fetishists; but these songs like Best Bitters, 1909 GTC and Here All Week are chock full of hidden musical chambers that you simply must take the time to listen either on headphones or most likely damn good (and balanced) hi-fi speakers to get the best out of the them. If we use their new FBI names, 1957 Tail Fin Fiasco are; more or less, the brainchild of David Myers and Malcolm Moore who have proper day jobs; meaning these songs and their intensely clever and intricate arrangements are, to all intents and purposes …. a hobby! Hence my FBI ‘Witness Protection’ theory ….. surely, Heligan Begin Again and J is For Genius (with that funky as Hell bass line!) can only be from musicians who studied at Harvard Tango University? Also; I can only dream/fantacise about hearing Open Your Windows & Doors in all it’s Sgt. Pepper filtered through Pet Sounds glory at Sage Gateshead or even Newcastle City Hall with its majestic acoustics; but more than likely it will be at the Fox and Hounds on a Thursday night in the Latin Quarter of Chigwell; which is such a shame. Even though I loved their last album HARVARD TANGO and was privy to a secret single a few weeks ago; nothing has really prepared me for the leaps and bounds Myers and Moore have made in the interim; which has made choosing a Favourite Track nigh on impossible; just about every song merits its place here …….’all killer – no filler’, but I’ve concentrated this morning and narrowed it down to three ……. the quirky Sparks-a-like Banana Beer and Other Cults; the self-depreciating Silverback and the slow and sultry Best Bitters; which really and truly sounds like it was the ‘secret track’ in the run off to first edition CD’s of Steely Dan’s Aja or Gaucho! Seriously; and I know I am capable of excessive hyperbole some days but this album is a MUST BUY if you like any of the bands I’ve name checked above; or you just like Classy Music.
Plenty of Driving Guitars and Well Crafted Vocals; Now That’s Entertainment!
I suppose that I need to own up to the fact that although I’ve never felt let down by a live Maximo gig, but I haven’t always felt the same about all of their album releases. Not that they have been bad – it’s just that they haven’t come up to the same exciting standards live. As a result I was really looking forward to ‘Nature Always Wins,’ especially as we are dealing with a local band that have done well in their years on the national stage; and I had also planned to see their forthcoming local gig (not likely to happen now). It is an achievement that this has even come out at all in 2021, when we consider the effects of COVID 19 and the various lockdowns that have impacted on the music scene in general; and this album in particular. Producer Ben Allen and the band had to complete the album with them in the UK and Ben in Atlanta – the wonders of modern technology. Paul Smith must have one of the most distinctive voices of current front men and the opener, ‘Partly Of My Making’ suits him down to the ground, quite catchy with a very subtle change of emphasis mid song. A real ‘indie rock’ track. A very gentle intro takes them into ‘Versions Of You;’ ‘I can hardly comprehend these versions of you’ with Smith at his best as the vocals rise and falls on a smashing track. An acknowledgement within a relationship of how many impressions (versions) a person can give of themselves. ‘Baby Sleep’ is Maximo at their best, with driving guitars and well crafted vocals and we then race into ‘Placeholder’, a song about relationships and coping within the confines of such a duo delivered at full pace. An excellent selection as their recent single. One aspect of their music has always been their ability to spend time on their lyrics; and the meaning behind them and ‘All Of Me’ is, for me, the highlight of the first half of the album, a real toe tapper and a sing along at gigs (remember them?). The band at their best vocally and musically too. The second half starts with ‘Meeting Up’, another song about the vagaries of thinking how each party believes the other will be thinking; or imagining it’s progress. In ‘Why Must A Building Burn’ they consider why matters have to go so sour before both parties realise that isn’t what they needed in the first place. The pace never drops as we move into the last 3 or 4 tracks and this is where the band are at their very best, keeping a high tempo and not allowing the listener a chance to consider moving onto a new track. As we get towards the end of the album I realised that I hadn’t really been aware of it coming to an end – always a good sign for me; but I will know better on a couple of extra listenings in coming weeks. Possibly the softest song on the set is track 11, the penultimate track; ‘Feelings I’m Supposed To Feel’ but it isn’t out of place, as it gives Smith the perfect opportunity to run through his full range and I reckon this would be a cracker at a live gig, the spoken section getting the crowd ‘cranked up’ for the finale. ‘Child Of The Flatlands’ has a pensive Smith looking into a bleak future as the world changes; but he yearns for being back in the days when he was a kid. Not my favourite track and one which I feel doesn’t sit comfortably as an end to an album. Personally, I would have preferred this to have been slotted somewhere in the middle of the set. Going back to my opening comments I’ve now listened to the album again; and although I feel it is better than their last couple of albums, I am still of the opinion that they are a better band live. I also have to admit that as a regular gig goer I much prefer to be ‘entertained’ more at the gig, than when I am listening to a CD or vinyl at home; or on my headphones while out walking. It’s an album I’ve genuinely enjoyed; (and Maximo Park fans certainly will) and that’s all that really matters – we all need an occasional uplift; especially as this year is unfolding; and the album will do that. Maximo Park were scheduled to play this album at a number of socially distanced gigs in February but these have already been cancelled and replaced by a July Tour; fingers crossed things will get closer to normality by then!
Review by Bill Redhead. Released February 26th 2021
Aaron Lee Tasjan Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan! New West Records
A Poptastic 70’s and 80’s 21st Century Glam Rock Explosion
For this release, Aaron Lee Tasjan (ALT to his friends and followers) is mining a 70’s and 80’s Glam Rock/Psychedelic singer songwriter vein – the repetitive title itself being a stomping homage to the music of those times and what follows is very much in that manner. “Sunday Women” which starts things off is the sort of track you’d see on Top of the Pops performed on a Thursday night by a band from South Yorkshire with feathered haircuts; that your dad would have openly mocked. But which you’d have loved. Stomping, chanting and vibrant keys all underscore the refrain of “Whatever happened to Sunday Women”. “Computer of Love” has some very analogue whistling and Tom Petty-ish vocals, along with its minor melodic shifts and keyboard underscoring takes its influences into new, surprising places. “Up All Night” which follows could easily pass for a Travelling Wilburys outtake, whereas the picked guitar and stompbox led “Another Lonely Day” is reminiscent in tone of the 80’s group Jellyfish. Mid-album things take more of a psychedelic turn with the bass-stomping and phased guitar psychedelic pop of “Don’t Overthink It” and the companion-stomper piece “Cartoon Music” with its bracingly twangy effects-driven lead. “Feminine Walk” is somewhat of a statement of intent and a manifesto for large parts of the album – it name-checks “Bowie and Bolan and Jagger too” and is a proud (sic) declaration of the power of gender fluidity as it was seen through an early 70’s glass, yet relevant still. The final four tracks “Dada Bois,” “Now You Know”, “Not That Bad” and “Got What I Wanted” are all late 60’s/early 70’s Beach Boys in style and sound with doses of Robert Ellis thrown in for good measure too; and on the closing part of the closing track there’s “Strawberry Fields” phasing and melody lurking in there too. Throughout this album, ALT has very much successfully and cleverly mined a period in time and brought it up to date – he’s not the first – when listening to this album the late 80’s/early 90’s band Jellyfish sprung to mind on several occasions and if this sounds like the lost third Jellyfish album; then that’s no bad thing. It’s time to dig out your flares and glittery make-up and bold coloured and patterned clothing once more, put Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan! on loud and dance like no ones watching, around your living room in lockdown.
John Wallace Wheatley Spent the Morning Watching TV and Looking Through My Phone Self-released
Intelligent Classic and Soulful Pop Music of the Grown-Up Kind.
Suburban Dirts frontman John Wheatley takes a step aside from the acoustic Americana of the SD’s epic album, “I Want Blood” and launches full on into a self-effacing, philosophical, witty white Soul nee Classic Pop collection, on this very aptly titled (for the times in which we’re living) solo release. Opener “Cemetery Smokes II” is one of two versions of the song on the album – the first version – which is number #2 – is very Style Councilesque musically and more tongue in cheek than version one (which is midway through the album ….. kids today, eh?) and is darker and a bit more like Sensational Alex Harvey in its storytelling tone. Both versions were inspired by JWW finding a big grave slab with his name on – and the two versions reflect the different ways that one could take that… “Heartstrings” fits well after the opener in musical style and Andy Fairclough’s Mellotron punctuates a soulful backbeat tale of phonies – and being a phony one’s self. “Last Man Standing” – it seems to be a song title in fashion these days “My friends are all busy – or under the thumb” sums up the mid-paced cathartic ballad. Again, the Philly-soul sound is prominent, yet mixed in with a bit of Mott the Hoople too – sounds a bit strange – but it genuinely works well. The tempo lifts with “Neurotic Dancer” – but there’s a clear dissonance between the catchy melody and the fact that “you make me feel like a neurotic dancer”…. “In the End” (which comes halfway through) is a late-period Beatles/Beach Boys sounding slice of reassurance “it’s going to be alright in the end”…although JWW doesn’t sound totally sure in the melancholy musical way that those sentiments are delivered – the eternal pessimist can’t shake the fear but there’s more than enough positivity. Following the aforementioned second/first take on “Cemetery Smokes;” “I’ve Only Just Realised” is reminiscent of the band Jellyfish with its 60’s harmonies and stop-start rhythms and classic pop sensibilities – lyrically, again there’s a glorious incongruity between the confident music and edgy, questioning lyrics. “World War III” continues in a similar musical and lyrical vein with “She’s been told too many times she’s emotionally dead,” not being the sort of lyric that will find its way onto chirpy commercial radio, but will hopefully find its way into the ears and hearts of those who will appreciate its depth and appeal. “The Singularity” starts as a piano ballad and then becomes an epic stomper quite rightly calls for us to get “the fuck out of here” in a rant against commercialism and “leaders who don’t want to lead” and many others of society and culture’s ills. Listen to this and you’ll be double-nodding – at the sentiments and the melody too. Closer “The Morning Never Came” is a musically trippy rumination on the meaning of life, about regrets and the ultimate realisation that “none of this was meaningless” and it runs the gamut of feeling and musical styles before ending in randomness – quite deliberately. This is quite a gem of an album – fans of 90’s band Jellyfish and their like will adore this and there are shades of classic stylings all over the place, yet used in both original and cohesive ways to create an album that will withstand a serious amount of re-listens. In a just world, John Wallace Wheatley’s music would be listened to in a million bedrooms, on millions of sets of headphones and streamed in supermarkets. People – make it so.
GUMO The Dark and the Water Fresh Yo! Record Label
A Power-Pop Trio That Fully Rocks and Engages Too GUMO is a band of Tuscany musicians: Alberto Serafni, Manuel Schicchi and Juri De Luca, who split their time between Italy and Texas,, and were the award winning backing band for Americana artist Vanessa Peters on three of her albums from 2006 through 2009 (credited to their former band name Ice Cream On Mondays.)
As a backing band they were spot-on, both tasteful and adventurous when needed. On their own, they’re all jangle pop with pounding drums, searing guitars, thick bass tones, and dry, under sung vocals that remind me sometimes of glam rockers T-Rex, other times of Scot’s pre-grunge band the Vaselines, and even Dinosaur Jr. all wrapped up with the wryness of the Velvet Underground. This is fun stuff, indeed. Lead guitar melodies that’ll stick in your brain for days, along with smart poppy lyrics and sing-a-long choruses. Their closest modern counterparts are probably that Philadelphia madman Jo Kusy and perhaps Scott McCaughey (Scott the Hoople, himself.) GUMO isn’t as lo-fi as Kusy, or as prolific as McCaughey, but they share the same sense of whimsy and free for all rock ‘n’ roll spirit hard to come by nowadays. Leave the heady trips for the “Americana” bands, this is fun rock to dance and shimmy fearlessly to all night long and then some—and lord knows we all need that right about now! Listen to those up and down guitar leads on their song “Alright,” a glam-rock rave-up if I ever heard one. “Lord” is a down tempo twang-drone with marching snare and circular melody while “Stood Up Straight” slams relentlessly as it barrels past you like a New York subway train. “Trying” kicks off with funky bass and guitar before the vocals slink in and the drums keep your feet moving. A toe-tapper of a song for sure! All of these tunes are played hard and furious, precise and cool— if this is GUMO in the studio; they must be one helluva band live! I’m trying to think of some criticism here but really have none. A great band is the sum of their parts, and GUMO’s parts fit together seamlessly. A power trio that fully rocks and engages its listeners, paying homage to their inspirations, while shooting for the stars.
I’ve never been to Montreal, but if the city is as good as the bands that have broken through to the ‘Big Tim’e it must be a canny place to visit and certainly a special one for music lovers. With that in mind, once the world is back closer to normality I may venture over, especially as my Dad did spend a few years in WW2 in Alberta on an RAF assignment, but that’s as close as any of the Redhead family has got to Montreal. Our loss clearly. Leonard Cohen, Arcade Fire, Stars, The Dears , Wolf Parade, The Stills – the list just goes on and on. An array of talent in an array of genres certainly gets the music lover drooling over their work. Plants and Animals were formed back in 2008 and have produced several highly praiseworthy albums in the period since; and that has seen them get critical acclaim from several areas of the Music Press – a situation fully deserved by the trio of Warren Spicer, Nic Basque and Matthew Woody Woodley whose early releases even made it onto a couple of Awards lists. THE JUNGLE, is an album of only 8 tracks; although that initially filled me with dread, as I expect to have tracks of over 5 or 6 minutes used as ‘fillers’ to pad out the set, but it’s certainly not the case with this bunch, mainly due to the excellent arrangements and production that have brought out the best from the trio. Having felt that their last album ‘Waltzed In From The Rumbling’ had been their best; my opinion has now changed. ‘The Jungle’ May well be shorter in length and track numbers but it is a totally different concept and a fine addition to an excellent musical back catalogue. First impressions of the opener The Jungle’ is very much along the lines of an Arcade Fire track, as the almost hypnotic instrumental leads into a softly sung track that is ideal as an album or a live gig entree, before moving on to the main course. The beat is infectious and sets their stall out for the following tracks. ‘Love That Boy’ deals with family life and love and especially the way that childhood memories still remain in the brain all those years later. Accompanied by an intriguing video this is a song that just floats along behind a superb vocal. Almost trance like? On ‘ House on Fire’ I can almost hear this being featured at an Arcade Fire gig; with the intricate mix of vocals and accompanying guitar/drums producing another smashing track. It’s amazing what a mere trio can produce on this album. As you would expect from a Montreal band they include a very delightful (although on occasions deliberately out of tune?) song that is delivered partially in French, but my very vague recall of school from Grammar School couldn’t give you a true translation, but I do know it is about Queens and hearts being broken in a relationship. Favourite track probably goes to ‘Sacrifice’, a vocal that could have been from Brandon Flowers with the drumming of Woody taking this through to a crescendo as it bemoans that ‘ I gave you the best years of my life’ but clearly to no avail. I did toy with placing ‘Get My Mind’ into the favourite position but it only just loses out, despite being yet another very good and very listenable track. The whole mood drops a few notches with ‘In Your Eyes’, probably the softest track here, but one that perfectly conveys the mood in an almost samba manner – ‘don’t give up and don’t stop now’ a plea to continue or re-kindle a possibly fractured relationship. The eighth track ‘Bold,’ is appropriately titled as it completes what is a bold and successful transition from the previous albums and one which is a total success. ‘We need for you to be more bold’ – fair heart never won fair lady; as they say. Was I surprised by this album? Absolutely. Did I like the change from their last album? Absolutely To me, the best they have produced and it deserves to succeed after they have tried such a challenging and different route to get here; from their past endeavours. Another Montreal band moves up the Canadian ladder – but how many are there waiting to get on the bottom rung?
Just like London busses; you wait ages for a new Drive-By Truckers album to come along and just as the first one arrives, a new one comes hurtling around the corner!
This single; which is also the title track from a shiny new Album arrived late yesterday; and the album (download) was waiting on the laptop first thing this morning ……. so guess what I will be playing on the way too and from work?
As you will hear; the single is chock full of sharp, incisive and biting lyrics about the times we find ourselves in; all set to a summery beat and Beach Boysesque harmonies; which are hopefully destined to fool radio producers.
I will leave it to Patterson to tell you about the album; and why it’s being ‘rush released’ ………..
Drive-By Truckers’ 13th studio album ‘The New OK’ arrives mere months after the release of the band’s highly acclaimed ‘The Unraveling’. Originally conceived as a quarantine EP collecting material recorded in Memphis during sessions for ‘The Unraveling’, the project quickly grew to include provocative new songs written and recorded over what Drive-By Truckers co-founder Patterson Hood calls “this endless summer of protests, riots, political shenanigans and pandemic horrors.” Tracks such as Hood’s “Watching The Orange Clouds” – inspired by the protests which followed George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police – and a fiery cover of The Ramones’ classic ‘The KKK Took My Baby Away’ (vocals by bassist Matt Patton) were exchanged between Hood, co-founding singer/songwriter/guitarist Mike Cooley, bassist Patton, keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Jay Gonzalez, drummer Brad Morgan and then mixed by longtime DBT producer David Barbe. The result, says Hood, is “a full album that hopefully balances out the darkness of our current situation with a hope for better days and nights ahead.”
“To call these past few months trying would be a dramatic understatement.” Hood continues; “Our lives are intertwined with our work in ways that give us our best songs and performances. It is a life that has often rewarded us beyond our wildest dreams. Speaking for myself, I don’t have hobbies, I have this thing I do. To be sidelined with a brand new album and have to sit idly while so much that I love and hold dear falls apart before my very eyes has been intense, heartbreaking, anger provoking and very depressing. It has gone to the very heart of our livelihoods and threatened near everything that we have spent our lives trying to build. Here’s to the hope that we can make 2021 a better year than this one has been. In the meantime, here’s to THE NEW OK!”
TRACK LISTING: The New OK Tough To Let Go The Unraveling The Perilous Night Sarah’s Flame Sea Island Lonely The Distance Watching The Orange Clouds The KKK Took My Baby Away
Single – Released October 1st 2020 Album – Released October 2nd 2020
The Neptunas Mermaid A Go Go Altered State of Reverb
A ‘Happy Pill’ And a Glorious Musical Antidote for 2020.
I’m pretty sure I know the RMHQ demographic; and firmly believe them to be of an age when music was meant to fun; and not necessarily ‘worthy’ or ‘cerebral’; which obviously has a big place in my personal collection; but come on kids ……. and, if nothing else ….. we all need a ‘Happy Pill’ as an antidote for this Musical Annus Horribilus, don’t we?
Well; we have just that here in the third album from The Neptunas. Imagine, if you will a day when you were nonchalantly flicking through the racks of your local Record Store (as such things are for life and not just RSD!) and you stumbled on the Archies inspired artwork on the cover. You’d pick it up. Right? When you see that the first track is called Billy The Squid Water Pistol, who among couldn’t resist asking the shop assistant to play a couple of tracks? Well; Billy The Squid is a surf inspired Ventures meets The Shadows instrumental of Uber-Cool proportions my friend! If you still needed convincing to part with your pocket money; then the second track Secret of the Sea, continues with that 60’s kitsch theme only now we get to hear Leslita Neptuna sexy vocals on Secret of The Sea; and I know a sexy voice when I hear it! If these two tracks alone don’t make you want to hear the whole album and become an honorary Mermaid; I’m wasting my time here. While I don’t want to do the Neptunas or their producer, Los Straightjackets’ Danny Amis’ production a disservice; there’s a distinct ‘one take’ lo-fi feel to each track; but that’s a good thing ……… it captures the ‘magic’ and excitement in every groove on Shark Tooth Necklace and the dancetastic title track Mermaid A Go Go and by the time you get to the two ‘Bonus Tracks’ Neptuna Car Wash and Hey Jimmy Freak you will be Shimmying and doing The Mash as if you are dancing with The Fonz in Al’s Diner. By the way; it takes years of hard toil on the road to make the recording process ‘sound’ as simple and easy as this. My only criticism is that this should have been released way back in May or June so the likes of Undersea Grand Prix, The Abyss and Nancy Drew’s Wetsuit could have been the soundtrack to our Summer ……. God knows we needed some smiles. There are two left of centre covers here; The Kinks’ ‘Til The End of the Day which takes it back to it’s grungy beginnings and; a personal favourite of mine from my childhood; The Lonely Bull, which actually shows what clever musicians the three Neptunas are. Selecting a single song from all of these potential 45’s is never going to be easy; but re-living my teenage years on School’s a Drag has to be a contender; as does Lord Jim and Sorority Stomp, which somehow both have an X-Ray Spex meets CBGB’s era Blondie feel about them; and I guess when played live are both revved up another 50mph. Which all brings me to Laura Bethita’s sexy vocals again; if you have as vivid imagination as me you’d hope she could talk in French to you ……. well she goes one better; she actually sings in French! Yep; Poupee de Cire Poupee de Son sounds just like a French Kiss set to music. I have no idea what she’s singing about, and don’t even care …… What’s not to like; it’s now my Favourite Song of Lockdown.
Maybe there’s a whole political subtext here that I’ve missed; but I’m taking it all at face value and Mermaid A Go Go has been a fun filled blast from start to finish, and works just as well blasting out of the tinny speakers in my kitchen as does with the windows down in the car on a sunny day ……… and don’t get me started about the potential for a soundtrack to a beer fueled BBQ full of my/our hip friends!