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.
All Shapes and Sizes of British Ska From One of Our Favourite Bands
My heart generally sinks when someone says “I love Ska Music too.” Why? Well; 99.99% of the time it means they once saw Bad Manners or the Specials at Uni and own Madness’s Greatest Hits, possibly a Two Tone Compilation plus every Christmas go to see a Lookey-Likey Ska Band on the annual ‘lads night bash’. On the other hand there are literally hundreds of bands across the globe still keeping the flame that was first lit in the Alpha Boys School many many years ago, not just lit, but sparking off in a hundred new directions; and lovingly heralded by the Do The Dog Skazine. One of my favourite bands over the last 20 + years has been the Bakeseys; and I’d forgot how much they’d evolved in that time until now; when you can hear everything in one sitting (warts n all). Nothing for the Vinyl Fetishists here; as Kevin Flowerdew knows his demographic probably all listen to music on their phones now; so this is a Bandcamp Exclusive and therefore download only …… which I appreciate. The party starts with their (nearly) hit Sunnyside Up; and is very much the song that non-believers will instantly recognise as Two Tone Ska; with its fabulously bouncy and danceable melody and razor sharp lyrics. Bizarrely this is followed by a live track, Looking For Love from 1994, which opens with “This is our last song!” I appear to have missed this early incantation as it certainly sounds highly influenced by The Buzzcocks of all bands; but the instant excitement from this and the other live tracks on the release prove that from Day #1 The Bakesys were a fantastic night out. All in all there are 82 tracks here; and I sure ain’t going through them one by one! Even with that bonkers amount of songs on offer; there are a lot more hits and misses. We won’t deal with the latter category; but in the former; footstompers like Pickle My Brain, Life So Tuff, Yesterday’s Man and Old certainly beligh the theory that this is just Pop Music; probably by the third or fourth time of listening you will be too tired to dance; so actually listen to the words; they every inch as potent a Social Commentary as Madness and The Specials my friend. If you really know your Ska it won’t come as a surprise to find a couple of demos and Dub Versions here; a bit of a ‘guilty pleasure’ back in the day; but generally hard work today; but then again I did find myself turning the volume up in the car for Rainy Day Dub. Speaking of ‘turning the volume up’ that has become an involuntary action for the Live Tracks here; they just demand to be played L.O.U.D ……. try Don’t Worry, Be Happy and the ubiquitous Liquidator; your car will rock so hard it will scare the Bejasus out of that kid in the Corsa playing Hippity Hop at the traffic lights! For my Favourite Song Animated Violence and Rich Boy Rude Boy have been a bit of a pleasant surprise here; and the title should probably go to Sex Freaks as it’s been in my Top 100 Ska Songs for a lot of years; but no …… I say no …… as The Bakesys have come back kicking and screaming in the last few years; regaining the piss and vinegar of their youth ……. getting all political again; which is a good, good thing. Do The Austerity Skank, while an instrumental is rather haunting and bordering on the existential; but I’m plonking for a bit of bonkers Ska, which somehow seems a bit apt for 2020 as the pandemic gets worse and worse; so When The Zombies Come gets our seal of Ska approval. Because it’s a download only; this obviously isn’t aimed at the Christmas Market; but it is the ideal ‘What the Hell’ present to yourself and will give pleasure for years to come as you dip and delve into one of Britain’s unsung heroes back catalogues.
The Bakesys 1990 – 2020
Kevin Flowerdew – keys Stu Flynn – vocals Stef White – bass, vocals Anthony Baker – guitar Robbie Howe – drums, vocals Nasser Bouzida – drums, percussion, vocals Toby Courage – drums Clive Cornwall – drums Colin Milne – road crew Harry Hayward – road crew Mark Whittaker – drums, guitar Nick Nicholls – drums Keith Langley – steps, vocals Grant Stone – vocals Darren Trent – vocals Antony Finn – vocals Gwyn Edwards – guitar Phillip King – saxophone Will Kevans – trumpet