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!
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.
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.