Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Stag & Jon Auer at The Islington October 03rd 2017: The Return of Steve Mack from That Petrol Emotion

Stag at The Islington - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
That Petrol Emotion just weren't made for the times, they were ahead of them and I was pretty devastated when they called it a day following the release of arguably their best album "Fireproof". Intelligent, fiercely political and musically innovative their songs were however always packed full of melody and they were a real inspiration. Despite one well received but ultimately short-lived reunion there didn't seem much hope that it would lead to any new material when front-man Steve Mack returned permanently to his native Seattle. Luckily for us fans, the rest of that final Petrols line-up, Ciaran McLaughlin, Raymond Gorman, Damian O'Neill and Brendan Kelly, reconvened with the stunning album "Anima Rising" under the name of The Everlasting Yeah. The guys decided against trying to replace Steve, instead Raymond and Ciaran took over the main vocal duties with all four contributing harmonies and they forged ahead with a set of completely new material.

Stag at The Islington - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Stag at The Islington - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
It was clear this was a new band, not a nostalgia trip and the strength of the new songs proved that they didn't really need to return to past glories. I often wondered what happened to Steve Mack until I discovered he was still active musically and in a new band called Stag and the good news was that they were coming to London to play thanks to Mute Elephant, the promotion agency responsible for the Indie Daze festival. It was great to catch up with Raymond, Ciaran, Brendan and Damian who were all there to show their support and meet up with Steve again. Also, in attendance was the ever genial Buddy Ascott once of The Chords and now in The Fallen Leaves, a big fan of That Petrol Emotion and of course mates with Damian and The Undertones from back in the day.

Stag at The Islington - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Stag at The Islington - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Stag took the stage and burst straight into the superb double hit of "Pharaoh" and "Come On" from their latest album "Midtown Sizzler" and it was immediately obvious that Steve Mack has somehow defied the ageing process. He's as full of energy now as he was during his heyday with That Petrol Emotion and it was great to see his familiar dancing again, one big blur of flailing arms and legs. Guitarist John Randolph was not to be outdone, leaping and throwing shapes next to Steve, adding to their full-on visual assault. Ben London adds some neat lead guitar work but his Marshall amp is almost as big as the room and right down at the front of the stage it's like standing behind a fighter jet at take-off, I still can't hear properly! The excellent rhythm section comprising drummer Rob Dent and bassist Pete Everett keep everything grounded nicely, allowing Steve and the guitarists to do their stuff with wild abandon. Stag are a good-time, no nonsense Rock 'n' Roll band with their twin-guitars and soaring harmonies that takes in such influences as the Rolling Stones, Big Star and Cheap Trick. Sure, they could be called Power Pop but there's also a tinge of pounding Glam Rock on songs such as the excellent "Bedazzler". However, my favourite song of the set was the slightly more raw and punky "She + Me" which was damn powerful and reminded me of The Replacements.

Stag at The Islington - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Stag at The Islington - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The pace doesn't let up with songs such as the classic "These Times" and there's a nicely sleazy swagger to "Elegant Man" that recalls Paul Westerberg's solo work at his best. Teenage Fanclub get a name-check and on "Another Summer" you can sense their influence creeping in on the sunny harmonies. There's a bit of gentle ribbing about Steve's early 90's dreadlock hairstyle phase and he tells us that the locks are for sale at the merchandise stall. Yes, Stag are a band that make you smile, it's not just their uplifting music but they have a really great on-stage chemistry too and they look as though they are having as much fun as we are in the audience. So with both Stag and The Everlasting Yeah out there producing such exciting new music I think I can finally stop pining for a That Petrol Emotion reunion and just enjoy the here and now.

Stag at The Islington - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Four-Fifths of That Petrol Emotion at The Islington - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
It was also a big bonus that the support act was Jon Auer, singer, songwriter and guitarist with one of my favourite bands The Posies. Jon has also played in Big Star and has released solo albums and projects such as Dynamo Royale. It was just Jon and his guitar tonight and he treated us to a choice selection of songs from his musical career interspersed with some humorous anecdotes and good natured chat. There were also a couple of poignant moments too where he paid tribute to his old band mate Joe Skyward, Tom Petty and Grant Hart. In fact Jon played a moving rendition of "Green Eyes" from Hüsker Dü's "Flip Your Wig" album, always one of Hart's most beautiful compositions. Big Star's "Thirteen" was likened to the "Hallelujah" of Indie Rock which led to a shaggy dog story on the cultural misappropriation of the Leonard Cohen classic now ruined by Pop Idol and X-Factor contestants the world over. However, my highlight was The Posies "Dream All Day" which Jon told us was a big hit in France on its release, a fact that once saved them from a grilling by the French police apparently. It was a thoroughly enjoyable set and I was also chuffed to get my copies of "Frosting on The Beater" and "Amazing Disgrace" signed after the show!

Jon Auer at The Islington - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
For more information on Stag check their web-site here, Jon Auer can be found here and Mute Elephant Promotions are here. You can see more photos of the gig at the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here and there are some videos from both acts at the Retro Man YouTube channel over here. Don't forget our special That Petrol Emotion/The Everlasting Yeah Retrosonic Podcast episode with Raymond, Damian & Ciaran which is available to listen to or download for free below...

Saturday, 30 September 2017

The Len Price 3 "Kentish Longtails" Album Launch Gig at Water Rats September 15th

The Len Price 3 at the Water Rats Kings Cross photographed by Paul Slattery
Our first Retro Man Blog Night at the Water Rats in Kings Cross since moving from the Half Moon in Putney was the sold-out launch party for The Len Price 3's new album "Kentish Longtails". Amy Kilroy-Buck reports back and Paul Slattery provides the photos... "The Water Rats in Kings Cross may be better known to some readers as The Pindar of Wakefield, famous for hosting Bob Dylan, The Pogues and numerous other big name acts and recognisable to fans of The Prisoners as the location for the band's now legendary appearance on The Tube in 1984. Since then it has undergone a name change and a facelift, and is a rather pleasant little pub with a back room that holds 200 people. It's a new location for Retro Man Blog to host one of their special gigs, which had sold out some weeks previously, as have their next two shows at the same venue for The SolarFlares. 

The Len Price 3 at the Water Rats Kings Cross photographed by Paul Slattery
The Len Price 3 at the Water Rats Kings Cross photographed by Paul Slattery
The Len Price 3 have always had a reputation for electrifying live shows, and as the promo for the gig had promised us 'unexpected sights, lights, sounds and guests' there was a good deal to live up to. DJ Dave Edwards took the place of a support band and after the doors opened at 8pm he had a good hour of tunes, with the back room lit by swirling psychedelic oil lamp projections. 'Unexpected sights' were amply provided by film projections onto a screen as we were treated to the quite staggering weirdness of "El Topo", a 1970 acid western (apparently that's a thing). The band arrived on stage shortly after 9pm, and opened with a blistering rendition of "Childish Words". The striped blazers of their early gigs are long gone, and have been replaced with some rather fetching dark red shirts, but the swaggering attitude and energy that sets them apart from many of their contemporaries remains unchanged. Obviously as an album launch the focus was always going to be on new songs, but there were plenty of old favourites mixed in too, with "My Grandad Jim" and "Pictures" appearing early on, much to the delight of the audience. 

The Len Price 3 at the Water Rats Kings Cross photographed by Paul Slattery
The Lennies are always an energetic band, but all three were particularly animated and did genuinely seem to be having a whale of a time. We didn't have to wait too long for the arrival of the promised special guest, none other than long term LP3 associate Graham Day, who joined the band on keyboards and guitar for a few songs (yes, apparently there is nothing he can't play) before sidling back into the wings to watch. In previous years its been very unusual to hear the band do their slower, gentler songs live, so it was good to hear the minimalist renditions of "Pocket Full of Watches" and "Letting You Down" before they stormed back into the rest of the set. I can't think of many gigs I've been to where everything has gone completely smoothly, and this was no exception; a broken kick drum pedal early on, Glen's Epiphone taking a nosedive onto his pedals and a brief scramble to get things working again before giving up on the pedal board entirely and going straight through the amp. Of such things is live music made, and the band approached these hiccoughs with good humour and some gentle banter before carrying on regardless. 

The Len Price 3 with Graham Day at the Water Rats Kings Cross photographed by Paul Slattery
A mix of old and new material rounded out the set, with singalong favourites "London Institute" and "Julia Jones" drawing a particularly enthusiastic response from the crowd. The band played for just short of two hours, no mean feat in a rather cosy venue, and were joined again by Graham Day for a cover of The Gaolers "Get Off My Track" before rounding off their encores with "Chinese Burn". The Len Price 3 occupy a strange place in today's live music scene; they dislike being labelled as Mod apparently (possibly another reason for the retirement of the blazers) and have never perhaps enjoyed the success and popularity fans feel they should, playing only a small number of gigs each year and remaining largely ignored by the music press. It's important to consider though that this may be exactly the way they want it, although as "Kentish Longtails" gathers momentum there are more reviews than ever springing up online, and dates already being advertised for gigs next year. Could this be the start of something bigger for The Len Price 3? As a fan, I hope so. All in all a fantastic gig from a band who just keep getting better". 
- Amy Kilroy Buck September 2017. 

The Len Price 3 with Graham Day at the Water Rats Kings Cross photographed by Paul Slattery
This feature first appeared on the Louder Than War web-site here. With thanks to Amy, Paul Slattery and Geb Babey. All photos copyright Paul Slattery.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

The Flamin' Groovies at Under The Bridge London September 21st - Review and Photos by Paul Slattery

The Flamin Groovies and Dave Edmunds at the Robin Hood pub in Monmouth January 1978. Left to right: Chris Wilson, Mike Wilhelm, Cyril Jordan, Dave Edmunds, Dave Wright & George Alexander. Photo by Paul Slattery.
I’ve been listening to The Flamin' Groovies now for 45 years. I first heard "Teenage Head" at a party in Cape Cod went out and bought the album (which I still have) and became a huge Groovies fan. I first met the the band at The Robin Hood pub in Monmouth in January 1978. They’d been recording the "Now" album at Rockfield Studios with the legendary Dave Edmunds and I ended up on the road with them in 1978 when they were promoting the album. The Groovies are Rock and Roll legends now – their jangling guitar based power pop has influenced new generations of rock musicians and they are back again on the road reborn with a new rhythm section and their first new album in 25 years "Fantastic Plastic" which seems to be garnering 5 star reviews everywhere. Original member George Alexander and drummer Victor Penalosa both appear to have parted company with the band despite featuring on the new album. I was sad to hear the news quite frankly as I had got to know them both well over the last few years since the Groovies reformation.

The Flamin' Groovies at Under The Bridge by Paul Slattery
Cyril Jordan of The Flamin' Groovies at Under The Bridge by Paul Slattery
The band's new rhythm section is Chris von Sneidern on bass guitar and Tony Sales on drums. Chris is a well-known San Francisco musician with several acclaimed albums and was the subject of the 2009 documentary "Why Isn’t Chris von Sneidern Famous?" Tony is the son of Tony Sales and nephew of Hunt Sales (who together formed the famous rhythm section in David Bowie’s band, Tin Machine, and recorded and toured with Iggy Pop and Todd Rundgren, among others). Have a listen to Iggy’s "Kill City" album. He’s also the grandson of the actor Tyrone Power. Well you would expect two guys with such great music credentials to do justice to a band like the Flamin' Groovies and that they do in spades. They are superb musicians and both add to the soaring vocal harmonies.

The Flamin' Groovies at Under The Bridge by Paul Slattery
Chris von Sneidern of The Flamin' Groovies at Under The Bridge by Paul Slattery
More than forty years down the road singing with the Groovies Chris Wilson still handles the lead vocals with true emotion in a set list that includes classics like "Tore Me Down", "Teenage Head" and "Shake Some Action". On the excellent Paul Revere and the Raiders cover "Hungry" Chris leaves the guitar on the stand, grabs the mike and gets down the front of the stage to belt out an amazing whiskey-fuelled vocal. The numbers from the new album sound great and get the proper Cyril and Chris jangly guitar duel treatment. "What The Hell’s Going On" is a cracker as is "I Want You Bad", Cyril still favouring his heavy-as-steel Dan Armstrong plexiglass guitar – Cyril loves this guitar – you can see it on the cover of their 1971 album "Teenage Head".

The Flamin' Groovies at Under The Bridge by Paul Slattery
Tony Sales of The Flamin' Groovies at Under The Bridge by Paul Slattery
I’m glad that there is now a fully fledged version of "Let Me Rock" on the new album. The only recording I had before was a version recorded in Cyril's front room as a demo for United Artists records which ended up on the "Grease" EP on Skydog records. "Let Me Rock" is the final song of the evening and it's a really great finale to an excellent performance. For me it’s always a treat to listen to this band and take their photos, they are true legends that just have Rock 'n' Roll oozing out of their pores. (Paul Slattery September 2017).

Present day line-up backstage at Under The Bridge: Chris Wilson, Cyril Jordan, Tony Sales, Chris von Sneidern
Chris Wilson with The Only One’s John Perry
You can get more information on The Flamin' Groovies and details on how to order their new album here. With thanks to Paul Slattery for the feature and excellent photos. Don't forget our special Retrosonic Podcast with Chris Wilson is available to listen/download for free here.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Las Aspiradoras & The No-Things at Weirdsville August 26th

Las Aspiradoras at Weirdsville - Photo © Retro Man Blog
I know it has become a bit of a standing joke that after every visit to Weirdsville I proclaim that I have just witnessed my new favourite band. But thanks to Mr A and Alexandra Beat Girl (and Ade when it comes round to their yearly Hipsville A-Go-Go Weekenders) I get the rare chance to see some superb acts from all corners of the globe, well, if globes had corners that is. Some I have seen before like Giuda and Les Kitschenette’s but it’s often the first chance I will get to see such a band play live. For example, I have seen The Revox and The Jackets from Switzerland, Autoramas from Brazil, Los Sustos and Viv & The Sect from Mexico, Kinoko Hotel, The Ladybugs and The Stompin’ Riff Raffs from Japan, The Satelliters from Germany, Messer Chups from Russia, Shupa from Spain and Johnny Mafia and Les Grys-Grys from France. I don't know how but they even managed to book Davros & The Deep Space Deviants all the way from the planet Skaro!

The No-Things at Weirdsville - Photo @ Retro Man Blog
The No-Things at Weirdsville - Photo @ Retro Man Blog
Tonight’s opening act The No-Things are in comparison, relatively local to Weirdsville in that they come from Edinburgh and they have a familiar vocalist, well not at first they don’t because he is missing when guitarist Alex, bassist Scott and drummer Calvin take to the stage and crank up the opening number. It’s Laurent from Les Bof! and he is in the crowd down at the front dancing away before suddenly leaping on stage to join in. With his impressive sideburns, Beatle-boots and stripey T-Shirt Laurent is the quintessential Garage Rock front-man. When he's not blasting out some superb harmonica he's dancing, spinning and leaping into the audience at every possible opportunity. 

The No-Things at Weirdsville - Photo @ Retro Man Blog
The No-Things at Weirdsville - Photo @ Retro Man Blog
Second song “Don’t Get On My Tits” is an absolute snotty-nosed Garage Rock classic and I keep finding myself rather embarrassingly singing it aloud in the office; it boasts an unbelievably catchy chorus and it has a rude word in it, what’s not to like? Likewise "Diamond Ring" and "Birds Flyin' Outta My Head", stand-out tracks on their "Here Come The No-Things" LP are insanely catchy and the brilliantly nagging guitar riff to "J'vais être Riche" gets lodged in your head for days after. While the rhythm section are impressively locked in tight there's a nice Punky edge to Alex's guitar that adds to a thrillingly unpredictable sound. It's raw Garage Rockin' R'n'B at it's best.

Las Aspiradoras at Weirdsville - Photo © Retro Man Blog
Las Aspiradoras at Weirdsville - Photo © Retro Man Blog
If I thought The No-Things were wired then I was in for a bigger shock with headlining act Las Aspiradoras who upped the fizzing energy levels to the max. They kicked off with the triple shot of "Malmete", "Para Ser Guay" and one of my favourites "Autodestrucción" without even so much as a 'hello' and proceeded to storm through a relentless set crammed with well over 20 more songs. Singer/Guitarist Chicho has one of those voices that is sometimes described as if he 'gargles with razor blades and gasoline' and he is a suitably energetic front-man. Like Laurent before him, Chicho seems to spend most of his time among the audience, either kneeling down slashing out some great riffs or even laying on his back spreadeagled on the floor. At one point, Mr A gets in on the act and strums Chicho's guitar enthusiastically as he lays there. Jungle Julia is an stunning visual foil to Chicho, she looks great and plays the organ with her elbows, knees and feet (you have to see it to believe it...) as well as the rather more conventional method. They also possess a great rhythm section featuring Juanjo on bass, who trades poses with Chicho and there's Oscar on drums, who leans precariously into his mic to add some backing vocal harmonies. 

Las Aspiradoras at Weirdsville - Photo © Retro Man Blog
Las Aspiradoras at Weirdsville - Photo © Retro Man Blog
Some of my personal highlights included "Ni Rastro De Polvo" and "Mi Adicción" which I would love to sing along to if my Spanish was any good; but all their songs have hooks that really do stick in your mind. They also play some choice cover versions such as Freddie Cannon’s “Palisades Park” and Los Macana’s excellent “Radio Go” that go down a storm on the night, as does Chubby Checker’s “Karate Monkey” which inspires some audience participation of accompanying monkey grunts and karate moves. I think I spent the whole set with a huge soppy grin plastered all over my face; they are that kind of band. You can’t help but smile and jump around, or in my case being an old git and rather shy, I can’t help but stand there, tap my feet and nod my head in time to the music. But believe me, inside I am jumping around like a loon! Weirdsville, you have done it yet again!

Las Aspiradoras at Weirdsville - Photo © Retro Man Blog
Las Aspiradoras at Weirdsville - Photo © Retro Man Blog
For more information on Las Aspiradoras check out their Facebook page here and The No-Things can be found at this link. Weirdsville happenings take place on the last Saturday of every month so if you want to be introduced to your new favourite band, check out their web-site here. More photos of the gig can be found at the Retro Man Facebook page here and there are some more videos of both bands at our Retro Man YouTube channel, along with many more Weirdsville acts.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

The Len Price 3 "Kentish Longtails" - Amy Kilroy-Buck reports on the band's fifth album for Retro Man Blog

In the build up to Retro Man Blog's sold out "Kentish Longtails" album launch party Amy Kilroy-Buck gives her verdict on The Len Price 3's fifth album, which promises to be their best so far. 

Medway based Power Pop Garage Rock three-piece The Len Price 3 have been making waves on the live music scene since the release of their first album “Chinese Burn” back in 2003. 14 years later the blazer-wearing trio (although not so much these days) are still playing sold-out London venues and album number five is just about to be released. Ask any LP3 fan what they like about the band and the answers are likely to be much the same; catchy riffs, snarling vocals from front-man Glenn Page, witty, acerbic lyrics and slick, swaggering performances that translate just as well on stage as in the studio. Five albums is a lot, and the quality has been consistently high but the question on my lips before I listened to their latest offering, “Kentish Longtails” was 'is this going to be more of the same?' I should mention that that is in no way intended as a criticism, 'more of the same' would still make for a great album of blistering tunes, but “Kentish Longtails” actually goes way beyond anything we've heard from The Lennies before, and is a pretty extraordinary record. 

The Len Price 3 photographed by Paul Slattery
Before you start to worry that they've deserted their traditional sound and started dabbling in Prog-Rock concept albums or any other silliness, don't; there is plenty here to keep the most die-hard fan happy; “Nothing I Want”, “Ride on Coat Tails” and “Saturday Morning Film Show” are all classic, riffy LP3 and would sit happily in amongst the current set. The same can also be said about “Childish Words”, a not very thinly veiled dig at Billy Childish. There's clearly a bit of history there, about which I shan't speculate, but it's a storming song all the same. “Lisa Baker” is an LP3 classic in the making, full of wry humour and with a trademark singalong chorus. So far, so Len Price 3, but nestling in amongst these catchy little numbers are some absolute gems where Messrs Page, Huggins and Fromow have really thrown the rule book out of the window. The piano led “Pocketful of Watches” is utterly different to anything else I've ever heard from this band, but right from the first listen it's a captivating track. The lyrics are from a far more poetic LP3 than we're used to ('a box of rainbows waits for me' is a long way from “London Institute”) and the overall effect is a gloriously sunny pop song that may catch many existing fans off guard, but is impossible to dislike. 

The Len Price 3 photographed by Paul Slattery
“Telegraph Hill” similarly takes the band into previously uncharted love song territory, but with its Kinks-eque chorus and quietly wistful lyrics it's a sure-fire winner. The Len Price 3 are a band who have always done their own thing regardless of expectation and this has the feel of an album in which they haven't tried to cater to audience demands but have experimented with different styles, gone slightly off-piste and generally had fun. There are elements of Britpop in there, hints of psychedelia; comparisons with The Who are unavoidable on “Stop Start Lilly”, but throughout they still maintain their own very distinctive sound. This is the fifth album of a band who have no intention of picking the safe option, and I admire them for it. “Kentish Longtails” could have been 'more of the same', but it's turned out to be so much more than that. It's a fantastic album, go and buy it.
- Amy Kilroy-Buck, August 2017

The Len Price 3 photographed by Paul Slattery
Unfortunately, the new album launch party has completely sold out now and sorry but there will be NO tickets available on the night. For more information on future gigs and how to order "Kentish Longtails" then please head on over to The Len Price 3's official web-site here or check out their Facebook page here. Photos copyright Paul Slattery. With thanks to Amy for the review.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Groovy Uncle "A Clip Round The Ear" - New Album Review and Interview with Glenn Prangnell

Can you name me a perfect album? I’m talking about an album you can play from side one track one right through to the end without skipping a track? One where every song is a potential hit single and the timeless production means you won’t be cringing in twenty years’ time. Where the title and the cover art perfectly complement each other and the lyrics and music within. Go on, be honest…It’s more difficult than you think isn’t it? Well, Groovy Uncle have just nailed it with the release of their Sixth album “A Clip Round The Ear”, they have delivered that very rare commodity – a perfect album. It's an eclectic romp through Garage Rock, Freakbeat, Tropicália, Soul and Beatles inspired guitar pop. Think The Attack, The Small Faces, The Move and The Who mixed up with The Detroit Cobras, Sergio Mendes and Dusty Springfield and you might get an idea of what we are looking at here. But don’t just take my word for it…first of all Amy Kilroy-Buck gives her verdict on “A Clip Round The Ear” and then we chat to the Groovy Uncle himself, Glenn Prangnell.

Groovy Uncle at Hipsville Weekender - Photo Retro Man Blog
"Until a few months ago I was, shamefully, unaware of Groovy Uncle. Luckily for me, YouTube had begun to catch on to my musical preferences and the name kept appearing in the recommended videos. I clicked on a link (“Count On Me” if anyone's interested) and I was hooked. For the uninitiated, Groovy Uncle isn't exactly a band, more a musical collective featuring a whole host of musos including (on this album) Allan Crockford, Jim Riley, Mole Lambert, Jon Barker and Wolf Howard with songwriter Glenn Prangnell at its centre, and often featuring Cardiff songbird Suzi Chunk. Possibly because of the ever changing line-up and possibly because Glenn seems to have a talent for writing in so many different styles, you can't pin Groovy Uncle down to a genre and the songs bounce happily from Sixties flavoured Pop to Soul with a detour through Garage and the occasional flirtation with Bossa Nova. Pressed on rather eye-wateringly lurid green vinyl, ”A Clip Round The Ear” is notable both for what it isn't and what it is. It's not an album that sits within a genre or is easy to define but it is both musically superb and full of surprises. One of the things that I've really enjoyed about previous Groovy Uncle releases is the mixture of chirpy, witty, story songs alongside your more traditional pop songs and ballads and “A Clip Round The Ear” delivers on both counts, although the feel is more nostalgic and the characters a little more sinister. 

“Oil and Colour Man” in particular made me picture a hybrid of Stanley Unwin and Keith Moon as Uncle Ernie, and if that's not sinister then I don't know what is. Attention to detail is always a key theme with Groovy Uncle, and this album really does demand a 'proper' listen with decent headphones because there is one hell of a lot going on. The songs are multi-layered and intricate with luxuriously full harmonies and of course, the mighty set of lungs belonging to Suzi Chunk. Suzi purrs, snarls and growls her way through her songs and effortlessly swoops from the swaggering attitude of “To The Moon and Back” to the velvety gorgeousness of “The Scheme of Things” and “Things I've Been Meaning to Say”. “Got Up and Gone” and “Now Your Pain is Over” are dance floor friendly funk tinged earworms in the making and Suzi's contributions really are classic ‘Unc and Chunk’. Nostalgia is a thread that runs right through the album, from the delightful black and white picture of Glenn's auntie on the cover, to the hauntingly poignant “Invisible Man” and wry humour of “Mrs Saywell Says”. I'm told that the story songs are inspired in part by the recollections of Glenn's parents and his skills as a storyteller as well as a tunesmith are much in evidence here. In summary, “A Clip Round The Ear” is flipping excellent. The lyrics are quirky and witty, the musicianship superb and the tunes catchy in the extreme. This is certainly an album that will bear repeated listening, and, as if that wasn't enough, the first hundred copies come with a colouring sheet and a balloon. Ten out of ten and a gold star." - Amy Kilroy-Buck.

Groovy Uncle's Glenn Prangnell & Suzi Chunk
I caught up with Groovy Uncle main-man Glenn Prangnell to get the low-down on the new album...

Q: “A Clip Round The Ear” is a pretty nostalgic phrase, evocative of a more innocent time where all you had to worry about was a clip round the ear from your parents, teacher or the local Bobby. Is there any concept behind the title and the album?

G: The idea was triggered after I’d been chatting to my parents about their lives. I recorded an interview with them for posterity and got them talking about their childhood and our family life. They were born just before the outbreak of the Second World War and recalled the day war broke out. They also reminisced about how the milkman did his round on a horse and cart and their schooldays etc. etc. Then my Mum said “Oh and of course there was the Oil and Colour Man”. I had no idea what she was talking about but immediately thought to myself ‘that’s a song title right there!’ Apparently he went round door to door selling lipstick, soaps and…paraffin! I’d say that was the moment I got the germ of an idea for this album.

Q: The Oil and Colour Man is just one of the striking characters that appear in the album alongside ‘our Gary’, ‘Mrs Saywell’ and the ‘invisible man’, where did you get the inspiration for these characters from?

G: During the chat with my parents they began talking about their time at Infant school. There was a teacher called Mrs Neat who used to address the class while standing by an open fire, hitching up the back of her skirt to warm her arse! So I took these characters and mixed them up with some memories of my own schooldays and applied fictional stories to people who had actually lived. Mrs Saywell was another of my parents’ teachers so I used that name in the song title which opens the album, “Mrs Saywell Says”. I made the “Oil & Colour Man” a seedy, sinister character though I’m sure he wasn’t in real life! “Our Gary’s No Fool” was initially about a kid I went to school with called Stuart who passed every exam seemingly without any effort, good at sport, etc. etc. but the name wasn’t right for the song. Then I remembered a friend of my brother’s who was a similar character but whose name was Gary and that sounded much better. The lady on the cover of the album is my Mum’s sister. She married a bloke who most of the family (including me) never met even though they lived nearby. To this day I’ve never even seen a photograph of him! So he was always the ‘mysterious’ uncle or, as I call him in the song “Invisible Man”. By the way, I was born in the house in the background! The song and album cover also references the pub next door called The Lads of the Village (“How they gonna take it at the Lads?”)

Groovy Uncle at Hipsville Weekender - Photo Retro Man Blog
Q: It's a very eclectic album that takes in Bossa Nova, Freakbeat, Garage Rock, Soul and even dare I say...Easy Listening...where do you get such varied influences from?

G: Music has always been a big part of family life on both sides. My Mum had three brothers who all had good singing voices and my Dad played piano and piano accordion. He also did an Al Jolson tribute act in the early ’50’s! The range of music was always varied in our house where Perry Como and Frankie Vaughan albums stood happily alongside The Who and The Anti-Nowhere League! At some point during family get-togethers we’d end up having a singalong around the piano. Along with listening to records this is how I learned about harmonies and how songs worked. It mattered not what type of music or if it was old or new, rock or easy listening, I just soaked it all up and I think that’s always been reflected in the songs I write and the type of records I make. “A Clip Round The Ear” is partly to do with characters and stories but is also connected to the type of music that was around when I was growing up. That’s why there is fuzzy garage rock one minute and easy listening samba the next. There’s even a nod to early ’70’s soul ballads and The Chi Lites, Detroit Spinners in “I Thought It Was About Time” because that was in the air a lot when I was a pre-Punk era kid.

Q: Your regular vocalist Suzi Chunk is based in Cardiff so how did you get to know about her and work together?

G: I first hooked up with Suzi via My Space, remember that? I heard some recordings she’d done with various bands and thought she sounded like a funky Dusty Springfield. I was puzzled to learn there were no stand-alone Suzi Chunk releases available and I thought that should be put right so I asked her if she’d like to make an album with me as songwriter. She said yes.

Q: Does Suzi contribute music and/or lyrics to Groovy Uncle?

G: We don’t write together but she occasionally contributes unwittingly to ideas. The title song from her debut album, “Girl From The Neck Down” came about directly from a joke expression of hers as did “One Vowel Away From The Truth” which referred from me having been born in Kent (geddit?). The line in “When I Saw Love” which goes “Up before the crack of daft …” is also a Suzi-ism.

Q: With the Groovy Uncle “Persuaded” album you released a special vinyl edition based around the spy theme. It came in a brown paper bag with lots of extras. Are you planning anything similar with “A Clip Round The Ear”?

G: Yes, the first 100 copies of “A Clip Round The Ear” is out on green vinyl and will come with the CD version, a postcard, lyric/colouring-in sheet and green balloon. Fun for all the family!

A Clip Round The Ear
Q: The last time I saw a Groovy Uncle gig was way back in 2013 at the Hipsville Weekender. I would love to hear these new songs played live, have you considered getting a band together to go out on the road to promote the album? 

G: We’ve done a few live things including some gigs in Cardiff that Suzi and I did a couple of years ago but essentially we are a recording outfit. A live version of Groovy Uncle is difficult because there are a lot of different musicians involved, all of whom play in numerous bands and have other commitments. I’d want a dedicated line up with intensive rehearsals and I’m not sure anyone could really commit to that, to be honest. Then of course there are the geographical and financial challenges as well.

Q: Do you have particular musicians in mind for each album or specific track? Do you have a strict vision in your head for Groovy Uncle and direct the musicians you work with? Is it a case of the old Brian Clough quote "We talk about it for twenty minutes and then we decide I was right" or do you encourage ideas and contributions?

G: I usually know fairly early on during the demo stage which musicians I’ll use for the session. “Barefoot In The Car Park”, “Persuaded” and the “Look Back And Laugh” single for example, were always going to feature Bruce Brand on lead guitar. I’m not a good instrumentalist so I need to have really good players to interpret what I want. Mole Lambert and Wolf Howard on drums totally understand what I do as does Nick Rice on bass. It’s essential to have people on board who “get it”. I’ve been very fortunate with the horn section too - John Littlefair, Anna and Paul Jordanous - who are just superb. I’ve been lucky enough to work with jazz percussionist Roan Kearsey-Lawson who played vibes on a couple of things and he also scored the string quartet arrangement for “No Idea” from the “Persuaded” album. He tracked down the musicians for that session, all top notch classical musicians. Allan Crockford plays some mean guitar on the new album too. Yes, I consider myself a very lucky songwriter!

Q: Do you produce the albums yourself? Which studios do you record in?

G: The first two albums and singles were recorded at State Records studios in Sandgate. Mole Lambert produced and played on a lot of the tracks on those records as did Marty Ratcliffe. Mole is still involved with our stuff but after their studios were badly flooded and recording sessions ceased we moved to Jim Riley’s Ranscombe Studios in Rochester where we’ve recorded ever since. “Persuaded” was our first Jim Riley produced record. I’ve never been disappointed with anything we’ve recorded at either studio. Both studios have producers who are totally on board with us and understand what we want. I have a pretty clear idea of what I want most of the time but I always let the producer produce and I like everyone to chip in with ideas because they’re often better than mine! I always go into the studio with an open mind.

Q: You have released records on Mole’s State Records but also Trouserphonic, is that your own label? Have you released any other bands on the label? If not is that something you would consider?

G: We released the first two albums and singles on the State Records label. The third album “One Vowel Away From The Truth” was recorded at State and I had hoped they would like to release it too but it was decided against. I don’t think it fitted in with the type of stuff they were releasing at the time. So we had an album ready to go but no label and that’s when I decided to set up my own label and release it myself on Trouserphonic and that’s what we continue to do. I’m not against the idea of releasing other people’s stuff but up to now I haven’t really given it much thought.

Groovy Uncle at Hipsville Weekender - Photo Retro Man Blog
Q: Your first band The Off-Beats played gigs with The Prisoners, The Dentists and The Milkshakes, did you sense at the time that there was something special brewing in the Medway?

G: There has always been a healthy music scene in Medway going way back long before the Milkshakes/Prisoners days even. So much artistic talent in this funny, peculiar corner of the country. When I started out I always sensed there was something special about the Medway scene but, to be honest I never thought anyone would “make it”. It just seemed like too much of a laugh for all that serious mullarkey. Everyone was having too much fun!

Q: The Kravin' A's and The Off-beats were more traditional British Garage R'n'B bands but then Goodchilde - which featured you, Allan Crockford, Wolf and Jon Barker - seemed more of a "rock" band, lots of guitar riffing and occasionally - for example on "The World and His Wife" - almost a “Grunge/Nirvana” sound, were you taking your influence from what was coming out of America at the time?

G: Goodchilde took in a lot of influences from the 90’s music scene, Grunge, Britpop etc. and I think we were trying to break away from what we’d been doing previously. We were Johnny and The Bandits, Medway’s premiere 60’s covers party band, available for all occasions! None of us thought very highly of the 80’s music scene and suddenly there were bands in the charts we actually liked so Johnny Barker and I began writing songs with a lot of that stuff in mind.

Q: There's a Goodchilde track "Email Female" which wouldn't seem out of place on the new Groovy Uncle album, and Suzi Chunk did an updated version of the Kravin' A's "Tripwire", and the Off-Beats "Millionth Time" - do you look back on your old bands with fondness and have you been tempted to "re-form" any of them? I think The Off-Beats in particular would go down really well in today's scene.

G: I have a lot of affection for all those bands. They were great times and I regret none of it. But I’m not one for living in the past and not a big fan of reunions. It’s strange how so many people attempt to cling on to what has gone and by doing so are missing out on now. Now is all we’ve got!

Q: Did any of the early Groovy Uncle demos with Allan Crockford and Darryl Hartley ever see the light of day?

G: Those demos haven’t surfaced officially yet. I’ve got so many lying around and some are good. I might put a compilation together one day…

Groovy Uncle at Hipsville Weekender - Photo Retro Man Blog
With thanks to Glenn Prangnell and Amy Kilroy-Buck. You can order "A Clip Round The Ear" and check out more info on Groovy Uncle at their new web-site here and Suzi Chunk here.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Joss Cope "Unrequited Lullabies" - New Solo Album Out Now on Gare Du Nord Records

Joss Cope "Unrequited Lullabies"
Joss Cope has just released a superb solo album entitled "Unrequited Lullabies" on Gare Du Nord Records and if you like uplifting Psych-tinged guitar pop then this will be right up your street. There are some beautifully crafted songs crammed into just under forty pure unadulterated melodic minutes. The album starts off strongly with the insanely catchy two-song salvo of "Learn To Float" and "Familiar Faces" which are both shot through with memorable guitar riffs and backing vocal harmonies. Next up is the dreamy "Cloudless Skies" which at first reminds me of Roxy Music's "In Every Dream Home A Heartache" before it builds and swells into a powerful crescendo. The moving, lovelorn "Your Broken Heart Is Not For Sale" really tugs on the heartstrings and is one of the album's highlights of which admittedly there are many to choose from. "Guy Like Me" and "What's The Plan" are both perfect upbeat pop songs that would trouble the top of any decent singles chart and "Started Something" has a twist of Syd Barrett. It's difficult not to mention the big brother as "Unrequited Lullabies" does indeed conjure up memories of Julian's excellent first two solo albums "World Shut Your Mouth" and "Fried" and if you like the intelligent pastoral Psych of acts such as XTC, Robyn Hitchcock, The Blue Aeroplanes and Stephen Duffy then I can certainly recommend this.

Joss Cope - Photo courtesy GDN Records
Here's some background info on Joss and the album and then you can enjoy the superb opening track "Learn To Float". Born in the Midlands at the start of the swinging '60s, Joss Cope followed elder brother Julian to Liverpool aged 14 and got rapidly sucked in to the nascent Post-Punk scene there, meeting and playing with such future musical luminaries as Les Pattinson (Echo & the Bunnymen), Peter Wylie (Wah Heat) and Mike Mooney (Spiritualized). He would go on to form the short-lived but influential Freight Train with Donald Ross Skinner and Barrett Douce (later of The Mighty Lemon Drops) before he moved to London in 1985 and became part of the emerging Creation Records scene playing with Crash, The Weather Prophets, Rose McDowell and Biff Bang Pow before putting out two albums of his own work with Something Pretty Beautiful. Joss also contributed to his brother Julian's albums "Fried" and "St. Julian" and co-wrote the songs 'Pulsar' and 'Christmas Mourning' with Julian and Donald Ross Skinner. In 1991 he formed psych band The United States of Mind with Ashley Wood (Chemistry Set), Dave Morgan and Greenwood Goulding (Rockingbirds). Only one eponymously titled album of blistering British psychedelia was released on the appropriately titled DyscFunctional imprint, before the band split in 1994. From the mid-90s to the noughties Joss art directed music videos for MTV, edited and voiced the BBC TV children's animated series Yoho Ahoy (2001) and, as a long term committed environmentalist joined Greenpeace as an online producer to work on key campaigns against over-fishing, deforestation and airport expansion. 

Joss Cope - Photo courtesy GDN Records
In more recent years he's played guitar with Psychedelic soulsters Dexter Bentley and bass with Sergeant Buzfuz, as well as becoming inspired to write songs for himself again. He spends part of each year in Finland with his current partner - cartoonist Virpi Oinonen - and in 2016 he began a collaboration with a trio of top Helsinki musicians: guitarist Veli-Pekka Oinonen (Nights of Iguana, Leningrad Cowboys), bassist Esa Lehporturo and percussionist Ville Raasakka. Early in 2017 the addition of Irish keyboardist O'Reilly O'Rourke (ex-Freak Outburst) completed the line-up, and the band went into Taajuusvarjostin studio to record with producer Arto Nevalainen. Unrequited Lullabies is the result. Here's what Joss has to say. What's it about? "The psychedelia of every-day life, for one thing. I don't think enough of us, enough of the time, appreciate just how miraculous and weird everything going on around us (including ourselves) actually is. Love songs to the children I never had is another, plus a few warnings about what to expect from the good and the bad of life in this magical place, wrapped up in melody and riff." What's it sound like? "It's been likened to Syd Barrett fronting The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, which is absolutely fine by me." Here's "Unrequited Lullabies" superb opening track entitled "Learn To Float"...

"Unrequited Lullabies" is released on Gare Du Nord Records and you can order the album on vinyl, CD or download from here. Thanks to Jon at No Other Publicity and Ian at GDN for the photos.