Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Ringleaders "Grin and Bare It"

Secret Stash Records of Minneapolis, USA have been poking around in the archives of  the 1960s Chicago based One-derful! family of labels for a 6 disc compilation series.  In the process they've happened upon some tremendous hitherto unissued soul gems which are now taking their rightful place on 7" vinyl.  "Grin and Bare It" by The Ringleaders is a crisp, horn-filled beat-stepper that'll make a welcome addition to any Northern Soul DJ's box.  "I've Got To Find My Baby" on the flip is far mellower group soul fare which again features some wonderfully soulful horn lines and a few moments that would have made lovely samples for Wiggs & Stanley in the early 90s.  Two top quality sides and easily the best unreleased soul cuts to reach these ears since that sensational Up Tights 7".

Hear lengthy samples and buy it here (US) or here (UK).

Saturday, 24 January 2015

The Wrong Society "To Be Free"

Once again I find myself hugely indebted to Higher State chap Mole.  His keen ears and knowledge of the current garage scene make his m.brooks m.porium ebay store a smashing resource for helping lazy lumps like me to keep up with what's out there.  The latest smash to hit the m.porium's virtual shelves is a 7" by Hamburg's The Wrong Society:

What a fizzing tune!  That guitar solo is pure desperation and do you hear the slightest tang of Martin Phillips (The Chills) in the way the singer pleads "Set me free!", too?  "To Be Free" could be slipped without any qualms onto any of those vintage Teenage Shutdown downer jangle comps.  With Denmark's The Youth, France's Les Grys-Grys and now Germany's The Wrong Society, European garage punk is in a right good state.  My self-imposed mailorder embargo was never gonna last, not with 45s of the quality of "To Be Free" screaming for attention.  I just didn't think my resolve would crumble so soon!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Missing, presumed lost

For the second time in three years my Christmas present from me to me has been 'lost in the post'.  This comes hot on the heels of my first copy of The Luxembourg Signal's phenomenal lp being 'lost in the post' and a consignment of 7"s from Groovie Records allegedly meeting the same fate.  The sellers have been really good about it all: Groovie Records sent replacements, I got a refund on the LS lp and I'm sure the person from whom I bought an original copy (Mint-, by all accounts) of The Romancers' sublime "She Gives Me Love" will do like likewise but it's killed my enthusiasm for buying records by post.  Music and buying records is supposed to be fun, not fraught, and those around me are heartily sick of hearing me moan about the postal services of the world so, for the time being, my PayPal account will get a much needed rest, my postman won't have to cart records up 3 flights of stairs and (in a small way) it'll be a boom time for the bricks and mortar record shops of Glasgow.

"She Gives Me Love" is, for me, one of the standout cuts on Outta Sight's wondrous "East LA Soul - Rampart Records 1963-1971" cd.  It would've been such a thrill to own a well preserved copy of it on vinyl.

* - 'first' as I bought a second copy from a different seller - the original seller had none left - with my refund which in total cost in excess of 30 quid and arrived bashed despite being packaged well.  Yet another thing that's chipped away at my enthusiasm for buying mail-order.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Action & Reaction

When Cherry Red assembled their recent 4 cd collection of Mod revival sounds,  "Millions Like Us: The Story of the Mod Revival 1977-1989", they included a track by a group called The Reaction.  "I Can't Resist" is an energetic, power pop contender from Mark Hollis's pre-Talk Talk days.  I like it loads but I can't help thinking that "Make Up Your Mind" (1986, Waterloo Sunset) by the other The Reaction from the decade in question would have been more a appropriate choice.  With its ultra-catchy Rickenbacker riff and hip 60s pop art pop feel, you can practically hear the polo necks and corduroy fishermen's caps!

("Make Up Your Mind" and its flip can be downloaded for free from the above bandcamp page)

It's my guess that The Reaction were named in honour of their Mod forebears The Action.  Unexpectedly, Top Sounds has just released a 4 track 10" of unreleased Action/related tracks which includes the best version I've heard them do of Martha Reeves & The Vandellas' "In My Lonely Room" and a fabulously vibrant take on The Tempations' "Why You Wanna Make Me Blue" .  There are samples of all 4 tracks at  Blue eyed soul seldom sounded so convincing or so vital.

Friday, 26 December 2014


"I just take my time
 I don't need to rush
 I feel good about
 Being good to you"

One of the most elegantly languid tunes to appear in my life of late has been "Paints" by Glasgow's  horrendously named Le Thug.  'Appear' because I didn't seek it out - it was on a free cd-r given to those who attended The Green Door Studio's 7th anniversary wingding at The Poetry Club last weekend.  If "Paints" is any guide, Le Thug aren't the pistol-toting, gold toothed gangsta rap crew their name would suggest but a gauzier, dronier version of the divine One Dove.  Clio Alexandra MacLellan has the most heavenly voice.  It carries the melody of the chorus like cherry blossom on a warm breeze.

From the looks of things, "Paints" used to be on the group's bandcamp page but isn't anymore so I can't share it here.  Hopefully, however, if this picture on Song By Toad Records' tumblr site is any guide, it'll be released on vinyl at some point soon (see track 4):

Right now I'm regretting the fact that I wasn't aware of Le Thug sooner as they played The Old Hairdressers on December the 2nd.  It would've been great to swoon and sway to "Paints" particularly as I was on holiday that week.  A missed opportunity.  Fortunately, the Christmas holidays will afford the time to become familiar with the songs posted on Le Thug's Soundcloud page.  Here's hoping that there's something possessing even a tiny fraction of the finesse of "Paints".

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

It's Holiday Season!

Marva Holiday season, that is.  In October The Quietus ran former Boo Radleys fellow Martin Carr's Baker's Dozen.  One of his choices was Marva's irresistible mover"It's Written All Over My Face":

It's such a joyous piece of music with lots of little euphoric builds that sweep you along and before you know it your feet are moving and your hands are clapping.  It was originally released on GNP Crescendo of Hollywood, USA.  The only other records I have on that label are by Sky Saxon's keyboard riddled garage troupe The Seeds; you have to admire the breadth of some 60s labels!  Helpfully, a couple of years ago it was included on Kent Records' cd "The Cleethorpes Northern Soul Weekender 1993-2012 20 Soulful Celebrations".  The other Marva Holiday 7" to have found its way into my record box is a split with The Magicians as part of the aforementioned Kent's Select series.

"Rising Higher" is a brilliantly brassy blast of accessible pop soul with some great Impressions-style male backing vocals:

Like "It's Written All Over My Face", it was penned by the multi-talented Mirwood Motown staffer Sherlie Matthews whose place in my heart was assured the instant I heard and flipped for The Belles' "Don't Pretend".  "Rising Higher" was included with a host of other treats on the "Kent 30: Best Of Kent Northern 1982-2012" cd.  The entire staff at Kent Records really should be getting recognised in the upcoming Queen's New Year Honours List shouldn't they?  Sir Ady Croasdell would look great on the 6Ts flyers!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Records of the year for Monorail Music (and a few more!)

Once again Monorail Music asked a bunch of their regular customers for their top 10 lps, their top 2 singles/tracks and their top 2 reissues.  As ever, reviewing the year's purchases was a whole heap of haphazard (my memory isn't what it used to be!) fun.


1. Comet Gain "Paperback Ghosts" (Fortuna Pop)
2. The Hobbes Fanclub "Up At Lagrange" (Shelflife)
3. The Muffs "Whoop Dee Doo" (Burger / Cherry Red)
4. Literature "Chorus" (Slumberland)
5. The Luxembourg Signal "s/t" (Shelflife)
6. Dean Blunt "Black Metal" (Rough Trade)
7. Weed Hounds "s/t" (Katorga Works)
8. Ex Hex "Rips" (Merge)
9. Mad Nanna "In Glasgow" (Golden Lab)
10. The Bug "Angels and Devils" (Ninja Tune)

A combination of going out more than is healthy or, as I like to call it, supporting the vibrant local music scene (ha!) and buying more records than is decent or even manageable meant that there wasn't really a record that took residence on the Not Unloved turntable.  The mp3 version of Comet Gain's record, however, soundtracked many a splash through puddles on the way to and from whichever gig venue was hosting that night's entertainment.  Its bruised romanticism never failed to make me feel.  "Up At Lagrange" is such a pure record.  It's a neat, perfectly realised and beautifully sung collection of heartfelt songs that yielded my favourite lyric of the year:

"I made a collage of our favourite bands
 To say I love you
 I knew you'd understand"

A one hour commute by car and The Muffs' latest album on cd combined to make it my most listened to record of the year.  Kim Shattuck's full-throated scream was one of the most thrilling sounds of 2014 - prime Courtney Love would've struggled to outdo her.  Literature's pristine guitars served their softly sung melodies beautifully in a way that made me ache for the days when the Parasol Mailorder dropped onto the mat stuffed with little label American pop.  Likewise, The Luxembourg Signal sounded timeless but fresh and provided further evidence that Shelflife was having the year of its life.  It's certain that it would have been in higher in my list had I got it earlier, too. "Black Metal" found its way into my consciousness through its clever deployment of a Pastels sample but proved attractive on so many levels.  With each successive listen it earned a bigger place in my heart.  It wouldn't sound out of place in the Les Disques du Crepuscule catalogue.  Weed Hounds were a brilliant tip from the perennially searching Did Not Chart blog.  2 minutes and 30 seconds into the record's opener, "Harbor", I was scrambling, all fingers and thumbs, to login to my Paypal account.  Mary Timony and her Ex Hex bandmates made an irresistibly stomping lp that, along with the aforementioned Muffs record and The Vaselines' "V For Vaselines", proved that you don't need to be a teenager to make fizzing, melodic power pop/punk.  The memory of Mad Nanna's appearance at the much missed Volcanic Tongue shop still makes me smile.  I worried that when Golden Lab released the straight-to-TDK document of that night on vinyl, it might tarnish the memory.  I needn't have worried!  The Bug had the good sense to collaborate with Liz Harris and Warrior Queen.  In truth, I enjoyed Andy Stott's "Faith In Strangers" - especially the sparse, sublime "Violence" - just as much but I could only pick 10 records.

7"s / singles 

1. The Youth "I'll Call Your Bluff" (State)
2. The Luxembourg Signal "Distant Drive" (Shelflife)
3. The Clientele / Birdie "The Third Hangover Lounge Picture Disc" (Hangover Lounge)
4. CRUISING "You Made Me Do That" (Soft Power)
5. Golden Teacher "Love / Party People" (Optimo)
6. Curtis Harding "Keep On Shining" (Anti)
7. Gingerlys "Jumprope" (Shelflife)
8. PANG "Young Professionals" (Grazer)
9. Deers "Demo" (Lucky Number)
10. LAPS feat. Golden Teacher, S Young & D Young "Mojo" (Clan Destine)

"I'll Call Your Bluff" sidesteps accusations of being simply an nth generation retread by having the catchiest guitar line this side of 60s Carnaby Street and an emotional directness that feels entirely honest.


1. Milk'n'Cookies "Not Enough Girls In The World" 7" (Captured Tracks)
2. The Moles "Flashbacks & Dream Sequences" 3*lp (Fire)

Maybe the 7" I played most this calendar year was Milk'n'Cookies kinda wrong/totally great slice of weedy-voiced, Big Star-esque glam pop.  I sang it in the kitchen at work when nobody was listening.  I sang it when I walked home from gigs in the rain.  I sang it at the top of my lungs on many a seemingly endless commute.  By now, a lot of people are scunnered with Record Store Day but this year's will live long in my memory thanks to that 45 and its ludicrously lascivious refrain: "Ten girls, twenty girls, I want more! Forty girls, fifty girls just because there's not enough girls in the world".

Monorail Music's full top 50 list (along with my photo of the Aphex Twin blimp above Mono/Monorail Music - *beam*) can be pored over on their facebook page.