Mark Brend’s debut novel Undercliff – Jesus Freaks, weird happenings and more

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covehithe_beach1Long time Popjunkie readers, coughs, both of you, will know that I have a bit of thing for a mid 80s band called The Palace of Light. Their Scott Walker influenced dramatic pop tunes stood out at a time when the prevailing musical trends were electronic pop or Smithsy lo-fi indie, both of which I found lacking a little, well ambition.

So I was really pleased to find out from Mark Brend of the band that their that lone album is getting a reissue – with bonus tracks too – in the not too distant future. There will be more on that very soon. Part of the story is in this post on the band they morphed into Mabel Joy.

Mark also has another project on the go, his debut novel Undercliff, which he is currently selling through the ultra smart book funding site Unbound – check out these two great projects while you are at it – The Riddle of the Sands and Ruth and Martin’s album club.

Both Mark and I grew up listening to a lot of Christian Rock Music, which back then was less of the saccharine AOR pop that features on contemporary US Gospel radio stations and more influenced, if anything by the psychedelia of the late 60s and the hippies that followed that movement.

Growing up in church environment I remember many Christian hippies who would turn up for the evening service in cheesecloth shirts and sandals touting a Bible in in one hand and a copy of Led Zeppelin 3 (or the God-bothering equivalent) in the other.

Those born again hippies – many of whom were battling their own drug or alcohol-related demons – are the inspiration for Mark’s new book. As Mark explains it is a period of history that is very much overlooked. It is also Mark’s first stab at fiction, he is arguably best known for his highly acclaimed book about the birth of electronic music The Sound of Tomorrow.

Here then Mark talks about Undercliff and the strange movement that is at its heart.

When did you start writing the book? What inspired you to write fiction?

I started in 2009 but broke off for a while to write Sound of Tomorrow, my book about early electronic music. I wouldn’t say any one thing inspired me, but I’ve always been interested in how the church tried to interact with the hippy counter culture. Often when the church tries to engage with a cultural movement it does so in a rather awkward, tame, too-late-in-the-game way, and though that is true of the hippie counter-culture there were people who pursued radical alternative agendas from a Christian perspective, that went beyond a half-baked attempt to ‘christianise’ ideas that were then current.

And in the village in Devon where much of the book is set there was – for some time – a large derelict house, and I found myself imagining a past for it.

Have there been many other novels that have talked about the ‘Jesus Freaks’ from the early 70s? If not why not? There were so many great characters?

I feel there must have been but I don’t know of any. I deliberately avoided seeking them out, if indeed they are out there. Now I’ve finished mine I’d be interested to hear about any, so please let me know …

I think it is a part of history not well known outside a certain generation and certain type of church goer, which might account for why so little is written about the period. Chances are if you were in evangelical and charismatic church circles in the late 60s/70s you would have come across music or books that grew out of the Jesus People movement, but then evangelical and charismatic circles were small, and tended not to connect with mainstream culture. Also, you’re only really talking about a few years – approximately 1967 to the early 70s. It all came and went very quickly.

The other thing, of course, is the Jesus People or Jesus Freaks or whatever term you choose were in no way a unified movement – there were just different groups of people pursuing faith in a vaguely hippie-ish context – some with great integrity, others less so …

What do you think of the Christian music scene from that era? A lot of record collectors seemed to have recently discovered many long lost gems? Any favourite albums?

As with any form of music and any period, there is good and bad. Many of the Christian albums of the time were recorded on minuscule budgets and suffer accordingly. The Sheep’s Lonesome Stone – a rock opera – comes to mind. By some accounts they sounded something like Jefferson Airplane live, and they were big enough to play the Rainbow in London, yet their recordings sound very lumpy I think. The recordings re-released a few years back as the Christ Tree, which were borne out of the Trees Community are excellent psych folk – not unlike a more extreme mid-period Incredible Strong Band. It’s slightly different in that it was released on a major label, but Bill Fay’s second album, Time Of The Last Persecution is – to my ears – an all-time classic, regardless of any faith angle. Similarly Judee Sill’s two albums – major label releases but very much borne out of the Christian/hippie crossover.

It’s worth noting that Greenbelt festival (which is an arts festival with Christian roots) was borne out of this whole period, too. I think The Sheep played at the very first one.

Do you think it is hard for non-religious people to listen to some of this music?

Most Christian rock music is given short shrift by non-religious people, and very often with good reason. There’s a prevailing view that it is a poor copy of out-of-date styles manipulated for evangelical purposes – and that’s often the case. But there is prejudice against it too too, and I think that once records get so far removed from their original context that people can approach them simply as cultural artefacts you can see there is some good stuff there as well as bad – the feelings of uncomfortableness that non-beleivers often experience when hearing people singing about God and faith are diminished with time and distance from the culture that spawned the music.

Is Vine (the rather odd church movement in the novel) based on a real life group? Is there an autobiographical element to the story at all?

The Vine isn’t based on any real life group and the novel is in no way autobiographical. Having said that, when I first became involved in church circles in the very late 70s there was still a residue of this sort of post-hippie culture about – lots of long hair, cheesecloth, beards and folky music, when the rest of the world was already well past punk. I knew someone who’d lived in a Christian hippy commune until she went to university. I recall once meeting a man who claimed to have been involved with Hawkwind but had since renounced all rock music as coming from the devil, and instead embraced a rather lame folky style – I don’t recall his name so can’t check his story now. So you could say I have a vague once-removed connection with the era and culture, if not the story itself.

Is there a moral/Christian basis to the book? Or is that just the backdrop to the story?

Undercliff is just a story. But most of the main characters are people with some kind of Christian faith or spiritual agenda, corrupted or otherwise, and their motivations and beliefs drive the story.

Was it conceived as a novel from the start or did you always intend it to be a multimedia experience?

Definitely a novel first, but – without giving too much away – there’s a fictional band in the story and a cassette album, which got me thinking about doing some music for the book.

What is the key influence on the music that you have created? Will it be available in other formats?

Well, I haven’t created it yet – it is at the planning/writing stage. It will draw on what I think of as a choral folk style, with lots of acoustic instruments, and one section of extreme atonal musique concrete. It’ll be available only as a limited edition cassette and download for subscribers to special editions of the book. I guess at some point in the future it might get a separate release, but I’m not planning anything.

You have written non-fiction books in the past. Was it hard to make the jump to fiction?

Not really, no. It’s a different discipline obviously, but when writing any sort of book you’ve got to spend a long time in a room on your own, and I was already used to that. Whether I’ve made the transition successfully is for the readers to judge, though.

And you can judge for yourself by pledging for a copy, or any of the other goodies on the Undercliff Unbound page here.

And btw here is the best Christian pop song ever, which weirdly enough doesn’t mention God, Jesus or anything spiritual at all.

Papernut Cambridge -Love The Things Your Lover Loves review

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Well top marks for packaging. The new album from Papernut Cambridge, which if you include the excellent Nut Cutlets covers collection, is their fourth, arrives in a plastic bag containing two striking white vinyl 10 inchers. So far so retro, but what of the music?

Papernut, essentially ex-Thrashing Doves (a band I loved) and Death In Vegas man Ian Button and his all star Gare du Nord cohorts, have a track record of delivering 60s psych pop and 70s esque glam and power pop stompers, and as the opening track Love The Things Your Lover Loves highlights instantly they have still got it – big time.

For me though it is disc two which encapsulates so much of what is great about the band. Radio is a glam stomper with some stunning harmonies, while Chartreuse shuffles along in manner somewhere in between The Rubettes and The Auteurs (Button’s voice sometimes uncannily sounds like Luke Haines). Best of all is Them, a tad dark for such an upbeat album, that boasts a hypnotic tune and wonderfully unexpected coda.

Other highlights include the anthemic finale, We Are The Nut, the country Byrds inflected I’m Stranded, the early 80s doom pop of Mirology and the gothic twee English psych of St Nicholas Vicarage. Pretty much everything on these discs though are earworms of the finest order. And if you can’t get enough, there’s a very groovy instrumental reimagining of the album on Spotify too.

Rapid Results College – live and In City Light review

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Quite often in life it is the times when you have the lowest expectations that yield the most pleasant surprises. And for me that was very much the case at the Gare Du Nord Records Showcase at The Betsey Trotwood in Clerkenwell last Friday.

Sadly, we lost the headliners Papernut Cambridge (whose new album is utterly addictive) to family sickness, which meant that the main attraction was Rotifer and his literate mod pop. Except that due to bad timing and pub misunderstandings, I ended up watching some country rockers downstairs, rather than hearing tracks from Rotifer’s apparently ace new album upstairs.

I did hang around long enough to catch the last band of the evening Rapid Results College, largely because the band features Mike Stone once of The Television Personalities on guitar. In-demand Mike is becoming a bit of the Johnny Marr of early 80s influenced indie psych. The last time I saw him he was playing with Steve Somerset in the brilliant, and I guess, sadly no more Shadow Kabinet.

Nevertheless I really wasn’t expecting to fall so utterly in love with Rapid Results College. A few years back Pete from noisy indie poppers Adorable and Polak teamed up with Terry, the guitarist from the House of Love to create the wonderful Broken Heart Surgery, an album which mined the gentle more heartfelt slow burning tunes from the third Velvets album. In the same way it appears Rob Boyd, lead singer and creative mainman of Rapid Results College, has toned down some of the slightly more strident elements of his earlier band The Hillfields, and instead conjured up some wonderfully warm, melodic, melancholic pop gems

They began quietly enough with Francine’s Coat, but for me ‘The Magic’ started to happen when they played The Cautionary Tale of Alfonse du Gard, a bizarre tale of an unlucky in love who manages to slice the finger off his would-be girlfriend while ice skating on Hampstead Heath. Both the music and lyrics the song remind me have a great deal of my favourite Brit psych, like the first Kaleidoscope album or On a Saturday, the low-key missing in action 45 from Tomorrow’s Keith West or at a push the decade’s secret Smiths influence Peep Show.

From here on in the gems same thick and fast. Shop is a delightful upbeat ditty (well for this album anyhow) about every ageing hipster’s dream of owning a record shop downstairs and a cafe upstairs, while Turret Grove is hypnotic slowcore with some unusual, and inspired drumming from Owain Evans. Any Other Way, is a gem of pop song with a soaring chorus embellished by some subtle harmonies. The evening finished with the album’s finale Down on You. Originally a upbeat jangle-fest recorded by The Hillfields, it’s now a stripped down brooding psychedelic mother which climaxes in deluge of feedback drenched guitars.

Anyhow, since last Friday I have pretty much played nothing else but the Rapid Results College album In City Light. Sure they are a band that wears their influences mainly C86, 60s Brit psych, 80s kiwi indie pop and a smidgeon of Jonathan Richman and The Go-Betweens on their sleeves, yet somehow it all gels together in a wonderfully fresh and enjoyable way. You really need to hear this album. Let’s hope they gig again soon, and that the vinyl is on its way!

Duncan Maitland – Lullabies For The 21st Century vinyl review

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The other day I took a long hard look at my CD collection and wondered how many of the discs that I love from the 90s and beyond ever got a vinyl release?

There’s clearly a treasure trove of great psych pop albums which are just waiting for someone to re-package them.

Sugarbush Records seem to agree with me, for in recent years the enterprising label has taken a series of superb digital only releases and put them out on vinyl. The Junipers’ Paint The Ground, is a classic example (there’s a new album from them soon ) and the label have also issued two Orgone Box gems in Centaur and The Lorne Park Tapes.

Latest to get the vinyl resurrection is Duncan Maitland’s Lullabies For The 21st Century an album that originally made its digital debut in 2012.

Such is the quality of the album that it was clearly a no brainer for Sugarbush to issue it on vinyl, in this case a striking psychedelic purple. So, let me tell about Duncan Maitland. He might not be too familiar, but he has a pretty impressive pop CV that includes stints with everyone from XTC to Honeybus’ Colin Hare. He currently lives in Ireland and so not surprisingly this has a whiff of a Pugwash (who he plays with sometimes) album about it in that there are obvious debts to XTC, The Beach Boys and The Beatles.

Lullabies feels like a proper old fashioned pop album too – one that rewards repeated listens. It washes over you, but in a good way and before long you’ll be humming the melodies, marvelling over the arrangements and generally falling in love with it.

Highlights – well the opener, Your Century, is a glorious entree – kicking off with 70s-esque guitars which break into a wonderful Beach Boys Surf’s Up era chorus. The spectre of the Wilson Brothers also hangs over Crash Position and the big slowie Handbirds, which both remind me of bands like The Pearlfishers and The Sunchymes in their slow build and gloriously uplifting choruses. I am also smitten with the album’s closer – Insect Under the Stone – which marries a shuffling jazzy beat to a wistful tune. It reminds me a little of Martin Newell’s fun, but rather odd Light Programme album. Up To You is another gem that’s an intriguing mix of Magical Mystery Tour Fabs, ELO and That’s All by Genesis and Lucky You is a 70s AM perfection.

The only downer is that, Two Of A Kind, his genius Syd Barrett cover, never made the cut. It really is one of the few Syd covers that trumps the original.

Nevertheless this is a wonderful album and it is wonderful to have it on vinyl. If you ever love The Beach Boys, Pugwash or adventurous 60ish melodic pop you will cherish this. Highly recommended.

Now Duncan, how about some new tunes?

Buy Lullabies on vinyl here.

Another Splash of Colour – triple CD 80s psych boxed set review

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splash

People who weren’t there tend to assume that the early 80s was one long orgy of shiny, futuristic New Romantic pop. However check out any episodes of Top Of The Pops from the era and you discover a different story. For in spite of those strangely bequiffed keyboard touting duos the first few years of the decade were actually dominated by a series of revivals.

Mod, Heavy Metal, Rockabilly and Ska all became briefly fashionable again and gifted us bands as diverse as The Jam, The Specials, Iron Maiden and errr The Polecats.

There was however one revival that was always unlikely to trouble the chart compilers that was the return of 60s influenced psychedelia

Punk’s year zero approach had meant that anything that smacked of the late 60s and flower power was about as welcome as music hall. This in spite of the fact that many of punk’s main protagonists, like Captain Sensible John Lydon and Charlie Harper, to name but three, were in fact serious psych heads.

Yet for a brief period in 1981 and 1982 there was a flowering of a psychedelic sound that sought to take the template from the late 60s and turn into something to excite and inspire 80s kids.

Many of the original so called new psych bands were, not surprisingly given their Mod roots, not actually that psych. Bands like Mood Six, The Marble Staircase and Direct Hits seemed more interested in recreating the 1966 Swinging London vibe of bands like The Herd, Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich in their bendier moments, than they were of aping the far out projected sounds from a couple of years later. The original club around which the sounds coagulated, The Groovy Cellar was also more ‘Mod gone weird’ than full on psych, boasting a playlist that encompassed everything from early 60s girls bands through to bubblegum.

Yet as the movement blossomed, so all kinds of psychedelic individuals sneaked out of the closet and became part of a scene the music papers christened ‘new psych.’

Enter WEA

Sensing a potential musical gold rush WEA records enlisted several of the bands to contribute to what has become new psych’s key legacy – the compilation album A Splash Of Colour.

What Cherry Red Records has done is to round up the tracks from that original album (minus two) and then delve further into the 80s psychedelic archive to deliver a triple CD box set, complete with extensive sleevenotes, which document the rise and fall and rise again of London’s second summer of love.

The original Splash Of Colour album quite rightly IMO received mixed reviews. I remember for example, Mark Ellen dissecting it on Radio One, praising some of the tracks but saying that he much preferred the likes of Robyn Hitchcock and Nick Nicely (more of whom later). It seems a bit harsh to say it now but there are a few tracks that may be could have remained in the archive.

Then again alongside the efforts of the jostick jokers are genuine pop gems that sound as fresh and vibrant now as they did back in the day.

Exhibit A being the album’s opener, Just Like A Dream by Mood Six which zips along powered by a relatively aggressive vocal (well for Mood Six anyhow) swirling keyboards and a dramatic chorus. It tells the tale of an imminent apocalypse which lest we forget was worrying most of the planet in the Reagan Brezhnev era.

Mood Six’s second track Plastic Flowers, sadly isn’t the version from the original album, but instead hails from a few years later. Nevertheless is a lovely silver of baroque pop with a touch of The Left Banke (whose albums were reissued in the UK around this time) with its harpsichord style keyboard and delicate mannered vocals.

As memorable as both tracks are (and indeed the EMI single Hanging Around and its Barry meets Bond instrumental B Side Mood Music) they don’t really tell the whole story of one of the most exciting London bands from the early 80s. Far better to recall them as a great great live act and for their second album, A Matter Of, a perfect distillation of classic 60s Ray Davies influenced songwriting and 80s jangly guitar.

If Mood Six were The Beatles of new psych then Miles Over Matter could stake a claim to be the scene’s Rolling Stones. Boasting a much tougher sound than their rivals – which was as much influenced by the reissues of 60s garage punk band albums from the likes of The Chocolate Watchband and The Electric Prunes which were just starting to land in the UK – Miles Over Matter had a fantastically theatrical frontman in Miles Landesman, a great guitarist /songwriter in Steve Counsel and a de rigueur swirly keyboard sound the really only could come from the early 80s.

For some bizarre reason WEA passed on the band’s best track, the almost perfect swinging beat pop nugget, Love Song (which surfaced legitimately for the first time on the band’s recent compilation), instead plumping for Something’s Happening Here, a Strawberry Alarm Clock influenced clarion call for a new Love Generation, and Park My Car a quirky XTC-esque slice of toytown psych. The latter in particular with its liquid guitar finale, sounds superb three a bit decades om.

The two other highlights from A Splash Of Colour, which are both featured here, are The Barracudas droney Byrds-influenced Watching The World Go By and another contender for the movement’s leitmotif, The High Tide’s Dancing In My Mind. For reasons which I guess have to be money/copyright-related, the compilers have not added The Times I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape from the original LP but opted for an inferior, but still fun version from a few years earlier.

Away from A Splash Of Colour and the acolytes of the nightclub at the epicentre of the new movement the Groovy Cellar, the best psychedelic music of the early 80s was being made by individuals for whom the late 60s with just one colour of their musical palate.

Much has been written about Nick Nicely and his glorious 1981 Strawberry Fields Forever single Hilly Fields. If that isn’t the the best song on the compilation, then it is probably is its B side the Tomorrow Never Knows re-write 49 Cigars. Check out On The Coast from his Psychotropia album which really should have been the follow-up single. His mix of psychedelia and electronica, see also John Foxx, was an avenue of the genre that to this day is still largely unexplored.

Never really part of the movement but also responsible for many of the best 60ish pop tunes from Britain in the 80s (and beyond) was Robyn Hitchcock and his renegade band of psychedelic popsters The Soft Boys. In an era of punk-induced nihilism, the band with its mixture of Byrdsie jangle, folky harmonies (you just knew they loved a bit of Pentangle and Steeleye Span) and Barrett-esque instrumental interludes were never going to amount to more that just the odd gig at The Rock Garden. Hitchcock has however had the last laugh. Underwater Moonlight, the band’s second album, is now regarded as one of the best album of that or in fact any decade. The compilers have opted for Only The Stones Remain from The Soft Boys and the eery, slightly sinister It’s A Mystic Trip which was one of several brilliant songs Hitchcock recorded, but subsequently rejected for his debut album Black Snake Diamond Role.

Another act on the fringes of a movement were The Monochrome Set a band who shared Mood Six’s predilection for turning every gig into an event. On The Thirteenth Day is an inspired choice capturing the band at its most edgy.

Mod goes psych

Many of the early new psych bands began their career peddling beat and Motown influenced music to an ostensibly Mod audience. And Another Splash Of Colour include several great examples of what happens when pill poppers go lysergic. In my opinion the pick of the lot are Squire whose recorded output dwarfs every other Mod band from the era with the exception of The Jam. No Time Tomorrow is the psych jewel in their crown, although practically everything from their singles album, including Does Stephanie Know and My Mind Goes Round In Circles would still have been stand outs on this compilation.

The Purple Hearts Hazy Darkness is another top example of what happens when Mod band goes all experimental as is Doctor Ben by The Direct Hits and The Heartbeats’ Forever.

By summer 1982 the original psychedelic revival had pretty much ran out the steam with most of the clubs closing and the bands splitting up or moving on. In many ways then psychedelia became just another musical strand to be plundered rather than, as Miles Over Matter might have preferred it a dawning of a new Age of Aquarius.

One of the original psychsters, Talk Talk, re-cast themselves as Duran-alikes, before re-gaining their experimental edge on the epic Spirit Of Eden. Ironically though for much of 82 and beyond rather than disappearing psychedelia somehow became very much a part of mainstream British pop music. Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Beatles cover, Dear Prudence made Top of the Pops while two band members Robert Smith (also of The Cure) teamed up with that drummer Budgie to create a very trippy album called Blue Sunshine under the moniker of The Glove.

Neither appear here though a few acts who scored bona fide top 40 hits are included including Julian Cope’s very Barrett-esque Sunspots, a highlight from his second album Fried. Kimberley Rew would score a monster hit with new band Katrina and The Waves and Walking on Sunshine. Probably not generating quite as many royalty cheques is Stomping Around The Word, a similar slice of catchy 60s pop which is included here. Then there’s The Icicle Works whose debut album hovers somewhere between the doomy Doorsy/Velvets psych of fellow Scousers Echo and the Bunnymen and the lighter dreamy pop of Mood Six. Their debut single Nirvana is on board here.

Other highlights from the first two discs include The Attractions’, sans Elvis Costello, Slow Patience, Scarlet Party’s one hit wonder the very Beatley 101 Damnatians and Wivenhoe Bells from the the kings of the 80s cassette – Martin Newell and his Cleaner From Venus.

Psych hits the garage and indie

While disc one is probably the most interesting from a historical perspective it’s disc three where the garage punkers and indie pop chancers take over that is musically the strongest. Two bands stick out. Firstly The Prisoners who concocted a minestrone of Northern Soul, American Garage Punk and Small Faces/Nice influence keyboard sounds on the excellent Reaching My Head. And then Another Splash Of Colour also marks the debut on CD of psychedelic London’s long lost greatest live act The Playn Jayn. Hopefully both of their albums will be reissued soon, until then check them out on YouTube and swoon over the mania that is the live version of In Your Eyes.

Also by the mid 80s scenester Alan McGee was creating a buzz with his clubs, gigs and of course record label Creation. Another Splash collects a few early singles from his roster the best of which is The Revolving Paint Dream’s Flowers In The Sky. There are also a few other Creation influenced acts such as The Dentists and their timeless mashup of The Byrds, The Smiths and The Leaves – Strawberries Are Growing in My Garden.

The obscurities

The great thing about the boxed set is that while there is clearly an element of nostalgia, and anyone who bought the original album will probably love having shiny crystal clear CD versions of tunes, it also houses plenty of music that’s never been available on CD and would probably even be unfamiliar to even die hard collectors from the time. Like The Onlookers whose You Know Everything is an ultra obscure, yet fabulous piece of Beatley pop music, the previously unreleased Connect from Future Daze (compilation album please!) and tracks from Freight Train and The Chicanes which will only be know by serious collectors of the Bam Caruso label. Then there is The Third Eye’s proto garage psych Pass Myself, another contender for the grooviest track on the disc.

By the mid 80s psychedelia had become a key part of indie music. Australia had gifted the world The Church and The Triffids, while the US had conjured up with the Paisley Underground bands (The Three O’Clock, Rain Parade and The Bangles) as well as the jangle meisters The DBs and Let’s Active. In the UK XTC were plotting their next adventure as their psych alter egos The Dukes of Stratosphere, while mainstream indie bands like The Smiths were channeling The Byrds and The Beatles.

Psychedelia arguably had its key moment at the end of the decade with its most significant album since the 60s arriving in the guise of the debut from The Stone Roses. Psych also played a huge role in the career path of Primal Scream and quite several of the key Britpop acts. And there’s also a good case of arguing that REM did a very sensible thing in befriending and working with Robyn Hitchcock. They took The Soft Boys sound to a much wider audience potentially saving themselves millions in legal fees.

As I said earlier Another Splash Of Colour is way more that just a historical documentation of a glorious, and some might say rather naive and short-lived period in British pop music. It’s also a treasure trove of long forgotten 45s and album cuts and is a wonderful listen from start to finish.

Obviously invest in it straight away. And if you can’t get enough of 80s psych here is a Spotify playlist of more tracks from many of the bands who feature on it. Plus a few from the bigger names and the odd act that will probably star on Another, Another Splash Of Colour.

Buy the album here.

The Orgone Box – The Lorne Park Tapes review

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lorenpark tapesIn my book no one took the music of The Beatles and conjured up something as fresh and vibrant the 90s as Rick Corcoran and his Orgone Box pals. Over the space of a couple of years he penned a series of tunes that Noel Gallagher, Jason Falkner and that chap from Cotton Mather would have traded bodies parts to have written.

The tragedy is that the band is still largely a footnote in 90s indie, perhaps because after releasing their legendary debut and its almost as good follow up, Corcoran and his band seemed to vanish.

Fortunately for us Orgone Box die hards, recent years have been kind. In 2014 Sugarbush Records gifted us the Centaur record – essentially the OB debut cleaned up, slowed down and tweaked with.

And now comes The Lorne Park Tapes a record (yep it is vinyl only for now) comprised of demos recorded on a makeshift four track in a Bournemouth flat in the early 90s. Music made in a front room on the south coast realty should not be this good, for in spite of its rough and ready nature the Lorne Park Tapes are fantastic.

Yes sonically there are limitations. Every track has an eerie echoey feel to it, and there’s an edge, and some might say scruffiness to the recordings – but that really only increases their charm.

Some of the tracks have been issued before in more realised versions, but there’s plenty of new delights for us hardcore fans. Favourites, well pretty much every track zips along with gloriously guitar, soaring vocals and harmonies and inspired chord changes. Even the tracks that pay closest homage to the Fabs – In The Right Hands and Hard For Me for could easily be Beatles For Sale out-takes – sound fresh and joyful.

But the two that have long lost pop classic stamped through their middle are Just Like a Woman Should Be, and Last Ride On The Jets both of which featured later on the second OB album Things That Happened Then. The former is a big, brooding ballad helmed by a Macc-esque bass that builds beautifully into a glorious middle eight and then a clever finale where the band go a little Led Zeppelin.

Last Ride is an explosion of pulsating guitar riffs, quirky chord changes and swooping harmonies.

The great thing about the Lorne Park Tapes is that it just works brilliantly as an album. It is utterly addictive. They are going to have to use a digital version soon as I fear the grooves on my vinyl will be worn through overplaying.

Let’s hope Rick returns to his attic to pull out some more gems shortly. There’s a few more to listen to here on this Y/T playlist including Just Like A Woman Should Be.

You can get it here

 

 

Miles Over Matter – Vagabonds of Psychedelia review

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miles1These days it is pretty easy to make an album. Cut a load of tunes in the morning, whack it up on Bandcamp at lunchtime, and by the end of the day you have gained a whole new cult following in, ooh Finland. It wasn’t always so. Before Postcard, Creation and the other renegade pioneers tore down the corporate walls (well, sort of) and established the indie labels in the early 80s, actually making and releasing an album relied largely on the whims of large global record companies.

So many bands who really ought to have gone on to great things inevitably fell between the cracks – victims of the record companies’ rather lame obsession with constantly finding the ‘next big thing.’

And a classic example of a band who never quite got to see their music spinning round at 33 RPMs are Miles Over Matter. Formed in London at the tail end of the 70s they, along with The Barracudas and few other mod type bands who swapped poppers for something a little more lysergic, pioneered what became known at the time as the new psychedelia – a genre which is soon to be celebrated on the forthcoming Cherry Red Another Splash Of Colour boxed set.

To put it in context, forming a band in thrall to the tail end of the sixties at the end of the seventies was actually a hugely brave, and some might say ludicrous thing to do. Punk’s year zero approach, even though its snarl and energy ironically was steeped in mid 60s beat and garage, meant that anything that smacked vaguely of hippiedom was about as cool as music hall.

Re-inventing psychedelia
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In an era where pop constantly eats itself chewing up bits of the past and then re-inventing for a new generation – via streaming sites – the new psych was arguably the first time (ok, second time following on from the 50s rock and roll revival of the early 70s, and the mod revival that ran in tandem with it) that a genre that consciously attempted to restate the past and drag it into a new decade emerged.

The snobby music press was rather brutal – in many ways the new psych bands were easy targets – though some of the bands, most notably Talk Talk, went on to produce music that was much more in keeping with the more synthy futurist vibe that was so in vogue.

Miles Over Matter though did have their champions, and with good reason. I never saw the band – too young, but Melody Maker scribe and future NME Editor Steve Sutherland suggested that they were an absolute riot – a blast of new wave energy, yet never afraid to push the boundaries Interstellar Overdrive style.

Up until this release the band’s sole recorded musical legacy was two tracks on the Splash of Colour album, an attempt by WEA to round up the new psych bands. The record label was two years too late, but the tracks that MOM donated were fine examples of their craft. Something’s Happening Here is in IMO the weaker of the two. Powered by a wonderfully swirly keyboard and the best use of ba baba babas for over a decade, it zips along in pleasant fashion before succumbing to very Beatley phasing. The lyrics though. “Just because the love generation blew it don’t mean we have it to,” a clarion call for a new era of flower power and peace and love was never going to endear the band to the music press at the time.

Arguably the better cut was Park My Car. Lyrically this was rather more obvious – though still something of a mystery to this small town young teen – and the melody though was pure toytown psych of the highest order, somewhere between the Electric Prunes and early incarnations of XTC. Its dreamy, effects driven and way too short guitar solo is an absolute delight.

The return – 30 years later

Sadly for MOM, Splash Of Colour didn’t quite usher in the second summer of love in the way WEA had imagined and the record company passed on the set of demos the band had recorded for them. And not long after the band split, becoming a very very brief footnote in the history of alternative 80s pop.

And that should have been the end of the story, except that a couple of years back, over 30 years on from when they were created, a series of MOM demos landed on YouTube. Those who remembered the band, were genuinely surprised and delighted, and in a way shocked at their quality. And its is these demos, which include tracks from the band’s inception and runs through to their final demos and some live recordings, which make up this disc.

miles 2

Vagabonds deserves way more of a listen that it will probably ever get. Misty eyed paisley shirted power poppers, who now tout teenage sons and daughters who are Tame Impala fans, will probably swoon over tracks. There is however more than enough on here to not only suggest that MOM could have gone on to much greater things, but also that they could actually win over a new generation of fans. Cult act in the making? Quite possibly.

The tracks recorded for WEA are a unique take on psych inevitably influenced and fueled by the time they were recorded. They really were way more than revivalists. The swirly keyboard patterns, edgy guitars really don’t sound too much like anyone else, in spite of their obvious influences Nuggets. The Beatles and Syd’s Floyd.

Highlights? Well additon to Park My Car is Love Song, which slips in with a dreamy guitar before bursting into a Nuggets area tune – reminiscent of say the Magic Mushrooms or the punky tracks of the Strawberry Alarm Clock. The edgy guitar runs are joyous.

Genius Beatles cover

My other two favourites are Dare Truth Kiss or Promise, their very own Interstellar Overdrive – I bet this was amazing live down The Clinic with the light show in full flow. Then there’s the quite superb take on The Beatles’ It’s All Too Much. Not many Beatles covers get close to the original, but this one might just have trumped it.

I Saw You There is another goodie. It is firmly rooted in the Strawberry Fields era pop psych of bands like of Tomorrow and Traffic, but it is clear that MOM had also been listening to tougher US garage pop acts like The Electric Prunes and The Blues Magoos.

You get to hear snatches of other bands that are familiar here and there, but ironically most of those bands followed later in the 80s and 90s. MOM were real psych pop pioneers. Who else in 1982 was covering Father’s Name Is Dad?

The CD comes with some entertaining sleeve notes and live tracks- which will, certainly be fascinating to anyone who saw then live.

Hopefully the Another Splash of Colour comp will encourage a few more people to invest in this rather wonderful CD. You can also hear them on Spotify and YouTube.