Bash On Pop – Liverpool, Stockholm, and a whole lot more!It’s been a month since Rina and I returned from IPOs Liverpool and Stockholm, and I must admit I’m still on a high from both of them. There’s nothing quite like IPO Liverpool; the bands are all top shelf, the excitement and camaraderie are palpable, and it’s The Cavern Club, for god’s sakes! Each time I walk down those steps it feels like the first time (sorry, Foreigner haters), and I always look forward to seeing all the bands, those who have previously played and our newcomers. The lineup was especially good this year, and those who I’d not seen before who most impressed (and please forgive me if you’re not mentioned here-you were all excellent…honestly!) were The Corridors (from Tel Aviv); mylittlebrother (Cumbria, UK); The Expected (Helsinki/Vantaa/Kerava, Finland); Sunshine Bloom (Birmingham); The Shudders (Swindon); The Blow Up (Paris); Escapade (Leicester); Magic Bus (Devon); The Viewers (Cornish); Joel Sarakula (London); and Miracle Glass Company (Edinburgh). Next year is our 15th year (!) at The Cavern, and I already can’t wait! IPO Stockholm was a bit more laid back than last year, but still a lot of fun. PSB is a fine venue, and the sound engineer, Edu Rodro, was great, as were the bands! Among first-times of which we were most impressed were The Beautiful Art Of Decay (Stockholm); Swedish Polarbears (Karlstad); The Why Oh Why’s (Flen); and La Fleur Fatale (Linköping), who Rina had actually seen at Spaceland in Los Angeles, but I missed that show! As enjoyable as IPO Stockholm was, the most fun I had in the city occurred the day after IPO: Monday, May 30!
I’ve been a fan of the Swedish bands Tages and Shanes since 1984, when I discovered compilation albums by each of them. Both were stalwarts of the Swedish beat scene in the ‘60s, and Tages were particular exemplars of the sound. Over the years I’d read up on both bands, finding out about their proper albums and drooling over the possibility of having them in my hands. As time went by I would see them listed on eBay and Discogs, but never wanted to pull the trigger as with rare albums like those, you never know if the grading is going to be accurate, and who wants to deal with the hassle of having to return items that aren’t in suitable condition? Some of the bands at IPO Sweden recommended shops we should check out, and the one which came up the most was Nostalgi Palatset, which was supposed to be “godhead”. I looked through their website, and they indeed had several rare Swedish LPs listed, but the prices were beyond my reach. Nevertheless, I couldn’t sleep much that Sunday night, in anticipation of several record shops which awaited my presence. At 5 AM the next morning, I got a wild hair and checked out Discogs for Tages and Shanes albums, and found one particular dealer who had several at affordable prices and in good condition, and listed his location as “Sweden”. I sent him an e-mail, saying “I’m in Stockholm for one more day, and if you live here and are willing to have me meet you and check out your LPs, I would be most grateful”. A couple of hours later he replied, saying “yes, I live here, and sure, I’d be glad to have you come by!”. I could barely contain myself, and navigated the Stockholm subway system well enough to find his stop. There I met Tobias, who drove us to his office where he had his collection and a really nice audio system. Tobias was really cool (and is now a Facebook friend), and it was great holding original Tages and Shanes LPs in my hands; after playing them I was satisfied with the condition of all of them, and Tobias was good enough to give me a package deal on the five I bought. After returning to our hotel, Rina and I ventured out to the record shops, first hitting Nostalgi Palatset. My jaw dropped to the floor; I’d never seen so many rare records in one place in my life, and not just Swedish records! I ended up finding a few more Tages and Shanes albums (which hadn’t been listed on their website and were affordable because they weren’t near mint), as well as other gems! We hit a few more shops where both Rina and I found more good stuff, and then it was off to the ABBA Museum!
We took a glorious ferry ride to the museum, which was replete with displays, many of them interactive. I sat in the “Arrival helicopter”, Rina “auditioned” for ABBA, and we took an ABBA knowledge quiz (harder than we thought!). I was pleased to find that the building also housed the Swedish Music Hall of Fame, which was excellent; their HOF membership goes back to the 1930s, and is quite large as it encompasses all sorts of genres. After we were done with the tour, we checked out the souvenir shop. Among the goods were some LPs, all by ABBA except…the only Tages album I didn’t yet have!! It must have been kismet, and although it wasn’t in the best condition, I heard it calling out to me, so I bought it (thankfully, it ended up playing much better than it looked).
As usual, since I’ve been home I’ve been busy working on all the upcoming IPO festivals (and there are a lot of ‘em: San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver-whew!), but was able to take the time to check out Charlie Faye & The Fayettes at Hotel Café on June 22. They are definitely the real deal, folks, a very attractive Austin-based trio with songs accurately rendering a classic Girl Group Sound of all shapes and sizes, and their stage act replete with dancing, hand gestures, and other appropriate gyrations, vocal and otherwise. Their backing band (all guys) was tight as well. Their self-titled album on Omnivore Records is a winner as well; “Coming Around The Bend” is suitably Spectorian, “Green Light” and “Sweet Little Messages” have a soulful, early ‘70s AM radio vibe, “Heart” is pure Angels heaven, “Eastside” and “One More Chance” have a strong Stax feel, and one could imagine Tracey Ullman doing “Delayed Reaction”. To quote another of their song titles, it’s all happening with Charlie Faye & The Fayettes!
Here are some other albums which I’ve been enjoying:
Ken Sharp-New Mourning (Jet Fighter Records): His fourth album, and first in nine years, is a deft combination of bubblepop and soulful, introspective ballads. The first three tracks, “Dynamite & Kerosene,” “Let’s Be Friends,” and “Solid Ground” are the poppiest things Sharp has released since his debut album, 1301 Highland Avenue, “Haunts Me” and “L.A. Can Be Such A Lonely Town” recall classic Todd, and the ‘80s-styled power poppy “Satellite” features guitar licks from none other than Rick Springfield! Watch out for “Mr. Know It All,” a scathing commentary on scribes like us. A palpably mood-swingy album, skillfully produced by the ubiquitous Fernando Perdomo, New Mourning is definitely one of Ken Sharp’s best!
The Explorers Club-Together (Goldstar Recordings): Long known for their reverence to Brian Wilson, on Together, these Nashville Boys (by way of Charleston, SC) keep the torch flowing, proffering a disc replete with smartly arranged, gorgeous, harmony-fueled tracks. It’s pretty clear these guys understand the nuances of The Beach Boys better than most, particularly on the title track, which early on recalls the Billy Hinsche-penned “Tell Someone You Love Them” and then morphs into something reminiscent of “It’s About Time”, from Sunflower! “Be Around” would not have been out of place on Friends or 20/20, “Perfect Day” could have been easily found on a Four Freshmen album, and “Quietly,” and “Don’t Waste Her Time” will absolutely make you swoon with their tear jerking melodies. Explorers Club mastermind Jason Brewer co-wrote Together with a little help from his friends, like Spirit Kid main man Emeen Zarookian, the recently-joined Wyatt Funderburk, and Andy Paley (who co-wrote “Don’t Waste Her Time”), and had additional help from Darian Sahanaja, Probyn Gregory and Nelson Bragg, who might be said to know a thing or two (pun intended) about Brian Wilson. File under Chris White, Chris Rainbow, Harmony Grass and any other praiseworthy practitioner of that classic harmony sound.
Ulysses-Law And Order (Black Glove Recordings): The new album by these Shindig Magazine cover boys from Bath/Bristol has definitely been worth the wait, as Law And Order relentlessly features tunes which recall early ‘70s glam, rock ‘n roll and pop, all rolled into one! With tracks like the title song, “Lady,” “Mary Jane,” “Dirty Weekend,” and “Come On This City’s Gone,” Law And Order could have been its own Junk Shoppe compilation! Occasionally the band cheekily lifts riffs and melodies from classic ‘70s tunes; it’s up to you, dear reader, to figure out which ones, and I heartily recommend you buy this album and find out, while rockin’ to the glam, baby!
The Junipers-Red Bouquet Fair (self-released on CD; Sugarbush Records on LP): Of all the artists who have attempted to re-create that classic American psychedelic soft pop sound recalling Sagittarius/The Millennium, et al…The Junipers, from Leicester, UK, understand its nuances better than anyone else, and they continue to prove this on their third album, Red Bouquet Fair. Tracks like “Follow Loretta,” “Dig Me Up”, “Burning Pages,” “Summer Queen,” and “Say Goodbye” are exemplars of the genre, and to further display their intentions, The Junipers open “Summer Queen” with the “My World Fell Down” riff. Everything is wrapped in a neat UK bow, which, despite the obvious influences, makes the album wholly original. Extremely highly recommended!
Ebbot Lundberg & The Indigo Children-For The Ages To Come (Akashic Records): There may not be any other songwriter who can write pop songs which are filled with such beautiful intensity as the former main man of Swedish luminaries The Soundtrack of Our Lives, and Ebbot Lundberg continues to do so on his new album, For The Ages To Come, with the aid of The Indigo Children (featuring Billy Cervin from the excellent pop band, Side Effects). Lundberg is a master of weaving lusty chord changes into moody backdrops, and is able to change it up in a blink of an eye several times within a song. One can’t help but be taken in by the raw, melodic “Backdrop People,” the gripping “Beneath The Winding Waterway”, the lovely Americana feel of “To Be Continued” and the absolutely stunning “Calling From Heaven”. No doubt For The Ages To Come will be one of the soundscapes of our lives in 2016!
Well, that’s all folks. Without further adieu, a bientot.