Along with reuniting to play their first shows in 27 years, TERRY & GERRY also went into the studio to record six new tracks for the self-released Dear John EP in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of John Peel’s death. Longtime fans will be familiar with previously unrecorded T& G numbers This Town Will and Cossacks of Cadbury Road while the bluesier Johnny Who? (with electric guitar flashes from Mick Howson), Fate Unknown (fragmenting families) and Down On Animal Farm (a jab at today’s complacency and low aspirations) were all (to the best of my knowledge) written for the EP. There’s also a bonus track with the inclusion of their 1985 cover of Yeah Yeah Noh’s Bias Binding. Excellent stuff that fully recaptures the vitality and spike of their early days and, with further dates planned for 2015, hopefully just the first new addition to the catalogue.
Lining up as Dave Kusworth, Simon Cartwright, Mark Lemon and Carl Bevan, fuelled by the classic rock n roll of the Faces, Neil Young and The Stones, alongside names like The Great Outoors, The Mighty Lemon Drops and The Primitives, Birmingham’s THE RAG DOLLS were one of the leading local lights of the so called C86 guitar band movement. However, unlike others, they never got the exposure or breaks to move beyond local hero status and remain an unjustly forgotten stepping stone between Nikki Sudden’s split with The Swell Maps and Kusworth’s from The Subterranean Hawks and their coming together as The Jacobites. Indeed, several of the Rag Dolls numbers actually wound up in The Jacobites’ repertoire, both live and on record.
Those ‘missing years’ are now being restored to their rightful place in musical history courtesy of Seventeen Reecords, the label tributary of the What A Nice Way To Turn Seventeen fanzine, run by Chris Coleman and John Purcell. Very much a labour of love and a desire to give recognition where it’s due, Such A Crime is an 18 track collection of Rag Dolls recordings trawled from cassette demos, live shows, rehearsals and radio sessions. Indeed, the first eight numbers were actually laid down in March 1984 at Beacon Radio in Wolverhampton for the rock show I presented at the time.
Kicking off with the title track, Bevan’s rapid fire drumming laying down the beat, Cartwright’s nasal delivery a mix of vigour and snide, they also feature Pin Your Heart To Me, their classic song that would go on to become a Jacobites single, the stabbing Don’t Try, Lady Lady, a swaggering Stones meet Lou Reed meet The Ramones Rock ‘n’ Roll Club Dance, What You Don’t Know (You Won’t See), the cascading acid pop Lucky Smiles and, again underscoring their chiming Velvets influences, the still terrific Streets Of Gold.
Prior to my sessions, in 1982 the band had recorded in Leamington, I assume at Woodbine with John Rivers behind the desk, from which come four tracks, jangling psychedelic pop ballad Sparrows, a rocky Do Anything, a brass flavoured version of Such A Crime and Snow White, another number that would be later recorded by The Jacobites.
Three numbers were laid down in Birmingham the following year (no idea where), Nine Times Out of Ten, a snare hissing bubblegum pop Fadeaway and an earlier version of Lucky Smiles with a keyboard intro. The remaining tracks consist of a 1984 live version of Fortune and Fame and rehearsal recordings of the midtempo chugging Silken Sheets and a punky, sax accompanied Vanity Box. Remastered by John Rivers with the cover and booklet designed by former Subterranean Hawks member Dave Twist, not all of it may stand the test of time but it’s a welcome and overdue tribute to one of the too long unsung names in Birmingham’s musical heritage.
POP WILL EAT ITSELF dig into their closet for A Lick Of The Old Cassette Box, a 2 disc Cherry Red reissue of their 1994 debut album Dos Dedos Mis Amigos that now also features 12 previously unreleased tracks and demos from 1995/1996 that were intended to form the follow up. Fusing dark industrial dance and metal on the opening No Contest, it’s a fascinating look at an album that, on that, Hangman, Point Blank:Zero Teturn and 1-800 Outsider especially, aligns the band with both The Prodigy and Nine Inch Nails. Intense and claustrophobic, other titles include the slow marching space- industrial clank of I’m Gonna Get You Baby, Talent Plus Attitude Equals Dollars, Out Of Darkness Cometh Light and Big Green Head, all of which sound remarkably prescient and contemporary for recordings that are almost 20 years old.
MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, aka Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish, follow up their brilliant debut album, How Do You Plead?, with The Reconciliation. A second collection of self-penned non-ironic pastiches of classic country duets in the manner of George & Tammy, Dolly & Porter, etc, it’s due for release in October, but, to pay tribute after the recent death of George Jones, it’s preceded by the single The Gospel According To George. An admirable cheating and regrets seen through the ‘bottom of a glass’ honky tonker, complete with barroom piano and pedal steel solos, it’s paired with a live version of debut album track Going Back To Memphis from last year’s Maverick Festival. I’ve yet to hear the album, but if the lead track’s an indication, the country album of the year slot has now been taken.
This month and early April welcomes three eagerly awaited singles by bands that are all being touted as new big things. Trailing the upcoming In Love debut album, PEACE’s third offering is Follow Baby (Sony), a bass-anchored, sneery-voiced skuzzy swaggerer which again underlines their Primal Scream affections but also has a touch of Roses psychedelia (especially in its drums) and some choppy wah wah guitar funk to give it a dark sheen counterpointed by the high pitched la la la backing.
The start of April sees JAWS make their first appearance of the year with Friend Like You (Rattlepop), another narcotic vocals dose of shoegazing pop with a similar cascading keyboard sound to Surround You and some lovely fluttery guitar that may be a couple of months too soon for the summer it should patently be soundtracking. It also forms part of Milkshake, an EP collection of the band’s previous singles (Toucan Surf/Donut, Surround You/Stay In) alongside a second new track, Breeze.
The third comes from VICTORIES AT SEA with Stay Positive, an 80s dark disco synth pop sound that throws up echoes (quite literally given the production) of Ultravox, Flock of Seagulls and New Order but also tips the hat to the euphoric grandeur of Editors. An EP follows in May and should be well worth the wait.
It looks like we may be losing TOY HEARTS to America. The Birmingham swing and bluegrass family trio have been invited to move to the States where they have been declared ‘culturally important’, and while initially this is only intended to be for a few months, the response they’ve been receiving may make it a more permanent relocation.
Nice to see a huge, and well deserved pat on the back to Brum Beat and Roots And Branches favourites RED SHOES with this (belated?) plaudit.
Ocean Colour Scene release new album Painting on February 11 2013.
Here's the tracklisting and the cover!
1. We Don't Look In The Mirror / 2. Painting / 3. Goodbye Old Town / 4. Doodle Book / 5. If God Made Everyone / 6. Weekend / 7. Professor Perplex / 8. George's Tower / 9. I Don't Want To Leave England / 10. The Winning Side / 11. Mistaken Identity / 12. The Union / 13. The New Torch Song / 14. Here Comes The Dawning Day