The Regrettes Feel Your Feelings Fool! (Warner)
Bringing almost Sixties girly harmonies to the area where punk and garage overlap perhaps isn’t entirely new, but it’s rarely been done with the panache of new American band The Regrettes. Despite only being in their teens, the band have a confidence that belies their youth, a confidence powered by a tight, raw sound that immediately catches the attention, a guitar led assault that is more melodic than expected, but has the tamed anger of the best punk. Powerful drums drive the songs along, but the guitar controls the sound, letting loose when the moment calls for it.
There’s something of The Damned about them in places, with raw enthusiasm boiling over. Lyrically, the band have no interest in politics or social constructs, they’re too busy taking an honest and open look at life as a teenager, coming to terms with that awkward period in life, while all the time saying ‘take me as I am, if you don’t like it then do one’. Wasn’t that last point what punk was always about?
The Vibrators The Epic Years (Anagram)
There’s this idea that punk’s early days were all about fast, three chords and that’s your lot music. A lot of it was certainly like that, but underneath that was another layer of bands who’d dabbled in the ‘pub-rock’ sound. Some were just cashing in, but others understood what the scene was about. And some fell into the gap between. Bands like The Vibrators.
The reissued albums in this box set are a little bit like that. The studio material isn’t produced particularly sympathetically, but is definitely ‘punk of its time’. The Peel Sessions show a little more edge than these, the four tracks from an early 1977 Old Grey Whistle Test more so, but the final disc of the four in this box set is the hidden gem. Catching them at The Marquee Club in July of the same year, it’s a 19 track live set that is 100% punk. Mastered from the original sound deck tracks, this is as authentic as it gets.
A true blast from the past.
Who the Hell Is Frank Wilson? Pete McKenna (Old Dog Books)
Pete McKenna previously introduced anti-hero, ambitious gangster and rare soul record obsessed character Ronnie Hardman in his novel In The Blood. Who The Hell Is Frank Wilson? is set in 1982, opening with the real life discovery of Roberto Calvi’s lifeless body hanging in London, coinciding with the destruction of Wigan Casino by a mysterious fire.
Rewinding to some weeks earlier, the story brings us back to Ronnie Hardman plus his sidekick and enforcer Glaswegian skinhead Ray, along with aspiring northern soul DJ Epic, drug dealer G-Man and London based dancer Nicky along with a plethora of other larger than life characters.
A copy of Frank Wilson’s Holy Grail-like one release on US Soul, Do I Love You, is at the centre of this gripping cult fiction story. With Wigan Casino all-nighters at the epicentre of the golden era of northern soul, the sights, sounds and soulies of the Station road venue are depicted perfectly. Add to the story skulldggery, scooters and substances, and Mckenna’s book has all the makings of a cult classic.
Weekend Dancer Talcott Levy (Old Dog Books)
Set in 1984, at the time of the second wave of the Mod revival, Weekend Dancer crams in a frantic 48 hour period, crisscrossing London. The central character, who is a young Mod at the cusp of transitioning from teens to twenties, is of Jewish stock, a religious upbringing which weaves in and out of the many facets of his long weekend. Encountering elements of extreme political views from opposite ends of the spectrum, tribal youth cult interactions, exchanges, altercations involving fellow Mods and the police among others, drive Weekend Dancer along at a helter skelter pace.
Written from the first person perspective, our nameless hero is on a quest to finally get himself into a relationship with lifelong female friend Tina. His exploits in clubs, bars cafes and the like, in equal parts good, bad and ugly, combine to make a frenetically paced, captivating cult fictional tale. Set to a backdrop of fashions, scooters and sounds of the mid-80s era, Weekend Dancer is laden with intricate details that give the novel a real vibrancy. It captures the spirit of the mid-80s from a Mod perspective too.
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