If I’d one criticism of Britpop, during its heyday, least that which the pop charts threw at us, was, in an era of progressing technological electronica, embedded deep in my psyche, Britpop, to me felt regressive. I argued at the time, if The Beatles were still together, in their prime, they’d be producing techno or drum n bass, for they were trailblazing, innovative and progressive. Whereas, picking on Oasis, particularly, being they seemed to strive to be a Beatles tribute as far as I could see, were relapsing to a previous generation.
Then the crossover crossed back over. If waning was a heady dawn of the nineties where rock fused electronica on the Madchester scene, towards the end of the decade The Prodigy were advancing with an almost punk slant, and Noel Gallagher was lending his vocals to the Chemical Brothers. To pick the era apart now is futile, no one remembers what the fuck was going on most of the time!
Let’s agree to disagree, put it in the past and note today, retrospection is big business, and there’s nothing wrong with songs which hark back to the sixties, for it was pioneering but more importantly, divine and inspiring. Particularly when, rather than regenerating cover songs, but acting as a base of inspiration. We see a lot of this; from the sixty’s British blues scene to bubble-gum pop, but perhaps not produced with as much passion as Skates & Wagons.
They sent me a link to their album, Path of Condie on Boxing Day, so apologies it was put on the backburner but I had Scrabble tiles to lay and Quality Street to puke. The EP I reviewed previously appears to be taken down, and I’m unsure why. The album, is akin to all I mentioned about the EP, only more so. If regenerating Britpop is tiresome and monotonous to you, you need to check this Oxford duo, because they manage it with the precision, innovation and splendour of classic pop-rock and blues of that sixties period, with bells on.
I mean sure, it opens with an interesting approach, Chevron Waltz proves this is going to be no everyday indie-Britpop ride, it is indeed as the name suggests, a waltz. If we’re going to revel in compassions, I’ll cite The Kinks or Small Faces, The Spencer Davis Group, The Troggs, but predominantly the Beatles, more than Oasis. Plus, we’d need to break it down with the fab-four’s individual preferences. Opening then is experimental, merging traditional styles of music is certainly McCartney, yet the majority, like Indian Summer rolls smooth, like the later Beatles, Sane Again is anthemically mellowed; very George Harrison.
But this is an album which builds progressively, just like the sixties did. The earlier tunes, initiate sixties pop, and sit at radio-friendly three-to-four-minute timings. Mr Wake Up, for example, explains how it’s going to roll for the time being, beat-based shards of classic pop-rock. But things liven up at Conversation with God, the walt reprise towards the end nuances the album is progressing the entire decade and we’re midway. Waste of the Sky is subtly psychedelia, like the opening to the beatnik period.
It’s this equidistant section where Skates and Wagons really shine, it’s as if we didn’t need the 1980s, we were fine where we were. Catchy tracks like The Man Who Never Sleeps and All the Love mirror the advancing changes of the middle of the decade, and bring us in line with classic seventies rock bands like Genesis and ELO.
It leaves you dripping for the concentrated, lengthier compositions the trend which followed via Floyd and Hendrix et all, and Skates and Wagons deliver. As Path of Condie develops it builds to more ending with a beautiful eight-minute composition, Yesterday’s Love. It’s beguiling and timeless splendour, catchy as pop, definitive as classic rock.
If we’ve seen a relived trend with scooterists and mod culture recently, these guys are a hot contender to front such a movement, as opposed to a Britpop throwback band going through archaic motions. Though there’s often a dispelling, or more, overlooked aspect with the current trend, in the interesting and natural progress to the late-sixties beatnik and flower-power movements; scooterists don’t go for that, and while there’s nothing so “way-out” as Zappa on offer through Skates & Wagons, it does reflect those initial, optimistic changes of the mid-sixties. And in this notion, is what divides the duo from the bulk standard; yeah, fab, love it!
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