We are the mods, we are the mods, we are, we are, okay, you get the gist. Imagine Kate Nash is Doctor Who’s assistant, and they tracked back to Carnaby Street in 1963. If she dressed and performed without raising suspicion that they’re time travellers, you’ve got a general picture of the fantastic Emily Capell.
On one hand, this is fab retrospective meddling, on the other it’s lively and fresh fun, with a beehive hairdo.
There’s nothing here not to like, unless you’re a ret-con rocker and if so, I’ll see you on Brighton beach, pal. All I ask is you aim for the face, so you don’t crease my suit.
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 Condieon 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!
Fashionably late for the party, this Oxford duo’s self-titled debut EP was released on White Label Records at the beginning of the month; what can I say for an excuse? Glad to catch up though, as Skates & Wagons are well worth it.
There’s retrospective grandeur on offer here; even down to the bracketed song titles, as was common at the time, of these four diligently composed tunes of sixties-fashioned mod psych-pop. It’s as if we’d not progressed from the era of The Kinks or Small Faces, The Spencer Davis Group and The Troggs at all. And to hear this makes one wonder if it was ever progress anyway.
Yeah, the dawn of the beatnik epoch, developed from the blues and soul inspired pop of Merseybeat is formulated, tried and tested, and anyone who mimics it is dependant on the only element left to ensure it’s respectable, the quality. Skates & Wagons set such a benchmark, taking a big chunk of the influence from this aforementioned style, but with a fresh approach rather than a shoddy and aged tribute, paling by comparison to its original.
We’ve seen this youthful blast of retrospection recently with the awesome blues detonation of Little Geneva, least to suggest this is more the pop of the fab decade, it also expands to classic electric rock, and is immediately beguiling via its wonderful musings. Skates & Wagons have long established themselves on the live circuit in Oxfordshire and beyond, but the EP is something precured over time like a fine wine. Initially they started working on it as far back as 2011, and completed it earlier in 2020, a testament to that old adage, you can’t rush art.
Opening borderline glam, Just Because you Can (Doesn’t Mean you Should) is possibly the most progressive, early Genesis fashioned, and vocally there’s harmony parallel to Gabriel and Collins. It’s as if Skates & Wagons regress through time as it goes on. Spin my Wheels is decidedly backdated in sound from the opening song, mid-Kinks period of their ‘66 album, Face-to-Face.
A nuanced approach to sixties-indebted structures, all four songs drip with instant fascination, as if you may’ve heard them on a classic radio show. The third tune is perhaps the most sublime, Tender (is the Night) is affectionate acoustic guitar-led emotive mellowness, to slip into a Who rock opera unnoticed. It’s an epic, seasonal-spanning romance themed masterpiece.
Yet, the final tune, Law As I Am True plays-out with the thump of pre-psychedelia sixties pop, but it’s got the kick of how The Jam re-enacted the sound, and it’s catchy because there’s subtle hints and swirls of the imminent next move to flower-power. Together here’s four memorable tunes which would have undoubtedly sailed to the Top of the Pops during that golden era, yet somehow completely original and uniquely fitting for the now.
If we’ve seen a relived trend with scooterists and mod culture recently, these guys are a hot contender to front such a movement. Though I caution them, 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, 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!
Sixties Mod group The Searchers are really at the Melksham Assembly Hall on Thursday. Up there with Merseybeat greats, The Beatles and Gerry & The Pacemakers, pop wouldn’t be the same without them.
With only one original band member, John Mcnally and Frank Allen who joined the band in 1964, they’ll still put on a great, memorable show.
Okay, we’re talking about total record sales well in excess of 50 million here, in their heyday their immaculate pop style was sensational. The Searchers still have great appeal today to young and old.