Modcast for 20 May 2013

Hey! Back up to two weeks in a row —seasonal depression is a cruel and merciless mistress, and even more so in Michigan, where any given year, there’s a fifty-fifty chance that the Horae will just skip Spring altogether. But I’m back, serving you up another weekly dose of freeform Mod radio from my attic.

 

The Supremes – “Reflections”
? & the Mysterians – “Hangin On a String”
Gloria Jones – “Finders Keepers”
The Untamed – “Gimmie Gimmie Some Shade”
Amy Rigby – “20 Questions”
Timebox – “Country Dan & City Lil”
The Cyrkle – “Squeeze Play”
Tyrannosaurus Rex – “Cat Black”
Joya Landis – “Angel of the Morning”
The Laughing Clowns – “Year of the Bloated Goat”
The VIP’s – “Straight Down to the Bottom”
Manuela und Drafi – “Take It Easy”
Pizzicato 5 – “Magic Twin Candle Tale”
Elton Motello – “Pipe Line”
The New Hearts – “True Love”
The Prisoners – “The Last Thing On Your Mind”

RetroFuture Pop

This is not a “real genre”, but more a Last.FM tag I’ve grown fond of using. See, Wikipedia defines Power Pop as a Pop-Rock music that takes a lead from the early-to-mid-1960s, as far as musical structure is concerned. Just about anything Mod Revival is Power Pop, and so are many things that Mod Revivalists would probably never listen to. The Cars? Power Pop. Tom Petty? Power Pop. Well, OK, I’d listen to The Cars, but then, I’m apparently not a big snob about my music.

Where I draw the line between Power Pop and RetroFuture-Pop is where Power Pop remains more guitar-driven, even when there clearly are keyboards and synthesizers, RetroFuture-Pop is giving a callback to the 1960s, but points its face forward, toward the future. Guitars and bass guitars, and even live drummers are often be employed, but the primary instrument is usually keyboards, synthesizers, and other electronic instrumentation, or if it’s not the driving instrument, it’s taking the front passenger seat; guitars are sometimes electronically processed in the studio, and so forth, the “Hammond sound” is usually an electronic keyboard set to mimic that sound. Some Power Pop bands will indulge in the odd RetroFuture Pop song, but this is typically considered a bit of a novelty or experiment for the band, and it’s never considered as something that defines their sound —the inverse is sometimes true for RetroFuture Pop bands, so the occasional “organic guitar” driven songs may creep in, but it is not a defining point in their sound.

The B-52s are probably the quintessential RetroFuture Pop band, employing not only basic musical structures from 1960s pop music and driving it through synthesizers and processed guitars, but also employing vocal harmonies of many singing groups, from Phil Spector’s well-loved girl groups, to Tamla-Motown’s men’s and women’s singing trios and quartets, to The Mamas & The Papas:

The band’s aesthetic is also famously retrofuturist. Outfits and wigs also giving a call to the mid-1960s, but sometimes reaching outlandish heights, and often bearing cuts and angles and shapes clearly taken from Atomic Age visions of the future. They’re pure Atompunk, aesthetically.

DEVO (pronounced dee-VOE, not DEE-voe) is another obvious choice to get tagged as RetroFuture Pop. Musically, especially after their first LP, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO!, they’ve been very synth-driven, and more blatantly so than The B-52s; on the other hand, the structural themes of their music are just as influenced by 1960s Pop and Rock (though just as much, they often employed unusual time signatures), and in fact, their history as a band (forming in 1972) technically pre-dates that of most of the influential punk groups that came to prominence in the late 1970s —of course, like most early US punk bands, DEVO formed and started out in the Midwest (Akron, Ohio, to be precise) rather than either coast (The Stooges -Ann Arbor, MI; The MC5 -metro-Detroit, MI; ? and the Mysterians -Bay City, MI [and the first band to ever be referred to as “punk”]; Rocket From the Tombs and The Dead Boys -Youngstown, Ohio —and that’s just everybody off the top of my head). Lacking much significant musical resemblance to punk rock, DEVO still shares a lot of the “rust belt” cultural influences that helped shape the early punk bands.

In spite of proving highly influential, DEVO’s mainstream success, Stateside, has always been limited, and probably peaked with a cameo appearance on the 1982 cult sit-com Square Pegs (set in the fictional Weemawee, Ohio); I hear from friends in Oz that they were HUGE in Australia. DEVO was a band whose lyrics, mainly written by Mark Mothersbaugh or Gerry Casale or a combination of the two, were caustic, deadpan satirical, and occasionally very pessimistic and bitter. This added to the band’s surrealist appear as the delivery and instrumental tracks for each song were straight-up poppy, more often than not —there are some exceptions, especially very early on —their cover of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” is especially stilted and robotic, as a quick example. Their fascination with kitschy visuals can also give The B-52s a bit of a run for their money.

By default, the major Japanese Shibuya-kei groups tend to get tagged as RetroFuture Pop, and how can they not? The influences of 1960s French Pop, English Baroque, Bossa-Nova, and Hammond beat is undoubtable, and always with a sort of modern focus that’s favourable of the future. This is in sharp contrast to DEVO’s bleak look of a De-Evolved future and cynical look at the present. To be fair, I don’t speak or understand Japanese, and barely make sense of French on a good day, so I’m relying heavily on other people’s translations, but it seems that P5 might be incapable of being near DEVO’s levels of cynicism.

QYPTHONE is certainly more dancefloor-driven and, looking at their discography, has more explicitly aligned themselves with the Mod scene that P5 did (though P5’s clear influences are undeniable):

Capsule is among the most electronic, by far, and their visuals ripped straight from the earliest scenes in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, all the while maintaining a very retro-influenced vision of the future:

A recent addition to this list (well, recent for me) is Saint Etienne. The GraceNote auto-tagging in WinAmp says they’re DreamPop, which Wikipedia editors trace as a descendant of late 1960s Psychedelic Folk and English Baroque, and I can see that in Saint Etienne’s music. A lot of their instrumentation is giving a callback (intentional or not) to mid-1960s pop, lounge, and English Baroque, and Sarah Cracknell’s vocals are giving a direct nod to jazz singers of the late 1950s and Tamla-Motown girl groups.

I have nearly everything listed (and then some) in with my “Mod” music because clearly the 1960s Soul and Rhythm & Blues sounds, and the late 1970s/early 80s Power Pop bands are merely a starting point for me. To explicitly mimic that sound just seems a bit too much like hosting a re-enactment than building the subculture and showing it as something rich, vibrant, alive, and not to mention timeless and relevant.

Japan is to the 21st Century what Ancient Rome was to classical antiquity

I say this as something of a Classics buff who has accumulated various Japanophile friends (thankfully no apparent weeaboes, but at least one aspiring henna gaijin). Basically, ancient Rome’s philosophy for cultural superiority was to observe what works in other cultures, adopt it, and improve on it. Rome didn’t invent aqueducts and plumbing, they simply improved on the concept to a revolutionary degree. Similarly, the (relatively) primary inventions to come out of Japan in the 20th and (so far) in the 21st Centuries have been relatively few, and frankly, I can’t name a single one. On the other hand, like Rome, Japan’s method toward cultural superiority has been to take what works in other cultures, adopt it, and improve it; Japan has actually been doing this for centuries, it’s just until fairly recently in their history, their primary contact with gaijin, foreigners, has been with China, and then Korea (and of course, there was other foreign contact with Japan, but those two are the primary contact prior to Western contact). Japan has revolutionised many inventions that were once primarily made in the United $tates.

But Japan’s tendencies to revolutionise culture is not contained to household appliances and electronic gadgetry.

The fashion subcultures of Japan, most of which are indigenous to Japan and only exist in watered-down imitations in the Western cultures, are noteworthy for attracting adults as well as teens and uni students, and this seems to stem from the rigid expectations of day-to-day Japanese life that dressing up is an acceptable outlet. Then there’s the fact that when subcultures are imported to Japan, Japanese adherents will pick up on not only the outward and “superficial” aspects of that subculture, but a lot of the spoken and unspoken philosophies and subtleties for maximum immersion. This is where we learn something very important:

Japanese Mod scene music can be a very different animal from what the Anglosphere Mod scene expects.

As I’ve said before, there is something about the current state of the Mod scene that sort of… Just misses the point. When you look at the 1958-67 scene, you see a lot of colours, a lot of new and exciting music, and a lot of new and exciting ideas and ideals. The outfits described by Colin MacInnes on his unnamed narrator of Absolute Beginners were flashy for a man of nineteen, even by today’s standards. The Op-Art fashions pioneered by bands like The Who were sort of bizarre for their day. Mod boys were evening-out their complexions with pressed powder, donning eye-liner, and lacquering their hair in place nearly a decade before Glam rock emerged as an offspring of Mod. Today, you don’t see much of that: You see a lot of second-hand clobber, a lot of browns, greys, and blues, and a lot of people who seem to pride themselves on conformity more than innovation.

Of course, that’s not to say that everybody in the early 1960s was a fashion innovator; there was no shortage of copycats (as per my research) and no shortage of people who’d bend over backwards just to prove that they just weren’t the Ace Faces who stood out amongst the rest as something to strive for.

There’s something about the Japanese genre of shibuya-kei and the artists that perform it that clearly gets it without merely reviving genres of the past due to misplaced nostalgia. Songs are clearly possessing of a high influence from the 1960s, primarily French ye-ye and modern jazz, but also clear influences in soul, rhythm & blues, and even on occasion ska that makes it unmistakably clear that this is a genre best-suited for the Mod scene, if any.

Then there are the Japanese bands that may not necessarily innovate, but simply go over the top in genre/label purity to the point that it’s almost made a 180° turn into a different genre —or, at the very least, proves its unmistakable Japaneseness. Of course, this “turn it up to eleven” quality isn’t unique to Japanese bands (the UK group Makin’ Time really seems to hit Eleven and beyond at time, in a manner similar to Les Cappuccino), but amongst Japanese Mod groups with a Western audience, this seems to happen a lot more than with Western groups.

Now, I never said that any music from the 1960s was bad, indeed, I listen to a lot of it (as the playlists from my old Modcast and DJing at Direct Hits can easily prove), but if the Mod scene was ever intended to be a retro / nostalgia party, then wouldn’t the First Gen have worn second-hand clobber from the 1940s or even 1920s? (Though I must say, the 1920s influence on Mod fashion is very apparent) Wouldn’t they have been called something other than “Mod”, which is short for “Modernist”? I enjoy vintage clothes as much as the next man, but ideally, I’d be having all my own hand-tailored —or at least be making more of my own than I am; my second-hand items are more about budget than any notion of “playing by the rules”.

[2001-06-20] More Downtempo & Covers

Well, once again, it’s been several weeks since I’ve uploaded anything to here, and while I feel like offering an explanation, I can’t really think of anything beyond “INTERNET, LET ME TELL YOU — IT IS *HARD* TO THINK OF DIFFERENT MUSIC TO PLAY EVERY WEEK!!” Especially when my audience is apparently a tiny one — some may think that makes it easier, but when I don’t have a regular influx of ideas of new stuff to play, you’re basically going to get a lot of David Bowie, Japan, Secret Affair, The Fall, English Baroque, and Power Pop with a pretty regular rotation of Pizzicato 5. Left to my own devices, I’d probably have a Mod night of just The Berlin Trilogy, and the Glory Boys, I Am Kurius Oranj, and Big Hits & Jet Lag albums — and I am dead serious.

 
2011-06-20
Mari Wilson & the Wilsations – Beat the Beat
The Monochrome Set – Lester Leaps In
Les Cappuccino – Bande a Part
Nouvelle Vague – Too Drunk to Fuck
Television Personalities – Makin’ Time
Biff Bang Pow! – There Must Be a Better Life
Pizzicato 5 – Summertime Summertime
Variety Lab – London In the Rain
Angie Bowie – I Just Wanna Have Something to Do (Mambo Mix)
Sandie Shaw – A Girl Called Johnny
Brian Auger & the Trinity w/ Julie Driscoll – Light My Fire
Flaming Stars – You Don’t Always Want What You Get
Fun Boy Three – Our Lips Are Sealed
Hollywood Mon Amour (featuring Skye) – A View To a Kill
The Smiths – Oscilate Wildly
Gene – I Say a Little Prayer

[Modcast for 2010-07-12] I’m back!

Basically, I’ve had to start using another program for the Modcast, in addition to a dozen other hectic things that have been preventing me from uploading regularly.

Since the last time I’ve uploaded, I went to the Mod MayDay special event of Direct Hits at Goodnight Gracie in Ann Arbor, and the annual Mod Chicago Our Way of Thinking weekender. Met some awesome people I hadn’t met on previous years, and I might be visiting Baltimore later this year.

I’ve also implemented a new system that will hopefully help me remember to update this thing better every week.

Here’s this week’s playlist:

 
2010-07-12
Qypthone – Modernica In the Office (audio play)
Nomoto Karia – “M.O.D.E.L. Agent”
Pizzicato 5 – Twiggy Twiggy/Twiggy vs James Bond
The Smiths – This Charming Man
Sandie Shaw – Hand In Glove
Jasmine Minks – Think
Float Up C.P. – He Loves Me (No, No, No)
Tenpole Tudor – Fashion
Mick Karn & Midge Ure – After A Fashion (extended version)
Fun Boy Three – Our Lips Are Sealed
The Coventry Automatics – Concrete Jungle
The New Hearts – City Life
Secret Affair – Somewhere In the City
The Fall – Victoria
Squeeze – Hesitation (Rool Britannia)
The Kinks – Mr Churchill Says
The Evolution Control Committee – Rebel Without A Pause (Whipped Cream Mix)

[2010-02-22] Because Some Mornings Pizzicato Five is Better Than Coffee

If you missed me this month, I apologise. I seriously contemplated putting together a Valentine’s Day music cast, but most of this month, I’ve been struggling with allergies and other tasty shit, and while I did manage to get myself out of the apartment for Saturday, 13 February for Bloody Valentine’s Day at The Elbow Room, I wound up leaving earlier than my friends because even though it’s my apartment that I’m allergic to (or more accurately, something *in* said — I have tests coming up to determine what, but I’ve still made better cleaning efforts in the meantime), allergies can be exhausting.

This week, I start on a quirky downbeat and then immediately switch tones with some upbeat poppy stuff, because I’ve discovered that while I’m feeling like absolute hell, perky upbeat music actually has a sort of placebo effect on my mood. It doesn’t make everything completely better, but it helps some and I’m able to get things done.

 
download link

2010-02-22
Dusty Springfield – The Windmills of Your Mind
Christian Death – Haloes
QYPTHONE – Monturno No 5
The Revillos – Motorbike Beat
Stereo Total – Comme Un Garcon
Jet – Nothing To Do With Us
The Plastics – Top Secret Man
Mari Wilson – Ecstasy
Style Council – A Solid Bond In Your Heart
Blondie – Dreaming
The Moderns – Got To Have Pop
The Direct Hits – Soul Shoes
The Mo-Dettes – White Mouse Disco
Flamin’ Groovies – Shgake Some Action
Giddle & Boyd – Going Steady with Peggy Moffitt
Pizzicato Five – Goodbye Baby and Amen

[2010-02-22] Because Some Mornings Pizzicato Five is Better Than Coffee

If you missed me this month, I apologise. I seriously contemplated putting together a Valentine’s Day music cast, but most of this month, I’ve been struggling with allergies and other tasty shit, and while I did manage to get myself out of the apartment for Saturday, 13 February for Bloody Valentine’s Day at The Elbow Room, I wound up leaving earlier than my friends because even though it’s my apartment that I’m allergic to (or more accurately, something *in* said — I have tests coming up to determine what, but I’ve still made better cleaning efforts in the meantime), allergies can be exhausting.

This week, I start on a quirky downbeat and then immediately switch tones with some upbeat poppy stuff, because I’ve discovered that while I’m feeling like absolute hell, perky upbeat music actually has a sort of placebo effect on my mood. It doesn’t make everything completely better, but it helps some and I’m able to get things done.

 
download link

2010-02-22
Dusty Springfield – The Windmills of Your Mind
Christian Death – Haloes
QYPTHONE – Monturno No 5
The Revillos – Motorbike Beat
Stereo Total – Comme Un Garcon
Jet – Nothing To Do With Us
The Plastics – Top Secret Man
Mari Wilson – Ecstasy
Style Council – A Solid Bond In Your Heart
Blondie – Dreaming
The Moderns – Got To Have Pop
The Direct Hits – Soul Shoes
The Mo-Dettes – White Mouse Disco
Flamin’ Groovies – Shgake Some Action
Giddle & Boyd – Going Steady with Peggy Moffitt
Pizzicato Five – Goodbye Baby and Amen

[2009-12-14] No, really! I’m not backdating this!

As much as it shames me to admit this, there isn’t really any excuse for this to be as late as it is, but it is. There are a few reasons I could use, but honestly, it just feels like a cop-out, as perfectly valid as those reasons appear on paper, were they to come from another.

I decided to do something different withthis one, and so it’s all instrumentals and minimal-voice pieces.

Also, I have no excuse for uploading 30 November’s cast again last week. I just fixed that.

 
download link

2009-12-14
Pizzicato 5 – Trailer Music
Japan – Voices Raised In Welcome, Hands Held In Prayer
Brian Eno – Here Come the Warm Jets
The Tape-beatles – Grave Implications
The Evolution Control Committee – Hurdy Gurdy Men
The Monochrome Set – The Etcetera Stroll
Style Council – Our Favourite Shop
Jean-Jacques Perrey – Soul City
Pierre Henry – Teen Tonic
Booker T & the MG’s – Mo’ Onions
Giddle & Boyd – Going Steady With Peggy Moffit
Les Cappiccino – Move Move Move
QYPTHONE – Tension Attention, Please / Modernica In the House
Pizzicato 5 – Readymade FM

ModCast Archive: 2006-07-17

And now a treat! Two days in a row! This isn’t going to happen very often, in the future, but at the time being, it’s going to be something I’m doing for the next few weeks, while I upload my archive casts and set-lists from this summer at Direct Hits.

 
download link

2006.07.17
The Tape-beatles – Grave Implications
Pizzicato Five – 20th Century Girl
Rip Rig & Panic – Storm In the Reality Aslyum
Gavin Friday & Cillian Murphy – Sand
Lee Hazelwood & Nancy Sinatra – Some Velvet Morning
Twiggy – Beautiful Dreams
Don Fardon – I’m Alive
The Flaming Hands – I Belong to Nobody
The MC5 – I Can Only Give You Everything
The Spiders – Why Don’t You Love Me?
The Chesterfield Kings – 99th Floor
The Cigarettes – Valium World
Jonathan King – Let It All Hang Out
The Revillos – Where’s the Boy for Me?

Please note that the track by “The Spiders” is by the Amerikan group, not the Japanese one. The Spiders was also the first band of the artist who would later become known as Alice Cooper; The Spiders was a rhythm & blues band that I’d compare to The Rolling Stones or The Pretty Things.