maandag 1 maart 2021

Southern Lights. Holy Monitor

There are days that I hear a new psychedelic rock album for the first time and it blows my mind, like psychedelic rock albums should. Southern Lights by Athens, Greece, based band Holy Monitor does. Everything on this album sounds instantly familiar. As it all falls exactly in the right places, the album is a joy to listen to, but above all, plain and simply put, good.

So, do you need to know more? Of course not, go out and listen to it, buy it and spread the word. Do I like to write a little more about Southern Lights? Of course I do.

Let's start with the band itself. Holy Monitors is a five piece band that started as a studio project for two, guitarists Stefanos Mitsis and George Nikas, also the singer. After releasing two EPs the band was brought together. Alex Bolpasis (bass), Vangelis Mitsis (keyboards) and Dimitris Doumouliakas (drums) joined and started to perform together live. Together they recorded and released two albums, 'Holy Monitor' in 2017 and 'II' in 2018, to be followed by an EP in 2020, 'This Desert Land'. Southern Lights is the band's third full length album; and my first.

My attention was caught immediately when the band opened with an elaborate instrumental intro to 'River'. A 6.04 minutes long song that can easily hold a long, interesting intro. From a vague soundscapelike begin a huge guitar riff emerges, the band including, a warm Hammond organ, kicks in before an even larger riff joins the first one that is moved slightly to the background. Without a tracklist, it is easy to think that there is a short instrumental song that opens the album and then a second song starts, with a new intro, in no way smaller that the first but slower and more thoughtful, contemplative. The singing that finally starts is trippy, subdued and totally befitting the music. It's very easy to imagine fluid projections behind the band.

With an objective ear I hear everything from The Black Angels to Kula Shaker and PAUW in the music. Not for nothing some of my favourite bands in this genre of rock music. Holy Monitor easily slips into this category when 'River' returns to the speed and intensity of the intro sequence once more.

 Photo: Takis Madray
Next up is single 'Naked In The Rain' that was lauded in a single round-up recently. The wah-wah pedal is used masterly. Again I notice that one trick on the guitar is not enough for this band. There's always a second or third melody to be found around or beyond the original idea. Although 'Naked In The Rain' is a fairly straightforward song, as a whole it has that power and intensity that makes listening to psychedelic rock of the right kind so interesting. Including a great organ solo.

Throughout the album Holy Monitor keeps surprising. There's a masterly playful use of dynamics in 'The Sky Is Falling Down'. Where all drops away for a totally subdued sound to emerge from the silence, making my skin crawl from musical delight. Somehow the song reminds me of Golden Earring's 1971 hitsingle 'She Flies On Strange Wings'. (For Greek readers, check the song out on Spotify!) On the other hand there is the far lighter, almost poppy 'Bell', where the band manages to write what could have been a hit in another time. It tips the hits of Kula Shaker from the mid 90s like 'Govinda' and 'Tattva' easily. Faint traces of eastern music daubed in psychedelic sounds. I like the way Holy Monitor manoeuvres with ease between harder sequences. 'The Sky Is Falling Down' e.g. holds elements of classic rock that merge with the psychedelic sounds and the lighter, more evidently trippy parts. It results in an album that is more than just interesting and nice. This band ought to be able to blow minds from the stage with its intense songs like 'Southern Lights' and 'River' and mesmerise the audience with several others. Even the underwater, trippy instrumental 'Hourglass' is simply fine.

With 'Ocean Trail' the band repeats itself for the first time perhaps, but listen to how strong the guitar riffs and the long-held Hammond chords are. Kula Shaker returns as a Greek reincarnation. Let it, when it is this good. The albums ends with the much more light-hearted 'Under The Sea' with a wobbly guitar and a 60s solo. A psychedelic ballad to close an album that is mostly like a psychedelic storm gives an opportunity to catch my breath before I emerge myself in the opening riffs of 'River' once again. Southern Lights is that kind of album alright.

Until I was introduced to 'Naked In The Rain', I had never heard of Holy Monitor. A few weeks later Southern Lights can be heard in my home regularly. Good rock music can come from all over the world. The difficult part is to get acquainted with it. Running a blog on music certainly helps here. Because missing out on a great song like 'The Sky Is Falling Down' would be such a miss.

Yes, the music on Southern Lights is totally anachronistic. It has nothing to do with what I hear youths play these days (or better see play on a screen). For me it is like as if an angel is peeing on my tongue. Holy Monitor has made one of the great neo-psychedelic albums of the last ten years.

Wo.

You can listen to and buy Southern Lights here:

https://holymonitor.bandcamp.com/


or listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g

zondag 28 februari 2021

The Bends. Rosie Carney

Je moet het maar durven om Radiohead klassieker The Bends integraal te coveren. Rosie Carney durft het en pakt je volledig in met prachtig dromerige klanken en haar geweldige stem.

Het lijkt op voorhand een project dat alleen maar kan mislukken, maar wat is Rosie Carney’s versie van The Bends van Radiohead mooi. De songs zijn natuurlijk fantastisch, maar probeer hier maar eens lome en dromerige indie-folk van te maken. Rosie Carney probeert het en slaagt wat mij betreft met vlag en wimpel. De songs van klassieker The Bends worden stuk voor stuk Rosie Carney songs. Het is verdienste van de wonderschone instrumentatie op het album, waarin akoestische klanken en elektronica fraai samenvloeien, maar het is uiteindelijk vooral de geweldige stem van de Ierse singer-songwriter die je in katzwijm achter laat. Keer op keer. Rosie Carney onderstreept haar talent nog maar eens en doet dat op zeer indrukwekkende wijze.

Rosie Carney debuteerde aan het begin van 2019 bijzonder knap met het wonderschone Bare, waarop de jonge Ierse singer-songwriter afrekende met een aantal persoonlijke demonen uit het verleden. Het leverde een zeer persoonlijk en intiem album op, dat in de maanden die volgden alleen maar mooier en indringender werd. 

Het deed zeer uitzien naar het tweede album van de Ierse singer-songwriter. Dat tweede album is deze week verschenen, al zal de tijd moeten leren of The Bends inderdaad het tweede reguliere album is van Rosie Carney of een mooi tussendoortje. 

Bij The Bends moest ik meteen denken aan het album van Radiohead, dat in 1995 verscheen. Het is het album dat de Britse band op de kaart zette, maar het is ook een relatief toegankelijk album, zeker voor Radiohead begrippen. The Bends is mijn favoriete Radiohead album en het is kennelijk ook het favoriete Radiohead album van Rosie Carney, die overigens pas twee jaar na de release van The Bends werd geboren. 

Op The Bends voert Rosie Carney het geweldige album van Radiohead integraal uit, wat best gewaagd mag worden genoemd. The Bends is zo’n album waar je eigenlijk maar beter af kan blijven en het is bovendien een album dat vrij ver lijkt verwijderd van de muziek die Rosie Carney normaal gesproken maakt. 

Er zullen ongetwijfeld een hoop muziekliefhebbers in het algemeen en Radiohead fans in het bijzonder zijn die helemaal niets moeten hebben van de versie van Rosie Carney of die er zelfs het etiket heiligschennis op plakken, maar persoonlijk ben ik zeer gecharmeerd van deze versie van The Bends. 

Rosie Carney maakt op The Bends haar eigen songs van de originelen van Radiohead. Dit doet de Ierse muzikante door te kiezen voor een wat lome of zelfs dromerige instrumentatie waarin akoestische instrumenten zorgen voor de basis, waarna wolken elektronica en strijkers de dromerige sfeer nog wat verder versterken. 

De instrumentatie klinkt flink anders dan die van Radiohead en is ontdaan van alle scherpe kantjes en met haar stem maakt Rosie Carney het verschil tussen haar versie van The Bends en die van Radiohead nog een stuk groter. De instrumentatie is te karakteriseren als loom, dromerig en sober en dat gaat ook op voor de zang van Rosie Carney, die voor het grootste deel fluisterzacht is. 

Ik ken de originelen van Radiohead heel goed, wat het meestal lastig maakt om van covers te genieten, maar de covers van Rosie Carney hadden me onmiddellijk te pakken. De Ierse singer-songwriter heeft het geluid van haar zo mooie debuut Bare op de versies van Radiohead geplakt en maakt er met haar bijzonder mooie stem definitief haar eigen songs van. 

Het zijn songs vol bezwering, die wat mij betreft recht doen aan de originelen. Rosie Carney nam haar versie van The Bends op in haar slaapkamer, wat het dromerige karakter van het album nog wat verder versterkt. Tussendoortje of niet, wat mij betreft maakt Rosie Carney de belofte van haar zo geweldige debuut meer dan waar. 

De Ierse singer-songwriter was naar verluidt vooral zenuwachtig over haar versie van High & Dry, maar het is wat mij betreft vier minuten kippenvel. En dat geldt uiteindelijk voor veel meer songs op deze zeer geslaagde remake van een klassieker. Petje af.

Erwin Zijleman

 

Luister naar onze Spotify Playlist om uit te vinden waar we over schrijven:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g

 

zaterdag 27 februari 2021

WoNo Magazine 20 Years

It would have been nice to be able to write:"It was twenty years ago today", but unfortunately we do not know the exact date of publication. It is a fact that somewhere this month it was 20 years ago that Wo. (Wout de Natris) and .No (Wino Penris) released the first issue of WoNo Magazine. At the time we were colleagues at the Dutch regulator for post and telecommunication called OPTA. Management had decided that there was to be a magazine for and by employees and we had suggested to dedicate one page in the by-monthly or quarterly issue, I can't remember, to music and that we would fill it.

We not only got a negative response from the editorial board, but, as often happens, also received the messages below the one replying to our suggestion, where the board ridiculed our suggestion. "However could they think that such a topic would ever get a page in 'Optater'". Reading the response, we decided to start our own magazine, and penned the issue to the last page within days and distributed it among all our colleagues with the invitation to fill the next one themselves: "for and by our readers". Whatever happened to Optater, WoNo Magazine outlived it for many a year. It stopped after nearly 16 years late in 2016. The blog passed its ninth birthday without a sound two weeks ago.

The magazine grew and grew, colleagues brought in friends, family and former colleagues, who became members and with the passing of time the magazine reached a few hundreds of people, several of whom started writing themselves, not seldom coerced by the "evil eye" of the sometimes feared editor Wo. Fear and loathing in The Hague. Despite becoming, over time, a yearly item, the magazine got into its 16th year before the plug was pulled. By then it had outlived itself. The blog is still there. Incidentally you can still find former colleagues writing and a former colleague of a former colleague, Erwin, is a consistent contributor, while HareD or Edwin writes on every live show he goes to (hence his silence the past twelve months).

Twenty years. It is a shocking. On the one hand it shows the love for music and the fun to write personal opinions about music. On the other hand it is shocking to notice the passing of time. When we started in 2001 we were no longer young and today we certainly are not young by a long shot. What hasn't changed is the love and fascination for music. .No makes that monthly utterly intriguing radio program called 'Kairos' on Concertzender, while I, Wo., chaise every young band with guitars combined with great melodies and can still get thrilled by new music that I (am invited to) get to know.

Because of the blog I have got to know many artists personally. I, until Corona got to us all, was able to organise in-home shows for friends by artists that I started to know. It is a privilege and a thrill to be able to see music played in such an intimate setting, something our friends will certainly underscore. To get to know artists, is one of the privileges that came with the blog. One I never foresaw when I started. Yes, artists and record labels from all over the world send me music for years already and through this I have gotten to know artists that I, most likely, would never have gotten to know otherwise. This blog has enriched my life in several ways. But, the fun of listening to fantastic music and to be able to express my personal feelings, intuitions, associations and thoughts tied to that music, is the fun of running this blog. Hopefully I can continue doing this for another ?? years to come.

And the WoNo logo you see at the top? That was designed by my incredibly creative niece Tineke. It was turned into a t-shirt as well. If I remember correctly there are or were five of them in this world. This week mine was at the top of the heap. When I put it one, I noticed that the print had started to fray after 15 years or so. Decay, aarrghh! But okay, time passes.

And that first issue from February 2001, does it still exist? Not in a digital form, as all OPTA's non-essential records were deleted after the merger into ACM. There was however, at least, one physical copy that survived. We scanned it for you. Below is the link to that very first WoNo Magazine. It's in Dutch, but even for our foreign friends, it will be fun to find out what it looked like all those years ago. Among the articles is one on my favourite Spanish band Jarabe de Palo, whose singer Pau Donés died last year at the age of 54. The passing of time alright.

For all following the blog and all those who have contributed in filling the magazine for all those years, thank you! It was great fun. In our own way, let's stay forever young! Onwards to 10 years of WoNoBlog. Let's take it from there and see where it can go. Only 11.5 months to go from today.

Wo.

You find the first WoNo Magazine here:

https://www.winopenris.nl/wono/WoNo%20nr%201.pdf

 

Listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g

 

vrijdag 26 februari 2021

George Kooymans, Golden Earring(s). A conversation for three

When on Friday 5 February George Kooymans, gitarist, co-vocalist and songwriter of Golden Earring (and Vreemde Kostgangers) announced to be too ill to ever perform again and later that same day singer Barry Hay announced the end of the band, as this a one-for-all, all-for-one band relationship. An unexpected end came to one of the longest lasting rock bands in history. At the age of 13 and 15 in 1961 George Kooymans and Rinus Gerritsen started a band that would become Golden Earrings and from late 1969 Golden Earring, because that would fit better in the U.S. after the band toured there for the first time. The end came without being able to choose a goodbye, most likely due to corona/covid-19, as in any other scenario some kind of goodbye could have been planned. Now it is simply totally uncertain and a horrible disease like ALS is extremely progressive.

Golden Earring outside of The Netherlands is a band mostly, perhaps exclusively known for its 1973 hit 'Radar Love'. This undersells the band in a tremendous way, as it has a string of incredibly strong hit songs, spanning decades. Even the last single, released in 2019, 'Say When', is still more than just passable. Below a digital conversation takes place in which Wout is able to share his favourite Golden Earring(s) singles with Gary and Mark (and all readers of course), while they take a look at other bands as well.

As a small aside. In the second edition of WoNo Magazine in the early spring of 2001, Wo. wrote an article called "Everyone has his own Golden Earring". Even 20 years ago the band spanned such an era that many generations have had their own favourites, starting with teenagers in the mid 60, etc.

Wout, 5 February:

This morning NL woke up to a shock to its musical heritage. There are bands that exist for longer than I can remember, in the almost original line up. Every once in a while, I can't help thinking: Who will be the first to fall. In the case of Golden Earring we know today. It is songwriter, guitarist, singer George Kooymans. He made it known that he is ill and will not recover in a way ever to perform again. What his ailment is, was not made known, but it sounds ominous. It sounds more like a neural or muscle disease "will not recover allowing", but could be worse and shorter. I do not know.

The Earring is an institute over here. In action since 1961 with two of the then five still present and the current line-up, minus two short lived additions in the 1970s, since 1970. An incredible number of hits spanning several decades to its name.

I saw Kooymans perform, a week before the country went into lockdown in March 2020. Not with Golden Earring but with Vreemde Kostgangers (Strange Boarders), consisting of Boudewijn de Groot, Henny Vrienten and Kooymans, writing in Dutch, which were Kooymans' first songs in the Dutch language. Compared to the other two I noticed he looked old, stooped. De Groot had announced his farewell from the stage the week before this show. He couldn't stand the pre-performance nerves he had any more. The tour was cancelled like all else was and De Groot promised to postpone his retirement until after the Covid. Now it turns out that it was his goodbye anyway, as another of the trio will not be able to perform any more.

When interested, let's start a conversation on the Golden Earring(s). This gives me the opportunity to point you to my favourite Earring songs, beside the worldwide popular song 'Radar Love', which btw made it to the list of 10 "new" songs slated for a Sweetwood rendition, if we are ever allowed to get together again that is.

I have heard 'Radar Love' played on three continents so far. That is a rare feat for a Dutch rock band, unlike the dance acts of this century.

Gary, 5 February:

Sad new indeed Wout!

Golden Earring’s Radar Love was a favourite on radio playlists since the 1970s and is even heard now and again on BBC Radio 2 even today! It shouldn’t be forgotten that Golden Earring toured with Hendrix, Zeppelin and King Crimson! Also worth noting that English singer Barry Hay joined in 1967 and I understand is still the band today? Wout, do you have their last album 'Tits ’N' Ass’ (2012 - a rather Spinal Tap title if I have ever heard one?) as I understand that made No1 in the NL? Many a time have I played air guitar in rock pubs over the years, although I have to be careful and very drunk to do that kind of thing now… 🤣

I note that the Thijs van Leer variant of Focus is still going strong and (intend) to tour the UK again later this year!

But what about other Dutch bands like Picture and Shocking Blue?

Mark, 6 February:

Shocking Blue: the adorable lead singer Mariska passed away in 2006 with cancer and we eulogised the death also of the bassist Klaasje van der Wal in one of our emails three years ago. The original drummer died in the late 1990s so the only survivor of the original line-up is the guitarist Robbie van Leeuwen. He wrote Venus and most of the other original songs they recorded. I've got Bananarama's cover of Venus but I still haven't got round to getting a copy of the original. Amazingly Nirvana chose one of his SB songs, Love Buzz, as their debut single and it was also included on Bleach. 

I hadn't heard of Picture - did they make much of an impression in the UK? - so I had to look them up.  A lot of line-up changes over the years but still doing their thing according to wikiheavypedia - and popular with metal fans here in Japan apparently. I wonder if Wout is banging his head as he reads this.
 
Mark, 8 February:
That is sad news about George Kooymans. You may have forgotten the email I wrote at the time last year when I bought the RSD limited edition of Radar Love. It's a superb piece of rock'n'roll but for me it also brings back memories of my time working in Rotterdam and Schiedam in the mid-70s when somebody I knew then had a copy which I recorded on a cassette.
 
Wout, 8 February:
I certainly do. Funny thing is, that I may own over 30, perhaps even over 40 Golden Earring(s) singles but not Radar Love and neither the band's first #1 single in 1968, 'Dong-Dong-Di-Ki-Di-Ki-Dong', a song the band hated so much later that it was never played live. How many bands can afford not to play its first number one hit? Not that many is my guess. I simply never run into them second hand. I still have a few to go though, including some very nice ones, like 'I've Just Lost Somebody'.

Later that fateful Friday Barry Hay, the singer, announced that the band stops as well. The four members had a long-standing agreement that it was together or nothing. Kooymans announced later that Friday it is ALS he's suffering from, so my hunch was correct. Also, he indicated that there was nothing left to say. In other words, please leave me alone.

Golden Earring, to me, was a great singles band. I never gave much about its albums. Not from the 60s, 70s or later. That makes it noteworthy, Gary, that I did like 'Tits 'n Ass', from 2012. I never bought it, but listened to it regularly at the time. Albums that I do like are 'To The Hilt' and 'Against The Grain', albums that in general are not scored well.

Where singles are concerned, the band has a near endless string of hits, that should have made it far more famous abroad than it did. I do have the impression the band always followed international trends until it settled into its own sound later into its career. From U.K. pop in the mid 60s, to psychedelia in 1967 and a mini opera late in 1968. From 1970 onwards only the band became a (classic) rock band, culminating in its worldwide hit Radar Love and later 'Twilight Zone and 'When The Lady Smiles'.

For all people not Dutch I'd recommend listening to the following songs.

The two early pop songs 'Please Go' and 'That Day'.
Psychedelia: 'Sound of the Screaming Day' (the first with Barry Hay as singer) and 'I've Just Lost Somebody (the last lyric Rinus Gerritsen wrote for the band).
The horrible pop #1: Dong-Dong-Di-Ki-Di-Ki-Dong (just so you know)
The mini opera: 'Just a Little Bit of Peace in my Heart' (!!!!!!!!!!)
1969 ballad: Another 45 Miles
Rock: Back Home (first single with Cesar Zuijderwijk), Holy Holy Life (my first GE single), She Flies on Strange Wings (!!!!!!), Ce Soir, Sleepwalking, Bombay, Weekend Love.
1980s: Twilight Zone, When the Lady Smiles, Quiet Eyes
1990s: Going to the Run (another ultimate ballad !!!!!)

In the mid 90s the band got a new leash on life thanks to the unplugged rage. Three albums that all sold well, the first turned out to become the best of its whole career and it allowed the band to play unplugged for older fans in theatres next to the outdoor shows. It started a movement for all other artists over here as well, as people come in droves in that setting. I went to one of these shows and it was great fun.

The last Earring show, as it turns out, was late in 2019. They had a hard time selling out Ahoy in Rotterdam. With a little help from last minute tv talkshow appearances they managed to.

As I already wrote, I saw Kooymans on March 5 2020, a few days before the lockdown with no inclination at all how legendary in hindsight that show would become.

And Gary, as to your question on Dutch bands, there isn't a single band with the standing of Golden Earring in The Netherlands. All others folded at some point. Shocking Blue in the mid 70s, when the big hits had already stopped. Robbie van Leeuwen, who before Shocking Blue wrote the hits for The Motions, started another band, Galaxy Lin, that scored a few minor hits before he retired to his mansion or castle in Luxemburg. He totally remained out of view in his retirement for decades. (The others started to perform under the name of Shocking Blue for a while at greatest hits shows.) Until 2019. A midweek tv show host decided to put a spotlight on Shocking Blue with a cover of one of its songs by  a modern artist once a week. At the start he had Robbie van Leeuwen in the studio, "for the first and the last time", as he said. It didn't do much as a revival. This is the past and every once in a while one if the songs may come by on the radio.

For his most famous song, the one you can hear all over the world, 'Venus', Van Leeuwen lifted its two main riffs from The Big 3's 'The Banjo Song'. The fact that song is an alternate arrangement of 'Oh, Susannah', may explain why the authors of 'The Banjo Song' arrangement never sued in court. For the rest 'Venus' is a perfect pop single of course, although I always liked 'Send Me A Postcard' so much more. (The 'Venus' story is not unlike Jimi Hendrix nicking the 'Hey Joe' arrangement.)

Picture? I have never even heard of the band. I truly have no clue.

Where albums were concerned, I never bought a lot from Dutch bands at the time, I never thought them to be good enough. Singles, yes, albums incidentally. That changed in recent years. Currently we have a host of young alternative rock bands that are able to take on the world, if they knew how to. Perhaps the Dutch bureau for foreign investments has to create some kind of awareness program.

Due to our conversations, I did buy the first two Focus albums, two by Earth & Fire, whose first single, 'Seasons' was penned by .... George Kooymans, and three Alquin albums, one left to go. You could try out Brainbox, with Jan Akkerman before Focus, with the fantastic single 'Down Man' or the sympho jazzy Solution, 'It's Only Just Begun'. 'Hair', yes from the musical, by Zen is my absolute favourite rock single from NL. Finally, listen to "Prikkebeen' by Boudewijn de Groot. The arrangement of that song is fabulous.

To come back to Golden Earring. That band was so much more than just 'Radar Love'. Try out a few of my tips and see what you find there.
 
Mark, 8 February
:
Many thanks for all the Golden Earring info as I'm certainly keen to add a couple of more singles to my collection especially if they thunder along like Radar Love. I always feel that if I have just the one record by an artist, it is not doing fair justice to their contribution to music - and it is usually interesting to play back to back records by the same artist. I'm grateful to know, though, that I need not risk going into my favourite record shop in Soho (Sister Ray on Berwick Street ) and asking if they've got a decent copy of Dong-Dong-Di-Ki-Di-Ki-Dong. They'd probably say I was in the wrong shop and direct me round the corner to Ann Summers on Wardour Street.

Focus yes of course but we mustn't forget Alquin: remember you strongly urged me - in Paris I think*? - to buy that rather scruffy but cheap copy of Nobody Can Wait, the l.p. with the great surreal cover. I need to replace that with a copy in concourse condition (as they say in the world of classic cars).

Your reference to "The Big 3" threw me at first because I thought I knew the entire discography (it's not that long actually) of the Merseybeat band of that name - "The Big Three" (sic) - who were rated on the local Liverpool club circuit as serious rivals to The Beatles at one point. Then I looked up The Banjo Song and found the info on a contemporary folk trio including (Mama) Cass Elliott and Tim Rose. Neither outfit survived long enough it seems to sue each other with their prior claims to the name. 

The "big three" in Japan you might say were three guys who crested the wave of early 1980s electronica as contemporaries of Kraftwerk. One member later acted alongside David Bowie in a war film that you may recall with a memorable soundtrack that he composed. I came across their eye catching first album for sale in a Japanese coffee shop a few days ago.

In perfect condition with the customary "obi strip" and Japanese lyric insert, I couldn't resist it at 2,500 yen (though the coffee wasn't so great actually!). The Yellow Magic Orchestra were a rare case of a Japanese band making it "Big in Europe" (!) and I expect they must have played in Holland on one of their tours. The YMO keyboardist and soundtrack composer (The Last Emperor, The Revenant and of course the haunting piano melody of Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence),  Ryuichi Sakamoto is now enduring cancer treatment, as described in a recent, very moving documentary film about his life, [goog_447644119] Coda , which I recommend highly.
 
(* No, Mark, in my former hometown Leiden)
 
Cesar, Rinus, Barry, George
Gary, 8 February:
That is sad that Kooymans is suffering from ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease which is a progressive nervous system illness that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control) as for a musician it will rob you of one of the most important part of your life?

As for not performing Dong-Dong-Di-Ki-Di-Ki-Dong, The Sweet had a similar aversion and approach to not playing their first hits ‘Co-Co’, ‘Little Willy’ and ‘Wig-Wam Bam’ although a lot of that may have been down to a dispute with songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman? It was obvious that The Sweet and Golden Earring both considered themselves serious rock musicians rather than ‘Pop’…. I am therefore not surprised that Barry Hay took an ethical/moral decision to announce the end of the band.

I will defiantly look into your recommendations!
 

Wout, 8 February:

Yes, Gary, I can imagine Sweet no longer playing 'Coco', 'Poppa Joe' and 'Little Willy'. Wig-Wam-Bam though was the switch to the music that defined the glam Sweet. Meaning in the Netherlands, Sweet ignored two number one hits, the first was Funny, Funny, the second Poppa Joe. Topping the Earring by one #1 hit not played. The third and final #1 was Blockbuster.

Where Venus is concerned, the song became a hit three times, once as Shocking Blue (twice in NL after the song was re-released after it had peaked in the US charts, both times peaking at #3), then as a part of the first Stars on 45 single and finally Bananarama. In the U.S. all three versions topped the charts. Venus is the only song able to state this. So now you know why Robbie van Leeuwen was able to retire to his chateau in Luxemburg.

The Banjo Song riff, written by Tim Rose, was played on a clavinet by a session musician, Cees Schrama, so not a member of Shocking Blue. He improvised a little, he later stated, based on 'Watermelon Man' by Herbie Hancock. That makes it the more baffling how much it sounds like The Banjo Song. (Thank you Wikipedia, for that final information.) Schrama defines a major part of the song, not unlike the organ part in 'A Whiter Shade of Pale'. He was paid for the session, while he could have shared a mansion as well, just like Tim Rose could have. The other three Shocking Blue members also only saw money as performers. Van Leeuwen truly knew what he was doing at the time, and admitted as much later on.
 
Gary
Mark
Wout   
 
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donderdag 25 februari 2021

Fun Sized. Hayley and the Crushers

Hayley and the Crushers have already come by twice in two posts on recent singles. 'Church Of Flag' and 'Jacaranda' have received a favourable review, where especially the former stood out as an extremely great single. So how does the mini album Fun Sized hold up?

Let's first take a look at who this band is as this is its first album on this blog. The band is from California's San Luis Obispo and describes itself as "poolside glitter trash", just so we know. Also "one part punk-pop, one part sunny surf" comes by as a description and that I'll abide to. Hayley Crusher Cain fronts the band on guitar and singing. Dr. Cain wields his bass, while Action Ben Cabreana is the drummer. Musically the band looks in the rear-view mirror to music that was made in the late 70s to late 80s. The band has two previous albums to it name, 'Vintage Millennial' (2020) and 'Cool/Lame' (2018).

Here I start with the punkpop side of Blondie, but also the Go-Go's are a part of the mix but what to think of a song like 'Walking On Sunshine' by Katrina and the Waves? Hayley sings very much like Debbie Harry did but has the much better and stronger voice. What is more important is that Fun Sized is not only called this way but is fun all around.

Hayley and the Crushers are able to make music that blends pop and punk in an utmost way. The result is songs that are instantly recognisable and likeable. Yes, you may correctly state that this has all been done before, but my answer is that when this is done this good, the comment becomes inconsequential. From the first guitar strokes of 'Jacaranda' the lover of punkpop is in punkpop heaven. The kind of song that aims for the head, the heart, the legs and the mouth. Just try to sit still and not sing along. I dare you!

Promo photo: Jenny Ashley
'Church Of Flag' was the correct first single of Fun Sized. The song is the toughest of the six and the melodically the best. It resonated with me immediately and remains to do so. The kind of song that I could play all day and put it on once more just for good fun.

The four songs that were not released as singles, show that liking the two singles wasn't a coincidence. The three Crushers show how tight as a band they are, how they fill the sound spectrum as a force, like a trio setting must and don't lose the melody out of their sight no matter how tough they are playing. A nice bass run when the guitar plays tight chords, the drums like a powerhouse, just some details to be aware of when listening. A song like 'Water On Glass' is the best song Blondie never made and I can even imagine it as a cover should Blondie ever release an album again.

As a final comment I will point to Hayley's voice. No matter how loud, tough and strong the music becomes, she always masters the song. There's no need to scream, to shout, to exert herself. Her voice always sounds like she is truly singing, with ease and comfortably. This is something that is not given a lot of singers in this genre. She presents herself as the woman she is without having to try to be tougher than she is. The combination is totally charming. I love hearing her sing this music.

All fans of poppunk, powerpop, whatever you would like to call it, this is your music. Fun Sized is a fun sized album alright.

Wo.

You can listen to and order Fun Sized here:

https://rumbarrecords.bandcamp.com/album/fun-sized


or listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g