Whisper it loudly, in all the coffee shops still falling silently away into the new evolution of modern living and a torture of exclusive non-stop chit chat. The 2010’s are now the 1960’s again, its official! All we need for extra confirmation is a sudden surge in sales of Iceberg Wedge Salads and Beef Wellington’s and there we have it, the past is the present confirmed.
Somewhere between the glory of Summer’s spent in the rain and Winter’s spend freezing beside fire heaters more hazard than health, the glory of what the 1960’s gave us has been recreated in the most absurdly joyous of fashions. And this is a full on proper recreation, not a nod to it or a sympathetic handshake or look in its general direction. This is what the 1960’s were, what they dreamed of being always, a continuation or never-ending haze of drug fuelled endeavour and delicious living on the outskirts of society.
So much has changed since then. Technology wise it’s another world, in fact its pointless comparing the two such has been the advancement in the interface between then and now. Fashion, food and Music have all evolved, become something else and reverted back to what it once was before evolving again. The world has turned, people have been replaced with other people, we exist to move on, to grow as naturally as any flower sprinkling through Spring’s early gates and into Summer’s flow.
Not all change is for the better, as we have advanced more has become less in so many areas of our lives. Musically speaking it rings truer than most. Sure the advancement in technology and widespread availability of music has afforded talented singers/bands/artists the opportunity to get their message out there to a varied and ever changing demographic and while, that has to be seen as a positive always, it also brings with it challenges, challenges to the record industry as a whole, challenges to bands to always be ahead of the curve and to fight ever more stoutly to avoid getting swallowed up in the vast quarry of shovelled music that now stretch genre’s and no longer remain exclusive of one club over another.
Pop is now dance, rock is now retro, indie is now alternative, everything is now everything and unless bands come with a clear identity they run the risk of alienating people not familiar with the sound they’re hearing. One sound that has evolved over time and will continue to evolve as each decade passes is 1960’s Mod. Coming as it did from a subculture of its time, it can be argued that itself evolved from even earlier guitar based bluegrass such as Chuck Berry and other such talented artists from before its time. It at least was a gloriously undertaking of a sound not heard before, one which heralded a new modern Britain, a Britain which had finally emerged out of the shadows of the World War II and was aching to express its vibrancy both culturally and intellectually.
Rock music of the time was seen as the preserve of the working classes and somewhat ordinary, not challenging enough for minds wanting to explore other avenues of discovery. Music that would give them ambition, a sound that could express to them a slightly wilder side. An urban cool that was missing. The 1950’s music of gentle love songs were a thing of the past and a new generation needed to express themselves in a more more modern fashion.
Clothes, Music underwent a cultural revolution. Taken on by bands like The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Yardbirds and The Who, it was a time to feel modern, to act modern, to forget about the past and look to evolve in every possible way. As with all types of music and cultural revolutions it changed and the early 60’s mod was replaced by a more psychedelic rock from Jimi Hendrix etc. In the 70’s this changed into the first outrageous punk movement through bands like New York Dolls, The Clash and The Sex Pistols. It was a far more obscene and wild version of 1960’s mod, so far further from the urban cool that early modernists had ever envisaged.
The next real revolution in early mod came in the late 70’s, early 80’s with The Jam. At the time, it did get rather swamped in the changing technology that would accompany the production of music. Dance and experimentation were all the rage, new music was finding ways and avenues to express itself and it was seen as the new cool, the changing sound and finding ways to sound original and unique were as important as the end result. My first encounter with music was Wake Me Up Before You Go Go! As a 6 Year! Which in itself is a hard admission to make but one which has stood me in good stead later in life in understanding the hardship that first encounter can bestow upon you and how it can ultimately shape your musical choices as you get older!
My first real encounter with mod or what can be considered a version of mod was during my teenage years. As a child of the 90’s, my biggest musical influences of the time were Oasis, Ocean Colour Scene, Blur and Supergrass. They were the bands that drew me in. The fusion of R’n’B with guitar based harmonies always appealed to me. Like the most elegant of sounds sending out signals that would stay with me forever. The pop based melodies always captivated me and brought me closer to them and grabbed me, a constant expression of both anger and happiness. Feelings and emotions that stuck and were bound to cling on the part of my soul that can hear even the softest of whispers calling my name.
Although Oasis have often been compared to the Beatles, to me their early sound spoke more to the kind of vibe The Who were giving off way back when. That is a debatable point of course but an opinion which I shall always hold on to. From the late 90’s and into the early 2000’s several bands tried to perfect a new type of mod sound. The Strokes certainly captured the look perfectly and The Libertines mixed ideas in there but both had their own take on it with far more random and trashy guitars mixed in with the glorious harmonies. The album ‘Get Born’ from Aussie Band Jet is still a highlight from that time and mixes both The Rolling Stones freedom and The Who’s ability to capture a particular guitar riff. The Arctic Monkeys also arrived to mix styles and capture a harder element while also paying homage to those who had gone before. It was a sound that maybe had always been in vogue in various guises but was now being perfected and stylised.
For so much of the past decade music has enjoyed the most remarkable of revolutions or non-revolutions, depending on how you look at it. From the point of revolutions there has never been more sounds out there, sounds that were not even invented 15-20 Years ago are all out there to be heard but I guess many would argue that in fact, it alone means there is no revolution happening, that its merely 1 or 2 particular sounds mediocrely transported across different genres in some pathetic attempt to make it sound original. Music is changing so rapidly whether we want it to or not, its happening at a pace rarely encountered before which makes this current mod evolution/revolution all the more cherished. This is not simply just an evolution in music. Sure these new bands are all bringing their own unique style to it, to express their own thoughts and ideas on music and fully engrossing themselves in creating their own sound and making it their identity but this new mod is as close to the old mod as we have ever heard, in terms of sound, range and guitar play.
The Strypes, a four piece from Co.Cavan in Ireland have a distinctive sound that echo’s right through from way before their time. Its founded not alone in the 1960’s but from way before then. Influenced by artists like Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry so much of their sound is birthed from early bluegrass and R’n’B that was raw and un-tampered with. To see young artists play and create with such vibrancy and Skill is breathtaking and to be admired like you would the cold air on a freezing December morning. The rawness of it, the passion displayed, the fluency with which they move from chord to chord is a treasure so few bands who have been playing together 20-30 can testify to having. Their sound is old school, yet you never get the feeling they are trying to copy those bands. Moreover it’s where their music influences lie and where they are trying to perfect a niche for themselves.
It’s quite remarkable to think that London 4 piece Sisteray only formed in April 2012! They have already perfected a sound that resonates, and smacks of a band who have been learning their craft together, through years of pain and endurance. It’s a testament to their talent that they have already come together to create a sound that is both heavy in its melodies and rich in its design. I was passed on Happy Endings by a friend and I can honestly say I have not stopped listening to it since. The opening to the song drags out the most beautiful reverberations of Pre punk classic Rhythm and Blues foot stomping madness. It lends itself to so many thoughts, most of them involving a time in your live when you felt happy, felt alive and enjoyed listening to music that both thrilled and excited you in ways which you could only ever dream of. The deep influences of bands like the Kinks are everywhere to be seen and to be admired as if you just put on one of those those Vinyl records that you long since thought had disappeared from your collection. Just put it on, sat down and listen to it without interruption. That is what The Styrpes and Sisteray give you ; polished gems that somehow always feel unfurnished. It always feels like they were barely produced at all, that somehow they got together and just decided to play guitar, sing and hand it over, from a time way before there were 8,9,10 production meetings to discuss a strategy on how to go about producing a song! There is nothing like that here, they just play, sing, create, make music and nothing else matters. No attempt to create a multi-million pound Number 1 single, just a sound, a vibe that has echoed through half a century and they hope will echo through another half a century.
All told it can be argued that despite the amount of change we have witnessed over the past 50 or so years that so much is still unique to both ages. Back in the 60’s the modernist’s were trying to create a culture and sound that were unique to them but also one that got away from what they considered to be the bland love song culture of the 1950’s. Here in 2013 we are awash in the blandest culture of pop music that has ever existed. Not only that but alternative sounds have now become hijacked and are almost being made into false cool sounds when they are much cooler left on their own. Without ill-tampering, this music could grow and have its own style but instead its now being mixed in with so many different styles that it’s become devoid of its own identity. Bands like The Styrpes, Sisteray and other bands like The Castellers, The Front and The Frescaders who are heavily influenced in music from times past are keeping the beauty and magic of those 1960’s melodies alive and inside us all to hold onto and to hope that new music, away from being wrapped up in so much sanitization of genres, can once again create its own unique place inside our hearts and forge an identity that is both relevant and consumes the passions that are within each and every one of us.