In 1979 I was 14 years old, barreling into a world of music my parents didn’t know anything about. New wave clicked with me in part of because it recycled the sixties sound I’d grown up with listening to my parents’ record collection. But there was something stripped down and edgy to it that appealed to me as well. Today’s artists so nail the musical aura of that time it’s like déjà vu for me. The good kind.
Norway’s fave one-man band Caddy has released an album that is like finding some great lost band’s record in the second hand shop. Put this thing on headphones and you’ll swear it’s gotta be a legit new wave era release. The guitar that opens the record is just so late 1970s. The song is “Walking on the Roof,” a cover of a Sgt. Arms track from 1982 and the treatment is pretty close to the original, except where it flares out on occasion with a muscular intensity reminiscent of The Tubes in Completion Backwards Principle mode. The concept for the album was simple, scour obscure new wave records circa 1979-83 for fabulous but historically ignored deep cuts. And then re-interpret them, but drawing from the same era’s sonic palette. Detours and Dead Ends Vol. 1 is the result and it’s a faultless collection, faithful to the era’s dynamic range without sounding derivative. Yet at the same time, the songs here sound fresh and contemporary. It’s in the guitar amp choices and vocal styles. Exhibit A: “Heart of Stone” with its driving guitar and oh-so early 1980s vocals. “Call Your Name” is a real tour de force, unleashing guitars and hooks that remind me of Blue Oyster Cult doing AM radio hit singles. “Cost of Love” is a quintessential 1980s take on the 1960s beat group song. And it just doesn’t stop, the whole record just goes from strength to strength. Check out the unrelenting take on The Freshies “No Money” with oh-so-nice vocals and crashing guitars. Really, there’s more than a little magic in this LP. Volume 2? Yes please.
Paul Kelly’s been running with that Scottish indie music mafia connected to Teenage Fanclub and BMX Bandits for some time. But his own project – The Martial Arts – has legs too. Though they’ve only released one full album, 2006’s Your Sinclair, the band have delivered a smattering of singles and EPs over the years. They’ve even got a Christmas EP. What I can’t figure out is how I’ve only managed to hear about them now. That first record is a dynamite collection of tunes, clearly vibing a 1970s poprock sound that mixes a bubblegum hookyness with a dash of new wave’s guitar crispness. “Don’t Want to Talk” is the killer single here, a clear should-be hit. Pair that with “Summer Tweed” and “Finale” and tell me if you don’t hear something like a Scottish version of The Shins. There’s a bit of James Mercer in both the vocals and the songwriting styles. Fast forward to 2015 and the title track from I Used to Be EP is working in some very ABBA keyboards and even, dare I say, Bay City Rollers melodic turns. And the video is priceless! Now the band are back with new EP, Getting Stranger by the Month, and all these amazing musical elements remain. Seriously “Guilt by Association” sounds straight from the Benny and Bjorn songwriting workshop. Or there’s “Bethany” with its dreamy Shins feel. A new album is rumoured to be in the works and I can’t wait.
Apparently new wave never gets old. There’s something fresh and exciting in the style that keeps music makers coming back for more (inspiration). So why not relive the past in the present with these recordings from Caddy (from Kook Kat here) and The Martial Arts today.