The Merseybeat goes on. Despite now being a long-time distant from both its time and place of origin bands just keep taking up the influence and re-working the sound. Not that I’m complaining.
With a name like The Mop Tops I was halfway to liking this group without hearing a note. This Swedish band has put out a scant few albums since 1995 but each one is pretty special. Sure, there’s a strong Beatles vibe to everything but the song-writing here is outstanding, letting the band succeed on their own merits. All 12 songs on the debut record Inside are terrific. “She’s So Fine” definitely skews to Beatles ’65 but songs like “Whenever I’m Alone” have a Smithereens’ feel. “Sending Letters” sounds a bit like Steve Earle channeling Buck Owens. And I love the driving droney guitar defining the title track “Inside.” Of course, there’s a reason “Plastic Moon Rain” was the single – it’s a killer. Thirteen years later the band returned with Ground Floor Man and it was another home run, brimming with fab cuts exuding Beatles, Tom Petty and Elvis Costello influences. Opening cut “You Crucify Me” just grabs the listener and won’t let go. Then last year the band returned with Running Out of Time and it was like no time had passed at all. The songs, the jangle, the strong Mersey vibe were all there. “Queen of Misery” gets my vote for the should-be hit single.
New Jersey’s The Weeklings seem to have come full circle. Their early records were very Mersey, recreating an early Beatles atmosphere to shroud their original songs and covers of Beatles rarities on successive albums released in 2014, 2015, and 2016. From those early records I love “If I Was In Love” and “Morning, Noon & Night” because the songs depart from the formula just a bit, marking them as unique without sacrificing the influence. 2020’s 3 saw the band branching out from their Mersey roots with a much more original sound, still Beatlesy but distant enough to make its own splash. Opening cut “I Want You Again” sets the scene with its Cheap Trick or Knack-ish fresh but rocking sound. Fast forward to 2023 and the band return to Mersey-proper with an inventive remake of “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” adding some rock muscle and vocal layering to one of McCartney’s bounciest tunes. You can hear the Weeklings’ mastery of the Beatles sonic stylings on all these recordings, whether they’re going full-on Merseybeat or just shaping a particular element to suit their melodic purpose.
The Nerk Twins album Either Way was a one-off collaboration between Herb Eimerman and Shoes member Jeff Murphy that came out in 1997. Unlike the two previous bands the Mersey influence here is more muted, filtered through a creative independence that is synthetic rather than imitative. Other than taking their name from John and Paul’s throwaway reference to their partnership this record is more Beatles-adjacent than mainline Merseybeat. Still, there are some striking Beatle-isms featured here and there. Like the classic “I Want to Hold Your Hand” instrumental turnaround tucked into “In the Middle of the Night.” Or listen to how “I Still Don’t Love You Anymore” sounds like an outtake from the Rubber Soul sessions. Then again “Dream for Love” has some very Byrdsian vocal harmonies while “On & On & On” has a late 1960s California sunshine pop vibe. But mostly this album aces that lovely mid-1980s poprock sound on nearly every cut. Long out of print, its recent digital return is most welcome.
Somewhere in Hobart, the capital city of Australia’s island state of Tasmania, you’ll find Beatles aficionado Mondo Quinn working up another Mersey-drenched bit of pop goodness. Online he’s got two albums and handful of singles that exude the loveable charm of the Fab Four in full-on Beatlemania mode. “I Love You (Why Don’t You Love Me Too)” from Quinn’s 2013 album Another Time, Another Place has a 1960s Searchers bounce to its lead guitar work while the vocal would suit Cliff Richards to a T. From the same album “Molly’s Song” is a dynamite instrumental with a fresh, crisp acoustic guitar sound reminiscent of “And I Love Her.” Then on 2019’s Pop Till You Drop “Girl Of My Dreams” has a vibe that is so “Bad to Me.” Altogether Mondo Quinn’s work is a delightful time capsule of the 1964 Merseybeat sound.
As long as the drums keep pounding that distinctive Liverpool rhythm to our brains, the Merseybeat goes on. Check out these modern fab beat groups to see how it’s done.
Ralph Ownby said:
Queen of Misery is terrific. Thanks for the tip.
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