Get ready to shake your groove thing because today’s acts can’t be contained. Something’s gotta twitch in time to these beat crazy tunes from bands that wear their love of all things 1960s on every appendage.
Monogroove might come from America’s west coast but stylistically they’re all over the map. Their most recent LP Into the Sun has a distinctive 1960s California pop feel, except when its giving off a very English pop vocal vibe. Then at different points you’d swear record’s genre is psych pop, only to have things switch to early 1960s sweetheart rock and roll motifs. No matter, “What I See In You” is a great album opener, with a guitar reminiscent of the chime on Gene Clark’s “So You Say You Lost Your Baby.” Then “Walk in the Park” takes us in a more English 1960s pop vocal direction. By the time “Down On” cranks up like an slow homage to “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” we’re well into serious 1960s psych pop territory. And it’s just at that moment that things turn even a bit more retro, going all early 1960s girl group and neo-1950s on “Hold Onto Me” and “Darlin.” The 1970s get a look in on “Me In You” with its Kinks-like dirty rhythm guitar and sweet suite of vocal turns while “Here I Stand” sounds more seventies soft rock. I love the psychedelic lead guitar line that sets up “Time Out” and “SPCA” is a bit of glam bubblegum fun. And is it just me or does “I Only Know” kick off with an ace CCR acoustic guitar/bass groove before settling into a 1970s pop country ballad? Don’t judge this band just by their stylish sixties psych rock album cover. They’re that, but a whole lot more.
I can’t decide if Italian band The Lings are more retro 1960s or that particular 1980s brand of sixties-nouveau. On their new self-titled debut album there’s a crisp buoyant sound I associate more with the latter, like that cool breeze accompanying some early morning sunshine. First up “The Worst of You” has an endearing 1960s spy movie feel, its spare guitar lead lines and echo-y vocals lending mystery to the proceedings. And that’s basically the formula here: a variety of carefully chosen, moody guitars working in tension with ever-so-pleasing harmony vocals. Listen to how “Little Josie” combines chugging rhythm guitar with vocals that remind me of bands like Stornoway while “Blue” arranges it guitar parts as a kind of reverby canvas for the singers. I’d swear that’s Jake Bugg guesting on vocals for “Holocene” while the tune draws out an early Beatles atmosphere. From there the record is like a variety show sampling of styles, from rocking rave-up on “Freaky Cheesy” to the 1980s folk rock of “Grace” to the heartland FM rock radio feel fueling “Never Ending Lonely Rush M.A.” Singling out a single I’d go with “Let Me Out” given its Shadowy Men tremelo guitar and sophisticated melodic turns in the chorus. But I’m also partial to the rocking lurch defining “Hometown Kids” and its Proclaimers-like sing-along vocals. After playing this album loud I think these guys might just be worth a trip to southern Europe for a live show.
Needle dropping through The Ramalamas 2019 greatest hits collection Carnivorous Plants for Sale the band seemed to be headed in a swampy Jayhawks or Blue Rodeo direction. But their new release Le Cape Noir suggests a different road altogether. The presser describes the album as the soundtrack to an ‘imaginary long lost 1968 cult psycho-thrilller/horror/drama classic’. That’s quite a detailed order. “Funtastique” is the show opener but it’s less an opening credits reel than a B52s-inspired dance grind. “Moondog” much more sets the mood for this mock soundtrack with its Russ Meyers Beyond the Valley of the Dolls vibe. Then “Le Cape Noir” is totally the period, coming on like a rogue Ventures with the main guitar giving off plenty of drama and menace. Another highlight is “Espiritismo” with its spooky otherworldly vocals and guitar work. “The Night Tide” is another tune fully in character, a psych rock Jayhawks launching the revenge of the rumbly guitar. “Love Theme from Le Cape” also sounds so like an early Bond album deep-cut instrumental. The rest of the album tends to revert to the band’s signature swampy, psych rock style, like they’ve transformed into the act hired for the closing-of-set party. But that doesn’t detract from the record’s playful sense of fun. Indeed, “Death in the Pot” is a real a Saturday night dance stomper.
What Tony Molina proves is that acing the sounds of yesteryear doesn’t have to leave you stuck in the past. His new long-player Into the Fade is a veritable candy store of sixties and seventies sonic sweetness that nevertheless sounds timeless. The variety here is breathtaking. “The Last Time” combines Thin Lizzy guitarmonies with a Weezer poprock sensibility while “Not Worth Knowing” is more like a sixties-influenced Teenage Fanclub. I know I hear FOW everywhere but “Leave This Town” sounds like a fuzz-enhanced version of the band. Beatles motifs are popped into a host of songs throughout the album: the instrumental break in “Don’t Be Far” that is reminiscent of A Hard Day’s Night movie soundtrack deep cut, the “Strawberry Fields Forever” mellotron opener to “Songs For Friends (Slight Return),” some “Michelle” worthy acoustic guitar work on the instrumental “Ovens Theme pt.4,” and the “Julia”-esque vibe all over “Years Ago pt.2.” And just when you think you see where things are going Molina throws a curve. Like the creative piano solo that pops out in the instrumental break of “I Don’t Like That He.” There’s even a pop punk energy to “Fuck Off Now” and “All I’ve Known.” They nicely contrast with the low-key, acoustic Elliott Smith aura of “Four Sided Cell.” But I think my fave from this collection is the languid, Teenage Fanclubby “Burn Everyone.” Into the Fade is a set of bright shiny things, all so different yet still amounting to an enjoyably coherent listen.
Everything old is new again in music, if you know how to reinvent your influences. Today’s bands do that, harnessing the past to make the here and now just a little more groovy.