At the close of 2019, Great Affairs man Denny Smith released an excellent solo album ‘From The Dark’. It’s choice of title was inspired by his receiving the all clear from a serious illness and its stripped down arrangements were a direct reaction to the amount of time the singer-songwriter had spent pondering life, the universe and everything during the writing and recording process. Despite the following year being sidelined by a global pandemic, Smith’s world trucked on, and The Great Affairs released ‘Everybody Moves, Nobody Gets Hurt’, an album of enjoyable retro rockers that very much showed the band taking a very much business as usual approach.
At the end of 2017, Watts tried to convince us they were ‘All Done With Rock & Roll’. They then took a little time out to work on other projects before returning with a string of singles cementing their reputation as one of the greatest retro sounding bands of the era.
Those with a keen ear for underground pop music will already be aware of The 1957 Tail-Fin Fiasco. The Essex based musical duo featuring vocalists/multi instrumentalists Malcolm Moore and David Myers first appeared on the power pop scene with their ‘Private Jet Flashback’ album in 2013, and armed with a quirky sense of humour and a boundless love of Steely Dan, they quickly marked themselves out as champions of a retro style. Although further releases occasionally included a few rockier moments alongside weird nods to tangos and lounge music, the band’s love of all things brilliantly kitschy held firm.
Since their debut album appeared in 2016, Milwaukee’s Indonesian Junk have remained quite prolific. Following that release they cranked out a new record every year – each one better than the previous – up until the release of ‘Spiderbites’ in 2019. Although still raw, ‘Spiderbites’ contained many of the band’s best songs to date; the CBGB’s inspired garage punk sound they’d been slowly cultivating reached full maturity, and they could legitimately claim to be true successors to bands like New York Dolls and the Dead Boys.
Prior to its release in March 2021, their fourth album proper (not counting the EPs and the excellent rarities comp ‘A Life of Crimes’) attracted a bit of an early buzz among the band and label’s followers. People seemed keen for a strong follow up, but more than that, the promise of a couple of guests immediately seemed to set the album in a position of strength. …And indeed, the lead single, ‘Type of A Girl’ (used wisely to open the album itself) confirmed most people’s hunches that – despite some wobbly beginnings – Indonesian Junk were in top form and had approached the new record much in the same way as ‘Spiderbites’ and that ‘Living In A Nightmare’ would be an album big on hooks.
On her debut disc for Frontiers Records, British singer Chez Kane is absolutely unafraid of delivering some very retro material. With the help of Crazy Lixx guitarist Danny Rexon, she reawakens the classic sounds of 80s AOR, drawing influence from songwriters like Jeff Paris and Diane Warren, along with the sounds of Vixen, Lita Ford and Robin Beck to create a brilliant album that seems absolutely loaded with nostalgia without being lumbered with a bunch of easy cover tunes. There’s plenty about the album’s crisp sound and relentless stabbing keys that might even make you believe you’d stumbled across a lost recording from 1989. If you’re a fan of classic AOR, this is obviously a very good thing indeed.
Although Frontiers Records are very clearly pushing Kane with equally retro sleeve art and marketing her as “singing eye candy” much in the way Lita Ford and Fiona had been back in ’88, she deserves so much better, especially during the more enlightened climate at the time of release in 2021. It’s best to ignore the cheap looking sleeve as much as possible and head straight into the tunes. …And armed with ten chorus driven bangers across a vinyl friendly forty five minutes, Kane really doesn’t disappoint.