Splash FM Website of the Day, 1st August 2005. Be Impressed.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Swing Revival Pt. 4: The Squirrel Nut Zippers - Hell

The swing revival brought with it a number of unusual acts such as the previously mentioned Asylum Street Spankers and The Squirrel Nut Zippers. Unlike many of the other swing revivalists The Zippers took their inspiration from the earlier hot jazz of the 1920’s and could not be accused of being over-rehearsed.

The Squirrel Nut Zippers (named after the retro sweets) grew out of informal jams that head zippers Jim Mathus and Katherine Whalen held in their home with fellow hot jazz lovers. The band began playing a few gigs locally and were quickly signed and released their debut album, The Inevitable, in 1995.

Their breakthrough came in 1997 when their faux-calypso song Hell was picked up by MTV and became a novelty hit.

Squirrel Nut Zippers - Hell

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Swing Revival Pt.3: Royal Crown Review – Hey Pachuco!

Royal Crown Review are the band most commonly cited as the originators of the Swing Revival. Certainly, they were the most dedicated. As well as aping the music and wearing the clothes they played pre-WW2 instruments, drove the cars, read the books and sat on the furniture. In a move that shocked many, the band also deliberately infected themselves with tuberculosis.

The band had formed in 1989 but really hit their stride during their two-year long residence at The Derby club in Hollywood beginning in 1993. The buzz created by these shows led directly to their performance of today’s track in the film The Mask. Their Derby shows were also the inspiration for the dance scenes in Swingers.

In 1997 Royal Crown Review signed a major label deal (with Warner Brothers) and released a quick cash-in live album, Caught in the Act, featuring this version of Hey Pachuco.

Royal Crown Review – Hey Pachuco

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Swing Revival Pt.2: Cherry Poppin’ Daddies – Zoot Suit Riot

As you might have guessed by now, you were no-one unless you were someone’s ‘Daddy’ during the swing revival.

The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies had formed in 1989 and originally played a wide variety of styles. They had released a number of albums on independent labels to near universal disinterest. Their long awaited overnight success did not come until, with the swing revival taking off, they collected their more swing based material onto one album: 1997’s Zoot Suit Riot.

The album, and its eponymous hit single, were named after a week long riot that occurred in LA in 1943. What had begun as a minor scuffle between a group of zoot suited Mexicans and a gang of military men over, what else, women rapidly escalated into a riot with army men attacking any Mexicans, including children, they could get their hands on. The riots became the first acts of violence named after clothing since the Battle of Balaclava.

The swing revival went in to overdrive in 1998 when The Gap used the big band classic Jump, Jive and Wail in their Lindy-hopping ad (watch it here). But, as the Lindy Hop regularly illustrates, what goes up must come down and swing music fell from grace as quickly as it had risen. The Finger Poppin’s Daddies follow-up album, Soul Caddy, faired poorly – a fact The Daddies blamed on the record company (those bastards – releasing the record and selling it to people). This led to big Daddy Steve Perry leaving the humdrum, work-a-day world of international rock 'n' roll stardom to follow his crazy childhood dreams of attaining a degree in molecular biology.

Cherry Poppin’ Daddies – Zoot Suit Riot

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Swing Revival Pt.1: Big Bad Voodoo Daddies – Go Daddy-O

We are so money.

Vegas, baby. Vegas!

The film Swingers has inspired more idiots to throw quotes round than anything since Monty Python hung up their wellies.

Swingers, written by its star Jon Favreau, was made on a miniscule budget (and it shows) but thanks to its wit, catchphrases and swinging soundtrack it gained a cult following and influenced mainstream culture (musically and lexicographically) far beyond those who actually watched it.

Swingers focuses on a group of wannabe actors in LA led by Vince Vaughn’s Trent who attempts to cheer up the recently singled Mike (Favreau) by taking him to Vegas to ‘kick it old school’ and get him laid. Cue cringe-making scenes of desperate attempts to impress girls and a classic answer-phone message scene (watch it here). Despite the film’s nominal focus, it is essentially a buddy flick; the guys spend far more time talking to each other – when they are much more loveable - than chatting up women .

What really marks Swingers out is its charting of the, then height of hip, ‘cocktail nation’ scene – giving the film its own style, sound and language. ‘Cocktail nation’ married the dancing and big band music of the 1930’s and 40’s with the style and hedonism of the 50’s Rat Pack. The scene was no doubt a reaction against the tatty clothing and depressed nihilism of the early 90’s grunge fad. However, it never really took off in the UK. Perhaps because the 30’s and 40’s weren’t so swinging for us or, more likely, because we’re a bunch of miserable scruff bags.

The redemptive end to the film has Favreau and co-star and former girlfriend Heather Graham dancing in a club to a lively performance of this song by the Big Bad Voodoo Daddies. The film helped swing music move from an underground LA cool towards mainstream popularity – but not as much as a certain ad did.

Quick tip: if you’re looking for images from the film “Swingers” on Google: turn the safe search on first.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddies – Go Daddy-O

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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Ben Folds Five – Battle of Who Could Care Less

By 1997 Britpop and its attendant Cool Britannia culture had died on its hairy, sweaty arse. It was, therefore, time for politicians to jump on the bandwagon.

The campaign of the rebranded ‘New’ Labour focussed on modernity and Britishness. This came to the fore with the use of a Bulldog in one of their party election broadcasts. However, to avoid offending the delicate sensibilities of Middle England, the dog’s testicles had to be airbrushed out. If only the bollocks had been removed from the campaign itself.

The Tories chose to go down the anti-Blair route displaying an uncharacteristic prescience with their ‘demon eyes’ Blair poster. However, their broadcasts were less successful. They featured images from a distopian vision of Britain under a Labour government which looked remarkably similar to Britain under the Tories. The only pop music used by the Tories in the campaign was Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight. Perhaps in an attempt to conjure up their mid-80’s glory days. Although it’s much more likely they were just heroically out of touch.

The Labour Party were slightly more up to date chosing Things Can Only Get Better by the inexplicably coloned D:Ream for their theme but the real anthem of the election blasting out the radio was Ben Folds Five’s Battle of Who Could Care Less. Turnout for the election was 71%, the lowest since 1935. Labour declared a landslide victory despite only receiving 42% of the vote (around 30% of all eligible voters).

Ben Folds Five – Battle of Who Could Care Less.

Whatever and Ever Amen