Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mod Gone Wrong: The Worst of Britpop?

Okay, everyone, let's time-travel back to 1994... a time of Britpop and New Wave of New Wave.

New Wave of New Wave... anyone else old enough to remember that term? Frankly, I thought it was a MUCH better way to describe many of the Britpop bands of the time. I was never a fan of Britpop, to be honest, unlike a lot of other people. To each his own, I guess. Plus, other than shaggy hair and Fred Perrys, I didn't see much of the Mod thing everyone else seemed to see in these bands. As my friend put it, a "watered down version of Mod as filtered through the '70s." And to my ears, the music of many of these bands seemed to be much more influenced by various New Wave and 'alternative' bands than the Small Faces or The Action. Now, let's take a look at one of my 'favorite' bands from this period, Menswear (click to enlarge), in an article from November, 1994:
I remember reading many articles on how these guys were the new direction of "Mod!" (Yes, I know it was a whole media publicity thing, but I was younger then and easily riled up!) A couple of friends and I hated this stuff! While we were out searching the bins for the Zombies, Arthur Alexander, Pebbles and Rubbles comps, and anything Carnaby Street-looking, this band and their ilk were taking the Mod thing down a path of post-punk pop wrapped up in Lonsdale sweatshirts. Argh! (Believe it or not, I've mellowed out over the years on this, but remember... we've traveled back to 1994 so you gotta deal with my '94 rage!)

Now, although Menswear were, from what I can remember, a music industry creation, they were still a face of this new "Mod" movement. So, let's take a closer look at their awesome "Mod" look, shall we?
Click to Menswear-size it.
  1. Okay, this guy doesn't look horrible, especially for someone who looks to be 16-years-old. I'll cut him a break, despite the fact that he looks like he's shrinking within the suit. Either that or he's got incredible shoulder strength!
  2. The second guy in the line-up just looks uncomfortable in his get-up... almost as if he's waiting for the photographer to finish up before tossing aside these clothes for a t-shirt, baggy pants and Adidas 'trainers'. Overall, he looks okay, but I will point out one of my pet peeves: the bottom button of his jacket is buttoned! I can't criticize him too much though, as I learned that rule myself probably around the time of this photo.
  3. Now this guy ain't even really tryin'. By the look of his tired eyes and greasy hair, he must have been up all night schmoozing industry bigwigs at a Blur show and being, as per the article text, a "cheeky f***er." Look at the lapel of his 2-button jacket... I'm guessing he borrowed it from the photographer of the shoot.
  4. Rock star sneer before becoming an actual star. 'Nuff said.
  5. Y'know, his sneer is really making me hate everything about him, even the suit. It's probably the closest thing to 'Mod' these guys came to, but for my tastes, it's just a bit too 'glittery'. I'm sure I'd have a different opinion of the outfit if I replaced his head with someone a bit more humble and like-able.
  6. Geez, they took this photo on Savile Row, home to some of the greatest bespoke tailors EVER! This is like taking a photo of a Happy Meal in front of The Russian Tea Room.
  7. Oh boy... did I even have to circle these for you to notice them? The clodhoppers of the first two fellows are bad enough, but even I'd wear them if given the choice of that last guy's CREEPERS. There you go, folks, the 'New Mod of New Mod' as the article states. Creepers. Hey, maybe I was on to something when I wore creepers at ages 13-15 in junior high and high school. But, heck, even my creepers were a cool, pointed, black-and-white pair! Kids made fun of me then, but THIS GUY actually does have on Frankenstein's Monster's shoes!
Yeah, believe it or not, I'm much more mellow than the 20-year-old me was when I first read this article. In my old age, I realize that some people probably did dig their sound and these guys probably did act as most young kids would if given 15 minutes of rock'n'roll fame. But looking at what they had to say back then, years later, there are still a couple of lines that irk me:

"He's an Ace Face. If you push him too hard, he might Blow Up!" and "The true mods now are the ravers, the people who are into jungle and music that sounds futuristic."

God, these guys sucked.
And by the way, if this post somehow reaches anyone back in time in 1994, here's a message for you: skip these guys and stick with Detour Records!


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  2. I recall this article,somehow they mentioned my fanzine and printed my address. I got a deluge of mail and $ requesting issues so I wound up going back and printing 100 more to deal with it. Though I seriously questioned why anyone who enjoyed the crap bands they'd written about would want with a zine that had Amen Corner on the cover and interviews with Pete Watson and Brian Auger (and slagged the latest Blur CD and their "mod" phase)!! Sad that Menswear traveled all the way to Saville Row to have their pics taken there in what look like those awful boxy Merc suits! I liked Blur and Ride but I sniggered when the whole "mod" thing happened and I knew it'd be over and bands like Thurman, Menswear, Mantaray et al would go back to whatever. Oddly NYC (the most un-mod city in the country) had a huge mod scene all of a sudden in the mid/late 90's thanks to Brit pop.

  3. I think the britpop fashion was more of a football casual revival that couldn't be marketed as such in England because of the stigma or in America because no one knew what a casual was. So the only marketable term was "mod". Kind of like the skinhead outfits you see now in Union Square marketed as "worker's clothes"(for people who have never worked natch!). Absolute disgrace to pose a bunch of off the rack suits on Saville Row. Have to go and comfort my Saville Row crombie now.

  4. This cracked me up! Gotta love a Mod's attention to detail (meaning this blogger of course, not the poseurs in the photo). Being picky is part of the way of life. Some call it snobbery, I prefer to say it's being a connoisseur (though I can never remember how to spell that). I can imagine how hard it must have been to keep up in the early 60s when Mod clothing trends changed weekly!

    I never got that into Britpop either. There was a song here and a song there I liked but I also hated when they called it Mod!

    Wilthomer said "NYC (the most un-mod city...".
    I went there in the summer of '81 looking for Mods. I couldn't find any! So I see what you mean. Though I have recently seen some photos on Facebook of a few Mods in NY in the mid-80s.

  5. Bill, I think I remember that! I have this issue deep in a box somewhere and would like to read the whole thing again. If I remember correctly, there was only ONE guy in the whole thing who looked cool and had killer taste in music. He was in a band... Mystery something... can't remember.

    And same thing happened out here with Britpop, which I guess was both good and bad. Prior to this, there were only a handful of us left. Then, overnight, it seemed all these 'moddish' guys started showing up. Some guys I used to see around campus with longer hair and scruffier clothing all of a sudden had on sta-prest and Fred Perrys.

  6. Colin, if you ever want to get rid of that Savile Row crombie...

  7. Thanks Dean! Hey, I'm picky only because I love this thing so much. It's all done out of love... and jest.

  8. Carlos I think Sean from The Mystreated (he'd been in a cool band called The Reaction in the 80's) was in that, he might be the fella you're thinking of. Dean mod was never huge in NYC, I think at the height of things in '84-'85 there were maybe 25-50 people tops, 3/4's of them were just you know, trendy kids who moved on quickly.

  9. As someone who loved the Britpop years - the bands, the media hype, the Mod references - I would like to say you are 100% spot-on, good sir. There was some cool people in that scene (Weekenders, these Animal Men, etc.) but Menswear were not one of them.

    Living in San Francisco at the time, I loved reading about these bands and this (granted: artificial) scene. The UK music mags spin a great yarn. I had read so much about Gene and Menswear that was so exciting before I had even heard a note and it was exciting and fun (even if the tunes were a bit of a let down...though Menswear's first single is still pretty good). Keep in mind that the US in the early 90s only had a fading Mod scene of die-hards from the early 80s which quite honestly, was a bit boring. Seeing These Animal Men's Too Sussed CD at Tower and watching Blur's Chemical World video on display at Rhino's was like a Mod Reawakening for me. The Britpop scene was a real breath of fresh air. And some of the bands were quite good if you enjoy that Jam/Mod Revival/Power Pop sound.

    Britpop is also arguably responsible for the upsurge in Mod in the US in the mid-90s that has continued through to today of which we should all be thankfull (read: cute girls finally showed up at clubs)

    REAL Britpop fashion was only influenced by Mod (the slim, sharp lines etc.) and The Casual Look as some one pointed out. It was actually a pretty cool look on its own (Drain pipe jeans, Adidas trainers, contrast-collar t-shirts) that to my wary eyes was much fresher style then the well-trodden Mod look of the 60's that so much of my fellow early 80's scenesters had been wearing for the past 10-odd years.

    Britpop was the best thing to happen to the Mod Scene since Quadrophenia.

  10. Actually, David, that's a great response!

    As anyone who knows me can tell you, I'm NOT a brit-pop guy and can go on about it.

    HOWEVER, the plus side to that brit-pop scene of 1990's San Francisco is that it did bring a lot of people into Mod stuff. Many moved on to the next trend, but a lot did stick with it. It also led to more clubs (including soul clubs). Prior to Popscene, you could count the Mods in the area on 2 hands, maybe.

    And sure, at the time (and still a little today), we got down on all these overnighter moddish types hanging around. But looking back on it, I met some great people at that time, many of which are still friends today.

    Quick, I need a photo of Oasis 'trainers' to get me riled up again...