Various Artists

Millions Like Us: The Story of the Mod Revival 1977-1989

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Spread out over four discs and lovingly packaged, Cherry Red's Millions Like Us tells the tale of the mod revival, one of the most insular and focused music scenes to ever come out of the U.K. Inspired by the success of the Jam, who played with all the pent-up energy of the Who and sported the dress sense of the nattiest '60s mods, and the release of the film Quadrophenia, England exploded with bands eager to follow in the Jam's wake, and Millions collects up most, if not all, of them. From the most obscure corners of the scene to the bands who almost made it (the Lambrettas, Secret Affair, the Chords, Squire -- each of whom get two songs), there are tons of groups made up of young lads in stylish gear looking to express their frustrations, celebrate their small freedoms, bash out ringing chords, and impress the young modettes in the crowd. For the most part, the bands involved play with enough energy and fire to obscure their obvious debt to the past, and the Jam, and the collection is filled with tons of great songs. Split between rave-ups about scooters, bank holidays, and girls, and empowering mini-epics about the "kids" and the scene, there's a positivity to the music that must have provided a nice alternative for people who wanted loud and aggressive music, but also wanted to hear good melodies and look smart. To that end, a great deal of the songs here share a lot with the power pop scene that was operating in the U.S. at the same time. Check out Secret Affair's "My World," which sounds like it could have been on a Raspberries album. There's also a strong R&B thread running through the scene, mostly in a good Northern soul/Motown-inspired way, sometimes in a corny, overly reverent way (like the Q-Tips' tepid cover of "S.Y.S.L.J.F.M [The Letter Song]"). The set takes a few interesting detours here and there, gathering up some music on the fringes of the scene like L.A. band the Untouchables' "Free Yourself," the twee pop psych of Direct Hits' lovely "Modesty Blaise," the modern girl group snap of Dee Walker's "Snap Back," and the bubblegummy pop of the JetSet's "Wednesday Girl." These diversions show how far the mod revival's reach extended, and it keeps the set from being merely four hours of bands who wanted to be the Jam's little brothers. The fourth disc shows that this urge was very strong and long-lasting, since even by 1989 there were still bands in deep thrall to the classic mod sound, though peppered by psychedelic leanings (the Leepers' "Paint a Day") and early acid jazz (the James Taylor Quartet) too. Like most box sets, Millions Like Us isn't perfect and goes on a little too long, but overall it's a fun, exhaustive, and inspired look back at a vibrant scene that tends to be overlooked, but really shouldn't be.

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