Back in another age, the nineteen seventies, there was a feeling among the more perceptive of the teenage population that they were the generation that had missed the sixties, who had reached maturity at just the point when the party was over. The iconography of the time only served as a reminder. Whether it was The Likely Lads on television, or reminiscences of a quickly fading World Cup glory, it was hard not to be reminded of that lost decade. In particular, a landmark double album, with accompanying picture booklet, brought into focus a particular concept from that era. The album was The Who's landmark 1973 classic Quadrophenia. The concept was mod.
Many of that teenage generation, with mod in mind, we're waiting for something big to happen, something rebellious, with attitude, streamlined for the street rather than long-haired and dawdling stadium rock. And then, right on time, along came punk. Bands like The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Buzzcocks were what we had been waiting for, an energetic, dynamic return to a stripped-down aesthetic. They played in small clubs, had short hair and liked reggae. They even covered The Who and The Small Faces. The references were clear enough. One of them - Generation X - was named after an early sixties sociological study of youth. It was, in short, a return to the ethics of mod.
But enough of repeating the regularly told story of punk. What does it have to do with this box set?
The answer is what happened next. The punk flag flew and some of its most celebrated purveyors became icons themselves. At the same time, and more importantly, there was another demographic, the slightly younger kids, the ones from the suburbs, who felt left out in the cold by the evolving punk vanguard. Those kids formed bands and - arguably spurred on by the example of the new breed's most relevant purveyors, The Jam - made their references to the mod heritage more explicit. In one of those wonderful moments of chance, the emergence of these bands coincided with the release of the film version of Quadrophenia. The result was a fully blown mod revival.
The revival lasted, in one form or another, well into the next decade. The output is documented here. From the early post punk beginnings to the sophisticated underground conclusion. What's clear is that these bands were not "punks in parkas". These are the kids from the suburbs recounting tales of daily life. The early morning tea and toast and Modesty Blaise in the daily paper. The anticipation of the weekend and the potential it brought. The days hanging around a small town, the nights seeking out whatever thrills are on offer.
The mod revival bands forged their own identity. They are represented comprehensively here, from the early trailblazers, like The Chords, Secret Affair and The Purple Hearts, through to later stylists such as The James Taylor Quartet, The Studio 68 and Makin Time. The vast majority of the great bands are covered along the way, including The Cigarettes, The Prisoners, The Moment and many more too numerous to list here.
What jumps out from these tunes is the quality in many of these grooves. Right from the outset, the delivery and social commentary chimed with the bands' contemporaries, whether the subject matter was covered in Millions Like Us, Maybe Tomorrow or They're Back Again Here They Come. As mod went underground in the face of the eighties, the new protagonists developed their sound and outlook, whether that was stylishly reworking classic sixties instrumentals like Blow Up or describing modern life in songs like In This Town.
The mod revival bands have never fully been covered before. As such, this excellent Cherry Red box set fills a significant void. Complete with sleeve notes about every band and track, it chronicles a unique and diverse youth explosion that sprung up in the late seventies and has continued, in one form or another, ever since. It is the story of the musical output of a generation that had been inspired by the legacy of the original mods. It is well worth a listen.