Claire Mahoney checks out this new compilation from the 1980s Bristol-based mod band The Reaction.
Most of us of a mod persuasion have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the music of the revival. For some, it’s post punk brashness didn’t quite sit with the smoothness of the suede shoes we were wearing. By the mid 80s many of us of a certain generation that weren’t heading off on scooter rallies were turning our attention to the music of mid to later 60s – The Byrds, Love, The Beatles as we explored a more psychedelic avenues. And this is where Bristol-based mod band The Reaction come in.
Whether they knew it or not during their hey-day they were ahead of the curve by choosing to re-create the harmony driven, hippy leanings of dreamy California within the very British mould of mod. This month Bristol Archive Records releases ‘Shapes of Things to Come’ a CD of The Reaction’s previously unreleased recordings made between 1985-1987, both in the studio and on their own 4-track.
In their short career, the band rode the 80s mod roller coaster – supporting Geno Washington at the Exmouth Scooter Rally in 1986 and Eleanor Rigby, whose management – Waterloo Sunset signed them for a one record deal. The resulting single, ‘Make up Your Mind’ got airplay from the likes of John Peel and Andy Kershaw, and even went for a second pressing. The B-side, ‘Four by Four’ was even included on the cult movie album ‘Themes from the 60s Volume 1’.
The title of this CD is an obvious nod to the Yardbird’s cover ‘Shapes of Things’ which opens this 11-song trip down mod memory lane. Although demo-quality, the CD is a reminder, for those who might have seen the band ‘back in the day,’ of their genuine musicianship and authentic 60s sound, which at times, makes it hard to place them in one decade – as their sound so successfully spanned three. But what strikes me the most is their inventiveness on tracks such as Surf-Riding which has a real Jesus and Mary Chain feel to it – hinting at the fact that had this band continued to stick at it they would have survived the end of the mod revival and moved into the ‘indie’ scene with ease. ‘Shapes of Things to Come’ also features a number of confidently delivered covers including, The Beatle’s ‘And Your Bird Can Sing’ and The Creation’s ‘For All That I Am.”
Sadly, much like the mod revival itself, The Reaction’s career was short-lived and they disbanded within three years. There is of course a heavy irony in this CD’s title – these songs were not the ‘Shapes of Things to Come’ at all, but they were the sounds that shaped us and them and remain a snapshot a talent that never really had chance to come of age.