Hi-Fi To Die For - Soho Roses Print E-mail
Written by Ben Hughes   
Sunday, 08 April 2012 04:30



Soho Roses - 'Whatever Happened To...The Complete Works Of' (Full Breach Kicks)


Many albums are like snapshots of the past, favourite albums stir memories and feelings of certain times in my life, mostly good times however rose-tinted my memory may be. An album I may not have listened to in maybe ten years, I could put on now and I know I would remember every lyric and every riff and those songs would take me back to that time when I first fell in love with it; favourite albums are timeless for this reason. It's even more personal when it's a lesser known band to me, it's like a secret that only the chosen few are in on. Soho Roses were one of these bands.


Many bands came and went in the late '80s in the mad rush to be the next Hanoi or the next GN'R. Most fell by the wayside, but the Soho Roses candle burned brighter and shorter than many. Between 1987 and 1989 they released two EPs and one album, that's their legacy, but what a legacy it is. Those 16 songs stand true to this day, sounding as fresh now as the day the needle first hit the groove. Yes, the production is cheap and nasty and the guitars sound like they were recorded in a tin can (it was recorded in two days, one to record it and one to mix it), but it all adds to the simple charm and is part of what made this band so special. It's an album that proves a top notch production is not always needed and that a good song will shine through no matter what, and shine they surely do.


They didn't even tour extensively, the odd gigs with The Dogs D'amour and Last of the Teenage Idols. For a band that fell apart before their album was even released it's surprising that they are still seen as influential and are remembered so fondly in certain circles.


'The Third and Final Insult' will always be a 'getting ready to go out album' to me; back in the day, around 1990, I was living in Swansea and in a band called the Suicide Love Dolls. We never got past the rehearsal stage, but we had all the right intentions. Looking good was the priority, followed closely by consuming as much alcohol as possible on a Friday night, then we would have a hungover band rehearsal on a Saturday. This album always reminds me of those times, it stirs memories of fighting over the mirror and the eyeliner, the smell of Boots hairspray (everything in the room got coated in that shit! It was like artist's spray mount!) and singed hair from over use of crimpers, and that was just us fellas! On Friday nights wherever we were getting ready it would be just like the cover of the 'Whatever Happened To... ' EP as we drunkenly attempted to emulate some sort of Hanoi/Faster Pussycat cloning process. We sohoroseswould then head out to Cinderella's nightclub to spend most of the night trying to look well cool propping up the bar, before doing drunken dancing to the odd Black Crowes, Bon Jovi and Cult songs that would sometimes crop up...good times.


It made sense to me when starting this review to deal with '..The Complete Works' album rather than 'The Third and Final Insult' as it is the full package that was finally released on CD in 2007 that finally enabled all us die hards to throw away our CD-r vinyl rips that we all owned.


'..The Complete Works' is just as it says on the tin; there was no other material recorded so we get the full album plus the two EPs,and even a 2006 remix of the 'So Alone' EP. With a running order of 23 tracks yet a total of only 16 songs (less if you take away the instrumentals) the inclusion of three versions of 'So Alone' and 'I Want You' may be pushing it a bit but, hey, it does say The Complete Works, right? That's what skip buttons were invented for.


Why are they essential listening, then? Well, a lot of bands of that era tried to copy Hanoi and the Dolls with varied results, but few captured the spirit and sounds as well as the Soho Roses did. When you look at the band photo on the cover of the 'Whatever Happened to...' EP you know what you are going to get. It's a scene of debauchery, all the cliches are there, Thunderbird bottles, Hard Rock hairspray, make up, fags 'n' vinyl and the band sprawled across a sofa glammed to the max, but this band were no Poison clones. Their influences were more punk than rock, more Hanoi Rocks than Motley Crue, and with their Michael Monroe clone frontman Paul Blittz, they were seemingly just the tonic that us UK die hard glam fans were in need of.


I own the vinyl releases (pink album cover not white though) and to finally get these songs on CD was well overdue and felt like a complete and defining musical moment. Yet as I now sit here staring at those three records all I want to do is go out and buy a record player, especially as I got side tracked in the record box thumbing past all the lovely Dogs and Hanoi records I still own. Some bands were just meant to be listened to on vinyl and as I have not had access to a record player since about 1994, I reckon it's time I went retro.


From the opening chords of the Pipeline-esque instrumental 'Bollocks' to short instrumental closer 'Bye' it's clear where they are coming from and if that wasn't enough opening song proper 'Why D'Ya Break My Heart' confirms any suspicions; it's a melting pot of the best Hanoi and Dolls riffs combined with catchy punk pop melodies, it's two and half minutes of pure musical bliss. No room for a breather as it segues into the fantastic 'Dance With Me' and again into a cover of The Buzzcocks' 'What Do I Get' which fits their style like a glove, is the perfect cover, and they make it their own. I imagine these opening songs were recorded pretty much live and all in one go, that's the feeling that they give.


There is honestly not a bad song on this album, it's a party from start to finish. 'Cos Of You' could've been a Ramones song, 'Next To You' is more infectious than chickenpox, Paul Blittz doing his finest Michael Monroe impression, it's urgent and catchy and I can't help but sing along all the way through. Great harmonies on this song, especially towards the end, love it. 'I Want You', with its "I gotcha number, I gotcha number, oohh I gotcha number" refrain, is still a classic in my eyes...love it. All the songs are short and sweet, there's a great sense of urgency and a high dose of energy throughout.


Relistening to this album now, I am surprised at the lyrical content. I never paid much attention to lyrics back then and now realise all the songs are basically about love and relationships, as all the best ones are. Tales of getting the girl, trying to keep the girl and reminiscing over losing the girl. A prime example is 'First Kiss', a beautiful, heartfelt ballad that sees Blittz open his heart, it could be Michael Monroe singing this for sure, such is the delivery.


'So Alone' is the classic sing-a-long single that they will probably be remembered for, it pretty much epitomises the band and the times. It's cock sure, full of attitude and a song aimed at getting the girl. If I was to make a mixtape of those times, this song would be on it.


What makes this release truly essential is the added bonus EP tracks, 'Sweet Sixteen', 'Crazy 'Bout Me', with its fall apart ending with burps and laughter, and, of course, the fantastical and acoustic 'Yesterday's Girl', a song that stands alone from the rest, imagine the Ramones doing 'Inbetween Days' by The Cure and you may be close to the vibe they create.


The fact that this band went largely unnoticed is a crime in musical history, but it was of course inevitable and happened to many of our favourite bands. Nothing lasts forever but it would have been nice if it had lasted a little bit longer for the Soho Roses.


There will be no Soho Roses reunions, no greatest hits tour, they are long gone and forgotten by most, but for the select few who were there, they will always be remembered. They are as much a part of rock 'n' roll history as their peers and they will always be remembered with a fondness in my heart.



To pick up your copy of 'Whatever Happened To... The Complete Works' - CLICK HERE