Year of Release: 1981
Although the fact is curiously irregularly referenced these days, a whole host of retro mods and power poppers hit the music scene in the early eighties, all seemingly having a shelf-life of one or two hit singles before getting forgotten about. In the mod corner we had Secret Affair and The Lambrettas - both hideously over-rated by lovers of that kind of noise, I'll have you know - and in the power-pop corner sat far too many people to list, including The Pinkees who were disqualified from the charts because their record company went around lots of chart return shops buying up their disc. Personally, I think they should have been disqualified from the charts just because their PR seemed to revolve around making vague and unrealistic suggestions that they were the "new Beatles", but I'm a harsh man as you'll know.
Of all these backwards-looking eighties bands, however, The Look genuinely do remain my favourites. With their squawking, pounding organ noises (of the electric variety, in case anything else was going through your sick minds) almost glam rhythms and a healthy degree of worship at the Temple of the Earworm, their singles were simple but extremely powerful and effective. Their love of Northern Soul, The Small Faces and The Kinks was palpably obvious, but their ability not to take the post-modern approach of referencing old riffs and instead seemingly discovering fresh ones should be applauded. Plenty of these bands were bone idle where such things were concerned, and indeed plenty of retro bands still are.
Sadly, their label MCA didn't quite get them, it would seem, and pressured them into releasing the single "Tonight", a cover of the West Side Story classic which worked well live, but sounded a tiny bit pointless as an A-side. Far more interesting is the B-side "Three Steps Away", which presented here shouldn't disappoint anyone who enjoyed their hit "I Am The Beat", being more joyful riffage of the same nature - and whilst I doubt KT Tunstall referenced that riff for "Suddenly I See" years later, there is a slight similarity going on.
Year of Release: 1981
For some reason MCA clearly eventually saw sense and re-issued "Three Steps Away" as the main A-side, but remixed it in a slick, smooth, polished eighties way in the process, completely removing any of the track's edge. The band claimed that they burnt their own personal copies of their debut album because they were so disgusted by what MCA did to the sound, and one listen to this proves why.
Once again, though, the flip side "It's Much Too Late For That" is a charming little ditty about failure to get one's end away, all pub piano and mod vocals. Hardly essential stuff, but likable enough to be worth a download.
All this over-production meant that The Look were one of the few bands I know of to actually sound more punchy and effective when they reformed in 2005 than at any point during their first incarnation. Their noughties album "Pop Yowlin'" is actually a lovely piece of work which, had it been issued in the mid-nineties by an up and coming act, would without question have received a lot of attention. As it stands, their retroisms and attention to period detail were peculiarly both ahead of and behind the times in 1981, and just plain yesterday's news by 2005. Ten years ahead of their time, and ten years behind their time, The Look are an unfortunate band, but one well, well worth digging up material by. Of all the eighties bands I've ever included on "Left and To The Back" (and I did write about another one of their singles here) they're probably the one I have the biggest soft spot for, and it's enormously frustrating that so few people are aware of their work.