The Marvelous Beauhunks: Scud EP

By Zachary Houle 
PopMatters Associate Music Editor

Shake Some Action

The oddly named Marvelous Beauhunks is a Canadian band from Oshawa, Ontario—a city just to the east of Toronto—that originally formed in 1990. Two years later, they were history. However, the group reformed in 2010, and if the fruits of the outfit’s new EP Scud are any indication, the absence might have been worth it. The Marvelous Beauhunks sound a little like the Flamin’ Groovies, with some additional ‘60s mod touches. Basically, the Scud EP walks down the street with the change in its pocket jangling. And here’s the kicker: you can download the EP for absolutely free from the band’s BandCamp page. So what are you waiting for? You have absolutely nothing to lose, aside from some hard drive space on your computer. Chances are, you won’t be disappointed. These five songs are gems and leave one wanting to hear what may come next.

The disc opens with “Top of the World”, which is a boot-shaking power pop gem that so vividly recreates the sound of the early ‘70s that you’d be forgiven for thinking it was from that era. “(If Yer Gonna Dream) Dream Big” comes next, in all of its acoustically strummed, giddy up and sunshiny glory. “Coffin Candy” has all the snarl of a Ramones track, but crouched in more power pop goodness. The psychedelia, Byrds-y “Where Are You Now?” vaguely also recalls Teenage Fanclub. “(Sha-La-La-La) Lights Out” is short and punchy at almost two-and-a-half minutes. It’s all great.

Now, the one odd thing about this release is that there are a couple of spots where it sounds like the Marvelous Beauhunks had the doors to the recording studio open and captured the sound of a truck beeping as it backed up. Intentional or not, it’s a bit distracting. Still, that’s just carping, especially when you’re getting this stuff for the cost of nothing. The Scud EP is a great investment, even if it is just of disc space, and you shouldn’t pass this one up.

Pop overthrow: Marvelous Beauhunks launch epic ‘Scud’

It’s not a Beatles revival, or a time machine back to 1960s British mod-rock. It’s even better: Ontario, Canada’s Marvelous Beauhunks are back with an explosive new Scud missile (musically, speaking), after disbanding over 20 years ago. The power quintet, led by vocalist Fab Claxton, reformed four years ago to put together a refreshing, modern take on pop that’s more current than vintage in its new EP.

In the 1990s, the Marvelous Beauhunks scored a monster alt-rock hit with “Fantasy Merry-Go-Round.” But on the cusp to surefire stardom, the lads experienced a bit of insecurity about their follow-up and the usual in-fighting inherent in headstrong bands. Drummer Stephen Wright then wrote a tell-all book, “The Marvelous Beauhunks: Do Not Resuscitate,” about the band’s break-up session. Wright contacted the band members about the book in progress, which then brought up the possibility of performing music for the eventual book release, and voila! A new band, more or less.

Claxton was brought on initially as a bass player before stepping in as the lead vocalist when more of the bleep! hit the fan. The new and improved Marvelous Beauhunks kicked into gear in 2010, making new music, hitting all the cool clubs — even Liverpool’s Cavern Club for the International Pop Overthrow in May, the same club once played by the Beatles — and recording singles, the 2013 EP Who Said The Kids Are Alright?, and now, Scud.

Scud, released on May 7, is available for free downloads at the Marvelous Beauhunks’ bandcamp page. The five songs make it clear the lads are back, stronger and more confident in their own power pop/indie sound. Unlike the 1990s, these musicians aren’t looking over their shoulders, trying to best their formative big breaks. They’ve clearly got their heads back in the game, thrill-seeking through some ballsy, modern editions of British mod rock — if British mod rock were invented in Oshawa.

“Top of the World” breezes through playful guitar flicks, providing plenty of mop-haired flailing action. “(Sha-La-La-La) Lights Out” really brings out the crazy-good in Claxton’s spontaneous outbursts. “(If Yer Gonna Dream) Dream Big” = the Beatles, if the Beatles cared anymore about the perfect pop song, cut through in growling, drowsy Barenaked Ladies drafts. “Coffin Candy” is what happens when mod rock brawls with early punk poseurs. The jumpy fast track contains mean lyrics and meaner lyrical gut-checks.

But hey, let’s get Fab Claxton in on this. He laid out the game plan with AXS, August 5.

Who the hell are you guys, you sound fab on this new EP?

Thank you, Carol! We’re the Marvelous Beauhunks — aka the best looking band in the world.

For the uninitiated, describe your sound.

We’re a little bit power-pop, a little bit mod-rock, and a whole lotta Britpop. We like to tell people we’re the best Britpop that was never made in Britain.

The new EP: covers or originals? What were you trying to get at in terms of the song themes, mood, vibe?

We only do original material. We really didn’t have a set theme or mood in mind for the EP, but we do put a lot of thought into which songs would sound good next to each other. We wanted to take our sound and push it a little further than on our previous release.

How is this music venturing into new territory for you all?

We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to our sound, but we’re definitely becoming a lot more confident when it comes to production. We’re trying a lot of interesting things in the studio, and I can see us going even further down that rabbit hole in the future.

Two guitars, a bass, drums, and your vocals. Obviously, you’re not a jazz band. Tell me about your musical influences, besides British mod pop.

We all love the first generation British Invasion bands — but the bands that really matter to us are the British punk and indie bands from from the late ‘70s to early ‘90s. Bands like the Clash, the Smiths, the Stone Roses, the Jam, the Happy Mondays…those are our heroes.

What about British mod pop appeals so much, and do you think the world is ready for a retro flashback?

I’m not sure what made us latch onto this music in our youth. I guess it’s because it’s just so damn cool. As far as a retro flashback is concerned…I don’t think we’ll see the mod pop sound climb to the top of the Billboard charts any time soon, but the Internet has given niche artists like ourselves a chance to reach an audience that wasn’t possible 20 years ago. There’s definitely a large community of mod rock/power-pop fans on the Internet.

Any plans for a full-length album?

We’ve been talking about this recently. I’d love to see us release a full-length album, but we record and mix our songs at a very slow pace. For us to release 12 songs at once, we’d probably have to take sabbaticals from work and lock ourselves in the studio for a few months. But you never know. We just might do that.

What, if anything, set the band off on this new trajectory to reform and release a new EP?

The drummer, Stephen Wright, wrote a book about the first lineup of the band and their brief run in the Canadian music industry in the early ‘90s called, “Do Not Resuscitate.” The band reformed in 2010 for a couple reunion shows to promote the book. Things were going well until the old tension reared its ugly head, and the original lead singer ended up leaving. I stepped in on lead vocals, and we brought in Fraz on second guitar and Duane McDonald on bass.

Tell me a little more about the band members, and yourself (who you’ve played with, your first influences, what made you get into this unforgiving business)?

Stephen Wright and Stephen Closs [guitar] are the two remaining original members. They formed the band in 1990, then broke up in 1992. Fraz and I played in various bands together over the years. Stephen Wright and I formed a side project, the Afterschool Cobra Gang, around the same time as the Beauhunks got back together. We brought in Fraz and Duane, then we just combined the Afterschool Cobra Gang with the Marvelous Beauhunks. It was like a corporate merger, except absolutely no money was made.

Any plans for an EP release party?

We recently played two nights at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, England as part of the International Pop Overthrow festival. We kind’ve treated that as our EP release party. We figured the home of the Beatles was as good a place as any.

Weird Canada reviews Marvelous Beauhunks memoir, “Do Not Resuscitate”.

From the ticket-strewn floors of Alexandra Jaworiwsky:

The Marvelous Beauhunks barely existed. What did exist was a full speed coaster of loop-di-loops, corkscrews and break-neck turns into the early nineties during the era of CFNY’s The Spirit of Radio. Amplifiers buzz on the pages where words exist like lyrics detailing the story of The Marvelous Beauhunks, “the best looking band in the world.” The best friends of misfits, the Beauhunks were powerful pop infused with the soul of their british icons. They inhaled cigarette smoke and exhaled a passion that almost took Toronto by storm. Almost. Stephen Wright, drummer of the Beauhunks past and present, curates the autobiography with a strange beat, illustrating the short-lived span of the Marvelous Beauhunks with first hand accounts, set lists, and press clippings from the time that they were almost the next big thing. The music scene is detailed in true rock and roll fashion, the Toronto venues of the present, gracing the pages of the past.

The Beauhunks climbed quickly and fell hard. The book is a crash of cymbals, a fight to the finish, but a passionate pop-rock performance and a memoir of the band you wish you had heard. Do not resuscitate.

“Clangy, bangin’, and a bit of the old alt-punk that makes you want to move your hips and pull air windmill guitars to, The Marvelous Beauhunks take the best of The Smithereens smashed with The Cult, old Who and Kinks, and a dash of The Lemonheads put it in a blender and come out with their own formula of rock n mod roll.”

Pittsburgh Music Magazine

The writing's on the wall.

The writing’s on the wall.

On summer hiatus, working through new material.

See you in the fall.