The Motors: The Virgin Years

Pub rockers at their peak.

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

Had The Motors formed in, say, Memphis, rather than the London suburbs, you’d imagine they’d be taken a little more seriously by the power-pop anoraks. As it is, thanks to radio perennial Airport, they’re remembered as archetypal one-hit wonders. A shame, as this four-disc, 52-track compilation (including a 20-page booklet) proves they were actually a gritty little R&B band.

If debut album The Motors – produced by Mutt Lange – is a bristling reminder of Nick Garvey and Andy McMaster’s roots in pub-rock icons Ducks Deluxe, follow-up Approved By is far more ambitious. Almost pathologically tuneful, its combination of Macca-esque rock-outs (Mama Rock’n’Roller), elegant ELO-esque pop (Forget About You, Today) and jaunty singalongs (Soul Redeemer) would, you’d imagine, have done serious chart business had it not emerged during the punk firestorm of 1978.

Its commercial failure led to the band’s implosion, making third album Tenement Steps a disjointed affair. You can almost hear the kitchen sink clattering in the background of opener Love And Loneliness, and the overcooked arrangements (Metropolis) and bonkers lyrics (That’s What John Said) suggest a band who had lost control of their creative rudder.

Much more fun – and more representative of their talents – is a fourth disc comprising two Peel Sessions from 1977, where they growl their way through live favourites, including a blistering Phoney Heaven.

Paul Moody is a writer whose work has appeared in the Classic Rock, NME, Time Out, Uncut, Arena and the Guardian. He is the co-author of The Search for the Perfect Pub and The Rough Pub Guide.