Friday, July 18, 2014

Collapse - Apocalyptic Key EP

I first came across the band Collapse back in July of 2013 when I saw their name on a local Hardcore bill. At the time,
I couldn't help but wonder if it was a reunion of the short lived NYHC band featured on
Freddy Alva's New Breed Compilation. After seeing Detroit's Collapse on that sweat drenched July night, I learned different. As luck would have it, they had no relation to the aforementioned band of the same name. After witnessing their emotional and sonically ear shattering set that night and taking home their artfully packaged "Disarm" demo. I was more than happy to find out it wasn't a decades past band trying to relive their salad days.

During the year that has passed. I've heard very little about a band I gained an instant liking to. That was until I noticed a posting from the bands drummer Matthew Cross.

The bands sound reminds me of what would happen if Henry Rollins era Black Flag met up with New York Anarcho Punks Nausea to give Amy (Nausea) singing lessons. Though often sung in a screamo style. Ashleigh's vocals are never over the top or grinding. A trait that often makes so many screamo acts unlistenable. Though the seven songs featured on "Apocalyptic Key" are dark, somewhat dooming and ultimately, apocalyptic. A lot can be said for what's happening musically. Great leads, dark bass lines and punishing percussion more than compliment vocals that are delivered with passion and urgency. With song titles like
"Inside the Monster", "Infimary" and "Skulls". You pretty much know what you're getting in to. My advice is "dig deep and get dirty". This is definitely worth getting dirty over.
James Damion

Collapse Punk  Band Page
Bandcamp  Get it Here

Skull Practitioners - S/T 1 Cassette Demo

It's not often that a cassette tape shows up in the mail. Instantly returning me to my days in Queens when I'd be hard at work on the latest issue of Unite.
These days, I often find myself standing in wonderment, admiring how perfectly this ancient technology fits my mailbox. Then wondering how in the hell will I find a way to listen to it. This weeks arrival delivered more than a digital download and some nostalgia for me though. It was the sounds within that produced the real reward.
New York's Skull Practioners, a relatively new trio featuring 3/5 of the band DBCR (Review Here.)
are poised for noise. Recently featured as
The Deli's NYC Record of the Month!
(And rightfully so.) The four track cassette serves as a perfect introduction to the bands sound. One that seems to develop and unravel simultaneously.
The trio's sound blends components of Psych, Surf and Post Punk to form a somewhat loose and experimental garage banger that is sonically dissonant. While the third track "Foreign Wives" got the biggest rise out of this listener. It's the addition of "Nelson D" (recorded live at Brooklyn's Grand Victory) that really puts the bands musical ability and promise on display. Add to it the trip inducing artwork of Renato Cascioli and you've really got a strong foundation to build on. I'll definitely keep my eyes and ears open for these cats. Until then, go check out their bandcamp and bust out that cassette player. James Damion

Skull Pactitioners  Bandcamp




Live Music Lives in the Basements and Back Rooms of Our Souls.

With the closing of Maxwell's and the continuing restoration of the nearby Meatlocker. Finding a local spot to see your favorite bands has become harder and harder these days. With mounting tolls, speeding tickets and empty gas tanks adding up. I decided to shorten my trip and head west to Montclair to see what everyone was not talking about when it came to The Batcave.

Désir Decir opened the night on a very high note. The trio hailing from Union and Jersey City have been playing out regularly in support of their debut EP "Mechanics" recently released on Keanry's Killing Horse Records. I think I've missed several shows due to monsoon rain, hurricanes and doomsday prophecies.  Lucky for me, there was no impending doom being reported on this Wednesday night. The bands live presence and performance are definitely praise worthy. It's bands like Désir Decir that reenforce my love for live music and make leaving the apartment on a weekday night a rewarding experience.
Desir Decir Facebook
Killing Horse Records  Purchase "Mechanics" Here


Next up was local heroes the Life Eaters. I've seen the band several times in the past. 
Each time I left feeling the venue lacked the space and/or ambiance deserving of such amazing energy. Well, maybe it wasn't the amount of space after all. Perhaps a dirty, no frills, no advertisement, broken toilet basement was just what the band need to perfectly display their gift from bombast and savagery. The five piece band featuring current and former members of Désir Decir, No Pasarán, Merel, Rye Coalition and the co mastermind of Killing Horse Records. Plain and simple this bands brand of testosterone driven Rock & Roll is so satisfying. There's an incredible energy about Life Eaters that cannot be contained. The band should have their debut EP out soon on Killing Horse. In my opinion, it couldn't possibly come soon enough.
Life Eaters Facebook


It takes a lot of heart to stand up on a stage with nothing but a song in your heart and an acoustic in your hands. His stripped down whispered style reminded me at times of acts such as Ween and the Front Bottoms but overall was a bit of a stretch for me being I was not provided with a comfy chair and a stiff drink. I never bothered to remove my camera from it's cozy during the set. Their was a certain intimacy about his performance I wouldn't dare disrupt.Though I can respect the art of the song. This really wasn't my thing. 

Closing an already stellar night on a high note were Jersey City's Overlake. It had been quite some time since I last saw the band perform at Asbury Lanes for the annual Dromedary Records Camelfest. That night the bands performance left my jaw and a big, soggy pile of drool on in the gutters of the Bowling Alley/Performance space. Add to it their album "Sighs" one of 2014 most rewarding releases and I felt somewhat lucky to be there to support the start of their tour in such an intimate setting. Tom, Lysa and Scotty make for a powerful trio. They create a soundscape that is introspective and melancholy. Though the bands sound has it share of key influences. I can't help but feel they listened to their share of 
My Bloody Valentine. Prior to the show I sat outside with Tom and talked about the first time we met. At the time, he was the drummer for No Pasarán. Since then, I've witnessed him become one of the best multi instrumentalists in the scene. Playing guitar and keys with The Everyman and singing, playing guitar and writing for Overlake. Though his personality seems to avoid the spotlight. His talent shines bright enough to warrant a long stay. 
Best of luck to them on the tour. 
Overlake  Facebook
Killing Horse Records  Purchase "Sighs" Here

Thanks to all the bands and the people who run the Batcave. I can see this place becoming my permanent residency. Until then. James Damion

Friday, June 27, 2014

Stuyvesant Invades Ludlow Street's Cake Shop

Sunday night I awoke from  my anti social coma and headed down to Ludlow St. to enjoy a set from one of my favorite live acts, Stuyvesant. Though I'd been making excuses all week when it came to going out. I felt that I somehow owed it to myself to brake out of whatever slump I was in. Wedged between two other acts, (Guy with a keyboard and a computer) and Miss Lonely Heart, ( reunited act that, just two nights prior, played it's first show in more than ten years.) Stuyvesant were just what I needed musically. There uplifting, energetic power pop is always there when I need a lift or a reason to brighten my already cheery demeanor. The band just recently wrapped up recording a new album. One I hope sees a release date sometime this summer. Look for it on Dromedary Records and look below for some pictures of the band. James Damion

 Ralph Malanga

 Sean Adams 

Brian Musikoff
 Pete Martinez




An Interview with Richmond Virginia's Positive No

Formed in the winter of 2011. Richmond Virginia's Positive No blend elements of 
90's indie rock, dream pop and shoegaze to create a warm and summery sound that's granted the bands debut EP "Via Florum" a permanent place on my turntable. As the momentum builds and the talk of a follow up to their promising debut begin to surface, 
I reached out to Tracy and Kenny to writing, recording and all the things that make 
being in a band so rewarding. Here's what they had to say. James Damion

Kenny Close - Guitar / Andre Phillips - Bass / Willis Thompson - Drums 
Tracy Keets Wilson - Vocals

James: How did Positive No come to be? Were you all friends before deciding to work on music together?

Kenny: There were a few events in 2011 that stand out:  finally figuring out digital recording, a craigslist bass, and watching a peer band our age play one of their early shows. All of these moments happened within a month or two of each other and led to feeling like writing songs again might be a fun project.

In the very beginning, it was me and an old band member working on coast to coast demos and politely asking Tracy to agree to sing on the songs once they were done. After the first two songs were finished, Tracy and I gave writing music together a whirl which has turned into a pretty great creative team. When we posted the demos online the response was encouraging enough to try to form a live band and give playing out a go. We knew Willis from our circle of friends and while we have had a few different bass players, Andre (our most recent bass player) had been a fan of the band and we met him from coming out to shows throughout 2013.

James: Tracy, can you tell me about the process of writing songs with the band.
If I'm correct, this is the first time you've worked in a group setting since Dahlia Seed.

Tracy: You are correct, this is the first time I have been in a serious band since Dahlia Deed in the mid '90s. The songwriting process has really metamorphosed since 2011.
Kenny was the primary songwriter to begin with but over the last two years, the two of us write the outline of the song (on bass/ guitar) and then we bring it to practice where we teach it to our drummer and bass player. From that point the whole band adds their creative magic touches. We alter the parts as we play it live together, and the final version takes shape after a few weeks of practicing it together.  After 25 years of songwriting I genuinely still cannot comfortably play an instrument and sing the way I do at the same time. I wish I owned that skill but I still don't. I am in an unusual position where I can write a song but ultimately it has to go through several filters of other band members making it their own before it becomes a Positive No song. Once the music is relatively settled, I begin deciding on what words, themes, emotions, the song gives me and from there, I build lyrics and vocal melodies. I am jealous of singers who can hum melodies before they have words but for me, I typically need words before I decide on timing and vocal melodies.

James: The music you've created over the last (almost) twenty years has had a profound effect on me as both (for lack of better words) a music nerd and to get super personal, a human being. The thing is, a lot of that came from pain and loss. With Positive No I feel as if you've come to a crossroads of sorts. There's a sense of joy and celebration in these songs. Does that reflect on your personal life or is it more akin to the creative process within a group dynamic.

Tracy:  It is difficult to write this reply on the heels of being told less than twelve hours ago that an old friend passed away (Jeff from the Jeff Humphrey Trio). My heart aches today for the loss of a talented, sweet man that so many of my friends will deeply miss.

I have spent the bulk of my adult life coping with panic / anxiety stemming from my childhood as well as an unusually heavy amount of loss in my family over the span of twenty years. It was only recently that I truly felt most of the trauma and grief from loss was behind me. I still have my good days and bad days but within the bigger picture, I am a much more grounded, happy, person now. Life is unpredictable but at least now I am not trying to cope with those curveballs on top of feeling emotionally broken. It took decades of hard work to reach this place (and then three more years for my body to recover from being hit by a car) but with the help of an amazing partner like Kenny, tremendous friends who have become my family, and a very supportive creative community here in Richmond,
I am surrounded by encouragement and love.

Without giving too much away, the songs for our upcoming record have their uplifting moments but the darkness is still very much there. The difference is that now, I have a healthier balance of the light and dark in my life. It doesn't get more Positive No than that.

James: Though I'm sure it was not intentional, the name Positive No makes me think of some random HXC band from the 80's that might be on the bill with Negative Approach and SSD. What does the name represent for you?

Tracy: Funny James, I had never thought about the classic hardcore stereotypical name but maybe subconsciously that is why these words appealed to me. While Kenny and I were in the early stages of writing songs and not even a band yet, we were watching a documentary on the American designers Charles & Ray Eames. There is a moment in the film that shows Ray's office filled with things of inspiration to her. One item particular really resonated with me. She had written a note to herself and pinned it up on the wall. It said
"The positive no". I can't say definitively what it meant to her but I love this idea of staying firm in your decisions but doing so in a manner that you are communicating it in a polite way. The words positive no flashed up on the TV screen and we all agreed at that moment how it read like a great name for a band. (On a side note, we watched this documentary with ex Dahlia Seed / Dunebuggy member Jon who happened to be visiting us during the holidays in 2011. )

James: You recorded
"Via Florum" with the legendary J. Robbins at Magpie Cage studios. I can think of a couple of dozen reasons to want to record with him.
What specifically influenced you to seek him out?

Kenny: Tracy had recorded some Ringfinger vocals with J. and spoke very highly of the experience. Everyone seemed receptive to working with him and it was a pretty natural decision which tends to be a good sign when it comes to music. We all were fans of J.’s music and when we started talking about records he worked on it just felt silly not to go with him.

James: How involved was he in the recording? Is there an element to his approach that stands out?

Kenny: J. lent a lot of support in providing expertise of his studio and what he felt were the best ways to get certain sounds out of it that I imagine he felt were a good fit for our band. He certainly expressed his opinions when asked or when he felt the need to do so.
Overall, he was pretty hands off and let us come in, work as quickly and efficiently as we could so we could get a quality recording in an affordable fashion.

The things that stick out most with the experience is that J. came across as authentic and clearly a lover of music. We've all worked with engineers who don't seem to care about the music they are recording and his attitude was the exact opposite.  The environment was very relaxed which was really important for us during the time we were in the studio as we were still such a new band.

James: Have you been writing new material since the EP's release? Is there potential for another record in the near future?

Tracy: We are in the process of writing new songs right now. We have 5 completed songs with three more in various stages of completion. We would like to finish writing a new full length by the end of this Summer and record them in either the Fall or Winter.
It is expensive to record and self release an album so who knows when we will actually be able to afford all of this. The silver lining is we don’t feel pressured to rush out a new record so we are taking our time to write songs we are really excited about.

James: I was really hoping to make it down to Richmond for the bands first show. Unfortunately, I didn't have it in me to drive down on my own. Can you tell me how those first shows went and what it felt like performing as a band?

Kenny: The first hand full of shows were probably like most...a few moments of grace, a few disasters, and trying to keep the nerves in tact. They were all near sold out crowds ( this had nothing to do with us and everything to do with playing with bands like
The Babies and Beach Fossils) which didn't necessarily ease us into it, but forced the band to get used to playing in front of people again and the magic that is connected with the experience. We are a live band, I think you get a better sense of us and our music when you see it in person and can watch the intensity of the group, especially Tracy and Willis.

James: You also played a show with Static is a City? What was it it like sharing the stage with an old band mate? How long had it been since you'd seen Chris?

Tracy: It was a great to play Static is a City's first show. Chris was the first to respect me musically enough to ask me to play in a band with him back in the early '90s. Honestly, I am not sure I would be playing music today without my introduction to him. Needless to say, sharing a stage with a mentor and old friend is a huge deal for me. Chris lives one state South of Virginia but we only see each other about every other year. I have fewer friends than ever still making music in their adult lives so it is extra special when our lives intersect and we have the opportunity to share a stage together. I can't think Chris Defusco of Negative Fun records for putting that show in Raleigh together for us.

Positive No  Official
Bandcamp  Downloads
Facebook More Fun
Little Black Cloud Records



Thursday, June 26, 2014

Those Mockingbirds - Penny The Dreadful

Penny The Dreadful marks a turning point for Those Mockingbirds, who have spent the last few years carving a steady path to the forefront of New Jersey's sea of rock bands on the strength of exceptional live performances and promising EP Fa So La. It was difficult to predict the sound of long-form Mockingbirds, as this is a band whose devotion to the hook always belied a deep, varied pool of influences among its five participants and a knack for arranging them super-creatively. Penny captures this band successfully satisfying either impulse, meeting their potential, and injecting life into a style that some seem to think is approaching anachronism status.

Above all, because it plays so well from front to back, I'm really pleased with Penny as an obstinate defender of the album format. The first three tracks carry the feel of singles, with "A Ballad From Hell" standing out for its chilly vocal-violin combo and the steady build to the tempo boost halfway through, totally cinematic and terrifying. Loud mode then kicks in on
"How To Rob A Bank" and "Teenage Fantasies," which hit quite directly and leave me feeling divided. These songs overflow with grimy riffing and thick textures, flaunt finely-tuned choruses, and benefit greatly from the big production. All the same, once
"Loose Leather" unfolds next,
 it gives the sense that this band is looking toward bigger things than just a carefully-trimmed single or two for summer rock playlists.
Its Cave In-sized chunk, slick leads, and beyond-catchy vocal interplay between singers
Adam Bird and Tory Anne Daines bring me much closer to my alt-rock happy place.

The absurdly-catchy chorus of the pumping "Bodies on the Road" is probably my favorite on Penny, with the runner-up going to bittersweet pop-rocker "The Reckoning" and its declaration,"I don't wanna know what it's like to be happier." Elsewhere, where it'd have been easy to succumb to filler, the band toss us track after track with fresh flavors and elegant arrangements. "Destroy My Love" recalls the eerie indie-rock saunter of some of their
pre-Fa So La jaunts for a song packed with interesting contrast: The bass's stomp in the verse against Bird's feathery falsetto in the chorus; the timbres of the guitar and plucked violin as they both play the hook; the meditative bridge giving way to an embittered, explosive climax. "S.A.L.T." switches to downtempo shuffle with a gorgeous, mourning violin melody and layers of soaked guitar. Penultimate ballad "Model Myself" and closer
"I Feel Like I Died" turn toward a pensive mood with great effect, especially on the latter as Bird gives a crushingly frank morning-after reflection that creates an odd peace together with gently-fingerpicked acoustic.

Clearly a labor of love, Penny The Dreadful covers a lot of ground, and deftly so. Simultaneously blunt and subtle, simple and nuanced, Those Mockingbirds have struck a careful balance without sacrificing an ounce of passion. Like every strong debut, the feeling of satisfaction comes with imagining what they might try next. Penny doesn't provide any obvious answers, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Darrel Norrell

Friday, June 20, 2014

7 Seconds - Leave A Light On

On the band's first full length in nine years. 7 Seconds, a band that is now thirty four years deep into their existence show no signs of ever slowing down or becoming a nostalgia act. Though time and age rarely serve bands well.
The years have been very good to Kevin and crew.
Now in their fifty's, the Reno pioneers of Positive Hardcore prove that Hardcore music is more than a passing trend or phase we go through in our teens and early twenties.
Core values that gave birth to positive hardcore still ring true while serving as inspiration for much of the material on
"Leave the Light on."
Featuring fourteen songs of uplifting, anthemic songs that you'll be singing along to from the get go. Anthems such as "Slogan on a Shirt", "I Have Faith in You",
"30 Years (And Still Going Wrong)" and "Leave the Light On" serve a stand outs for me personally. Overall, this is about as good as it gets. In my opinion, the best thing 7 Seconds has done in their post "Ourselves" lifespan. Get it. Listen. Love it. Live it.
James Damion

Rise Records  Get it Here


The Everymen - Givin' Up On Free Jazz.

For the band's sophomore full length, "Givin' Up On Free Jazz". New Jersey's
The Everymen team up with Ernest Jenning's Records. The nine piece, multi instrumental band, originally formed in 2009 and has since established itself as one of the hardest working band in show business.

The album opens like a rocket launch with a forty-seven second instrumental "Bl'ast Off". Mere seconds that prove, once and for all, that in reality, the "V" in guitarist Michael V.'s name stands for Venom.
The band quickly changes gears on
"A Girl Named Lou".
A song that puts a well deserved spotlight on Catherine Herrik's boundless vocal range.
The albums fifth entry and personal favorite, "AnotherThing to Lose", features a meaty bass line and overall vibe that immediately brings to mind Golden Earring's classic "Radar Love".
The Everymen invite Springsteen to the party with their cover of  "Ain't Good Enough for You." (No, Bruce does not physically contribute here.) The spirited homage is part E Street Band, part Asbury Jukes, all Jersey shore.
Overall, this is about as much fun as you can get without risking lengthy incarceration.
From the Metallic opener "Bl'ast Off" to the dark, deep and soulful closer "Izzy".
The Everymen put their uncanny ability to change up and switch gears effortlessly on display. The romp and the bomp we've come to love about the band is evident throughout and though the bands is as varied as it is retrospective. They seem to have created their very own genre here.
Each of the eleven songs featured on "Givin' Up On Free Jazz" cement The Everymen's reputation as one of the most loved bands out there. A pure celebration of drunken debauchery. One thankfully void the nagging hangover that often follows.
How can you possibly refuse? James Damion

Ernest Jennings Records  Get it Here

Ache - 2014 Demo

They say that people often mellow with age. After listening to these five songs,
I'm guessing Ache never got the memo. The band, just over six months old features some veterans of the Hardcore/Punk scene including Ryan Bland (SInger) and Matty Gelsomino (Guitarist) of the short lived yet stellar defunct NYHC acts Dead Serious and Abject. Though it's always sad when good bands decide to call it quits. It often opens the doors for X members to form new creative and exciting acts. Ache's five song demo not only proves this theory, it cements it with this, their first demo.

Fast paced, guitar driven Hardcore Punk with a screamo vocal approach that is harsh, yet soulful. Five songs that sound more like a debut 7' EP than a demo. Fierce vocals and lyrics driven by three key motivators (emotion, pain and alienation). From as far back as his days with the Bushmen and most notably Home 33. Ryan Bland has established himself as one of the fiercest frontmen to ever hit the stage or the mic. While the forceful riffs and pitt bull vocals on "Snakebite" are undeniable. A perfect demonstration of the bands ferocity. It's the Leeway inspired "Dirty Roads" with it's Leeway inspired chorus that got more than a dozen go rounds on my headphones. Ache leave a a large footprint with their debut. One that will lead most to look forward to more. You can pick up the demo at one of the shows or contact the band through their Bandcamp, Regardless, keep your eyes out for Ache.
They are definitely a band on the rise. James Damion

Ache NYHC  Facebook




Brain Slug - Creep / Annihilate Me 7'

I was introduced to Long Island's Brain Slug fairly recently at a somewhat rare Hardcore show at nearby Stevens Institute of Technology.
That night the band played a set that made me realize my local Hardcore scene had a lot more to offer than the annual festivals and reunion shows.
Raw, angry Hardcore that really helped set the tone for a night to remember.
Originally released on cassette by Bleeding Edges and
Self Acceptance. This two song chainsaw finally makes it's way to vinyl format. Featuring two songs of early 80's influenced Hardcore that will have you thinking of bands like SSD and the more geographically friendly Krakdown. Quick and to the point. "Creep" and "Annihilate Me" take their walk on the dark side. Brain Slug are definitely a band to keep your eyes on. The band recently performed at the annual Black 'N Blue Bowl and play out regularly. Be sure to check this out. James Damion

Buy it Here  Bridge Nine

Friday, June 13, 2014

D. Smith's Video for the Single "Fait Accompli"

Man of mystery D. Smith has just posted an incredibly moving video for the song "Fait Accompli. Available on ShitHouse Records. The track features Bobby Diamond on drums. "Fait Accompli" was at Kenny Lacatena's Homebrew Studios. You can download the album Here.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Jersey City's The Black Hollies Call it Quits

Jersey City's The Black Hollies have officially called it quits. The band originally formed in 2005 and featured Herb Willey and John Gonneli of The Rye Coalition. The quartet quickly signed with Brooklyn's Ernest Jennings Records and officially debuted in 2006 with the 
self-produced "Crimson Reflections". The bands sound was a perfect mix of 60's, Alternative, Psychedelic, Space Rock, Garage, Noise and Rock. Their most recent release was 2014's "Somewhere Between Here and Nowhere." Needless to say, they left us with a lot of great music and memories. They will surely be missed. No reason has been given for the breakup as of yet. One can only hope it's an internet hoax or a belated April Fools joke.

Killing Horse Records Streaming 2014 Sampler


Our friends over at
Killing Horse records are currently streaming their 2014 Sampler. Featuring sixteen tracks from the bands you love to the bands we know your going to love. As I listen,
I become very excited for what the summer is going to bring. Featuring songs from
The Life Eaters, Cicada Radio, Overlake, Wreaths, TV Sound, Cold Fur, Secret Country,
The Everymen, Desir Decir and more.
Streaming Here
Killing Horse Records

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Songs For Snakes - Year of The Snake


Songs For Snakes are back with the follow up to 2012's  "Charcoal Heather"  and while there are a few subtle sonic difference on
"Year of The Snake".  the album delivers much the same kick, passion and catchiness that first caught my attention on their debut Lp
"Charcoal Heather".

Musically, the backbone of the bands sound is firmly planted in the straight forward Jawbreaker / Husker Du Style of days gone by, which is fine with me.
As a whole,
"Year of The Snake" contains an excellent selection of songs that  are for the most part memorable, hook laden and  highly likely to be buzzing around your brain long after you pick the needle up off the turntable.

Visually, yes visually the letter pressed album cover and color vinyl combination are stunning and worth owning on their own merit.

I highly recommend Songs For Snakes to anyone who enjoys straight forward pop punk that leans more towards the punk side of things. I would also recommend that you do yourself a favor and run on over to Songs For Snakes  band camp page to  give  
"Year of The Snake" a listen,  and to also  add this beautiful record to your vinyl collection ...Dave G.

Bandcamp 

Facebook


Monday, June 2, 2014

Modern Chemistry Debut Video for the new single "Never Scared".

New Brunswick's Modern Chemistry have debuted a video for the single "Never Scared". After a couple of years of reviewing outstanding EP's. I finally had the opportunity to see them live at The Court Tavern back in February. Check it out here or go directly to 
You Tube to view. The choice is yours. James Damion

Modern Chemistry Bandcamp





Friday, May 30, 2014

Part II of my Interview with Speed the Plough's Cindi Merklee

When I first approached Cindi about doing an interview for the blog. It wasn't to promote an album or a tour. It wasn't to talk about an anniversary of a landmark release or a tell all book detailing ones sorted past. My agenda, if you want to call it that, was to get to know one of the more intriguing people I've met since the blogs inception. Through co creating this blog I've been given the opportunity to reach out to many of the people who inspire me with their music, stories and overall spirit. Something an introvert like myself would never be able to do otherwise.

Part II of our interview revolves around a conversation we had while Cindi paid a visit to my makeshift photo studio to participate in a ongoing project I had started with local musicians. 
Though that short session produced a few memorable images. It was the laid back bull session that served as the foundation for this interview. Thanks to Cindi for opening the door for me. James Damion

James: I attended my first Record Store Day event this year and say I overdid it would be a monumental understatement. One thing I came across made me think of you. It was the Folk Music Box set. Being that Folk is perhaps the one genre that continues to evade my taste in music. I'm curious to know what it is that draws you to it. Was there a particular artist or person that influenced your appreciation for the genre?

Cindi: There’s a great quote credited to Woodie Guthrie: “Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to keep it simple.” That’s a broad statement but there is a good amount of truth in it, and it isn’t exclusive to folk music - look at The Ramones.
In that sense I feel that folk & punk are not-so-distant cousins. With that said, I still laugh my ass off at "A Mighty Wind". Every genre has their stereotypes as well as their gems. What draws me to music of any genre is the honesty in songwriting. If a song or artist comes across as trite or contrived, trying to fit in a marketable genre - that’s when I lose interest. That whole Monsters of Folk nonsense? No thanks. Connor Oberst could turn his back on music and become an insurance salesman tomorrow and it wouldn’t phase me.
Then you look at someone like Vashti Bunyan who released a hauntingly beautiful yet poorly received album back in 1970 (Just Another Diamond Day) only to slip in to obscurity for thirty years before more or less being “re-discovered”. This is a recent discovery & current fixation of mine. She somehow effortlessly blends worldly sophistication and childlike innocence in her writing and vocal style. That’s where I’m at right now. Tomorrow’s fixation may be the latest Throwing Muses release. It’s whatever hits me at the moment.

Photo Credit: Don Sternecker
As for my introduction to folk - that would be Woody & Arlo Guthrie. I don’t know about these days but back when I was in grade school we began each day with the Pledge of Allegiance followed by an edited round of “This Land Is Your Land” which politely omitted the verse that speaks out against private property.  As musical as my family was, folk music was not heard much primarily due to the communist witch hunt perpetrated by Senator Joseph McCarthy beginning back in the1940s. My father was a WWII Navy Veteran and despite his musical leanings and other admirable qualities, he didn’t appreciate criticism of the American government which is prevalent in folk music. Democracy is predicated on dissenting views yet the wave of McCarthyism managed to equate dissent with sedition - something this country is still struggling to understand and correct.

Despite this, my oldest brother was very much a product of his generation and gave me a copy of One Night by Arlo Guthrie when I was still in the single digits.
“The Story of Reuben Clamso” used to crack me up, and it still does. It’s story telling at its best. There’s a great cover of The Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen A Face” on there as well and the album closes with a beautiful take on Ed McCurdy’s “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream” which I’ve covered when performing solo acoustic.

James: We had a great conversation about our mutual appreciation for the Replacements. What was your introduction to the band. Anything particular that helped earn your love for the band?

Cindi: It was 1989 and Tom Petty was touring in support of Full Moon Fever. I was in my sophomore year in high school and listening to a lot of what was popular at the time
(Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Dokken, etc). I wanted to see Petty though and
The Replacements happened to be the opening act on that tour. My brothers were overjoyed by this coincidence and promptly gave me a stack of their Replacements records, a blank tape and a list of song suggestions. I went back to my room and put on Hootenanny first because I liked the cover art. At first listen though I just didn’t get it. Clearly these guys didn’t take themselves too seriously, if at all. It hit me like a joke I wasn’t “in” on. Next I went to Tim and skipped to “Bastards of Young” because I was intrigued by the title. I was blown away buy the gut-wrenching honesty of it.
There was no posturing, no gimmick, no schtick. Westerberg’s vocals drip simultaneously with defiance and despair. You can’t fake that. I was hooked, and I’ve been ever since.

James: Have you heard about the reunion shows and are you planning on hopping a plane, train or rickshaw?

Cindi: I have! And I’m glad they’re having fun with it as well as helping out Slim. I’m funny when it comes to reunions though. While I was late to the party with them - only discovering them with Don’t Tell A Soul - I did have the chance to see them at The Ritz and at Rutgers back to back nights on that last tour in the early 90s. I love those memories and I’m happy to hold those as my remembrance of that band. I encourage anyone who doesn’t share this sentiment with me to check them out though.

James: You mentioned you had the chance to see Tommy Stinson when he played Maxwells? Was there any hero worship going on? Any embarrassing encounters you'd like to share?

Cindi: Yeah.....that was a great show and my first encounter with one of my idols.
Tommy had just released Friday Night is Killing me with Bash & Pop. My oldest brother was getting married the next day and he gave his blessing to me & my boyfriend at the time to leave the rehearsal dinner early to catch the show at Maxwell’s. I was a total spaz over Tommy. HUGE rock star crush. The band played a killer set - hard not to with an album that good. I think it’s the best post-Mats material any of them have released. At the end of it Tommy was walking through the crowd when he tripped and stumbled right at my feet.
I can’t imagine the look I had on my face but when he got up he looked at me & asked if I was OK - I think that says it all. The whole way out to the car I was giddy as a school girl over it - so much so that my boyfriend suggested I dump him so I could marry Tommy. Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

James: Have you checked out the book "One Man Mutiny" ?

Cindi: I wasn’t aware of the book - love the album though. I saw Tommy at Maxwell’s when he was touring in support of it. Another great show and this time I wasn’t too much of a spaz to approach him. I was still afraid of putting my foot in my mouth so I didn’t say much but he did personally autograph a poster for me, thanking me for coming out. And yeah, I still got giddy.

James: While we're on the subject of Maxwell's. How did you take the news of the closing? Did you take place in the farewells and send offs? Were you at all shocked when bands began to play again under a different system?

Cindi: I was heartbroken - as so many were. I was too young to have gone there in its heyday and some argue that it was in decline by the time I was going there regularly but it’s all relative. Maxwell’s was my first exposure to the “indie” music scene. It was one of the few shared experiences I have with my much older siblings. It felt like home. When I first started playing in bands as a kid all I wanted to do was play there. I’m lucky to have had the chance on a number of occasions with musicians I have a tremendous amount of admiration & respect for.

I didn’t attend the big final farewell but I did go to a bunch of shows in those final months.
I was lucky enough to be a part of the Bar None night when Speed the Plough was invited to play along with Alice Genese, Freedy Johnston, Chris Stamey, The Health & Happiness show and a whole bunch of others. Other stand out shows from those final nights were Stuyvesant with True Love, Wild Carnation & Bambi Kino who was the last band I saw there.

I was a bit surprised to see bands playing there again after it had “closed” but business is business and for me the place as I knew it was already gone.

James: I don't think I would have ever had the chance to hear Balloon Squad if it were not for meeting you. I finally got my hands on one of the bands EP's and really enjoyed what I was hearing.
What was it like joining the band and getting to make music with your Brother Joe?

Cindi: Thanks so much! It was intimidating at first. I was 18 and had never been in an original band, let alone one that had been together for 10+ years already. Plus I was taking over bass duties from my brother who had switched to guitar. He wasn’t the strongest bass player rhythmically speaking but to make up for that, either consciously or subconsciously, he would come up with some crazy bass parts - almost lead bass bass parts. It was a challenge learning some of them and then keeping that momentum going on the new songs we were writing.

Looking back on those years and considering we were living in the same house at the time I’m a bit amazed that things went as smoothly as they did for so long.
It was great having our rehearsal space/studio right in our basement.
I just wish we were more ambitious at the time.

James: Have the two of you ever discussed the idea of collaborating again musically?

Cindi: We have but we’re both involved with other bands/projects right now. We are working on a Balloon Squad reunion show later this year though. I’m really looking forward to that because there are songs of ours which I love that never saw the light of day.

James: D. Smith (The 65's) is often credited for your working in music again. Was there anything in particular that kept you away from your passion. How was he instrumental in bringing you back in?

Cindi: This will sound cliché but I ditched music after going through one of those soul crushing break ups in my 20s. It just so happened that this coincided with Balloon Squad splitting up so everything was in limbo. At the time any musicians I knew were all playing in cover bands - something I refused to do. I lacked the confidence to pursue anything outside of my immediate circle of friends and acquaintances so I hung it up.
Photo Credit; JC Call
Unfortunately once I cleared my head over the break up
(or at least thought I did) I fell into a really toxic relationship that lasted far longer than it should have. I met Dan at the tail end of that. At first I didn’t realize that he had been in
Shirk Circus - I owned & LOVED both
Words to Say & March but came across them after the band had split up. Dan was recruiting me for a project he was putting together but once I made the connection panic set in and I turned him down. He’s a phenomenal bass player - so intuitive. At that time I had more than 6 years of rust to scrape off. There was no way I could be his bass player. He wouldn’t take no for an answer though & eventually talked me down from the proverbial cliff. The project was short lived but I’ve been playing ever since and was grateful to have the opportunity to work with him again in The 65’s.


James: Though music is a key part of our lives. It's just one aspect of that life.
What else inspires and drives you? What are your passions?

Cindi: Southern gothic literature (except Faulkner), when I have the time to read. My main favorites are Carson McCullers and Flannery O’Connor. I had this idea that I was going to write an albums worth of songs written from the perspective of characters from my favorite short stories or novels, thinking that this would help me get outside of my own head for a while. I quickly realized that the characters I was drawn to write about were ones which I identified with on some level, so it wasn’t the escape I was hoping for. I stopped after the first one, a song called “Miss Amelia” inspired by McCullers’ Ballad of the Sad Cafe.
I haven’t deserted the idea entirely though. I think I read that Lisa Hannigan has done something like this already so it’s not necessarily an original idea but it’s still an interesting practice.

I’m also a bit of a history buff. I’m fascinated by the cultural impact and complexity of the American Civil War. When I went back to school it was with the intention of becoming a teacher. I earned my BA in history with a minor in African American Studies in an effort to gain a more objective view of this country’s history. Unfortunately by the time I graduated the economy had tanked, the public education sector in NJ was decimated and there was no way I could pay back my student loans and support myself on a teacher’s salary.
It’s something I may return to though should the conditions ever be favorable.

James: Any closing words or wisdom you'd like to share with our readers?

Cindi: Do what you love.

For Part I of my interview with Cindi, click Here


Friday, May 23, 2014

Rye Coalition: The Story of The Hard Luck Five Documentary Premeire

RYE COALITION: THE STORY OF THE HARD LUCK 5 
Documentary Premiere 



An intimate and fiery rock documentary tracing the rise and fall of Rye Coalition
Premieres May 30, 2014 at the New Jersey Film Festival & June 8 in NYC

     When they signed with one of the world’s biggest record labels, Rye Coalition was primed to finally get their glory, or so it seemed. Like countless rockers before them, childhood best friends started a band in a basement with a couple simple goals in mind: have fun and play good music. As one of the first bands to develop the new “emo” sound, they were at the forefront of a movement that included Shellac, Sunny Day Real Estate, Jawbreaker and Karp (with whom they later recorded a legendary 12" split). Rye Coalition’s first recording was a demo cassette tape (1994's "Dancing Man", self-released), backed by an East Coast tour in a beat up schoolbus long before most of them had their driver's license. As their talent and fan base grew, they released albums on indie labels and toured the country for over ten years on bigger and bigger bills: (Mars Volta, Queens of the Stone Age,
Foo Fighters). After gaining momentum from 2002′s “On Top” LP, engineered by
Steve Albini, they were signed to Dreamworks Records and none other than Dave Grohl (Nirvana) came on as their producer. Then, it all imploded.

     The filmmaker has continuously documented these singular rockers for over a decade, brazenly chronicling choice moments with Rye Coalition (and those who know them well)
on tour, at home and in the studio. Although the band was praised by critics and supported by an absurdly dedicated grassroots fan base, somehow these Jersey rockers never got their due. Until now.  Dir: Jenni Matz, 2014; 77  minutes.
Featuring: Steve Albini (Shellac), Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), Tim Green (Nation of Ulysses),  Jon Theodore (Mars Volta), Jared Warren (Melvins).

Documentary World Premiere: May 30, 2014

New Jersey Film Festival in New Brunswick, NJ at Vorhees Hall.

Tickets available day of show $10, advance tickets available via Paypal email NJMAC@gmail.com for information.
http://www.njfilmfest.com/screening.html

Documentary NYC Premiere: June 8, 2014
New York Premiere in Brooklyn, NY at the Knitting Factory 361 Metropolitan Ave
2pm doors $5 at door or available at:
http://tinyurl.com/RyeCoalitionNYPremiere


For more information, please contact:
Jenni Matz @ theryecoalition@gmail.com
ryecoalitionthemovie.com
facebook.com/RyeCoalition
Trailer at : http://vimeo.com/ryecoalition/trailer

Feral Babies Final Show - Full Set

If you're familiar with the blog you'll know that Dave and I have a mutual admiration for Tampa's Feral Babies. I was lucky enough to see them live and hang out with them a couple of times and I can honestly say they're some of the best people around. Unfortunately for me, I was unable to book my private jet to attend the bands final gig. Thanks to modern technology and Christian Costello of the band Station Cases, It's all here for your listening and viewing pleasure. Thanks to Christian and The Feral Babies for the music, 
the memories and the good times. I'm looking forward to new projects, side projects 
and post projects. Until then, enjoy the set. James Damion


Dead Ending - S/T

If it were not for the fact that I've been stalking Jeff Dean on Facebook for years,
I might not have even heard about the formation of Dead Ending.
Lucky for anyone reading this,
I keep tabs on things.
To say the very least, this record is far too good to let slip through the cracks or be considered as just another side project by former/ current members of Articles of Faith, Alloy, All Eyes West,
The Bomb, Alkaline Trio and
Rise Against

The bands debut EP features a stripped down, early 80's Hardcore sound delivered by one of the genres great voices Vic Bondi. Though just a small sample of this bands organic sound, Vic's voice serves as somewhat of a mission statement. A blueprint for the often overstated Supergroup. Each of the five songs on this EP work perfectly together to quicken the pace and get the blood pumping.
However, Dead Ending save the very best for last with the rousing and anthemic
"All the Way Down". Solidifying Dead Ending's presence as one of the best things the genre has produced in years. James Damion

Bridge 9 Records Buy it Here



Ink & Sweat / Caseracer - Split 7"

I've always enjoyed a good split EP. An appetizer best savored when the ingredients feature uniquely different flavors. Here, Ink & Sweat and Caseracer team up for a five song split that perfectly showcases each bands approach, style and muscle.

Tampa based Ink & Sweat deliver a mix of impressive guitar prowess and sing along choruses. Each of the two songs presented here,
from the opening lead on "Brickwalls and Pitfalls" to the sing along chorus of "Our Words as Swords" leave a lasting impression on the listener. Hardcore swagger is one thing, but when  backed by excellent musicianship and good song writing ability, you've got something really special to build on.
Delaware/New Jersey's Caseracer deliver a sound that can easily be compared to
New Brunswick legends Lifetime, with their quick start/stop approach to Hardcore.
Listening to their side of the wax transports me to my younger days standing eyeball to eyeball with Ari Katz at some undisclosed New Brunswick basement show.
That can't possibly be a bad thing.  James Damion

Bandcamp Buy it Here

Lovechild - S/T 7"

If there was ever a clean cut case for
"Don't let the name fool you." Massachusetts' Lovechild would be walking out of court with their collective arms raised in a celebratory "V".

Following Boston's legacy of hard as fuck, rip your face out and eat the innards bands. Lovechild hit us  with an eleven song hatchet job that refuses to leave my turntable. The band takes on a stripped down, bare bones approach to Punk with raw, high pitch screams and driving relentless guitar noise.  Whether that's your bag of tricks or not, what Lovechild produce here is worth merit and deserving of your attention. The intensity on this record more than matched their live performance. The band followed their recent stop in New Jersey with a short tour of of Canada.
Recorded at Maximum Sound in Danvers, MA. The record comes on color vinyl.
(My copy is on Red.) James Damion

Mayfly Records Buy it Here

Thursday, May 22, 2014

FEAR Perform Beef Bologna and New York's Alright if you Like Saxophones on SNL

Some rarely seen footage of FEAR's 1981 Halloween performance  on SNL. Cast member and all around bad ass John Belushi is credited for getting the band on the show. 
Belushi was a big fan of the band and Punk Rock in general. Lorne Michaels had no idea what he was getting himself into. Footage of their performance was never again aired in 
SNL reruns or network television. Here the band performs the songs "Beef Boloney" and 
"New York is Alright if you Like Saxophones." Enjoy. James Damion


Thursday, May 15, 2014

BoySetsFire / Funeral For A Friend - Split "Covers" 7" Inch EP

It's not an original idea. Surely, getting a couple of A-list bands to head into the studio and record a track or two from the others catalog has been done, done and did. Come to think of it. It's not a bad idea at all. Bringing together two bands who not only play in similar genres, but have a genuine admiration for one another.

No Sleep records did just that by bringing together two heavy hitters in BoySetsFire (NJ) and A Funeral For A Friend (Wales) to exchange covers and ultimately walk in each other's shoes.

My first go through with these two songs left me feeling pretty flat. The second and third spins only solidified my first impression. Though these covers aren't terrible.
They certainly didn't do anything to quicken the pulse or evoke any strong reaction within me. The reasons why I was disappointed with this split are simple. One of my absolute favorite bands (BoySetsFire) covers a song from a band I really don't like
(Funeral For a Friend). All while a band I don't really like cover one of my absolute favorite songs (Rookie) from one of my absolute favorite bands. If you're a fan of either band.
I wouldn't sway you from giving this a spin. Personally, I plan on passing this on to someone who might. The record comes on grey vinyl and includes a download card. James Damion

No Sleep Records Get it Here

Friday, May 9, 2014

An Interview with Raleigh NC's Static is a City

With a 7' EP on it's way from the pressing plant and a number of shows neatly tucked under their belts I reached out to Raleigh, NC's Static is a City to learn more about the past, present and future of a band whose momentum seems to grow by the day. Thanks to Chris for taking the time to answer my questions.

Static City is:
Chris Skelly - Vocals  Sean Husick - Drums
Robert Trout - Guitar  Todd Robert - Guitar Channing Azure - Bass

James: Most people reading this may or may not know the band consists of former members of Dahlia Seed and Milemarker. Can you tell me how you guys met and what made you decide to start a band?

Chris: Sean ( Milemarker ) and I met several years ago through a Craigslist ad. Both of us have similar tastes in music, and we're both looking for a similar situation in which to make music. After a few false starts due to not finding the right people to play in the band, we solidified the line up  in June of 2013, and have been moving forward ever since.
As far as why we wanted to start a band?.....it's a passion that never goes away. I am not speaking for Sean here, but I believe we feel the same way in that making music is intrinsically in our DNA, and no matter the circumstance, or time, or location.....we will both always move towards creating music because it's the singular passion in our lives.

James: How quickly did things gel for you?

Chris: This current line up gelled immediately...that's how we knew we had the right people in the band to move forward. We started writing in the first "jam" we had, and by the third practice it was decided that this was the band. Rob ( Guitar ), Todd ( Guitar ) and
Channing ( Bass ) were the exact musicians both Sean and I had been looking for, and each of them bring a unique talent and creativity to our sound.

James: The bands name reminds me of how toxic city life feels for me these days.
What does the name mean to you? What does it suggest?

Chris: That's an interesting take on the name of our band James, and one I don't disagree with at all. The story of the band's name is rather average....we were throwing possible band names around and we couldn't all decide on which one we liked best, but we sort of settled on the name Red Static, but then we found out that there was a band from England that had that name already. At the same time....I had just watched a crime noir movie from the 60's called "Hell Is A City"...and I really liked that title, but hated the word "Hell" as it tends to conjure images of a metal band. I mentioned this same idea in practice one night, and we decided to merge the names and came up with Static Is A City. Unconsciously...the name does tap into a rather anti-modern theme of technology becoming a monolithic entity, but we certainly didn't plan it that way.

James: You released a self titled EP  before you even began playing out.
What was it about these particular songs that ....

Chris: Well.....those are the first three songs we wrote together, and we just wanted to have some recorded material to share with friends and such. The recordings came out way better than we had all expected, so we decided to put them out.

James: How did the label "Ideas" come into the picture?

Chris: Sean had a small label back in the 90's that had put out some local NC punk and hardcore bands, and he had been thinking about starting a label again. We had these 3 songs that we had just recorded, and Sean saw this as an opportunity to launch his label. He got things up and running rather quickly, and we had our EP released in early March.

James: What's holding up the records pressing?

Chris: Goddamn Record Store Day held up the pressing.....haha. Ugh, the pressing plant was swamped with orders for RSD and unfortunately we fell to the bottom of the list. We just received the test pressings last week, so you'll see the record in the next few weeks.

James: Is having a hard copy document of your music, such as vinyl, important to you as a band? As opposed to offering the EP on Bandcamp or the many digital options made for bands these days?

Chris: I think having your music available in all formats is important. People lately seem to get hung up on the medium, and not the message. At the end of the day....it's the music that you want to hear, and frankly I couldn't care less what format it comes on? To someone sitting in let's say....Borneo, who only has an internet connection, and knows nothing of the hipster vinyl fetishism that is currently occurring in the Western World...finding the
"Static Is A City EP" on Bandcamp is awesome, it's the only avenue for them to hear our music. To limit people's exposure to your music, just to satisfy a current trend such as vinyl fetishism is ignorant and selfish....but that is just my opinion.

James: I know you've been involved with many bands and projects since the 80's, but this is the first time I recall you signing? What made you want to take on that role?

Chris: Actually, the first sort of functional band I was in was a hardcore / thrash band in the 80's called Selective Outrage, and I sang in that band, so singing in Static sort of feels like coming full circle after 20 plus years of playing guitar in bands. The reason I chose to sing in Static was pretty simple....Sean and I had an idea of what we wanted the band aesthetic to be, and in the simplest terms....it's hard to convey your own personal aesthetic to a random vocalist, and it is not really fair to that vocalists own creative expression to have them do what you think they should do.....so, to avoid all that mess, I just decided to sing.
Guitarists are frankly a dime a dozen.....you could open your window, throw a rock and hit a guitarist, but finding someone who can lyrically and expressively deliver a shared aesthetic is a bit tougher, so I opted out of guitar and picked up the mic.

James: You've already began to rack up shows in and around the Raleigh area. Are there any plans to make it back up to the New York, New Jersey area?

Chris: We would love to come up to NYC / NJ to play some shows. Admittedly....after being in Raleigh for close to 8 years now, I am out of the loop as to where to play, and who to contact for shows in NY / NJ anymore...so hopefully we can hook up with some friends bands for our first shows in the area.

James: What does Raleigh offer for upcoming bands. Though I hate to use the term,
What's the music scene like at the moment?

Chris: Raleigh is an amazing city, with a fantastic local music scene. The thing that is most apparent in Raleigh is the sense of true community within the local music scene. Bills are diverse, and clubs are super supportive of local bands....almost every out of town, headliner show in Raleigh / Durham / Chapel Hill always features one or two local support bands. There is a very thriving hardcore / punk scene with several shows a week at a variety of venues, but the indie scene is pretty big as well, and I am beginning to notice a lot more weird / experimental bands popping up which is in keeping with Raleigh's past of being a hot bed of off kilter sounding bands.

James: You recently played a show with Richmond's Positive No. A band that features your former Dahlia Seed bandmate TKW. What was that experience like?

Chris: The show was great, and Tracy's band was terrific. I referenced the idea of "coming full circle" earlier, and in the truest sense...the show had that feel and appeal. The guy who booked the show Chris DeFusco, who runs the local Negative Fun record label was a huge Dahlia Seed fan back in the day, and he was super excited to have both of our new bands on the same bill.

James: How long had it been since you crossed paths?

Chris: I don't see Tracy as much as I would like to, but we do cross paths at least once every year and half or so. The last time we did ( before the show ) was when she came to Raleigh for the Archers Of Loaf reunion show in 2012.

For further review:
Bandcamp
Facebook
ReverbNation
iTunes


Overlake - Sighs

I’m not really a music critic. I’m more of a music free-associator. When I listen to something new, it often conjures up memories or feelings; and that’s what I try to put into my “reviews.” Sighs, the debut album from Jersey City trio Overlake, had me doing quite a bit of free-associating over the course of its 36 minutes.

Tom Barrett (guitar / vocals), Lysa Opfer (bass / vocals), and Scotty Imp (drums) steep Sighs in the sounds of early 90s shoegaze and alt/indie rock, delivering an atmospheric collection that features dreamy vocals punctuated with bursts of explosive guitar noise. As I listen to the record, I can’t keep myself from thinking back to the times when all of Sighs’ influences formed kind of a soundtrack to my life.

Sighs opens with the instrumental and appropriately-titled “First.”  Barrett’s guitar chimes and reverberates, bolstered by a slow, steady driving rhythm section. I was really into
Hal Hartley movies in the late 80s, early 90s -- The Unbelievable Truth, Simple Men, and, most of all, Trust. “First” had me thinking of the soundtracks to some of those films –
Adrienne Shelley or Martin Donovan staring blankly, delivering deadpan dialogue -- and how my future wife and I first saw Simple Men at a bar on Hoboken’s Washington St. that used to do Tuesday indie movie nights.

“First” eases right into single and one of the album’s standouts, “Disappearing.” As the verse progresses, it sounds almost like a continuation of the opening track; but the building tension becomes more and more apparent until things explode into the chorus.
The accompanying riff, if you can call it that, sees Barrett making his guitar sound like another instrument entirely, making me think “Only Shallow.” Similarly, “Back To The Water” embellishes things with some of that tremolo assisted strumming that I love so much.

Things turn a little more post-punk on “Fell Too Far,” which sees Opfer contributing vocals on the verse. The bell-like guitar tones and chugging bassline recall some of the sounds I’d turn up in the car on my drives down to Sea Girt to work the snack bar during my high school summers. “Our Sky” combines pop and noise into a Mascis-like stew that had me waiting for the big solo to cut through all the fuzz. About two and a half minutes in, we almost get it.

“Is this something we’ve heard before?” asks Barrett on the reminiscent of Sonic Youth album-closer “Is This Something?” Well, yeah. But that’s not a bad thing here. I don’t get the sense that Overlake are cynically mining the sounds of their influences in order to cash in on “The 90s Revival” or whatever. Instead, they obviously have a great love and encyclopedic knowledge of these sounds and employ them to tap into some deep corner of the listener’s psyche.

For an old guy like me, that takes me back to my post-college years in NYC / Hoboken, when I met my wife and started making my way in the world. For someone who didn’t grow up listening to this stuff, I can only imagine where this expertly delivered dose of mind expansion will take them.

Sighs is out now on Killing Horse Records. James Appio

Sighs  Here

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Punk the Capital, Straight from Washington D.C.

Punk The Capital is a documentary that explores how Punk took hold in Washington DC from 1976 through the early 80's. Looks like a pretty cool project to get behind. Hit the Kickstarter link below if you would like to help fund the documentary...Dave G.



Kickstarter

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Heroes of Toolik - Aquarium School 7" 2014

I'm not sure I am really qualified to review the Heroes of Toolik, and I can honestly say that I'm not sure they have anything to offer to the readers of UBRS, however the band was kind enough to submit  physical copies of their recordings, therefore I am going to do my best to describe their sound.

The first thing I noticed about the bands new 7" Aquarium School is that is was produced by Wharton Tiers whose name was familiar to me as he has worked with a long list of excellent bands over the years including Quicksand, Sonic Youth,Helmet,White Zombie, Dinosaur JR and numerous others. Wharton was also a member of the early New York no wave scene as a member of Glorious Strangers.  Heroes of Toolik also consists of members who have serious musical pedigrees...bassist Ernie Brooks was a member of  The Modern Lovers, and other members have played with Lounge Lizards, Glenn Branca and more.

Anyway, on to the music. The 7" opens with Aquarium School which is a nice mellow song with smooth sung/spoke vocals laced  with trombone, accordion and pretty female backing vocals. The flip side of this 7" Dances With Elsa moves along at a bit of a more forceful pace with nice boy/girl vocals sung mostly simultaneously.  My overall impression is that Heroes of Toolik is the type of band you might stumble upon playing at a local art gallery or chill lounge or at a  local watering hole in NY/NJ on a week night surrounded by people eating, drinking, chatting and just having a nice night out with friends , think Maxwells in Hoboken when they used to have the Jazz band play in the restaurant area.

So in closing, while I'm still not sure UBRS is a good fit for this style of music, I think Heroes of Toolik are a good band who should appeal to a wide range of listeners. Check out the link below for more detail, show dates etc...Dave G.

Heroes of Toolik