Thursday, February 28, 2013

I Don't Feel Tardy: The Week in Images

Below are some images from two shows I attended last week. Arriving late to both Montclair's Meatlocker and Clifton's Clash Bar, I ended up missing half of each of the shows. Lucky for me I made it in time to see old favorites in The Nolan Gate and
Cinema Cinema. At the same time, my ears were open to Toothgrinder and Dad Brother for the first time. Here were two very different bands that excelled in different ways. Toothgrinder, with their intense sound and out of control performance had me craving for more. While Dad Brother won me over with their Bluesy laid back Rock sound. I'm looking forward to hearing and seeing more from each of these acts in the coming months.
Until then... James Damion

Darin Galgano The Nolan Gate
Tooth Grinder
Ev Gold Cinema Cinema
Paul Claro Cinema Cinema
Andrew Lange Dad Brother

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Talking to Aquarian Photographer Roz Smith

It's nearly impossible to go to a show these days without seeing any number of photographers lining up in front of or alongside of the stage. Add to that the sea of concert goers with iPhones, BlackBerry's and other electronic devices hoisted in the air like cigarette lighters were decades ago at stadiums, forums and auditoriums around the world. We live in an age where every moment is documented and shared for the world to see.
Being a photographer in my own right. I'm always eager to communicate and share experiences with my fellow shooters. Having shared the pit numerous times with Roz. I decided to reach out to the Aquarian Weekly photographer to learn about her beginnings, inspirations and working with the longest running alt. music weekly. James Damion

James: I don't know if you remember, but I fondly recall the first time we met. It was at the Brick City Sound Riot. We were both shooting the event and I remember being a bit drained after hours of shooting and jumping around like an idiot. We had exchanged pleasantries during the day but it's when either Invisible Lines or Those Mockingbirds were set to play, when you gave me somewhat of a warning that something really good was about to happen. Do you remember? Were you shooting for anyone in particular then?

Roz: I do remember that night and I'm pretty sure Those Mockingbirds were about to play.
I was mainly shooting for myself that night, especially seeing how it was the first show I felt like shooting in some time. That was a good night.

Lawrence Trailer
James: When did you first become interested in photography? Was there any specific style or photographers that initially inspired you?

Roz: Hrm, that's a good question.
I can't really put a year or date on when I started getting into photography. As a kid I used to buy a bunch of disposable cameras and just go shutter crazy with them- taking pictures of everything and everyone. Then I got my first point-and-shoot when I was maybe 10 or 12 and it was all uphill from there.
When it comes to photographers who have inspired me generally Cass Bird and Cindy Sherman have been two of my biggest inspirations. Todd Owyoung is another one I can lump into the group. There wasn't a particular style that inspired me, I wanted to shoot everything and everyone from landscapes, portraits, pets and especially bands.

James: How old were you when you started going to shows? Do you remember your first?

Roz: I was probably 15 or 16 when I first really started going to shows. My first show was in this basement in West New York. It was definitely a fire hazard type of deal but so much fun.

Morning James: How long before you started bringing your camera with you?
Roz: I had it with me from the first show. I had my little point and shoot with me and I probably pissed so many people off but fuck it,
I was having fun.

James: Do you remember who played? What is it that made people so pissed at you?
Were you blinding people with your flash?

Roz: Oh jeeze, I don't remember the full bill sadly. Probably my flash and the awkward positions I'd find myself in to get the shot I wanted. But hey, it's in the past (Laughs).

James: What was your first SLR camera? Do you consider yourself a gear head when it comes to what you shoot? What do you use now?

Roz: My first digital SLR was my Canon Rebel XS. I had that for four or five years before I upgraded to the Mark III. I wouldn't say I'm a "gear head" but I do some pretty ridiculous research before I purchase something new for my camera. My current body is the Canon Mark III, the lenses I shoot with are Canon's 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM, 28mm f/2.8, 40mm f/2.8 STM and my old favorite the 50mm f/1.8 II. I recently bought a Canon Speedlite 580EX II, which has been interesting to learn how to use after upgrading from a Bower flash.

James: So, what was the image that got you noticed? What was the band?

Roz: To be honest with you, I have no idea what got me noticed. 

James: Do you have any battle scars, broken gear or stories of out of control pits to share?

The Protomen
Roz: I certainly have had plenty of battle scars from shooting shows! I was at Mexicali Live shooting a band I love called
The Protomen and at one point one of the monitors fell off the stage and onto my foot. I've been pushed around, had screaming matches with other photographers (small photo pits will do that to ya) and had to protect my camera from the occasional drink thrower. I actually did crack the screen of my Rebel at a show, apparently sensitive screens aren't a fan of being pushed into sharp corners…..who would've guessed it!

James: How did you come to work with the Aquarian? What was your first assignment with them?

Roz: I just applied for an internship when I was still in college, had an interview and I've been there ever since. I started writing show previews, or Spotlights as we call them, but as far as my first major assignment I don't remember. I should probably dig through our archive and find out. Now I'm curious.

James: Have you taken on more responsibilities with them since then?
Roz: I have! I run their social-media sites and I run this video interview series called Project Greenroom.

James: I'm not familiar with it. Can you fill me in?

Roz: Project Greenroom is a video interview series where bands can, if they want to, also perform acoustically. I try to shoot them frequently but sometimes scheduling doesn't work out ya know.

Reese Van Riper
James: Where do you want to go with your photography? Where do you see yourself in say five years?

Roz: Hm, good question. As far as where
I want to go with my photography, I just want to keep on shooting bands
I love and work on coming up with some out there concepts for photo shoots. I do have an idea for a photo book I'd love to publish. Well in five years I hope to still be doing what I love, with another job to support my habits of going to shows and buying camera equipment. Frankly, I have no idea where I'll be in five years and that's the beauty of it. I'm just taking one day at a time and going from there.

(All photos, including her self portrait, by Roz Smith)

Roz Smith Photography  Facebook

Project Greenroom  The Aquarian Weekly

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Last Stand - The Time is Now LP

Many of my favorite records require a few go throughs before really getting a sense of what works and what makes me really appreciate  just what it is about that particular grouping of songs that resonate with me. "The Time is Now" reminded me of that, with one exception. In listening to these songs the first and second time through. I felt an immediate kinship with the music and the songs. However, it wasn't until
I sat down to write this review that I realized just what that connection was. It was that
The Last Stand and
"The Time is Now" reminds me of all the things I loved about late 80's Hardcore mixed with  the very few things that kept me interested in the genre during the 90's.
Heavy riffage, deep rhythms and pile on backing  vocals run rampant throughout the records thirteen songs. Scondotto's voice is powerful, delivering smart lyrics that convey strength and mental toughness. Imagine, if you can, a more fluid, cohesive sounding Roger Miret (Agnostic Front).Though  the bands sound easily follows the lineage of acts such as Sick of it All, Madball and the aforementioned Agnostic Front. The Last Stand clearly create their own identity while establishing themselves as a Hardcore act to help fuel the future of the genre. James Damion

Eulogy Recordings  Buy it Here

The Last Stand  Band Site

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Fax Machine Situation - Breakfast at the Pagan House

We really enjoy hearing from you here at 
United By Rocket Science. Being given the opportunity to hear new and different sounds from our area and beyond only broaden our horizons and help us to expand the music we feature here. With that said, we'd appreciate it if the artists that submit music for review take a moment to familiarize themselves with the blog to better understand what we cover. I feel that minimal investment of time will go a long way in helping you decide if these are the best hands to leave your love and passion with.

Princeton New Jersey's The Fax Machine Situation might have benefited from that investment and gotten a return on it by skipping right over U.B.R.S. when submitting material to the many local entertainment outlets.

Add the Fax Machine Situation and their EP "Breakfast at the Pagan House" to my short list of the most unlistenable releases of 2013. Not since the Gone Quite Mad's self titled over indulgence has a release moved me in such a negative way. Though "System", 
"Finding a Pause", "Bullseye Blues" and "Breakfast at the Pagan House" are respectable musically with their blend of laid back and jazzy vibes. It's Katie Henkels whose voice would be best described as an ice pick to the ears.  As the EP begins I found myself racing for the volume with the hopes of saving my eardrums from the caterwauling that immediately ensues. (Imagine in horror, attempting to make it through the opening track of a record. Hoping in vain that the next would somehow, be better.) Unfortunately, braving the following three was no pleasure cruise either. Though I'm sure this would bode well in some cafe or back room parlor. I find it to be a rather bitter pill to swallow. James Damion

The Situation  Facebook

TV Sound - Record Jacket Life

As we returned from vacation
I was greeted by a package from my favorite local record nerds at Killing Horse Records.
Within the package were familiar new releases from Cicada Radio Review and
The Everymen Review. Releases I had waited on for months with baited breath. Along with those familiar faces came the highly recommended "Record Jacket Life" by TV Sound, a band I had no previous knowledge of.

Though I thought this to be a new release
"Record Jacket Life" is a
re-release of the Kearny, NJ bands 1999 album.
In hindsight I'm happy to have had a chance to listen to this for the first time in 2013, being that my taste in music has evolved some over the years. I'm not sure I would have appreciated it as much then as I do now.

There's not a wasted note on here. A perfect blend of straight up rock and roll sprinkled with power pop muscle, punk attitude and post punk brilliance. As I listened to these sixteen tracks I couldn't help but be reminded of the big power pop sound that peaked just prior to the rise of MTV. "End of Arrogance" is an outstanding track deserves a peak spot on your favorite mix tape. The opening chords to "Posters" immediately had me thinking of R.E.M.'s "What's the Frequency Kenneth". The bratty vocals and genius bass work that follow are as close to perfection as it gets. "Record Jacket Life" is a  gem of an album just waiting to be revisited.
Though the band had been out of commission for years. They're writing new songs and just might  have new music to share in the coming year. One can only hope.
James Damion

Get it Here  KillingHorse Records

Feral Babies / Chemical Ache Split EP

Tampa Florida's Feral Babies team up with Orlando's Chemical Ache to create one hell of a split. Allowing me to enjoy a band I love, all while discovering another.

The Feral Babies side features five songs of muscular Hardcore that are fast, aggressive, angry and above all, musically tight. The band draws you in immediately on the opener "Next Week".
The track is an avalanche of sound with it's bass, drums and blazing guitar excellence. You're already swept up in it's powerful grip by the time
Justin Arnold's vocal attack begins mere seconds later. The next four songs are just as impressive and addictive.
Sulynn Hago's guitar prowess cannot go without mention or praise. Her style and delivery make he one of the best in the game. Having followed the band since their demo days and seeing them live at Brooklyn's Stolen Sleeves Collective in 2012. They've become a favorite of the blog. I sincerely hope they find themselves in our neck of the woods this year.

Chemical Ache's side of the coin offers a different style but sounds just as good in comparison. The band delivers three songs of fast, laser sharp punk with a bratty vocals. "Medicated Kids" comes off sounding like an O.C. Punk classic. The sound is tight and smart with a really great energy.  Each of these three songs had me craving for more.

A stellar release by Kiss of Death records, the Feral Babies and Chemical Ache.
James Damion

Get it Here

Rough Kids - The State I'm In

I've come to a point where I find myself picking up records from Sorry State Records based solely on the clout and reputation the label has built for itself over the years. Much like Revelation Records did in the late 80's. Sorry State is releasing the very best the punk and hardcore communities have to offer.

I came across LA's Rough Kids on the "new releases" section of the label's website.
The labels history matched with the Rough Kids eye catching album artwork more than warranted a purchase. Upon arrival, I slapped it on the turntable, eager to listen to my well chosen investment.

On the band debut full length, L.A.'s Rough Kids deliver some excellent 77' style Punk Rock that might draw comparison and find influence in bands of that era. A nice mix of the adolescent angst of The Undertones and The Buzzcocks ability to write memorable lyrics and choruses. Add to it the guitar bombast of Johnny Thunders with a splash of The Jam's angular guitar smarts. The Rough Kids bring all these elements together to form their own sound. Helping to make "The State I'm In" one hell of an album. Thanks to the Rough Kids and Sorry State Records for this dose of Punk Rock excellence. James Damion

Get it Here  Sorry State Records

The Mistaken - Between Memory and Habit LP

The Mistaken features
Andy Guida and Matt Warnke who team up for the first time since working together on Running Like Thieves 2003 release "Same Time Next Year..."

On "Between Memory and Habit" The Mistaken live up to their namesake as they throw us a musical curve switching gears and sounding unlike any of their past musical endeavors.

This is not Hardcore.
Instead, these ten songs offer a nice blend of Bluesy-Rock and surprising, dare I say,  Country leanings. A lot can be said for musicians, known for creating music within a certain, set genre, step out of the box to create something different. It doesn't always work and is often
illl received. But when it comes off sounding this good and honest. How can one not embrace it with open arms? Matt's Bluesy baritone vocals have him sounding like he spent some time on chain gang channeling the likes of Johnny Cash and Mike Ness. Andy Guida does an excellent job sharing guitar duties, playing bass, piano and drums. All while handling  production duties at his Six III Studios. He really lives up to his reputation as a go to engineer and musician time in and time out.

Though currently a two piece, The Mistaken are looking to take things out of the studio and on to the stage in 2013. They've enlisted Gavin Van Vlack and Dan Cav of Absolution to handle Bass and Guitar duties. So stay tuned. James Damion

Get it Here

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Absolution - S/T 4 Song EP

Ever wish you could go back in time and hit the "Do-Over" button? Right the wrongs of the past and tidy shit up a bit? Well, that's exactly what the band Absolution did here. Originally released in 1989 by Combined Effort records.
The self titled four song EP was well received by the Hardcore/Punk community and deservingly praised as somewhat of a much needed breath of fresh air to a style of music that had grown stale due to mediocrity, caused largely by an influx of cookie cutter, paint by number Hardcore bands.
Fast forward twenty something years and a few reunion shows later. The band, which features original members Djinji Brown and Gavin Van Vlack joined by Hardcore veterans Dan Cav and Andy Guida, decided to right some wrongs by going back into the studio and tightening the screws a bit.

Upon hearing the band was going into the studio to record, I was sent into an anticipatory orbit. When Andy Guida, the bands drummer, engineer and producer informed me they were re-recording old material... Well, my anticipation quickly came crashing back to earth. Regardless of the results the improved recording and production might achieve. I couldn't help but scratch my head, wondering "What if that time in the studio produced new Absolution songs?" It felt like a cop out.

Fortunately for me, I decided to put aside any and all preconceived notions and listen with both an open mind and open ears. As the needle hit the records and "A Drop of Patience" kicked in. I was presented with a moment of precise clarity. It had been years since I last played the original EP. Yet, I could instantly hear the difference in the quality and overall power of the newer recording.

The marriage of Guida's colossul drumming and Van Vlack's signature guitar style create a sinister and unforgiving sound. Not to mention the addition of Dan Cav on bass. However, it's not until singer Djinji Brown enters the fray that I have to wonder aloud "I remember liking this band a lot." "How is it possible I didn't love this band?" While Brown's style will easily draw comparisons to a younger, healthier H.R. (Bad Brains). It also allows us a glimpse into, what was then, the not so distant future and Chaka Malik (Burn, Orange 9 mm). To close,
I'll say this,"Though I may have come to this record feeling a bit cheated."
"I left with a nice reward." The future of this band is yet to be determined. One can only hope that we'll see some new music from Absolution in 2013.  James Damion

Lush Life NYC  Order it Here

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Boxed Wine - Cheap, Fun EP

It's been a cold, harsh winter here in New Jersey with few signs that it will ever let up. Luckily, there have been minor exceptions to the currently freezing rule of thought.
On January 22, our very own musical hedgehog,
Boxed Wine, released their three song EP titled
"Cheap Fun". Letting us know that better days are almost here. Many a time I've had to remind myself that life is all about the little things. Less is more and sometimes, big things come in small packages. All clique's aside, that is exactly what Boxed Wine have come to mean to me. They are the loose change in my couch. The twenty dollar bill I sometimes find in a coat I haven't worn in years. The pint of mirth you have to special order at your local watering hole.

The band takes a step forward stretching their musical legs a bit with "Cheap Fun".
Adding more texture and atmospheric elements to their sound without ever forgetting what made their first EP so special. See Review Here  "Bones" is an uplifting jaunt with rousing backing vocals and sweet riffs. Chris Mactire's effortless vocal deliveryoften remind me of a cross between that of  Scott Thompson of Meet Pause and Brian Sella of
The Front Bottoms. (A major compliment as far as I'm concerned) "Dayglow" crashes the party with a little more force before revealing itself as a pure party anthem. The quirky and very danceable "Boomerang" sends us home with it's very warm, inviting vibe that had me dancing in my editors chair. Boxed Wine may not change the world but it might just teach it to smile, have fun and dance, dance.
In times like theses, what more could you ask for? Go check it out.
James Damion

Cheap, Fun  Get it Here

Monday, February 4, 2013

Back Off!! them there Casettes!!

If you had a chance to check out my review of Back Off's 2013 Demo Here you'd know how much I enjoyed getting a taste of the bands no holds barred old school sound. Well, if you are like me you appreciate physical copies of music a lot more than an impersonal digital download.
Well, here's a chance to get your hands on the real thing. Copies are very limited so jump that plane as soon as you can and reserve your copy NOW!!! James Damion

Star Beat Records Celebrate a Year of Musical Excellence

This past week I went to my first show of the year in attending Star Beat Music's first anniversary shindig at the Lamp Post in Jersey City. Though I had a shot at a last minute ticket to see Quicksand I wasn't quite in the mood to attend a big and somewhat impersonal show. I'm sure I'll have the chance to see them again when the weather gets warmer. Getting back to my night at the Lamp Post. I had gotten a message from my buddy
Adam Bird of Those Mockingbirds a few weeks earlier, inviting me to a "Secret Show'.
My mind immediately conjured up thoughts of some sexy loft show with suggestive lighting, fancy drinks served in knee high hooker boots and a cast of shady hipsters dressed in their best pimp wear. Upon hearing that it was being held at a tiny bar where the band is pinned between the bathroom and the kitchen door. Any such visions quickly faded. Regardless, the bands were excellent, the crowd responsive and the vodka tasted just as good in a glass as it would in a boot.

Melissa Luciolla
I got there just in time to see Melissa Luciolla open the nights event. Melissa, best known from Melissa and Paul, (One of New Jersey's most deservingly notable acts.) had been doing some solo work as of late and I was eager to listen to what she had to offer. Melissa's soulful, bluesy voice and inspiring guitar work was just what this old man needed to shake the cold off and get the late night off to a roaring start. You can check out Melissa's solo work as well as her Melissa and Paul releases and news here. melissaandpaul

Brooklyn  two piece  Hilly Eye followed and didn't really leave the best impression on me. After just a few songs I headed to the bar for a refill and some conversation with a few friends. Hilly Eye

Those Mockingbirds Adam Bird
Soon after, the nights secret band was revealed as none other than
Those Mockingbirds.
The band just finished recording their new album and performed a set that gave us a nice taste of what's coming. I really like this band a lot. They've got a great rock sound. One that seems to been completely ignored by FM radio for some time.
The band combines excellent hooks and rhythms with notable songwriting and structure.
The bands singer/lead guitarist Adam has excellent charisma and stage presence
(Though the Lamp Post lacks anything remotely close to a stage.) I always look forward to seeing them live. Can't wait to hear the new album.
Band Site

Ralph Icastro of Boxed Wine
Putting the perfect end to an almost perfect night was Boxed Wine. I first heard about them through none other than a above mentioned Adam Bird about a year and a half ago. At the time, I couldn't decide if "Boxed Wine" was the worst band name ever chosen or the absolute best. I'm still kinda on the fence. Ask me any given day and you'll probably get a different answer. Regardless, Boxed Wine are an elixir to be savored and appreciated if not danced to spastically. As much as I loved the bands self titled EP See Review Here, the bands just released "Cheap Fun" EP is a nice step forward.
Prior to the bands set I had the pleasure of meeting the bands guitarist Ralph Icastro.
We had been friends on Facebook for sometime and had been exchanging pleasantries as of late. However, like it is with many of my acquaintances on social networks. I wouldn't know them if I walked past them on the street or if I had to pick them out in a lineup. Getting to put a face to the Facebook picture is always a step in the right direction.

Boxed Wine
As the band set up I was surprised by one thing. In listening to the bands quirky and very danceable rhythmic  beats, I couldn't help but think I'd be watching keyboards, samplers and
Mac Books roll into the bar. While instead I watched in respectful awe as guitar, bass and drums began to fill the space. It was great getting to finally catch Boxed Wine in a live and intimate environment. One simply cannot be mad, sad or surly when listening to what this band has to offer. Pure mirth with nerdy melodies that would have even the grumpiest feet looking to spring into action. It was an extreme pleasure getting to come out and support these guys, no matter how cold it was outside. Congratulations to the bands and to Star Beat Music on their first anniversary; I can't wait to see what year two brings. Check out the new EP here Boxed Wine
See you guys when the weather gets warmer. James Damion

Friday, February 1, 2013

Stuck in a Rut - Nothing in Common EP

I've been on a bit of a Hardcore kick recently and to my surprise, a lot of what I've been listening to has been coming from Europe.

Liverpool's Stuck in the Rut really deliver the goods on their first EP "Nothing in Common". Four songs of straight forward, no frills Hardcore who's influence can be traced to bands like Negative Approach. Each of the four songs have a heavy, relentless sound that struck a chord with me.
At times I felt like I was listening to a distant cousin to NYHC curmudgeons Killing Time. Though the bands isn't exactly reinventing the wheel here. They are certainly doing their part in keeping it greased. James Damion