Jersey and Philly bands have long had a contrarian streak of playing
music with no obvious allegiance to current fads or trends. The
unfortunate mid-to-late ‘80s aside
– a time when the region was deeply in the throes of hair metal –
groups from Philly and the nearby Camden, NJ area have focused more on
simply writing great songs, genres be damned, and creating intimate
tight music scenes as a result. The Gloucester City,
NJ-based four-piece, The Warhawks are no different. On their debut LP, Never Felt So Good,
the band charges through a mix of strong influences, from Bouncing
Souls-worthy punk on “Don’t Give a Fuck,” to jangle pop on “Nothing to
Do,” and ‘90s college
radio rock on “Change.” The band confidently and seamlessly slips in
and out of musical styles throughout.
The only weak track here is the album opener “Not a Problem,” a decent, but somewhat generic hard rocker that only stands out in comparison to how satisfying the rest of the album comes off.
The Warhawks – Never Felt So Good/Self-Released/2019 / Bandcamp /
artist Lucette has surrounded herself with some of the most talented
names in modern Americana and country music – working with Dave Cobb on
her 2014 debut and grabbing
Sturgill Simpson to producer her latest record – but to call her music
Americana or country would be a gross misstatement. Yes, there are hints
of both here and there spread across
Deluxe Hotel Room, but there’s also more liberal amounts of Soul, R&B and Indie Pop covering all nine songs.
one constant on each and every track is Lucette’s hauntingly beautiful,
often melancholy vocals that evoke memories of fellow Canadian artist,
the late Leonard Cohen. Few
others can emote so much with seemingly stark lyrics and often stripped
down music, like the title track and the closing song, “Lover Don’t
Give Up on Me”. Elsewhere, on songs like “Angel” and “Fly to Heaven,”
she goes full R&B complete with sax, and while
not exactly jubilant, she comes off sounding impressive, nonetheless.
Given how compelling Lucette is not only as a singer, but a songwriter as well, it’s pretty obvious why both Cobb and Simpson wanted to work with her.
LUCETTE – Deluxe Hotel Room/9 tracks/Rock Creek Music & Thirty Tigers/2017 / Facebook / Domain /
With his skin tight black jeans, leather biker jacket and Little Lord Fauntleroy jet black hairstyle, Brad Marino comes off one of the long lost Ramones on the cover of Extra Credit, his debut solo record.
And the look is a pretty apt, as his
songs can clearly match the Ramones
in terms of catchy earworms. But unlike the boys from Queens, Marino
digs much deeper into the crates for influences and comes up with a
near-perfect Power Pop record. There are snatches of punk rock attitude,
some garage rock chords, but the overall vibe
is so much catchier – think a caffeinated Big Star or Material Issue –
big fat song-along choruses that stay with you long after you’ve turned
off the music. As co-founder of The Connection, that garage rock
influences are a given, but Marino let’s his pop
instincts shine through on tracks like “Fit to Be Tied,” the infectious
“Broken Record Baby” and the commendable Chuck Berry cover “Bye Bye
Impressively, Marino plays just about all of the instruments on
Extra Credit. Even more impressive is the fact that he has
managed to cram 15 songs onto the album and the momentum doesn’t fade
until the last chord rings out on the final track.
Brad Marino – Extra Credit/15 tracks/ Rum Bar Records /2019 / Facebook /
Megg Farrell readily admits it’s a
crooked line that brought her to the
sound she has now. She grew up a kid in New York jamming to indie rock
and Riot Grrrl bands like Sleater-Kinney. A little later, camping and
rafting through the South turned her on to Bluegrass and introduced her
to the finger-picking style. Back in the Northeast,
she started a band playing venues up and down the coast before she
decamped to France to study Jazz.
Back in Brooklyn now and fronting the
aptly-named Megg Farrell & Friends,
she has landed on an irresistible brand of Americana that essential
draws on that lifetime of musical influences. In just nine songs,
Farrell and her partners are able to succinctly and seamlessly tear
through those influences for a wildly original album,
that grabs attention with just a single listen. The record starts off
with “Feelin’Single,” a Hank Williams-worthy country romp with whip
smart lyrics, followed in quick succession by the banjo-driven stand
outs “Lovesick Harmony” and “New Orleans Waltz,”
a song that screams classic. From there the vibe mellows out a bit,
eventually closing with “If I Were a Woman,” a beautifully contemplative
ending to a remarkable record.
Megg Farrell & Friends – Self-Titled/9 tracks/Self-Released/2019 / Domain / Facebook /
It’s hard to believe that Change of Pace, Andy Frasco’s latest LP comes on the heels of a break up and a realization that his cocaine-fueled lifestyle may need a little adjustment.
From the opening funk-drenched title
track and throughout most of the other
10 songs here, Frasco and his band have the same party vibe that has
quickly attracted audiences across the globe over the past few years.
But if you listen to the lyrics, especially on songs like “Love, Come
Down,” “Let Your Mind Be Free” and the mellower
“Somedays,” you can hear the change in a much more thoughtful Frasco.
The irresistibly fun vibe is still there,
but a little more mature and even
contrite with this go round. The horns – always a strength and a
standout in his sets, can still be heard loud and clear on “Find a Way”
and “The Walk,”
but the best song here is the
closing “Don’t Let the Haters get You Down,” a
two-middle-fingers-in-the-air rousing anthem to assholes everywhere.
Andy Frasco & The U.N. – Change of Pace/11 tracks/Republic of Music/2019 / Domain / Facebook
It’s been nearly 20 years since the Italian four-piece Peawees turned in their fantastically succinct argument that stellar garage and punk rock doesn’t belong to the ‘60s and ‘70s; Dead End City was a near-perfect expression of frenetic joy, anger, optimism and cynicism all trojan horsed in a dozen tracks.
released in 2001 on a small indie label in the Netherlands, it was
tragically overlooked by just about most in this country (though I’ll
bet you a pack of brand new
record sleeves more than a few music geeks and record nerds claim to
remember the initial release…).
That’s where the hero on the White Horse enters the scene; Lou Mansdorf owner of Boston-based Rum Bar Records is re-releasing
Dead End City and tacking on three bonus tracks to make up for the wait. The album is coming out on CD and vinyl.
Dead End City
is a tight explosion of two-and-three-minute bursts of machine
gun drumming, distorted power chords and snarled vocals with singalong
choruses that stick in your ears long after they’ve stopped ringing.
There are the obvious influences like The Clash, The Ramones and Social
Distortion, but also plenty of other more subtle
influences, like T. Rex and Thin Lizzy.
Whether bashing through their originals, like the defiant, addictive “‘Cause You Don’t Know Me” or covering a classic like Fogerty’s “Proud Mary,” the band delivers a classic in the making that was well worth the wait.
PEAWEES – Dead End City [Reissue]/15 tracks/Rum Bar Records/2019 / Domain
Country music has gotten some bad press over the past few years because… well,
it’s bad, sometimes dreadful. For the most part, it relies on clichés and
unimaginative recycled themes and lyrics that appeal to the broadest, most unimaginative
audiences out there. But then there’s those musicians that live in the shadows
of Mainstream Country music – the authentic Americana bands, the Bluegrass
groups that don’t give a shit about radio airplay and the Outlaw Country acolytes
who worship at the altar of Willie, Waylon and Bobby Bare, but wouldn’t know a
Luke Bryan or Kenny Chesney from either member of Wham!
(probably best known as Freakwater’s Morgan Greer) is one of those musicians
thriving in those shadows, turning out one great record after another with
little attention from Mainstream Country Radio or the producers of Ellen. And
his fifth offering, Cordelia Elsewhere,
is his best to date.
Across 10 tracks,
from the almost jubilant ode to bad decisions and bad luck, “Four Leaf Clover”
(easily the best song yet about kids losing their parents to a bear attack),
the opening, rock-infused “Into the Water” to the sanguine, surprisingly deep
“Time to Go,” Drunken Prayer offers one of the best arguments yet for Country
fans to turn off the radio and head into the shadows for the good stuff.
Drunken Prayer – Cordelia Elsewhere/10 tracks/Deer Lodge Records/2019 / Facebook /
Given today’s current sensitivities around, well, just about
everything, it’s hard to image even a third of the movies profiled in Mike McPadden’s
fantastically entertaining encyclopedia of teen comedies, Teen Movie Hell,
ever being made. But for those who grew up in the ‘80s trying to catch a
glimpse of nudity via scrambled cable movies on channels you didn’t subscribe
to, or their slightly more watered down cinematic siblings on basic cable shows
like USA’s Up All Night, this book serves
as the bible of raunchy comedies we never knew we needed until now.
McPadden and his contributors take an almost scholarly
approach to dissecting the appeal of these mostly-low budget T&A filled
comedies. Though they reach back to the 1960’s to start the evolution of these
movies, the bulk were gifted to us via Ragan’s greedy Me, Me, Me era of the
1980s. The majority of Teen Movie Hell is made of an alphabetical
listing and review of the most seminal and in some cases, under the radar also
rans – of teen-focused ranch coms, from 1988’s After School (aka Private
Tutor: Return to Eden) to 1978’s Zuma
Sprinkled throughout are some positively impressive essays
about the films from this era, specifically Kat Ellinger’s The Ellinger Code: Teen Sex Comedies in the Age of #MeToo and for All
Eternity and the importance of abortion as a real topic being introduced to
teens for the first time via Fast Times
at Ridgemont High in Wendy McClure’s strong essay The Free Clinic Isn’t Free.
Teen Movie Hell is so much more than a
guide to the golden era of teen movie raunch (although that’s definitely,
thankfully a part of it). But it stands as a brilliant look at a different time
from authors who were the prime targets of those movies, giving a part
nostalgic, part cringe-worthy tour of a time period in cinematic history that
will likely never be revived.
Teen Movie Hell: A Crucible of Coming-Of-Age Comedies From Animal House to Zapped! By Mike “McBeardo” McPadden/ Paperback, 360 pages/Bazillion Points/2019 / Facebook / Domain
Scissor Sisters eponymous debut created quite a stir when it was unleashed on the world in 2004. It was an odd time for music, with Green going full rock opera on American Idiot, Avril Lavigne doing her best suburban bubble gum punk rock impression and a pre-douchebag Kanye West all competing for the attention of music buyers across the globe. Meanwhile, the New York-based pop/rock/dance Scissor Sisters came out of nowhere with a sound not heard since Queen or Elton John in the mid ‘80s and proved they could turn in one of the year’s best records without bothering to sound like anyone else at the time.
UMe and Polydor have recently re-released this
brilliant slice of “don’t give a fuck about what we’re supposed to
play” pop/rock on vinyl and the music sounds just as brilliantly jarring
as it did 15 years ago. The album was cut
at half speed at Abbey Road Studios and is slathered on heavy-weight
vinyl which is simply record nerd speak for the sound quality is amazing (and, well, the sound quality is amazing).
album, which would go on to sell three million copies, was/is a
brilliant merging of dance-able classic rock at a time when it was
still allowed to be fun, mixed with some disco hedonism (thankfully) and
enough modern touches to keep the sound from sounding too nostalgic.
Songs like opening track “Laura,” the impossible
to ignore “Take Your Mama” and “Tits on the Radio” (no descripting term
needed for that one) have held up astonishingly well today. You simply
can’t imagine any of those songs not dominating radio if they were to be
released today… and if people still listened
to the radio.
Queen and Elton John influences are obvious, but elsewhere, like
on the song “Lovers in the Backseat” it’s hard not to hear David
Bowie’s inspiration throughout. A decade and a half later and Scissor
Sisters’ debut is still one of the most fun rock records to comes out of
New York in recent memory.
Scissor Sisters – Scissor Sisters [Vinyl Re-release]/11 tracks/UMe & Polydor/2019 / Facebook / Twitter /
There’s certainly no big hole out there in the record collections
Stones fans when it comes to greatest hits albums. But if there’s any
group in history of rock that would deserve yet another package of best
of songs, it’s The Stones
a slew of hits (36 to be precise) that span the band’s 1971 classic
Sticky Fingers up to their latest studio album 2016’s Blue & Lonesome. The
CD and vinyl sets include the expected tracks like “Start Me Up,”
“Brown Sugar,” “Angie,” “Wild Horses” and “Beast of Bourdon,” and
many more lesser known from the last couple of decades; though now all
here are radio station staples, they are still solidly impressive on
their own. But the real incentive here lies in the additional disc (or
record depending on your format) available on
the Deluxe sets. The bonus disc includes 10 live tracks taken
from stadium shows between 2013 and 2018. Among the songs are “Dead Flowers,” with Brad Paisley, a smoldering version of “Bitch” with Dave Grohl, as well as a take on
“Wild Horses,”with Florence Welch sitting in with the band.
again, The Stones prove too much is still never enough.
The Rolling Stones – Honk/46 tracks/Polydor & Interscope/2019 / Domain / Twitter /