Longtime NJ scene photographer and music blogger James
Damion joins JerseyBeat.com with this column.
Cimdy and Pats’ Birthday Bash featuring Whiner, Tru,
Archie Alone, No Honeymoon, Puddle Splasher at The Meatlocker.
This past Saturday I headed west to Montclair’s Meatlocker
music venue for Pete and Cindy’s (Archie Alone drummer
and guitarist) Birthday Bash show. There was food, champagne,
friends, family and plenty of music. Five bands with varied
sounds that ranged from Shoegaze and Dream Pop to Emo and
Indie Rock performed. Over the years The Meat Locker has
been a consistent landing strip for local and touring bands
from varying sounds, styles and genres.
The venue's cavernous layout and sense of community combine
the structural feel of CBGB’s with the DIY ethos of
ABC No Rio. For me, personally, attending shows there has
become as much about the people as it is about the music.
Below are some images taken at and after the show. Happy
Birthday to Cindy and Pete.
Cindy - Archie Alone
Nicole - Archie Alone
Pete - Archie Alone
TRU - Cindy
Tier – Everyone’s OK (Beverly Martel Music)
If it weren’t for my tagging along with Jim Testa to
2011’s 3-day Brick City Riot Festival. I might have
completely missed the opportunity to become acquainted with
the music and personnel of Courtesy Tier. With a name one
might find at a hotel career seminar and a sound you wouldn’t
expect to hear coming out of any New York club or bar, the
chances they’d soon become so important to me seemed
unlikely. Judging on what I witnessed from the duo’s
performance and EP’s that followed, that importance
quickly grew stronger and stronger.
Enter 2017 and we’re greeted with Courtesy Tier’s
first vinyl output, the very rewarding “Everyone’s
Ok”. It brings together 11 songs that showcase the
trio's gift for creating a hauntingly beautiful mix of soulful
blues rock you’ll seldom hear north of the bayou,
Spirited songs that read like a dirty old pulp fiction novel
left on the nightstand next to the bottle of Makers Mark.
The 11-song LP opens with the long time personal favorite
“Cold,” previously featured on 2011’s
“Holy Hot Fire” EP. This is a song that’s
become so special to me that I feel I’ve come to know
every aspect of it intimately. “Childish Blues”
follows with Omer Leibovitz’s squealing blues riffs
and unique vocal style. By the time the album's third track
“And we don’t know” presents itself, it
becomes more than evident that you’re being treated
to something uniquely special and rewarding. Favorites from
the album include but are definitely not limited to the
haunting “Cold”, “Little Rock”,
the driving “Jackson”, “Hey Bee”
the incredibly bluesy storyteller “Mila Says”
and the album's closing tear jerker, “Home”.
With Courtesy Tier blurring the lines of style sand genre,
simply categorizing them as blues rock or alt-country would
be a serious disservice. A “What if Jack White and
Ryan dams hijacked the panels of an otherwise dreary Wilco
recording session?” comparison will have to do for
now. You’d be hard pressed to find a record as thoroughly
good as “Everyone’s OK”. Eleven songs
that feel so perfectly crafted, you’re sure to have
it in heavy rotation for the unforeseeable future.
Youth – Reality Check
Just when you thought that hardcore punk had run out of
every possible way to incorporate the word “Youth
in to their name, Charleston, South Carolina’s Backwards
Youth put the name game in reverse before putting their
brash approach to hardcore on blast.
“Reality Check,” the follow up to their 2014
EP “Outcast,” features 6 songs of well rounded,
metal influenced hardcore. Growled vocals, breakdowns, beefy
guitar riffs and a pounding backbeat highlighted by thick
bass lines, producing short, yet satisfying results. Overall,
it was the cleverly (insert sarcasm) titled instrumental
“Intro” and the EP’s fifth track “Life
Sentence” with its well-rounded metal core sound that
stood above the others.
“Reality Check” was tracked and mixed by Kris
Hilbert at Legitimate Business. Mastering is by Brad Boatright
at Audiosiege. Album art is by Chad Lawson, with track listing
art by Preston Weippert. Guest vocals on Excuse are by Patrick
Thomas of False Light. The record is available to download
Breaker – 2017 Demo
Fresh for your boom box comes a five-song demo cassette
from a new band that sounds as if it was carved out of an
80’s CBGB’s Sunday hardcore matinee. Featuring
membership from both the Garden State and Virginia, the
cast of Wall Breaker have played in such bands as Wormeaters,
Chainsaw to the Face and the very influential Coke Bust.
Wall Breaker come out of the gate swinging with a five-song
demo of raw, savage and blistering straightedge hardcore
you don’t often here in youth crew circles, asomewhat
rare trait that I found to be particularly impressive. Adding
speed and an updated sound to influences like Boston’s
S.S.D., Detroit’s Negative Approach and later 80’s
bastards of hardcore New York’s Life’s Blood.
The band's overall sense of purpose, swagger and intensity
allow Wall Breaker to set them apart from being just your
random act playing to their influences.
As I began to compose this review. I reached out and shared
the recording with some likeminded friends, including Life’s
Blood singer Jason O’Toole. The response was overwhelmingly
positive, and only served to reinforce my own feelings,
even though no one is being tested on their knowledge or
appreciation of music created when Reagan was still popping
jellybeans in the Oval Office. No matter the era, I always
find it easier to identify with a band that took the time
to listen, appreciate, and be influenced by such essential
stuff. For a band that is still very much in their infancy.
Wall Breaker really leaves a lasting impression.
The opening song “Wall Breaker” serves as a
perfect introduction with its forceful chorus: “Break
the fucking walls!!! Break the fucking walls!!!” “Autobiography,”
the band's fifth and final one, wraps things up rather well
with a short yet laugh educing skit. For someone just being
introduced to a new and current hardcore punk act, this
is about as good as it gets.
Cassette available through Absolute Contempt Records and
is is limited to 200 copies on pro duplicated white and
black cassettes (BE=100 white, AC=100 black) and glossy
printed covers. I suggest not sleeping on this one. Any
and all the money from donations and any profit from the
tapes goes to cat rescue as per usual.
While It might seem as if I’ve been hearing about New
Jersey’s Forever Losing Sleep… well, forever.
I can trace the first rumblings to an actual show they played
way back in 2014. I recall a friend talking up the band during
their exhaustingly long pre-show set up. Imagine my dissatisfaction
when what took nearly an hour to set up was sleepily performed
in a quarter of that time. A ton of build up with no climax.
To say the very least. I was not the least bit moved.
Losing Sleep / Arrowhead – Split EP
More than three years later I’m hearing the band
again for the first time again on a two-song split with
Boston, MA’s Arrowhead.
Forever Losing Sleep start things off with “Woken
by the Sun,” taking their slow, slower, slowest approach
to comatose depths of self-indulgent prog–rock indulgence.
Even when singer/guitarist Joe Kelly screams during the
9:00 plus minute track, it seems to be done while in a catatonic
state. Arrowhead follow, taking an almost exact sloth like
pace. The only difference being singer Tad Rios seems to
curse the sky a little louder. Perhaps trying to make up
for the nine or so less seconds it took to finish the song.
Regardless, it’s dull, duller dullest all the way
Being a long-time fan of the split single. I’ve learned
that combining acts with different sounds, ideas and aesthetics,
tend to make for a better listen. On this particular split,
though, I could find little to no differences between the
two. If you have the time in your life to devote your attention
to a couple of songs delivered in a snail’s pace of
17 minutes, more power to you. For me personally, it was
an exercise in misery. If I as ever to write a suicide note,
it would, in all likelihood, be accompanied by this release.
Losing Sleep -Bandcamp
– Overexposed (Forced Abandonment Records)
If George Orwell and Orson Welles ever set out to start a
Punk or Hardcore band, chances are it would sound a lot like
New Jersey’s Aguirre. Considering their 2015 demo ‘Poverty
Rowe’ was accompanied with a dark, black and white film
noir movie concept, the thought doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
Part demo, part film college thesis, it was as outlandish
as it was brilliant.
Come 2017 and the band has returned with their first full
length ‘Overexposed’. I was invited by singer
Patrick Flynn and drummer Paul Alan to give these ten songs
an authoritative listen before putting in my two cents.
To start with, ‘Overexposed’ does a lot to
set itself apart from what’s being called Hardcore
or Punk these days. Not to say that there is anything wrong
with being a Hardcore act in 2017. Or for that matter, any
year. It’s just that I haven’t heard a whole
lot that sets one band apart from the other recently. Musically,
‘Overexposed’ goes in a lot of interesting directions
you won’t hear from in your typical Joe Hardcore act.
Vocally, Aguirre lead a dark path with sinister vocals that
sound as if they were a prophetic narrative warning of darker
days to come. Timely, considering the current political
landscape. One can really appreciate the sense of storytelling
throughout. Whether intended or not, each of the 10 songs
feel connected, as if they were written with the intention
of being the score to a George Romero movie. I can say with
all honesty that I like where Aguirre are taking things.
“Overexposed” is available on cassette and digitally.
Point – "History Repeats Itself and We Never
Learn Fast Enough" EP (Bandcamp)
Greg Furlong is by far one of the nicest people I’ve
met through going to shows (my social media jabs regarding
his taste in music aside.) As the drummer for Basement Beers
and Scary Stories, he stands out as one of the best and most
animated stickmen in the state. Being how those two acts have
served me well in the somewhat recent past, I was eager to
give these newly recorded songs some attention and focus.
Having barely heard of the duo known as Moot Point. I approached
this two-song recording with little to no knowledge of the
band or the style of music they played, an approach that
didn’t change how completely off guard I felt upon
listening to these two short and very abrasive tracks. Raw,
unhinged, chaotic and dissonant would best describe the
sound being put forth on these songs.
Featuring Vince Basile (guitar/vocals/lyrics) and Greg
Furlong. “History Repeats...” two songs screamer
is more Power Violence, Screamo, Noise Rock than its predecessor,
2016’s garage rock friendly “Clockwatcher.”
With “A clear head of thought” and “History”
coming together in just about four and a half minutes, I
had a hard time judging just what it was I liked or disliked
about this particular recording. However, I’m grateful
in that it gave me the chance to compare it to their previous
recordings. Whether or not this is your kind of noise, it’s
definitely worth checking out.
Point on Bandcamp
– The 1987 Demo (540 Records)
I still recall the numerous times I stopped in to Some Records
when in route to the Sunday Hardcore matinees at CBGB’s.
It was the main spot to check out flyers for upcoming shows.
Peruse the latest Hardcore releases and pick up the latest
cassette demos from the latest bands in the scene. It’s
how I began to build my arsenal of demo tapes. It’s
where I picked up the first Breakdown demo.
Years later. After owning every conceivable reissue and
version of that original tape. The first full length LP
had me wondering whether or not to proceed. Was there anything
new to learn or hear. Was there any necessity in owning,
yet another copy? A full color 12X24 poster to tape to the
walls of my brother’s college dorm and extensive liner
notes to base my graduate school thesis on? Yes. A fully
restored recording of their live performance on WNYU’s
Crucial Chaos that I originally taped on my home’s
boom box? Check. In the end, though. A combination of nostalgia
meets familiarity made my purchase a sure thing.
Raw, unflinching and streetwise. The nearly thirty-year-old
demo still stands strong. The nine-song recording that almost
singlehandedly changed the face of New York Hardcore by
giving it a tougher edge. (One possibly absent due to bands
like The Cro-Mags and Agnostic Front’s fleeing the
lower east side due to touring commitments.) While almost
simultaneously offering a counterweight to Youth of Today
and the countless bands that were forming at the time.
Side A features the 87’ demo in its entirety. Nine
classic mosh classics like ‘Kickback’, ‘Life
of Bullshit’, ‘Vengeance’, ‘Labelled’,
‘You Gotta Fight’ and ‘Sick People’.
Great songs that reflected life’s everyday struggles.
To make this a full blast LP. The bands 87’s WNYU
Crucial Chaos greets side B. Their live set includes the
entire demo. Plus, the additional instrumental ‘Pipe
Breakdown would go on to be featured on such classic Hardcore
compilations as “In addition to recording another
classic demo and a couple of full lengths. The band would
be featured on the incredibly influential Revelation Records
“The Way it is”, Blackout Records “Where
the Wild Things Are” and one of the last tape collections
of its time. The “New Breed Compilation”.
For most though, it was the 87’ demo that would go
on to influence and become the springboard for countless
hardcore acts in and for decades to come. If you love Hardcore.
The 87’ demo should already be an important tool in
your box. If you ever wanted to educate yourself on the
development of late 80’s Hardcore in New York City.
This would be a great start.
& the Chapter – You Are Not Mine
I ran into an old friend at a local music venue the other
night. Though I hadn’t seen him in quite some time.
I felt more than comfortable reintroducing myself with a big
We talked briefly about music and in particular, our mutual
appreciation for guitarist John Mayer and singer / songwriter
Ryan Adams. As we broke the ice. I felt the doors for further
exchange were opened for further dialogue. So, I asked what
he had been up to since our last encounter. When he revealed
that he was currently playing in Rocky & The Chapter.
The smile on my face was hard to conceal. For it had been
just minutes’ prior when I was speaking to his former
bandmate, NGHTCRWLRS guitarist and Sniffling Indie Kids label
boss Frank Joseph about an upcoming record release show featuring
the very same act I am about to write about.
Following a handful of singles as well as 2015 full length
‘ New Day / Old’ Here. (A record I found to
be deeply rewarding.) ‘You are not Mine’ welcomes
the singer / songwriter back to the table with sweet, yet
sweeping melodies that move effortlessly throughout. Ones
that perfectly encapsulate a sense of warmth and the promise
of good things to come.
‘You Are Not Mine’ offers a crisp Pop sound
with enough kicked up guitar riffs to give it an undeniable
rock edge. The added cowbell effect to the infectious guitar
driven leads on ‘Lucky 13’ launched me from
the couch to my hardwood floors faster than any recent calls
to the dinner table.
The following and EP closing track ‘Talk Small’
had all the sinister edge and longing to perfectly wrap
up an otherwise celebratory affair.
Four songs that gave me a continued appreciation and respect
for the Singer/songwriter camp. Rocky’s voice has
a special pull that draws that the listener close enough
to the song to make them feel as if they’re a part
of it. I’m looking forward to picking up a copy this
weekend at Jersey City’s Porta.
& The Chapter on Bandcamp.com
Battles – Curse the Day / Locust Sky
Sometimes, a good thing just falls into your lap. Such is
the case with the two-song offering from Raleigh, NC’s
Night Battles. Featuring members of various local NC acts
as well as old friend and guitarist Christopher Skelly. (Dahlia
Seed / Static is a City) Night Battles lay down some diabolical
post punk scripture on their debut two song release.
“Curse the Day” introduces Night Battles with
devilish vocals and gasoline soaked riffs. Dirty post core
that kicked in like a shot of whiskey with a rattlesnake
chaser. Knocking me off my balance while jacking my heart
rate to dangerous levels. Side effects aside. I really dig
the deviant nature it conjures up. The “Sinner takes
all” vibe displayed here cannot go without noting.
“Locust Sky” follows. Providing a musically
visual authority to its namesake with a slower, even more
ominous approach. Imagine Afghan Wigs and Laughing Hyenas
waist deep in the sludgy industrial complex along the side
of the highway.
While these two teasers had “Best stuff around”
written all over them. I was left wondering how soon the
collected personnel would get back in the studio for more.
Regardless of future collaborations. I appreciate Night
Battles reminder that great things often come in small packages.
Battles on Bandcamp.com\
- No Longer at Ease
Nostalgia is a funny thing. on the downside. It has a way
of stealing your time, as well as your hard-earned money.
Spend too much time in the past and you'll find yourself
trapped there. On the upside. Or at least in this case.
Nostalgia has a strange way of freezing moments tucked so
far in your past. You never realized you had retained them.
As a teen, I spent most of my free and not so free time
involved in the New York Hardcore scene. The majority of
it, spent with the members and close friends of a band called
Gorilla Biscuits. During my senior year of High School.
The name “Beyond” would come up quite regularly.
High praise from Walter and Civ. Shortly after graduation.
I was invited to share a rather large Queens apartment with
Walter, Civ and Beyond drummer Allan Cage. It was during
that time I got a full-blown taste of what was a very special
and unique band.
Originally released in 1989 on David Stein’s Combined
Effort label and later reissued on compact disc by New York’s
Some Records. Revelation Records brings the epic New York
Hardcore release back to life with a well-deserved vinyl
While often bunched in with the bands like Youth of Today
and Gorilla Biscuits. (Bands they shared bills with as well
as common ground and philosophy.) Beyond's sound and influences
were had just as much in common with Iron Maiden as they
did Minor Threat.) With Metal tinged guitars, tribal drums,
and lyrics that travelled outside the boundaries of Hardcore
and Punks topics of the day.
Though short lived. Beyond personnel would quickly go on
to push the boundaries of Hardcore in acts such as Bold,
Burn, Shelter, 108, Quicksand, Seaweed, 1.6 Band, Last Crime
Featuring the albums original fifteen songs. “No Longer
at Ease” has aged incredibly well. The Metal tinged
guitar shredding and tribal drumming I mentioned sound just
as vital and fresh as they did when I was a teen. Add Kevin
Egan’s vocal urgency and the Vic Dicara’s sinister
bass work and you’ll find yourself listening to a
record that feels as just as urgent and necessary as it
felt when it was first released.
With liner notes by Walter Schreifels, song lyrics and the
option grey or red marble. “No Longer at Ease”
offers something for everyone.
on Revelation Records
– Between the Lines (Revelation Records)
Sharpen your X’s. Dirty up those old cargo shorts
and dust off that old backwards Thrasher cap. It’s
time to go back to that old reliable fountain of straight
edge middle aged youth with the debut six song 7 inch from
the newly formed SEARCH. Comprised of personnel from such
stellar New Jersey straight edge hardcore acts Mouthpiece,
Turning Point and Floorpunch. SEARCH set out to create music
in the vein of Youth of Today the youth crew movement that
initially influenced them to start bands as teenagers.
“Between the Lines” features six songs packed
with all the thunderous glory of Hardcore past and present
with fast and furious urgency and intent. Spirited guitar
leads, dep rolling bass lines and percussion. All led by
the familiar voice of Mouthpiece, Hands Tied and Triple
Threat vocalist Tim McMahon.
While Search have done an excellent job with “Between
the Lines”. Their debut is nothing one wouldn’t
expect from a group of straight edge kids in their early
to mid 40’s.
Reliable or just plain predictable. The band sticks to what
they know and love so closely. That it ends up sounding
more like an ode to the past than a look to the future.
The hope of hearing something new and fresh never presented
itself. Making the record somewhat of a letdown. Six songs
that would complement any of Revelation Records (1987-1989)
earliest classics. A nice, colorful slab of vinyl tucked
neatly into a pliable cardboard sleeve. Nice, but not all
on Revelation Records.com
Headhunters - The Rage of the City
Comprised of members of The Rival Mob, Step Forward and
more. NYC Headhunters represent a new breed of Hardcore
bands bringing it back to a resurging NYHC scene. Still
abuzz from the band's well-received 2015 demo. I was eager
to hear what the Headhunters debut 7' inch EP would offer.
True to Hardcore form. The NYC Headhunters haven't strayed
very far from the ingredients that made their demo so god
damned good. Cutthroat vocals that blend Hardcore's aggression
with street punk's urgency and sense of alienation. The
five songs offered on 'The Rage of the City' are each impressive
in their own way. Musically and lyrically tight with a sound
that frequently reminds me of late 80's NYHC without sounding
anything like a nostalgia act. Overall, 'The Rage of the
City' feels raw, real and very authentic. Painkiller
VISION – Against the Grain (Painkiller Record)
Following their 2015 self-titled cassette release on Mind
Rot Records. England’s True Vision return with their
debut EP 'Against the Grain'. Featuring members of Violent
Reaction, Shrapnel, Arms Race and The Flex. Their lineup
reads like a who's who in the ranks of England's most currently
celebrated Hardcore and Oi bands.
All parts considered. True Vision exhibit a complete and
total lack of originality or ability to create anything
even remotely original. Instead, sticking to a cookie cutter,
cut and paste, play by the book approach to straight edge
Hardcore. Whereas countless others have proudly worn their
influences on their sleeves. True Vision recorded a record
that feels sleeved in decades old clichés. Upon my
first listen to True Identity sounded more like a band covering
early Revelation Records EP’s than one creating their
own sound and vision. Energy and speed? Yes. Any sense of
a band creating their own identity? Absolutely not. Disappointing.
PACT - S/T 7' inch (Painkiller Records)
Formed by Dan, (Waste Management) and Ryan (Green Beret.
Two bands I admittedly have never heard of) as well as members
of personal favorites, Richmond's Wasted Time. Aggression
Pact is yet another band that finds influence days gone
by. With hints of A.O.D., B.G.K. as well as other acronym
leading bands of the 8o's. A.P.'s six-song debut EP wrecks-havoc
on the senses while endearing the listener to its savage
bar room brawl appeal. Intended or not.
On the bands six song debut EP. A.P. Do a very good job
of making an impact with their fast, razor sharp delivery
that doesn’t stop long enough for you to take a cigarette
break. And while I definitely felt a Boston / Choke / Slapshot
More closely, Aggression Pact reminded me of 'An Adjustment
to Society' era Kraut. (In case you've never heard of New
York's Kraut. That's about as good a compliment as you can
give.) An all-around excellent record from a band well worth
Bios are perhaps, one of the most overlooked parts of being
an artist, or in this case a band. So, when I read “We’re
a band from Jersey who like Weezer.” didn’t come
near describing the newly formed TRÜ. I reached to the
newly formed band’s bass player and friend for something
a bit more telling. Formed in late 2016 as a side project
for members of various local bands including, but not limited
to Dutchguts, LKFFCT,
Threat 2 Society and Archie Alone. What started out as a side
project for the four members quickly became a priority.
On their two-song demo, TRÜ produce sounds and ideas
unexplored in any output with the previously mentioned endeavors.
The chill, down to earth vibe on the demo’s second
track “Fool’s Gold” is just as seductive
on the ears. Perhaps offering more of a slightly more uplifting
vibe. With parts dream pop and parts shoe gaze. One can't
help but think of Belle & Sebastianne cruising down
the NJ Turnpike with Beach House riding shotgun.
TRÜ just recently recorded a 4 track EP 7” inch
EP at Nada Recording Studios with John Naclario. It's planned
Spring 2017 release on the soon to be born “Destroy
All Monsters” label. Though just a sample of things
to come. I felt TRÜ feft a nice calling card clearly
outlining the promise of things to come. Contact Tru
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