Jersey Beat Music Fanzine
 

Longtime NJ scene photographer and music blogger James Damion joins JerseyBeat.com with this column.





Brian Musikoff should need no introduction to the readers of Jersey Beat.com. For decades he was Hoboken's favorite friendly neighborhood bartender at Louise & Jerry's, a mainstay in local bands like Friends, Roman, Countrymen and Stuyvesant, and a brilliant cartoonist and illustrator. (Brian drew two fantastic covers for Jersey Beat during our print zine days as well as the poster for our 35th anniversary party.) His sudden departure to Seattle took a lot of us by surprise, and he's going to be missed. Happily, thanks to the Internet, he's no more than a few mouse clicks away, and shared with James Damion some remininscences about New Jersey and his decision to head west. - Jim Testa

James Damion: When I got in touch with Brian about our interview, he seemed curious as to why I, or anyone else for that matter, would be interested in doing or reading an interview with him. To be 110% truthful, Brian perfectly fits the mold for most of the interviews I've done or been interested in doing over the years. Getting to know someone who's inspired me with their music, art, or straight up creative nature interests me more than any upcoming release date, tour or single.

For me personally, Brian Musikoff fits the bill for the kind of interviews and exchanges I prefer to approach. Brian is the artist who created the logo for my blog United By Rocket Science, and was the charismatic bass player for Friends, Romans, Countrymen and Stuyvesant (a band whose music and live performances brought me more joy than I could ever wish for. ) So much so that whenever I think of or hear their music, I'm brought back to my time in Hoboken as well as my nights at Maxwell's, the music venue that first brought me to the now famed town in the early 90's.

I'm also very appreciative of Brian's time in helping me build a bridge between my former home in New Jersey to brand-new one in Seattle. Here's what he had to share.

(Interview and images by yours truly, James Damion.)


Stuyvesant

What was it that sparked your move to Seattle?

After being fought, fucked, and educated in the NY/NJ area for 45 years of my life, I was suddenly overcome by an insatiable desire to tear up my roots; something that (with the exception of a 4 month stint in Newport, Rhode Island in '92) I have never experienced before. I needed a change and I needed to relocate myself to a slower urban environment. Over the past 20 plus years, I have observed a very lame and grotesque assimilation in the NYC area as far as being a cultural epicenter is concerned. I'm speaking for no one else other than myself here when I say that I have been feeling an ever growing increased tension toward the new generation of entitled and naive people who have outwardly exhibit a blatant disregard for NYC culture, and toward those who's basked sense of entitled security which has made them feel comfortable enough to behave disrespectfully without consequence. I have seen the greater wave of social and economic interest entirely shut down the venues, shops, and restaurants that I hold close to heart.

What were some of your initial impressions of Seattle? Pros and cons for any East Coasters looking to move there?

As with any metropolitan area, the local true blue natives are going to be understandably defensive against an influx of newcomers and their affects on the local economic and social climate. As far as the weather itself, newcomers need to be prepared for long, wet, grey winters. The sun only appears in bursts between November and February and the cold misty rain is frequent. Personally, and to the dismay of many defensive locals, I love the winter weather in Seattle. I see it as "forest weather". I'm here to contribute more than I take, and those few who are opposed or uncomfortable with me being here have no choice in the matter.

What do you miss most about New Jersey? In particular, Hoboken.

I miss the pizza, the "mutz", the NYC view along the Hudson, our band Stuyvesant, my immediate circle of dorks, my bartender family, and the proximity to the beach.

Have you had any musical collaborations since you've been out there?

Not yet, but I shall.

(About Brian's "Live from the Barrage" podcast.) How did you become involved? How do you stay involved being out west? What is the key focus of the show?

I knew John and Patrick of LFTB largely through the independent rock community, and not just here in NYC and NJ either. I initially appeared on the the show as a guest and I guess our host John Houlihan and producer Tömmy Röckstar immediately picked up on my dedication to the mutual interests associated with the show. Since I've moved away from the NYC area I continue to support the show by booking guests, designing the weekly promotional images, and promoting the show on social media. The show is still focused on discussion regarding (but exclusive to): good music and those who create it, good comedy and those who best understand it, crap/not crap, The Ryan Game, TRNN NOOZ, and Mario Asaro.

You grew up in a few stops from me in Bayside, Queens. Some of my earleist adventures included heading to Flushing's Main St. and eventually Mike's Comic Hut. Can you share some of your early impressions of living in Queens?

I lived in Bayside, Queens until I was 11 years old, where my experiences on my own were limited to nearby destinations along Bell Blvd such as Peter Pan Arcade, White Castle, George's Pizza, the Bayside Batting Range, and Bayside Cinema (where I saw Empire Strikes Back, E.T., Stripes, and Poltergeist). My grandparents lived in Flushing on Main Street so I was there often, and of course this proximity made me a regular attendee at Shea (whether legitimately or vagrantly, heh). My dad moved around a lot but always remained in Queens, so I've resided all over neighborhoods such as Forrest Hills, Woodside, and Astoria.

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Brian's poster for Jersey Beat's anniversary show

What initially interested you in art and how did it influence your decision to go to Art school?

As a hyperactive kid, music on the stereo in my ears and a pencil and paper in my hands were the only things that kept my interest as child. By the time I survived the social warfare of a suburban NJ high school (my mom remarried and moved us to Englishtown, NJ in 1983) I knew that a liberal college, state school, or community college was not for me.

You designed the logo for U.B.R.S. Aside from here and the work you've done for Stuyvesant. Who else have you worked with?

I've designed animation for comedians such as Patton Oswalt and Brian Posehn, and my clients include Warner Bros Records and Relapse Records.

The bass has long been my favorite instrument. Was it the first instrument you learned to play? Inspiration?

My first ever instrument learned was bass drum for my grade school band. Moving on to junior high, I wasn't focused enough or disciplined to study drums, so I started piano (which sucked.) In high school, I fancied myself a Hardcore singer with Wake Up Call, and by college I had taken up bass because the band that I was in at the time (Overeasy with Brandon Stosuy, formerly editor of Pitchfork) just had their bassist quit. To this day I can still not play chords. I live for pushing air and fattening riffs.

What was/were some of the first bands you played with?

My first ever band was in 1986, I played Casio keys for a middle school rap group that consisted of two white guys and two black guys called The Funky 4 (no relation to the much more accomplished The Funky Four Plus One of the Bronx.) We played talent shows and battle of the bands. In high school, I was in a home-recording "basement band" with my best friend called Spleverb. Spelverb were reminiscent of Ween (I guess) and by the time of graduation we had evolved to a full 4 piece band. I was in a few punk bands that never got off the ground in the early 90s, and then in 1996 I was introduced to the members of FRC.

I first learned about Friends, Romans, Countrymean from Al Crisafulli (Dromedary / Sugarblast Records). Can you tell me how you met Sean and how the band came to be?

Bill Dolan (American Standard) and I were both at the first big Descendents reunion show at the Stone Pony where he introduced me to FRC members Sean Adams and Dan Murphy, who were in need of a bass player. So we connected really easily being that, after all, we were together at a Descendents show (no pun intended,) and we all lived in or around the Hoboken/Jersey City area. I played and recorded with FRC from 1996-2002, and then in 2003 Sean and I joined Ralph Malanga from Footstone to form Stuyvesant.

Check out Brian's artwork at www.manualcomics.com.


TRU – S/T EP (Destroy All Monsters Records)

If you had the chance to read my review of Tru's 2016 demo and my thoughts on their performance in what was my first and thus far, sole show review, you might get the impression that I think that they’re all that and a big ole’ bag of chips. Well, while all that might be (no pun intended) TRUE, I thought I proper to save my real enthusiasm for when they put something on wax. Well folks, they just have. So excuse we while I get a little bit excited here.

On the band’s debut self -titled four song EP, New Jersey’s TRU blend burly bass lines and guitar hero riffs that add muscle and texture to toned down dreamy vocal landscapes. Mixing elements most likely to be found with dream pop and shoegaze vocalsm, they weave a perfect web that is virtually inescapable. The EP’s opening track “Take a Peek” offers itself as a perfect introduction to the band’s sound and approach with its warm and uplifting sound. “Trouble,” a holdover from their 2016 demo, follows with its warm and infectious vocals, spiraling guitar, and supportive backbeat. “Kristi” and “Hand in Hand” ride the same bus with warm lead vocals and even warmer refrains. One can’t help but fall in love with a band that so effortlessly blends elements of guitar rock with the lush landscapes often found in the best that shoegaze acts, both past and present, have to offer.

With members from local New Jersey acts such as Archie Alone, Dutchguts, Lkffct, Threat 2 Society and Washington Square Park, to name just a few, TRU’s personnel seem like unlikely choice when it comes to creating such a chill, laid back music environment. However, regardless of any past or current associations. TRU strive and succeed in creating artful sounds that see them escaping any and all genre and geographical limitations. I can’t wait for my record to arrive. Get it here...

The Sweet Things – Love to Leave / Cocaine Asslicker Blues (facebook.com/thesweetthingsnyc)

Here I am about to write another long overdue review while wondering why, after all these years, anyone would care about my opinion on music. So, when my friend, Spaghettytown Records founder Ted Dougherty handed me the latest and second label release The Sweet Things “Love to Leave” single, I quickly embraced my role as reviewer / skewer and got to work on throwing my weighty opinion around.

As New York descends into becoming a giant strip mall for tourists and high rise living yuppies with Wall Street salaries, it’s good to know that there are still bands like The Sweet Things fighting their way upward from the cracks in the sidewalk that once fostered the likes of the Ramones, N.Y. Dolls and Dead Boys with “Love to Leave” and its Johnny Thunders inspired B side, “Cocaine Asslicker Blues.” The Sweet Things finds influence in various genres that include, but do not limit themselves to the Blues, Southern Rock, 70’s Punk and straight up Rock & Roll.

The Sweet Things introduce themselves with a boogie and swagger that quickly resonates with this listener. Bringing to mind 1970’s Rolling Stones as well as the grossly underrated act known as The Faces. This single spins on limited release pink vinyl. I suggest you get it while the getting’s good. Get it here...

The Fiendz – Fossils (Black Pumpkin Records)

If you lived in or travelled through New Jersey in the late 1980’s or 90’s, you most likely heard the Fiendz, owned one of their records, and might have even seen them play a show or two at the Pipeline or City Gardens or any other lost yet beloved music venue sprinkled throughtout the Garden State.

I must have been sixteen or seventeen when I was introduced to the Fiendz by future Electric Frankenstein bassist Dan Canzonieri. I have to admit it was a tough sale for a kid from Queens who, at the time, worshiped at the altar of bands like Minor Threat, Bad Brains and Agnostic Front. Let’s just say harmonic songs about girls weren’t my thing. It wasn’t until Dan handed me a copy of the band’s first single, “Runaway with Me,” that I surrendered to The Fiendz and their knack of creating catchy pop punk that welcomed you to sing along to every note.

Before long, I was running into Joe and Jimmy at parties, and making friends with them while learning about countless other mutual fiendz.

The unreleased Fossils unearths recordings by the classic lineup of Jerry Jones, Jimmy and Joe Darone, with 10 songs written by Jerry and Joe and produced by Tim (Rumblefish) Gilles, during what I would consider the band's height. This material is easily comparable to the albums We’re the Fiendz and Wact.

While the Fiendz most definitely found influence in the likes of The Ramones and Jersey horrorcore greats The Misfits, their sound was a mix of harmony and Power Pop. (What if The Ramones had recorded End of the Century with The Beach Boys Brian Wilson instead of the maniacal Phil Spector?)

While I have to admit that I haven’t paid much attention to The Fiendz in the decades since these songs were written, I thoroughly enjoyed having the chance to hear this. Mostly though, it was the memories of younger days. The Fiendz are still playing and releasing music today, with Jerry being the only original member. Fossils is available on CD and in digital download.


Warzone – The Victory Years

Like many people my age. I was introduced to Warzone through the Revelation Records EP compilation “Together” and the band’s debut EP “Lower East Side Crew.”

Truth be told, my interest in Warzone became almost non-existent after “Open Your Eyes” and the disastrous self-titled mess that followed. By the time Raybeez and crew moved over to Victory Records, I had all but moved on from Hardcore altogether. So much so that I had no idea that The Victory Years was originally released on CD in 1998, shortly after Ray’s untimely death in 97’. Regardless, the vinyl release had me reminiscing about a man who was instrumental in my starting a NYHC fanzine around the same time their debut album Don’t Forget the Struggle, Don’t Forget the Streets” was staking its claim on the streets of Manhattan.

Along with Jimmy G. (Murphy’s Law) and Vinnie Stigma (Agnostic Front,) Ray Barbieri (Agnostic Front / Warzone) was one of the most original and endearing characters to come out of New York City’s Hardcore scene and movement

Most surprisingly, these 17 tracks of Hardcore Punk and Oi really stand the test of time, evoking memories of younger days and reinstating my love for a style of music that, for me at least, once represented a sense of acceptance and community.

Thanks to this and the recently reissued Don’t forget the struggle…, my appreciation has grown for Warzone and Ray’s dedication to the music and worldwide hardcore scene he helped create. Though the band's message of positive thinking and unity could sometimes seem a bit corny, it always came from a a very sincere and honest place. The Victory Years are deserving of the attention of anyone even remotely interested in hardcore, punk or Oi. While you’re on the hunt, I urge you to also pick up a copy of Revelation Records' recent reissue of Don’t Forget the Struggle…Don’t Forget the Streets here...


Record Aficionado – Volume 1 U.S. Hardcore / Punk 1978 – 1985

How many times have we either kicked ourselves in the collective consciousness for selling off our original punk and hardcore records. (Oh those limited first pressings still haunt my dreams.) Or wished we were around to pick up those round stacks of wax when they bore their original “pay no more” pocket change price.

As a kid growing up with a love and fascination for vinyl records, I was always eager to see what was inside. The lyrics, image, graphics and that oh-so-important “Thank You List”. Information that made you feel closer to the band as you listened to their music.

Record Aficionado goes further than many other books, fanzines and record collecting websites, in that it goes beyond the record cover to show the inner works and structure,
highlighting the records A and B side and reprints the record's inlay/lyric sheet, stickers, record label advertisements, as well as an accompanying record review from the time. 144 pages of two color printing featuring over 500 images dedicated to every aspect of many hard to find, long out of print EP’s that reshaped Punk while initiating the birth of American Hardcore, from the Abused to Youth of Today. Record Aficionado has it covered. Comparable to Europe’s much sought after two volume Flex Discography, all at a quarter of the price one volume would fetch.

Whether you regret selling that first pressing. Or, for reasons beyond your control, were never able to grab an original, Record Aficionado provides the visual stimulation and/or blueprint for you to embark on your journey towards record collection perfection.

While the book's binding leaves a bit to be desired. Its content is as thorough as it is outstanding. The painstaking attention to detail, cut and paste style and overall fanzine style give Record Aficionada a personal touch that feels as warm and intimate as your very own record collection. An absolute must for record aficionados, collectors and music archivists alike. For under twenty-five dollars. You really can’t go wrong.

Even Worse – We Suck! (The Lost 1982 Album)

If it were not for ROIR’s cassette only label and its now legendary “N.Y. Trash” compilation. My taste and knowledge of Punk may have never gotten past the Clash, Sex Pistols, Ramones stage of my early adolescence. For it was that trip to Broadway’s Tower Records that I got my first taste of Heart Attack, Bad Brains, Stimulators, Kraut (A band who, thanks to my Mom, I had seen open for The Clash at Bonds Casino), Even Worse and many, many more. And while I was much too young to have gone to those shows at Max’s Kansas City, A7 and the Great Gildersleeves. That particular compilation served as a spring board for what was to come.

Even Worse, one of the many bands featured on “N.Y. Trash” were an integral part of New York’s early 80’s punk, thrash, noise scene. A band who at different times featured Beastie Boy co-founder John Berry (R.I.P.), The Big Takeover creator/editor Jack Rabid, Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and future “Noise the Show” host Timmy Sommer. Even Worse played fast, up tempo punk rock with bratty female vocals that can be compared to many of their New York City contemporaries. As well as their West Coast counterparts, Alice Bag (the Bags) and the Avengers. Punk Thrash at it’s very best. It was post Pistols / Sid Vicious Punk. Pre-Agnostic Front era N.Y.H.C. Recorded at the legendary 171A studios and co-produced by Bad Brains. The album’s B side feature’s the band performing live at the famed New York City restaurant/club/bar Max’s Kansas City in 1981. (The same year it closed.) Imported from Italy and limited to only five hundred copies on 180 Gram vinyl. “We Suck” includes rare images of the band as well as very personal liner notes from the bands drummer Jack Rabid. This is a must for fans of more obscure and undocumented punk and prototypical art-punk.

“We Suck” does a fantastic job of encapsulating a time and place in New York City’s proud music history. One that I feel has been shrouded in mystique due to its limited amount and incredibly hard to track down recorded history. Here’s hoping that “We Suck!” opens the doors to more lost treasures as well as re-issues of long out of print release from bands such as Heart Attack, The Mad and many, many more.

Radiation Records

Caldor Kids – S/T (10 song album)

If your childhood consisted of trips to Korvettes, Woolworth or Caldor, chances are your parents were either price savvy or economically strapped. Growing up in Jackson Heights, Queens, I myself was familiarized with 82nd Street's Woolworths at a very young age. So, when New York City’s Caldor Kids dropped their ten song self-titled ode to discount chain stores in my email, I immediately got the connection.

On what seems to be their debut, Caldor Kids deliver a set of geeky garage punk that reminded this listener of a cross between old garage punk favorites Crimpshrine and perhaps a poorer man’s Screeching Weasel. Though based in New York City, Caldor Kids' sound, style and approach feels like something that fell out of the Lookout Records family tree. Fast, noisy, adolescent and loose with bratty vocals, I felt an East Bay connection running through each of the record's 10 songs. I really enjoyed the song “Pop Tart” with its fast and loose bass attack as well as the familiarity of “Caldor Kids” (a spoof on the original “Toys R Us kids” commercial.) Overall though, Caldor Kids hardly warrant more than a casual listen or two. Beyond that, it just gets plain irritating. As raucous as this might sound, Caldor Kids seem destined for the circular file at your local discount store’s cut out bin.

Caldor Kids

Pete, 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


No Honeymoon



No Honeymoon


TRU


TRU


TRU - Cindy


Whiner


Whiner


Whiner

https://puddlesplasher.bandcamp.com
https://nohoneymoon.bandcamp.com
https://archiealone.bandcamp.com
https://ohhhhtru.bandcamp.com/releases
https://whiner.bandcamp.com

Courtesy 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.

http://courtesytier.com/



Backwards 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 or stream.

Backward Youth



Wall 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.

Wall Breaker



Forever Losing Sleep / Arrowhead – Split EP

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.

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 through.

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.

Forever Losing Sleep -Bandcamp

Aguirre – 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.

Forced Abandonment Records

Moot 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.

Moot Point on Bandcamp

Breakdown – 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 Dream’.

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.

https://revhq.com/store.revhq?Page=search&Id=FFOR055

Rocky & 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 man hug.

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.

Rocky & The Chapter on Bandcamp.com

Night 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.

Night Battles on Bandcamp.com\

Beyond - 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 reissue.
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 and more.

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.
Beyond on Revelation Records

Search – 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 that necessary.
Search on Revelation Records.com

NYC 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 Records

TRUE 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. Contact PainKiller Records.


AGGRESSION 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 influence.
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 your time.

Contact Painkiller Records

TRÜ- 2016 Demo

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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