Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

Crazy Pills/Prima @ FRANK’s BASEMENT

When I was a teenager, I heard about kids going to a place called “The Temple” to see local Brooklyn bands. Initially, I thought I was too cool for what I identified as the Warped Tour set (oh, how the age of irony set me straight on that one!) with the mohawks, piercings etc. Not what my misguided 15 year old self would call “real music.” The bands generally fell under what I describe now as the “unfashionable” forms of rock music: Ska, emo, pop-punk and hardcore, often delivered with a distinctly Brooklyn wise-ass sense of humor. Eventually, I ended up at this, the basement of an actual Jewish temple where bands were playing. I realized that my wallflower attitude was stupid; you have to get in there, get in the pit, do the skank, do the pogo, respond during the call and response. So for a few shows, I joined the JNCO and Manic Panic-adorned punks in watching bands like Tri-State Conspiracy, River City Rebels, Witchunt and Big D and The Kids Table as well as many forgotten local bands made up of Brooklyn kids. I was hanging out outside the too-packed show with many hundred kids who showed up to see Leftover Crack (who I didn’t even like at the time, wrong again!) when the FDNY showed up and shut down the venue for good. We just shrugged and went to Burger King. It was 2003, we were Brooklyn kids and we liked to go see bands, some of us still play in bands and go to shows, some became doctors and lawyers, some do both. It was a simpler time and we had no idea what was coming next (yes, I am a codger at 28.)

Some 12 years later and I found myself back in the neighborhood to watch bands play at a DIY show at Frank’s Basement. With a few exceptions (one being the excellent, anomalous DIY venue The Black Strap in Boro Park, right near my Grandma’s house, in which the band play in a small bedroom) this was the first time I’d seen bands south of Park Slope in the 12 years since the “Leftover Crack Incident.” I live in Bushwick, yes, but there’s no part of me that prefers North Brooklyn. South Brooklyn is superior in every way, except for going to see bands and meeting women that might invite a semi-employed rock n’ roll nerd into their heart (or bedroom.) I was absolutely compelled when I learned of Frank’s Basement from their hilarious Youtube video (“so what? who cares?”) the coverage of which was probably the shining moment in the history of the website Brooklyn Vegan, except for maybe when trolls made fun of me for being fat and taking my shirt off in the “comments” section. I hadn’t heard of the bands playing in the first few shows and kept having shows booked opposite them. When I learned that Crazy Pills, a very good band and very good friends, were headlining a Sunday matinee at Frank’s Basement, it was a proposition I could not turn down. I had a few drinks at the only bar I can call myself a regular, Freddy’s in the South Slope, then strolled to a friend’s house in Kensington to smoke a few bags of vaporized marijuana. We got in the car and took a beautiful ride to the old neighborhood.

When we walked up to the location, we saw that it was, as advertised, a Dance Studio (“you like ballet? so what? you like modern? so what?”) filled with young punks. By the time I made it to the backyard, I was already sold: BBQ, beer cans, lawn furniture, cigarettes, weed, lawn. My idea of a good time, seeing some of my band friends south of Church Ave. (my self-described “waistline” of Brooklyn) in an atmosphere that resembles “hanging out” for most of my life. We began to hear the pangs of guitar and drum and headed to the basement to check out the next band ( I missed the first two on my sunday constitutional) and walked down to an unfinished basement where the music was about to start. I love basements, I have only had band practice in basement in my whole 13 year career as a musician and I love playing basements and watching bands in basements.

The cacophony of violent noise that drew me in was being whipped up by two young female guitar players and a male playing spare but visceral jazzy drums that immediately reminded me of Brian Chase of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I learned that the band was called Prima and by the time they got through their first song, I was immediately hooked. This bass player-less punky trio showed shades of Sonic Youth, Television, Sleater-Kinney, PJ Harvey and Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, sometimes within the same song. Their Riot Grrl rage was cut with a thick dose of theatrical, macabre psychodrama that captivated this basement audience. Lead singer/guitarist Rose Blanshei, who is an absolute beast as far as stage presence goes, led the band through an intense and fantastic cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper” from the Nebraska record, turning the acoustic tune into a post punk dirge. Their original tune“Diva” is about as primal as anything Karen O has done since Fever To Tell. There’s some recordings on a Bandcamp as a two piece, but I’d be terribly excited to hear an update recording from this unique band, which was a fine discovery.

Our evening’s headliner, Crazy Pills, are a local band that is truly the deliverer of the good word of rock n’ roll. Led by Amanda Burdon, a woman who is slight in stature and bright in demeanor, but as a guitarist, stands as an absolute giant. The rhythm section includes Edward Nazareno on bass, who leads the tuneful band Pow Wow! bringing his natural ear for hooks to anchor this power trio and Jim Wood, also of Clouder and many other groups, on drums, a big man who absolutely brutalizes his drum kit, and is known as one of the nicest men in the New York Music Scene. Together they play fast, fun rock n’ roll cut with garage, rockabilly, punk and glam. Aside from songs from their great album Restless, they played two covers that drove this basement crowd crazy: “Rebel Rebel” by David Bowie and “Mr. Pharmacist” by The Fall. Everytime time I see this band I am absolutely refreshed, unpretentious rock n’ roll that you can dance to; in fact, by the end of the set there was an actual mosh pit.

I’m a man who goes to a lot of shows, and I love the DIY community but I’ll say this, Frank’s Basement is an absolute gem and I truly want to meet the kids running this venue and the bands that are being started as we speak by young Brooklyn natives. I would have liked to stay around and see what happens at Frank’s Basement when the bands are over. I heard that Frank’s grandmother lives upstairs from the venue, so it can’t get too rowdy. I wanted to stay but I had worked up a hell of an appetite, so my friend and I booked it and went to the Del Rio Diner on Kings Highway to feast on Pastrami, Pickles and Coleslaw, a place my parents used to take me and my late grandmother, long before anyone in the world thought Brooklyn was cool. In case you were wondering where I stand, I would say that Del Rio makes Williamsburg’s Kellogg’s Diner look like an Arby’s by comparison.

JOE JACK TALCUM- Home Recordings 1993-1999 (Valiant Death)

Joseph Genaro has recorded under many aliases, including Jasper Thread, Butterfly Joe and Joe Jack Talcum. He founded the seminal Philly punk folk antagonists The Dead Milkmen, first as a fictional band, then a real one with three college friends. Together they would create some of the funniest, most bizarre and unique sounds of 80's punk, like the Descendents high on Zappa, taking the piss out of American pop music with a tremendous musical aptitude. In the Milkmen, Genaro plays guitar as well as providing the shy, thin voice behind Rodney "Anonymous" Lindeman's more traditional frontman vocals, and always steps out for a few leads on each record. Often Genaro's songs were among the most heart wrenching and poignant moments in the band's discography, like the stream of consciousness "Dean's Dream," environmentalist ballad "Watching Scotty Die," and the bittersweet "Dollar Signs In Her Eyes." (And lest we forget, it was also Genaro who wrote and sang the Milkmen's only real hit, "Punk Rock Girl.") Throughout the career of the Milkmen and during their hiatus (they reunited in recent years to a warm welcome), Genaro has been a prolific songwriter, working with many groups such as Low Budgets, Touch Me Zoo and The Headaches, as well as a solo acoustic performer. He has been making home recordings for the past 30 years, and the aptly named Valiant Death label has released his second set, this one from 1993-1999, years when the Milkmen were mostly inactive.

My first exposure to Joe's solo music happened when I was in college and I had heard he'd been performing at local punk shows. I had been a fan of the Milkmen for some time, and decide to send him a MySpace message, asking him if he'd like to play with my band, the newly formed The Brooklyn What in the basement of the original Freddy's Bar (now leveled to become the Barclay Center) and if he'd like to perform some Milkmen material with us. To my surprise, he agreed to both, and some weeks later, showed up at my mom's basement to teach us Dead Milkmen songs and eat some 3-items-for-$5 Chinese food. Later at Freddy's Bar, he treated us to a set of both solo and Milkmen material that made the audience laugh and cry in a very cathartic experience. There was not a dry eye left in the room, and I had never seen that type of command in a solo performer before. The night ended asThe BKW, Talcum and a room packed with some of my best friends all sang and thrashed to "Punk Rock Girl,""I Walk The Thinnest Line," and the classic "Life Is Shit." It was one of the best nights of my life, and we would do it again a few times. Later, when the Milkmen returned to the stage, he gave me the gift of the actual best night of my life, opening for my punk rock heroes at the Bowery Ballroom. It is Genaro's generosity and empathy that make him one of the greatest and most underrated American songwriters.

His solo tunes evoke the naivete and imagination of his peer Daniel Johnston, as well as the sweet and sour whimsy of predecessor Jonathan Richman, with melody and chord progressions worthy of Neil Young and Lennon/McCartney. Just as the extroverted and challenging Milkmen attack everything from bad parties to bad politics with great fervor, Talcum's introverted side describes a fairly negative and morbid worldview with a great deal of beauty. "One False Move" opens the set, a funeral dirge about drinking, a topic that will appear many times in his songwriting (Genaro is, to my knowledge, currently sober.) Check the heavy ballad "Alcohol" from 2008 split with Mischief Brew for another great song on this topic. "Madonna's Weep" is the type of acoustic balladry that tickles the eye socket, with strange but beautiful, Dylan-esque lyrics: "I have a peaceful feeling that when this war is done/we'll find a bottle lodged up in the sun/and in it is a message for all about the land/love is a weapon you can't hold in your hand."

An apt multi-instrumentalist, Talcum plays organ and piano on the psychedelic "Go" and provides his own punk rock rhythm section on a few of the tunes, including the raucous instrumental "Sweet and Sour." "Call Me A Fool" is a bonafide bummer, sharing genetics with Weezer's "Butterfly," possibly written around the same time in different areas of the country, except this song explodes into aural psychosis in the middle with some synth and pedal type action before resolving gently back into acoustic guitar. The sweet pity party "Sense Of Humor" is a direct and personal jaunt, with a melody echoing early Kinks or The Monkees, with the hook "I've lost my sense of humor/somewhere behind the couch." "The Sun Shines Out Of My Asshole" is the type of absurd humor that made the Milkmen stand out against their more rigid peers. A cousin of "You'll Dance To Anything," the set closes out with "Another Disgusting Pop Punk Song," obviously targeting the Warped Tour generation that would come to commerical set after his more talented generation spent a decade in relative obscurity.

In the art and craft of songwriting, there are many intangibles. Some songs rock and some songs suck. Some songs are catchy and some songs are forgettable. Some songs make you think and some songs make you drink. As a songwriter, Talcum's paramount quality is that his songs move you. Whether working in the platform of the surreal, silly or dead serious, Talcum has an emotional and childlike quality that appeals to the most vulnerable moments as a listener. Stripped of his loud band, and with his distinctive high register, the home recordings of Joe Jack Talcum bring us up close and personal to a songwriter that deserves much investigation, and then some.

LEE BAINS III AND THE GLORY FIRES- Dereconstructed (Sub Pop)

I am a city slicker. I’ve never left New York for more than two weeks, and I certainly have never been to the American South. A year or so ago, I get an e-mail from a young man named Lee Bains III, who leads the band called The Glory Fires, described on their Facebook as “the real bama rock n’ roll.” They had just been on tour opening for some local buddies starting to get some national attention called Alabama Shakes. He hit me up to join them for a gig and not long after, I am in the Mercury Lounge, a NYC institution that once hosted Sonic Youth, Radiohead and The Strokes, watching Lee jump from the kick drum to the floor, all while ripping through a meaty guitar solo, while the Glory Fires play grooves worthy of “Exile On Main Street.”

These smiling, sweetheart boys from Birmingham, Alabama could not be further from your average New York cool. The rhythm section is comprised to two shaggy, hard drinking brothers, the lead guitar is a skinny Mick Taylor type and Lee fronts a band like Joe Strummer meets Bruce Springsteen, often climbing on his guitar player's shoulders for the finale, like the guys in AC/DC once did. The gratuitous nature of this seems authentically southern, and sometimes not immediately relating to something you find an even deeper and more profound connections. In our limited time hanging at the club, Lee and I realized in our differences we are the same, neighborhood kids out playing rock n’ roll.

We traded records and 2012’s There Is A Bomb In Gilead became a go-to for my band The Brooklyn What’s tour vehicle. This heartfelt collection of rockers touches on influences from The Replacements to The Staple Singers to Tom Petty; it was the perfect soundtrack for four city boys driving through parts unknown in America. A couple gigs later, we’re partying with The Glory Fires at a packed Shea Stadium, they’ve seen the whole country, and they’ve been signed with one of the best labels in the country: Sub Pop. The sum total of those experiences is Dereconstructed.

With the loaded title and its economic ten songs clocking in at 35 minutes, Dereconstructed tells it like it is, Lee’s songwriting looking back at his personal history as well as the South’s. This is a history lesson with guitars. “The Company Man” kicks through the door with brutal, gain-y guitars and a mean blues stomp, like a band that has been through the Crossroads once or twice. “The Weeds Downtown” is another one that sounds like a hit, a chugging sweet groove kind of like early Wilco covering “Ophelia” by The Band. “What’s Good and What’s Going On” is a serious track that has an intimacy recalling Darkness On The Edge Of Town.

As much lighthearted bravado that their live show may have, there’s a discrete but impressive quality of emotion in Bains’ songwriting. Without a hint of coastal irony, Bains sings like he’s on the edge of a cliff pleading for his life. His band does classic rock with the urgency of a group that’s been driving for days with no sleep. The classic rock influences may ward off some of the hipper press, but there’s a purity and commitment that is distinctly punk, American style. In the age of real vs. artifice, there is something both commendable and transcendent in this music, enough to transport a jaded Brooklyn kid deep into the heart of the American South.


THE EVERYMEN- Givin’ Up On Free Jazz (Ernest Jenning Records)

In 1974, when Jon Landau proclaimed that he had “seen the future of rock n’ roll and his name is Bruce Springsteen”, the future was wide open and Landau was right, then wrong, then right again. Springsteen is still working his ass off entertaining and inspiring the masses all over the world. In 2014, thirty years later, I can say with no qualms or hyperboles, I have seen the hardest working band in rock n’ roll and their name is The Everymen. I can bear witness to singer/songwriter Mike V. and his cavalcade of rockers perform in several different states, to audiences that go from indie rock know-it-alls to happenstantial bar observers, from the packed Converse Warehouse to tiny Jersey dives. I have never seen them play a less than stellar show, each member going taking it to the limit, and always encouraging whoever’s in sight to smile and shake their hips.

Recently signed to Ernest Jennings Record Co., Givin’ Up On Free Jazz is the record that cements the epic qualities of The Everymen on one record, harnessing some of the chaotic live energy of the show but also condensing the songs to fully exploit their pop potential. While their previous record New Jersey Hardcore was chock full of great heartfelt songs, that album was recorded by Mike V. with contributions from a small group. This record is a true band album, the tightly knit ensemble expressing itself more fully. Frontwoman Catherine Herrick does at least half the vocals on the record, her soaring range channeling alternately Ronnie Spector, Exene Cernenka and Ann Wilson, on great tunes like the doo wop punk of “Fingers Crossed.” Three soloists - soulful saxophonist Scotty Zilittio, shredder lead guitarist Geoffrey Morrissey and nimble keyboardist Thomas Barrett (now fronting his own shoegaze trio, the excellent Overlake) - are all on hand to push the tunes like “A Girl Named Lou Pt 2” and “Another Thing To Lose” into heavy metal outer space.

This band, its core composed of veterans of the New Jersey music scene, still waves that flag; sonic and lyrical imagery of Hurricane Sandy grace the tunes as well as the striking cover (photo by scene videographer Brian Last.) The Everymen’s gracious tunes are always at a tug of war between the big, boisterous bar rock swing and the sensitive heartbreaking truth, romantic Mike V. getting close to chest on the acoustic “All I Need Is You.” The Everymen are a band that does not understand, or at least has no need for, irony (well, except maybe in their album title.) Their inclusion of Springsteen’s “ “Ain’t Good Enough For You,” from the outtakes album The Promise, is a bold move, taking a little known but perfect Boss tune and making it their own.

Their lineup and Jersey roots make comparisons to Bruce and The E Street Band hard to avoid, but they are true kindred spirits and keepers of the rock n’ roll heart that made Jon Landau make his oft quoted proclamation 30 years ago. The band is hardly trapped in that sound, they understand hard rock, soft rock, they sometimes sound like Archers Of Loaf covering Iron Maiden, or Guided By Voices covering Neil Young. They sing almost exclusively love songs, and one of the great loves is rock n’ roll itself. The Free Jazz record is about to send Mikey, Catherine and the gang on a 7 week tour (one that I will happily be witnessing a leg of) and I won’t be surprised to see music nerds across the board fall in love with The Everymen.


In today's music, a common topic of conversation is authenticity: Are they for real? Were they actually playing? Is this a joke or is it serious? Are these people who they say they are? There are some notable exceptions to this constant skepticism amongst our artistic ranks, and one of them is Jeffrey Lewis. The 38 year old songwriter and comic book artist from the Lower East Side of Manhattan has been producing honest and affecting work for almost twenty years, with character and integrity that both Pete Seeger and Ian McKaye would approve of. This record, Jeffrey Lewis and The Jrams, follows Lewis' beautiful collaboration with Holy Modal Rounders and Fugs alumnus Peter Stampfel for an album and tour, as well as a pair of touching and bizarre Lou Reed tributes, one of which found Jeff jamming on piano with my band, The Brooklyn What on “Oh, Sweet Nothing.” This was an absolute thrill, as I had sat in the audience in the very same club and watched Jeff play there with Kimya Dawson about ten years ago.

The Jrams album, recorded as a tight power trio with Caitlin Grey and Heather Wagner, forgoes some of the folk-punk minimalism of other Jeff albums for a warm, psychedelic garage tone that sometimes recalls The Kinks and The Zombies. Opener“You’re Invited” is a positively dreamy song led by a soft, blankety organ sound. Jeff ponders his own existence: “It sure would be nice to go to my funeral to see who made it/people should have funerals while they can still appreciate it.” These two lines in and of themselves start the record in a thoughtful, pensive manner: why does the artist, or anyone for that matter, have to wait ‘til death to be recognized by their loved ones and admirers?

Much of the rest of the record picks up with some true rock n’ roll moments: “Came Here Looking” is nervous post punk song recalling The Feelies and Television, with Jeff doing some fuzzed out guitar heroics. “Painted In A Corner” kicks off with a distorted bass line, the title immediately reminding me of the Raymond Pettibon art for Black Flag’s “Six Pack.” The result is a phased out, paranoid, punk rock assault with a riff that sounds like Minutemen covering The Ventures. Inserted onto the record is a live recording of Jeff performing his poem “What Would Pussy Riot Do?” which inspired this writer to explain “Why I Play Rock n’ Roll?” in a recent essay for this site. He celebrates the ladies of Pussy Riot as “punk rock heroes” and asks “do you want bands who tell you things or bands who sell you things?” He calls out Beck and Best Coast, supposed “indie” artists, for doing corporate tie-ins and urges artists to consider Pussy Riot’s willingness to make a sacrifice for their freedom to be artists, before compromising yours.

There are flash-in-the-pans and then there’s Jeffrey Lewis; since he began making records at the dawn of the 21st Century, there have been thousands of bands to reach fame and hit their hard decline. Lewis keeps challenging himself and his audience while maintaining the attitude and integrity of a cool local dude.

Jeff and The Jrams play Shea Stadium on May 16 with Crazy and The Brains and Heeney.

PRIMES- This Might (

Brooklyn has approximately 9,000 bands and counting, but there are some things that aren’t easy to find. Imagine how revelatory to discover Primes, a legitimate punk rock trio fronted by two very powerful women. Guitarist Jacqueline Bodley and bassist Kate Revitte share vocals in a manner that immediately recalls Corrine and Carrie from Sleater-Kinney, but are also anchored in the jagged but tuneful American post-punk of Mission Of Burma and Husker Du. “This Might” is five catchy and quick tunes filled with close harmonies, slashing surf guitar and crazy rhythms worthy of the Feelies. Songs like “Valentine Heart Explosion” and “Bad Year” exhibit heart on the sleeve lyrics delivered with honest emotion, separating them for their too-cool poseur peers.

Primes play Silent Barn on May 17 with Fake Limbs, Lawsuit$ (another great Brooklyn band) and Thruthers.

VIDEO BEAST- “Season’s Greetings From Video Bitch” EP (

Video Beast is a bizarre, heavy, alternative trio, formed by guitarist Fabian Jiminez and drummer Dave Weinstein (who also make even stranger horror and comedy films.) They’ve recently added The Brooklyn What’s bassist Matt Gevaza and entered the studio, and here is the fruit of their labor, three “demos” with bizarre titles like “Man Cheese Demo Farm” and “Wack Mack Daddy.” These are jerky, space-y tunes with the kind of sick sense of humor and quirky punky heaviness of bands like The Butthole Surfers, Mr. Bungle and even early System Of A Down. They have the Sabbath sludge down, anchored by Weinstein’s tight and ballistic drumming, Fab’s surfy guitars and high, occasionally alien sounding vocals make them a true beast of a band.

Video Beast play Brooklyn’s Rock Shop on May 23 with Nice Apt, Misdemeanors and Sun Voyager.

THE GRADIENTS- “Growing Pile” (single) ( growing-pile)

In anticipation of their full length debut, the Brooklyn quartet the Gradients has released a new single, “Growing Pile”, which exhibits one of their best qualities: It’s a song that melodically teeters between a catchy major and dark minor feel, with lyrics that have the same sweet and sour tendencies. Starting with a rhythm that feels straight out of “Invisible Sun” by The Police, they build Henry Rollins-worthy tension before releasing it into an actual radio friendly chorus sung by dueling vocalists, crooning Luca Baiser and shouting Charlie DY. The young dudes of Gradients seem to understand the dark 90’s punk of Fugazi and Slint, and then when to flip the switch to a chorus that actually gets stuck in your head. Worth mentioning is guitarist Sammy Weissberg, also of Bluffing and Le Rug, who plays bends and squeals worthy of Bob Quine or Tom Verlaine. I have high hopes for their album, which should be out this summer, to be as enthusiastic and exciting as their recent shows have been.

Gradients play Palisades 406 on June 20 with NO ICE (my new band!), Flagland and Huge Pupils.


Some time ago, let’s say during the mid 2000’s, I started visiting some friends in the college town of New Paltz, NY. The streets were filled with Dave Matthews-esque acoustic guitar slingers and the bars were filled with white jam bands. Upon revisiting the town in more recent years, a totally inspired turn has happened thanks to a few bright young minds, bringing a real DIY indie scene to the town. One of New Paltz’ more exceptional groups is What Moon Things, an indie rock trio that meanders into both psychedelic and post-punk territories, all with a great spare quality that reminds me of This Is A Long Drive-era Modest Mouse, occasionally veering towards the art-pop of TV On The Radio. Guitarist/singer Jake Harms is a pedals whiz, channeling J. Mascis and Kevin Shields with his own unique spin. Their ace in the hole here, is presenting catchy songs that groove hard in their own sonic vocabulary. “Squirrel Girl” is a blown out MBV style shoegaze that you can dance to. “Staring At The Radio” is a slow burner that drops in and out of rhythm, with a great hook and post-punk bassline. The closer “Sun, Where’s The Fire?,” with its quiet and loud turns and huge guitars, sounds right out of Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins.

What Moon Things play Suburbia in Brooklyn on May 31.

ANGEL OLSEN- Burn Your Fire For No Witness (Jagjaguwar Records)

Last year, I was introduced to Angel Olsen through the song “The Waiting”, an instant mixtape classic from 2012’s Halfway Home, a heartbroken country shuffle in which this young woman summons the pain and soul of Patsy Cline and Roy Orbison, not an easy proposition in modern music. In this year’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness, she takes her warm, soaring vocals and very midwestern songwriting style (a St. Louis native, she follows the tradition from Dylan to Westerberg,) a few steps towards contemporary indie rock with more expansive use of a backing band and a step away from the sparse acoustic style that might have pigeonholed her as a coffee house type album.

Burn Your Fire has moments that approach psychedelia, and a few that actually rock. The immediate standout is “White Fire,” which reminds me of Leonard Cohen’s “The Partisan”, approaching that level of depth, space and brevity that very few can. Angel got her start singing with Bonnie “Prince” Billy and has also recorded with LeRoy Bach, formerly of Wilco, and I can see her occupying that crawl space between indie rock and roots music both acts have been living in for some time. However, Olsen’s voice sets her apart, she has a distinct style that runs from sharp like a classic country heroine to smooth and sweet like a shoegazer. Her peers in general aren’t particularly notable for their vocal chops; Olsen is a singer I’d like to hear tackle classics from Hank Williams to Sam Cooke. Her flexibility is a cool hand:“Iota” features a bossa nova shuffle, “Forgiven/Forgotten” has a Pixies-esque chug and four on the floor drumbeat.

This move forward is comparable to Waxahatchee aka Katie Crutchfield’s advance from bedroom lo-fi to full fledged rock on last year’s Cerulean Salts. Both young women are making important contributions in the annals of classic songwriting. Angel Olsen’s growth potential is unlimited, aside from being a great singer and lyricists, her records thus far are deep in mood and ambiance and I wouldn’t be surprised one bit to see her as a crossover success, her appeal could run from old folks to the maturing audience that might be hung up on Taylor Swift or Lorde. Also, she might win the award for this year’s best song title, her album opener “Unfucktheworld.” That may be a tall order, but her tunes are bringing something a little sweeter to a reasonably fucked world.

THE MEN- Tomorrow’s Hits (Sacred Bones)

Tomorrow’s Hits is an apt title for this eight song record of pure american rock n’ roll. This New York band is on their fifth record, and through that arc have shown little conformity to any one sound. Starting the band somewhere between art-rock and hardcore punk, they have now found themselves recording an album of rootsy power-pop with the driving stoned anthemic quality of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers and the grizzly guitar jams of Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Unlike last year’s New Moon, recorded in a cabin in Woodstock, NY, these Hits were recorded in Brooklyn’s Strange Weather and sport the sonic clarity to match these revelatory pop hooks.

Spending the last few years building a reputation as one of the nicest and hardest working bands around, they’ve developed into a tight and diverse unit, not unlike the current incarnation of Wilco. Their current five piece lineup includes bar band piano and organ by singer/guitarist/songwriter Mark Perro as well as some mean slide guitar. “Another Night” and “Pearly Gates” are bluesy jams with soaring horns, pushing them towards Exile On Main Street-esque levels of boogie. The band hasn’t ditched punk, they’ve just ditched any rules that come along with. “Different Days” is a chugging rocker that sounds like Husker Du covering “Dancing In The Dark.”

In the most convoluted era of indie rock, this album of steady, assured guitar pop is as admirable as it is catchy. Perro and fellow guitarist/singer/songwriter Nick Chercozzi and Ben Greenberg have never been shy towards a guitar jam, this time they’ve fit them most expertly in a short and sweet collection that hearkens to the school of Alex Chilton and Big Star, with whom they pay tribute with their neon cover. Tomorrow’s Hits may be steeped in a sound that most people associate with Classic Rock radio, but the Men continue to challenge the rock n’ roll status quo, as well as their own.

JUAN WAUTERS- N.A.P. North American Poetry (Captured Tracks)

Before you read this review you should probably watch the video for “Sanity Or Not,” where Juan Wauters borrows Andy Kaufman’s shtick and wrestles a bunch of women, complete with a hilarious heel promo. Songwriter Wauters is of Uruguayan descent, but represents Queens, NY with his heart on his sleeve. His band, the Beets, plays lo-fi, catchy punk truly in the tradition of their queens brethren The Ramones, with the stripped down affectation of Beat Happening. I had the pleasure of opening for Juan a few months back, where he played most of this material, which flows right into each other in a way that one might pretentiously call a “song cycle.” He was joined by vocalist Carmelie Safide of the band Beachniks, who appears here as well, while a display of light bulbs went off and on in a rigged fashion. Wauter or The Beets live performances are always accompanied by the art of Matthews Volz. This particular scenario, the lighting, female accompaniment, instantly reminded me of The Velvet Underground.

Wauter’s songwriting here, played on acoustic guitar with spare accompaniment, is plain, but melodic and poignant. “Sanity Or Not” is like a Ramones song played by Buddy Holly and is instantly catchy. The sound here, like on weird folk tunes like “Water” is kind of a concise read of the anti-folk genre, with great lyrics like “woke up early felt that itch/what am I doing in this niche?” delivered with the naivete of Daniel Johnston. The two duets that wrap up the record Carmelie’s sweet Kim Deal-y vocals before the penultimate song, on “Breathing”, she sings a melody similar to Dusty Springfield’s “Only Wanna Be With You.” This record is an eccentric lo-fi triumph, rooted in classic pop songwriting, the songs floating by so quickly it immediately merits a second listen.

THE FLESHTONES - Wheel Of Talent (Yep Roc)

Ok, so being a lifelong New York rock n’ roll guy, it would make sense to be aware of The Fleshtones. Professor Jim Testa saw them play Irving Plaza in 1979. They shared a practice space with The Cramps. Over the years, they’ve been joined onstage or in the studio by members of Television, Blondie, Patti Smith Group, Richard Hell and The Voidoids, and lots more. Unlike many of their heroin and speed casualty peers, these guys are still rocking, continuously putting out rock ’n’ roll records like nobody’s business. The Fleshtones are a garage rock band, and I have a lot of problems with the genre; it usually lends to lazy songwriting and hearing/watching the same band over and over again, despite differences in the name and members. The Fleshtones play somewhere in between The Ramones punk and Nuggets-style 60’s psych and r & b, sounding like the American cousin of the Stiff Record Pub Rock sound that launched the great early records of Nick Lowe, The Damned and Elvis Costello.

Wheel Of Talent isn’t reinventing the wheel, but it is a record of fucking great rock n’ roll, complete with honking horns, ? and The Mysterians-style organ, soul shouting and simple but sweet hooks. “Remember The Ramones” is the kind of “remember when?” punk song that can fall flat, but these guys are obviously the right folks to account for this moment in time, “the Clash and the Pistols didn’t exist… Suicide attacked the crowd, I was drinking with Marty Thau.” Instead of a goof on “remember the good old days,” this actually creates a pretty touching scene. “What I’ve Done Before” is a sweet sad love song played on a triplet with a great gang chorus.

This is not without some of the failings of old-timers and a few avoidable clichés; “Available” basically sounds like an older person complaining about Facebook, masked under a “my baby” love song. However, unlike many other of their peers’ new material, the group sounds fresh and inspired. There are plenty young people attempting to be The Fleshtones, to very mixed results, but The Fleshtones are the real deal New York survivors who very lucidly still understand rock n’ roll. This record is no exception.

OUT OF SYSTEM TRANSFER (Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen)

The latest release from Brooklyn’s great Mama Coco’s collective is a different flavor, politicized folk punk that has shades of Erik Petersen’s Mischief Brew, Mojo Nixon, Bobby Joe Ebola and The Children McNuggets and the political satire of classic NY groups like The Fugs, Holy Modal Rounders and David Peel and The Lower East Side. Propelled by a busker’s gallop of acoustic guitar, cracking snare drum and gleeful horns, this is the type of snot nosed protest music that you used to find in Washington Square and Tompkins before the neighborhood was sucked of all it’s counter cultural elements. With the combination of gypsy swing and anti-folk, this reminds me some of the cooler times in NY music, the less self-conscious, punkier years. With funny tunes like “I Shot President McKinley (and I’m gonna do it again and again)” and “Stop Bloomberg, Frisk Kelly (and all the Pigs can burn in hell)”, I can’t help but support this madness. Also, there is a not ironic Bob Marley cover and I think they deserve points for pulling that off.

ELEANOR- Land In A Rosebush (

One of my favorite local bands, the kids from Queens, Eleanor, follow up their great Garbology EP with this tight 4 song EP. The duo of singer/guitarist Brendan Morris (one of the best stage performers around) and drummer Peter Cernuaskas (who is a fucking machine, a post-punk Keith Moon) is augmented by guitarist Eric Ong, who brings even more fuzzy pedal play to the table. The first track is a cover of the artist Panda Bear, of the band Animal Collective, a band that I find basically inferior to Eleanor, but the cover is delightful. “Dead Neighbors” is the type of stoner-y, psyched out Husker Du type song that the band specializes in, complete with some wacky “White Album” type noise. “Rain Never Stops” is a co-write with Juan Wauters, of another great band from Queens, The Beets, and borrows that band’s jangly, punk stomp for a delightful, early Beatles-esque punky pop tune. “Hammer and Frying Pan” closes the EP with some heavy alternative rock, sounding kind of like early Weezer on LSD. More great work from one of the most underrated bands around, check their whole discography.

FLAGLAND- Panic Rock (

This was a recommendation from Professor Testa himself, and a fine one. Flagland are a relatively new band to the scene, self described as “panic rock.” I hear a definite post-punk vibe, the track “Searchers” sounds like “Uncontrollable Urge” by Devo if it was covered by The Feelies. There is a nervous, paranoid kind of energy behind this record, with tight punky guitarist setting them apart from many of their wimpier peers. At 20 tracks, these guys run the gamut from catchy jangly indie pop to full on balls-to-the-walls punk rock, with short and sweet tunes giving it the rhythm of a Guided By Voices record. They have a sense of humor too, short tunes like “Straight White Male” crack you up between songs. These guys have a lot going on, going from pretty to funny to full on panic mode, a disjointed, brash and weird album kind of like Lightsaber Cocksucking Blues by McLusky. Highly recommended.

WILLIE NILE- American Ride (Loud and Proud Records)

This is the first record I’ve ever heard by Willie Nile, though his name lingers in my memory, probably from many old issues of the Village Voice, where’d I peruse each week for shows to see. Nile is a career songwriter who came out of the Greenwich Village folk scene, hanging around CBGB’s for the beginnings of punk. He started his career with a residency at Kenny’s Castaways, where I once played one of the worst gigs of my life, heckled by a man eating a hamburger. He played with Jay Dee Daughtery of Patti Smith Group in his band, toured with The Who and jammed with Bruce and The Street Band. His latest record, American Ride plays like the work of a journeyman songwriter: a modest and personal work with a strong sense of craft and personal attachment to his work.

Nile obviously has downtown punk in his blood, creating Gotham-style Americana with Lou Reed’s shadow looming over him. Although the record may suffer from some Dad-rock pitfalls (a dated description of Bleecker St., unnecessary songs about God, piano ballad) its folk-rock has kick, with raspy heartfelt vocals recalling Paul Westerberg or Tom Petty. This music makes me nostalgic for a cooler Greenwich Village that I barely caught the tail end of, complete with a faithful cover of one of the city’s great poets Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died” with a rootsy touch. Called “a songwriter’s songwriter”, Nile’s craft is in his feeling and faithful rock n’ roll beat, and this record has inspired me to look back to the rest of his catalog.


The title track “Crack, Crack Heart Attack” starts out the album with a big stupid riff, opening things for even stupider lyrics, warning me about doing drugs? This sets the precedent that this album will be full of PUNK RAWK, the type that has been looming in certain clubs, guys that love Ramones, New York Dolls, The Dictators etc., like to be funny and don’t seem to understand subtlety at all. Some diversity in the sound, there are moments that sound more like 90’s alternative rock, with some jangly bits, and I might have heard auto tune on a track? “Wanna Be A Dead Rock Star” is, like the title track, a loudly not-provocative take on something that might have been if it were written by someone else.

That being said, Wood Shampoo are fun, don’t take themselves seriously and if I had a few drinks, it’s possible I could get down. However, listening to the lyrics: “I’m lookin’ for action/ some kind of sweet satisfaction/A chemical reaction/A sexual attraction” (and then to subvert a classic song of Black American music: “In the midnight hour/under me”) committed to record, isn’t exactly funny enough to be as stupid as it is. That being said, if you don’t care about lyrics being intelligent or tasteful, or are a fan of brashly “dumb” humor then this is a listenable “rock” album that one could describe as “fun.”

THE B-SIDES- The B-Sides (Spinout Records)

I find it extremely easy to shit on Garage Rock. While it can be good party music for dancing, a lot of the time I feel like it’s an excuse to tread water musically. Granted there have been some exceptions in the past few years, but a lot of time “garage” means that you’re gonna hear something that’s guaranteed to be a less good version of the early Stones, Kinks, Stooges or Sonics. However, The B-Sides (comprised of members of surf/garage bands The Concussions, The FUZZrites and Los Straitjackets) go for the gut of British Invasion/American Bubblegum songwriting, reminding me of discovering The Monkees, Herman’s Hermits and The Zombies on AM Oldies stations as a kid.

Complete with two vocalists, (one high like Colin Bluntstone, one lower like Eric Burdon,) fuzzed out organ and jangly guitars, these guys play in period-piece mode well, but have the hooks to keep it from being too redundant. It resembles Power-Pop in some ways, but the guys play a little wilder, like they’ve loosened their ties a little. Recorded in both Los Angeles and Grand Rapids, there’s both California sunshine and Detroit rave on the record. The B-Sides aren’t anything new, but they’re not trying to be, however they are a very apt and catchy look into the past and that’s more than I can say for a lot of “retro” bands.

STAR & DAGGER- Tomorrowland Blues (MRI)

Star & Daggers are a self-described blues-metal band based out of New Orleans, something of a supergroup, actually. Apparently, the whole thing was Nuggets-editor/Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye’s idea: he was drinking in a bar with Sean Yseult, (ex-bassist for White Zombie) and Dava She Wolf (who played in a 90’s shock rock group that I missed entirely) and suggested they start a band. The results yield a three quarter female stoner-y quartet that channels Black Sabbath and Heart as well as alternative hard rock like Soundgarden and Queens Of The Stone Age. The riffs are hard, the bass is low and well... it’s heavy. One song asks “Do you feel good, do you feel real good about it?”

I feel pretty good about it. I regret that I’m listening to this at work and can’t turn this up very loud and smoke a bong hit during it, however, I must say that I don’t really like Stoner rock. I like 90’s hard rock like Stone Temple Pilots, but I think Kyuss are the worst fucking band ever, and I have no patience for “Dopesmoker” by Sleep. People assume because I smoke so much pot and love Black Sabbath so much that I might be a fan of long winded pseudo-metal. Well, I’m not! This record though, more resembles radio-friendly metal/hard rock from the 90s, pre-Godsmack... which I dig, so if you are yearning for the days of alternative-metal guitar riifs and love hard rock heroines, I’d give this one a spin.

Butcher’s Blind- Destination Blues (Paradiddle Records)

Americana is a genre that, at it’s best, looks upon vast and sometimes ghostly scenery that walks the line between the personal, summoning Hank Williams’ cowboy songs of love and pain and the political, following Woody Guthrie’s commentary of American life as a traveling, guitar-slinging journalist. It often lives in the past, a walking, sonic period piece but also aims to create a populist statement, not only speaking to a larger American population, but connecting generations through certain musical traditions.

Butcher’s Blind are an Americana band from Bellerose, New York, a small town right on the border between Long Island and Queens. They are hard-drinking ex-Catholic school boys, who have no interest in cultivating any rootsy, Cowboy-ish image. The record “Destination Blues”, their second full length, doesn’t do much to dress-up what they do: which is write great songs about regular people’s lives. Pete Mancini’s narrative tales at time conjure up Bruce Springsteen’s “The River”, teetering between scenes of personal defeat and lively parties. This is a record about losers, starting with the middle-class lament “Nobody Hears What I Say Anymore”, bringing to mind the white collar blues of Fountains Of Wayne’s record “Welcome Interstate Managers” and the barstool laments of later Replacements records.

That being said, this record is not a total downer, though the track “Honestly” puts a very pretty melody to a tale of domestic abuse. Most of this record actually consist of heart-on-the-sleeve jangly power-pop that would have brought them to the top of the charts in the 90’s, in the days of bands like The Gin Blossoms, Buffalo Tom and The Lemonheads ruling the radio. The record’s catchiest song, “Tear It Down”, to my ears, could have been a hit for The Goo Goo Dolls and there is nothing derogatory about that. These guys are not afraid to be uncool, they’re genuine and their record is fun. Their bassist, Brian Reilly provides a nimble, punk-ish bounce to their tunes, Paul Ciancaruso, their drummer, plays with a modest swing and provides excellent counterpoint harmonies to Mancini’s strong melodic sense. “Burn Out Bright (Lower East Side)” is a boozy, bluesy party tune that closes this record, the band augmented by some country fiddlin’ and female vocals, a homey kind of rocker. This record might be somewhat anomalous is the age of trendy pseudo-folk, self-aware punk rock and futuristic synth-pop, but it follows a great American tradition: excellent songwriting, genuine musicianship and ballsy rock n’ roll and country songs about drinking and fucking up and pouring your heart out.

 is an independently published music fanzine covering punk, alternative, ska, techno and garage music, focusing on New Jersey and the Tri-State area. For the past 25 years, the Jersey Beat music fanzine has been the authority on the latest upcoming bands and a resource for all those interested in rock and roll.

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