Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

Emily’s Army - Lost at Seventeen (Rise Records)

I was going to review Emily’s Army on its own merit (which I still intend to do,) but first I have to explain a little about the band, namely the drummer Joey Armstrong. He’s the 17 year old son of Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day. Joey’s got his dad’s snarly, snotty, vocal prowess, and the phrasing to match. Now, before you jump to conclusions, Emily’s Army is NOT a junior Green Day by any means. They have a distinct, natural, and original sound that is as much fun as it is unique! I mean, you can’t help but sit up and take notice of all 16 songs on Seventeen. As a debut album they took apart some old school punk (Clash, Sex Pistols), classic rock (Kinks, Springsteen), and their own musical mojo and put the pieces back together in a jagged collage. Very verse-chord-verse, they base their belief on the idea that most of today’s pop punk is a lethargic dinosaur. Each of Emily’s Army’s songs is a complete, satisfying composition without the extra musical baggage that a lot of today’s bands feel the need to include.

Politics (“I Am The President,” “War”), love (“Jamie,” “Part Time Burn” “Pathetic and in Love”), and songs about music, especially punk rock (“Kids Just Wanna Dance,” “If Our Music Plays Again”), drugs (“Lost at Seventeen” “Digital Drugs”-actually an anti-drug song) can be at times complex (“Bullets made of bread” has to be one the best lines ever) , both musically and lyrically. Yet you can dance your asses off to each and every song here.

Good music insinuates itself into your ears and up into your brain like a slithering snake, so that you feel sensually alive to the point where your feet start to move. Lost At Seventeen just clubs you over the head into submission. There’s no going back! I dare say it’s been quite a while since a band had such commanding control, and could play so loose. Playing this record could conceivably give you an epileptic seizure of orgasmic dance proportions. How else to explain the inexplicable?
Emily’s Army is evidence that a young band just starting out has the imagination to play music that holds together without having to sacrifice the reason they originally got together and kick out the jams however they what!

What I absolutely LOVE about a new, exciting band like Emily’s Army is that after repeated listens, you just cannot fandom life without bands like this. They found the singular joyous essence that only rock ‘n’ roll can provide and provoke. The full-on rush of excitement and bubbling-over ecstasy is instant you drop the needle on this record!

Springsteen On Springsteen - Interviews, Speeches, and Encounters Edited by Jeff Burger (Chicago Review Press)

After reading a lengthy book on Springsteen less than a month ago (Bruce), I wasn’t really looking forward to reading Springsteen On Springsteen. I mean. Over the years I’ve read at least a dozen or so books on Bruce, and even though I’m a big fan, there’s only so much Bruce Juice a person can take after a while. I mean Bruce seems to be just getting his second wind (he’s 62), and making some really cool albums and knocking it out of the park at almost every live show, but somewhere along the way a lot of the stories get rehashed, making for a long, tedious read.
But on Springsteen On Springsteen as I started reading, an endearing portrait of the artist emerged: caring, responsible, well-versed in those musical heroes who came before him. He loves all the same artists I love. His eloquence in the interview situation is yet another art form and you get to know him…I mean, really know him this time. Coming, as this book does, on the heels of Peter Ames Carlin’s highly recommended and epic Bruce biography, this one was more than pleasant surprise. It was a mini-revelation.

When he talks about mixing rhythm ‘n’ blues early on with beat poetry, his early work all comes into focus. How fascinating is it that he complains to reporter after reporter about money (in the mid-seventies)! “We’re at the lowest we’ve ever been right now,” he tells Jerry Gilbert. “Hopefully I’ll be getting some money from Columbia and maybe with David Bowie doing some of the songs that’ll be good.” (Bowie did, indeed, recording “Growin’ Up,” and “It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City.”).

Bruce is described early on by numerous reporters as scruffy, skinny and long-haired, wearing clothes that he seems to have been in for days. He stumbles when he walks and he mumbles when he talks. But that’s part of the beauty of Bruce on Bruce. We get to read the first-hand accounts of his humble but intensely interesting beginnings as a musician. “The writing is on the wall,” as they say.

Bruce talks about religiously writing down the Top 10 every Wednesday, and admits that he doesn’t consider himself a revolutionary artist like Dylan or Elvis but a “nuts and bolts” artist built for the long haul. He talks of his humble beginnings, watching his father struggle for work, and not feeling a part of the community so, like other musicians, he makes his own in the world…but with a band.

As for his marathon concerts, he tells Charlie Rose on TV, “I wanted it to be an extreme experience-an experience that wasn’t casual, that pushed all the limits. I wanted people to be brought to someplace and to come out of themselves.”
His speeches are the best: his 1989 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction acceptance speech, his keynote address at the 2012 South By Southwest Music Festival (he said that every one of his songs over the years were all different forms of The Animals’ “It’s My Life,” which brought the house down with laughter. He also got to play with Eric Burdon, the lead singer of The Animals at SXSW. His eulogy of Clarence Clemons is as from the heart as any of his songs. He even adds a few funny stories about Clarence and the band.

“I was influenced by so many great musicians that meant such a great, great deal to me and who I can never really repay,” he tells Brian Williams of NBC-TV. “Music is so intensely personal and strikes you on such an emotional level that it leaves you feeling like you owe a great debt to the people that moved you that deeply. And when I see the guys that did that for me-and I’ve had the opportunity of actually meet a lot that did that for me-it’s wonderful feeling.”

As I said, you really do feel like you know Bruce after you finish this book. This one book that you will have a hard time putting down!


Streetlight Manifesto- The Hands That Thieve (Victory Records)

Streetlight Manifesto is a band that combines the best elements of ska, punk and their own undiluted special brand of rock ‘n’ roll. The full guitar roar that’s backed by a rhythm section with a power drummer, a bass that’s rock steady, and a horn section that sounds like they could back Miles, Motown, or any contemporary ska band. But this impressive band has a sound all its own.-Kind of sounds like I’m describing a new band for the first time, right? Well that’s the feeling you get listening to The Hands That Thieve. This is their sixth album in about as many years, and it sounds as fresh and original as the rest of their catalog. They have a cohesive identity to match their records’ careering sonic ska stew.

Like the rest of the album songs like “The Three of Us,” “Toe to Toe,” and “The Hands That Thieve” all benefit from not using any gimmicky or over-the-top production. What sets these three songs apart is that they combine to make an idealized melting pot of politics, human nature, and some of the best ska this side of the Mississippi! Streetlight Manifesto’s sound is dense, but once you get into them they will as they say, “Free your ass and your mind will follow!” The thing is, unlike a lot of bands that try to shove politics down your throat or make mindless dance music, Streetlight sing about possibilities. Whether they are politics, life, etc., they let you decide for yourself. They also help you navigate those hip joints as though they’re doctors of chiropractic. If they ever decided to cover Slim Harpo’s (cool, early bluesman), “Hip Shake,” you would see a gazillion mosh pits arise anytime it’s played!

Another thing that sets Streetlight apart is the sinister edge that they add to music. Like The Stooges early twisted punk, or current bands like Reel Big Fish or Big D & The Kids Table manic, hardcore ska sound, Streetlight’s style is a combination of all that and originality. Songs about unity, authority and justice, distinguish them head and should above the run-of-the-mill punk or ska band.

With a combination of guitar, drums, bass, and horns filling up every nano-second of the album there is never a dull moment. It’s like an onrushing musical storm that would litterly burn out any transistor radio (remember those?). Bottom-heavy to the max, the music and the blistering vocals on The Hands That Thieve create a clear, hardcore, rocksteady barrage that gallops and moshes along in close formation. In other words, buy this record you won’t be disappointed!-Phil Rainone

Eryn Shewell (

Eryn Shewell has the brassy allure of a contemporary artist like Imelda May or Joss Stone, and road-tested moxie of Susan Tedesci. She can play it sweet and sexy like on “Fall,” or get down and dirty like on “Suck it Up,” without missing a beat. It’s very much a natural talent rather than a forced one.

Every song on her self-titled album is catchy with a nod toward bubblegum simplicity, but that’s a very good thing! Underneath all that is an undeniably engaging band that helps to create some of the coolest mojo. Melodic and bouncy, they mix rock strength with pure pop arrangements that will make a lasting impression. There are a few sprightly pop delights like “Boy like You” and “Relax to Sleep,” but the songs undercurrents are very impressionable.

“Afraid of the Dark,” swings the The Camaros (cool girl-fronted retro-swing band), and a The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies mash-up. But what sends this tune over the moon is Eryn’s enlivened vocals.-Maximum mojo! “High School Sweetheart” ( it has a sweet slide guitar riff that is so much fun to listen to), and “Backseat Romance Forecast” both have energy and excitement of 70’s freeform radio that is hard to come by these days without sounding phony or forced.

Eryn helped produce and pen most of the album. Sometimes that’s like a disaster waiting to happen, but on her self-titled album the songs are ambitious, melodic, and concise. This is an album chock full of singles as compared to one that may have one or two good songs, and all the rest filler. This is world-class hit making, and is extraordinary uncommercial. A balance that is rarely achieved these days.

Eryn Shewell and her band play like anything is possible, especially for anyone who was always on the outside looking in. They’re able to put the sound in their heads on plastic, sounds that weren’t just “Pure Pop for Now People” (a Nick Lowe album title), but pure pop for hit radio-in the most sincere, uncynical and popularly resonating tradition. They are so engaged and inspired; it’s a synthesis in ways that few other bands can consistently sustain. And through all of that, the band maintains a distinctive group identity. It’s only fair to note that many others wet their musical toes in the same exotic waters only after Eryn Shewell and her band set the precedent. Moreover, they largely pursue their commercial and artistic goals in nonconformist fashion. Their effervesces with which they stitch together a multiplex of genres is as much professional as it is homegrown. They also cover Tom Waits’ “I Wish I Was in New Orleans.” Not since Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes has anyone come as close to staying within Waits’ song character and also giving it a fresh coat of paint. In a word-coolness!

With talent, easy confidence and self-deflating humor, the colorful Shewell will win countless hearts and minds, injecting warmth, graciousness, and good, lasting songs into a mega-pop world.

Shannon McNally - Small Town Talk (Independent)

Small Town Talk is a tribute album to Cajun songwriter Bobby Charles. I’m not familiar with Charles, so I don’t know how close to the vest, or if her renditions are somewhat off kilter, but either way all the songs here are remarkable. Given the facts that McNally’s established reputation as a songwriter and along with a best-of-the-best team of musicians including among others Dr. John and Derek Trucks, I can certainly say that she is well-equipped to take on his work.

There is a healthy amount of bounciness in the good old New Orleans tradition, but the slowest and most gentle come across as the most genuine. McNally sounds perfectly at home, and the strong sense of personality required in a good cover version is certainly present. She plays the true lover on “But I Do,” the woman left behind on “I Don’t Want to Know,” wearing desperation just as well as she does romance. The most poignant is the rosy “String of Hearts,” which finds her dancing in and out with a male vocalist amidst a softly falling piano line and swells of strings. “Homemade Songs,” with its swirls of reverberating guitar and downright sweet lyrics, runs a close second. Small Town Talk is a fitting display of both legacy of a past songwriter and the reach of a modern talent.

Jann Klose - Mosaic (

While there has been substantial support for modern singer/songwriters at the grass-roots level, if they don’t play an identifiable brand of rock or pop, they are still unfortunately an anomaly in the music world. But here’s the thing with Jann Klose; he and his band can take a genre like reggae (“Make it Better”) and turn it into a poetic statement that we can all shake our tail-feathers to! Jann is a real singer in the sense that his confidence and moxie are easily conveyed in every song on Mosaic. He has the haunted power of someone who truly feels his lyrics. Jann recently provided the vocals for the movie “Greetings From Tim Buckley,” and he includes an a cappella cover of Buckley’s “Song to the Siren,” which is just…amazing! He not only captures Buckley’s soul, but you also know that it’s Jann singing - not an easy thing to do.

The album is focused, displaying the songs in a sometimes complex, sometimes barebones style, but the overall statement is that Mosaic is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking. Love, passion and intelligence come to the forefront in a strong display of craft and talent.

Jann’s music - a smoothly accomplished and undated collection of tuneful styles - is warmly realized in well-written songs filled with subtlety rather than eccentricity. At times the use of rudimentary production highlights Jann’s voice as much as the dynamic playing when the full band is included.
Insightful intelligence and tenderness make Mosaic a stunning work by an exciting, relatively new artist.

Pepper (

If these young Hawaiians weren’t so studiedly intense, Pepper might be able to drop the Sublime/neo-Beach Boys pretensions and use their evident talent to make enjoyable records. They write catchy, ant hemic songs, but the tireless exhortations are trying and, worse, can become ludicrous.

Just about every song here are like splices of roughed-up reggae and ska. They sound more like posers rather than trying to find a different and unique way of exploring these genres. They’re all smeared with melodramatic, over-blown hooks. Pepper has an excess of passion; what they lack is the subtlety that keeps bands like Sublime for becoming histrionic.

With all that said, I’ll let Tim Norek, fellow Jersey Beater have the last word; “I kind of liked the album until I played it for a friend of mine. As each song came around he started singing The Sublime song that they had taken parts from. I was happy and sad all at the same time!”-Phil Rainone

Catbirds Say Yeah (

On Their self-titled album, Catbirds Say Yeah starts off with a blast of bluesy alt. rock on “All I Wanna Know Is.” This track shows the interesting dynamic between the band members. Actually, each number on this album is unique in their own way, with the band switching up who sings each one. Songs like “Red Red” and “Stoned” feature off-kilter rock guitar chords and straight-ahead vocals. Even with all that said, there is a distinct sound on this record. The clean/distorted guitars work well with the drums and the bass pops with a steady beat.
This is an album from a group of musicians with copious amounts of energy. Catbirds Say Yeah is where they creatively express themselves and transfer the spirit from their live performance (I checked out their YouTube show), and inject it into whoever is listening. This is a unique band that has found their passion, the ability to produce roaring electronic sounds, and bring others to their feet to dance.

Salt - Radio Station

Salt sounds like they’re trying to emulate one of their influences The Cult, which to me are big shoes to fill. The Cult have made sporadic albums over the years, but their singles are dead-on (“Wildflower,” “She Sells Sanctuary,” etc.).

I don’t know if Salt is just trying too hard or just don’t give a shit, but the way their music comes out on their self-titled album is not fun to listen to. Besides sounding like it was recorded in someone’s garage (which is not always a bad thing), the lead singer just sounds like he’s hurrying through each song with the passion of someone who’s watching the clock, trying to get outta there as soon as possible. The band sounds like they’re playing by-the-numbers, and they watching the same clock, in a hurry to get the hell outta Dodge!

I think if they take their time in the future, run the songs through a live show and work out the bugs, that they would have a very listenable, interesting album!


The Demographic - Listen Close (

Somewhere between The Who’s powerhouse, maximum R&B and The Pixies’ poppy, nasty, slow-as-fuck hard rock lays The Demographic. But here’s the cool thing about them: They’re just a guitar/drum duo! No frills maximum rock ‘n’ roll from Northampton, Mass, Tom Pappalardo (guitar/vocals), and Sturgis Cunningham (Drums/backing vocals), “Explode into a rock ‘n’ roll band” (thanks, Bruce), on these eight jangle-pop, murderously heavy songs about fuckin’ up, malls, death, and secrets. Not your run-of-the-mill stories and the music will suck you into the lyrics and visa-versa.

The Demographic breathe new life into a genre that’s in need of a tune-up. These eight angry, vehement cuts rely equally on Pappalardo’s acrobatic guitar lines and vocal rants as well as Cunningham’s at times pounding/brutally quiet drumming. A match made in Heaven, as they say!

The last song “Simple Secret” ventures into deeper acoustic/electric territory. While Pappalardo drones on vocally ( very cool), and Cunningham matches his slow cadence with stop/start/ drumming, they create a song that not only gets your attention, but it dramatically changes the way you look at the little things that are usually overlooked in life. “Listen Close” has lowbrow cinemascope grandeur, with precision and economy. I gotta check these guys out live!

Smoke Fairies - Blood Speaks (

Here’s another duo (Jessica Davies on guitar/vocals, and Katherine Blamire on drums/vocals), that can rock out like The Pixies, yet pull back once and a while bringing us back to the John Hawkin -era (keyboard player), Renaissance (60’s progrock band). With all that said, Smoke Fairies’ definitely blast off into their own universe.

Songs like “Let Me Know,” “The Three of Us” or “Blood Speaks,” all display disjunctive imagery set slightly to gothic arrangements. The results are eerie and moving, but not distracting. Trembly guitar scrubs and syncopated drum flourishes round out song after song. Not filler, but like a magnet to steel, they are quietly powerful, drawing the listener in deeper and deeper. There’s plenty of drive and power in this album and the straightforward lyrics give the band a real, solid identity.
“Blood Speaks” is an album that you need to make time for. Sit, listen, and enjoy!

Bob Marley & The Wailers - Kaya reissue (Island)

It is safe to say that the world would be a very different-and vastly poorer-place were it not for Bob Marley. Carrying the homegrown sounds of a small Caribbean island to Europe, Africa and America, he is directly responsible for a rhythm and style that has moved millions and influenced every form of popular music for more than four decades. By exploring his roots and culture he brought them far beyond his native Jamaican borders and encouraged widespread cultural curiosity, as well as sparking the rediscovery of his heritage by countless people of all nations.

On the 1978 release of Kaya a lot music critics at the time felt that Marley and The Wailers were heading toward the MOR (Middle of the Road) side of the radio dial. They thought songs like “Easy Skanking,” “Misty Morning,” or “Time Will Tell,” were milking previous melodies and had very little to say that was inspiring, or had been said before on previous albums. To counter balance the critics the fans made it over a million seller, and his concerts were mostly sellouts. After 35 years the reissue of Kaya, which includes a full show from the Netherlands in ’78, falls somewhere in-between the critics and fans opinions.

A lyric in the first song “Easy Skanking,” on the understated but enticing aptly describes the record: “We’re taking it easy/we taking it slow.” At the outset, the lighter sounds and personal lyrics that fill the sunny grooves skirt the big issues for joyful celebration, and gentle romance including “Kaya” and “Is This Love.” But the mood slides straight downhill from “She’s Gone” to “Crisis,” culminating in the fatalistic spiritualism of “Time Will Tell.” Fast forward 35 years and what were considered at the time by the critics a MOR sound, now sound more full of life, and somewhat apocalyptic then when the album was first released. On top of that the songs that shown the brightest at the time like “Sun is Shining,” “Satisfy My Soul” and “Easy Skanking,” now sound more interesting, not just by the re-mastering but by history itself. Bob Marley & The Wailers, including their backup singers The I Three’s may not have foreseen the future on Kaya, but the music-the soulfulness and mojo-can be felt in every song. Kaya is for your mind, body and soul!

Recorded onstage in Rotterdam, Netherlands July 7, 1978 the live disc draws heavily from previous albums, and includes two new songs (“Easy Skanking” and “Is This Love”), thereby summarizing and expanding upon Bob Marley & The Wailers international career to that point. More so than in their studio versions, the songs ring with emotional power in these concert renditions allowing the listeners to join Marley in his life-affirming celebration. Like its live album predecessors, “Babylon by Bus,” and “Live!” which was recorded at the Lyceum in London, England, it shines a light as well as casts a shadow on the good and evil in the world.

If you listen to the album with that in mind, in the end good triumphs over evil with hope, love and happiness as the end result. “Positive Vibrations,” “The Heathen,” “Is This Love,” and “Concrete Jungle” are good examples of this. They reflect life’s ups and downs with Marley’s world-weary, but at the same time microscopic view. By the time they get to the last four songs (13 in all), you’ll be celebrating right along with the band and the fans. “Jamming,” Easy Skanking,” Get Up, Stand Up,” and Exodus” have a euphoric flow that is at the same time grandiose as well as highly personal. Bedsides making good use of a horn player on Kaya and the live album, the live album brings the past full-tilt into present. Not an easy task but Bob Marley & the Wailers always seem to know how to touch us. Like I said before, mind, body and soul!-Phil Rainone

A TRIBUTE TO RON ASHETON: Featuring Iggy & The Stooges & special guests - DVD ( - All profits will benefit the Ron Asheton Foundation

Get On Your Docs & Rock!!

“Ron Asheton truly played outsider blues…”- Henry Rollins

“Scott and Ron (Asheton) got the chance to orbit the globe and actually see for themselves the hundreds of thousands of fans that were into The Stooges music. No award or book could ever duplicate the feeling they got seeing that firsthand…” Deniz Tek Stooges’ guitarist

This documentary DVD captures the tribute to Ron Asheton concert, filmed live at Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater on April 19, 2011.

Opening the night was Space Age Toasters. Lead singer Will Smith mentioned that Ron had come up with the name, and besides a couple of originals they blasted their way through a few Stooges tunes, the most provocative being, and “1969.” The way they played it spoke volumes of their respect and dedication to Ron and The Stooges. They floored the audience right from the start, and there was still over two hours to go!

Opening with an inspirational speech from MC Henry Rollins (Black Flag), he told of how Ron quietly influenced future punk rockers with his positive spirit and DIY attitude. Then Henry brings out the Stooges sans Iggy, and calling it the “Second American anthem,” they break into “I Got a Right” that, if anyone in crowd wasn’t already on their feet, they surely were by now! It was a blistering bang of hot punk rock with Rollins as the cheerleader.

Then to thunderous applause (yea, some of the crowd even spit it Iggy as he took the stage-ahh the good ol’ days), Iggy Pop wandered out from backstage already shirtless/jeans down below his hips, ready to kick the shit outta The Stooges catalog. With a howl and yelp the band breaks into “Raw Power” that is just…amazing! For a song that’s over 40 years old, it sounded just as fresh and dangerous as the original. Their 20 song set was as iconic as it was just flat-out fun! They played a lot of their best known stuff like “Search and Destroy,” “Gimme Danger,” 1970,” and “Fun House,” to name a few. They also played lesser known songs like “LA Blues,” “Night Theme,” and “Open Up and Bleed,” but here’s the thing: It wasn’t like they played each song like their lives depended on it, but more like a band with something to prove. It was loose, hot and done with extreme coolness. Punk rock to the max!

With the passing of Ron Asheton, Iggy asked former Stooges’ guitarist James Williamson (The Stooges just released a new album with Williamson on guitar), to step in. He did a great job and is now a full-time Stooge again. The Stooges also consist of Mike Watt (Minutemen), on bass, along with Ron’s Brother Scott on drums, and they added Steve Mackay on Saxophone (he thickened up “1970” and most of the songs throughout the show), and Deniz Tek as second guitarist. For the tribute they added an orchestra…. Ummm… yea…a thirteen piece orchestra! And it worked! They opened the show to a lot of hoots and hollers as a good chunk of the crowd thought it was a joke…it wasn’t! The played a lil bit of Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” and some classical stuff, than they came out about half way through the show as puzzled looks were on almost the entire crowd. Grinning from ear to ear Iggy and the Stooges blasted into “Fun House.” The mix of punk and an orchestra never sounded better! Genius!

Iggy did some crowd surfing from time to time that was cool, but he outdid himself a few times. Sitting on the front of the stage by the crowd he started taking to a girl, asking the stagehands to “Put a spotlight on this beautiful girl.” He sweet talked her for a minute, telling her how pretty she was. Than the band launched into “Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell,” which made her smile even more!- Ahh, love!

On “I Wanna be Your Dog,” the subservient song turned from a request into flat-out DEMAND, by the songs end. The only other band that I’ve seen gives that song such an incredible reading was Joan Jett & The Blackhearts. Amazing! Simply amazing!!
After over two hours of non-stop punk rock, Iggy sat down on a chair new the edge of the stage with Mike Watt, who played an improvised slide guitar face up on his lap. There was no title given to the song, but Iggy got really personal at first talking, than singing about Ron and all the stuff they’d been through as a band and as friends. I’ve never seen Iggy so humble…

Bringing the full band and orchestra back on stage of the last encore, the jammed on “No Fun” which nearly brought the house down! Iggy invited the crowd up on the already crowded stage as the band played the song like it was their last time on Earth! What a great show, and what a terrific tribute to a man who has given us so mush over the years!

The Rolling Stones - 50 Licks: Myths & Stories from Half a Century by Pete Fornatale (Bloomsbury Publishing)

About a year ago we got the sad news of Pete Fornatale’s passing. It was quite a shock because like most of our rock idols (Pete was a radio DJ for WNEW 102.7 & 90.5 The Night), we feel they are pretty indestructible. Back in the 60’s & 70’s Pete was one of the primary DJ’s for a new radio format called, “Freeform Radio.” Take about putting some new coloring in your paint box!-Pete along with other like-minded DJ’s help break new bands like The Who, Richie Havens, The Stooges, and all the punk bands that lit-up the 70’s & 80’s and beyond, and of course The Rolling Stones. He was one of the first DJ’s to TALK to you like a new found friend, as compared to the Cousin Brucie’s of the day who basically were the original “talking heads.”

“50 Licks” is a no frills, we-don’t-take-shit-from-nobody, kind of book. Its “no-frills” in that they eliminate all the posing, all the nonsense, and especially all the retreaded crap that bogs even the best books down (anyone read Clarence Clemmons book)? Instead they go for the throat, just like The Rolling Stones did back when they first got their start back in the 60’s (and still do today) with The Beatles and the first wave of The British Invasion. Want makes this book different from “Tell-all” books (check Keith Richards autobiography), and run-of-the-mill “factual” books is that besides being a really cool book to read (I could hardly put it down), they used a variety of musicians, including The Stones, and even everyday fans like Kurt Schwartz. - Schwartz’s claim to fame was that he listened to all the Stones albums in chronological order from start to finish. “So what?” you might ask? Well, he then gives his opinion for every song. It’s like he has a photographic musical memory. Maximum coolness!

The book is full of quotes, interviews and yes, myths. They include an interview that Fornatale did with Bill Wyman (bassist), back in 1981. Its fun, factual, and you come away with a better appreciation of the man called “The silent stone,” as Wyman had pretty much been in the background by choice, and very rarely gave interviews. They kind of divide the chapters up into each Stones album in chronological order. It’s not the kind of the old, “Well-we-wrote-this-song-because…it’s more like they give you the inside scoop of the recording sessions with quotes from The Stones, the roadies, and their peers like Hubert Sumlin (best known as Howlin’ Wolf’s guitarist).
Like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones were punk, way before the word was used to describe the genre. Their first few albums were nasty, trashy, bluesy/rock, which mostly covers were, but like The Beatles (check their live albums for the Cavern club back around 1962), they added their original take on songs like Check Berry’s “Around and Around,” or Bo Diddley’s “Manish Boy.”

The Glimmer Twins Get Punk-As-Fuck!

The chapter on the making of and release of “Some Girls” back in ’78 is really a lot of fun to read. Keith Richard’s hails it as a return to their rock ‘n’ roll roots, while Mick Jagger felt like the punk bands of the time like the Clash, and Sex Pistols were looking down on them for selling out, and pretty much forgetting what their music was supposed to be about. Either way, a great punk album came out of those sessions! And let’s not forget one of punk’s national anthems. “Satisfaction” is given an extensive look at with quotes by The Stones mostly, but again, the inside scoop is, “To die for…” as they say!

All though the book they have short but interesting interviews with people and musicians that helped the Stones music in small, but amazing ways. For the recording of “Gimme Shelter” they interview Merry Clayton, the woman who said backup on it, and blew everyone away with her apocalyptic-style vocals. Great stuff!
Here’s one of my favorite quotes from “50 Licks”… “We were coming back from a gig and I wanted to have a wee-wee (piss), so we stopped at a garage-and they refused to let me so I went back to the car and Mick said, ‘Come on, Bill, we’ll find one,” and Brian Jones as well. So the three of us went over there (back to the garage), and they still wouldn’t let us use it, so we just did it there (on the street), and got arrested. We got publicity for about a year on that one. It was then that we realized what we had to do get publicity, you see.”- Bill Wyman This book is so much fun to read!

I’m going to let Pete Townshend have the last word…”The Stones will always be the greatest for me. They epitomize British rock for me, and even though they’re all now my friends, I’m still a fan. Guys, whatever you do, don’t try to grow old gracefully; it wouldn’t suit you.”

The Racer - Passengers

This record begins with a soft but interesting instrumental called “Passenger (Intro).” From there and throughout the rest of the album the bass and drums maintain the rhythm while the guitars stick out in the background. The songs place an emphasis on life, love, emptiness, and everything else that comes in-between, while the lead singer’s vocals lay on top.

There’s a lot of exploration as the guitars bring you deeper into a song like on “Celebrate.” The title track and “Legends” have a similar level of exploration as the instruments create a wall of sound underneath the vocals. Both songs are about five minutes long and showcase the use of rhythm and lead guitars in addition to the rhythm section.

The Racer’s sound is a culmination of various music genres but more importantly, they are a rock band-one with unending riffs, solos, and vocals that remind us of past rock influences. The evolution of their sound throughout this album shows the group’s ability to play, write, and produce music, something that is truly admirable.

The Defending Champions - Breakfast of…

The Defending Champions blend a unique and functional blend of ska, Chicago blues, Latin, and rhythmically twisted rock as a chaser. Mixing socially and politically aware lyrics with infectious dance rhythms, the band serve as a virtual blueprint for any band today that wants to do it properly with an eye toward over-the-top humor.

Though diversity in contemporary music is generally laudable, the factionalism it sometimes engenders isn’t; The Defending Champions’ ability to appeal to different audiences suggests that ska needn’t always polarize listeners into incompatible camps. Sometimes soulful ska, sometimes lighthearted and bubbly, the band’s style of execution is actually informative as it is danceable.

Displaying added maturity and creativity, songs like “Lucky Man,” “Relax a Little,” or “Candy Cane” grow their ska roots deep. You can not only hear glimpses of Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley, but you can also trace their roots to more current bands like Reel Big Fish and The Bosstones. Ska and Chicago blues never sounded better!

THE TOSSERS - The Emerald City (Victory Records)

The Tossers have been one of the few Celtic punk bands that have consistently been improving their music, yet still able to hold onto their roots. On “The Emerald City” (which is located in Chicago, according to the lyrics), they further explore soul, punk, and of course their Irish roots. Heartfelt tributes to life, love, and the road less taken are familiar scenarios, but The Tossers find new twists and turns that will make you smile as well as raising an eyebrow in amazement!

“The Rover,” “Here’s to a Drink with You,” and “God Bless You,” is at once a raise-your-glass-for-a-toast song, as well as something deeper and more meaningful. The music, spiritual and lyrical balance that the band comes up with time and time again is cool, fun, and enlightening. Equal parts heartfelt tributes and modern relationships are abundant throughout “The Emerald City.”

Fiddles, banjos, mandolins, raging guitars, and an excellent rhythm section serve not only to embellish the singers throaty, whiskey-soaked vocals, but they also take turns as lead instruments along the journey through “The Emerald City.” The music can turn from subliminal to rollicking punk rock at a moment’s notice and The Tossers perform it all with an eye toward freshness and originality.

One of my favorite songs is “Wherever You Go.” It starts off as a prayer-like slow waltz (“Come fill up your glasses with whiskey and beer/and may God bless and keep everyone of you here…May peace be with you your whole life through…”). Then, a little over a minute into the blessing-like psalm, the tempo changes to a hot strut as well as the lyrics(“Now woe to you wherever you go/To all of you bastards who have treated me so/Wherever you go/Whatever you do/ May you suffer the curse I put on you/FUCK YOU!!..”). Now, that was just amazing…I didn’t expect them switching gears so quickly and ruthlessly! It reminded me of The Pogues’ co-dependent, wild Christmas tune“ Fairytale of New York,” only more powerful.

Clever melodies, tight arrangements, and honest, heart-felt lyrics on “The Emerald City” paint a musical picture of a band and their view of the life with 20-20 vision!

JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS - Album (Blackheart Records)

For Record Store Day this April 20, all the mom & pop record stores around the county celebrated their independence with special releases exclusively for them. Joan Jett and The Blackhearts reissued the 1983 masterpiece Album (ummm…kind of a generic name for a record but, dang…it will rock your socks off)!

This limited edition 180 gram vinyl (dude, you don’t need to get your scale out to weight it), individually numbered, is one of the finest, freshest vinyl records this side of Maryland (Joan’s a hometown gal and avid Orioles fan), and they made sure you would really take notice of It in cannery yellow colored vinyl! They also include an enhanced CD with bonus tracks and live footage of The Blackhearts circa 1983. And if that’s not enough they also include a Blackheart Records sampler of their current band roster. They also include a little note saying that a new Joan Jett and the Blackhearts album will be out this fall. I can’t wait!

They programmed the album in its original form and added a few songs at the end of sides A and B (mmm…it feels so good to flip the record over. To me it makes you appreciate the music in a more hands-on way). “Fake Friends” is a stone cold thrashing about “DICKHOLES!” You know, those so-called friends that are two faced, shallow and say things behind your back, to put it mildly. It’s both funny and sadly true, but the music propelling it has a start/stop/start cadence that is head-boppin’ punk rockin’ cool-as-fuck!

From there, Album is jump started to “Handyman,” “Everyday People,” “A Hundred Feet Away,” and “Secret Love.” Nowhere near a dog-and-pony show, these five songs are like horses at a starting gate ready to run and give it their all, as soon as the bell rings!- Real-deal punk rockers from start to finish. The Blackhearts version of Sly & the Family Stone’s ode to equality and open mindedness is revised as the Blackhearts pump it up a gazillion notches from the originals gentile but soulful mix. The also include an amazing cover of The Stones “Star Star” ( they drop the F-bomb over a dozen times). They take the Stone’s original blues rock version and turn it into punk rock anthem! I think Green Day covered it at one of their shows in recent years, with Billie Joe adding his own punker-than-you version. It just goes to show how cool it is to see the gantlet passed from generation to generation, humbly paying tribute to the original version and amping it up into a whole new, and fresh version!


Stop your record player (you DO have a record player don’t you?), gently lift the record off the spindle (the short stubby sliver rod), with two fingers (be careful of finger prints and smudges). Flip it over to side 2 and gently replace it on the spindle. Hit “play” and we’re off into punkrockville! “The French Song” is so cool that you’ll what to lean what the words are in English. It’s like when The Beatles sang “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” in German. It opens up a whole new world that is just….amazing!
The Blackhearts revisit a Runaways (Joan’s first band) tune, “I Love Playing with Fire.” Probably about ten years after the original, but they give it a fresh punked-up reading. Like Springsteen and the E Street Band and their own version of rock ‘n’ roll, The Blackhearts are able to create their slice of punk rock that is so much fun, and amazingly cool! I remember reading that Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), had mentioned back when Nirvana was together that the Blackhearts were influential as well as the Runaways. To me , that’s what makes music so magical. You can take from the past and turn it into something fresh and unique without losing its history, if it’s done right.

The Live footage of the Blackhearts is a good representation of the band’s middle period with Ricky Byrd on lead guitar. Barely out of the 70’s when a lot of the punk bands of the day were either folding up camp or floundering with their gigantic, we’re-only-in-it-for-the-money record companies, Joan Jett (Blackheart Records is her record company basically), and the Blackhearts were releasing records, playing shows and not only maintaining a faithful loyal following, but they were also bringing new comers into the fold. “Album” is a prime example of Joan Jett and The Blackhearts long and dedicated journey. They’re into the music for the long run: Mind, Body & Soul!

Mike Lefton - What Are We Waiting For (

Mike Lefton and his band succeed in balancing a love for crowd-pleasing Seventies pop rock with a 21st Century sleekness and a timeless sophistication. The mojo of mid-period Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and snarly blues rock, is easily combined with the band’s youthful (they’re in their early twenties), exuberance. The band’s roots and branches run deep with rock, folk, and blues with a thick, sturdy trunk of rich, colorful rock ‘n’ roll.

“Invalid” jump-starts the album with bang! A story basically about laughing in the face of all the lies and phoniness that we all run into throughout our lives. With the rhythm section (Skyler Lutz on bass and Carnel St. Louis on drums), they help to amp up Mike’s distressed lyrics with high-end style rock & roll, while Mike wails on guitar. You can’t help but root for the underdog.

Mike’s blue-eyed vocal swoon on “Funny” is surprisingly cool. I’ve seen him play over the years mostly at clubs and benefits, and he’s always rocked your socks off! “Funny” has a slow, sweet melody, but the lyrics are of loss and regret. With Skyler on bass and Carnel on drums they conjure up the melody of Simon and Garfunkel’s 60’s smooth-as-silk 70’s pop tune “Cloudy.” They bring the past into the present, and visa versa-not an easy task but it works fine.

The title cut “What Are We Waiting For,” has a walking-on-sunshine melody that is as infectious as any jangly, funky pop rock song out there now, and the impatient lyrics are romantically cool. With lines like, “How does love feel upon your heart/I do believe it’s time to start,” the song is like a combination of unexpected love-at-first-sight (the first time you see that person across the room and you absolutely flip, and what to get to know them), and growing out of the sadness of a bad relationship. Common everyday stuff but the band rises to the occasion with faith, hope and finding your soul mate as the end result.

“Waiting for My Woman” sounds like a long-lost Partridge Family song (and that’s a good thing). With lines like, “Standing in the middle of a long traffic jam…/Waiting for my woman sweet as strawberry jam, and the “La-la-la-la-la’s” are Saturday-Moring-Cartoon-worthy! A very cool retro-style song done with the enthusiasm of The Rascals’ enthusiastic rocker, “Love is a Beautiful Thing.” Coo, stuff!

“Black Stone Road” brings us back to reality. A funky blues rocker (the production is clear, and straight ahead on the whole album), about taking the road less traveled, wanting to do the right thing while all around you it feels like life is imploding. The song’s relentless, funky cadence is reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield. Both make loneliness and world problems not just inclusive but balls-out celebratory. Just five songs, but “What Are We Waiting For,” makes for a rich fusion of musical styles, and a hell of a party!

Mission South – Immigration Vol. 1 (3 song EP) (

Mission South work hard to make a first impression, and even harder to make that much-needed second impression. With the mojo of Jack White’s blue-eyed psychedelic soul, and their own cosmic vibes, Mission South is at once trippy, and heavy-as-fuck! The opening song “Peaches,” has a stop/start cadence that is fuzzy and fun. A song about love and regret it suggests spaciness without ever blasting into the stratosphere. It’s an attention-getting swirl (just like the third song, “Kerosene”), that expands your mind.
Mission South just played at SXSW in Texas, as well as the gazillion bands that do so every year. Looks like our Boss (Jim Testa) found that elusive needle-in-a-haystack! You can get a free download of Mission South’s album at:

The Scotch Bonnets - Live Ya Life (

Skaville Meets Hitsville!
The Scotch Bonnets are a female/male fronted ska band that sound like they just got off the boat from Jamaica around 1965, and headed right into the recording studio in Motown. They play old-school ska with undertones of soul and funk much like The Supremes, Aretha Franklin, and all those soul searches from that era.

Mixing socially and politically aware lyrics with infectious dance rhythms, The Scotch Bonnets serve as a virtual blueprint for current ska bands that what to hear real-deal rude boy/rude girl music. Quietly percolating grooves are abundant in every tune on Live Ya Life. Sultry horn lines are centered around cool, heartfelt vocals that are instantly identifiable-not formula, but undiluted passion.

The entirely original material shows the bands vast creativeness at work. Inventive production, intriguing rock rhythms, powerful and memorable songwriting and new outlooks all combine to make a great record that remains rooted in reggae, but are much more diverse than the genre generally allows. “The Good One,” “Charm City,” and “Song for U,” is ace reggae/rock hybrids; “Live Ya Life” with its propulsive dance-rock beat and sultry sax lines shows the full range of The Scotch Bonnets’ development. A very impressive step forward from a band that is just taking their collective first steps. They know the formula for success, but they embraces it with an eye toward originality and maximum mojo!

Keith Kenny - And the Light Came Blaring In (

Keith Kenny’s music can at times convey sincere nostalgia, or bring you back to harsh reality real quick! His new album And the Light Came Blaring In Is full of mostly unembellished rock (Keith plays all the instruments with very little overdub or sweeteners,) blues and folk rock that focuses on his style of comfortable enthusiasm. That is, Keith has a way of laying it all out there, but sometimes it’s a slow, burning buildup, that draws you into the heart and soul of the song. He can also take you the dance floor stomping out Living in Circles with the mojo of Stevie Ray Vaughn.

The album is full of amusingly wry regrets, social observations, and heartfelt emotional outpourings, which all combine to travel the back roads of American music to fine effect. On “Filling Holes” Keith digs into similar roots and comes up with a clearheaded, plain-spoken song about love and loss. With just an acoustic guitar (like on songs on And the Light Came Blaring In), Keith leaves out the ambience of a full blown band in favor of perspective lyrics and strong melodies.

For anyone who listens to And the light Came Blaring In or any of Keith’s records, this music is a highly personal medium through which he can (and does) broadcast/exorcise his inner demons.- That’s not to say he doesn’t rock out (dang, this cat can make you practically leap outta your seat with his hot, swirling brand of rock ‘n’ roll), but Keith’s use of musical structures and lyrical imagery is exciting, intense-even cathartic- with a dash of punk without diluting the soulful strength and humor.

With minimal instrumentation And the Light Came blaring In is a one-man show (although Keith also plays with a full band at times), that plainly lies out the author’s heartaches, loves, and everyday problems. Keith crates songs with pride and dignity, making this a deeply moving document of sincere, honest emotions set into song.

All seven songs here are strong, and Keith has become a consistently good singer/songwriter; one can only hope that he gets a chance to develop even further for larger audiences.

Keith Kenny is having a record release party at The Court Tavern in New Brunswick on March 23. You can also contact him at: to get his new record or for more show information.

At Sea - A New Machine (

If you like The Killers, Mumford & Sons, or Big Star, than At Sea is your kind of band. They do not parrot their influences; they draw their inspiration from these types of bands but add originality and spunk. Nearly every song has some new twist, whether through production effects (very few pop records are as consistently aurally interesting as this without resorting to gimmickry), or an unusual instrumental or lyrical approach. Some of the songs are about deteriorating relationships-but the playing is so exuberant that’s it’s almost uplifting. Musical flourishes are abundant throughout “A New Machine,” achieving a fuller, modern over-all sound; instrumentation on many of the tracks is denser than most pop rock bands which shows some interesting musical explorations, as the band easily sidesteps run-of-the-mill themes.

Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders - What You Gonna Do? (

“What You Gonna Do?” is like a spark that ignites into bonfire.-It starts off kind of subliminally, but by the time you get to the fifth song “King Pin,” you’re hooked! A mix of barroom piano (like The Band on “Music from Big Pink”), neo-rockabilly, and carefully placed vocal harmonies. Crankshaft and the Grinders (cool name-I can’t say it enough!), popularize American folk rock by telling it straight, embracing and updating ancient traditions without phony posing. Those who like Billy Bragg’s sound, or the afore mentioned Band are in for a largely topical (semi-political), dose of music that has been in limbo for a while. The lo-fi production adds a certain kind of laid-back approach, but it actually raises the listening appeal. You really what to hear to the WHOLE album, rather than piece by piece. Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders are gonna sneak-up on you and blow you away one song at a time!

Mrs. Skannotto - All These Evolutions (

Ska is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950’s and was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae. Ska combined elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues. It is characterized by a walking bass line accented with rhythms on the upbeat. In the early 1960’s ska was popular with British mods. Later it became popular with many skinheads. - From Wikipedia the definition of ska. The reason I brought us all to class was to either refresh our memories or to put a new color in your paint box, or maybe a little of both. When I first heard Mrs. Skannotto I was drawn back to my first experience with ska via Desmond Dekker and Johnny Nash (Marley would come a little later). They know how to subliminally get their sound into your cranium and put it on an endless loop that would positively affect you throughout the day with a smooth and sometimes rugged groove. Always featuring an unstoppable, relentless rhythm section. Fast forward to 2013 and Mrs. Skannotto is bringing those feeling back to me in spades! Although they use a more modern sound like Reel Big Fish or The Bosstones, they still use the core of the genre at the heart of all their songs. “Just as Well,” “Wage War,” “The Limit,” or “Free Speech Zone” all combine for the best of both worlds without sounding patronizing or snobbish. In fact, the whole album sounds like a refreshing blast from start to finish. “Poll Dance,” has Inspector 7’s (they just got back together and are playing at Asbury Lanes in April), written all over it! Wordy but not preachy, upbeat but not over the top, it will rock your socks off! The whole album mixes social and politically aware lyrics with infectious dance rhythms. Mrs. Skannotto is a band that I’d love to see live. When a studio album has me up and dancing around the room (and the pay me NOT to dance or sing), then I just know that at their live show I’d but upfront and personal, skankin’ to the beat no matter how hapless I look!

Citizens Band Radio - Big Blue Sky (

Recorded at Trax East South River, NJ, Citizen Band Radio is a fine mix of country rock (the real stuff like The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Dr. Hook’s rollicking pop country). That’s not to say that CBR aren’t original- they definitely are, and they have plenty of mojo to spare.

Citizen Band Radio are one of those special bands that even after repeated listens to their music, when you see them live they’ll simply amaze you with their thirst for an audience, I think. The male/female vocals add depth and expand the band’s emphasis on writing strong poignant songs.

The band’s music is sparse, angular and seemingly immune to genre divisions. Every song is unique, and each time you hear it you get a little something different slowly bubbling up to the surface. On songs like “Big Blue Sky,” “Drinkin’ Again,” “Sugar Sweet Mama,” and “Heart of Stone” there’s already ample evidence of daring songwriting that straddles the line between artiness and genuine fun and emotion. Most importantly, Citizens Band Radio continues to come up with strong melodies, challenging rhythms and affecting lyrics.

Ed Tang - Goodbye Zen5 Sushi Dinner (

Wow! At first I thought I had put on a new Pogues album! Ed Tang has the phrasing, loopy style, and grit that the Pogues are known for, yet he’s as original as the come. The nine tracks come onto the listener strongly with songs like “Lincoln,” “Just Two Old Friends,” or “My Whole Life,” These are songs in which Ed Tang subliminally flaunts his vocal prowess while the band explores each song with the mojo of a band twice their age. The songs have somewhat dark tones with a firm message using the vocals as a lead instrument as the musicians remain persistent and in the groove.
Zen5 Sushi Dinner is a record that combines a few reoccurring themes-mainly those of love-and seeks to deliberately interpret them by providing the band’s own experiences as examples. The personal aspect of the record is really what makes it so effortlessly relatable without being out only a few negative feelings that we have hidden insides ourselves.

PUNK- The Best of Punk Magazine Edited by John Holmstrom and Bridget Hurd (Harper Collins)

“Of course New York City was the polar opposite of what it is today: The vast fields of decay in the South Bronx resembled Dresden after the firestorms in World War Two. The Bowery was still the “Isle of Lost Souls.” These were the roots of the ant-sixties culture: Peace and love were replaced by nihilism and deliberate anti-glamour. Goth and emo and proto-punk kids of today reference these years as their own personal history, just like the baby boomer crowd endorsed the sixties.”- Deborah Harry and Chis Stein, from the forward.

Measuring in at 11”x9 ½,” PUNK- The Best of Punk Magazine has the feel of the magazine/record album. A lot of the cartoons, photos and posters take up an entire page, and you get the sense of a really cool “coffee table book” without the usual crap associated with the stuff that passes for art these days.

Another thing that sets PUNK apart from the rest of the cookie cutter books is that all the photos and illustrations were taken by people (John Holmstrom, Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, Roberta Baylay, etc.), who were there right from the start where the NYC punk scene got it’ start. Not only “photographers” (I use the term loosely, and lovingly.-Many of them were kids with small, inexpensive cameras with a love for the new music, the clubs, and the exciting vibe), but musicians, and fans. People that wanted something new and different, not only in music but as they say these days, “a lifestyle change.”

The introduction by Gary Storm-former WBFO deejay (, is worth its weight in gold! When he comes to describing the musical and cultural changes that punk rock was about to bring back in 1978 you almost feel as if you were there. As a DJ and representative of radio station WBFO, he was sent to New York City to get record companies like CBS and some of the other mega-companies to give the radio station more promos to play, etc. After hitting brick wall after rick wall with the tight, ultra-constrictive record “suits,” by happenstance he winds up in the Village, in NYC: “At night I wandered the Village and got a little drunk. One night I went to CBGB and saw a pop group called the Squirrels wearing high-heeled sneakers and also the psychobilly pioneers The Cramps, who closed their set with an extended version of “Surfin’ Bird” as the lead singer (Lux Interior), crawled across the tables smashing drinks… Later I stumbled into an ancient office building and rode a clanky elevator to the top floor, and then took a short walk down the hall into a cluttered, dinky office: the international headquarters of PUNK Magazine. Sitting behind a desk in short, shaggy blond hair was John Holmstorm, editor and chief artist. Slouched in a chair in front of the desk was another figure, wearing a leather jacket, square jawed and sandpaper complexion. I’d know you anywhere, Legs McNeil. You look just like John Holmstrom draws you.” I know it sounds like an average, everyday type of meeting, but that’s the beauty of it. Punk is very DIY-very self-sufficient, and have a “one for all-all for one” attitude. Yeah, the major record labels had their greasy, grimy hands out as soon as punk got on their radar screen looking for the “Next Big Thing,” but after all these years they haven’t come close to taming it, or even fully understanding it, for that matter. Anyway, would someone please kick out the soapbox from under me so I’ll stop ranting and get back to the book?

One of the things that made Punk Magazine so incredibly cool was the way that they used punk’s creed of DIY. The advertisements were mostly hand drawn with cartoonist figures like the ad for Trash and Vaudeville, a clothing store in NYC. It’s half a page all handwritten with caricatures of a hip guy and gal circa 1975, in black and white. - Eye-catching, and cool as fuck! I’m sure that PUNK Magazine operated on a shoestring budget, but like they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” The ideas and projects (they reprinted the punk comic book for “Mutant Monster Beach Party”) artistry that Holmstrom, his crew and the musicians themselves came up with is amazing!

And don’t forget that back in the 70’s and even the 60’s (The Stooges, etc.); “punk” was a synonym for well, a PUNK!!- Someone who was considered lazy, a wiseass… you know the boy your Mom (there were also girl punks too), always warned you about, who would get you in trouble, or even worse-PREGNANT!!

The full-color pages with bands like the Ramones’ B-movie (directed by Roger Corman), “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School,” Clash, and the whole, unedited issue of Mutant Monster Beach Party are just…awe-inspiring!

Once you read (actually you’ll probably want to read it a few times), PUNK Magazine –The Best of PUNK Magazine, you’ll probably want to start you our magazine, punk band, or just use it as a reference as to what it was like back in the day when punk rock first reared its ugly head, bringing down (slowly but surely), all the shit music of the day like Disco, Prog Rock and all the laidback crap like the Eagles, Carpenters, and all the “Pat Boone’s” of their generation.

PUNK only lasted eighteen issues from about 76’ to 79, but like when I got my hands on my first issue of Jersey Beat, I was hooked for life!



Bruce - by Peter Ames Carlin (Touchstone Books)

With The Help Of Springsteen, This New Biography Chronicles The Myth, The Man, and the Magic of New Jersey’s Favorite Son

If you find it interesting to read about Bruce’s childhood, his sometimes tumultuous relationship with the E Street Band, and other details of the Boss’ life and career, then this book is for you. You’ll read about the first time he saw Elvis Presley on TV, and the affect it had on him, learn about the frustration of the E Street band during the recording of “Born to Run” and “Darkness on the Edge of Town,”which seemed endless. And you’ll hear about the embarrassment the E Street Band felt when Bruce brought the band got back together after ten years, asking them through an employee. (“After all that time, to get a call from the accountant?” Gary Tallent, the bass player said in the book. “I was insulted.”) Throughout this fascinating biography, author Peter Ames Carlin is meticulous but never boring; investigative, but never to the point of sensationalism.

When I first sat down to read “Bruce,” I just thumbed through it, for what I thought was only going to a minute or two, checking the chapter titles, photos, and a sentence or two. What happened instead was that I found myself after reading the title for the first chapter, “The Place I Loved The Most,” getting into it, and I didn’t stop until the end of the chapter. The same exact thing happened as I randomly got deeper into the chapters. After reading three full chapters, I realized what I had been nonchalantly doing, and repositioned myself starting back at the “Prologue: The Gut Bomb King”

OK… I know unless you’re some kind of Springsteen super fanatic, you’re thinking, “Who’s The Gut Bomb King?” Actually it was Bruce’s nickname, which was later changed to “The Boss,” thankfully, when back in 1971. In downtown Asbury Park, Bruce with other musicians and friends would get together for a weekly Monopoly game that was anything but traditional. Using “coercion, trickery, candy bars and cream-filled cupcakes as bribes… Bruce excelled, due to his shifty powers of persuasion and leverage provided by stacks of candy bars, Ring Dings, and Pepsis he brought with him.” It’s funny, and so much fun to read.

There are also chapter’s on Bruce’s personal life, with detailed stories about his parents, family, ex-girlfriends, and even the long-silent ex-wife Julianne Phillips. There’s no interview with his wife Patti Scialfa, and virtually nothing about their three children. Also, past and present band members are interviewed, including their hurt feelings when Bruce broke up the E Street Band back in in 1985 after the Born in the U.S.A. tour. Again, Carlin does it with a sense of interest, but not over-the-top paparazzi-like stupidity. He’s as respectful as he is a journalist.

Smartly, Carlin stayed away from dissecting the vast majority of Springsteen’s songs. However, he does interview Diane Lozito, Bruce’s ex-girlfriend immortalized in “Rosalita,” and a few other cool stories on the origins of some songs.

Springsteen gave journalist Peter Ames Carlin an interesting piece of advice for this biography, ” Bruce.” (Carlin has also written “Paul McCartney: A Life,” and “Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall, & Redemption of the Beach Boy’s Brian Wilson.”) He said, “if there was anything I thought would make him uncomfortable, I should put it in,” Carlin writes. “He said to me, ‘Every time people start talking about me like I’m perfect, it diminishes me.”

The book is 494 pages, which dives deep into Bruce’s personal life in unprecedented depth. Carlin spent countless hours interviewing Springsteen and the entire E Street band, including Clarence Clemons weeks before his death, and his nephew Jake, who replaced him on The Wrecking Ball Tour. Carlin interviewed Springsteen for almost 20 hours, but Bruce also put him in contact with relatives, old friends, and co-workers, some of whom have never been interviewed before. He even allowed him to use photos from the Springsteen family archive. The book was written with Springsteen’s cooperation, though it’s not an authorized biography, meaning that Bruce had no control over it.
To me, the more interesting stuff centers around Bruce’s music and the E Street Band. I’ve been a conservative fan since Greetings From Asbury Park, but really got into the music in depth when I found his approach kept the promises that had been made to me by my first real encounter with music, watching The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show back in 1963 at the age of eight. Music, especially rock ‘n’ roll, was as necessary as the air you breathe, a fundamental part of life to me.

Discusssing the release of “Born to Run,” the tour that followed, and the court battle with then-manager Mike Appel to regain the rights to his music, Carlin talks about the way the record company wanted to use bigger venues and stadiums, to “sell” Bruce and the band to a bigger audience. It was a period when it seemed like the world was turning upside for Springsteen personally and musically. When the story turns to the rigors of recording and touring, unfair contracts, big money, and “business as usual,” you get that sick feeling in your stomach, that, “Well, that’s the way it is. Take it or leave it,” Carlin writes, “Contracts say whatever contracts say, but as far as Bruce knew, or cared, handshakes and the promise they symbolize meant more.” That’s it! Period! A person’s word is their bonds, and when I heard Springsteen and the E Street band cover songs like The Crystals “Then He Kissed Me,” or “Badlands,” or dozens of other covers and originals they’ve performed over the years, I get the same feeling. A lot of bands have come close, including punk and ska bands, but there’s that extra-special “something,” mojo, magic - whatever you want to call it. It’s present, it’s real, and you feel it. You want to share it with others. It’s not a religion, nor a higher power. It’s music, it’s life, and this world would be so morbid without it.

Unless Springsteen writes his own autobiography in the future, “Bruce” is the go-to book for everything Springsteen. And if you want a dedicated fan’s perspective, check out: Backstreets: Bruce Springsteen The Man & His Music by Charles Cross.

Johnny Society- Free Society (

Johnny Society blends blues, soul, alternative, and bits of rock together, on Free Society. But like the band Dr. Dog that I reviewed a few months ago, both bands have the same problem. It’s like they took all the afore mentioned genres and tossed them in a blender. Unfortunately, someone forget to turn the darn thing on!

On songs like “So Quick to Turn,” Well, Well, Well,” or the title cut, I’m hearing The Band, Dave Matthews Band, Phish, and some originality. Johnny Society comes up short on these songs and most of the album, actually. The few bright spots are “Fall so Low,” and “Stabbed in the Back.” These two songs rise above with originality and perseverance. The story lines are solid as is the music.

Free Society would have made a good three or four song EP, and I’d like to see these guys live. I think they have more in the tank than meets the eye. There’s a lot of potential here, but they’re just not living up to it.

Erez and the End - “Silent Mountains” 5-song EP (

Here’s another band that seems to have a lot of potential, but they keep rehashing old Dire Straits. The vocals have an aged but unique vibe, but get drone-like after the first two songs. The music is up to par, but they’re missing some important mojo somewhere in the mix. I would think that live, they would bring their A- game and create some magical moments, but the in studio it sounds like they’re coloring inside the lines, making sure not to think outside the box.-Phil Rainone

The Januariez - Authentic

In the liner notes where it says: File Under, for the type of music the band plays they list it as: Active Rock, Alternative. Umm… yeah… I would say so, but there’s also all the earmarks of a Death Metal band. On the inside of the album cover they have some sort pentagram, and two drawing of some sort of satanic beings that are not impressive. Black Sabbath did it better and it was more meaningful back in the day.

On Authentic, the music is anything but. There’s kind of a funky and alternative vibe here, but run of the mill stuff. The band doesn’t take you anywhere with their music. Last year I went to see Leslie West, and the two of the three bands that opened for him were just…awful! Bad Hair Metal, with no soul, no punch, just going through the motions. Januariez have no appeal whatsoever. Their studio album is lifeless, and I don’t think they would sound any better live.

Bruce Springsteen FAQ - All That’s Left To Know about The Boss By John D. Luerssen (

When did Bruce first befriend Little Steven? How Did Springsteen avoid Vietnam? How did Bob Marley come to support him in 1973? What was the original title of Darkness on the Edge of Town?

Give up? Or maybe you already know the answer to these questions but wait, there’s more!

What classic song did Bruce sing at Clarence Clemons’ private memorial? How did Bruce meet Patti Scialfa? Who was “The Chicken Man” referred to in “Atlantic City?”

Well, these any many, many more questions are answered in Bruce Springsteen FAQ! And that’s not all. The book is more than just 437 pages of fun facts. It’s more like a biography and history combined with questions that will enlighten even the most hardcore Springsteen fan, or the casual listener.

The writer, John D. Luerssen, is a Jersey guy who was born in Westfield, and was given his first two Springsteen albums, Born to Run and The River, as a gift from his grandmother on Christmas Day 1980. So his Springsteen roots grow deep and wide. For FAQ he not only used fans' questions but his own to make this a lively, energetic read.

I thought I was a pretty big Springsteen fan, but as I read my way through, I started “dog-earing” the pages of interest, and questions and answers that flat-out had me saying, “WOW!” I didn’t read the book from start to finish, rather when I got to “Contents,” it was so interesting, and each chapter was so cleverly titled, that I started with my favorites like“I Hear the Lead Singer Shoutin’ Out, Girl,” or ”Just Like a Supernova: Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ,” or “Cool Rockin’ Daddy: Family Life.”

The book was hard to put down because every time I’d finish a chapter, it would leave me wanting more, and more! I almost OD’ed of Springsteen facts and history!
What made the book and easy (but not quick), to read was that for each chapter like, “I Was Born Blue and Weathered: Springsteen’s Childhood,” instead of long, paragraphs that drone on, like some other biographies, FAQ is broken up into short paragraphs. Maybe five or six, sometimes ten sentences long which condense the book nicely without taking away the facts, or the fun of learning cool stuff about Bruce, the band, his family, and why here’s still so much interest after all these five-plus decades.

There are also quotes galore from interviews with Bruce (he didn’t have anything to do with the book), family, friends, band members, and especially the fans. There are also lots and lots of fun facts on not only Bruce’s studio and live albums, but also long sought after demos like “Back in Your Arms,” “I Dreamt My Love Was Lost,” and “Dry Lightning,” all of which were recorded in 1995 when he was recording The Ghost of Tom Joad. Again, it’s not a cut-and-dried book; the author injects his feeling and that of the fans, mixing them with facts and humor.

If you’re looking for rare and unseen photos this is not the book for you. Pictures of The Boss are few and far between, and are ones most every Springsteen fan has pretty much seen before. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not interesting. Take for example the play bill on page 181. It’s the old concert flyer for the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park in 1976. It was a Bill Graham Presents show in black and white, and the photo of Bruce on the poster is like a slice of music history. The photos here may be few but they are iconic when it comes to capturing a chuck of Springsteen history.

One of my favorite parts of the book is where Luerssen gets into talking about the songs on each studio album. For the album Magic, he wrote a few lines about one of my all-time favorite Springsteen songs, “Girls in Their Summer Clothes.” “Reminiscent of the lush Phil Spector-produced pop records of the 60’s, this was the second single from Magic… Describing the song to Dan Cairns in the Sunday London Times in 2008, Springsteen said, “I was interested in having a song where you get this classic image of a late summer, light on, in a small American town. And it’s perfect in a way that only occurs in pop songs-when the air is just right, where the sun’s sitting a certain way.” A year after it release, Springsteen pulled in a Grammy for the song for Best Rock Song. “I didn’t even know I was up for a Grammy!” he marveled. “I opened the newspaper on Monday and saw that I had won, and thought, ‘Well that’s great!’”

There’s no gossip, no fluff stories, no dirt, or “Inquiring minds want to know,” Enquirer crap. Just cool stuff that any Springsteen fan new or old would be interested in reading about.

The only problem I have I with the book is with the subtitle where it says, “All That’s Left To Know.” Now, I’m not a hardcore Springsteen fan, but even someone like myself who’s followed his career all these years, and has enjoyed the music and the shows knows that there’s much, much more to come musically, and there’s also cool stuff that will probably fill a few books on Bruce. Like Bruce said when he was asked if he and the E Street Band would ever do a farewell tour about a year ago. He said in part that he felt like he and the band were just starting to peak, and that, “When you don’t see us anymore touring, then you’ll know we’re done.”

The Doughboys - Shakin’ Our Souls (

The Doughboys have been shakin’ our souls since 1964 when they opened for bands like The Beach Boys, Grand Funk Railroad, and Question Mark & The Mysterians, to name just a few.

On their third studio release it feels like their just starting to get their second wind. Raw and gutsy garage blues, and bar band rock ‘n’ roll are not only at the core of their songs, it’s their hearts and souls. Songs like “Land,” “It’s a Cryin’ Shame,” “Route 22” heck, ANY song on Shakin’ Our Souls are all atomic-jukebox A-sides! But under the howl and growl of Stones-like vocals and a Social Distortion influenced guitar/bass/drums combo, The Dougboys aspire to the rough-granite poise and battle lessons of some of the great rock ‘n’ roll, punk, blues and soul stirrers past and present.

The whole batch of songs here are an exhilarating turbulence of convulsive rhythms and sharp wordplay that will leave a clean, profound mark on the listener. Once songs like “Route 22,” “Love is the Seed,” or “Until the Clock Strikes Doom,” get into your cranium, it’s really hard to listen to anything BUT rock ‘n’ roll and the blues! The latter song is at first, when you see the title it sounds kind of corny, but the lyrics will remind you of Bowie’s future shock “1984,” only now the realizations of Bowie’s Big-Brother-Is –Watching warnings are here and we’re all the worst for it.

After you listen to Shakin’ Our Souls a few times you’ll hear the locomotive strumming; the slashing flourishes of the bands riffs that take you higher every time you hear it! Power chords that pins you to the wall and makes you hit “play” again and again. But what makes these songs and the last two Doughboys albums, and their live shows so special is what’s inside the songs: hunger, fury, despair, and joy, often all at once. You hear the blues, rock ’n’ roll, garage, and rockabilly that came before, transformed into their version, and they just kick out the jams all the way through!

They also brought in Mark Lindsey (Paul Revere and The Raiders, and solo artist), to sing background and saxophone on “It’s a Cryin’ Shame” (also Genya Ravan treats us to her vocal prowess, as she also does background vocals on the same tune), so I’ll let Mark have the last word: “Okay…so I get this call asking me if I’d play some sax and sing background on The Doughboys new CD. The cut was “Cryin’ Shame” and I thought it was cool. Then, I heard the rest of the project. Whoa… The Doughboys are for real… If this thing had come out in’65, there would have been one hell of a battle of the bands, if you know what I mean. But it comes out now, kind of like vintage rockin’ pop with 21st century twist. If this ain’t the real s**t I’ll hang up my rock and roll shoes. Dig the D-boys and rave on!”

Cudzoo & The Faggettes – Daddy Issues (Drug Front Records)

“New York girls don’t take no shit/ we leave our house in our heels and our tits/Come in an hour just to lick our clits…” (first cut off Daddy Issues). How can you follow a cool-as-fuck line like that?-With a nasty drum wallop, slashing guitars, and a down ‘n’ dirty rhythm section, that’s how!

Cudzoo & the Faggettes is THE band that you Mom warned you about. Loud, rockin’ potty-mouthed, all-girl group that makes no apologies for being originally outrageous, and the new Queens of Noise (no disrespect to the originators, The Runaways).
Go back in time to rock ‘n’ roll’s musically conservative ’62-thru-’63 timeframe, a period dissolved by JFK’s assignation and preceding The Fab Four’s impending British Invasion of an unwittingly abstinent America. It was a safe haven ruled by harmless, harmonizing, sterile, serenading Four Seasons, or even the boring, ugggh…Pat Boone! They and dozens of bands like them were parentally approved softies pushing aside the putative erotic future icons like Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley.

Now, with that in mind, fast forward to today and listen to Cudzoo & The Faggettes new album, Daddy Issues. They conjure up the innocently charming uptown soul of girl groups like The Ronettes, Shirelles, and Crystals-the streetwise toughies, the girls that didn’t take no shit from anyone, epically their boyfriends.

Cudzoo & the Faggettes are based on the same multi-harmony swoops and Wall of Sound that Phil Spector created back in the 50’s and 60’s, but even with all this reverence, the manage to stay real. Committing to 90’s riot-girrl (The Blackhearts were one of the originators along with bands like L 7 and Hole), empowerment while having loads of fun donning polka-dot party dresses, applying black eyeliner, sporting high-heel stilettos, and choreographing their own, unique style of dance moves. But, what sets them apart from their past role models is that there’s always that vixen-like nastiness juxtaposing the overwhelming sweet soul music that is in sharp contrast to the nasty-as-fuck lyrics. - But it works!

Every song title on Daddy Issues sounds like it could be made into a bad porn movie (“Daddy Issues,” “Fuck Buddy,” “Phone Sex,” etc.). But here’s the difference in what was then and what’s now: Cud zoo & the Faggettes thrilling retro-pop revivalism gains a solid rep. the more you listen to it. In a land that’s seemingly overrun by boy bands, and girl’s bands with a we- just-wanna-have-fun, attitudes, Cudzoo & the Faggettes are breath of fresh air. Let’s hope they get picked up by The Warped Tour next year, giving them some well-deserved exposure, and hopefully spawning many copycat bands, that will put their own spin on it!-

The Oats - “Funeral=Real Fun” 5-song EP (

I’ve been writing for Jersey Beat for about 15 years (thanks, Boss), and one of the coolest things about getting CD’s, vinyl records, and back in the day cassettes is, you never know what you’re going to get when you open the mail box. In with a bunch of CD’s was this CD by The Oats. No press kit, and it was wrapped in a homemade “Jewel box,” that was made out of construction paper with a printed/written label, and the songs were hand-written on the CD.

It looked kind of what a grammar school kid would create if they were given paper, and a few colored markers. If you didn’t write for Jersey Beat, you would probably trash it without a second thought. But I do write for Jersey Beat and something like this goes right to the top of the pile to review!

With all that said, when you get into the album’s five songs you’re treated to some really cool pop/punk rock. Somewhere between the Violent Femmes and the Bouncing Souls The Oats map out some interesting musical territory... “Get me Going,” “Soon,” umm… hold on while I remove the CD from the player and turn the CD around a few times so I can read the song titles...Ok, The third song is “Hate List.” These three are definitely a “three-peat” as they say. They all have a tough pop punk core, but the vocals are smoother, even though the singer seems like he’s waxing poetic, all the while spewing about bad relationships and how fucked-up life can be at times.

“Queen Jerry” and the last song “R,” kind of more of the same heartfelt spewing, but they rock on a higher plain. What’s cool about The Oats (terrible name-laughing out loud), is that they march to the beat of their own drummer, whether it be how they present their CD for review (the CD was marked as an “advance copy,” so I’m guessing that they will upgrade their “jewel box”-but it works), or the way they take chances with their music making it both accessible and obscure all at the same time.-Phil Rainone

Blag’ard - Fresh Candy (

Despite the “eye candy” on the front and back covers of the CD (naked-girl-holding-a-guitar-that-she-probably-doesn’t-know-how-to-play look), the duo of Joe Taylor on guitar/vocals, and Adam Brinson on drums/vocals, have the cool vibe of Jane’s Addiction, if Jane’s had not gotten humungous egos after their second album, and done mostly mediocre albums after that.

Blag’ard actually down-size Jane’s Addiction huge sound, but not their mojo. “Candy Town,’ “Pony Boy,” or “Tea is for Cookie,” are somewhat off-the-wall-rockers with generous bits of twisted humor for good measure. Fresh Candy has depth and flavor (no pun intended), and they add a few bells and whistles here and there, not only to keep your attention, but to add originality. Fresh Candy is an album that doesn’t slip into tribute territory; this band is the real thing. Blag’ard are able to get to that wildness of rock ‘n’ roll, and marry it to discipline and tradition, making it sound effortless, awe-inspiring, and tight as nails.

Girl Guts - Victoria (

Girl Guts (cool name), have a hyper-punk sound that sparks the listener right from the start. No bells and whistles just straight-ahead punk rock that’s delivered with the enthusiasm of a band that just made their first record, and are dying to play it live (actually this is their first release). “Hard, dirty, and fast,” (as they say in the press kit), the music is uncompromising but easily accessible.-And you can dance to it!

Well, what’s considered dancing these days (hey, they pay me not to dance OR sing), and you will have a blast and a half!

Choruses that shout at you while you shout back the refrain will keep you in the pit, sweaty, tried, and you will definitely get your rage on. But this is also moshing for the serious-minded. They sing about religion, but not too seriously, as well as the tried and true stories like, “Birth, School, Work, Death,” as that 80’s song goes. Ultra catchy, ultra fun, this is the type of album that will draw you to their live show.-Hey, bring a bunch of friends. You’re gonna have a blast!-

Gutt N Buckett - Loans Jewelry Guns Luggage

Cowpunk Lives! Well, it’s pretty close to cowpunk (Reverend Horton Heat, etc.), but they add they own mum… originality. Gutt N Buckett is a band that does not take itself too seriously. On the contrary, they amp it up with well, “ooohs” and “ahhhs,” for a better term. It’s like when you write a song and you come to a point when you don’t have a line yet, so you just put in the “oohs” and “ahhs” temporally. Well, the “oohs” and “ahhs” are in there geminately, and we’re all the better for it! I know it’s a minor thing but like any good song that you can sing along to its catchy, and the mojo is maximized!

There’s also a cool quirkiness to the band, and these 21 songs. Mostly around the three minute mark, each one is like a slice of pizza, but with each slice having a different topping (mmm…pizza). Each one works on its own, but after you listen to the whole album it fits together perfectly like eight slices each with its own topping!

Gutt N Buckett is Dottie Buckett- vocals, bass, JT Buckett-drums, Hobart Gutt-Vocals/guitars

Yannick Noah - Homage (Sony Music)

When you set out to create a tribute to someone (here, it’s Bob Marley), it’s epically important to not only get it right, but to also bring the listener to another place entirely. On Homage Yannick Noah fails at both. He comes close to getting it right vocally, but his backup band sleeps through a Muzak version of each and every song. Even the backup singers can’t come close to Marley’s original backup singers The I Three’s. There’s no soul, no mojo, no spirit. Just empty, lost versions that wouldn’t even sound good for a Karaoke night.

ECHO MOVEMENT - - Love and the Human Outreach (

Usually, when you come across a new band, at some point you find out that they have jobs doing something other than being moonlighting musicians, who usually play on weekends. When I met Echo Movement a few years ago at Martell’s Tiki Bar in Point Pleasant, they were an original band moonlighting as a cover band. I don’t know if they also held other jobs, but I thought that was a pretty cool way to on honing your craft. As a cover band they played mostly reggae and ska like Bob Marley and Sublime, and they would throw one of their new songs here and there.

Fast forward to this past summer, and Echo Movement are one of the shining stars when The Warped Tour hit New Jersey.-I guess all the “moonlighting” paid off!
On Love and the Human Outreach, Echo Movement gives us some cool, real-deal reggae, dub, and a slice of ska here, and there. From the opening dub instrumental “Rising Sunset,” (cool title); it’s old-school dub reggae to the max! This is the stuff that Lee Scratch Perry, and a lot of other first generation Jamaicans were doing.- Real guitars, keyboards, drums, bass, sax, and trumpet, and a few interesting add-ons like ukulele, and tempura. Otherwise, no crappy electronics like latter day reggae like Lady Saw, Beenie Man, etc.

Quietly cool percolating grooves garnished with sultry horn lines making for an instantly identifiable sound- NOT formula. Love and the Human Outreach display a wider lyrical range, and increased vocal acuity. The title cut, “Play it Cool,” and “Sea Level,” are a few of the bright spots for the same relatively unwavering cloth that Echo Movement is known for.

The inventive production by the Fowler brothers, intriguing rock rhythms, powerful and memorable songwriting that remains rooted in reggae/dub, but is much more diverse than the form generally allows, shows the full range of Echo Movement’s development. Love and the Human Outreach is an impressive step forward from a band who already knows the formula for success.

Echo Movement is Stephen Fowler-lead vocals, David Fowler-keyboards, Dan Gugger-guitars , Colin Bell-drums, Jonathan Butts-bass, Matt Lepek-sax, Nick Afflitto-trumpet

AVON JUNKIES - The Lesser Evil (

A few months ago, the Avon Junkies ignited the Starland Ballroom opening for Catch 22 and Less Than Jake. Usually an opening band is like the sacrificial lamb: they get to go on first, but most of the time there’s very little interest, as a lot of the crowd are still on line waiting to get in, or milling about, not paying much attention to the band on stage Well, word must have gotten out because when the Avon Junkies hit the stage, you would have thought Green Day ( the Avon Junkies lead singer sounds strikingly like Billy Joe), had made a special, secret appearance. The Lights went up, and the band hit the ground running, and never stopped ‘til their 45 minutes set was over, filling up the open space in front of the stage almost immediately.

On The Lesser Evil, the Avon Junkies have a lot to prove, epically to anyone who had just heard their wickedly cool set, and had marched on over the band’s merch table to pluck up a copy of their new album.

For a young band, all the songs on The Lesser Evil are substantial and well thought out. “Addiction” was written like a story of a person with twice the age and experience, rather than someone in their late teens or early twenties. And that’s one of the many things that set Avon Junkies apart. They don’t settle for the same old thing. They reach, stretch, and embrace the future as much as they do the past. That is, they know their past experiences obviously, but they know that’s there’s also going to be some things that will be great, and some things that will be totally devastating their future. They live in the here and now, but they also possess some of the wisdom that usually comes with age, where you’re not just thinking about yourself, but of a worldlier picture.

What I like best about The Lesser Evil is, although it’s a studio album, you get the feeling like your almost listening to one of their live shows. The production is crisp, clear, and the music will rock your socks off!

The Lesser Evil does not disappoint! I’m not sure what “wave” were up to now (Catch22 and Less Than Jake are considered “Third Wave Ska”), but dang, you can try to pigeonhole Avon Junkies as much as you want, but the best Pigeonhole I’d use is “originality!”

THE ORB Featuring Lee Scratch Perry - The Observer in the Star House (

Some would consider the teaming up of a legendary pioneering reggae artist like Lee Scratch Perry and electronic wiz-kids The Orb, would be a match made in Heaven, since they both travel in the same stratosphere, but not so. I think a better collaboration would have been Perry and Echo Movement (see separate review for Echo Movement). Where the Orb plays it close to the vest with unimaginative electro beats, Echo Movement uses real instruments that actually energize the songs.

On The Observer in the Star House, The Orb tries their hand at dub reggae, and the results are mixed at best. Yeah, dub is supposed to have a slower cadence than reggae, and stretched out into a repetitive jam-like trance, but The Orb sound like they phoned in their part. No sparks, not even a smoldering fire, their beats are deadly slow and uninspired, and the only saving grace is Perry’s “toasting/talking” that lights up this album. His other-worldly chats/ravings are unmatchable. He’s been doing this for quite some time, and his stream of consciousness seems endless.

Skip the album, and try to get to one of Perry’s shows if at all possible, or one of his other albums. The stuff (music) that this cat comes up with is out of this world!



THE BRIGANTINES - Vacation! The Latest From New Jersey’s Number One Surfing Group!

Ok, so here’s a surf album from a New Jersey band (recorded in Jersey also), which to me sounds like a win-win situation. But are surf bands and New Jersey, to paraphrase the old promo for our state, “Perfect Together?” I’m a strict believer in the power of the music to move & groove you, but let’s see if The Brigantines can pass the “Punker Than You” test that The Boss used to use as a motto for Jersey Beat!

Well, for starters, The Brigantines (and yes, they’re from Brigantine, NJ) feature Vincent Minervino on vocals, guitar, keyboards, and drums, and he has a cool plaintive voice… kind of like Jonathan Richman from the 70’s rock ‘n’ kitsch band, The Modern Lovers. Although not as ironic and loopy as Richman’s, Vincent is like the calm in the eye of the musical hurricane which the band conjures up time and time again on Vacation!

With Aaron Leonovich on bass and vocals, Scott Saint Hilaire on guitar, and Don Tojeira on drums, they creatively raid the roots of surf rock, garage, and at times punk, creating their own brand of rock ‘n’ roll that is a catchy as is forward thinking.
You get not only a Jersey vibe from the music, but also the California surf/folk rock sounds of bands like The Beach Boys and The Byrds. There’s also the garage mojo of the 60’s Northwest music scene, via Paul Revere and the Raiders and The Kingsmen. Simple, narrative tunes about love, loss, life, and yes, SURF INSTRUMENTS! Actually, to be correct, surf instrumentals!!

This stuff is A-1-worthy, blasts that would have you putting quarter after quarter on the jukebox! The Brigantines capture the ancient, twangy sound of bands like Link Wray and The Neptune’s, to name a few. It’s a solid instrumental sound that needs absolutely no words. You imagination is given free reign. The only limits are the outer limits, and that’s that rare, special place that only a handful of band’s can take us,-Now you can include The Brigantines in that group! Simply amazing! Uptight, outta sight, and definitely in the groove!

PS- The Brigantines’ cover of The Ronettes 60’s hit “Then She Kissed Me” (they changed the original from “He” to “She”) gives the decades-old romantic rocker a fresh reading. You could almost mistake it for a song right out of The Brigantines repertoire. Cool stuff!


STRAWBS - Acoustic Gold

Wow! What a blast from the past, that’s as much in the present as any contemporary alternative band. The Strawbs came over here on one the many British Invasions back in the mid-seventies. With contemporaries at the time like King Crimson, Yes, and Fairport Convention, to name a few, they helped reshape and redefine the musical explosion of that period.

Back then, FM radio was way more free form and this freaky psychedelic folk rock actually got a lot of airplay. (Can you name a major radio station that takes those kinds of chances these days? I know I can’t, except for college radio; no one has the imagination or desire. MONEY is the bottom line. ) On Acoustic Gold, you get not only Strawbs’ fan favorites like “Ghosts,” “Autumn,” and “Midnight Sun;” they also dig deeper into the catalog, and breakout cool gems like “Evergreen,” “The Man Who Called himself Jesus,” and “Cold Steel,” to name a few.

The beauty of this album is that the current Strawbs break down the original songs into their basic, acoustic form. It sounds more like you’re getting the sound of what the songs were like in their infancy, rather than just stripped-down acoustic versions, like so many bands do, without getting to the heart and soul of the song.

The Strawbs have to me have always been ahead of their time. The song structures, the lyrics, and the stories all take you places you never imagined. The creativity that each song is crafted with, are the type that can be handed down from generation to generation, and losing their potency. My favorite here is the “Autumn Suite.” I could listen to it in the blistering heat of August, or the freezing cold of February, and be quickly transported to a fresh, cool autumn day in October. The delicateness of the music, coupled with Dave Cousin’s lead vocal prowess are as exploitive now, as they were back in the 70’s when the song first saw the light of day. To me, that’s the measure of a band. - If they can reinvent themselves, and conjure up the original mojo and bring out something totally fresh and new, then I’m all in! The Strawbs are one of those unique bands.


Bridging the gap nicely between heavy metal and art-rock is what Stratospheerius does best. They are interested in touching the mind as well as the heart. Songs like “Release,” “The Prism,” or “Gods,” are good examples. The songs unfold into mini, opera-like stories with music that subliminally transfixes the listener, but taking noting away from the story line. A fine line to walk, but the band does it time and time again with precision and an eye toward humor.

There are even touches of punk in the rhythms and rhymes. You can hear glimpses of Sonic Youth splattered against a canvas of lyrics that not only makes the song interesting, but also puts them in a league of their own.

Sometimes the sounds on The Next World… can be harsh-feedback, distortion and dissonance-but the group uses them to create a variety of effects and moods. If you think of a rubber band, where it can be stretched and pulled, and reshaped-than letting it go, and it goes back to its original form, you’ll have a good Idea of what this album is about. Exploring the outer limits, yet stay down to Earth as much as possible.







The English Beat- Live! At The US Festival September 3, 1982 and May 28, 1983 CD & DVD (Shout! Factory)

Back in the late 70’s and well into the 80’s England was going through some very tough times both socially and politically, especially under Prime Minister Margret Thatcher’s iron-fisted regime. From those hard times came a positive, and meaningful musical, and social uprising that, if something similar had happened in the US during President Regan’s two terms in office, it would have surely been squashed, thrashed, and disband ASAP. I still remember The First lady, Nancy Regan’s response to the nationwide drug problem: “Just Say No.” –Funny how some things never change!

Anyway, somebody please kick the soapbox out from under me- please! Enough politics, let’s get to the good stuff! The English Beat, like other ska and punk bands including UB40, The Specials, Sex Pistols, Clash, and The Jam, were all born from the 70’s and 80’s political and social upheavals. Where the Clash and Pistols chose to hit you in the gut with their Neanderthal punk rock, The English Beat were one of the bands that chose to get you on the dance floor first, with their 3rd Wave skatastic upbeat music that hit you in the gut along with their political stance.

On Live at the US Festival back in ’82 and ’83, The English Beat had reformed to play the fest. With all the original members in tow, they wowed the crowds with some of the best ska from “Over the pond (England),” as they say. The CD contains 16 songs that spam the bands career. From early singles like “Twist & Crawl,” “I Confess,” and “Two Swords,” to their power pop/ska hits like “Save it for Later,” “Mirror in the Bathroom,” and “Jeanette,” they proved why they ruled the record charts and dance floors back in the day. Actually, there’s till and a rearranged English Beat that has been touring for a few years now, that I’m told will rock your socks off!

Wearing their political and social hearts on their collective sleeves, they lay it on the line (the Fest was seen around the world via satellite), with “Dance-to-the-end-of the-world themes like “Get-A-Job/Stand Down Margret,” “Jackpot,” and “Two Swords.” Their cover of Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ “Tears of a Clown,” takes the smooth, oh-woe-is-me, carnival-like-cadence of the Motown original, and turns it into almost a celebration of misery, with blaring horns, cool-as-fuck stage moves, and one of the most joyous vocal takes ever! Then, they top themselves with their ranchos original, “Ranking Full Stop,” followed by the closer, “Jackpot.” These tail feather-floor shakers are just what the doctor ordered for anyone that needs some serious relief from politics, or just the blues,- They pull out all the stops, and get the crowd on their feel, shankin’ to the beat, joyous, and out-of-this-world deliriously happy! A Springsteen moment if ever there was one!

The DVD is everything I described about the CD- but add a gazillion points for stage prowess, energy, mojo, and whatever other adjective you come up with after you see and hear The English Beat conquer the world, via The US Festival!

Slim Chance and The Gamblers (


Wow! Where do I start?! One of the cool things I’ve always liked about writing for Jersey Beat is the music, and the journey it can take you on. You can go from finding a new, unheard of band that will take you on a musical journey from the bands album, to their show, to an interview, and all the things you discover along the way, the friends you make, the roots and branches that lead you to even more music, is incredible! Especially when your family and friends can share it all with you- and let’s not forget the good karma and the amazing mojo!

Well, after listening Slim Chance and The Gamblers first self-titled album, it’s all that I mentioned and so much more! Slim Chance (aka Mario Casella, he also wrote the lions share of these 12 originals), has the kind of world-weary voice that is full of passion, hope, and real-deal blues. The leadoff track “The Power,” envelops all those emotions, as Slim and the band take us on realistic trip though the blues- actually life- with lines like, “Time after time, it’s medicine for madness... sugar for sugar, salt for salt/ If I go down in the flood it’s gonna be my own fault...blues power gonna set me free!” The song has a rockin’ blues/gospel feel, without being preachy. - And that’s just the first song!

“Little Red Wagon” is a metaphor some of the burdens we sometimes carry, whether it be physical or spiritual, and the consequences. Again, it’s not preachy, but it does bring you to church for all the right reasons. Then there’s “Jersey Girls Don’t Pump Gas.” It’s a funny/ironic story about a gal who sounds like your typical BENNY (Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark, New York), mall rat who basically, all she has to do is, “Put her finger on her lips/ do that little shimmy-thing with her hips…” to get her way. Now guys, most of us that she’s actually the anti-Jersey Girl! If I have to explain to you what a “real” Jersey girl is, than you don’t know Diddley- but Bo knows!

“Blue” sounds like a cross between Ryan Shaw (contemporary neo-soul singer), and
Otis Redding, backed by the spectacular The Muscle Shoals backup band (Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, etc.). The song starts from a rootsy, slow-burning blues vibe, and builds to a soul-shouting swirl that mentions some of the greats like James Brown, Muddy Waters, Otis Redding, Freddy King, Wilson Pickett, Janis Joplin, Stevie Ray, and Ray Charles, among others. He’s not name dropping, it’s more like he’s giving us a musical roadmap, much like Springsteen did on his recent show at The Apollo Theatre, in NYC. Bruce mentioned that he and the band had been schooled in soul and R&B by some of the same singers that Slim mentioned. - To me, it’s just so amazing how music can bring out that the soul searching and fun vibes in all of us!- For four minutes and fifty-seven seconds “Blue” is “In my soul and the blues is in everything.” Amen!

While there’s a cool blues/rock vibe running through all 12 songs, the band also stretches a little, mixing in reggae, calypso (“Mama’s in the Kitchen”), and a funky excursion through Sly Stoneland via “Thank You (for letting me be myself again).” “Little Red Wagon” has that funky, t soulful vibe, and it has the feel that you could jam on it for hours.

“Hey Angel” ends the album, which sounds to me like a cool, update for John Prine’s classic “Angel from Montgomery.”

You should be “ALL IN” for Slim Chance and The Gamblers new album! Check their website to check out one of their shows.


While listening to Slim Chance and The Gamblers album it crossed my mind about the on-going argument about there being a “Jersey Shore sound?” It got me to thinking about the shows in the area like Asbury Park, Red Bank, Middletown, Long Branch, etc. Over the years I’ve been blessed to see a multitude of bands and a mix of mind-blowing genres along the way. To me, bands/musicians like Sonny Kenn, Sandy Mack, many blues, rock, punk, jazz bands too numerous to mention (Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes, Springsteen & The E-Street Band YES! - Bon Fuckin’ Jovi NO!), and now Slim Chance and The Gamblers, all of whom have cut their musical teeth on all that’s come before them in New Jersey and all points around the world. There IS a Jersey Shore-sound, only it’s a marvelous mix of the past, present and future, with a gazillon tons of mojo!-Phil Rainone
Slim Chance and The Gamblers are Mario Casella: lead vocals, lead guitar, acoustic guitar; Eric ‘E.G.’ Greene: lead guitar, slide guitar; Jimmy Grant: 7-string bass, ocean harp, background vocals; Rockin’ Randy Ledet: keyboards, background vocals; Steve ‘Night Train’ Murphy: drums; Sandy Mack: Harmonica, lead vocals on track 8; Johnny G. Reo: timbales, conga, bells, percussion; Sandy Marino/Storm: background vocals, lead vocals on track 8

Let Me Run - Mad/Sad

The twelve songs on Mad/Sad fit together like a mix of pure pop punk with fractured Beach Boys undertones. Heck, I’ll even throw in a nod to The Undertones too! I mean, Let Me Run will conjure up lots of comparisons, but that’s good because they wear their influences on their collective coats like a badge of courage. When you write (Tweet, Facebook, etc.), about them - and you will, be sure to put the word ORIGINALITY in caps!

Gyrating, geeked-out (the good stuff), melodic, power popped punk, songs like “If it Bleeds,” “Found,” or the title cut, “Mad/Sad,” will give you a slushie ), high, with Green day ass-kicking lyrics, and that’s a beautiful thing! If you listen to the entire album (and you will), Let Me Run will convince you that they are one of the last, truly unselfconscious punk bands around! They’re earthbound musicianship anchored with lyrics that are both of the moment, and are drawn from the past, can also be propelled into the future, are mostly (they tone it down to pretty much an acoustic guitar, that amps up slowly, with the whole band joining in through the song, which is about a self-destructive lifestyle for “Doctors”), which is exemplified by bracing guitar smacks, and a groove that suggests Counting Crows reborn as a punk band. - Wickedly cool!

Let Me Run sound like a band knocking around in a room, not using the studio to define their sound. It’s more like they use it as a launching pad for their live shows. Every song here feels like one big, earthquake, refrigerator -shakin’ (oops, that’s Springsteen‘s M.O. - sorry, Bruce), three hour-plus live show that will have you Tweeting (do you guys really Tweet and shit when you’re watching a band? O-M-G!), and running to the band’s merch table the second they leave the stage.

I love the way they end Mad/Sad. The last song “Here on the Ground” (lyrics included), is a punker that is “grounded” by an undying relationship, without getting into any kind of sappy, sentimental crap. It’s honest and real, but at the end the story, but they pinch off the musical ending with a “What the fuck?” moment, but that’s the beauty of the whole album. They give you everything they got, and leave you wanting more!

Let me Run are a force of nature that are to be reckoned with! They are to The Warped Tour what Television was to CBGB’s- a band that consistently breaks the rules and will have you coming back for more!

The Casualties- Resistance (Epitaph Records)

My first experience seeing The Casualties was a few years ago when The Warped Tour was actually inhabited by honest-to-God punk bands like Pennywise, The Casualties, and Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, to name but a few. What impressed me most about The Causalities, besides their kick-my-ass, take-no-prisoners show, was when we went to scrounge up a couple of cans of Warped Tour Water (I still got mine), and saw the band standing on line for some food in the band area. Extreme Mohawks, leather-studded vests, old jeans, Doc Martins, piercing, tats, and all the markings that an honest-to-God punk would wear.-You couldn’t miss them! They were the real deal, not only with their anarchist’s music, but what they wore, and how they led their lives.

The Causalities have been not only working outside the box since the late 80’s, but they pretty much changed its configuration through all the decades that they’ve been playing. Loud snooty, truthful, and maximum punk rock, they will still turn your head, and rearrange your way of thinking with their new album Resistance. Even with Obama in office, they’re still not satisfied (and rightly so), with the current administration, world events, and when you get right down to it, how we treat each other on a daily basis. They find fresh subject matter in songs like “My Blood, My Life, Always Forever,” “Brick Wall Justice,” or the closer, “Voice of the Outcast.” Like one of their contemporizes Pennywise, they write tightly wound songs that wash over you like a musical tidal wave. The urgency you feel and the push-pull of the music and the lyrics are as genuine as reading the Declaration of Independence for the first time. You get feeling of oneness, for a better word. A feeling of we really are, or should be, in this altogether.- An extreme example, but when you see what’s going on with the elections and the choices we have, and what each one stands for, the outlook is gloomy, to say the least.

Bottom line on Resistance: The causalities are a bunch of Neanderthal ic, cool-as-all-fuck punks!- And we wouldn’t want it any other way!


Ryan Shaw - Real Love (

It takes you the first three songs to warm up to Real Love, but its well worth the wait. On the title cut, “Katrina,” and “Can’t Hear the Music” (about halfway through the album they cover of The Beatles’ “Yesterday,” but it lacks mojo), the words are passionate and real, but the music behind them tries too hard to sound contemporary. Ryan Shaw has a soulful voice that reminds you of the great soul singers like Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, or The Temptations, but his is definitely original. He draws on all this influences, but never emulates or tries to copy. Like contemporary reto-soul singer Joss Stone, Ryan sings from his mind, body, and soul.

With the musical muscle of musicians like his core band of Johnny Gale on guitar, bass, background vocals, and Jimmy Bralower on drums (they both shared production), and Al Cooper (Blues Project, the original Blood, Sweat, & Tears, etc.), Robert Randolph on guitar, and Will Lee on bass, they combine for some amazing and sometimes bland songs.

“You Don’t Know Nothing About Love,” “Evermore,” “Gone, Gone, Gone,” “That’s Why,” “The Wrong Man,” and “Morning Noon and Night,” all have that magical mojo that sends the listener over the moon! You feel the presence of Motown, Stax/Volt, but the originality is dead-on. Ryan can bend a note like no other. When you listen to Real Love, this band will put you in such a good, solid, soul vibe that you’ll what to listen to this album, well… “Morning, Noon, & Night!”

Besides two other solid studio albums in the last three years under his belt, Ryan Shaw and his band have been touring (check out their live show videos at:, most of that time, and have a seasoned feel. This is a band that is meant to be seen AND heard! - Phil Rainone

The Appleseed Collective- Baby to Beast (

Like contemporary folk roots rebels Old Man Markley and River City Extension, The Appleseed Collective also travel the road less taken. Like fellow travelers Woody & Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Peter Paul & Mary, etc., they all know the secret of getting a point or a message across: keep it plain and simple, and write about what you know, and see.

They use basic folk instruments like acoustic guitars, fiddle, bass, drums, and they even use a bicycle bell on “Madly Crazy Darlin.” Most of the songs reflect life’s basics: “Evil One,” “Life is Beautiful,” or “Lookin’ for a Reason,” but he intricacies in the words and musicianship are quietly mind blowing.
On the smoldering instrumental “Honeyhones” they take a page out of The Jefferson Airplane’s (Papa John Creech played fiddle towards the end of the bands demise) play book. It’s a semi-rocker with a fiddle weaved in and out of the song that will kick your butt!

The 12 songs on Baby to Beast are pure, contemporary Americana! - Phil Rainone

Drivin’ ‘N’ Cryin’ - “Songs From the Laundromat” EP (

“In an effort to release Drivin’ ‘N’ Cryin’ music while it’s still fresh and new to both ourselves and our fans…over a 12 month period…we are going to release 4 EP’s containing 5 songs reflecting the rock side of DNC. The first EP is ‘Songs From The Laundromat’…” From the press kit

Great idea! I remember the Bouncing Souls releasing a song a month about a year ago, and I heard that was a big draw. The anticipation was raised month after month, and the Souls had a year of publicity rather than a just a few months.
Drivin’ ‘N’ Cryin’ came up with basically the same idea. 4 EP’s with five songs each, spaced out over a year.

On the first installment, “Songs From The Laundromat,” they do not disappoint. Opening with “Dirty,” which has a John Lee Hooker boogie-vibe and a George Therogood motor-mouth vocal DNC amp you up with a story about a “dirty” girl and all the ways this guy “admires her.” It’s a nasty, snarling, blast of good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll!

On “REM,” they cleverly take lines form a dozen or so REM songs to make a song about the band. It’s fun to listen to, and it’s also like a mini-history of REM. So cool!
“Ain’t Waitin’ On Tomorrow,” “Clean UP,” and “Baloney,” flips back and forth from mid-tempo rock, to singer-songwriter mode, respectively. The Latter song is a 29 second, punked-up rocker that is Ramones worthy! - I have no clue as to what the song is about, cause they just…GO AT IT! Sometimes, you just forget about the message, the notes, and just let it all hang out!

And speaking of the Ramones, DNC’s next EP is titled “Songs About Cars, Space, and The Ramones.” Stay tuned to these Jersey Beat pages, sounds like this is going to be a good year for Drivin’ ‘N’ Cryin’.

The Phantom Six - Plastic Rain (

First of all, The Phantom Six get a gazillion points for such a cool name, and another half-a-gazillion for the records title. From there, you get a modern blast of garage rock roots. I’m hearin’ The Troggs Neanderthalic punk influences on “Plastic Rain,” with lines like, “All I want is some sunshine in my brain/Sun comes out and it looks like plastic rain…” THEN, it’s like a musical standoff between The Who, The Kinks, (British Invasion era), and The Phantom Six on “Losing Control” (the “I Can’t Explain” vibe is head-shakin’ cool), and “Into My Dreams” (“You Really Got Me” turned inside out, upside down-nasty cool), and The Phantom Six’s vibe, mojo, and that special…”SOMETHING!”

I know I make a lot of comparisons when I write reviews but it’s always with an eye toward originality. The roots and branches of rock ‘n’ roll are going stronger and fruitful, and bands like The Phantom Six are the gardeners.-Phil Rainone

Destroy Nate Allen- With Our Powers Combined (

I remember reviewing a CD from Destroy Nate Allen a few years ago. I think the band’s name (they’re a married couple, Nate and Tessa Allen), and I guess the name of the band kept me moving it back under the pile of CD’s to be reviewed. It sounded, ummm… odd, but I should have realized that “odd” is 99.97% cool!
Fast forward to 2012 and this is Destroy Nate Allen’s seventh full album since 2007, and as soon as I got it, I moved it right to the top of the pile (I still procrastinate a little on writing the reviews, but sooner or later they get done).
The band has been pretty much a duo, with basic folk rock instruments, embellished with whatever they could find to make an unusual sound. On With Our Powers Combined they combine powers (pun intended), with Gnarboots (Asian Man Records: former members of Link 80 + Shinobu), for a full band sound, that doesn’t sound like a full band sound- if that makes sense. What they do is, play as a four piece band with vocals, drums, guitars, bass, but it’s not like let’s say, The Who at their arena best, it’s more like The Who at their Mod- cool, less-is-more best. AND, all songs are “Sing-a-long, folk, punk rock,” as they say in their press kit. It’s like The Aquabats-meet-The Violent Femmes, and they make an appearance on The Banana Splits Saturday morning cartoon show! Clever lyrics, cool melodies, and off-the-wall, imaginative song-structures that are to die for!-Phil Rainone

Gene & The Jukebox (

Yet another band that gets a gazillion points… awww… you're probably tired of hearing that one by now-but yeah, cool band name, and just listen to these song titles! “Rockin’ the Pony,” “Shanty by the Sea,” “Beach Badge,” “Up AllNite,” Still Ain’t Friday,” and of course the paste de resistance (my French is awful, I know), “the-song-about-the-band, song, “Getting the Band Back Together.”

Ahhh…I’m in Jersey heaven!! Oh, yeah, the music and vocals are pretty cool too! More of a DIY band with a lo-fi feel, you can really get into each and every song within the first listen.

They also branch on out some far-out subjects like “Ed Wood Movie,” and “Jackie Gleason Moon.” Again, the lo-fi melodies and laid back vocals/harmonies are catchy and cute.

Gene & The Jukebox are original and fun! They have a vibe like they would sound really cool at a backyard BBQ, or they could hold their own, just about anywhere they wanted to. That kind of vibe is hard to find!-Phil Rainone

The English Beat- The Complete Beat (Shout! Factory)

Although lumped together with the 2-Tone crowd back in the 1979, The Beat (who changed their name to the English Beat when they came stateside) proved more versatile and broadly talented than most of their shanking contemporaries. On album after album, they had a freshness that would change with the times, but never get stale.

This five CD box set is just what the title implies: The Complete Beat gives not only a general view of the band for anyone just getting into old-school ska, but also the older hardcore enthusiasts who want not just the gold (“Save it for Later,” “Tears of a Clown”), but the little gems (“”Can’t Get Used to Losing You,” “Cheated”). The band’s secret weapons were pop and reggae that were built around ear-candy tunes and sharp-edged lyrics from frontman Dave Wakeling. At his finest, he’s a singer-songwriter as savagely witty as Elvis Costello, and the band paved the way musically and stylistically for current ska bands like Less Than Jake, Catch 22, and Goldfinger.

The box set features the band’s three great studio albums, plus well-placed bonus tracks, dub versions, and a slew of live recordings in which The English Beat unleash their dance-floor fury and their Thatcher-era (she was the Prime Minister of England back in the 80’s), protest politics.

Don’t “Save it for Later,” buy the Complete Beat now!

The Offspring - Days Go By (Columbia)

To me, The Offspring always seemed like Green Day’s little punk brother. They started out around the same time, got their songs played on the radio around the same time, and both made the big leagues (Green Day went to Warner Bros. and The Offspring to Columbia) around the same time

But after listening to The Offspring’s new album Days Go By, they are in a league of their own! They still have in their possession that snap, crackle, and pop of past albums, but the maturity and clear-headedness has come to reflect their music. Now, I know words like “maturity” and “clear-headedness” is usually a no-no when it comes to punk rock, but sometimes it’s a really good thing, especially here.

Yeah, The Offspring have a goofy, odd ball hit here like on past records; it’s called “Cruising California (Bumping In My Trunk)” and it’s a laugh-riot! A number-one sure-fire, punk rock hit! They don’t go far from their roots, but they do let the branches stretch and blossom.

The Offspring sound the way you originally loved ‘em, but refreshed; heavier and harder from their time in the trenches but back in the garage, ready for anything!
Days Go By is a tight, addictive bundle of cool, pop hooks and crunchy punk FUNdamentals that will rock your socks off!

The Beatles - Yellow Submarine DVD (Capitol)

My first experience with The Beatles was when they first played live on The Ed Sullivan Show back in the early 60’s. At the age of 8, I really didn’t know very much about music, but I remember being positively affected by their performance. I felt that “thing,” that “wow factor,” as they now call it.

Fast forward to 1968, and my buddy Gary and I, now at the ripe old age of 13 are sitting in the Sayrewoods movie theater, in Sayreville, watching the Beatles (actually the Fab Four had very little input for the movie, other than their amazing tunes, and a cameo at the end), the forces of good (including Old Fred, and The Nowhere Man), battle the forces of evil (The Blue Meanies), with subliminal jabs at the stiff, starched establishment of the era (funny how some things stay the same). Again, like five years ago, I was affected by The Beatles music, but now, I had a visual enticement! The scene where “Lucy in The Sky with Diamonds” appears and I’m starring at the huge movie screen in amazement! The colors (DUDE! THE COLORS!!), and the animation brought the song to life for me! After watching the rest of the movie (the” Nowhere Man” was quite sad, and tugged at my heartstrings. It felt like he had to be the loneliest guy in the entire universe, alone with myself), Gary and I left with a new love and respect for The Beatles. - We were hooked for life!!

Yellow Submarine is inventive (they used one of the most popular and creative artists of the time, Peter Max’s original colored drawing for Yellow Submarine, but he never got credit, or a dime), colorful as all get-out, and a movie firmly of its time, with music beyond reproach. The 1968 animated feature film gives the impression that The Beatles lent their names and likenesses, but didn’t truly have an emotional, intellectual, or artistic stake in it (a financial one, yes). If only John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr had voiced their cartoon counterparts. The fact that the boys couldn’t be bothered to voice themselves speaks volumes about their commitment to the project.

When they do show up, in the flesh and blood at the end of the film, it’s a curious moment in Beatles history, and not a flattering one. They pretend to be singing along with the final song of the film (“All Together Now”), but their lip-syncing is, to coin a phrase, non-song-specific. They wear matching shirts, as if the cultural revolution hadn’t happened-this was 1968, c’mon guys get hip!- and they half-heartedly deliver dialogue referencing plot points in the film, in a bid to connect them with it. Even that rebel Lennon comes off like a cream puff.

The plot is basic good vs. evil in the imaginary (or is it?), world of Pepperland (between 1966 and 1968 The Beatles actually were working on 3 albums, “Sgt. Pepper,” Yellow Submarine,” and “Magical Mystery Tour”). The Blue Meanies were attacking Pepperland because they HATED the music the locals loved to create and listen to (my son Steve saw the first reissue of Yellow Submarine back when he was about 11, and said the Blue meanies scared the heck out of him). The Beatles are recruited by Old Fred, who had searched high and low to find them, bring them back to Pepperland, and battle The Blue Meanies (Max, the evil errand boy scared the crap out of me back than-and still does!

When The Beatles’ third film floated in on a wave of flower-power in 1968, animation was dominated by Disney-proven conventions. Yellow Submarine, by contrast, was progressive family entertainment-a kid-friendly psychedelic trip where the cartoon Fab Four save the people of Pepperland from the evil Blue Meanies, helped by the healing power of music. This restored edition adds brighter imagery, and remastered sound, making the peace-preaching parable seem more impressive and subversive than ever.

The colors pop in this newly restored print, and the extras, including a 1968 promotional short; a trailer; storyboard sequences; pencil artwork; and photos of The Beatles’ visit to the studio.

In the end, good triumphs over evil, and music once again flourishes throughout Pepperland, as The Beatles and their guide Old Fred, are declared heroes. Back in ’68 two 13 year olds sat amazing and enthralled in their seats as they experienced their first music video. My memories of “Yellow Submarine” are still as fresh today as they were back then, and even seeing the animated movie again after over 40 years, and with my jaded, sometimes disillusioned view of the world, the movie still brings me back to a good place in time.

Cafeteria Dance Fever - Danceology (Hovercraft)

“After six hour of school I’ve had enough for the day/ I hit the radio dial and turn it up all the way/ I gotta dance, right there on the spot/the beats really hot/Dance! Dance! Dance!-YEAHHHH!”- The Beach Boys “Dance, Dance, Dance”

Well, I know that’s a decades old tune but it was the first thing that came to mind (I’m decades old too), when I heard Danceology. These cats and kittens are unbelievably off the charts when it comes to vibe and musical mojo! There are 24 songs on this disc and everyone is a knockout.

The closest example I can give you is: Take the awesome musical firepower of Sonic Youth, and weld it together with The B-52’s manic, insane story-telling, and you’ll come kind of close to what the Cafeteria Dance Fever Band is like. This is a no-holds-barred band that is just crazy cool!-

Joey Ramone- …Ya Know? (BMG)

This is the second solo album from Joey Ramone, which comes out a few years after his death. The first one, “Don’t Forget about Me,” was chock-full of sweetened punk and pop tunes (he did a cool cover of Louis Armstrong’s “Wonderful World”), that should be in anyone’s collection who loved the Ramones.

Built from songs he left behind mostly as home demos, Joey Ramone’s second posthumous solo album is undeniable dynamite: buoyant fuzz-box pop punk with no stiches showing in the new overdubs. Fans and peers such as Stephen Van Zandt, Joan Jett and The Dictators’ Andy Shernoff share the spotlight, but they are well aware that is Joey that runs the show. Joey pursued Stooges-like basics, and Phil Spector-sized romance with the same zeal both in and out of the Ramones. Many songs here, like “New York City,” and “Seven Days of Gloom,” would have fit on-and improved-some of that band’s latter, spotty albums. “Rock ‘n’ roll is the answer,” Joey sings in the title chorus, in fine and familiar voice- a true believer to the end.

When I first heard the lead single “New York City” on the radio, my first thought was that there was a new Ramones album out, but then it quicky sank into my head that Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee have pasted on. But for that one split second the Ramones’ were alive and well, making music, and I was right along with them enjoying the ride!

The Spider Rockets- Bitten (

I remember reviewing The Spider Rockets a few years back. The songs and the lyrics were cool, and they kept getting better and better with each album. Then, they seemingly of fell off the face of the Earth. Fast forward to 2012 and voilà, as they say, a brand spankin’ new Spider Rockets CD appeared in my mail box!

Every song, and I mean EVERY SONG, has a killer riff floating through it, and the lyrics are up to date. Or in other words Bitten is up tight, outta sight, and in the groove!! This is a full band effort, on one here gets a free ride, as they combine to rock everyone’s buts off. The amps are amped up, and the rhythm section takes the listener on an endless boogie- for a better word. They are relentless, and they do not back down. The lead singer belts her way through most of the album (a good thing), but she can also get a little quieter, and still keep the same passion flowing.
The Spider Rockets are a band worth seeing live!

Southside Stranglers- Devilled (

Devilled offers a balance of postmodern rock, with the legacy of the MC5 (60’s iconic pre-punk rock/political band). When I heard the first track “Bon Voyage,” there is a sense of not knowing what to expect, for there is nothing better than a song that explodes in a gazillon different pieces, right from the get-go. But the Southside Stranglers definitely know what they’re doing and where they’re headed, looking for the chemistry in each and every song.

There’s also a very Morphine (the band), vibe throughout Devilled. They songs are very bass line oriented, and the lead singer has a way with phrasing, and using his voice for maximum focus. I other words they know how to make a big splash without going over the top.

For anyone looking to discover an album that is both upbeat and vocally active, Devilled is what you are looking for. The Southside Stranglers move in different directions but in the end, “All roads lead to Rome," as they say. The production and mojo is out of this world cool!

Ash Grey and the Girls- Born in the Summer (

Dang! As soon as I dropped the needle… ummm…I mean pressed “play” in the CD player (Born in the Summer has me nostalgic already), the sound of the sitar, lead singer Ash Grey’s 60’s vibe vocals, and the rest of the group (Helen and Mary- they’re an acoustic trio), had me trippin’ back to the days when bands like the Mama’s and Pappa’s and The Byrds ruled the airwaves. And they make no apologies for their sound or their retro lyrics, they’re proud as punch to bring their Summer of Love, 60’s roots to the surface. In fact, The title track, “Born in the Summer,” is loaded with time travel references of bygone bands like Jefferson Airplane, The Troggs, and a whole bunch of cool, groovy, bands from that era. Flower Power never smelled sweeter!

The Destructors- Sex, Drugs & Rock N Roll (

Well, first off, The Destructors get a gazillion points for their name (I’m kind of surprised that no one had come up with it before). With the moxie of first generation of English punk bands The Destructors lean more toward the Sex Pistols with their take-no-prisoners attitude, and manic musical mojo.

Fulfilling an essential and immediate need for a really good punk band that doesn’t take themselves too seriously, and knows how to kick out the jams, without being martyrs, The Destructors are just what the doctor prescribed as a cure all to a lot of today’s punk poseurs. As I’m writing this review, I’m enjoying the fuck out of SDRR, as they refer to the album’s title in the press kit. They sound confrontational (“Rock ‘n’ Roll Riot,” “King Rock”), but you can tell they have their collective heads screwed on straight.

The Destructors should be on this years Warped Tour. With the list of bands getting more and more watered down year after year, they would be a wakeup call to what The Warped tour was, and could be. - Authentic punk rock to the max!

The Destructors are not the type of band that takes their stand primarily in the studio. They are definitely a band to be seen as well as heard. Hopefully, I’ll get to see them soon!-Phil Rainone

Golden Bloom & The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library- Swap Meet 4 song EP

Now here’s something different! Two virtually unknown bands (they toured with each other last year), that cover two of each other’s songs. Usually reserved for well- known bands like Anti-Flag, or Bouncing Souls, Golden Bloom and The Michael J. Memorial Library make you want to find the originals. “Amylee” and “Civil Engineering” are performed by Golden Bloom, and they are just… really cool. They have a mojo that is both thick and sparse, but somewhere in the middle is an alternative sound that is just so darn catchy. For “Civil Engineer” they take almost the same approach, but the backbeat is a little more evident.
On “You Go On (And On),” and “Theme for an Adventure at Sea,” TMJML combine “Surf’s Up” Beach Boys harmonies with present day studio imagery. I can see why both bands wanted to cover the others music. Both bands put their best foot forward without trying to top the other, and the result is that we get two different versions on these four, and us, along with the bands are all the better for it!-Phil Rainone

Mykul Lee - Fortress (

Mykul Lee has the honesty and spirituality of someone like Jeff Buckley. But where Buckley’s angelic voice can send you to heaven, Lee’s quieter, more grounded voice leaves you feeling more like you’re backing out of Hell one step at a time. Both musicians will get you to where you’re supposed to be, only Lee’s road is mapped out for a longer haul.

Songs like “Crazy Like Me,” or “Fatal Attraction” are a good point of reference to start at. The songs are full of folksy guitars that prime the vocals rather than overwhelm them. Using that style throughout most of Fortress, you get calm but uneasy feeling, but that combination enhances the stories rather than detracts from them.
All through the album the songs are to the point (“Generation at War,” “Wish You Were Mine,” “No One Like you,” but there’s still room for the listener to think in different directions, rather than being closed minded. There’s more of a glass-half-empty fell to the record, yet the band injects hope and faith where ever possible.

Fortress is concise and to the point. You don’t get any dragged ,or unfinished love songs. Lee’s story telling is ripe with passion and honesty. A band like this will put miles of road under their feet, and we’ll probably hear a lot more studio work in years to come.

The Psyched - S/T (

It’s Time to Get Psyched!!

S/T is full of distortion. How distorted, you ask? Well, there was so much distortion - the good stuff - on the opening number “New Direction,” that I took the album out of the CD player and put another one in just to make sure there wasn’t a problem with the sound system. There wasn’t. Ffrom start to finish, you’ll think you’re listening to some sort of music from Mars or somewhere!

This is definitely NOT your parents’ (hey, that’s me!) punk rock. The two piece band of Anthony McBain and Paul Weil create music that I can only describe as The Anti-Wall of Sound (Phil Spector created a symphonic/ pop/rock “Wall of Sound” back in the 60’s). If you think of what could be the missing link between the Black Keys and Morphine, than turn up the volume a gazillion times, and you might come close to what The Psyched sound like!

And then there are the lyrics… Every song here is demented, psyched-out, and honest. With titles like “Oh Yeah,” “Cut the Chord,” and “Rubber Gloves,” you won’t be bored.-On the contrary, you will want to keep this puppy on repeat for the soundtrack for you day. They also do a cover of Sam Cooke’s soul-stirring “Bring it on Home.” In the hands of The Psyched, Sam is not only rolling over in his grave, he’s trying to dig himself out, to go and join the band.-A lot of bands can ramp a song up, but The Psyched bring it to a new level where, whether you know the original or not, it will add a new color to your paint box!
And yes, you will be “Psyched” after hearing The Psyched. So much so that you’ll run down to your local record shop, buy the new album, and check their website for upcoming shows in your area.

Hellshovel - Hated by the Sun (

Hellshovel’s new album Hated by the Sun, is a low-key, psychedelic/ funky record that is characterized by monotonish (very cool) vocals and electric/exciting rhythms. At first, songs like “Ivan’s Hammer,” “Stealing Candy,” or “Drifting through the Galaxy” take a little getting used to, but by the second go-round you’ll find the tunes extremely catchy, intricately arranged, and just a blast to listen to!
For instance, “Whoever Brought Me Here Will have to Take Me Home” is fast-paced and animated. Its clear 80’s influence (Romantics, Undertones, etc.), and brain-drain beat is addictive and original. The sounds you hear are basically made by guitars, bass, and drums, but the production, without using bells and whistles, make them sound eccentric and help to accentuate their uniqueness.
“Pinyata Sonata” sounds almost robotic, with distorted vocals and percussive elements which give it a carefree, feel-good vibe. That same vibe is present throughout all of Hated by the Sun, creating an up-beat, fun-loving album.

Mad Anthony (

Mad Anthony’s music can be a bit confusing, but in a really good way. Their melodies are killer, and catchy as all heck. In fact the groove they create with each and every song is freakin’ danceable, fist-pounding rock ‘n’ roll. But the lyrics they choose to paint their unhappiness with (check: “Forget about us,” “Man Walks into a Bear Attack,” and Bottomfeeders,” for starters), using the afore mentioned hard melodies, is like night and day. Get into pretty much any song on their self-titled album and you will almost feel like curling up into the fetal position rather than dancing the night away.

But that’s ok. After listening to the full album there is really no other way that Mad Anthony would work. This is an all-or-nothing band, very independent, confident that you will get their message, their groove, and their vibe, as they deliver time after time haunted majestic songs with soaring melodies.
The haunted majesty of Mad Anthony’s fourth studio album has just the right balance of instrumental textures and depth that many bands shy away from. But this band embraces the challenge, and they and we are all the better for it!

Diamond Rugs (Partisan Records)

Diamond Rugs have an album that is witty, sly, fun, and chock-full of tongue-in-cheek rock ‘n’ roll! Tunes like “Hightail,” “Gimme a Beer,” “Hungover and Horny,” actually any song on their self-titled album, has the creative vibe of a Jim Carroll record, and the mojo of Willie Deville.

After repeated replays, I think you’re going to find even more connections, but the bottom line here is originality. Diamond Rugs have the moxie swagger of bands twice their age (they’re all in their early 20’s), but still have their collective fingers on the pulse of the youth of today. “Call Girl Blues,” with its snappy horn cadence courtesy of Steve Berlin (Los Lobos & The Blasters), and “Out on My Own,” with the earthy vibe of the Gaslight Anthem, are snappy, humorous, shakin’ blues, rock numbers.

“Totally Lonely” is one of the best tributes to Roy Orbison ever. They take Roy’s “Only the Lonely” and revamp it into something deeper and darker than the original. - Amazing!

The album combines all the ingredients of a potent blend of foot-stomping rhythms, narrative arrangements, and harmonious choruses that everyone can sing along to-even after consuming more than a few beers. After witnessing a live show, I wouldn’t be surprised if more than a few kids pick up instruments and form their own band.

The Nightmare River Band - Last Goodbye (Magnet North)

I like this resurgence of folk rock that has been building over the last few years. The Felice Brothers, M. Ward, Alabama Shakes, and even revamped Neil Young and Crazy Horse have been making waves on the charts and around the world. One of the newest bands to bring us their take on the aforementioned genre are The Nightmare River Band. On Last Goodbye, you can hear their influences and also nods to country rock like the Flying Burrito Brothers, and even the Eagles (on a good day).

The whole band plays with confidence, but what draws you permanently into The Nightmare River Band is their lead singers, Matt Krahula and Steh Faulk. They fill their plaintive voices with confident power, and they have the ability to covey the haunting spirit of a song (“On Me oh My,” “Josie”), or the brilliance of a rocking number (“Last Good bye,” “Robots”). Despite the seemingly closeted genres that the band has chosen, their music is smooth, accomplished, and is an undated collection of tuneful styles. The whole album is well-written, and the music is filled with subtlety rather than eccentricity.-Phil Rainone

The Mau Mau’s - Scorched Earth Policies: Then & Now (

ATTENTION! ATTENTION! ATTENTION!! The missing link has been found Between The Dough Boys and The Dictators, and they’re here to rock yer socks off!! Listen to the first cut, first nasty lick, first fierce, nasal vocal from the new album (produced by the Doors’ Robbie Kreiger, Geza X, and the band) by the legendary 70’s punk/glam/rock ‘n’ roll band The Mau Mau’s, and you will be in Punk Rock Heaven (is there really a Rock ‘N’ Roll Heaven?). The guitars sound like shrapnel shards exploding from a landmine and the rhythm section is down and dirty like two whirling dervishes on a mission. Then there are the vocals: Warped, nauseating, gruff, and other-worldly. All total, just the right mixture for a goddamn, attitude-driven, snot nosed punk rock band!

I’m on my first of what willzbe several listens of The Mau Mau’s (they get a gazillion points for one of the best band names ever) first album in quite a few years, and I’m just… vibing!! My typing skills are minimal (two finger typing), but listening to this amazingly cool album I’m, “typing to the beat!” Something like a bazillion words per minute, right along with the manic beat that The Mau Mau’s have burned onto this party platter. Heavy stuff!

By the third go-round, I’m getting into the lyrics (the beat is STILL relentless), and they singing about being psychotic (“I’m Psychotic,”) the end of the world (“Joyride,”) rectums (“Rectum of Nefertiti,”) and - what else - ROCK ‘N’ FUCKIN’ ROLL (“Never Talk to Strangers,” “Doomdaze!”)

You might think that a band with so much road under their heels would rest on their laurels, or make an album with a couple of decent songs and the rest just mush. Well, Scorched Earth Policies: Then & Now is ALL KILLER-NO FILLER!! You will not want to stop this disc from playing ‘til you squeezed all of the friggin’ musical mojo outta this mother!

Where the Dictators shouldered heavy metal as a means to commercialize their punky pop, and NJ’s Dough Boys gave us some of the heaviest punk riffage this side of the Ramones, The Mau Mau’s inject wit, economy, intelligence, and classic pop structure into raw, powered punk rock. Not that the other bands I mentioned didn’t possess the same elements, it’s just that The Mau Mau’s mojo is definitely their own. Period.

Bottom line, this album is a fun-filled blast of riffs and roars that rock like crazy! It’s a credible continuation of what’s come before, and a hard look into the future. It doesn’t get any more neanderthalic and fun than this .

i-EXIST- Humanity vol.1 (!/iexistband)

i-Exist sound like a young Emerson Lake & Palmer on steroids - and that’s not good. The album is full of heavy, ambient landscapes and is “driven by our melting pot of individual creativity, exposing the musical possibilities of i-EXIST” (from the press kit.)

This is exactly why punk rock was created. This album is full of dinosauric, Neanderthal knuckle-dragging, pompous music. They even have the nerve to call their music “modern rock!” The only “rock” that I found was the one I used to smash the CD with. I’m sure there is still someone that thoroughly enjoys this type of sludge, but I am definitely not one of them.

I mean, back in the day I was right up there with the best of them, as far as progrock. Then, after a while I got a taste of some super-duper rockabilly, which led me to punk, and the rest as they say is, “history.” I never looked back. The superficial stuff never lasts anyway. When a band starts a song at the top of their lungs, and the volume never goes below 11, and never lets up ‘til the album is finished, to me it’s just trash.- No heart, no soul, no real emotion, just spam-musical spam.

The Story of Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics - Special Edition DVD (

When my son Steve was about ten, he started getting into comic books. There was a local comic book store called Zapp Comics (now located in Freehold), that had just opened in Sayreville. Being a comic book junkie when I was younger, back in the 60’s and 70’s I was drawn back into the stories of Spiderman, Superman (one of my all-time favorites that’s hard to find is The Atomic Knights), etc. After about a year of going to Zapp, and getting to know the owner, he made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse! He said he had a bunch of comic books that weren’t selling, and were just taking up space. I went into the back room with him and he had about 20 boxes (about 100 comic books per box), with all kinds of genres (I had to go through them all and take out the X rated comics for ummm, research…

Anyway, when Steve got home from school that day and walks into his bedroom, he sees it filled to the brim with what must have looked like a gazillion comic books! He was in comic book nirvana!

So, what this all has to do with Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics is, in with the boxes and boxes of comics were a few issues of Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics. Most notably the “Unauthorized” story of The Smithereens.-Great story and drawing (in color). From then on I was hooked, and needed my monthly fix of Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics, much like my addiction to vinyl records!

Todd Loren’s was the creator (he was savagely murdered in 1992), and editor of Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics when he started back in 1989 with the first issue being an unauthorized version (they all were, as Todd was a starch supporter of the First Amendment). Guns ‘N’ Roses was the first comic book he published, and he and co-creator, Jay Allen Sanford took their message of Revolution Comics to the max. Drawing mostly on the rock magazines of the day like Cream and Rolling Stone, and their sometimes genius imaginations, they created stories of rock ‘n’ roll bands that inspired as well as challenged (MANY of the bands that comics were made of sued Todd), the readers as well as the critics alike.

Inspired by earlier attempts by other publishers who came up with basically the same idea like “Hey Boss,” which was an ongoing comic book series about Bruce Springsteen (he had super powers, how cool is that), and Kiss, Todd raised the bar, or lowered it, depending if you were a fan or a band. It was definitely a love/hate relationship, and there was never any grey area. Those who supported Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics and those who hated it were a mixed bag. Gene Simmons absolutely loved the stories about Kiss, while The Grateful Dead practically put a bounty out on him. Other supporters included Alice Copper, who did a fun, and amazing interview here, and Mojo Nixon, Billy Gibbons, Motley Crew, and Frank Zappa.

When it came to punk rock Todd and Jay had a soft spot, but they also knew how to make a buck. They created mini-series of bands like the Sex Pistols, and The Runaways, to name a few. The stores revolved around what else- Sex, Drugs, & Rock ‘N’ Roll, and as far as punk rock, it seemed that at times, they had to tone down the stories, rather than embellish them. Bands like the sex Pistols were off the charts when it can to life imitating art. You couldn’t make that stuff up!

They also got into sports biography’s (Nolan Ryan, etc.), Horror, conspiracy (Robert Kennedy, etc.), and of course sex (Demi, Sexpot, & Pineapple Comics). All of which were, as always- UNAUTHORIZED! As a matter of fact, Rock ‘N’ Roll comics lives on. You can order ( or wherever graphic novels are sold), stuff like The Pink Floyd Experience, The Beatles Experience, and Elvis, to name a few.

There’s also an interview with Todd that is funny, and a little of weird. It’s kind of like a “How Not to Do an Interview,” interview, which is really funny, and somewhat sad, as it was done a short time before he was brutally murdered.

A lot of us feel that eventually, rock ‘n’ roll will save the world (remember John and Yoko’s Bed-In for Peace?-how cool was that), but “Todd Loren didn’t wish to save the world. He wanted to make money and exploit the music he loved. Somewhere Albert Grossman (Dylan’s manager for many years), smiles. The idea for his comic line was to do Mad magazine-type parodies while giving the readers biographical information. He wished to blend the three things he loved-music, comics, and money- into a career. - Because he didn’t want to work for somebody else. And because why not?”- Rob O’Connor, from the liner notes.

As for Steve, he still has a ton of comic books, including a good chunk of what we got from Zapp. I can’t find any of my Rock ‘N’ Roll comic books-divorces can be messy sometimes, but I know I’ll eventually find a stash at a yard sale (I’m still addicted to vinyl records), or a flea market, or a estate sale, or….- Phil Rainone

The Dropkick Murphys - Going Out In Style: Fenway Park Bonus Edition 2 CD/DVD (Warner Music Group)

About a year ago, The Dropkick Murphys and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones had the idea to play a set each at Boston’s Fenway Park, home of the infamous Yankee killers, the Boston Red Sox. Anyone with even a passing interest in punk would know this gig would be pretty much a win-win situation. The Murphys are staunch Red Sox fans - hey, they wrote and performed the team’s anthem “Tessie” - and when the play in Jersey, they always love to bolster the Sox whenever the chance arises.
When we heard about this one-of-a-kind show, we were chomping at the bit to try to get up to Boston (I guess you’ve heard about my infamous Yankee-hat-in-Boston story way too many times already, when we covered the Warped Tour some ten years ago). Anyway we didn’t make the show, but this two CD/DVD set is almost as good as being there! The DVD focuses on the Murphys’ 18 song set (hopefully, the Bosstones will release a CD/DVD of their set), the crowd, the stadium, and all the punk rock anarchy that makes these two bands worth their weight in gold!

Blasting off with the three-peat of “Hang ‘Em High,” “Sunday Hardcore Matinee,” “Deeds Not Words,” watching the band and the fans, I couldn’t help but flashback to the Beatles at Shea Stadium or Cheap Trick in Japan. Although the time periods seem like light years apart, the crowd reactions, the music, the crowd surfing (imagine if they crowd surfed at Shea?!), and the bands’ mojo are amazingly similar.
With the Murphys’ signature Irish folk songs (done up in impeccable Celtic punk rock style), like “The Irish Rover” and “Peg O’ My Heart,” they took the stadium experience a step further. With these songs bouncing off the “Green Monster” (the stadium’s humungous green wall in left field), banners were unfurled and flags were flown throughout the packed stadium. Like The Beatles at Shea Stadium, they positioned the band between center field and the pitchers mound, making for a 360 degree view for the cameras, which was a really cool idea!
By the time they get to “Tessie,” it turned into a gang-vocal for over four minutes with the Murphys as rabble-rousing punk rock cheer leaders. Amazing…simply amazing!

The delicate and sharp-tongued “Cruel” tones things down for a few minutes. With its waltz-time cadence, the Murphys had the crowd swaying back and forth as one, with whatever they were drinking (mostly beer), hoisted and singing along like they were in a small pub in your hometown.
The sound quality is second to none. The acoustics and the way they record live stadium shows have come a long way from the time of the Beatles. You feel like you have a front row seat and the DVD brings you up close and personal with the band and the huge crowd.

Before playing an acoustic set consisting of “Take ‘Em Down,” “Devil’s Brigade,” and “Boys on the Docks,” lead singer Al Barr joked with the crowd that this might be a good time to “hit the head,” and more than a few fans took him to heart, as the cameras swung around the stadium at what looked like a couple of hundred fans making a beeline to the bathrooms. Hey, even Springsteen has the same problem when the slower acoustic stuff is played, so the Murphys shouldn’t feel so bad.

The five song finale of “The State of Massachusetts,” “Kiss Me I’m Shitfaced,” “Time to Go,” “I’m Shipping up to Boston,” and the manic cover of AC/DC’s “T.N.T.” are like a bases loaded grand slam! If you thought the crowd was on their last legs (they had six bands playing a Fenway that day), then you’ve got another think coming! With the cameras panning the crowd and the band slowly, you see everyone standing, fists pumping, maximum gang, sing-a-long vocals and wherever they could, the tight crowd was forming mini most pits, with unbridled crowd surfing! If you thought the Dropkick Murphys could amp up a small club, you gotta see the video-the mojo is again, amazing!

The cover Woody Guthrie’s “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” (which they recorded a few years back on one of their studio albums) is, like the closer “T.N.T.,” OFF THE FUCKING CHARTS!!! The band cranks out the music they put to Woody’s words with respect, admiration, and hellfire! Making it a one-of-a-kind night, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones join them on stage. It kind of looks like a cluster fuck at first, but once they get into the song, it all comes together. Raunchy, raw, and over-the-top, punk rock! “T.N.T” an old favorite from their stage shows, brought the night to, what I can only describe as, “The glorious results of a misspent youth,” as they say. The Dropkick Murphys are still like the original barnstormers the were when they started out over 15 years ago!

One odd, but cool thing that I noticed was after the Murphys finished their set was, you hear the loudspeakers blaring out Sinatra’s “My Way.” Huh… Who’da thunk!
Along with The Dropkick Murphys and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, they had four other bands playing that night, including: The Old Brigade, The Parkington Sisters, Chuck Regan, and The Streetdogs. Hopefully, they’ll release all the bands’ sets eventually. It was definitely a one-of-a-kind show!!

The Spittin’ Cobras - Year of the Cobra (

You know how Springsteen said in his SXSW keynote speech that any band is, in the eye of the beholder, either the second coming of Christ or…. “THEY SUCK!!”
Well, after listening to The Spittin’ Cobras’ new album… THEY SUCK!
Lots of hair metal that’s just too over the top, with shout-at-the devil vocals, and unrelenting guitar, bass and drums. I mean, yeah, I was raised on hard rock like Sabbath, Iron Butterfly, Deep Purple, Mountain, etc., but when it comes to head bangin’ look-at-us-ain’t-we-fuckin-cool hair metal, the good bands are few, and few between. It’s kind of hard to believe, but The Spittin’ Cobras will be opening for The Supersuckers and Rev. Horton Heat this spring. Now, here are two of my all-time favorite punkabilly, hard rockin’ bands! Ya know, I think I’ll check them out if they come around. Maybe they sound better live?

The Wild - A Collection (

The Wild make a joyous noise like a small, acoustic army that envelops the essence of folk singing. Not the superficial trappings but the deep-down Woody Guthrie activist/adventurer archetype-to the modern world. Although their tools are utterly simple (guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, vocals-male & female), The Wild are capable of enormous strength and depth in their writing and how their music would translate to the stage. Like contemporaries Old Man Markley, The Wild spins off touching, warm love songs as well as trenchant social satire and political commentary.

The album has as a rugged pop appeal, offering sharp perspective angles on love, lust, and politics. The Wild also turn their attention to another traditional subject: angry young men with guitars, with a lot on their minds. The latter day Woody Guthrie’s belt out sincere (sometimes awkwardly-sounding- not an easy thing to do), stories of what their lives are about without regret or “what ifs.” They walk the walk, and talk the talk.

The Wild can swing from waxing tenderly (“Let Me Sing You a Song”), bitter (“Stillness Sickness”), and sarcastic (“To Be Content”), keeping things blunt, and sounding like raw, one-take tracks, making it an ultimate no-frills punk record. Combining the wordplay, wit and strong emotions of Billy Bragg, and the melodic charm of The Dropkick Murphys, “A Collection” is an articulate, interesting, and fun masterpiece.

Black Earth - Pink Champagne (

O! M! G! Black Earth sounds like the second coming of The Cult! The spectacular vocals, the rhythmic, hard/melodic bass and drums, and the bold, throttling guitar work of The Cult are all present and accounted for. BUT (and that’s a big BUT), the originality on “Pink Champagne” is - in a word -OUTRAGEOUS!

No mindless self-indulgence, just pure, undiluted heavy, melodic, rock ‘n’ roll! Songs like “Single Stich,” “Face Down in the Gutter,” and “Her Song” are all within the realm of psychedelic post-rock, but they all have the ability let go of structure at any given moment. Take for example, “Face Down in the Gutter.” It would seem to have all the trappings of a been-there-done-that, down and out/salvation rock ‘n’ roll record, but the old cliché metaphors, and tired metal riffs are absent. In there place are fresh lyrics with a balls-to-the wall, melodic guitar/bass/drums attack that is relentless.

The second half of the album does not disappoint either. Awash in cool-as fuck noise and feedback (think: Blue Cheer at their wickedest), and the vocals just keep on giving. Black Earth has enough range and moxie to bridge the gap between old metal and psychedelic blues without giving up the best in either genre. The album is thick with driving rhythms, charging vocals, in what sounds like a new post-modern tradition. I would love to see how this song and the rest of their album translate to the stage!

Penny Winblood (

Rachel and Nate are Penny Winblood, a Brooklyn based guitar/drum duo. With off-kilter, cool rhythms like the Violent Femmes, but no as obnoxious as Cake or Bare Naked Ladies. They sing personal songs with the intensity of a full-blown band, but they have a flexible style that that resembles no other band. On their self-titled skeletal album, their articulate passion for music and lyrical maladjustment combine to convey an interesting sense of depression, joy, and rage. Untypical anger is evident in the grooves, but their off-beat humor is alive and well throughout the album.
At times Rachel and Nate’s vocals seem artless and mundane, but that’s the beauty of this dynamic duo. Like The Violent Femmes they use that to their advantage. You can’t fake stuff like that, you either got it or you don’t, and Penny Winblood has it in spades! This is the kind of band that would go over big a Asbury Lanes or Roxy & Dukes!


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