Friday, February 17, 2017

The Modulators, Tomorrow’s Coming and Smart Remarks, Foreign Fields: 1982-1984, 2017 Reissues

Album Review

By Henry Lipput

The Beatles didn't create power pop; but, in their early recordings, they certainly created the template. Songs are usually about the girl you want or the girl who got away. Three-minute songs with ringing guitars, catchy melodies, close harmonies, and, if you're lucky, handclaps.

After the master plan was laid down, the following years saw musicians and groups -- including Badfinger, The Raspberries, Big Star, The Knack, and Nick Lowe (and Rockpile) -- both expand and refine what power pop was.

The Modulators and Smart Remarks, both New Jersey-based power pop bands, began their careers in 1980 and both are the subject of new reissues that collect all of their recordings.

The Modulators, Tomorrow's Coming

Formed in 1980, The Modulators can, based on the Tomorrow's Coming reissue, rightly take their place as an important part of the American power pop scene.

The Modulators began as a solo project of multi-instrumentalist Joe Riccardello. With help from producer / lyricist Rob Roth, Riccardello released his first single, "Girl Trouble," in 1980. He was then joined by friends Mark Higgins (guitar) and Mark "Cakes" Westlake (drums) to form the power (pop) trio known as The Modulators.

But it's the band's second single, “She's So Cynical,” released in 1982, that's the highlight and my favorite song from this collection. It's not just the music, which is classic power pop with ringing guitars, great vocal, a drum beat to die for, and, yes, handclaps. No, it's the lyrics, too: "You wonder why she's so cynical / When she's the pinnacle of your ideal." It's a perfect power pop lyric. It may have been the feel-good song of 1982, but it brings a smile to my face in 2017.

Finally, in 1984, the band released Tomorrow's Coming, their only LP. By that time, R.E.M. had released both the Chronic Town EP and the Murmur album; and the influence of Peter Buck's Rickenbacker is evident on the title song.

The second album track, the glorious "Jimmy Says," is back to power pop and is in much the same vein as Marshall Crenshaw who had released his debut album in 1982.

Two of the standout non-album tracks are "Amplitude Modulation" and "Kristine." The first can be seen as The Modulators' take on Elvis Costello's "Radio, Radio" -- "Radio's no sound salvation / no more innovation." They name check "little Nicky Lowe" and ask to have Elvis brought back (Costello is still with us, so maybe they were referring to the original Elvis.). "Kristine," a bit of The Raspberries with a Nick Lowe-ish vocal, adds keyboards and more handclaps to the band's mix. It's a song that I plan on listening to a lot more.

The Tomorrow's Coming reissue brings together The Modulators' original album and an additional 14 unreleased songs and demo tracks.

Smart Remarks, Foreign Fields: 1982-1984

There's less to say about the Smart Remarks reissue because they only recorded a single and a five-song EP which are all collected in Foreign Fields: 1982-1984.

Smart Remarks began in 1980 with Todd Ellis (guitar, vocals), Chris Gordon (bass), and Ant Barbalace (drums) as an original punk / power pop trio out of Bordentown, New Jersey.

Seriously Speaking, the EP the band recorded in 1984 with new bassist Steve DeStefano, has more of a British feel than the single (more on that in a bit). It reminds me a little of early XTC, especially their Drums and Wires period, both vocally and musically. "Falling Apart (As it Seems)" is a catchy tune with a big 80s drum sound. "Reverse Velocity" is more of a blend and emphasizes more home-grown power pop. Like The Modulators, Smart Remarks were obviously also taken with Peter Buck's Rickenbacker and early R.E.M. releases which you can hear on Seriously Speaking’s "Foreign Fields."

But with only seven songs to show for themselves, they still were able to record a true power pop classic. Their first single "Was It Something We Said . . " in 1982, contained the amazing "Mary's Got Her Eye On Me." There's some Brit influence there as well, with Cure-like guitar, but it's real honest-to-goodness power pop. It's a keeper and makes it clear why power pop lovers still care about Smart Remarks.

Tomorrow’s Coming and Foreign Fields: 1982- 1984 are both out today on Manufactured Recordings.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Simple Post About a New Video from Lea Porcelain


I get a lot of stuff in my inbox. I don't always share it out because: 1) It doesn't always grab me. 2) Rolling Stone, SPIN, Pitchfork, Stereogum, whatever are already sharing it; and do I really need to add my voice to that? 3) I am lazy.

Last week, I got pointed to the new single from London via Berlin duo, Lea Porcelain. I wasn't familiar with the band, but I really liked the song and fully intended to include it in a round-up post. But I forgot. Then, yesterday, the band released a video for the song. Everything worked out. Now you have something to look at as you listen.

So, anyway, Lea Porcelain are Julien Bracht and Markus Nikolaus. They're planning to release their debut LP this summer. This is "Bones." I'm sharing it with you for the simple reason that I really like it. No flowery language describing it or comparing it to this or that; but, I will say, if you enjoy Seaside Caves or any of the bands who have influenced their sound, you'll like this.

What's Going On: 2/16, 2/17, 2/18 & 2/19, 2017

Screaming Females play two sold-out shows at Jersey City's Monty Hall this weekend.

Long Weekend

The cooldaughters get a four-day weekend this week to sit and reflect on all the good presidents the USA has had in its 240+ year history. Ah, the past... ...Anyway.

You can start things off this Thursday night with Live Band Karaoke at House of Independents in Asbury. DJ Jay Insult spins tunes at Asbury's Little Buddy Hideaway. Jersey Rock holds a free showcase at Wonder Bar featuring Levy & The Oaks, Deaf Rhino, Above The Moon, and Chris Brown.

On Friday, The Morgan Freemasons and Geez Louise (formerly The Obvious) play for free at APYC. Lemuria, Mikey Erg, and Cayetana bring their tour to Brooklyn Bazaar. Waiting On Mongo play Langosta. Deal Casino are in New Brunswick with The Dead Flowers, P-Funk North, and Dinosaur Eyelids. TCNJ has a free show from LVL UP, Crying, and Secret Mountain. Screaming Females are back at Jersey City's Monty Hall with Spowder for the first of two sold-out shows.

Phoebe Nix, The Mercury Brothers, and No Such Animal play APYC on Saturday. Pam Flores, Danny Puma, Lowlight, and Sexoffice are at Oceanport's Firehouse Studio. Maxwell's Tavern in Hoboken hosts Rebecca Emont, The Paper Jets, Little Rose, Overcoming Gravity, and The Dead Flowers. Mickey Avalon is at House of Independents. Screaming Females play Night Two at Monty Hall, this time with Wild Rice.

Sunday brings Dogwood Tales, Jackson Pines, Francis Lombardi and Deal Casino to The Crib (ask). The Inkwell has Chris Brown, Joseph Alton Miller, Cranston Dean, Renee Maskin, and Dan Apy for another installment of Noise in the Attic. The Cold Seas, The (very busy) Deal Casino, Blame Candy, and Rad Horror play The Saint. The Stone Pony hosts another Asbury Park Record show in the morning.

I hope you've got a long weekend, too. If not, make the most of the days you have. See you out there.


The Asbury Hotel, Soundbooth (Asbury): Open Mic, 8pm, FREE

The Brighton Bar (Long Branch): The Sulls / Chasing Down Sunset / Colourshow, 6:30pm, $10

House of Independents (Asbury): Live Band Karaoke, 8pm, FREE

Langosta Lounge (Asbury): JoeP of Deal Casino, 8:30pm

Little Buddy Hideaway (Asbury): DJ Jay Insult, 9pm

Meatlocker (Montclair): Paul From The Internet / Sunflower / NGHTCRWLRS / Hiroshi Jaguar / CR & the Degenerates, 7:30pm

The Saint (Asbury): Josh Nussbaum / PBR Street Gang / Zach Westfall Trio, 7:30pm, $5

The Wonder Bar (Asbury): Jersey Rock Showcase ft. Levy & The Oaks / Deaf Rhino / Above The Moon / Chris Brown, 7pm, FREE

FRIDAY (2/17)

Asbury Park Yacht Club (Asbury): The Morgan Freemasons / Geez Louise, 9pm, FREE

BoonTunes (Boonton): Lawn Care / The Gladiators / Shark Club / Prototype:AT, 7pm, $10ish

The Brighton Bar (Long Branch): Don Jamieson, 6:30pm, $13

Brooklyn Bazaar (Brooklyn): Lemuria / Mikey Erg / Cayetana, 8pm, $12

House of Independents (Asbury): Emo Night BK, 9pm, $10 adv, $13 door

Langosta Lounge (Asbury): Waiting On Mongo / Downstream, 9pm, FREE

Maxwell's Tavern (Hoboken): Leeway / Urban Waste / Truth & Rights, 7pm, $12.50 adv, $15 door
Meatlocker (Montclair): Aidan Champeau / Gabbi Carson / The Swindle / Tula Vera / The Turnbucklers / Thee Volatiles, 8pm

Monty Hall (Jersey City): Screaming Females / Spowder, 8pm, SOLD OUT

New Brunswick (Ask): Deal Casino / The Dead Flowers / P-Funk North / Dinosaur Eyelids, 6:30pm, $5

Roxy & Duke's Roadhouse (Dunellen): Trash Mavericks / Jana Peri / Jigs & the Pigs / Cowbell Superstar, 9pm, $12

The Saint (Asbury): Porter & Sayles / Tony Tedesco & Full Fathom 5 / Dark City Strings, 7:30pm, $12

The Showroom (Asbury): Chris Rockwell Book Launch ft. Tara Dente / Avery Mandeville / Sykes Hartmann / Manny Castanon, 9:30pm, SOLD OUT

The Stone Pony (Asbury): Light My Fire, 7pm, $14 adv, $16 door

TCNJ (Ewing): LVL UP / Crying / Secret Mountain, 6pm, FREE to TCNJ students and guests

The Wonder Bar (Asbury): Anthony Krizan & The Backwoods Stompers / Colossal Street Jam / Scott Elk Trio, 7pm, $10

SATURDAY (2/18) 

The Asbury Hotel, Soundbooth (Asbury): The Constant, 8pm, FREE

Asbury Park Yacht Club (Asbury): Phoebe Nix / Mercury Brothers / No Such Animal, 9pm, FREE

The Brighton Bar (Long Branch): The Brimstones / Duffy's Cut / The Spastiks / The Up Up Ups, 8pm, $8

The Chubby Pickle (Highlands): Ashley McKinley Band / The Foes of FERN / Taylor Tote Band, 9pm, FREE

Court Tavern (New Brunswick): The Dark Matters, 11pm, $10

Firehouse Studio (Oceanport): Pamela Flores / Danny Puma / Lowlight / Sexoffice, 7pm

House of Independents (Asbury): Mickey Avalon, 8pm, $20 adv, $25 door

Langosta Lounge (Asbury): Butterflies Of Love / Stained Glass, 9pm, FREE

Maxwell's Tavern (Hoboken): Rebecca Emont / Little Rose / The Paper Jets / Overcoming Gravity / The Dead Flowers, 7:30pm, $8 adv, $10 door

Meatlocker (Montclair): Ambler / Panther Hollow / ItsALongShot/ Shred Flinstone / Ice Giant, 8pm

Monty Hall (Jersey City): Screaming Females / Wild Rice, 8pm, SOLD OUT

Roxy & Duke's Roadhouse (Dunellen): Punkbaret!, 9pm, $10

The Saint (Asbury): 21 Kings / Chevonne and The Fuzz / Couple Of Guys, 7pm

Starland Ballroom (Sayreville): Pop Evil, 7pm, $17 adv, $20 door

The Wonder Bar (Asbury): Josh Zuckerman Band / Pepperwine, 7pm, $10

SUNDAY (2/19)

The Asbury Hotel, Soundbooth (Asbury): Sunday Night Trivia w/ Gentleman Jim, 6pm, FREE

The Crib (Ask): Dogwood Tales / Jackson Pines / Francis Lombardi / Deal Casino, 6pm, $5

Inkwell Coffee House (Long Branch): Noise In The Attic ft. Chris Brown / Joseph Alton Miller / Cranston Dean / Renee Maskin / Dan Apy, 8:30pm

Langosta Lounge (Asbury): Billy Hector, 1pm, FREE

The Saint (Asbury): Lakehouse Music Academy Kids Showcase, 12:30pm, FREE

The Saint (Asbury): Grateful Bluegrass Boys, 2pm, $10 adv, $13 day

The Saint (Asbury): The Cold Seas / Deal Casino / Blame Candy / Rad Horror, 7pm, $5

Scarlet Pub (New Brunswick): Kahlil Ali / Wade Wilson / Murdock / Villain / A.d. + Apollo, 8pm, $5

Starland Ballroom (Sayreville): (HED) P.E. / Motorgrater, 4:30pm, $16 adv, $19 door

The Stone Pony (Asbury): Asbury Park Record Show, 10am, $10 before 11, $5 after 11

The Wonder Bar (Asbury): Wonder Jam, 3pm, $5

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

New Lunch Ladies Single

Photo: Daniel Topete

"Love Is Overrated"

Lunch Ladies released the second single from their upcoming Down On Sunset Strip yesterday. In a bit of mind-blowing marketing brilliance, the band gave us "Love Is Overrated" on Valentine's Day.

The song exudes a retro-, 50s-ish vibe. The guitars sway and weep as Cynthia Rittenbach croons, "Love is overrated, and I'm happy in my room." It's a feeling we've all had at one time or another, and Lunch Ladies capture it with beautiful simplicity.

Listen to "Love Is Overrated" and then check out Lunch Ladies at one of their upcoming dates, which I have dutifully listed for you below.

Down on Sunset Strip is due from Good Eye Records on March 10th.

Lunch Ladies Dates:

2/15 (uh... TONIGHT) - Shea Stadium - Brooklyn, NY
3/9 - The Footlight - Ridgewood, NY
3/10 - The J House - New Brunswick, NJ (release show)
3/11 - Falafull House - Philadelphia, PA
3/26 (Little Dickman Records / CoolDad Music Present) - The Saint - Asbury Park, NJ
4/14 - Brighton Bar - Long Branch, NJ