Friday, July 31, 2015

AciD, Tales of Contempt, 2015

Album Review

There was a time -- it seems like the distant past now -- when rock music was a little bit more in your face. I don't mean in your face like fast or loud or noisy. I mean in your face like rebellious and uncomfortable and not necessarily "nice." There are pockets of that now still, obviously; but I think it's become rare to find a 3-minute pop song that captures that grit and well... ...contempt... of rock music from another time.

On their second LP, Tales of Contempt, Long Branch / Asbury Park band AciD serve up plenty of contempt and sneering sarcasm in the form of infectious, bite-sized chunks of well-crafted rock music. Principal songwriter, Bobby Kennedy, has a sharp wit that he turns both inward and outward throughout the record.

Over jagged guitars and a drum beat reminiscent of The Stone Roses, Kennedy sings about a relationship that's gone south. "I always do it wrong... ...You always do it right." It drips with sarcasm, and then he finally brings it around to, "Be yourself and all I ask of you is you do it somewhere else."

Things start out happy on the somewhere between punk and post-punk "Sea Hag." Kennedy's baby, though, just can't seem to live up to the standard set by his own self-perceived greatness; so he's gotta cut her loose.

"Rock & Roll Genocide" makes some pretty astute observations about the lack of originality in rock music with the band even calling themselves out, "I don't even like this song. It's already way too long." AciD have so much contempt for rock music that they can't even stand themselves.

AciD reveal some of their influences with an excellent cover of Love and Rockets' "Motorcycle." It rocks a little harder, and the production is a little cleaner, than the original which makes the song slot in nicely with the originals.

The hard-driving "Dance!" calls out the "keep at least 10 feet away from the stage, and stand with your hands in your pockets or sit on the floor" culture that permeates most modern rock shows. "Solitaire" and "Crushing My Heart" both begin with great intro hooks and both deal with the futility of love: "This 'together forever' thing is going nowhere" on "Solitaire" and, well, the title of "Crushing My Heart."

Tales of Contempt takes a lot of what used to be great about rock music -- singable songs with lots of musical edge, cutting lyrics that question a lot of the things in life that we just accept and take for granted -- and combines it in a tight 10-song package that's one of the best, old-school rock records you'll hear in a while. Kennedy is a virtuoso of the 3-minute rock and roll song, and the rest of the band -- Johnny Firestone, Joey Chyb, and Benjamin Clapp -- give the songs all the serrated edges they need to bring them to life.

AciD release Tales of Contempt tonight with a show at Eatontown's Cabaret. They'll be joined by The Ribeye Brothers. Doors for "Album Release Party-A-Go-Go" open at 8pm and just $5 lets you stand -- and Dance! -- under the contemptuous gaze of the band.

ACID "Motorcycle" from SurfReaper Films on Vimeo.
ACID Video for the song "Motorcycle"
Director: Shane M. Green

Thursday, July 30, 2015

What's Going On: 7/30, 7/31, 8/1 & 8/2, 2015

Smalltalk make their Wonder Bar debut this Friday with gods, GayGuy/StraightGuy, and The Battery Electric

Dog Days

It's always bittersweet when July turns into August around here. July is our busiest month with camp and two swim teams and all that. When the calendar turns over to August, though, things begin to slow down; and we can really start to enjoy the summer at CoolDad Music HQ. What's left of it anyway. It's my favorite season, and I always start to get a little sad when I can feel its end approaching. We've still got a little bit of July and plenty of summer left, though, to enjoy ourselves, so...

On Thursday WBJB continues with their free Songwriters on the Beach series. This time they bring us Howling Tongues and Captain Ron Santee himself. Saintseneca come to Asbury Lanes with Radiator Hospital, Accidental Seabirds, Bone & Marrow, and those lovelies in Dentist. Hodera and The Vaughns hit Maxwell's in Hoboken along with Help Me Help You and Archie Alone. The Lakehouse Music Academy's adult rock class takes over The Saint.

Friday is jam-packed. Something a little different takes place at Asbury Lanes with Red Oak Contemporary Ensemble, Quit, and our bud Mike Richison. The Toasters come back to Brighton Bar with Eastbourne and The Damn Long Hairs. AciD hold their release party at Eatontown's Cabaret. The Ribeye Brothers will be a-go-going on that one as well. Quincy Mumford and The Reason Why play Langosta for free. Stuyvesant and Brixton Riot are at Jersey City's New Park Tavern. Semiotics, Holophonics, Backyard Superheroes, and Wyland hit Rahway's Rail House. The Wonder Bar hosts a solid bill of gods, Smalltalk, The Battery boys, and GayGuy / StraightGuy.

On Saturday, Spinal Ramones and Streetwalkin' Cheetahs make it a night of Ramones, Misfits, and Stooges at APYC. Blithedale Romance, Dizzy Bats, Dankwolf, and Heavy Flow play New Brunswick's Candy Barrel. Grip Weeds are back at Langosta. The Dean Ween Group play the Pony.

Sunday brings The Cold Seas, Campdogzz, NGHTCRWLRS, and YJY to Asbury Lanes. The Historic Jersey City and Harsimus Cemetery holds the first annual Goat-Stock fundraiser with The Rock N Roll HiFives, The Porchistas, Sean Kiely, Sea Of Otters, and more. Stan Ridgway is at Wonder Bar. Deal Casino are at APYC.

I hope the summer is everything you hoped it would be so far. Plenty of time to make sure of that, but don't dilly dally. See you at a show.

THURSDAY (7/30)

5th Ave. Beach (Belmar): Howling Tongues / Ron Santee, 7pm, FREE

Asbury Lanes (Asbury): Saintseneca / Radiator Hospital / Accidental Seabirds / Dentist / Bone & Marrow, 7pm, $12 (ALL AGES)

Asbury Park Yacht Club (Asbury): Sumptin' Good ft. Zak Westphal / Matt Wade / Kevin Grossman, 9pm, FREE

The Beach Bar (Asbury): Disco 2000: DJ Magic Juan Electro / Indie / Shoegaze, 8pm

Clash Bar (Clifton): Steve Burks / Chris Skel / Dan Scarpa / Steve Van Tine / Nicholas Colavito / Ctrl Zulu

The Dopeness (Jersey City): Joy Ride / Halfway Home / Sic Vita / Save Society, $10, 8pm

Langosta Lounge (Asbury): The Matt Baker Band, 10pm, FREE

Maxwell's Tavern (Hoboken): Hodera / Help Me Help You / The Vaughns / Archie Alone, 8pm, $10 adv, $13 door

The Meatlocker (Montclair): Teenage Halloween / The Great Depression / Feudalism / Quantum Peruvian / Clam Jam / Brook Pridemore / Sammy Mellman / Friends In Distraction, 7:3pm, donation

The Saint (Asbury): Lakehouse Music Academy Adult Rock Class Takeover, 5:30pm, FREE

FRIDAY (7/31)

Asbury Lanes (Asbury): Red Oak Contemporary Ensemble / Quit / Mike Richison, 7:30pm, $15 (ALL AGES)

Asbury Park Yacht Club (Asbury): Merrill and Top Hat, 10pm, FREE

The Brighton Bar (Long Branch): The Toasters / Eastbourne / The Damn Long Hairs, 8pm, $10 (18+)

The Cabaret (Eatontown): AciD (Album Release) / The Ribeye Brothers, $5

Clash Bar (Clifton): The Paul Anthony Project / Dr. Scientist / Jamerson / The Schwam

Count Basie Theatre (Red Bank): Rob Thomas / Plain White Ts, 8pm

The Dopeness (Jersey City): Desir Decir / Shark Jumper / Rotten Blue Menace / The Described Mouth, 8pm, $10

Hat City Kitchen (Orange): Accidental Seabirds / Hollywood Blanks, 7:30pm

Langosta Lounge (Asbury): Quincy Mumford and The Reason Why, 10pm, FREE

Millhill Basement (Trenton): Molly Rhythm / Mobina Galore / Stoop Good Noise / Cryptkeeper 5, 9pm, $7

New Park Tavern (Jersey City): Stuyvesant / The Brixton Riot, 10pm, FREE

The Rail House (Rahway): Semiotics / Holophonics / Backyard Superheroes / Wyland, 8:30pm, $3

The Saint (Asbury): Black Suburbia, 7:30pm, $10

The Stone Pony (Asbury): Brandywine Road Band / Jack Newsome, 7pm, $10 adv, $12 door (ALL AGES)

Roxy & Dukes (Dunellen): Barry Blues / Counterfit Ca$h / TBA, 9:30pm, $10

The Wonder Bar (Asbury): gods / Smalltalk / The Battery Electric / GayGuy/StraightGuy, 8pm, $10

SATURDAY (8/1)

Asbury Lanes (Asbury): Twin Peaks Burlesque, 8pm, $15 adv, $20 door (18+)

Asbury Park Yacht Club (Asbury): Spinal Ramones / Streetwalkin' Cheetahs, 10pm, FREE

The Brighton Bar (Long Branch): End Of An Era / Daughter Vision, 7pm, $10 adv, $12 door (ALL AGES)

Candy Barrel (New Brunswick): Blithedale Romance / Dizzy Bats / Dankwolf / Heavy Flow, 7pm, $5

Clash Bar (Clifton): Sattherwaite (Reunion) / Felix Frump (Reunion) / The Big Dangerous (Reunion)

Cooler Ranch (New Brunswick): Serious Shit / Nervous Triggers / Stressors, 7pm, donations

Count Basie Theatre (Red Bank): Rob Thomas / Plain White Ts, 8pm

The Dopeness (Jersey City): Harbor Lights / Heavy Sigh / Breaking Tradition / The Great Depression, 7pm, $10

Langosta Lounge (Asbury): Grip Weeds, 10pm, FREE

The Meatlocker (Montclair): The Planet You / Noot / Devon Goods / Cheem / Subtitles, 9pm, donation
SUNDAY (8/2)

Asbury Lanes (Asbury): The Cold Seas / YJY / Campdogzz / NGHTCRWLRS, 7pm, $8 (ALL AGES)

Asbury Park Yacht Club (Asbury): Deal Casino, 7pm, FREE

The Brighton Bar (Long Branch): Summer Pop Punk Explosion w/ The Breakfast Kids / The Stewart Dolly / more, 1pm, $10-12 (ALL AGES)

Historic Jersey City and Harsimus Cemetery (Jersey City): Goat-Stock ft. Life In A Blender / RocknRoll HiFives / Sean Kiely / Sea Of Otters / The Porchistas / more, 3pm, $10 adult, $5 seniors / kids 5+

The Saint (Asbury): JT Bowen / Little Jimmy and The Starlites, 3pm, $20

Scarlet Pub (New Brunswick): Johnny Ott / Jeanette Ferri / JoGa / Shotty Mike / Manny Dylan / Airacuda, 8pm, FREE

The Stone Pony (Asbury): Rock to the Top, 2pm, $10 adv, $12 door (ALL AGES)

The Wonder Bar (Asbury): Stan Ridgway, 4pm, $15 adv, $20 door

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Titus Andronicus, The Most Lamentable Tragedy, 2015

Album Review

Back in 2012 at The Stone Pony, Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus broke a string on his new Les Paul Jr. As he struggled with replacing it on the unfamiliar instrument, he took questions from the crowd. "What's your favorite diner?" "What's your favorite Seinfeld episode?" Someone asked him what his favorite recent album was; and, without hesitation, he said Fucked Up's David Comes to Life. If you go to YouTube and watch Fucked Up's in the round performance of the album at Le Poisson Rouge, you can see Patrick Stickles -- whose band opened the show -- right up front screaming every word.

David Comes to Life is a 77-minute punk opera about love, loss, hope, despair, and fate. It asks the question, "If you knew how everything was going to turn out, would you have done it anyway?" It's ultimately pretty inspiring, and it seems to have, at least partially, inspired Patrick Stickles to create his band's latest work, the 93-minute, 29-track The Most Lamentable Tragedy.

The Most Lamentable Tragedy is a rock opera in five acts that deals with Stickles's personal struggle with manic depression. This one is difficult to write for me. Not because I suffer from any clinical mental illness (that's been diagnosed so far); but because there are things here with which I identify and which speak to me. I didn't want to turn Stickles's personal struggles into my own thing. Everybody's issues are different, and I didn't want to claim that I knew Stickles's experiences. But this is my blog, so what the hell?

The guitars that open "No Future Part IV: No Future Triumphant" immediately recall David Comes To Life. The song introduces the protagonist, Our Hero, at a point when he's "sunk" into a "repugnant dungeon." Doors and windows closed, no light coming in, he doesn't even want to leave his room. "I hate to be awake."

Note: This made me think of this thing I've been doing for years I call "Reverse Christmas Eve-ing." It's the act of staying up as late as possible to stave off the arrival of the next morning. Not so much "I hate to be awake," though. More like "I hate to wake up." Anyway...

"Stranded (On My Own)" continues the theme of Our Hero's finding himself at a low point following a period of apparent happiness or, at least, activity. "Crazy heart where have you gone?... ...Left alone to dread the dawn." We meet the "mystery beast," or Our Hero's internal demon; and we get the first reference to Our Hero's lifelong attempt at better living through chemicals: "Just take your Ritalins and you can play the old hits again."

"Lonely Boy" again starts with a kind of Fucked Up intro but quickly morphs into a garage rocker reminiscent of something like "Another Night" by another Stickles favorite, The Men. This is the point where Our Hero's anxiety causes him to, maybe, lash out at people. "Stay away. He doesn't wanna hurt you" and "A lonely boy is an angry boy."

Another Note: This "you hurt the ones you love" thing is no fun, especially when you can see it for what it is and are powerless to stop it.

Still Another Note: The "Hello, Newman" reference makes me laugh every time. CoolMom and I have this thing we do when something annoying happens where we'll clench a fist and go, "Newman!"

"I Lost My Mind (+@)" is a lyrically clever account of Our Hero's lifelong struggle. It takes us from the first appearance of trouble to the present day when "Suicide seems superior to trying to survive."

The band cover Daniel Johnston's "I Lost My Mind" in Act II. Here, though, it comes after we've met the "Lookalike," Our Hero's doppelgänger. He's the other half of Our Hero's personality who tries to coax him from his "repugnant dungeon." It's more upbeat. "Mr. E. Mann" -- the mystery man, "I am the Electric Man" -- wipes the winter away.

Again with the Notes: This theme of a double is something that Stickles has played with before. See the press conference announcing the #SEVENSEVENINCHES subscription series.

Things begin to ratchet up on the anthemic, Springsteen-esque "Fired Up." Our hero takes to self-medicating. "They sell you shit to make you sick. That shit I sell will make you well." And we reach a fever pitch with appropriately manic single "Dimed Out." Our hero's creativity is at its peak. He can do anything.

One More Note: "I like, "like it" like it dimed out" is one of those subtly clever and humorous lyrics that you'd miss without a lyrics sheet. The quotation marks are everything.

Our Hero ultimately falls into past-life dreaming, recalling his "hidden heritage" on the Gaelic-inflected "More Perfect Union." An ancestor arrives in America bringing with him Our Hero's inheritance.

Act III opens with "Sun Salutation." If Acts I & II were winter and spring respectively, this is clearly summer. Things are hot. Our Hero is a slave to his desires on the nine-minute "(S)He Said / (S)He Said." He gets what he wants and something more. The shoegazy "Funny Feeling" has him convincing himself that he can control what's inside of him; and on single "Fatal Flaw," he decides to let out "the beast" and see what happens. "Will she freak when she sees my capabilities?"

It's still summer in Act IV, and Our Hero is actually happy. "Together we greet the dawn!" he sings on "Come On, Siobhán," a far cry from hating to be awake in Act I. But there's also a sense of desperation in the repeated "Come on" that ends the song. A cover of Pogues' classic "A Pair of Brown Eyes" -- "And I thought about a pair of brown eyes that waited once for me" -- signals, perhaps, the end of the relationship.

"The Fall" opens Act V and lets us know it's autumn -- the season when it starts to get dark early and when things start to die. The instrumental interlude is also the sound of falling. We're coming down off of another high, "Into the Void." "Into the Void" is a hard rocker in which Our Hero scolds himself for even trying to have happiness: "...there ain't no living man that can spin a world of shit into a golden pearl."

OK, One More Note: This is how David starts out in David Comes to Life, believing that having something good just means that something bad is around the corner. Always waiting for "The Other Shoe."

On the quiet, piano-based "No Future Part V: In Endless Dreaming," Our Hero starts to realize that he and "the beast" / Lookalike / doppelgänger are one in the same. His double still works on him, though. Tries to get him to to take "a way out," "Enter the endless dream with me."

Not the Final Note: These thoughts enter everybody's head at some point, right? Right? Maybe multiple times? Maybe even often? Your brain is a computer, exploring all the options. It's what your brain does when it comes to this one that makes all the difference.

Accordion, the lo-fi recording style of Daniel Johnston, and pained vocals characterize "Stable Boy." Our Hero promises, "...no, never, no, never no sleeping forever." And, I guess, in a way, that's why he gets to call himself Our Hero. Living is heroic. Not just for Our Hero, but for everyone. Sticking it out, working, working to make a go of it is incredibly difficult; and it's no small thing to make that choice every single day.

Like David in David Comes to Life, Our Hero ultimately decides that it's worth it; and that he's willing to go through the cycle all over again.

End Note: So this is something I vowed never to do: An almost song by song recap of somebody's record. I didn't know how else to approach it, though. "It's a punk opera and it's long and these four songs are really good" didn't seem to be the right approach. The Most Lamentable Tragedy is an impressive work. It's impressive in its openness and in how deeply personal it is, but it's also impressive in how its deeply personal nature translates into something almost universal. It's hit me hard since I started listening to it, and I won't stop thinking about it for a long time.

The Most Lamentable Tragedy is out now on Merge.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Beach Slang (or T. LaRock's Asbury Lanes Takeover)


"They Don't Know The Power Of Amplifiers"

They don’t. We do. I haven’t been out all that much lately. Here and there I surface, and Jim makes mention of a Scotch sighting; but, for the most part, I’ve missed time in the city by the sea. There is construction throughout Asbury and things are starting to look a little different. As T. LaRock (coined by Jim, aka T.Slice aka T$) and I walked up to Asbury Lanes, I felt my heart sink a little as the fresh concrete has taken away the porch and steps. The times, they are a changin’. That’s part of the reason why I wanted to take my 8 year old son to Asbury Lanes, maybe for his last time to see one of my favorites (and steadily becoming one of his), Beach Slang. There’s a thing about the Lanes that feels different to me. Different from my years in Brooklyn or on the LES. Even though I’m just a guy who goes to shows there occasionally, I always manage to run into someone I know or someone new or... ...well it feels like community, sometimes even family. And, I’m saying this as someone who resides just on the fringe. I can’t imagine what these changes feel like for some who call it home. I’m sure there will be better tributes along the way but I couldn’t help but feel a little something while I was standing at the foot of a bowling lane with my son taking in a punk rock show. We got to the Lanes early to meet up with Jim and his permanently affixed camera bag. (I’m beginning to think he and the camera are merging to form a CoolDad Cyborg but that’s for another time.). Grilled cheeses, quesadillas, tater tots, and lots of shooting the breeze before The Scandals hit the stage. T. and I checked out James Alex's killer bowling form and got a little meet and greet before the show, and T. started to realize how big his choice of a Bad Brains tee was. The Scandals roared through their set. This was the first time taking them in, and they live in that sweet spot somewhere between the early Gaslight records and the Bouncing Souls. Head bobbing and The Scandals brought the rock and/or roll. Hurry was up next, but we needed ices as the Lanes can be a tad steamy, even with the side doors open. (Snacks are key if you bring your kid to, well, anything.) We met up with our buddy JS1, in all the way from Upstate New York. He too traded the city for trees and is about to become a CoolDad himself in a couple months. Less colored vinyl, more colored bibs, Joe. We strolled down to the boardwalk and we marveled at the sheer volume of people at the beach. One cherry-chocolate ice later, and we three were back at the Lanes for Beach Slang. Tom, another former Brooklyn guy, now shore resident, and punk rock warlord, made it out and joined the group. We were rollin’ deep as Beach Slang tore through their set. We positioned ourselves front and center and started our sing alongs. We got treated to a great set that included some new tunes and a cover of Jawbreaker’s “Bad Scene, Everyone’s Fault." And then, James thanked T. and me for coming to the show and launched into “American Girls and French Kisses," which included an awesome false start. T. was overwhelmed and, well, I was too. Couldn’t ask for more. We hung around after the show and said our goodbyes and got hugs from James. Lots of hugs. There were records, pins, stickers and tees (thanks Ed and Ruben) and lots of love. Best. I’ve been obsessing on Beach Slang for basically a year now. I’ve seen them at as many shows as I could get to in Brooklyn and Asbury. Every time feels electric. All heart. My interaction with the band, well, they’re just really great guys. James, Ed, Ruben, and JP are some of the friendliest, sweetest people I’ve met in the 30 odd years of going to shows. Yeah, 30. Wow. Just reread that myself. They made my son feel like the rock star on Saturday. I’m floored by how they reacted to him and how that shout out from the stage has been the talk of my house since. Asbury Lanes knows the power of amplifiers. SAVE Asbury Lanes.