Monday, October 20, 2014

gates, Bloom & Breathe, 2014

Album Review

I’ve been living in my head. Grinding out that commute becomes such a mind-numbing experience of road rage and, well, road rage. I’m looking at you Staten Island, you wasteland of endless lane repairs, spray tans, and fist pumps. I’ve been trying to sort through different pieces of my past, and I’ve been down a few rabbit holes on the summers of the mid 80s, essentialiy my high school years. They aren’t exactly stories I’d tell here but cue up a John Hughes montage! And this all happens to sync up very nicely with Bloom & Breathe. gates. I’ve sung their praises here before. Super fan. Fan boy. Whatever you want to call it, they’ve been on an infinite loop for the last two years, no matter what the weather or John Hughes movie. We open with the instrumental "Everything That Has Been." It just sort of happens, bleeding into "Bloom," and it changes from subtle to intense in the blink of an eye. I’m still rolling through memories of the summer of 1986, and the first notions of a summer love where there is no promise of forever. "Persist In Delusion" hits home perfectly right at this moment. We sing along to “everything you love falls apart." Ah, the memories are just as intense as this LP. The video for "Not My Blood" is terrific; and this, for now, is still my jam. The first three songs build to this in what I am thinking of as the first act. And now we breathe with "Light The Next Page" and begin the climb again to "That Thing That Would Save You." I can see the band now, backlit, slowly bringing us back and then letting us down gently right into "Nothing You’ll Miss." Harmonies abound as we fade into the pounding drums of "At Last The Loneliest," which is becoming my second goto track. At about the 4 minute mark, I start wanting to flip furniture as we’ve ramped the intensity up to 11. "Born Dead" is a straight up rocker and a return to the gang vocals: “longing to feel alive." We’ve ended this section in complete despair as we prepare for Act Three. We return to the delicate with "Marrow" driving home the central theme of Bloom & Breathe using just voice and acoustic guitar: “All I need is everything I’ll never be.” Haunting. "Low" is the second tune released in advance of the LP, and it's solid. We continue our downward path. Again, "At The Beginning" hits all of my favorite parts of gates -- the layers of guitars and vocals, the rises and falls, the intensity. They’re all here as we drift into "Everything That WIll Always Be," the bookend instrumental that closes out the album. gates have created a truly personal and intense record littered with heartbreak and regret, misunderstanding and frustration, and a sense of rebirth. This rebirth is played out only to suffer the same fate as we churn through the routine that is sometimes, or maybe just is, our lives. As we come into fall, I looked back at a summer that was filled with hope and ended in despair. I’ve wondered before if that person can still see those moments in time or is this just a memory that only lives in my world. It would be easy to reach out for that answer but I don’t think it’s one that I want. I don’t mourn this piece of my past, but I don’t exactly celebrate it either. Maybe I should; but, for now, it’s part of what feels like a secret self. gates’ Bloom & Breathe soundtracked this series of memories, and the timing could not have been more in tune with my time and place. This layered sonic journey with a three guitar attack is, by far, one of my favorite records of the year. Bloom & Breathe is out October 21st on Pure Noise Records.

You've got a chance to see gates on consecutive Thursdays when they come to Asbury Lanes on October 23rd and October 30th.

Bundle up. Fall is upon us.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Friday Night with Smalltalk, Hot Blood, and The Phuss, 10/17/14

Hot Blood and friends on a Friday night in Asbury Park.

Friday's On My Mind

After The Bouncing Souls did their "Home for the Summer" show at The Stone Pony Summer Stage back in July, both Scotch LaRock and I wrote about the sense of fun and community that surrounded that whole weekend. The Neptune City defenders of Smalltalk played Asbury Lanes the night before. An out of town band passing through -- Alabama's Lee Bains III and The Glory Fires -- got a warm reception from the locals. This past Friday night had a similar feel for me, even without the big show from The Souls anchoring things.

Smalltalk played Asbury Lanes again. This time they did their version of Modern Rock at the Jersey Shore for a crowd made up of locals as well as visiting kids who were there to see the pair of major-label bands -- The Orwells and Skaters -- who were headlining the night. Smalltalk got to play for a pretty nice-sized crowd and did a great job representing the local scene. Skaters came out and started immediately feeding off of the residual energy.

As things got closer to 10pm, I made my way over to the "secret show" featuring The Mischief Kids, Hot Blood, The Battery Electric, and Ft. Worth's The Phuss. As soon as I walked in, the friendship and good vibes that swirl around Little Dickman Records and the bands on the label were obvious. I'd missed The Mischief Kids, but I caught the full sets from The Phuss and Hot Blood before I had to bow to reality and get some sleep before the CoolDaughters' early swim meet. I can't even imagine what must've gone on for the set from The Battery Electric.

The sets I caught were crazy, sweaty, slippery affairs. There were no boundaries between the crowd and the performers. The crowd bathed The Phuss in the rowdiest and warmest of welcomes. Moshes turned to scrums around Hot Blood's Mat Kiley turned to hugs. At one point, Phuss lead singer Joshua Fleming said, "Thanks a lot Asbury Park! You've really got a scene here!"

And we do.

Back in August The New York Times, did a feature on the resurgent music scene around Asbury. They gave much-deserved shouts out to several of our favorites like ("The") Wreaths, Nicole Atkins, Rick Barry, Asbury Lanes, Langosta / APYC, The Saint, and Dark City Entertainment (The last three also had great things going on Friday night.). Let's face it, though. The Times isn't here night after night, week after week. And while they highlighted some great stuff that's going on here, it just wasn't possible for them to convey the feeling of the living, breathing, growing scene we've got brewing.

Everyone mentioned in that piece is a huge part of it. But an article in a national paper isn't going to give you the feeling you get from seeing a bunch of those same bands playing on a beautiful night, in the dark, on the beach out in front of The Anchor's Bend. It can't really make you feel the warmth coming from a crowd who came out to support Smalltalk, a band made up of members of The Bouncing Souls, Worthless United, Miss TK and The Revenge, Zero Zero and The Get Rights who have all played a part in different Jersey music scenes over the years.

The Times isn't going to tell you what it's like to hear high school kids playing their folk punk songs out on the Asbury Park beach. You won't feel the surprise when a touring band walks into Happy Mondays to play a set after busking on the boardwalk just because they heard the music from outside. You're not going to feel yourself slipping on a wet tile floor as music shakes the windows of an extra-legal performance space. And no printed page can ever give you the experience of a full-on hug from a sopping with sweat Mat Kiley right after a set from Hot Blood.

So what I'm saying, I guess, is what I always say. Get yourself out there and experience what's going on in our area. It's something more than just great bands playing great spaces run by great people. It's alive and it's growing. Just take a smell of the shirt I wore the other night if you don't believe me.

mmmm... ...Kiley.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pics of Cheap Girls, Beach Slang, Signals Midwest at Asbury Lanes, 10/16/14

Philly's Beach Slang are finishing up a tour with Cheap Girls, Signals Midwest, and Lee Corey Oswald.


CoolMom had this annual work thing last night, so I wasn't sure I'd be able to make it out. I was a little antsy over it because I've wanted to see Beach Slang for a while. They played The Stone Pony with Modern Baseball a couple of months back, but I was booked. Then, they were on the bill for The Clef's Pre-Halloween Party but had to drop when they got added to the Cheap Girls tour. At around 8:20, CoolMom pulled into the driveway. We tag-teamed, and I headed to Asbury Lanes.

Unfortunately, I missed Lee Corey Oswald. Later in the evening, Cheap Girls' bassist and lead singer Ian Graham told us all what a mistake that was, and now I'm sorry. I did make it about mid-way through the set by Signals Midwest. The guys were a little spent from touring, but they turned in a good set; and the crowd was fist-pumping and singing along.

Beach Slang came out at around 9:15, maybe, opening with "American Girls and French Kisses" from their most recent 7", Cheap Thrills on a Dead End Street. I was "screaming out my lungs" from behind my camera. Guitarist James Alex, in his kind of schoolboy garb, let loose on stage from the beginning, remarking that the only time he doesn't feel awkward is when he's pounding on his guitar. Great set. Everything I could have wanted.

Cheap Girls closed things out in much more low-key fashion from a jumping around the stage perspective. Their sound is a big one, though. Huge Les Paul chords and guitar solos mixed with Ian Graham's vaguely twangy vocals to produce something both heavy and irresistibly catchy.

In all, a pretty good way to spend a Thursday night. Here are some photo highlights. Click the "Galleries" tab for more.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Stuyvesant's Latest Single Is the First for Sugarblast Music Company


Our good friends over at NJ-based Dromedary Records have a new member of the family. Sugarblast Music Company "will be like Dromedary's louder, snottier, more obnoxious younger brother." The new record company's Facebook page goes on: "With a goal of remaining small, the only real objective of the label is to continuously release interesting, noisy music with zero consideration to what people might actually be interested in buying." Nice.

That said, though, they've come out today with something that a few people will probably have an interest in buying. The label's first sounds come in the form of the latest single by NJ vets Stuyvesant. "Alright" premiered today over at PopMatters. It's some upbeat and, yes, noisy rock and roll featuring a big horn section and a confession that rock music "sort of saved my soul." It's the lead single from Stuyvesant's next full-length, Shmyvesant, which is due from Sugarblast on November 25th.

Have a listen to "Alright" and give a nice welcome to Sugarblast. Maybe give their Facebook page a like.

Mazel tov.