Released via the independent Baldy Longhair Records – a label championing analogue formats, specialising in cassettes – This split EP ‘…Are On The Other Side’ features three tracks each from two New Jersey DIY bands. The Disconnects’ straight up rock ‘n’ roll/punk hybrid (with a heavy leaning towards the latter) should appeal to most punk-oriented listeners, while Crazy & The Brains opt for something a little more individual.
By the time of this release, The Disconnects had already gained enthusiastic notices for their earlier ‘…Are Healthy’ cassette. Fans of that release will be thrilled to know that the NJ punkers are working firmly to a tried and tested formula here, with their three songs capturing a similar spirit as before with their near-classic brand of punk and rock proving tough-edged yet wholly accessible.
Kicking off with ‘Wake Up Dead’, the band stamp out riffs which sound like a cross between early Rocket From The Crypt and the more retrained elements of cult UK punk ‘n’ rollers, The Computers. Mixing a high energy riff with a slightly yelpy vocal, this two minute belter ensures maximum thrills. If anything, though, two-minute belter ‘Parasite’ which swiftly follows is an improvement. Whereas ‘Wake Up Dead’ filled a far bars with a trashy lead break, ‘Parasite’ is purely lean and mean, the only concession to a lead break being a very brief Chuck Berry-esque riff occasionally cutting through the sweat. Their final offering, ‘Destroyer’ pulls together the best elements of the two prior numbers, coupling them with a one-word chorus, designed to lodge itself in your head almost instantly.
On the flip side, Crazy and the Brains are somewhat more of an acquired taste. While often taking on the speed and energy of a punk band, they aren’t so easily pigeonholed. Their sound takes in elements of indie-rock and lo-fi grooves, a little anti-folk and a whole world of garage-based sneering. What really sets them apart is their choice of lead instrument: whereas most bands would fill the lead space with a spiky lead guitar, these guys leave most of the lead to a plunky xylophone! Yes…you read that correctly.
Both ‘It’s Alright’ and ‘New York City’ sound like a lo-fi, relatively low budget cousin of early Violent Femmes, something driven home by the use of acoustic instruments and nasal vocal. With maximum speed, the clanking percussion on ‘It’s Alright’ grabs the attention instantly, so much so, it’s occasionally hard to focus on the other stuff going on. ‘New York City’ features a a bouncier more accessible sense of melody and some unashamed “woo woos!” thrown into the bargain, but once you’ve tuned in, though, both numbers have their cool elements.
While The Brains’ own material is fun enough, it is on a spirited cover of Ramones’ ‘Oh Oh, I Love Her So’ where they really come alive. The trashy 60s vibe really suits the percussion, allowing the xylophone to hammer out an upbeat rhythm and give a well-worn punk classic an unfamiliar slant. The instrumentation may have changed, but Ramones die-hards will be pleased to know the main arrangement has not. Given their unique sense of style within punk circles, it would be great to hear what C&tB could do with other classics – maybe a couple of Damned hits played in a quasi-buskers’ style, or Black Flag tunes played on an array of percussive instruments…
Between the more traditional sounds of The Disconnects’ punk ‘n’ roll and Crazy & the Brains’ take on garage based fun, each side of this EP has very much its own distinctive mood…and makes a great jumping off point for anyone unfamiliar with either artist. The playing time may be short, but it’s about quality over quantity here – especially in the case of the material offered by The Disconnects – making this more than a quickly recorded selection of cast-offs.