In March 2014 lo-fi garage rock combo Greasy Hearts released their self-titled debut EP. Recorded on a meagre budget, the six numbers captured the band in raw form, driven by self-belief and pure adrenaline. Live shows quickly followed and the New Jersey based quartet began to pick up a greasy following. Within months, they were back in the studio recording a follow up release.
As far as homages to the early Beatles are concerned, The Rutles will always be the best loved, but then their songs were strongly modelled on the already very familiar. As superb as the parody evident in the likes of ‘Number One’ and ‘Goose Step Mama’ may be, they will always be just that – parody. On this, their second disc, New York’s Merseypunk pioneers Beat Rats show they clearly love The Beatles’ early work as much as Neil Innes does, but although the sounds of rock ‘n’ roll prevail, they’ve been far less tempted to use obvious existing templates to create their brand of fun. As far as celebrating the sounds of the very early sixties are concerned, you won’t find much that’s more authentic sounding.
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.
Recorded in a weekend, this EP comprises four tunes by retro/garage rock band The Greenhornes (best known for their association with Jack White and Brendan Benson) jamming with ex-Animals vocalist Eric Burdon. Given Burdon’s prior love for keeping things a little raw and The Greenhornes naturalistic performances, the results are interesting.
“My name’s Winston Churchill…and I’m having a fucking nervous breakdown” grumbles Burdon during the intro of ‘Black Dog’, as Patrick Keeler leads the band with a crashing entrance, before everyone settles into a classic blues groove that’s a dead ringer for Hendrix’s ‘Who Knows’ (from ‘Band of Gypsies’). Backed by slabs of organ and fuzzy guitar lines, the aging Burdon lets his inner animal loose as he snarls and shouts, delivering each line with a real fire and defiant power; his loudest moments among the best a white blues growler can muster, while his quieter moments (of which are few) have an equally ominous presence.
With cleaner guitar and a very welcome electric piano, ‘Out of My Mind’ finds Burdon turning in a much more thoughtful performance, though never quite managing to eclipse Jack Lawrence, whose wandering basslines are very high in the mix and sound terrific throughout. In the producer’s chair, Brendan Benson seems to have had the good sense to let everything happen naturally, doing very little himself – the “live in the studio” vibes are perfect for both The Greenhornes and Burdon. ‘Can You Win’ pitches Burdon’s fearsome growl against a near funky bass and some reverb-filled guitar lines. Burdon’s voice wobbles, caring not for anything remotely close to perfection, but placed against the quasi-aggressive guitar lines and loud drum parts, this appears to be a yet another perfect matching of musicians from different generations. As they pull things to a close, it’s clear that this is their finest moment – one which you may wish could have gone on for longer.
After three blistering performances, expectations are set high for the EP to finish with a forth. Sadly, the EPs closing track ‘Cab Driver’ is so bad – so offensively bad, even – it comes close to spoiling the good work that’s been laid down previously. So, what’s so objectionable? Over a tune with a distinctly eastern flavour – like a garage band jamming out bits of Sol Bloom’s ‘Snake Charmer’ music – Burdon adopts a cod Arabic accent where (amongst other things) he “sings” about having a tattoo removed that was anti-American, before claiming he has nothing against the English soldiers if they stay lying in their graves. Christ. How this was deemed to be okay in the 21st century is a mystery, considering other racially motivated pieces – such as ‘Doctor I’m In Trouble’ by Peter Sellers & Sophia Loren – are often viewed as being in bad taste. Much in the same way his ‘PC3’ did forty years previously with its themes of police brutality and sexualising the monarch, was Burdon aiming for controversy here? Yes. Was it necessary? No. Should this have been kept private? Certainly.
So, there it is – four tunes recorded in less time than it takes some bands to decide on a drum sound. The off-the-cuff approach yields some excellent results from a great band sparking off an unquestionably edgy vocalist. In places, it could even represent the sound of artists who’d been working together for years. Now, if someone had the foresight – and possibly the guts – to tell Burdon that ‘Cab Driver’ was a bad idea, this EP would have been even better.
Mixing garage punk, a little garage blues and a whole world of attitude, this debut EP by New Yorkers (the) Thunderfucks has little time for subtlety. Despite never taking the speed-punk route of bands like Zeke (whose debut clocked up twenty songs in just about twenty four minutes) it’s still pretty damn fast in places. That speediness combined with a hefty love of trashy 50s influenced rock ‘n’ roll – bringing forth a little Ramones and a whole world of early Misfits in their sound – means these guys don’t mess around.
Without any time to warm up, ‘Crazy Wild Style’ crashes into a rock ‘n’ roll thrasher that sounds like Rocket From The Crypt spun at 45 rpm, with plenty of shouty gang vocals backing up a lead voice that attacks the listener with a near guttural delivery. Another lightning fast romp, ‘Sick Girl’ – clocking in at just a minute and a half – allows drummer KC to let loose on his hi-hat, while the rest of the band sweat it out through a brilliant, screaming rock ‘n’ roll number with a killer old-school lead break from Leopardman Tom, underneath which Handsome Dan delivers a lovely hurried bassline. With the combination of semi-aggessive vocal, brief playing time and great soloing, this number presents Thunderfucks at their most urgent, even if not their most wholly accessible.
The other tunes are a little tighter all round. ‘Another Day’ begins with a riff that would make Johnny Ramone proud, but by the time Charlie Kong launches into a strong lead vocal topped with a croon, this band’s Misfits about as subtle as a brick – but since this tune is potentially better than anything that band has committed to record since Glenn Danzig’s departure, who cares? On the basis of this and ‘Entertain Me’ (which follows in a very similar mood), Thunderfucks take the punk ‘n’ roll ethic, kick it in squarely up the arse and get superb results, even in spite of a couple of wobbly lead guitar breaks. On ‘Entertain Me’ in particular, Kong sounds very confident with his adopted croon.
Since these four tunes have two distinctly different attitudes, that means there’s just enough variation within the band’s chosen styles for them not to feel repetitive. This too, of course, is helped by the shorter EP format. All together, it adds up to a debut EP that’s a sweaty but joyous affair that no fans of punk/punk ‘n’ roll should miss.