Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Best Of 2017: Violets Are Wet, Hellbirds, No Honeymoon, The Veldt, HNRY FLWR, Teen Vice, Ora Cogan, Diane & The Gentlemen, The Fluids, herMajesty, Giftshop, Dead Leaf Echo, Honey

2017 was filled with a steady flow of new music, from both long-time faves and previously unheard artists. In compiling this annual year-end “Best Of” feature, an eclectic collection of musicians earned inclusion.  Some appear for the very first time, while others get a second look via re-posts from earlier features on this site as well as pieces first published at The Deli Mag.  Compiled in no particular order, all share equal billing here, having made music that deserves to be heard.

It's always a special moment to discover brand new bands in their earliest formative stage.  Attending shows for a familiar favorite often creates opportunities to check out someone you haven't heard.  In the case of New York City quartet Violets Are Wet, I found myself in attendance at their very first ever live show on September 2 at lower east side venue Pianos.  Despite their relative newness, that live show exhibited a level of creativity that has now made it's way onto their first official recording and newly released single “Cloud.”

The bright, slightly abrasive four chord electric guitar intro is soon met by a world-weary voice that begins “oh can you tell me.”  While vocalist/guitarist Anthony Magana may be channeling Lou Reed's half-spoken/half-sung storytelling style, his actual tonal quality and diction leans closer to Julian Casablancas deeper baritone.  Classical pianist Habiba Warren's playing tinkles throughout the song, transforming the basic guitar, bass (Helen Huang) and drums (Matthew Schupack) progression, adding a richness and touch of pathos.  With the song's title referencing those atmospheric forms suspended above us, the lyrics “It's no wonder how – we go up to come down. Because madness is an ocean. Our life is a cloud” bring it all much closer to home, and our ever fluctuating mental and emotional condition.

The song's midpoint delivers a particularly tasty guitar lick driven instrumental break.  While Anthony plays melodies over top, the rhythm section of Helen and Matthew provide forceful counterpoint accents.  The overall effect (and sound quality to the instruments) is closer to the electrified Americana of Neil Young and Crazy Horse, than The Velvet Underground's experimental chaos. “Walk towards me – backward” Anthony croons - “down the one-way street. Life can move so much faster – when there's nothing left to see.”

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Back on July 21 of this year, Hellbirds released their long awaited debut full length album 12 Songs On Film. The following night marked two milestone events at Brooklyn's Alphaville as the band played their Record Release Show in conjunction with The Special Without Brett Davis 100th Episode Celebration.

DaveCromwellWrites was on hand to witness that high energy show and provide a track-by-track review of each album cut.   That review in it's entirety can be found here.

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It had been two years since Brooklyn dreamgaze collective No Honeymoon released their excellent sophomore EP “Together Alone” (featured on this sites 2015 Best Of list).  The long wait for new material was satisfied with the release of their latest EP “It’s Whatever.”

Recent single release “Were Doing Fine” shows the band stepping back from heavier gaze-guitar sound they’d previously employed, opting instead for a cleaner sound that underscores its heart-tugging melody and emotive vocal performance.  Follow-up cut “Don’t Want To” brings that weightier force back, while introducing what sounds like an organ behind the verses.  Guitarist and band vocalist Cait Smith sings with a tone and vocal inflection reminiscent of The CranberriesDolores O’Riordan at times.  The unexpected tempo shift occurring a third of the way through slows things down to a more deliberate, buzzy and distorted resolution.

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The recent release of soulful dream-rockers The Veldt’s latest EP Thanks to the Moth and Areanna Rose delivers seven new tracks that undoubtedly connect with their long-time followers, while potentially appealing to a new generation only recently discovering this sound.

“The Color of Love is Blue” with its descending chord progression and tightly-coiled, clipped-chime guitar work evokes peak-period Robin Guthrie and The Cocteau Twins.  That influence is further suggested via falsetto vocals, Liz Fraser-style phrasing while adding in a level of American soul inflections.  Percussive elements solidify the homage, reflecting the boldly struck accents so prevalent on classic albums “Heaven Or Las Vegas” and “Four Calendar CafĂ©.”

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Brooklyn musician David Van Witt records and plays live (with a band) under the name HNRY FLWR.  The initial cap abbreviation of the name Henry Flower comes from the alias Leopold Bloom uses as the protagonist and hero of James Joyce's Ulysses.  Having spent the last two years playing live shows and releasing the occasional single and video, the debut EP was released this year via Paper Garden Records.

Opening track “Stranger” moves from somber beginnings into a bright keyboard driven anthem. Nuanced layers emerge throughout it’s near six minute length, with cascading background vocals and buzzing synths.   “As Above, So Below” slithers along like a soundtrack to some middle-eastern mystery quest film.  Van Witt’s vocal tone and delivery share similarities with the moody baritone of Peter Murphy.  Ballad “Little Brother” explores the cycle of violent abuse, ultimately concluding that “now I’ve become those bruises on your arms.”  “Down In Carolina” is propelled along by a deliberate bass-line under bright synthesizer enhancements.  There’s a muted, distant quality to the vocals that add an air of mystery to it all.  Closing track “Context (Trans-Pecos, On A Full Moon, On A Monday)” sounds pretty much as the title suggests.  That this acoustic guitar only live track was recorded at that celebrated venue on the day and lunar moment described.  An odd inclusion on this otherwise lushly produced EP, but perhaps the intent is to show the humanity behind the machinery of recording music.

Check out their latest video release for the song "Little Brother"

There is also a clever (and quite entertaining) Indiegogo campaign where you can become more involved in the inner workings of the bands climb to stardom.  The Blaze Boylan videos are highly recommended.  Check all that out here.

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Emerging from their own previously established bands, Brooklyn’s Teen Vice released their debut EP “Saddest Summer” this past July on the Commission Music label.  Lead vocals and guitar are provided by Tammy Hart, who initially made a name for herself in the bands Winning Looks, Making Friendz and MEN.  Bassist/vocalist Joshua Ackley and drummer Derek Pippin had long been the core of punk band The Dead Betties, whom I previously wrote a feature about on The Deli here.

Guitarist May Dantas rounds out the quartet, whose sound attempts to meld Fleetwood Mac style melodies with the punk aggression of Hole.  On featured track “Kiss It Goodbye”clean, jangly guitar chords establish the three chord rhythm before thrashing drums, fuzzy electric guitar and bass throb crash through.  Things get momentarily quiet as Tammy’s vocals provide a softer touch on lyrics like “swear I didn’t mean it – really didn’t mean it.” The chorus explodes, however with Joshua joining in on title line lyrics “so kiss it na, na, na, na, na – goodbye” with aggressive slashing guitars over the roughhouse rhythm.

Listen to that track and the rest of the EP via their soundcloud

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Ora Cogan plays a unique blend of psychedelic folk, dark wave ambient and experimental dream pop. Her new album Crickets was released last month, and presents eight full tracks recorded during this past year.

Title track “Crickets” presents a circular time signature via cascading guitar figure and bell chime percussion.  Ms. Cogan’s vocals emerge unexpectedly and float above the defined rhythm, adhering to a much looser structure.   A variety of keyboard synths are employed, creating pulsating textures underneath changing segments.  There are elements of Fairport Convention’s Sandy Denny and Renaissance’s Annie Haslam in the sweetly powerful vocal phrasing and loose psych-folk performance.  Second track “The Light” builds off of a tambourine and snare percussion pattern with syncopated counter strikes.  Ora’s vocals feel more intimate here, leaning closer to the ethereal charm of Kate Bush.

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Having a song included in Little Steven's Underground Garage "Coolest Song in the World" poll is one of those “honor just to be nominated” moments.  Diane and The Gentle Men’s single “Motorcycle” earned a place among that weekly group with 51 other artists last year, ranging from local stars to very big international names.

The song and video pay a playful homage to the late 50’s/early 60’s ideal of a youthful desire for rock n’ roll kicks.   While clean-cut teenagers watch bad boy motorcycle movies on TV, Diane sings about “riding on the back with her ray bans and leather jacket” in a sultry Chrissie Hynde-esqe cadence and tone, over a chugging rock rhythm.  Soon the kids are up dancing as the chorus hooks with lyrics “blame it on summer heat, when the moon is high, and the air is clear, and the sky is wide.”  The track stands out with numerous unexpected sonic asides like a slightly askew descending keyboard line in the second verse and momentum shifting percussive breaks throughout.   There’s a country-western warmth to the chorus, with its chord structure, big impassioned lead vocal and sweet background harmonies.

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Brooklyn post-punk rockers The Fluids celebrated the release of their debut album “No Kidding!” this past October.

Initial singles “Creatures” and “Sign N’ Drive” provided early insight into the bands evolving sound, which were fully realized with the complete full length recording.  Utilizing an extended keyboard intro and siren-like effect, “Just Like Me” ultimately bursts out as a full-on guitar, bass and drums stomper.  While the vocal inflections have accurately drawn comparisons to Berlin-era Bowie, the heavier rock style presented place this particular track closer to early aughts post-punk revivalists Interpol.  That era took their cue from bands like Joy Division, whose sonic lineage is also reflected within this track.

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As previously stated, attending shows for bands you already know and love frequently leads to new discoveries.  Catching mystical rockers herMajesty live last month has led to further investigation into their recorded works.

While the predominant motivating force behind this sound comes by way of frontman JP (songwriter, vocalist, guitars and samples), a complete band is presented with David Leatherwood (bass, lead guitars), Joan Chew (bass), and Konrad Meissner (drums).  The recordings also showcase contributions from a number of celebrated guest musicians at times.  Recently released single “I Saw The Dog” is an example of that, and is impressive on a number of levels.

On the surface, a multi-colored vinyl release makes for an attractive collectors item.

Coming in to possession of the purple version allows for a three dimensional inspection of this impressively sturdy (and weighty) sculptured audio format. Here in the present day digital age, it's nice to occasionally add something like this to one's home library.

The song itself is a mid-tempo chugger that benefits from ambient keyboards, multiple layers of guitars, complete with a feedback intro, brightly strummed acoustic and extended-note electric guitars. “I built a bonfire just for you” is how the introductory line goes.  “I waited through the winter months for you. I sold my time, my shirt, my shoes for you. It was a bitter year – I saw the dog.” Although the lyrics are said to have been formed via the “cut-up technique” (popularized in the late 1950s and early 1960s by writer William S. Burroughs) a more studied and cohesive storyline is revealed.

Photo by April Orr

With a sweeping chorus that goes “Dance my little libertine - dance my little pretty thing- let your nucleus spread it's wings,” the central emotional peak is reached.  A spacious, ambient, post-chorus break just past the songs midway point provides a welcome sonic reprieve between more dramatic moments.  The noteworthy additions of guest musicians Henry Hay (keyboards) add Chris McQueen (guitars) combined with Nic Hard's production elevate the recording to the highest professional level. That all three are veteran David Bowie collaborators brings home herMajesty's own appreciation for Mr. Bowie's contributions.
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herMajesty will be playing a number of upcoming shows in the New Year, with a stop at Berlin in NYC (along side the wonderful Like Herding Cats) on January 25.

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Another band recently finding their way onto the CromwellWrites radar are the punky pop female fronted quintet Giftshop.  Accurately describing their style as “CBGB's style punk mixed with 21st century pop hooks,” they've recently released their third EP “Blue Monster.”

Leadoff cut “Despicable” makes clever use of quick strummed high-pitched guitar strokes before plunging into the bass heavy, forward charging rhythm.   Vocalist (and songwriter) Meghan Taylor declares “hey there – can you hear it? It's the sound of you being a hypocrite!”  The clear message of vitriol aimed at those who phony their way through life is apparent.  Much of the rhythms come tightly wound as guitar, bass and drums lock together with Ramones-esque precision.  However the songs very un-punk-rock-like length of three minutes and forty seconds allows for additional segments of those “pop hooks” and instrumental breaks.  For instance a descending progression where Meghan repeats the phrase “why – why don't – why don't you” (we don't get the payoff until the final pass through - “why don't you lie again!”) is embellished with poppy background vocal enhancements.  A subsequent chunky guitar and drum fill break leads into a third section of hand-clap fueled chanting where Meghan states that “I don't want you to apologize to me, I just want you to know that I told you so.”  That's followed by brightly-toned guitar break that echoes and expands on the songs initial opening notes.

Clocking in at just over two minutes, “Cill the Choreographer” (a clever recall of the Eddie Murphy SNL poem?) bops and bounces along like a Joan Jett/Blondie hybrid.  “Dangerous” spells out a cautionary tale on the perils of vice, wrapped in an 80's homage rhythmic style.  Recent live at Sofar Sounds video release “Doncha Know” features a retro keyboard sound (courtesy of Nichole Onopiak) within its spacious arrangement.   Harmony vocals between Meghan and guitarist Matt Santoro add a sweetness to this song of love and devotion.  “Red Letter Day” brings back the punk rock throttle, but makes sure to including poppy “uh oh oh” background vocals.   The amusingly titled “Spooky Halloween Christmas” throttles along via Damian Eckstein's rubbery bass pattern, Jordan Kramer's rockabilly drums and Matt's Stray Cats-style guitar bursts.  It's like The Cramps, The Waitresses and Blondie all rolled into one.  The record closes out with a lovely cover of the wonderful Martha Davis and The Motels song “Only The Lonely.”

More colorful 7” singles can be had from the bands record label Tarbeach Records here.

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Friday, October 13 saw the release of Dead Leaf Echo's long-awaited follow-up full length record "Beyond.Desire."

Once again DaveCromwellWrites attended that celebrated record release show and wrote about a number of this albums deeper, previously unreleased tracks.  Read about the show and this Best of 2017 album “Beyond.Desire” here.

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With this years release of their sophomore album “New Moody Judy,” Brooklyn post punk rockers Honey deliver an aggressive collection of wah wah guitar fueled songs.

Opener “Wage Agreement” centers power trio jamming alongside a bending guitar figure and half pleading/half shouting vocals reminiscent of early Richard Hell.  Follow-up “Dream Come Now” amps the groove up to punk rock levels with a nod towards the Ramones.  The album’s title track leans on a heavy psych guitar riff and Iggy Pop Detroit city drawl.  Deeper cuts like “Hungry,” “Bagman” and “Power” go for the high-speed velocity of an accelerated hyper-blues.   Album closer “Peggy Ray” rides fuzzy bass, slashing guitars and smack-down drumming for nearly eight full minutes.

Pick up a copy of this excellent album on their label Wharf Cat Records

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Monday, November 27, 2017

The Jesus And Mary Chain with Mark Crozer And The Rels - Live In New York

One more time The Jesus and Mary Chain returned to New York City and delivered their brilliant rock show to an adoring audience.  This time support act Mark Crozer and The Rels were on hand to provide the perfect complimentary riff-heavy pop.

There's something extra special about playing in the heart of New York City's Broadway Theater district with your name sharing those same bright lights.

Both bands were coming to the end of a week long run together that culminated with this big time NYC show on Friday November 17th.

Bright Lights - Big City

Hitting the stage at the promised 9:30 pm starting time, The Jesus and Mary Chain launched into their trusted show opener “Amputation” off of their latest album “Damage and Joy.”  It comes on at a quicker pace, but those introductory “Ooooooh’s” are still there to set the mood. Jim leans in to the mic and begins: “Try to win your interest back, but you ain’t havin’ none of that. We’re just like a ship in a bottle, kissed today but fucked tomorrow - I don’t know, I guess that we are through. Fucked up girls like drugged up guys, but that won’t keep them warm at night. It’s just like a grape in a bottle, its wine today but piss tomorrow – I don’t know, I guess that we’re all through." The instrumental breaks are big and bold and the chord progression oh-so-MaryChain. As the chorus hook “I’m a rock and roll amputation” repeats like a mantra, Lou Reed’s lyric “despite all the amputation, you could dance to a rock 'n' roll station” comes to mind.

Launching immediately into one of their most recognizable songs, “April Skies” was the first single released from second album “Darklands” in 1987. Reaching No. 8 established it as their highest charting single in the UK.  No secret to its success being a perfect pop song combining instantly catchy melodies with sing-along lyrics depicting universal relationship-gone-wrong appeal.

Going with another one of their biggest radio (and MTV at the time) hits, "Head On" was released as a single in November 1989 off of their third (full studio) album “Automatic.” Along with heavy MTV rotation at the time, it reached as high as #2 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart in the US. While the album version echoed the late 80’s-early 90’s fascination with synth bass and drum machines, this 2017 live version is a throttling force of electric guitars, bass and real acoustic drums.

Moving back to their current album, Bernadette Denning made the first of two appearances on this evening, reprising her duet role with Jim on “Always Sad.” A chunky chord mid-tempo rocker, Denning’s voice fits in well with the Reid’s already established pattern of using guest female vocalists. With a chorus delivering dual sung lines “think I’m always sad – think I’m always gonna be sad,” the resolution “cause you’re the best I’ve ever had” completes its musical progression.

Opting for another deeper track off the latest record, Jim now sings "Black and Blues" solo what was another duet on the album. It works just as well this way, with Jim putting his all into the lyrics “but my mind and heart breaks – yeah it’s just a bitch” –emphatic downbeat stroke in-between – “yeah it’s just a bitch.” “We could leave this world forever. We could live this world behind” Jim sings.  A final round of “yeah it’s just a bitch,” “Ah, ah, ah’s” and “Bah, bah, bah’s” take you home in sing-along style.

“Mood Rider” comes infused with an unmistakably William guitar hook melody as Jim embraces his brothers lyrics and delivers them like they’re his own. “I bet I’m gonna be fine. I got enough stored food and wine. I think I'm gonna be fine - happy all the time.” Chugging into a slithering chorus that goes “Mooood Rider – hey mood driver – alone.” The guitars here are particularly lively sounding with that classic William semi-hollowbody electric distorting in on itself. The lyrics that go “I think I’m turning to dust. Love is turning to luuuust. I think I’m turning to dust – only as I must” serve as some of the most concise commentary on human mortality out there.

Dipping in to fourth studio album “Honey’s Dead” and the second single they released from it in March 1992, “Far Gone And Out” kicked the show up to the next level. It’s huge, head-bopping moments on the bass-heavy, fuzzed-out three-chord stomp after Jim sings “It’s like a heart attack!” Lines like “well I’m television sick and I’m television crazy” underscore the enduring quality of this bands appeal. “Ah hey hey HEY! She’s the meanest mean. Ah hey hey HEY! She’s the sickest sick. Ah hey hey HEY! She’s the blackest black. Ah hey hey HEY! I gotta get her back.”

Another “Automatic” track included in their live show lately is the deeper (non-single, but fan fave) “Between Planets.” Charging along like a hyper-fuzzed Beach Boys anthem, memorable lyrics “Suicide standing sucking in her cheeks - too much lips and too much eyes - hasn't slept for weeks” and “Jackie T said she saw death - she's done it fifty ways - but she's been off that medicine - for almost fifteen days” pays homage to their unending fascination with Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground.  However, it’s the double-time beat behind the lyrics “Come on now you gave it away and all the friends you had got paid - come on now you were never that shy and that's no way for you to say bye bye” – and the subsequent William Reid guitar melody line that provide the songs most memorable hooks.  That and the closing sing-along line “baby – you drive me crazy – don’t come around here no more.”

A welcome return to the set that they hadn't played in these parts for a while is the lyrically brilliant, slithering groove of "Snakedriver." While they had been playing it off and on since their initial reunion 10 years ago, it wasn’t included in recent performances (although they opened their 2012 shows with it). So it was great to hear Jim deliver those seared-in-memory lyrics “I've got syphilitic hetro friends in every part of town. I don't hate them but I know them I don't want them hanging around. I won't roll my bones for every little girl who gets on down. I got space and space got me I should be selling it by the pound. Ever since I heard the voice I thought I had no choice but then I kissed her.” It’s just a monstrous chugging stomper that of course includes “Hey hey hey’s.” William cuts loose with a barrage of single note riffs that you know have to be the most fun moments of every song for him.  Favorite lyric: “If I wake up dead I'll wake up just like any other day.” If that means something to you – then you get this band. You’re an “insider.”

An even more down and dirty, slinky crawl groove comes by way of “Honey’s Dead” second track “Teenage Lust.” William guitar is now in full on buzz fuzz mode as he “answers” every Jim line with a skronking melody line of his own. Mark and Scott more than capably handle the necessary “whoooo hooooo’s” while Jim does his “Ah, hah, hah, hah, hah, hah’s.”

Stepping back to the “Darklands” period, “Cherry Came Too” accentuates how the band would run Rolling Stones and Beach Boys influences through their own twisted filter – creating a pop gem in the process. The song where the words “barbed wire kisses” comes from, you can always hear the audience singing along with it. Best lyrics: “And I'll give you my head - and all the things it said. And I'll give you my thoughts - if those things weren't lost. And I'll give you my soul - to beat it with your pole!

Back to the current album, “All Things Pass” has benefited greatly from the band playing it nightly at every show. Despite the fact that they feel it still needs an electronic drum machine into (Brian soon obliterates any audible remnant of that once his powerful tub throttling begins), it’s William’s prominent guitar riff that seems more confident than ever. The chorus is bigger than ever now too with a higher pitched harmony vocal paired to Jim (it has to be Scott) where they go “Hey! Look out here it comes. All things must pass -but not too fast.”

There’s a special place in JAMC fans hearts for the gap EP between Psychocandy and Darklands featuring the glorious “Some Candy Talking.” A mainstay in the live show since they first reunited in 2007, the balance between quiet build-up and explosive release seems more defined now than ever. When Jim sings “and I talk to the filth, and I walk through the door - I'm knee deep in myself, but I want to get more of that stuff - Of that stuff” you know what’s coming next. William’s guitar bursts over the top in an electrified squall while the rhythm section pounds down with four on the floor.

Inspired by the brilliant light show and overall spectacle from various vantage points within the arena, the time seemed right to capture a video for posterity.  Here’s how “Halfway To Crazy” looked and sounded at this particular show.

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The addition of “Darklands” served as a swap-out from previous tour holdover "Nine Million Rainy Days" as an equally deep and moody classic from that second album.

Reaching the 16th song in the set, Jim announced to the audience that this would be the “last song.” However, he added – “if you make any noise at all – we’ll come back on.” With that they launched into the now much-anticipated extended jam rave-up that is “Reverence.”

After what has to be considered a brief by encore-wait standards (two minutes tops) applause break, the band came back on with Bernadette in tow and launched into "Just Like Honey."

That was followed by a welcome return to the set with a hyper-amped version of the Bo Diddley inspired “Cracking Up.”  Where being a “freak” gives you “the view of a rat king's son.” With the further declaration that “I guess I'm new and I don't know what to do. I'll judge you fine in my mind in my...

Another swap back in to the set was Psychocandy track “In A Hole.” Linked to the title there is a killer version from when they toured the whole album two years ago. It’s still a pretty accurate representation of how the band delivers this sheering squall and intense way Jim delivers the lyrics “I step crueler - But less defined - Striped cats cooler - But so is mine - And I want to see - What I want to be - And I see me on a touching screen - And I'm dancing to a scream.” However, the seriously best-rhyme goes to “How can something crawl within - My rubber holy baked bean tin!”

The softly begun “War On Peace” is designed to allow space for Jim’s vocals, expressing a look-back on where life has led up to this point. Played live here, Brian’s bright percussive tambourine jingle-strike (mounted on top of his high-hat stand) stands out, with Mark’s bass laying down a steady pulse. The harmonies so prevalent on the album for lyrics “Love don’t live here anymore – don’t come knockin’ on my door. I just can’t get peace of mind – there’s a peace there I can’t find” are now provided by newest member Scott. He’s there with Jim on the chorus hook as well (that goes) “So why would I run? Where would I run to?” It’s this “existential dread” that provides the songs central theme.  Just past the three minute mark the song suddenly quickens in pace.  The percussion goes “motorik” and guitars start chugging full throttle rock.  It explodes into a full on rocker as Jim’s “Ah – ah’s” make one more pass through.

Another one of those non-studio-album singles that filled the gap between 1987’s “Darklands” and 89’s “Blues From A Gun” (fitting nicely on the much beloved Barbed Wire Kisses b-sides and more compilation) – “Sidewalking” is now a noisy concert raveup. The live version has evolved into the rock its better suited for – rather than the Reid’s (at the time) attempt to mimic elements of hip-hop, allegedly sampling and looping the drumbeat from the 1984 single “Roxanne's Revenge” by Queens, NY rapper Roxanne Shante.

The 22nd and final song of the night was their now trusty show closer “I Hate Rock and Roll.” Before starting, this is the place where Jim will thank the audience for coming and give a shout out to the opening act. As Jim was trying to give a mention to this night’s opener Mark Crozer and The Rels (a full show recap follows this) William was plonking on his guitar (most-likely getting the first notes of the final song fresh in his mind) when Jim snapped at him (the only time during the entire concert Jim did so – not even one STOP! anywhere) “could you PLEASE stop with that guitar for just one moment while I speak!” It was the final song on the last night of a lengthy tour run, so one could understand the combination of fatigue and frayed nerves finally surfacing. William, to his credit just stopped noodling and waited for Jim to finish before launching into the opening chords. Of course it now thunders along with well-rehearsed precision. The big-sound rhythm section of Scott, Mark and Bryan allows William the freedom to wrench every ounce of emotion from his guitar, while Jim delivers those scathing lyrics from the experienced perspective of someone who knows exactly what the deal is.

Of course there was plenty of merch to be had.

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Including a number of items for show opener Mark Crozer and The Rels

As they had been doing for the entire leg of this East Coast tour, Mark and The Rels played a full set consisting of 12 songs.  Most of the material was drawn from current album “Sunny Side Down,” while sprinkling in select deeper tracks along the way.

Kicking off with “Photographic Memory,” that angular rhythmic pattern of syncopated drumming against wiry bass line and lengthy ascending-then-descending guitar figure immediately pulled the audience into their show. “I got this picture stuck in my head of an Elephant on water skis” it offered up as proof of the mental images captured. “If you could plug into my mind then you would know what I’m saying is no lie” hints at our current technological age and the possibilities ahead. Shifting rhythm to a straight ahead chugging rocker, the chorus spells out that having “a photographic memory always comes in handy – never fails me – never lets me down.”

Immediately dipping back into the catalog, “I Need A Vaccination” first appears on The Rels 2012 debut album.  A clever lyrical turn of needing a cure for “lust” gets to the hook with a catchy "Come one, come on, come on gimme a" refrain. It’s a chugging driver that fits perfectly in the live environment.

The opening lyric stating that “your words are meaningless” get right to the sentiment behind Sunny Side Down track “Plasma.” With its twangy Americana-feel melody, this ode to the colorless liquid found in blood and lymph drips with disgust at the manipulative things said in relationships. “Your lips have gone astray – like a 21st century lover. I could feed them with a kiss – but pretty soon they’ll start to whisper – garbage like ‘be my plasma’.”

Another deeper track played (which leads off the 2016 digital album called “Broken Bones”) was the poppy dream-trip scenario “Bubblegum.” The “Monkees-like” harmony hook of “Baa-ba-ba-ba – how could I be so dumb” (with exquisite background vocals from drummer Donnie Merritt and guitarist Shawn Lynch) seems tailor-made for the current Mickey Dolenz and Mike Nesmith band.

The lead track on celebrated vinyl version of Sunny Side Down, “All You Gotta Do” blends chiming strummed guitar chords with deep booming drums and an instantly hooky melody. A love song from both the pick-up line perspective and we’ve got to get out of this place attitude. “If you’re feeling tired, and kicking around – waiting for some action in this dead dog town. You need a guy like me to break you out of your shell. So come on over here night and day and ring my bell.” Which ultimately leads to a soaring chorus that concludes “we can turn this town to ash, ‘cause I think you and I are the perfect match – all you gotta do is come around.”  Special props to guitarist Taylor Short and bassist Adam Roth for their killer playing on this one.

That is immediately followed by the introspective “Corners Of Your Mind” (which coincidentally is the following track on the album). “Glide like a bluebird, climbing high – searching for sunshine” are the opening lyrics set to gently strummed guitar. With the full band in motion, the call to “rise like a phoenix from the fire” as you “search for paradise” is presented. Familiar Crozer themes of “redemption” are revisited while making note that “life can take you way beyond” the limitations you put on yourself.

Another Sunny gem is A-Side featured “Toxic Town,” with its quicker stride and overall wistful atmosphere evoking first-wave British invasion classics like Chad and Jeremy’s "A Summer Song" and “I Go to Pieces” by Peter and Gordon. The universal tale is told of desiring to leave a soul-stifling town that can only offer “sad memories and shells of burnt out factories.” The chorus provides emotional uplift via beautiful chord structure and lyrical hope indicating the “light beyond” and now being “a perfect day to make a getaway.”

A slightly unsettling mood is set with within the pop confines of Sunny’s side 1 closer “Haunted Head.” Though the 1-2, 1-2 chord progression moves things along with a mid-tempo pace, a disquieting sentiment shimmers within the sound.  Describing those sleepless moments that “keeps me awake with thoughts and emotions” the memorable hook high-point “oh I think it’s alive” turns apprehension into beauty.

Introducing the next song, Mark started out by saying “those of you who follow professional wrestling might recognize this one.” With that, the ominous bass notes begin and we are treated to a live rendition of "Live In Fear (Broken Out In Love)." This song is known worldwide as WWE superstar Bray Wyatt discovered and chose this song for his entrance music. Wyatt said that when he heard the song for the first time, he knew it was perfect for his character. “As soon as I heard the bass line a spark happened,” he said. “It was magic. He was able to capture a mood in a melody. The mood is very eerie.” One of the more mysterious Crozer compositions, lines like “catching flies in his mouth -tasting freedom while he dares - then crawling back to the top of the stairs” (are we talking about a frog here?) and “like a cat without a care - roaming freely through the streets - you could find him in amongst the pigeons in the square” make for delightfully curious imagery.

Following that was the obscure gem “Dig That Funky Meat,” which benefits from Taylor’s distinct guitar melodies and Donnie’s deep tom-tom drumming.

Pulling one more from the 2012 Rels debut album, “War Drum” features tandem-strummed guitar chords, a singular driving bass line and a call to “get up” and head to “the battlefield.” There's even a "whooo hoooo" moment and harmonica solo straight out of The Beatles "Love Me Do."

Final song of the night was also Sunny Side’s album closer “Say Hello.” At over five minutes in length, there’s a slow burn buildup to this one, allowing room for psychedelic guitar noodling.  The overall trippy feel that slides between introspective thoughts and mescaline-in-the-desert visions that may involve seeing visitors from other planets.  While waiting for those elusive space aliens to make a proper greeting, the band begins to chug harder with Shawn’s guitar and Donnie’s drums building in intensity.  The final minute is a full on rave-up, as each player thunders out with all they’ve got.

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Although a band can’t play every song from one album alone – even if it’s the most recent one (opting to fill out the set with tracks from their entire catalog), it would have been nice to hear LP B-side lead-off cut “Here Comes The Storm.” When previewing this particular night’s show on The Deli Magazine, I was able to focus on that song as well.

The shared joy of a combined Jesus And Mary Chain / Mark Crozer And The Rels show

With post show shenanigans

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That's me being torn at the seams - going mad in the middle of a dream

Instagram reaches around the entire globe

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This site's previous feature on The Jesus And Mary Chain can be found Here

Visit Planting Seeds Records for additional information.

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