The most hotly anticipated New York rock record of the year is out, it’s streaming at Bandcamp and the band is celebrating its release tonight, Jan 19 at Public Assembly in Williamsburg at around 11. The Brooklyn What’s new album Hot Wine justifies the buzz surrounding it: this savagely lyrical fifteen-song masterpiece blends sounds from across five decades of rock into an exuberant, exhilarating, ferociously guitar-driven storm. There is no other band that sounds anything like the Brooklyn What, and few who are as much fun. There literally isn’t a bad song on this album – and it’s amazing how much the band has tightened up since their brilliant, savagely ramshackle 2009 debut, The Brooklyn What for Borough President.
The opening track, Catastrophe Kids sets the stage: at heart, it’s the New York Dolls channeling Chuck Berry but through the prism of the ‘Mats and Guided by Voices, frontman Jamie Frey snarling about the too-cool-for-school crowd who’re afraid to move a muscle at rock shows since that might give the impression that they have individual personalities. There’s a guitar solo, too, a mean, live-wire punk-blues explosion from John-Severin Napolillo (who also fronts fiery purist band John-Severin & the Quiet 1s with Saruh Lacoff and the Brooklyn What rhythm section, bassist Doug Carey and drummer Jesse Katz).
Punk Rock Loneliness starts out with a slowly unwinding guitar duel that explodes into the first verse and then gets even more pyrotechnic after the second chorus: it’s a funky but bittersweet, blackly amusing elegy for CBGB and punk rock in New York in general. This version is slower and darker than the one the band released on their South Brooklyn Singles collection in 2010.
Come to Me is punk rock doo-wop, sly but sweet: “Anything that money can’t buy, I will give to you,” Frey rasps to the waitress he’s trying to pick up, while the band growls like the Dead Boys behind him (the guitar sonics on this album are to die for). Guitarist Evan O’Donnell plays tense postpunk chords underneath Napolillo’s lilting slide work on the uneasy, 80s Britrock-tinged Tomorrow Night. Napolillo takes a lead vocal on the viciously Stonesy Brown Spit, a gruesome drinking song.
The title track, by founding member Billy Cohen – who died young in 2010 – blasts through a surreal, oldtime swing-spiced Coney Island narrative about saving innocent children from an evil mayor who’s trying to boil them in oil. “Hot Wine” in this case seems to mean “hell yeah” or something like that – booze doesn’t really factor into the song.
With its roaring, wickedly catchy minor-key riffage and hollering back-and-forth vocals, the escape anthem Status Quo also looks back to the Dead Boys, adding a more recent noiserock edge. Too Loose raises the voltage on a catchy hardcore tune with a blazing horn section, while Winter Song has Frey singing a hopeful come-on over a pensive, aptly chilly sway. The album winds up with Late Night Travelers, its intricately jangly twin guitars leading up to yet another big anthemic chorus.
Other tracks here include The Basement, a wry, metaphorically-loaded tribute to the band’s rehearsal space that blends hazy GBV aggression with Sonic Youth murk; Crush You So Fast, which leaps from a spacy, spare two-guitar intro into sirening Silver Rocket stomp; Wildman, which grafts a noiserock intro onto defiant oldschool hardcore punk; Give Her All You Got, an unexpectedly jazzy, funny ballad, and Saturday Night, a catchy, cynical, trendoid-bashing singalong It’s only January, but this could be the best rock album of 2013. And as a nice bonus, the album is also out on vinyl. The Brooklyn What have a lot of shows coming up; watch this space, or better yet, come out to Public Assembly tonight.