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Tag: ninth house band

What to Do When a Great New York Band Gets Priced Out of Town

Greetings from North Carolina!

Considering how many thousands of New York artists have been priced out of town by gentrification and the real estate bubble, sometimes you have to leave the state to see them. Case in point: ferocious Americana rock vets Ninth House, who played earlier this evening on the big stage at frontman/bassist Mark Sinnis’ home base, Beale Street Barber Shop in Wilmington, North Carolina. It’s combination retro rock-themed haircut joint, music venue, art gallery and vintage store in what appears to be the happening hood in a college town with a well-preserved historic district.

In their ten years in New York, Ninth House started out as a hard-hitting but elegant art-rock band, then went through a series of guitarists who took their music in more of an epic gothic direction and towards jamband territory. As the years went by, Sinnis brought more of a dark Americana focus to the music, which Doktor John of the Aquarian called “cemetery and western.” The handle stuck, and applies even more to the honktyonk and vintage C&W sounds that Sinnis has pursued under his own name.

Ninth House hadn’t played together in over a year. Drummer Francis Xavier – Sinnis’ brother – lives in upstate New York, and guitarist Keith Otten now calls Florida home. They had one rehearsal for this show, but picked up without missing a beat. Otten is one of the great musical wits in all of rock, bringing an unexpected element to Sinnis’ brooding, death-obsessed songcraft. This time out some of that humor was pretty broad – the lonesome trainwhistles in the Nashville gothic shuffle Cold Night in December, for example – but the rest was more subtle and devious. Was he going to extend that outro until he’d finished channeling Social Distortion? Uh hun.

While the set veered into honkytonk as the evening wore on, the restless energy never wavered. The dusky warmth of Ninth House – the band’s signature song – and Down Beneath were balanced by an explosive take of the big escape anthem Long Stray Whim and an absolutely savage bolero-rock version of Fallible Friend, both older songs. Sinnis didn’t push the angst in his resonant baritone as far as he usually does in a bitterly graceful run through Your Past May Come Back to Haunt Me, another tune from the early zeros, but that gave him plenty of headroom for when he finally went up the scale. And Injury Home, a darkly blues-infused minor-key anthem, was just short of unhinged.

The hard honkytonk stuff – Wine and Whiskey and the Devil Makes Three, I’ll Have Another Glass of Whiskey (Because Death Is Not So Far Away), and a cover of Ernest Tubb’s Driving Nails in My Coffin – energized the crowd, as did the surprise cold ending of a scorching electric cover of Ghost Riders in the Sky. They closed with an Elvis medley, Elvis impersonator Alex J. Mitchell taking the stage to lead the band Vegas-style through a medley of Mystery Train, Little Sister and a couple of other 50s hits.

Sinnis’ next solo gig is on June 3 at 8 PM at his home base, Beale Street Barber Shop, 616B Castle St. in Wilmington. His next New York area gigs will be June 24 at 8 PM and then the next day, June 25 at 4 PM with his mighty ten-piece honkytonk band 825 at Sue’s Sunset House, 137 North Water St. in Peekskill, NY. The bar is just steps from the Peekskill Metro North station.

While we’re at it, a shout-out to Funck’s Restaurant in Annville, Pennsylvania for their handmade onion rings, a welcome break from the storm that lasted well into Virginia on the drive down. The spacious, comfortable woodframe joint’s kitchen gives you a decent portion, on the pricy side – eight bucks – fried to a crisp that’s just pliable enough not to be flaky. The balance of onion and breading turned out to be perfect; so was the balance of flavor between crunchy outside and the single tasty, sweet, generously cut ring inside. Even better, the rings came with a slightly astringent, grainy horseradish dip that added an unexpectedly welcome dimension of extra heat. This branch of the business – there are two others – has casual but very prompt service. Their menu also includes giant club sandwiches that could have been both lunch and dinner if a couple of peeps in the posse hadn’t been so hungry.

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Keith Otten’s Big Acoustic Anthems Defy the Odds in Williamsburg

Can you imagine Nick Drake playing a weekend gig at a pub? Pressured by his record label, he did more than one. And he hated every minute of them: no wonder he retired from live performance after that. Bar gigs are tough under any circumstances, but it’s a whole lot easier to compete with the drunks if you can blast back at them through a big guitar amp. Keith Otten, on the other hand, does it the hard way, the old-fashioned way, with just vocals and acoustic guitar. And he does it every week, and he manages to get random people to listen.

Which might sound more impressive than it actually is. Otten’s one of the great unsung heroes of lead guitar. He first made an impact here in New York with Feed, his legendary/obscure project with Tim Butler of the Psychedelic Furs. Over the last few years, he’s provided the scorch and burn in long-running, artsy Nashville gothic band Ninth House. Before that he led the twin guitar-fueled Gotham 4, a vehicle for his towering, anthemic, Britrock-inspired songwriting. Since early this winter, he’s been playing Tuesday nights starting at around 7 PM at Craic Bar, downstairs in the new building at 488 Driggs Ave. between 9th and 10th St. in Williamsburg, and damned if he doesn’t draw people in.

And he mixes it up. While his choice of covers reveals a lot about where his own songs come from, he throws some surprises in. Much as Otten can go way out on a limb with machinegunning volleys of notes when he’s playing electric, he doesn’t waste them. So a couple of weeks ago right after the big snowstorm, it was interesting to hear him do not only one but two acoustic Grateful Dead covers (Morning Dew and Samson & Delilah), the second wrapped around a tight take of Dylan’s It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, just as Jerry might have done it in the late 80s. Except that Otten sang those songs infinitely better than either of the guys who did them the first time around.

And he also did the Yardbirds’ Mister You’re a Better Man Than I, and paired Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust with Suffragette City, and managed to mix those numbers’ big riffs into his chords without getting all skeletal, like acoustic versions of big rock songs can become in the hands of less experienced players. But it was the originals that were the most fun to hear. Like the covers, Otten’s rearranged them so that they pretty much maintain the epic quality of the original electric versions. From the circling chords of Long Enough, from Otten’s first solo album back in the 90s, through the sardonically catchy Reunion (a snide tale about blowing off a bunch of aging blowhards at a school reunion) and then the unexpectedly upbeat Special, both tracks from his latest album Trickle, he kept the crew huddled over the pool table pretty attentive. Sure, there was a yuppie in the corner hell-bent on letting the entire bar know that he had designs on the girl he’d coaxed into meeting him there, but there’s always a guy like that when you least want him around.

In two long sets, Otten’s songs ran the gamut from the subtly minimalistic, post-U2 Already Knows, to the pensive Only Time and the majestic, wryly regretful Friend’s Girlfriend. He wound up the second set with the most epic song of the night, the gorgeous, flamenco-inflected 3001, equal parts ornate acoustic Led Zep and 90s spacerock, but in a stripped-down context that revealed how poignantly gorgeous the song is even without the searingly layered multitracks on the album version. If you’re in the neighborhood and on the way home from work, this guy’s weekly show is a great way to lift your spirits: his next one is March 10.

Mark Sinnis Brings His Gloomy Honkytonk Songs Back to His Old East Village Haunts

One consequence of the brain drain continuing to pour out of this city’s five boroughs is that in order to see some of the best musicians who’ve been priced out by the real estate bubble, you have to go where they are. So it was good to be able to catch longtime downtown NYC presence and charismatic Nashville gothic crooner Mark Sinnis playing a marathon gig at the refreshingly laid-back Mohansic Grill & Lounge in Yorktown Heights, up in Westchester, back in November. The show was like one of those old-fashioned tent revival style C&W extravaganzas from the 1950s, except with just one band, serenading an enthusiastic Saturday night crowd for well over two hours. Sinnis and his group 825 return to his old East Village stomping grounds, upstairs at 2A at 10 PM on Feb 15 as part of impresario/bandleader/genius guitarist Tom Clark‘s weekly Sunday American shindig.

The Yorktown Heights gig was on the back porch of a restaurant overlooking a golf course, not such a strange place to see a band up that way as it might seem. And the band was tremendous. Lead guitarist James “Smokey Chipotle” Brown locked in on some classic honkytonk harmonies with pedal steel player Brian Aspinwall when the two weren’t involved in high-voltage musical banter. Other times, Aspinwall would anchor the sound with high lonesome washes and wails as Senor Chipotle spun from wry hillbilly boogie licks, to eerie David Lynch twang, to chicken-scratch Johnny Cash rhythm or ringing, clanging Bakersfield riffage. Bassist John Goldberg held the rig to the road as drummer Michael Lillard kept the wheels spinning with every classic country shuffle beat ever invented, trumpeter Lee Compton adding both mariachi flair and a mournful, funereal New Orleans touch, often in tandem with a bluesy harmonica player who was new to the band.

Sinnis delivered the songs in his brooding baritone. Much as this band can hold their own with any other classic honkytonk crew out there, what distinguishes his Nashville gothic from, say, Nick Cave, or Roy Orbison, is that he really lets the band cut loose: several of the numbers went on for a solid six or seven minutes, with plenty of time for solos from pretty much everybody in the group. His lyrics mine a classic Americana vernacular full of doom and dread: funeral trains emerging into the dawn, ill-fated relationships, ghosts and faded memories of fleetingly good times now gone forever. And love affairs gone straight to hell, taking shape via slow, opiated dirges, bitter shuffle grooves or grimly romping numbers like one of the centerpieces of the early set, Mistaken for Love.

Many of the night’s hardest-hitting numbers – the angst-fueled funeral train anthem Cold Night in December, the booze-drenched Wine and Whiskey and the Devil Makes Three, and It’s Been a Long Cold Hard Lonely Winter – appear on his latest album with this band. Some of the unexpectedly quieter material, strangely enough, was taken from his extensive back catalog with dark art-rock band Ninth House, a unit Sinnis has fronted since the late 90s and has pulled deeper and deeper into Americana in recent years. He also brought out a couple of excellent new songs, one a brooding, manic-depressive bolero, another a morose honkytonk breakup ballad. All this gives you an idea of what to expect this Sunday: classic ideas and riffs updated for the here and now, with an unending gloom. Tom Clark’s Sunday nights at 2A draw a decent crowd and an A-list of NYC Americana talent – Amy Allison played a rare full-band show with LA cult favorite Don Heffington there last week, for example – but deserve an even wider audience and a better night than they have. Sinnis and 825 ought to bring it this Sunday.

The 50 Best Albums of 2014

Of the hundreds of thousands of albums released every year, maybe ten percent of them are worth hearing. That’s about twenty-five thousand albums, possibly a lot more – it’s harder to keep track of the numbers than it was in the previous century. A very ambitious blogger can hear bits and pieces of maybe twenty percent of that total. That’s the triage.

A very, very ambitious blogger can hear, at best, maybe ten percent of that small sample, all the way through, at least enough to get the gist of what those few hundred albums are about. So consider this list – and the Best Songs of 2014 and the Best NYC Concerts of 2014 lists here – a celebration of good music released in 2014 or thereabouts rather than anything definitive. Links to listen to each album are included: whenever possible, the link is to an ad-free site like Bandcamp or Soundcloud rather than Spotify. So bookmark this page and come back to enjoy what you might have missed.

Every few years, there’s one album that stands out above all the rest, which transcends genre. This year, that was Big Lazy‘s Don’t Cross Myrtle, a creepy collection of reverb-drenched, Lynchian songs without words and desolate highway themes. Even by the standards of frontman/guitarist Stephen Ulrich’s previous work for film, tv and with this band, he’s never written with more delectable menace. Stream the album via Spotify.

Before the rest of the list kicks in, there are two ringers here from a couple years ago: Great Plains gothic tunesmith Ember Schrag‘s The Sewing Room, a quiet, allusive, disarmingly intense masterpiece (at Bandcamp), and a considerably more ornate and more chromatically-charged release, Philadelphia-based Turkish art-rockers Barakka‘s Uzaklardan (at Reverbnation). Both albums came over the transom too late to be included in the 2012 list here, but each of them is a real gem.

Beyond the choice of Big Lazy as #1, there’s no numerical ranking on this list. For fairness’ sake, the remainder of the fifty are listed in more-or-less chronological order as they first received attention here, without taking release dates into consideration. So the albums at the end aren’t the ass end of the list – they just happened to have been reviewed here at the end of the year. To be clear, the Ministry of Wolves, the last act on this list, are every bit as enjoyable as creepy surf band the Reigning Monarchs, who lead the rest of the parade:

The Reigning Monarchs – Black Sweater Massacre
Marauding crime-surf instrumentals from an unlikely cast of 90s powerpop types. Stream the album via the band’s page

Curtis Eller – How to Make It in Hollywood
Wickedly literate, historically rich, pun-infused and unexpectedly rocking Americana from the charismatic roots music banjoist. Stream the album via Bandcamp

Karla Moheno – Gone to Town
Nobody writes more intriguing noir musical narratives than this inscrutable chanteuse. If Big Lazy hadn’t put out their album this past year, this one would be at the top of the pile with a bullet. Stream the album via Soundcloud

Marissa Nadler – July
Arguably her best album, the atmospheric folk noir chanteuse and storyteller’s lushly enveloping adventure in Pink Floyd-style art-rock. Stream the album via Bandcamp

Marianne Dissard – The Cat. Not Me
A stormy, brilliantly twisted, angst-fueled, epically orchestrated art-rock album by the French southwestern gothic avatar and Sergio Mendoza collaborator. Stream the album via Spotify

Aram Bajakian – There Were Flowers Also in Hell
Darkly blues-inspired, characteristically eclectic, moody instrumentals by the last great lead guitarist from Lou Reed’s Band. Stream the album via Spotify

Rosanne Cash – The River & the Thread
A pensive southern gothic travelogue set to terse Americana rock, arguably as good as Cash’s iconic Black Cadillac album from a few years ago. Stream the album via Spotify

Laura Cantrell – No Way There from Here
The lyrically strongest and most musically diverse album yet by this era’s most compelling voice in classic country music. Stream the album via Spotify

The New Mendicants – Into the Lime
A janglefest of gorgeous Britfolk-infused powerpop from Joe Pernice of the Pernice Brothers, Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake and the Sadies’ Mike Belistky. Stream the album via Spotify

Siach HaSadeh – Song of the Grasses
Slowly unwinding, raptly intense improvisations on classic Jewish cantorial and folk themes from over the centuries. Stream the album via Bandcamp

Son of Skooshny – Mid Century Modern
Mark Breyer achieved cult status in the 90s with powerpop vets Skooshny and continues to write biting, lyrically rich, beautifully jangly songs. Stream the album via Bandcamp

Isle of Klezbos – Live from Brooklyn
A deliriously fun concert recording by the mostly-female, pioneering New York klezmer whirlwind. Stream the album via Bandcamp

New Electric Ride – Balloon Age
Period-perfect, fantastic mid-60s style psychedelic rock in a Dukes of Stratosphear or Love Camp 7 vein. Stream the album via Bandcamp

The Baseball Project – 3rd
Catchy, characteristically insightful powerpop, paisley underground and janglerock from Steve Wynn and Peter Buck’s supergroup, rich in diamond lore from across the decades. Stream the album via Spotify

Ichka – Podorozh
Meaning “journey” in Russian. the new album by the Montreal klezmer group blazes through bristling chromatic themes. Stream the album via Bandcamp

Jaro Milko & the Cubalkanics – Cigarros Explosivos
The Firewater lead guitarist’s adventure in psychedelic cumbias comes across as a sort of a Balkan version of Chicha Libre. Stream the album via Bandcamp 

Bad Buka -Through the Night
A harder-rocking, more theatrical take on Gogol Bordello-style Slavic punk from these New York guys and girls. Stream the album via Bandcamp

Gord Downie, the Sadies & the Conquering Sun
Ominously jangly southwestern gothic and paisley underground rock from the Canadian Americana band and the Tragically Hip frontman. Stream the album via the band’s page

Cheetah Chrome – Solo
It took practically twenty years for this searing, intense album by the punk-era guitar icon to see the light of day, but the wait was worth it. Stream the album via Spotify

Andrew Bird – Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of
The cult favorite Americana songwriter plunders the catalog of another similarly literate, frequently creepy Americana act, the Handsome Family, for an insightful and lyrically rich collection of covers. Stream the album via Soundcloud

Guided by Voices – Cool Planet
If the last of the final four albums from the indie powerpop band’s marathon of recording over the last two years is really their swan song, they went out with a bang. Stream the album via Spotify

Golem – Tanz
A wickedly hilarious, blistering mix of edgy punk rock, crazed circus rock and straight-up hotshot klezmer. Stream the album via Spotify

Matt Kanelos – Love Hello
Pensive, allusively lyrical Radiohead-influenced psychedelia and art-rock from the popular NYC jazz and rock keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist. Stream the album via Bandcamp

Spottiswoode – English Dream
Purist, richly arranged, artsy janglerock with psychedelic and Britfolk tinges from the cult favorite lyrical songwriter and bandleader. Stream the album via Bandcamp

The Skull Practitioners – ST1
Searing, pummeling, catchy noiserock and riff-driven jams from Steve Wynn lead guitarist Jason Victor’s explosive trio. Stream the album via Bandcamp

HUMANWINE – Fighting Naked
Creepy, menacing, chromatically-fueled narratives from an all-too-plausible, Orwellian nightmare future from the politically spot-on Vermont band. Stream the album via Bandcamp – free download

Amanda Thorpe – Bewitching Me: The Lyrics of Yip Harburg
The riveting Britfolk chanteuse reinvents songs by the Tin Pan Alley figure as noir-inflected janglerock, backed by a stellar NYC band. Stream the album via Spotify

Changing Modes – The Paradox of Traveling Light
Frontwoman/multi-instrumentalist Wendy Griffiths’ band’s most ornate, intricately crafted art-rock masterpiece, with the occasional departure into punk or powerpop. Stream the album via Soundcloud

The Bakersfield Breakers – In the Studio with the Bakersfield Breakers
These New York surf and twang instrumentalists put their own kick-ass spin on a classic Telecaster-driven sound from the early 60s. Stream the album via Bandcamp

The Sometime Boys – Riverbed
One of the most distinctively unique bands on this list, they blend newgrass, country blues, funky rock and Nashville gothic into a spicy, anthemically psychedelic, lyrically intense blend. Stream the album via the band’s page 

The Immigrant Union – Anyway
The Australian band – a Dandy Warhols spinoff – craft deliciously catchy Rickenbacker guitar janglerock. Stream the album via Bandcamp

Bombay Rickey – Cinefonia
The year’s best debut album is by spectacular, intense singer/accordionist Kamala Samkaram’s ornate, intricate, surfy Bollywood-inspired art-rock band. Stream the album via Bandcamp 

Hannah Thiem – Brym
Lush, moody, Middle Eastern and Nordic-inspired violin grooves and cinematic soundscapes from Copal‘s dynamic frontwoman/composer. Stream the album via Soundcloud 

The Larch – In Transit
Characteristically urbane, insightfully lyrical, Costello-esque powerpop with searing lead guitar from the highly regarded New York quartet. Stream the album via Bandcamp

The OBNIIIs – Third Time to Harm
The twin guitar-driven Austin garage punks are probably the closest thing we have to Radio Birdman these days. They released two albums this past year, one a sizzling live set, and this studio release which is more psychedelic and every bit as volcanic. Stream the album via Spotify

The Wytches – Annabel Dream Reader
Arguably the darkest album on this list, this harrowing collection mines the desperation of living at the fringes of society, set to scorching, reverb-drenched noir rock. Stream the album via Spotify.

Lorraine Leckie & Her Demons – Rebel Devil Devil Rebel
The Canadian gothic chanteuse returns to her fiery, electric Neil Young-influenced roots with this stampeding effort, driven by guitar great Hugh Pool’s ferocious attack. Stream the album via Bandcamp

Ward White – Ward White Is the Matador
The most intricately literate of all the albums on this list. Nobody writes more intriguing, or menacing, rock narratives than this New York tunesmith. And he’s never rocked harder, either. Stream the album via Bandcamp 

Jessie Kilguss – Devastate Me
The title is apt – the NYC folk noir singer/bandleader offers a quietly shattering. impeccably crafted collection of Nashville gothic and paisley underground rock. Stream the album via Spotify

Mesiko – Solar Door
One of the most tunefully eclectic albums on the list, the debut by Norden Bombsight’s David Marshall and Rachael Bell with all-star drummer Ray Rizzo has postpunk, paisley underground, psychedelia and kinetic powerpop, sometimes all in the same song. Stream the album via Bandcamp

O’Death – Out of Hands We Go
A characteristically careening, ominous mix of Nashville gothic, oldtimey, circus rock and noir cabaret from these Americana individualists. Stream the album via Bandcamp

Chuck Prophet – Night Surfer
One of the great lead guitarists in rock, Prophet is also a great tunesmith who spans from psychedelia to janglerock to Americana and powerpop. Stream the album via Spotify

Wounded Buffalo Theory – A Painting of Plans
The New York art-rockers have never sounded more focused, or more intense on this richly ornate, psychedelic collection. Stream the album via the band’s page, free download

Mark Rogers & Mary Byrne – I Line My Days Along Your Weight
A brooding, plaintive and vividly lyrical folk noir masterpiece, Byrne’s tersely evocative lyrics and luminous vocals over a darkly magical web of acoustic textures. Stream the album via Spotify

Jessi Robertson – I Came From the War
Combat is a metaphor for all sorts of angst on the riveting soul and Americana-influenced singer/bandleader’s intricate, atmospheric latest release. Stream the album via Bandcamp

Metropolitan Klezmer – Mazel Means Good Luck
An especially wild live album by this deliciously shapeshifting, latin and reggae-influenced New York Jewish music juggernaut. Stream the album via Bandcamp

Matt Ulery – In the Ivory
The jazz bassist’s lush, rippling compositions blend soaring neoromantic themes, edgy improvisation, cinematic instrumental narratives and frequently haunting interludes. Stream the album via Bandcamp

Jenifer Jackson – TX Sunrise
One of the most diverse songwriters here, she’s done everything from Beatlesque bossa pop to psychedelia to Nashville gothic. This is her deepest and most rewarding dive into Americana, comprising both classic C&W and southwestern gothic. Stream the album via Bandcamp

Mark Sinnis – It’s Been a Long Cold Hard Lonely Winter
A death-obsessed hard honkytonk album from powerful baritone crooner and leader of cult favorite dark rockers Ninth House. Stream the album via Spotify

The Brooklyn What – Minor Problems
The best short album of 2014 has explosive, dynamic guitar duels, a catchy anthemic sensibility, psychedelic intensity and edgy, sarcastic wit. Stream the album via Bandcamp

Robin Aigner – Con Tender
Historically rich, period-perfect, sultry and often hilariously lyrical tunesmithing equally informed by stark southern folk music, vintage blues and oldtimey swing jazz. Stream the album via Bandcamp, free download

The Ministry of Wolves – Happily Ever After
The second album of creepily theatrical art-rock songs based on Grimm’s Fairy Tales by the all-star band of Botanica‘s Paul Wallfisch, Alexander Hacke and Danielle de Picciotto from Crime & the City Solution and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds co-founder Mick Harvey. Stream the album via Spotify 

If you’re wondering why there’s hardly anything in the way of jazz or classical music here, that stuff is more likely to be found at this blog’s older sister blog, Lucid Culture.

The Stranglers Haven’t Lost Their Grip

When the act you want to see (in this case, brooding British art-rock songwriter Mike Marlin) gets cancelled due to visa issues, do you still go to the show? If the Stranglers are headlining, sure, why not? We’ve reached the point where punk nostalgia goes back 40 years, which is scarier than the Stranglers’ name.

There was no reason to expect the Stranglers to be any good at this point – and yet they were. There were only two of the four original members at last night’s Highline Ballroom show: keyboardist Dave Greenfield, who can still fire off warp-speed classical licks on a variety of vintage synths and organs (while slowly draining a Guinness!!) and bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel, whose ferocious chops and growling, gritty tone are as formidable as ever. Their new drummer Jim Macaulay not only gets to be the new Black: he’s the new Jet Black.  How cool is that? And frontman/guitarist Baz Warne won over the crowd with his haphazardly eclectic, skillful playing and snotty persona in a faithful reproduction of what the band’s original leader, Hugh Cornwell (who’s coming to the Highline for a solo show in December) used to do onstage.

Methodically and exuberantly, they ran through the hits. Because the British band was has been around so long, they’ve succeeded with more styles than most other groups. Their proggy early 80s wannabe Doors epics have aged surprisingly well; their darkish wannabe Music Machine garage rock less so. Although you wouldn’t expect a band with their name to be funny, like most artists associated with the punk movement, they could be hilarious and as it turns out still can be after all these years. They sped up the boorish punk reggae of Peaches, which the crowd loved; a bit later, they fired off a high-voltage version of Nice and Sleazy, Burnel making its iconic basssline look effortless and then segued into the punkest song of the night, Bring on the Nubiles, a raised middle finger to the censors and the politically correct. And the last of the encores, Tank, a sarcastic novelty hit from 1979, still packs a punch as a snide antiwar anthem.

The best song of the night was an impressively amped-up version of Always the Sun, one of their two American hits, Burnel’s trebly bass anchoring Greenfield’s haunting synth textures. Greenfield got to spin through endless volleys of neo-baroque on expansively artsy stuff like Toiler on the Sea (the surprise opener), The Raven, Goodbye Toulouse and a long cover of Walk on By where he handed off to Warne, who gamely kept the Light My Fire ambience going. The sold-out crowd sang along on the poppier material: the bouncy Who Wants the World, a blistering take of No More Heroes, the nonchalantly caustic Nuclear Device and the similarly nonchalant, catchy cautionary tale Skin Deep.

Of the more recent, post-Cornwell material, the goth-tinged Norfolk Coast and an even darker anthem that could have been a Ninth House song were the best; a halfheartedly rap-flavored number fell flat. And Golden Brown – Cornwell’s blithe ode to heroin, their biggest American hit – revealed itself as a Dave Brubeck ripoff. But in an era when the center has imploded, the only way for a musician to make a living is to work a niche style and there literally are no more heroes, the Stranglers still have plenty of breath in them. Maybe that’s why there were so many young people in the crowd.

How Low Can the Goth “Scene” Go?

Saturday night, the drunk behind the sound board at Uncle Mike’s titty bar staggered to the stage, flailing his arms in an attempt to keep his balance. Swiping awkwardly at the air, he spun a mic stand straight at Ninth House frontman Mark Sinnis’ face. The big, old-fashioned, shiny steel ribbon mic caught Sinnis square in the teeth. So now there were two men reeling across the stage, one almost too wasted to stand and the other in obvious pain.

Meanwhile, behind the bar, the hard-looking bargirls couldn’t keep track of how much to charge for drinks: the only consistent thing about what they were doing is that the prices kept going up. When a customer confronted one of them about it, she sheepishly offered a phony smile and a buyback the next time around.

Out front, the doorman made sure everybody knew he was boss: he had his own way of stamping everybody’s hand, and dammit, it was his way or the highway. Behind him at the end of the bar, someone who claimed to be the club’s owner sat all twitchy and tweaky, talking nonstop at any random customer within earshot. With all the good bars in New York, why on earth anyone would want to go to a shithole like Uncle Mike’s is a mystery.

Maybe because it was goth night. But goth never was much more than a meat market, anyway, and now that meat is skeevy old men in trenchcoats and baggy women squeezed into the same fishnets they used to wear to Slimelight in 1988. And the scene that used to fill the dance floor at Slimelight has withered away, to the little space under Lucky Cheng’s, and then the even smaller XR Bar, and now, finally, this little circle of hell. Memo to the uber-goth: it’s over. You don’t just look like you’re dead: you really, truly are dead now. If you don’t want to waste all that black eyeliner you’ve been stockpiling but still want to hit on girls half your age, maybe you should try emo instead.

Up onstage, the PA howled with feedback, Sinnis’ vocals were inaudible half the time – which was especially too bad, because he writes great lyrics – and the band obviously couldn’t hear each other. Yet somehow they managed not only to be tight, but also genuinely inspiring. Maybe Sinnis was all wired on adrenaline after getting clocked with that mic: maybe the taste of blood in his mouth reminded him of his early days playing punk rock. Some of the songs – the pounding Social Distortion-esque 15 Miles to Hell’s Gate and the only slightly more restrained Sunday Morning Train – had a punk feel. Fallible Friend was a tango, guitarist Keith Otten slashing his way down the fretboard like a bull in the ring, bloodied but unstoppable. Funeral For Your Mind was probably the most traditionally gothic thing they played, Otten’s snide, surrealist lead lines evoking the time he spent with the Psychedelic Furs’ Tim Butler in 90s cult favorites Feed. Then the band went into Nashville gothic and stayed there the rest of the way. Three songs later, Sinnis spun around, looked around at drummer Francis Xavier and shut the set down. “We’re done,” he snarled, obviously ready for some ice for his injured mouth.

Ninth House don’t play much anymore, since Sinnis has been focusing on his own, considerably more country-inspired solo career: the band likely won’t be doing anything in New York until next spring