New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: punk pop

Nonstop Catchy Hooks, New Depth and a Brooklyn Gig from Ferocious Powerpop Band the Manimals

The Manimals‘ latest release Multiverse – streaming at Bandcamp – is a great powerpop record. Big crunchy guitars rise through catchy verses into singalong choruses, and frontwoman Haley Bowery has become a hell of a singer. Yet for all the hooks that bodyslam you, one after the other, this is a pretty dark album. Haley’s lyrics here are as witheringly funny as ever, yet a lot of the songs have a seething, wounded undercurrent. The charismatic tunesmith and her band are headlining a triplebill on July 11 at around 11:30 at the Nest, 504 Flatbush Ave. in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. Mathrock band  Faster Than Light open the night at 9:30 followed by searing singer Hannah Fairchild’s lyrically brilliant noir punk power trio Hannah vs. the Many . Cover is $8; take the B/Q to Prospect Park

The album’s opening track, Gone with the Wind Fucked Me Up for Life sets the stage, looking back in anger via a mashup of Alladin Sane-era Bowie and watery 80s new wave. The title may be funny but it’s a metaphor. “All of the highs weren’t so,” Haley announces. A Key could have been a monster mid-80s radio hit for the Go-Go’s: it’s about being indomitable, not afraid to cheat, and a lot of other things. The twin-guitar assault of Michael Jayne and Christopher Sayre over the motoring beat of bassist Jack Breslin and drummer Matt O’Koren is unrelenting.

The album’s most epic track is The Maze, punctuated by a couple of disorienting, noise jams. The influence of Hannah vs. the Many also jumps out when Haley takes the song doublespeed, trying to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, even if it’s a pyrrhic one. It’s shattering, it’s as good as the vintage Bowie it resembles and will leave you hitting repeat for every second of its six minutes. After that, the band go to the sunnier side of the galaxy with Savage Planet, a coyly resolute punk-pop come-on.

“You know I don’t regret much but I regret fucking you,” Haley’s vengeful narrator snarls to her narscissistic rockstar ex in the punchy kiss-off anthem Sleepwalker. Bury Me Here offers a momentary flash of hope: “What a time to be alive!” Haley exults, even though she knows the guy she’s gone into Manhattan to pursue is just “sunlight on the river.”

The band take a stab at trip-hop with another kiss-off number, Transference, then pick up the pace with Triple Hex, an offhandedly creepy, hard-rocking update on Orbison Nashville noir pop. Just when you think that Super Human is a straight-up empowerment anthem, Haley pulls out the album’s best joke.

The Cyclone isn’t about the Brooklyn landmark, although Haley reaches for rollercoaster adrenaline, bruised but hardly defeated; a goofy sample at the end makes a good punchline. The album winds up with the guarded optimism of Believers, breaking the fourth wall with a mighty coda. Good to see a band who’ve been around since the early part of this decade taking their sound to the next level.

Hannah Vs. the Many Release the Best Rock Record of 2016

For the past five years or so, Hannah Vs. the Many have earned a reputation for incendiary live shows and brilliant albums equally informed by noir cabaret, punk, art-rock and theatre music, with a dash of magic realism. Frontwoman/multi-instrumentalist Hannah Fairchild might not just be the best songwriter in New York: she might be the best songwriter anywhere in the world. Her torrential volleys of lyrics have stiletto wit, sardonic and often savage double entendres, and a towering angst that sometimes boils over into raw wrath. While her writing reflects elements of purist Carl Newman powerpop, epic Paul Wallfisch grandeur and Neko Case noir, she’s a stronger and more eclectic writer than any of them with the possible exception of the Botanica frontman. Her wounded wail is one of the most riveting and dramatic voices in New York as well. Originally a keyboardist, she was writing brooding acoustic guitar songs almost from the moment she first picked up the instrument, then pulled a band together and the rest is history.

Their debut, All Our Heroes Drank Here, made the shortlist of the best albums of 2012 here; the follow-up, Ghost Stories ranked high on that list two years later. Their latest release, Cinemascope, draws its inspiration from classic film from over the decades. In terms of vast lyrical scope, genre-defying sophistication and sheer catchiness, it’s the best rock record of the year (caveat: Karla Rose & the Thorns have one in the can that hasn’t hit yet). Hannah Vs. the Many are playing the album release show at around 9 this Saturday, Nov 19 at Bushwick Public House at 1288 Myrtle Ave; the closest train is the M to Central Ave.

The opening track, Smoke Is Rising begins as a pensive art-rock ballad, Fairchild adding a jazz tinge with her piano, and builds to a noisy metallic inferno. It follows the same arc as the suicide jumper in Fairchild’s similarly searing All Eyes on Me; this one’s about a woman’s self-immolation, and every metaphor that could imply. When Fairchild intones, “You notice me, don’t you?” it’s just as much a condemnation of those who would watch without intervening as it is a cynical comment on depressive self-absorption.

Lovely Resolution blends elements of Nordic valkyrie metal, punk and classic garage rock, carried by Fairchild’s melismatic shriek. It ponders questions of authenticity and motives in revolutionary politics, it’s the most punk track on the album, and it’s a good anthem in this surreal post-election netherworld. And it’s optimistic:

We are the preface of a new day rising
Last year’s hope
This year’s trash
Next year’s gods

Carl Limbacher’s bubbly bass opens the bitter Cameo, a chronicle of a flirtation to rival the crunching cynicism of the Church’s For a Moment We’re Strangers, tense blue-flame jangle giving way to an explosive chorus. Fairchild has written about the inspiration for these songs in a series of poignant, sometimes shockingly revealing blog posts; this one was spiringboarded by a late-night hookup thwarted by too much alcohol.

I won’t be remembered
I won’t be remembered
Curling up and drifting off under blanket statements
Draw near help me fight this chill
Resolutions wearing thin
Morals bending backwards
Don’t stay, only say you will

The skittish new wave that opens The Auteur gives way to stomping, lickety-split punk. Like much of Fairchild’s work, this one casts a cold eye on how men expect women to subsume themselves, how some women do so willingly, and at great expense. It’s also very funny:

Once we’re discovered the question will ever be
Which of us settled for whom?
It’s uninspired at best, another biblical fall
You’re unravelling under surveillance
And now we’ll all place our bets
On if you’ll come when you’re called

The saddest, quietest and most radical change for Fairchild here is Chiaroscuro. It’s a muted country song with a banjo, of all things, a chronicle of a family trip to a Washington, DC historic site as well as the divorce that followed years later, a psychological autopsy of Midwestern stoicism worthy of Upton Sinclair:

Every child becomes a murderer in time
We take our leave of absence and we scatter from our homes
They offer contrast, these killers out of context
Someone else’s brother has been chiseled into stone
Not ours, though.

The hard-charging Hotel Empire, as Fairchild has explained, is the album’s turning point. Up to now, the songs have mainly chronicled women trying to be good. All the narratives after this are from anti-heroines. It’s also the climactic song in a suite inspired by what was probably a horribly abusive real-life relationship. Fairchild uses the plotline from Hitchcock’s Vertigo, from the point of view of the Kim Novak character, as the springboard for this harrowing conclusion. “Go on. I said I’m fine,” is the mantra.

Surrender Dorothy is the key to the album, a lickety-split look at the madonna/whore dichotomy through the prism of high school musicals (Fairchild had quite a successful career as a stage actress while still in her teens). It sounds like Patti Smith backed by the UK Subs:

Cinderella’s sisters tell us
Nothing in the final edit
‘Cause we left them blinded, bled and
Screaming through the rolling credits
Made a mistake, played it straight
How many punchlines til she breaks?
Splitting on seams, no reprieve
What I get is what you see

Max Tholenaar-Maples’ scrambling drums and Fairchild’s distorted guitar keep the punk rock going fulll-throttle in Murder Darling, bookending Wells Albritton’s brief, moody electric piano interlude. It’s another example of Fairchild at her most savagely hilarious and spot-on:

Flash right back to a boy in need of applause
Evading playground taunts
From bright young things with eyes rolled
Beat that track! Daddy said you’re whatever you want
And how that promise haunts

NSFW revisits love-as-war metaphors, both musically and lyrically, shifting between a sarcastic march and wounded jangle:

Curious trend
Isn’t it strange?
What information you chose to retain?
All of my fears, none of my wit
Drape me in jealousy tailored to fit
Lining your walls
Faces you’ve earned
Duchesses hanging themselves on your word
Women of rank I have surpassed

Kopfkino makes a harrowing coda to the album, an actress at the end of her rope in a Holocaust milieu whose ending you can’t see coming, but which brings the song cycle full circle. In terms of sheer ambition, epic grandeur and cruel insight, there’s no other album that’s been released this year that comes close to this one.

The Naked Heroes Bring Their High-Voltage, Charismatic Assault to Grand Victory and the Rockaways

When the Naked Heroes’ George Jackson takes a flying leap from the stage, clears a monitor, lands directly in front of you and then slams you – all the while wailing on his Strat – you know you’ve been hit. With primal punk energy, a sly new wave sense of humor and lots of danceable, catchy tunes, there’s no other band in New York who sound anything like them. They’re very visual, too. They love to stop songs on a dime and then restart them…or leap from one into another. Jackson is a very expressive performer with his googly-eyed monster-movie faces, sometimes droll, sometimes with more than a hint of menace. Much as a lot of what he does is completely over-the-top, a lot of it isn’t, leaving room for the possibility of genuine danger. Meanwhile, statuesque drummer/singer Merica Lee sometimes hangs back with a swing groove, other times bounding around the stage, walloping on a tom-tom or a sampler loaded with explosive dancefloor thuds.

At the band’s show Saturday night at the Poisson Rouge, she was rocking a black-leather Catwoman-style bodysuit that didn’t leave much to the imagination. The mustachioed Jackson stuck to basic black jeans and shoes, with a button-down shirt left open to midway down the chest, his Robinson Crusoe necklace flying as he romped across the stage and then out over it to bodyslam the likes of unsuspecting music bloggers.

The band’s songs are as simple and irresistibly catchy as their beats. One of the set’s early numbers worked a feral, tribal early 80s Antmusic groove, Jackson blasting out a terse, mimalist two-chord vamp over it. There’s a lot of call-and-response, and wry repartee between the duo, sometimes involving the audience, in this case on an Ike & Tina Turner cover. Jackson is a hell of a guitarist (and bassist, as evidenced by his time as one of Lorraine Leckie‘s Demons) – who saves the flash for when he really needs it. His most impressive fretwork came on an unexpectedly ornate intro to a ballad that evoked Hendrix’s Little Wing without ripping it off. Likewise, the songs’ raw but incredibly tight riffage brought to mind bands as diverse as the White Stripes, the Black Keys, the Cramps and Bow Wow Wow without being imitative. On one number, Jackson went behind the kit and held down a beat on the kickdrum while playing guitar as Lee came out in front; by the end of the show, the two were out at the edge of stage, putting a mean dancefloor spin on an ancient gospel tune, wailing on the sampler and a single drum that Lee pummeled so hard that the mic came undone. The Naked Heroes are at Grand Victory at on Sept 16 at 8 PM, making a good segue with the 7 PM opening act, female-fronted horror punk/surf/darkwave band the Long Losts. Cover is $10. Then on Sept 27 at 5 PM the Naked Heroes are on the Rockaway Beach boardwalk.

A Handful of NYC Shows by Sardonic Punk/Garage/Pop Band Archie Powell & the Exports

Chicago band Archie Powell & the Exports’ shtick is that they can sound British when they want- “exports,” get it? Otherwise, they do the snotty/funny Dead Milkmen Cali-punk thing, the surreal stoner Hussy thing, sometimes a catchy, anthemic Cheap Trick powerpop thing or maybe an unhinged Libertines thing. Sometimes they end up doing all that in the same song. Powell shreds his vocal cords the way Brandon Seabrook shreds a guitar – mercilessly. It’s a miracle the guy can get through an album, let alone a set. They’re doing the usual clusterfuck of CMJ shows: at Rock Shop at 10 PM on Oct 18 for $10, then they’re at Matchless on Oct 22 at 10 for two bucks less and on Oct 23 for free at Northern Soul Bar, 557 First St. in Hoboken (past Newark Street, about five minutes from the Path train station), time TBA.

They’ve also got a new album, Back in Black – no, not a bunch of AC/DC covers – streaming online. The first track is Everything’s Fucked, a screaming punk-garage-quirkpop number. Tattoo on My Brain builds from snotty vox and repeaterbox guitar to a pretty straight-up powerpop chorus. Lean is the first track that brings to mind the Hussy, followed by Scary Dreams, which takes an early Joe Jackson faux-reggae idea and makes fuzzy punk out of it.

With its fuzz bass way up in the mix and Powell’s distorted bullhorn vocals, Holes sounds like a demo by a punk-era pop band like the Shirts. The High Road is a steady, catchy four-on-the-floor pseudo-Oasis stomp; the band reprises that with more of a coy come-on feel (“My rehab’s overdue,” Powell confides) on I’m Gonna Lose It.

“That gurney’s gonna be a friend to me,” Powell theatens, “You make me wanna drink a fifth,” he continues in Jump off a Bridge. The poor guy’s holed up in the nuthouse and dreaming of oral sex – you can’t blame him. Mambo No. 9 isn’t a mambo it all – it’s practically oi-punk. The album’s last track, Everything’s Cool reaches for 70s novelty-pop drollery. There are also a couple of hilariously miscast ballads here, best left unspun: Powell’s full-throated attack on the mic is endearing but he gets completely lost when the volume comes down. He doesn’t seem the type to do that onstage – sing ballads, that is.

Mustard Plug Can’t Contain It

The band on this page yesterday was for the stoners. Today’s is for the drinkers. The operative question about well-loved ska-punk veterans Mustard Plug‘s latest album Can’t Contain It is whether a bunch of guys in their forties can still pull off playing lickety-split party anthems. Answer: no question. As you would expect from a band that’s been living on the road for twenty years, they’re tight beyond belief, but they’re not phoning this stuff in. And the sonics of the new album are fantastic: this could easily be the best-produced album the band’s ever made. Colin Clive’s multitracked guitars roar and burn, Brandon Jenison’s trumpet punches and soars in tandem with Jim Hofer’s trombone over the pummeling rhythm section of Rick Johnson’s bass and Nathan Cohn’s drums. Frontman Dave Kirchgessner’s goodnaturedly sardonic vocals rise over hard-hitting verses that build to catchy singalong choruses – this is party music for people who aren’t stupid. The whole thing is streaming at Dying Scene.

The opening track We Came to Party sets the stage. You know the drill, but it’s still fun – what the band is going for here is a college radio hit. They raise the catchiness factor with The All-Nighter and then add a little latin flavor to a briskly walking two-tone skank on Aye Aye Aye (which the band sings as “AAAAH, ya, ya”). White Noise starts out with more of a straight-up rock feel before they get the ska beat going after the first chorus.

Bang! takes a sarcastic, exasperated poke at the amateurs who always find a way to turn a party into a brawl. Burn It Down brings back the stutterstep two-tone organ-and-horn vibe, while Shakin’ It Up works the horns into a blazing vintage Sham 69-style punk rock hit.

Clive keeps the guitar firepower going in tandem with the horns (and an Elvis Costello quote) on Blame Yourself. Gone and Faded takes what could be a cheesy NOFX hook and makes a big angst-fueled anthem out of it instead. What Does She Know? is catchy, and weird, and kind of a tongue-twister, followed by the album’s best song, the vengeful, searing Twist the Knife.

 With its punchy punk riffage, It’s You starts out like it might be a make-up song but quickly goes in the other direction. Perfect Plan sets a tasty horn chart over alternately pogoing and stomping guitars. The album ends with Running Out of Time, a snide punk rock blast at a nameless and undeservedly successful corporate music act.

Apropos of nothing – is this just a trick of the imagination, or does Kirchgessner’s voice have more than a little Boston in it? Does Red Sox Nation go as far as Michigan?

Hannah vs. the Many Battle the Sound at Cake Shop

Hannah vs. the Many played the album release show for their latest one, Ghost Stories, at Cake Shop Thursday night. Frontwoman/guitarist Hannah Fairchild’s songs are lyrically driven, and the vocals were hit-and-miss in the mix all night, beginning with the opening bands and continuing through her band’s ferocious, roughly 40-minute set. So this was a chance to focus on Hannah the tunesmith. She’s just as strong with the tunes as she is with the words and the vocals (too bad there were issues, since this club usually has much better sound than in your typical bodega basement). Guitarist Josh Fox is her not-so-secret weapon, weilding spaghetti western/crime jazz twang against acidic postpunk chords, judicious single-note harmonies and roaring punk riffage. Fairchild is no slouch on guitar herself, wailing and tremolo-picking her Strat with a slasher menace as the drums pummelled and the bassist (yeah – this band has bass now!) played tight, melodic lines.

The opening number, Poor Leander – a lit-rock scorcher from the new album – got a menacingly scampering, chord-chopping  psychobilly edge fueled by long drum rolls over bridge and some paint-peeling vocals from Fairchild, whose vocals are even better live than in the studio. The twin slasher guitars on the twin suicide anthem All Eyes on Me led up to a cartwheeling bridge and then a false ending that faked out the crowd. Jordan Baker, Fairchild’s gentlest and arguably most haunting song matched her elegantly apocalyptic lyric to a quiet jangle that Fox finally lit into with some otherworldly swoops before the last chorus kicked in.

There were a couple of new songs, one that built from noir to a punkish scamper, another that worked a skeletal/explosive dynamic;. Fairchild’s song structures don’t follow any kind of typical verse/chorus architecture, and from the looks of things that’s not about to change. Her next song, Muse, galloped along with a scathing, bitter lyric: “No kiss is ever more than sugar sweet/No affection is ever more than river deep.” Then they took the breathlessly sardonic Biography of Cells down to just the cymbals and Fairchild’s guitar for the last verse. The equally searing Lady of the Court – another track from the new album – had a Fox guitar solo in place on the wry 80s synth on the album and was better for it. They wound up with an absolutely bloodcurdling version of the raging noir cabaret anthem The Party Faithful and closed with a sarcastic, punked-out cover of some mallstore pop song. A lot of people in the crowd sang along. but for others, it was a WTF moment. That Hannah vs. the Many’s songs are better known in some circles than, say, Lady Gag, says a lot about the state of the rock music world in 2013.

While Fairchild’s lyrics tend to be on the venomous side, she had a coy repartee going with the crowd and with her band – when her drummer called her out for wearing her underwear on the outside of her fishnets, she didn’t blink. That every guy on the Lower East Side wasn’t packed into Cake Shop to enjoy those visuals pretty much speaks for what’s happened to the neighborhood.

The opening bands were good, too, if not particularly tight. The 9 PM act, Toronto’s Fast Romantics, worked an retro 80s/90s Britrock vibe that evoked both the Smiths and Pulp without being arch or affected. The high point was a decent cover of Pulp’s classic anti-fauxhemian anthem Common People, which is almost 20 years old now but in a lot of ways was the perfect song for the night, considering what part of town the band was playing in. Pep, the 10 PM act, had a trio of women out front singing fetchingly catchy, Spector-ish 60s girl-group pop and oldschool soul.

The Go-Go’s Play One of the Best NYC Shows of 2013 At Coney Island

Was it worth standing in the rain for three hours Thursday night at Coney Island to see the Go-Go’s? Hell yeah! That the most refreshingly original band of 1981 would still be together, and touring nationally, and arguably sounding better than they did thirty-two years ago might be more improbable than their success as one of the best-loved new wave bands. In the time that’s passed, they’ve regrouped and toured sporadically; this time out found them trading the guitar jangle for a raw roar. Watching them play a brief, barely 45-minute set to a patient and adoring crowd of probably fewer than five hundred diehards seemed akin to seeing them in a small club at the moment before their classic debut album, Beauty & the Beat, defied all odds and went platinum.

They were just as fresh and unselfconscious and unscriptedly fun here as they were then (plenty of live footage from that era has surfaced at youtube and elsewhere). Frontwoman Belinda Carlisle was just as snarkily funny as always and hits the notes closer to head-on than she used to. Guitarist Jane Wiedlin has traded her Fenders for Gibson SG’s, on this tour at least, for extra firepower, and the band is now wisely relying on her beautiful high soprano voice more than ever. Drummer Gina Schock served as emcee and is more down-to-earth and funny than you would imagine after having seen her photo on the first album’s sleeve. Bassist Kathy Valentine’s absence left enormous shoes to fill, but the band had the good sense to get the obvious choice to replace her, Abby Travis, whose wicked chops and spot-on vocals blended in lusciously. Along with their hits, the band played that one Carlisle hit that still gets airplay on easy-listening radio; it would have been nice if they’d done one of Travis’ brilliant, harmony-rich, artsy songs as well. But with the rain, there wasn’t time.

They opened with Vacation, which at this point in time might be their biggest hit. In concert, they used to do the trebly but irresistible pop hit as a lush, crescendoing art-rock anthem; this time out, it was fast, burning punk-pop. Travis propelled their cover of Cool Jerk with a slinky pulse as the audience clapped and swayed, lost in the groove. The best song of the night was a rich, resounding version of How Much More, done as they might have if that track had been on their 1983 powerpop masterpiece, Talk Show, instead of the first album. A pummelling punk/powerpop cover of Paint It Black drew on the Avengers’ version, followed by an unexpected, rare treat, the sardonic Cool Places, lead guitarist Charlotte Caffey switching from Fender Jazzmaster to woozy, bassy synth. She murdered her electric piano with a stiletto staccato on a rapidfire Head Over Heels; the band closed with Our Lips Are Sealed, then We Got the Beat with Kiss’ I Wanna Rock N Roll All Night in the middle and then encored with I Wanna Be Sedated, a shout-out to “the band that made us want to do this,” as Wiedlin told the crowd.

And as unselfconscious and unassuming as they are, the Go-Go’s didn’t bother to mention that they were the first successful all-female rock band. Hard to believe as it may seem, back in 1981, it was rare to see women on electric guitars, bass or drums. At the time, the Go-Go’s were considered a novelty act by an awful lot of people. Three decades later, the joke’s on them.

And apropros of nothing related to the performance, there was a bizarre incident straight out of a Stanley Milgram experiment. As the audience waited, and waited, and waited for the rain to end, there were persistent calls to “open up the seats, Marty!” But Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz – who thankfully was in slightly less bloviating mode than he usually is at these concerts, a pet project which he insists on emceeing even as his senility gets more and more obvious – did no such thing, nor did the security staff. See, these concerts are ostensibly free. But if you want a seat, admission is five bucks. Otherwise, you either have to bring your own chair or stand in the back. By eight PM, it was obvious that the rows and rows of empty seats in the front section were not going to be taken and could have easily accommodated the few dozen people who’d been waiting patiently in the rear section. As minutes turned to hours and the rain came down steadily, repeated entreaties to open up the seats continued to go ignored.

Finally, after the concert had begun, a member of the security crew slowly made his way to the back and quietly told a few people that the front seats would be opening soon. There was no formal announcement over the PA that everyone could hear, but this worked anyway. A ragged line of tired people formed – and then, instead of simply opening the gates and letting the maybe fifty spectators in the back into the seating area, security slowly began handing out wristbands. And what might have taken thirty seconds for this small crowd to choose from among hundreds of empty seats ended up taking at least a quarter of an hour as each person in the back was given a wristband, and were then checked to make sure they had a wristband before being let into the seats! And not a single one of the security staff acted as if they knew how ridiculous and absurd this was. Were they afraid that if they didn’t follow protocol, as idiotic as it was, they’d be fired? Why didn’t a single one of them choose to exercise ordinary common sense? Is there an overboss responsible for this idiocy? If so, he or she should be forced to stand in the rain on the hard pavement here for three hours – and then be given a wristband, and then made to wait another fifteen minutes before being allowed a seat.

It’s tempting to say that if this had been the pre-Giuliani era, the crowd would have thrown down the gates and taken the seats, regardless. But in reality, there wouldn’t have been any gates at all and everybody would have had a seat – and security wouldn’t have cared less. Folks, this is how the Nazis got their start. First by instituting seemingly meaningless but punitive restrictions, until those random measures became so commonplace that nobody questioned them. Then they went after the Jews.

Good Times, Good Punk Energy from Bad Pilgrim

Uh-oh, here comes 90s nostalgia. New Jersey’s Bad Pilgrim have a sound that harks back to the day when there were actually GOOD bands on the Warped tour, and they could have been one of them. Albums like their brand-new, self-titled debut are great for busy early spring days because A) they’re easy to write about and B) they’re just plain fun.

Frontman/guitarist Brett Niederman’s vocals are on the early NOFX tip (i.e. from before that style became a self-parody), his crunchy guitars blending with Dan Finn’s propulsive bass and Carlos Luna’s tight drums. The production values are organic: no dumbass autotune or samples, drums too high in the mix or such, and while it probably was recorded digitally rather than through an analog board, who knows: the sonics are refreshingly oldschool.

The first song is Doin’ Fine, an  irresistibly catchy, simple punk-pop number with a little ska thrown in. “Working all day, rocking all night.” Yeah!  They turn up the reverb on the guitars and the treble on the bass for Emily. You wouldn’t expect a love song to be in a minor key or have such a nasty unhinged bluesy guitar solo. This is a great song and it’s the best one on the album.

Don’t Leave Me Alone is doo wop ska-punk with a bit of a megaphone effect on the vocals. It’s a little silly, a little creepy. The Dickies used to play songs like this. Drinks and Food is pretty straight up 1-4-5 with cool multitracked guitars. Of course they have to follow that one with a ska tune called Drinking – what’s not to like about that!

Lazy is the  poppiest tune here; the final track, Love Letters was a rockabilly song in a past life. Bad Pilgrim are at Trash Bar at 10 PM on April 10 and what you should do is show up early at 8 for open bar on PBRs and wells for an hour.

End-of-the-Month Hell

The end of the month around here is always brutal because it’s time to put together the monthly concert calendar. In the meantime, enjoy this video by the alcohol-fueled Cudzoo and the Fagettes, who will have you spitting your drink laughing as you stare at their big…mouths. The intro and outro are especially spot-on.

Funny and well thought out as is this is, does any of this resemble a New York that you know? Food for thought….

By the way, if you like that one, check out their previous video, Daddy Issues.

Doing Shots with Haley and Hannah

Saturday night at Webster Hall, singer Haley Bowery waited about half an hour into her show before she reached behind the sound monitor and pulled out the gun. Before the song started, she’d lured several people in the crowd to the edge of the stage with the promise of whiskey. She pumped the rifle, then held it steady in her right hand, taking aim at a guy in the front row. As his jaw dropped, she fired at him.

If he’d been as steady on his feet as her aim was – Keith Richards’ right hand has nothing on Haley Bowery’s – he would have gotten a generous mouthful of hooch. It wasn’t bottom shelf, either: whatever she’d filled that big black heavy-duty squirt gun with, it was decent whiskey. As the band stomped behind her, she moved on to the next person, and then the next. A couple of them came back for seconds and she took her time with them: at least a couple of people left the show with a free buzz. But that’s not the only reason why it’s impossible not to like Haley Bowery.

Her songs imagine a CBGB of the mind, but not from the punk rock era. Instead, her glam-infused four-on-the-floor rock has a little bit of Bowie, the Dolls, maybe T-Rex but through the prism of cynical 80s New York powerpop, with all the accoutrements: the leather boots, the torn fishnets, the booze, the defiant pose and maybe other stuff. It’s a lifestyle, and she seems hell-bent on putting across the fact that she’s living it – and maybe building a tribe of fellow troublemakers who also consider themselves born strange (which is the title of the album whose release she was celebrating). Her band the Manimals is tight and unexpectedly diverse: solid Attis Jerrell Clopton on drums, surprisingly eclectic Patrick Deeney on guitar and Joseph Wallace (who also plays in the excellent Wallace on Fire) on bass, with Matthew Pop guesting on keys on a couple of numbers. She didn’t waste time getting to the point: “Fuck the rest of ’em, let’s paaaarty,” she ordered the crowd the end of Halloween, a lurching anthem that with a little youtubing could be the theme for next year’s freshman class and many afterward. Some of her songs turned out to be unexpectedly bittersweet, like 29, a wistful ballad pondering  how to stay young when you’re staring down the wrong side of 30. A little later she turned to the bitterness and anger of Blitzed, a kiss-off song whose protagonist “Tried to find my bliss, and I got blitzed”- and then “If you need me, boy that ship has sailed.” And Undertow (the backdrop for the booze and the squirt gun) implored everyone to “Drink your whiskey up for the people who never thought you’d be more than a zero.” Revenge is sweet.

Opening act Hannah vs. the Many took that theme further. With a ferocious, spun-steel wail, charismatic frontwoman/guitarist Hannah Fairchild poured out torrents of double entendres and embittered imagery over catchy melodies that ranged from roaring punk-pop to hauntingly ornate, slower, artsier ballads. Her four-piece band didn’t have a bass player this time out, but that didn’t phase them, lead guitarist Josh Fox raising the songs’ searing ambience with long, echoing, slowly twisting sustained notes drenched in cold reverb. Fairchild projects a warmth and nonchalance in contrast with her songs’ raging angst: she reflected on how nice she felt the audience was, but then she related how when she’d just arrived here from her native Minnesota, people had said the same thing about her. “So I called up my girl friend and told her that, and she just laughed. I’m Minnesota mean!”

But her songs aren’t so mean as they’re just plain anguished: they’re anthems for a new generation of smart, alienated kids. The best one of the entire night, and the quietest one, was Jordan Baker, a torchy, sadly bouncing chamber-pop song that Jarvis Cocker would be proud to have written, and it was there that the audience split up: the front row bobbing their heads in unison, completely lost in Fairchild’s tale of infatuation despite knowing better, while the crowd in back noisily readied themselves for the whiskey. The rest of the show was a lot louder: over scorching punk-noir and stagy, gypsy-tinged dark cabaret, Fairchild savaged poseurs, backstabbers and the slow death of hope in a city full of promises that end up dashed in the crush simply to survive as rents rise and imagination is drowned out in the roar of conspicuous consumption and a cultivated shallowness. “How long before the suburbs come to claim us?” she pondered toward the end of Fox’s Wedding, as the song built from almost a whisper to a wail. A lot of the songs were new, and considerably louder than the haunting, often piano-based tracks on her absolutely brilliant new album All Our Heroes Drank Here: whether she follows that or remains sort of a New York teens counterpart to Pulp, she’s someone to keep an eye on. In a way, Haley Bowery was the perfect segue: there wasn’t any way anybody was going to top Fairchild as far as intensity was concerned, so, fuck the rest of ’em, it was time to party. Hannah vs. the Many are at Spike Hill on July 7 at 11; Haley Bowery’s next gig is a private show (well, sort of – her site lists it as July 17 at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, presumably indoors).