New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Tag: reducers band

The Electric Mess Headline a Kick-Ass Triplebill at Union Pool on Thursday

The Electric Mess distinguish themselves from the legions of garage rock imitators out there in a lot of ways. For one, they have a heavier, more Detroit- and Australian-influenced sound. Much as they’ve got the swirly Farfisa organ and the stomping rhythms, they aren’t just recycling old riffs: you know, one-one, FOUR-FOUR, one, chucka-chucka-chucka, repeat for two minutes thirty seconds. And where most bands are lucky to have a single strong songwriter, the Electric Mess have three: singer/percussionist Esther Crow (aka Chip Fontaine), savagely Deniz Tek-influenced guitarist Dan Crow and bassist Derek Davidson. They’re headlining a good triplebill at 11 at Union Pool on Jan 29 that starts with retro 60s soul band the Jay Vons at 9 followed by the catchy, jangly all-female Party Lights. Cover is eight bucks.

The Electric Mess also make excellent albums. Their latest one, House on Fire is streaming at Bandcamp. Guitarist Crow’s Better to Be Lucky Than Good opens the record: it’s sort of a less frantic take on what Radio Birdman was doing with Aloha Steve & Danno, the sonic attack anchored by Oweinama Biu’s tremolo organ. The catchy, barely two-minute title track sounds like a Steve Wynn song if he’d been recording back in the 60s. Another Birdman-style sizzler, Beat Skipping Heart ponders the impact of a girl who’s both a “biscuit roller and a barrel stack.” The album’s best track, Winding Stairs pairs a swaying, brooding four-chord minor-key verse with a bittersweetly anthemic chorus. And the longest number here, Every Girl Deserves a Song, draws a jaggedly druggy line back toward the MC5 with diversions through acid-scarred Stooges wah psychedelia and Brian Jonestown Massacre hypnotics.

Esther Crow also contributes three songs. The first is the Brill Building garage anthem She Got Fangs, with its droll Hendrix quotes – does the Brill Building have a garage? In the basement, maybe? The second is Leavin’ Me Hangin, which with Craig Rogers’ pummeling surf drums sounds like a mashup of the previously mentioned Birdmen and the Fleshtones. The last one is Lemonade Man, a twisted stalker’s tale.

Davidson has five songs on the album. She’s Got Something to Say is like a tighter version of Them; Get Me Outta the Country is a galloping mashup of Blues Magoos and Reducers. The ominously vamping There’s Nothing You Can Do offers a tip of the helmet to a certain Radio Birdman classic, while The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave is a kiss-off to noodge. Davidson’s final track here is You Never Come Around Anymore, which wouldn’t be out of place on a Plan 9 album from that band’s peak era back in the 80s. Fans of this era’s best garage and psychedelic retroists like the Allah-Las will love this band.

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The Brixton Riot Hits One Out of the Park

The Brixton Riot are sort of an American counterpart to the Jam. Unlike the punk-era legends, their rhythms are more straight-ahead, four-on-the-floor, and the presence of two guitarists gives them a roaring, sometimes shimmering edge that the British band didn’t always have. And where the Jam looked to the Who and older American R&B bands for tunes, the Brixton Riot’s latest album Palace Amusements blends a Guided by Voices assault with catchy Big Star-influenced powerpop, sometimes veering into swirling dreampop or even toward the indie side of country. But otherwise the two bands have a lot in common, particularly a sharply literate lyrical vision. Frontman/guitarist Jerry Lardieri’s presence is strong but understated: much of the time this band lets the guitars do the talking. And that’s a great thing because they’re a blast; lead player Mark Wright adds some genuinely face-peeling intensity here. On top of all of this, the album is gorgeously produced: most bands these days can barely make it through a single verse before they loop it a couple of times and then call it done, but these guys fine-tune the sonic spectrum for ringing overtones, wailing bluesy lines, roaring punk rock grit and plenty of lush, attractive jangle and clang. Hardly anyone makes albums anymore that sound this good.

The title track, Signal to Noise, is an instant insight into how they work. The title is a snide metaphor for current pop music, “a hollow sound across the nation, signal to noise ratio.” It starts out with an insistent staccato riff, a bit like Wire, then morphs into something like a cross between GBV at their most lucid and Ted Leo at his least self-absorbed. The second track, Hard to See the Sun explores suburban anomie: “Keeping to yourself ’cause you love a mystery, deleting all the ghosts from your family history – it’s fine, it won’t change,” Lardieri observes sarcastically. There’s a series of big, shimmery dreampop swells, some nice terse slide guitar licks and then an offhandedly savage Mark Wright solo that goes chord-chopping and then sidewinding evilly into the last chorus. Wright is dangerous player, the rare lead guitarist you want to hear more from.

Canvas Shoes is just plain hilarious. With their silly accents and the music they’re compelled to make in order to conform to their peer group, the pampered children of Bushwick and Wicker Park make easy targets. But this is priceless: “Hey pretty boy, you know who you are, in your sister’s clothes, with your father’s guitar,” and it only gets better from there. The flip side of that equation is reflected in the scorching Motown rocker Our Cover’s Been Blown, an anxious and probably autobiographical look at a band staring at what looks more and more like a dead end, with “an easy road back to the commuter crawl,” as Lardieri bleakly puts it. They go back to only slightly less mean and sarcastic with Hipster Turns 30, a spot-on commentary for those on the wrong side of that number whose “accounts are overdrawn, no more rent checks from mom,” who’re finally trading in any claim to coolness in order to become their parents all over again.

Pinwheel stomps from a steady intro from bassist Steve Hass and drummer Matt Horutz to a catchy, Reducers-flavored pub rock tune, with more tremolo-picked menace from Wright, while Strange Matter sends out a snarling thank-you to the Jam’s Strange Town. But the closest thing to the Jam here is actually Ocean Avenue, punchy verse giving way to roaring chorus as Lardieri tells the bitter tale of a rocker who sees his neighborhood being destroyed by gentrification along with his dreams of not having to “turn all the amps down.”

The raging yet furtive Keep It a Secret takes a backbeat country tune and disguises it as punk, like Twin Turbine might have done ten years ago: it makes a good anthem for the era of Occupy sites. The bitter It’s Been Too Long goes deeper into a chronicle of a band reaching crisis point, with what by now is an expectedly cynical outlook:

Please spare me the speech, let’s get on with the rot
And count all the breaks that we never got
Let’s stop talking trash, let’s make a new start
Are we breaking new ground or just breaking apart?

The album ends with Losing Streak, one of the great baseball songs in the history of rock – trying to figure out if it’s pure fiction or a thinly veiled account of an actual blue-chip hitting prospect who’s going bust is maddening. When the band throws in a droll Wilco quote toward the end, that’s the only relief in sight. Like a lot of New Jersey bands, the Brixton Riot has been making Maxwell’s their home lately for live shows when they’re not playing in Manhattan; watch this space for upcoming dates.