New York Music Daily

Music for Transcending Dark Times

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Prolific Britrock Polymath Edward Rogers’ Latest Album Is His Best Ever

In 1976, the face of the next decade, if not the decades after was profoundly altered by the UK punk rock explosion. But does anybody remember what the bestselling UK album of 1976 was? It sure wasn’t by the Sex Pistols. And it wasn’t by David Bowie, or Pink Floyd, or Led Zeppelin either. It was a compilation by Americana hack Slim Whitman sold exclusively via tv infomercial. That paradox capsulizes the thought-provoking, sweepingly elegaic esthetic of Edward Rogers’ latest album TV Generation, streaming at Soundcloud. The epic fourteen-track collection chronicles the grim decline of a society that ignored digital intrusions on their privacy and their freedom until it was too late.  He’s playing the Cutting Room on Feb 22 at 7:30 M, opening for the world’s foremost twelve-string guitarist, Marty Willson-Piper, a similarly brilliant, acerbic songwriter and former member of Australian psychedelic legends the Church. Cover is $20.

Originally a drummer, Rogers narrowly escaped a grisly death in a New York City subway calamity that cost him the use of two of his limbs. But he persevered, reinvented himself as a crooner and songwriter and nearly twenty years down the line,  has built a formidable body of work that draws on classic glam, art-rock and psychedelic styles from the 60s and 70s. This latest album is his tour de force: in context, it’s his Scary Monsters, his Message From the Country, his London Calling, simply one of the best and most relevant albums released this decade.

“Are you wake it awake yet…let’s move along! Turn ont the tv!” Rogers hollers as the album’s tumbling, hypnotic, Beatlesque opening track,gets underway:

So many stories
Too many black holes
Keep you hypnotized
As they take their toll

With James Mastro’s simmering Mick Ronson-esque guitar paired against terse sax, 20th Century Heroes could be the great lost Diamond Dogs track, an enigmatic chronicle of corporate media archetypes whose fifteen minutes expired a long time ago falling one by one as the years catch up with them. Rogers follows that with No Words, a Bowie elegy set to a lush, elegantly fluttering  contrapuntal string arrangement.

The savage kiss-off anthem Gossips, Truth and Lies chimes along on a gorgeous twelve-string guitar arrangement capped off by a tantalizingly brief solo. By contrast, it’s easy to imagine ELO’s Jeff Lynne singing Wounded Conversations, a sunny, jazz-tinged 70s Stylistics-style soul-jazz ballad grounded by fluid, resonant organ.

The album’s centerpiece – and one of the most haunting songs released in the last year – is Listen to Me. Over a brooding wash of mellotron and moody acoustic twelve-string guitar, Rogers offers a challenge to the distracted millions to escape the surveillance-state lockdown:

Voices we hear all around us
Are out to control
Don’t wait for a postmortem
No one wants to know about
Isn’t too long til lost promises
Is this what you want for your future
More lies than we can count
…written by me through your own peephole

Rogers goes back to rip-roaring Stonesy early 70s Bowie for Sturdy Man’s Shout. On This Wednesday in June begins spare and reflective and then explodes, recalling the 1989 Montreal Ecole Polytechnique mass shooting – how sad that this song would be so relevant at this moment in history.

The austere baroque-tinged Terry’s World sends a shout-out to one of Manhattan’s last newsstand owners – an endangered job, “a life denied.” Rogers follows that with The Player, a sardonic, Kinks-style ba-bump portrait of an old codger who can’t take his eyes off the girls he probably wouldn’t have kept his hands off a half-century ago.

The Kinks in baroque-psych mode also inform Alfred Bell, a brisk stroll through a burnt-out schoolteacher’s drab day. The question is, should we be feeling sorry for this poor sap, or the kids who get stuck in his class?

With its gloriously acidic lead guitar, the album’s catchiest and hardest-rocking number is She’s the One, a portrait of a girl who gets what she deserves since she nothing’s ever good enough for her. The album closes with the wryly titled TV Remixxx, a goofy psychedelic mashup of themes from the title track. If you wish that Bowie was still alive and making great records, get this one.

Edward Rogers Brings His Epic, Witheringly Relevant Britrock Masterpiece to Murray Hill

Quietly and methodically, Birmingham-born, New York-based songwriter/crooner Edward Rogers has established himself as a major force in retro Britrock tunesmithing. Over his four previosu albums, he’s earned comparisons to Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne, Bowie, Kevin Ayers (whose work he saluted with his previous album, Kaye) and – this isn’t an overstatement – Ray Davies. Rogers’ latest album, Glass Marbles – streaming at Spotify –  is a bitter, doomed, epic nineteen-track masterpiece: it’s his Sandinista, or Blonde on Blonde, or Here Come the Miracles. He and his brilliant band -whose core includes James Mastro on lead guitar, Don Piper on rhythm, Konrad Meissner on drums and Sal Maida on bass – to a killer twinbill with Marty Willson-Piper – the Richard Thompson of the twelve-string guitar – at the Cutting Room on June 21 at 7 PM. Advance tix are $20.

Rogers has an acute political awareness, whether casting a cold eye on how gentrification has devastated his beloved East Village, or here. The catchy World of Mystery opens the album, bringing to mind the Byrds version of Dylan’s My Back Pages. It’s an upbeat tune but it’s far from a happy song, the eyes of a clairvoyant “Now resigned and forced to be blind…the art of seeing is now dead, no more futures, no more futures can be read.”

Rogers revisits that theme on the toweringly crescendoing Denmark Street Forgotten, building out of spare, uneasily lingering guitars over mutedly ominous tom-tom syncopation:

You say it’s history
Please hear my plea
Not another robbers’ block for you and me

Welcome to My Monday Morning paints a vivid, grey-sky folk-rock portrait of working-class drudgery – and then picks up with a bounce as the weekend approaches. The Letter has an echoey, surreal blend of early 70s Bowie and vaudevillian Sergeant Pepper pop. The understatedly savage Jumbo Sale is one of those echoey, atmospherically psychedelic mood pieces Rogers is so adept at.

The entire band, especially the rhythm section, do a spot-on Stones impersonation throughout Bright Star, which could be a long-lost outtake from, say, the Black and Blue sessions. My Lady Blue – a droll Harry Chapin reference? – builds a pensive Hunkiy Dory Bowie-esque feel, just guitars and vocals, looking back bittersweetly on a late-night barroom hookup that predictably ended pretty much where it started. The glarmock/psychedelic stomp Olde House on the Hill is another bitter reminiscence: “The garden’s been replaced by thorns from hell,” Rogers rails.

The band goes back to pensively purposeful folk-rock for Broken Wishes on Display, then returns with a vengeance to withering social commentary with Blckpool Nights, a hauntingly vivid minor-key portrait of seedy resort-town dissolution and anomie. He and the band absolutely slayed with this last year at Rough Trade and did the same at Hifi Bar a couple of weeks ago.

Rogers evokes the Byrds again, both lyrically and jangle-wise, in I’m Your Everyday Man, a guardedly hopeful populist anthem with some nimble neo-baroque keyboard work. The band goes further down the psychedelic rabbit hole toward Indian exotica with Fade Away, its enveloping sonics contrasting with Rogers’ starkly straightforward tale of class disciminiation. Likewise, the easygoing baroque-rock sway of Seconds Into Minutes masks a bitter account of time gloat forever.

The albums best and catchiest track is Looking for Stone Angels, a dead ringer for a 1965 Byrds twelve-string janglefest: it’s Rogers at his elegaic best: “Not sure you want to live tomorow as your hopes fade away.” The band descends into broodingly artsy, Strawbs-isn folk rock with Just Like That It Came N Went, mellotron fluttering sepulchrally behind a web of acoustic guitars while Rogers’ scarecrow imagery completes the gloomy picture

Burn n Play is the album’s most sarcastic number, a thinly veiled anti-yuppie broadside that nicks a familiar 80s yuppie cheeseball anthem. Stars in Your Eyes, with its deep-space, minimalist piano, makes a striking contrast. The album’s title track is an even more unexpected departure into apocalyptic, scattergun no wave funk, boiling with nails-down-the-blackboard guitar multitracks. The End Moments offers muted, resigned closure: “I want to go out more quitely than I came in,” Rogers intones soberly.

Behind Rogers’ uncluttered, down-to-earth, weathered vocals, the entire band channels fifty years of smart UK songcraft. Where does this fall alongside the other albums released in 2016? It’s definitely the best nineteen-track release of the year…and the century, so far.

Yet Another Richly Tuneful Album From the King of Retro Britrock, Edward Rogers

Born in Birmingham, England, crooner/songwriter Edward Rogers has been a staple of cutting-edge lyrical New York rock since the 80s. A connoisseur of retro British tunesmithing, he’s got a characteristically brilliant new album, Kaye – a homage to the Soft Machine’s Kevin Ayers – streaming at his web page and an album release show at 7 PM on August 17 at Joe’s Pub. Advance tix are $16 and highly recommended because Rogers’ shows there tend to sell out.

For this gig, he’ll have pretty much the same all-star band he enlisted to record the album, live in the studio: James Mastro and Don Piper on guitars; Sal Maida on bass; Dennis Diken on drums; Joe McGinty on keyboards; and Tish & Snooky on backing vocals What’s obvious right off the bat is that although Ayers’ writing is an obvious influence, Rogers’ songs here have the same lushly arranged mid-to-late 70s-style anthemic Britrock sound of the tracks on his previous album, Porcelain, from 2011. The lone cover here, Ayers’ After the Show, gets a jaunty neo-glam treatment, right down to the droll twin guitar leads.

The opening track, My Street kicks off with a snarling, low-register Mastro guitar hook, a decidedly ambiguous look back at a gritty upbringing. There’s a briefly evocative, psychedelic bridge that rises to a searing web of guitar leads that’s viscerally breathtaking. With its lingering spaghetti western tinges, the angst-ridden No Color for Loneliness is sort of a mashup of Bowie’s 1984 with late 60s Vegas noir.

Street Fashion keeps the glamrock vibe going while raising the guitar amperage (that’s Don Fleming and the Ladybug Transistor’s Gary Olson joining the melee with Mastro), Rogers contemptuously contemplating the shallowness that continues to invade and pervade his adopted city. Worry for the World blends funk tinges into a sunny chimepop tune that contrasts with Rogers’ gloomy lyric. The waltzing, summery yet elegaic title track is a wistful shout-out to Ayers, and the most Soft Machine-influenced song here:

You don’t shine if you don’t burn
Hide the mystery so well learned
I’ll bet you walked and turned
And touched the brain that never learned

Fueled by Byrdsy twelve-string guitar, What Happened to the News Today takes a snide swipe at how the media-industrial complex distracts us from what’s really going on. Copper Coin could be a 60s Zombies hit taken about five years into the future with a mostly acoustic, flamenco-tinged arrangement – is that Pete Kennedy playing guitar?

Rogers keeps the delicate acoustic ambience going with Borrowed & Blue. Then he hits a peak with the haunting, organ-fueled Fear of the Unknown, which could pass for a standout track on an early 70s Strawbs album. The album winds up with an apprehensively sprawling psychedelic jam, Peter Pan Dream and then a tantalizingly brief choral reprise of the ninth track.

Don Piper and Edward Rogers vs. the Sound

The Cutting Room’s new Curry Hill space isn’t officially open yet, which is a good thing: at this point in the renovations, the sonics at that unfinished industrial basement at Kent and South First in Williamsburg are better than they are here. Last night Don Piper and his band, and then Edward Rogers (playing the cd release for his new one, Porcelain) battled those sonics. Both played magnificently; both lost the battle. Piper has never written better than he’s writing now, equal parts smart Neil Finn purist pop, thoughtful Mumford & Sons Americana and blue-eyed soul. His superb seven-piece band included Gary Langol on organ, Ray Sapirstein on cornet, Konrad Meissner on drums and Briana Winter on vocal harmonies. After the show, Sapirstein likened this group to a chamber music ensemble, a spot-on comparison: they have the easy camaraderie and expert chops you’d expect from a string quartet. And Piper’s slow-to-midtempo songs leave plenty of space for those virtuoso players to add their own inimitably terse, thoughtful ideas. In just under an hour onstage, they swung casually and methodically from artsy pop songs, to a little further out into the country and back again, with a couple of Bill Withers-ish numbers to turn the heat up a little. Piper’s an excellent singer, especially when he uses the top of his range: too frequently, those frequencies got lost.

‘”We start out at about 1972 and end around 1976,” Rogers told the crowd as he took the stage with his band: Piper, Pete Kennedy and James Mastro on guitars, Joe McGinty on keys, Sal Maida on bass and Meissner on drums again plus a parade of singers. The new album pays homage to the glam era, especially the opening track, The Biba Crowd, a look back at a boutique that served as a focal point for British musicians of that era much as Malcolm McLaren’s Sex did in punk’s earliest days. The band gave it a Celtic-fueled stomp, Mastro’s blazing Mick Ronson-esque lines mostly lost to the sound mix. At the end of a careening, intense version of the apocalyptic Topping the World, Rogers backed off, intoning the song’s mantra, “Chaos rules your destiny” just a couple of times before letting the music fall away. Whether this was intentional, or only an indication that Rogers was sick of trying to holler over the band, the effect was powerful. They wrestled with a handful of big Bowie-esque rockers, as well as the plaintive drunkard’s lament No More Tears Left in the Bottle and then a real showstopper, Commodore Hotel, a poignant, unselfconsciously beautiful ballad sung by its author, George Usher over McGinty’s ornate yet judicious keyboards.

Passing the Sunshine, a catchy 60s psychedelic pop gem from Rogers’ previous album Sparkle Lane, was especially biting, a metaphorically-charged amble through a neighborhood in the process of being priced out of itself. When Rogers brought up Don Fleming to play lead guitar on Separate Walls, it was as if the ghost of Ron Asheton had taken over the stage – to say that Fleming raised the energy level was an understatement, but there was only so much he could do to cut through the mix. After a deliciously raw version of the album’s title track, a song that would have fit perfectly on a late 80s Church album, they ended the show with drony, Syd Barrett-influenced, Black Angels-style murk-rock, which might have been a brave move at another venue; here, it simply seemed that they’d finally found something that made sense in the room. McGinty worked a harmonium furiously as the guitars howled and shrieked and Rogers railed against posers in newly gentrified neighborhoods everywhere.

Morricone Youth, who are always a treat, were next on the bill. But as it turned out, there was one single bathroom serving at least a few hundred people, a prospect discouraging enough to make it an early night.

Edward Rogers’ Porcelain Hits Hard and Pure

Edward Rogers has made a name for himself as someone who can write expertly in any retro rock style he wants, whether solo or with the artsy, jangly Bedsit Poets. The Birmingham, UK expat’s new album Porcelain is his hardest-rocking effort so far, and not only is it his best, it’s also one of best straight-up rock records of the last couple of years. Maybe it’s because he’s been so closely involved with the Losers Lounge scene, or maybe it’s just because he writes such good songs, but either way he always has an A-list band behind him. This time around the rhythm section features members of Cracker, Nada Surf or Graham Parker’s band, alongside Ian Hunter’s guitarist and a whole slew of other NYC talent. Rogers’ vocals are typically understated: he’ll snarl but he doesn’t usually scream. Rogers looks back fondly, sometimes bitterly; he looks to the future with extreme apprehension. The songs here range from blistering rockers to delicate chamber-pop laments.

The title track takes garage rock snarl, subdues it a little and turns it into insistent, propulsive new wave in the same vein as the Church, at least in that band’s early years, leaving its troubled intensity just below the surface to leap up when least expected. Likewise, the best track on the album, Topping the World, has the same fast 2/4 beat, a forest of burning, psychedelic guitar layers, and lyrics that capture a moment when the banks have repossessed everything, the temperature keeps climbing but still nobody questions the magic of the marketplace. “Chaos rules your destiny,” Rogers reminds over and over as it winds out.

Nothing Too Clever is gentle chamber-pop – it’s Kooks by David Bowie updated for the teens, with a stunning Claudia Chopek orchestral arrangement featuring Tim Dutemple’s oboe and Eleanor Norton on cello. Love with the World, a sarcastic eco-catastrope anthem, goes even more deeply into Thin White Duke territory, with some brightly wry Mick Ronson-esque slide guitar from James Mastro.

The opening track, a reminiscence about a hellraising bar crowd, is Irish-flavored glamrock that wouldn’t be out of place in the Black 47 reel book. Diamond Amour also has an Irish rock vibe and a ridiculously catchy, singalong chorus straight out of the Willie Nile catalog. “The world is changing from grey to black-and-white,” Rogers intones on the pensive ballad Link to the Chain – it’s the personal as political taken to its vividly logical extreme. Separate Walls is like Oasis with a Ph. D., a pummeling rocker with some memorable dueling between Don Fleming’s machete guitar and Chopek’s stiletto violin. Silent Singer also potently features those two contrasting savage/incisive attacks. The album closes with a hallucinatory, nightmarish psychedelic tone poem of sorts, Fleming’s axe-murderer guitar cutting its way through a hellish Lower East Side milieu that bears little resemblance to the once edgy, working-class neighborhood that Rogers has called home for years. “Take the train to Fancyland/My magazine well in hand,” he sneers at the fulltime tourists who’ve transformed his old stomping ground from a fertile incubator for bands into a Bernie Madoff style Florida shopping mall. Other bands – notably the Brooklyn What – have chronicled the destruction of New York by gentrification over the past ten years, few as memorably as Rogers. For people who like a good tune, this album’s a lot of fun – for New Yorkers, it’s also an important piece of history. The album officially releases next month; watch this space for news of the release show, most likely at Bowery Electric.