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JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 4/4/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Monday’s album is #666:

The Brooklyn What – The Brooklyn What for Borough President

“If this is the only album the band ever does, at worst it’ll be a cult classic,” we said here in 2009, choosing it as best album of the year. Happily, the band is not only still together but still recording, with a ferocious series of singles coming out. What the Clash were to the UK in the late 70s/early 80s, the Brooklyn What are to New York thirty years later: fearless, funny, good at everything they do, eclectic beyond belief and armed with a social conscience. Where the Clash wanted global revolution, Brooklyn’s finest band at the moment would settle for an end to the gentrification that’s destroyed so much of the city over the last ten years. The acknowledged classic here is I Don’t Wanna Go to Williamsburg, a hilarious anti-trendoid rant that namechecks every silly indie fad and fashion circa 2004. No Chords echoes the anti-trendoid sentiment with a quite, satirical savagery; The In-Crowd mocks them again, much more loudly. The most intense point, musically is frontman Jamie Frey’s Planet’s So Lonely, a haunting, 6/8 blues with some screaming, intense lead guitar from Evan O’Donnell. There’s also the soul/punk We Are the Only Ones, an anthem for a new generation; the late Billy Cohen’s snarling, surreal Soviet Guns and Sunbeam Sunscream; the brooding For the Best; the Ramones-y She Gives Me Spasms, and a fiery tribute to Guided by Voices. Impossible to find at the sharelockers, but it’s still up at cdbaby and all the usual download merchants. The Brooklyn What are at Trash on April 16 at 9ish, as part of their monthly residency.

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April 4, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Brooklyn What Are the New York Equivalent of the Clash

The corporate media wants you to believe that New York is all master mixologists mixing $26 heirloom lobster cilantro mochatinis, with celebrity djs pumping up the bass while Shtuppi, Blandie, Faylor and the rest of the cast of The Real Housewives of LoHo poledance for the camera. That element does exist, and in greater numbers with every passing tax break for the ultra-rich, but those people don’t represent New York. They’re not even from here. And while we wait, and wait, and wait, for a high-profile murder or two to send them scrambling for the next charter flight back to Malibu or Lake Wayzata, the Brooklyn What write songs for the rest of us. Like the Clash, they use punk as a stepping-off point for a range of styles that span the history of rock, from the 50s to the indie era. This may be old news for those who’ve seen them live, but they’re not just playing crazed punk music anymore: they’re become a truly great rock band. They have five newly recorded singles out: the songs are complex, psychedelic, and socially aware without losing the in-your-face edge that made the band so compelling from the start.

I Want You on a Saturday Night has been a big concert hit for them for awhile. It’s punked out doo-wop, a Weegee snapshot of a random night out. Guy’s at the bar, got only half a buzz, annoyed by the annoying crowd, trying to drown them out with Johnny Cash on the jukebox. He could go to Williamsburg, or to the Village where he’d meet some people and “want to kill them,” or stay home, get stoned and listen to Springsteen. But he wants out. And like the Uncle Sam poster, he wants you.

Punk Rock Loneliness is the shadow side of that picture. The guitars weave a staggered tango beat, distantly echoing the Dead Boys but more funky. Jamie Frey’s lyric sets the stage: “Rain through your canvas sneakers, nervous breakdown in your speakers…” Who hasn’t been there? Down at the corner of Bleecker and Bowery, where CBGB’s used to be, he thinks back on the girl who’s gone now. “All the things you had to give her, first your heart then your liver, drowned in the East River.” And the world couldn’t care less: there’s no more Johnny, or Joey, or Dee Dee with a song that would dull the pain, and the club they made famous is just another stupid shi-shi boutique now. A classic New York moment early in the decade of the teens.

Come to Me is like punked-out Sam Cooke. It’s sly and it’s irresistible – the singer understands that the girl’s been working a twelve-hour shift, she has to smile when her heart’s a frown, but he’ll make her forget about the long day and how light her purse feels at the end of it. The brief doubletracked guitar solo at the end is pure psychedelia: Evan O’Donnell and John-Severin Napolillo make the best one-two guitar punch this town’s seen in decades. A more rocking take on early 70s psychedelic funk/soul a la Curtis Mayfield, Tomorrow Night is more abstract, floating in on a catchy yet apprehensive slide guitar hook, winding out with another nimble, incisive solo. The fifth song, Status Quo, evokes Black Flag with its furious vocal tradeoffs, then goes for an anthemic garage punk Stooges/Radio Birdman knockout punch on the chorus. “I’m so bored with the status quo/Everything here has got to go,” the band roar. “You get all your sense of humor from reality shows,” Frey taunts the latest wave of gentrifiers. At the end, they finally let it fly completely off the hinges. The Brooklyn What also have a monthly residency at Trash Bar, a Saturday night where they play alongside some of the best of their colleagues in the Brooklyn underground scene. This month’s show is this Saturday, December 18 starting at 8 with power trio New Atlantic Youth, the Proud Humans (ex-Warm Hats), the Highway Gimps (the missing link between My Bloody Valentine and Motorhead), the Brooklyn What, postpunk rockers Mussles and finally the new Pistols 40 Paces at midnight. Check with the band for these songs as well as their classic 2009 album The Brooklyn What for Borough President.

December 16, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Billy Cohen Memorial Concert

Some people fade from memory after they’re gone. Billy Cohen just gets more and more intriguing. Cruelly cut down by cancer at 23, Cohen still managed to leave a stunningly diverse body of work ranging from punk rock, to modern classical, to the avant garde: if there is any justice in the world, someday there’ll be a Billy Cohen album. Thursday night, Bowery Poetry Club was packed with a mix of family, friends, what looked like every cool kid from the Murrow High School class of ’05, and his surviving bandmates in the Brooklyn What. His younger sister Gabi Cohen had assembled a slideshow that played throughout the night (a favorite shot: Cohen way up in the nosebleed seats at Shea Stadium), a vivid tribute to the multi-instrumentalist composer who was as devoted to the Mets as he was to music.

Politically incorrect singer-songwriter Mickey PG opened, joined at the end by members of the Brooklyn What, their frontman Jamie Frey holding down the bass. He’s quirky and funny in a snotty, punk rock Dead Milkmen/Violent Femmes kind of way. Among his tunes: a not-so-sly, faux R&B seduction song; a funny one about stealing a girl away from her much taller boyfriend; an even funnier one parodying the silly, Jesse Jackson-style slogans that high school teachers use; and the most hilarious one of the night, Dumpster Diving. See, she’s got a Harvard degree, but the only job she can get with it is at Burger King. So she and her man get their gourmet experience out back of the restaurant: it’s all they can afford.

The duo of southpaw guitarist Jonathan Ruderfer (Cohen’s college-era bandmate in Savage Panda) and Cohen’s old college roomie, keyboardist Derek Blustein followed with a stunningly tight, eye-opening set of Cohen compositions along with a couple of originals and some favorite covers. They opened with a catchy powerpop anthem, like Coldplay if that band had real blood in their veins. They nimbly and amusingly tackled a couple of video game themes, a spot-on take of a tricky Radiohead number and an equally tricky, melodically artsy original by Blustein. He explained how they’d been forced to slow down a particularly challenging Cohen instrumental – which came across as a rapidfire amalgam of Louis Andriessen and Thom Yorke – to the point where it was physically possible for them to play it. A terrific, full-voiced singer named Megan then joined them for an equally challenging, operatically-tinged vocal number, on which she had to use every inch of a genuinely breathtaking vocal range.

Cohen would be proud of how good, and how amazingly tight the Brooklyn What have become. Joining them onstage were Ruderfer, Blustein and former Escarioka alto sax player Clayton Costelloe, whose smartly chosen, bracing fills gave the more punk-oriented songs, like a particularly intense version of Gentrification Rock, a scary ska feel. Cohen was a big Kinks fan, so they did a trio of amped-up Kinks covers, the most ecstatic of these being I’m Not Like Everybody Else – not surprising, considering that once he’d brought it into the band, it quickly became a concert favorite. In fact, with the three guitars going at once, it was almost as if Cohen was there. They pounced on Mongoloid by Devo and beat it speechless and burned through an inspired, smartly short version of Moonage Daydream by Bowie. But it was the originals that everybody had come to hear and they got all the Billy Cohen songs from the band’s debut The Brooklyn What for Borough President: blistering takes of the dissociative, Shellac-on-speed rap Soviet Guns, the uneasy, biting punk fury of Sunbeam Sunscream and the quiet disquiet of Summer Song. The high point of the night was another Cohen song, the unreleased Hot Wine, a characteristically surreal Coney Island scenario that went on a doublespeed rampage in the middle. They closed with a delirious singalong of their anthem We Are the Only Ones, written by the band, Frey explained, on Cohen’s little synthesizer in his bedroom. As the audience bobbed and swayed, hands and fists waving furiously on the beat, joining in on the last verse, “I’m not afraid of anything at all, divided we stand, UNITED THEY WILL FALL,” the Brooklyn What were, to paraphrase Frey, undeniably the biggest band in New York. Billy Cohen would have liked that. The Brooklyn What play Arlene’s at 9 this Friday the 20th.

August 17, 2010 Posted by | avant garde music, classical music, concert, experimental music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Top 10 Songs of the Week 7/12/10

OK, OK, we’re a day late. But who’s counting. This is just another way we try to spread the word about all the good music out there. As you’ll notice, every song that reaches the #1 spot on this list will also appear on our 100 Best Songs of 2010 list at the end of December. We try to mix it up, offer a little something for everyone: sad songs, funny songs, upbeat songs, quieter stuff, you name it. If you don’t like one of these, you can always go on to the next one. The only one here that doesn’t have a link to the track is #1 and that’s because it’s so new.

1. The Brooklyn What – Punk Rock Loneliness

About time Brooklyn’s most charismatic, intense, funny rockers returned to the top spot here. This one has a Dead Boys influence, with the two smoldering guitars and frontman Jamie Frey’s menacing lyric aimed at the gawkers who pass by what used to be CBGB. “You wanna be a dead boy?” Let’s get the Brooklyn What on Hipster Demolition Night!

2. Ernie Vega – Cocaine Blues

Not the one you’re thinking of – this one’s a lot more rustic and it’s hilarious, like something you’d hear on a Smithsonian recording from the 1920s.

3. Under Byen -Alt Er Tabt

A Danish version of the Creatures: catchy, atmospheric vocal overdubs, terse accordion and strings over a clattering Atrocity Exhibition rhythm.

4. Golden Triangle – Neon Noose

X as played by late 80s Jesus & Mary Chain – they’re at South St. Seaport on 7/16 at 6

5. Loose Limbs – Underdog

Lo-fi garage rock with soul/gospel vocals – if you like the Detroit Cobras you’ll like Loose Limbs. They’re at South St. Seaport on 7/23 at 6

6. Jeff Lang – Home to You

Wild insane steel guitar blues by the innovative Aussie guitarist.

7. Mike Rimbaud – Dirty Little Bomb

Classic new wave songwriting by a survivor from the very end of the era, still going strong twenty years later.

8. Costanza – Just Another Alien

The lyrics are the text from a US Immigration form. Eerie and apropos.

9. J-Ron – Weed Song

Texas faux “R&B.”

10. Amy Coleman – Goodbye New York

This is such a blast from the past, it’s kinda funny: the bastard child of DollHouse and Pet Benetar. Suddenly it’s 1979 again. Except it’s not.

July 13, 2010 Posted by | blues music, lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Brooklyn What Runs for Brooklyn Borough President

With election day 2009 approaching, and no viable option on the ballot for those who are dissatisfied with Marty Markowitz, The Brooklyn What wishes to make formal its write-in campaign for the office of Borough President of Brooklyn, NY.

The local, Brooklyn raised punk rock band has been running informally since summer 2007, when lead singer Jamie Frey and guitarist Evan O’Donnell encountered current Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz at a concert in Coney Island, and informed him that they were not interested in the planned Nets arena in Prospect Heights. “Marty took one look at our shirtless, sweaty, hairy bodies and told us to ‘move out’.” Recalls O’Donnell. “From then on, it was war.” The group titled its first album, released November 28th, 2008 on Pozar Records “The Brooklyn What for Borough President” and Frey and O’Donnell have been heckling Markowitz at public events ever since.

The Brooklyn What’s Top Five Reasons not to vote for Marty:

  • The Proposed Atlantic Yards Project, which illegally uses eminent domain to give land to a private developer for a fraction of its valu, in order to build a basketball arena and several high rise condo buildings in the middle of prospect heights.
  • Marty is Corrupt. The New York Post reported that Markowitz has steered nearly $700,000 in no bid contracts to his personal non-profit, which has also been recipient of $1 million in contributions from who else? Bruce Ratner, the Atlantic Yards developer
  • Marty knocked his only democratic challenger off the ballot.Thanks for the democracy, Marty!
  • Marty Endorses Bloomberg. Bloomberg has made living in this city without a million dollar salary nearly impossible.
  • Marty is Manhattan-izing Brooklyn. Skyscrapers, exorbitant rents, local treasures (Coney Island) turned into tourist traps, sound familiar?

Bring the real Brooklyn back!

The Brooklyn What are a local band, formed in the basement of lead singer Jamie Frey’s parents house. The group has been playing raw, loud, authentic NYC rock & roll to packed, sweaty rooms of New York’s youth since 2006, at venues such as Freddy’s Bar, Don Pedro’s, Trash Bar, Mehanata, and many others across the city. The group’s first album has been hailed as a cult classic.

The Brooklyn What are running for office because they envision a Brooklyn that belongs to everyone, regardless of paycheck size, with room for the diversity of culture that makes Brooklyn truly great.  The group does not feel that the places and people that we all love so much need to be replaced with shinier, more expensive versions of themselves, stripped of all history and feeling. Brooklyn the place is good enough as it is. What the borough really needs is affordable housing, decent jobs at decent wages that last, real options for the kids growing up in this rapidly gentrifying city. The Brooklyn What endorses the UNITY plan for the Atlantic Yards,

If elected, the Brooklyn What promises to rezone all newly built condos and buildable lots not used as community spaces for affordable housing, ban the opening of any more fancy coffee shops or clothing boutiques in working class neighborhoods, create community health and cultural centers throughout the borough, push for a full audit of the MTA, and place the lead perpetrators of the glass condo plague behind bars.

The Brooklyn What can be found at Bar Matchless on November 14th, and Trash Bar on November 20th for further discussion. For more information visit the Brooklyn What home page, the band’s myspace, their Pozar Records page or email thebrooklynwhat [at] gmail.com.

November 2, 2009 Posted by | New York City, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Song of the Day 2/22/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Today’s song is #521:

The Brooklyn What I Don’t Wanna Go to Williamsburg

One of the funniest and most dead-accurate anti-trendoid rants ever recorded, this is a furious call to all the cool kids to start a new scene that has nothing to do with fashion, celebrity or inherited wealth. Even better than Costello’s I Don’t Want to Go to Chelsea. “I don’t wanna go to Northsix…I don’t wanna hear the fucking Hold Steady!”From the brand-new 2009 cd The Brooklyn What for Borough President.

February 22, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Brooklyn What at the Brooklyn Lyceum 8/22/08

Very possibly the best show of the year so far. The Brooklyn What look and sound like something you would have seen at CBGB around 1977, not a carefully coiffed, safetypinned-and-mohawked self-parody decked out in matching mallstore Ramones shirts, but just an average-looking bunch of guys playing blazingly energetic, loud, often hilarious rock with purist punk energy, intelligence and a spot-on, often vicious sense of humor. Frontman Jamie Frey is a big guy who looks like he doesn’t deprive himself of pizza or beer (although at this show he was fueled strictly by adrenaline, drinking only water). By the time the band had started their second song, his shirt had come off, “NEXT TOP MODEL” stenciled down his hefty torso. The band – who seem to be something of a revolving cast of characters – started out with three guitarists and ended up with two. Running their instruments straight through their amps as the PA was being used for just the vocals, they played smartly, tersely and tunefully although with enough looseness to provide plenty of menace.

 

They hit the ground running with a blazingly catchy, upbeat number, then a couple of songs later did what has become their signature song, I Don’t Wanna Go to Williamsburg. If there is anyone alive 20 years from now, this song will be a classic, the little clique it ridicules a metaphor for a much bigger problem. The funniest thing about this song is that it’s already dated, namechecking both Northsix and Galapagos, the first of which is defunct and the second of which moved to Dumbo earlier this year. The band played it faster than the version on their myspace, giving it a vintage Black Flag feel: “I don’t wanna go to Galapagos! I don’t wanna hear the fucking Hold Steady!” On the chorus, it’s unclear whether Frey is being sarcastic or if he’s speaking for himself: “I just wanna play with the cool kids,” he hollered. If this is to be taken at face value, he’s definitely achieved his dream. This is the anthem we’ve been waiting for. As the Boomtown Rats said, watch out for the normal people: there’s more of us than there’s of you. If only everybody knew that.

 

They did two covers. Carol by Chuck Berry was transformed from happy Dick Clark rock to something casually but absolutely evil, like what the Dead Boys might have done with it. The version of the Kinks’ I’m Not Like Everybody Else was every bit as good as it could have been, in fact with the guitars roaring at full blast the classic nonconformist anthem might have been even better than the original. Among the other songs: a vaguely oi-punk number evoking the UK Subs, the band hollering their refrain after Frey reached the end of a verse; a slow, pounding riff-rocker; and a hilarious, backbeat-driven anti-trendoid diatribe possibly called Moving to Philly. Frey thrashed around, throwing himself to the floor, then on one number got up and took a sprint around the back of the stage – in his socks – before reemerging a couple of seconds later, picking up where he left off. The band closed with We Are the Only Ones, a defiant call to unity for all the cool kids who’d come out to see them, an almost predictably diverse mix of old and young (Frey’s grandmother among them), male and female, gay and straight, dancing around deliriously albeit without any violence. Like the Sex Pistols or the Clash, the Brooklyn What could spearhead a brand-new scene that has nothing to do with fashion, celebrity or inherited wealth. They couldn’t have timed it better. Watch this space for info about their next show and their upcoming cd The Brooklyn What for Borough President.

August 26, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments