Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Two Cool Singles from Fun, Entertaining Brooklyn Bands

Spanking Charlene have a brand-new version of Dismissed with a Kiss – the title track to their deliciously fun album – just out on Little Steven Van Zandt’s label Wicked Cool. How cool is that? The pay-radio conglomerate SiriusXM ran a yearlong “best unsigned band contest,” which we had no idea existed. And Spanking Charlene won! Imagine that. When is the last time a band that didn’t suck actually won some kind of contest? Maybe never? And as you can hear from the single (at the band’s reverbnation), it’s a lot of fun. We’re partial to the Eric Ambel-produced original because it’s on the album, one of the first ones we ever got in the mail back when we started the blog in 2007, but this is killer. Charlene McPherson’s wounded wail is as seductive as ever and Mo Goldner’s guitars roar and sizzle. They’ve got a new album due out this fall, titled Where Are the Freaks which is something to look forward to, ostensibly a blast from a much cooler East Village NYC past.

Strange Haze also have a new single out, Let Me Hear the Dropping Pin, available at cdbaby both as a download AND on purple vinyl, which we obviously recommend. It’s as hilarious as pretty much everything the Brooklyn stoner retro-metal band has ever come up with. It’s kind of a three-minute history of weedhead music from, say, 1964 to 1974. A fuzztone funk intro and classic garage riffage sets the stage for the woozy one-liners, which begin with “I don’t have nothing to do today, but I got all day to do it, so I got to get away.” The rest are just as good, or…at least as surreal. The band has the oldschool, rolling, kinda funky early 70s groove down cold and some musical jokes to go with the lyrical ones, and of course a guitar solo. It might sound like an insult to say the higher you are, the more fun this is, but that’s the point.

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May 10, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hipster Demolition Night Comes to Williamsburg and We Can’t Wait

Jay Banerjee is the impresario behind the Hipster Demolition Night scene and leads a tremendously tuneful janglerock band, Jay Banerjee & the Heartthrobs. The next one is on Thursday, July 15 at Glasslands. Lucid Culture convinced him to go on record about his thoughts concerning the great unwashed masses of Williamsburg and whether there’s actually an audience in New York for fun, entertaining rock music anymore.

Lucid Culture’s Correspondent: Would you mind if I started out by playing devil’s advocate?

Jay Banerjee: Well, I’ve never heard of them, but they can’t be any worse than Bear in Heaven.

LCC: Isn’t “Hipster Demolition Night” kind of flogging a dead horse, I mean a dead trendoid? For example, look how popular stuffwhitepeoplelike is. We outnumber the trendoids a hundred to one, and they’re universally despised except within their own tiny little clique. Isn’t this kind of like picking on the retard in fourth grade?

JB: No, because most retarded people shower.

OK, OK, really now…my problem with hipsters isn’t the suspect hygiene, the asphyxiating jeans, the tumbleweed facial hair, the neon, the keffiyeh, or the 1980s. Those things are evil, of course, but the only thing about hipsters that I would classify as worthy of all-caps HATE is the music, or rather the “music”. Guitar feedback grafted onto a Casio demo beat is not music. Caterwauling your AP English compositions into a microphone while your kid sister flails at the drums with her eyes closed is not music.

While I find other elements of their culture – do I have to call it that? – distasteful, it’s secondary to and mostly an extension of my intense distaste for Bedfordbeat. Williamsbeat?

Maybe I’m just a stuffy little square, but I think all music – good music – has to have some kind of structure. There needs to be a concept beyond “Hey guys, let’s make noise!” because otherwise, noise is exactly what you’ll get. And noise is exactly what we’ve been getting. And that’s the problem. As widely as hipsters are mocked, they’ve had a stranglehold on the underground rock scene for the last decade. This is what I’m trying to demolish.

LCC: It’s 2010. You write these gorgeous, jangly twelve-string guitar pop songs that sound just like the fucking BYRDS. Roger McGuinn is, like, your grandfather’s age now. What on earth makes you think that there’s an audience for music with real melody, real guitars, real emotion these days? I mean, look at how popular Lady Gag is. You don’t have a prayer! Or do you?

JB: Thank you very much, first of all. The thing is, Clear Channel ain’t part of the battleground here. I could dumb down the lyrics, spit-shine the production, spring for voice lessons and cosmetic surgery, and maybe I’d have a shot at widespread appeal, but I don’t want to do any of those things. That said, I’m confident the indie world is more than ready for a change after spending the last ten-plus years trying to figure out if the stereo’s broken or if that’s really the song.

It’s time the scene saw a revolution, which is exactly what I hope to spark – or at least fuel – with Hipster Demolition Night. Maybe that sounds megalomaniacal, but I’ve been very pleased to discover that I’m not the only one who wants to go back to real songs. So, not only do I have a prayer, but the congregation’s growing every day.

As for the influences, yes, The Byrds are a byg one. I’m proud of my musical roots – and I love it when people get them right – but I do try to take my own musical and lyrical approach to things. I don’t think it’s pure revivalism…but even if it is, it’s still better than whoever’s playing at Bruar Falls tonight.

LCC: This is the second Hipster Demolition Night, I believe? It’s July 15, 8 PM at Glasslands.

JB: Right. The first was at Southpaw in May.

LCC: I know the girls who run Glasslands are nice and all, but you’re playing Trendoid Ground Zero! Do you really expect anybody from that neighborhood to come to the show?

JB: Oh, I’m sure some will stagger in after downing a few half-priced PBRs elsewhere.

There’s no point in hosting Hipster Demolition Night where there are no hipsters. You can’t demolish things from across a river. Given their usual fare, though, I’m aware that Glasslands is a particularly ironic choice. I’ve told this joke before, but it reminds me of Ozzy Osbourne hosting a PETA rally. And I’ve told this joke before, too, but it’s not as if Williamsburg is any stranger to irony.

LCC: I know what you’re saying but let me interject that the Williamsbeat crowd that we all know and despise has no idea what irony is. They misuse the term. What they really mean is sarcasm.

JB: Seriously, though, how cool was it for the Glasslands team to book this sort of thing on a high-demand night? Thanks, guys!

While I know that most of the audience will be committed fans of power-pop and garage-rock, I absolutely want hipsters to attend. If I can make just one of them realize, “Say, song structure and tight popcraft are actually not so bad after all!”, then the evening will be a success.

LCC: On the bill July 15 – that’s this coming Thursday – you have four excellent live bands – retro garage rock with the Anabolics and Muck & the Mires, plus your band Jay Banerjee & the Heartthrobs, plus Wormburner, who also have a smart, jangly, lyrical powerpop thing going on. Other than Muck & the Mires, a band that pretty much everybody knows – everybody who’s not a trendoid, that is – how did you find them? I’m always curious…

JB: I don’t like calling hipsters “trendoids”. That makes them seem like robots, which is what they want.

Yes, Muck & The Mires are one of the biggest names in the international garage-rock scene – they have a Wikipedia entry, and isn’t that the gold standard of notability? They’re very well known for winning Little Steven’s Underground Garage Battle of the Bands a few years back, and they deserved it, because they have first-class tunes.

Evan “Muck” Shore and I had been in touch via Myspace a few times. Once I secured the Southpaw gig, I asked him if they wanted to come down from Boston to play it. Unfortunately, they couldn’t, but not too long afterwards, Evan sent me a message asking if I could set something up on Thursday, July 15th. So, tah-dah! Hipster Demolition Night II.

As for Wormburner, I met their frontman, Steve “Hank” Henry, a few months back through my friends in a terrific band called the Neutron Drivers. Hank is a world-class lyricist, not that he has much competition these days. We talked via e-mail; Glasslands fell into place; I invited the band onto the bill; they accepted. If only it were always that easy. I’d originally scheduled my band to go on after them, but then I saw them pack the Bowery Ballroom – ! – back in June, and I’m not that megalomaniacal.

I’ve known The Anabolics for a couple years. Cute girls, good songs. Not a hard band to like unless you’re both deaf and blind. Or a hipster. They’re mainstays on the Brooklyn garage-pop scene, and we played gigs together back when I played drums for a band called the Anything People.

Let me get in a word for the Anything People, because they were a terrific group. I was kind of the odd duck in the band – as if I’m not the odd duck everywhere else – since the other three guys are a bit older than I am, and since they’d been playing together for a few years before I joined. They wrote songs for the Anything People; I happily bashed away at the drums while writing and recording my compositions on my own. Well, not quite on my own. My Anything People bandmate Michael Lynch engineered and co-produced them.

The three songs you hear on the Facebook page are just a start, by the way. I have a full album ready, but more on that some other time, because I think this answer’s going to cross the browser-crashing threshold if I don’t end it here.

LCC: Can I ask, who actually comes to your shows?

JB: Passionate rock & roll die-hards who are fighting for a change in the music scene just as fervently as I am. And my mom.

LCC: Is it possible that there’s an audience for real rock & roll right here in New York, one that’s completely shut out of the corporate media and the trendoids at stereogum, flavorpill and pitchfork, etcetera?

JB: There absolutely is an audience for real rock & roll in New York. The trick is to harness it. That means playing on a respectable bill on a respectable night at a respectable hour on a respectable stage. This is why I started putting my own shows together, so that I could make sure we tap into the audience every time and get the exposure I feel we deserve.

The emphasis is definitely on “we.” I did things backwards as ever by forming the band after recording the tunes, alone, but the live line-up is in many ways a separate project. The Heartthrobs come in with their own perspectives on how the music should be played, and they take the songs to places I never thought they’d go. Let’s hear it for the boys who actually make me sound talented: Vinny Giangola on drums, John McNamara on bass, and newcomer Jason Szkutek on lead guitar. “Skinny Vinny” has a solo project of his own, and Jason fronts one of my very favorite local acts, the Naturals, who sound sort of like what I would if only I could sing and play guitar.

LCC: If somebody can’t make it to the Thursday show at Glasslands, I understand that you have another Hipster Demolition Night in the works. When and where, and who’s on the bill?

JB: Starting in late August, the night is becoming a monthly residency at Public Assembly. The first line-up there is going to be a special surprise for everyone. By which I mean it’s not finalized yet.

LCC: Anything else we should know about?

Because some people don’t seem to get the joke, I should make one thing clear: As much as I really, really, really, really hate their music, I don’t seriously advocate violence against hipsters. I’ve even met a few who are quite nice. Along these lines, Mike Conlin (The L’s music editor) and I had a little internet spat a while back about the concept behind Hipster Demolition Night, but we ended up with mutual respect for each other.

In other words, smash the records, but spare the skulls.

July 10, 2010 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment