Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: The New Collisions – Their Debut EP

That a five-song ep (four-song if you count the brief instrumental that segues between the third and fifth tracks) could rank among the best albums of 2009 so far speaks for itself. Boston band the New Collisions have been blowing up lately and this helps explain why. Their shtick is taking a classic 80s new wave pop sound and adding an indelibly original, contemporary bite. This may be the most intelligent, edgy dance music out there right now. Sarah Guild’s vocals are often chirpy in the same vein as Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex, early Cindy Lauper or Dale Bozzio of Missing Persons, but she’s no one-trick pony. Scott Guild’s guitar cuts and burns while keyboardist Casey Gruttadauria adds layer after layer of playfully oscillating vintage new wave synth over Alex Stern’s fiery, crescendoing, snappy bass. And the lyrics pack a punch, apprehensive and all too aware of the here-and-now.

The first track is No Free Ride, nicking the opening lick from the Vapors’ hit Turning Japanese. “There’s no free ride for being pretty on the inside,” Sarah Guild wails – although she has a platinum-tressed look that could easily make her a fashion icon, it’s clear that substance is what she and this band are all about. “Get. Me. Out!” she insists defiantly at the end. The best cut here is The Beautiful and Numb, opening with a staccato riff evocative of the Easybeats classic Friday on My Mind. It’s a savage slap at Gen Y complacency. “We’re in denial, but we’ve got style/We’re in denial, but I’m overcome/The world’s on fire, uh oh/Not our problem,” Sarah Guild rails.

The big hit is Parachutes on the Dance Floor, stark and minimal with a head-bopping beat into a ridiculously catchy chorus, evocatively catching the dead-end desperation of what it means to be young and broke in the early days of a depression, “caught between amusement and despair.” After an atmospheric instrumental, Sarah Guild gets to air out her powerful pipes with the towering, Kate Bush-inflected ballad Fireflies, surprisingly ornate, majestically beautiful and ultimately optimistic. It reminds very much of the more epic side of the late, great New York band DollHouse. If this ep is any indication, the band is going to be huge. Having just reviewed another accessible yet very intelligent act, Tift Merritt here, it becomes clearer and clearer that the future of American pop music rests in the hands of talented legions who’ve bailed out of major label dreams, parachutes on the dance floor, bringing everybody out to join the celebration. The New Collisions’ next gig is on July 16 at the Midnight Madness Festival in Bennington, Vermont on followed eventually by a show at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts on September 5. They’re here in New York on August 22 at 11 at the Bitter End.

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July 2, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: The New Collisions at Public Assembly, Brooklyn NY 3/20/09

The 80s get no respect. Sure, there were the Cheesy 80s: Reagan, and Bon Jovi, and Beverly Hills 90210. But there were also Cool 80s: the Dead Kennedys,  the Dream Syndicate, and new wave. Unlike how VH1 and the rest of the corporate media would like you to think – if they want you to think at all, that is – new wave didn’t start out as top 40. It was people doing new and unique and fun things with catchy pop songs, and that became top 40 because it was so much fun. In the spirit of those first new wave bands of the late 70s and the early 80s come the New Collisions. It’s a very encouraging story: in less than a year, they’ve gained critical mass in their native Boston and now they’re working on New York. Their show at Public Assembly on Friday added more than a few believers to the posse: there is without a doubt a film or five in development that could use their ridiculously hummable, biting, casually intense songs.

 

Indelible moment: platinum-haired frontwoman Sarah Guild spins away from the mic, look of disdain on her face, strolls back to the drums and then, back to the audience, raises her left hand in a tightly clenched fist. Nothing stagy or contrived about it, that’s just how she felt in that one moment. One look at this band’s song titles reveals a considerable edge: No Free Ride. Parachutes on the Dance Floor. In a Shadow. Caged Us Kids, one of the best songs of the night. In guitarist Scott Guild’s fiery, upper-register chords, the band’s fast 4/4 dance beat, soaring melodic bass and devious vintage synthesizer lines, there’s a sense of exasperation, of just dying to get out, to have some real fun for once in their lives. Which speaks for pretty much all of us these days.

 

It was a methodical yet inspired set, the band roaring from one memorable number to the next without much fanfare. Sarah Guild has a chirpy insouciance that reminds of Poly Styrene from X-Ray Spex, but also a big formidable wail with echoes of the Motels’ Martha Davis, and she uses both expertly. Scott Guild goes for a staccato, slashing style that pairs well against the fast, climbing bass and the meandering synth lines. Ones to Wander featured some marvelously tight, accusatory harmonies. The snide, darkly captivating Underground had an eerie organ solo that sounded straight out of the Radio Birdman songbook. Losing Ground built off a melodic, crescendoing bassline, reaching a peak as the chorus kicked in with its “uh-oh” vocalese. Their last song of the night, Escape began slowly with eerie electric piano and broken guitar chords, building to a searing anthem, evoking images of after-dark mall parking lots scattered with kids on car hoods drinking beer out of paper bags, leaning up against utility poles, somebody’s ipod rigged up to the car stereo speakers, who’re only there because it’s all they have. The New Collisions are the Kids in America. They’re back here at Arlene’s on April 23 and then at one of their usual haunts, TT Bear’s in Boston on April 28.

March 23, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments