This week in Makin Waves: reviews of Atom Driver, The Susan Rumors and Trio of Madness, a video brief of Senses Fail, and briefs on Jeff Crespi and Russo Music.
Ah, it’s like the ’90s all over again, when I was in my prime and covering shows five nights a week from the Bowery to the boardwalks.
Some of New Jersey’s best new bands sport a ’90s sound, such as GayGuy/StraightGuy and Experiment 34.
Then there are lasting reunions of popular acts, such as Whirling Dervishes and Colossal Street Jam.
But the cherry on top of that musical sundae may be the formation of two great new super groups featuring members of Jersey national acts Buzzkill and The Red House.
With Mike Polilli of the Alternative Tentacles recording act Buzzkill on drums, Atom Driver also features Boss Jim Gettys vocalist-guitarist Mark Segal, and Good Clean fun bassist Jason Ingstrup.
They will celebrate the release of Slawjack, their five-song debut EP on New Brunswick-based Powerbunny 4×4 Records — the return of which also is a blast from the ’90s past, since the label released music by Boss Jim Gettys, Bionic Rhoda and a bunch of other great local bands before a long hiatus. The release party will take place March 18 at Pino’s in Highland Park with Coach ’N Commando, featuring Matt Witte and John Swayne of the Atlantic recording act New Blood Revival. The free show also will feature a new band called Bear Claw.
Also performing this weekend are The Susan Rumors on March 17 at Dragonfly Music & Coffee Café in Somerville. The Susan Rumors feature vocalist-guitarist- keyboardist Bruce Tunkel of SBK recording act The Red House, vocalist-guitarist Mark Nuzzi, lead guitarist Joe Furnari, and bassist Gino Scelza of The Soul engines, drummer Johnny Macko of Maybe Pete, and sough-after saxophonist Steve Peckman.
Both of these records confirm Bob Dylan’s theory that you don’t get older, you just get better.
Fans of Fugazi will dig the raw energy and combustible fun of Atom Driver’s “Slackjaw,” especially the tribal-sounding opening track, “Hate Me Now.” I also really like the buzz-saw onslaught of the title track and the Buzzkill-like start ‘n’ stop jam of “Cowboy,” but the whole record is great, making for one of the best releases of the year so far.
You also can check out Atom Driver at the Hub City Music Festival on April 15 at Pino’s with Spowder, Secretary Legs and Secret Mountain.
As for The Susan Rumors, Tunkel always was one of the most talented cats on the scene with his Jackson Browne-like ability to rhyme, compose, sing, and play guitar and piano. And out of the thousands of songs I’ve written about during the past 36 years, a Nuzzi lyric with The Soul Engines sticks with me the most:
“And I hate my life, and I hate my wife because she’s not her.” I can’t remember the title of the song, but damn, it was a good one!
Sporting jangly, harmonic heartland rock ala BoDeans, The Smithereens and Tom Petty, The Susan Rumors are most impressive on their 10-song self-titled debut LP when Tunkel and Nuzzi share lead vocals on the opening “Everywhere,” the Pettyesque “Blondie Boo” and the closing ballad “Get Along.” Other standouts include the chunky Creedence crunch of “Don’t Mind the Mess,” the ska-tingled, Elvis Costello-like bounce of “Sally Calicocookie,” the soulful Ray Charles-rooted, Gregg Allman-inspired Southern rock of “Damn Too Many Places,” and the moving “Girl Band” about an aging rocker mesmerized and invigorated by a female punk group.
The veteran psychedelic/surf/progressive/space rock band have been so ahead of their time. Their alternative-to-the-alternative sound always has been on the fringe of the local music scene, but now they need to work themselves into the Asbury Park hipness of Gods, Von Mons, Psychedelic Metaphors and Black Flamingos. Their first album since Sednab Va Oyusht in 2004, Lost Time makes for a great calling card and is so good it will be celebrated twice: March 18 at Roxy & Dukes in Dunellen and March 19 at John & Peter’s in New Hope, Pa.
Guitarist Nick Charles, bassist-vocalist- violinist Liz Gonzalez, and drummer-vocalist-noisemaker Mike Wojik (drums/random noises/vocals) always have relied on odd time signatures. This time out, the primarily instrumental outfit features more vocals as it ruminates on UFOs and other oddities, including mutants and vampires. The quirky surf rock of “If Dracula Could Sing” is my favorite of the 14 tracks, but “Mutant Song,” featuring guest vocals by label mate Fred Geverand of A Halo Called Fred, also impresses.
The great Jersey band Senses Fail are on a month-long tour in support of their new acoustic EP In Your Absence that will bring them March 22 to the Electric Factory in Philadelphia; and March 23 to the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville. In addition to new songs, such as “Jets to Peru” (featured in the video above), Senses Fail also will be perform the 2006 album Still Searching in its entirety. The River Vale-originated act is touring with Counterparts, Movements and Like Pacific.
I sometimes get tired just watching how hard photographer-personal trainer Jeff Crespi works throughout his often 18-hour day guiding folks by day in the gym, then shooting at The Stone Pony, Starland Ballroom and other venues throughout Central Jersey and the Jersey Shore at night. One of the nicest and most influential guys on the scene, Crespi recently has undergone an illness that may slow him down for a little while. Insurance issues also may be a problem. To help out, his many friends and fans have come to Crespi’s aid at gofundme.com/jeff-crespi-rocks. So far, the charitable campaign is only $2,000 shy of its $15,000 goal.
Thankfully, Crespi will be well enough to attend his birthday bash on April 6 at The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park with The Morgan Freemasons, COMMON WEALTH and Lyons. Hopefully, he also will be able to maintain his new column at New Jersey Stage.
Russo Music in Asbury Park will present a Taylor Guitar showcase on March 23. New Taylor models will be available to play and purchase at a discount. Highlights also will include Taylor giveaways and one-on-one consultations with Taylor factory experts.