The veteran Jersey Shore hard rock band Ropetree will celebrate “The Saints of Asbury on their Stone Pony,” their second LP, on June 30 at The Saint in Asbury Park, with Vextion, Lower the Veil and December Morning.
Once upon a time, New Jersey was the East Coast capital of hard rock with L.A. being its West Coast cousin. But that all changed with the rise and fall of alternative rock, which left scatterings of scraps for the punk and indie rock scenes that now dominate the local music landscape, while hip-hop waits patiently in the wings for old white guys too afraid to present them to die off.
If it was the mid-‘80s, Jersey Shore-based Ropetree might be the biggest band in New Jersey. Instead, they are left to scour among the even fewer scraps left for them and the handful of other great hard rock bands who call New Jersey home.
With the title of their latest self-released LP, The Saints of Asbury on Their Stone Pony, Ropetree make a cloaked reference to that situation as the good guys of the scene who don’t seem to get anywhere with their good music, while others ride onto success. Of course, it’s also a reference to the two venues that have been supportive of the band, along with countless other acts. It’s fitting that The Saint will host Ropetree’s release party on June 30 for this 11-song effort, their sixth release since 1999 and their second LP.
The collection kicks off with “Lost Again,” a mid-tempo grabber with an explosive Offspring-like chorus about the pain of loss to infidelity. The flip side of that is the funky second single, “So Bad,” which also looks at adultery but from the viewpoint of fulfilled lust rather than lost love. The other single is “Empty,” a gut-busting rocker about survival and revenge.
Rough ‘n’ tumble as Ropetree are, a couple of beautiful moments stand out, such as the echoing guitar introduction of the Disturbed-like scorcher “Kiss the Ground,” which alternates between slow-burning and explosive as it descends into the madness of broken dreams. Then there’s my favorite track, “Intoxicated Love,” which is from the viewpoint of a guy who digs a younger chick much more than she does him. This one too alternates styles in a cross between beautiful power ballad and crunching crusher.
I also really like “Rats and Pigeons,” a tormented expose of scavengers who bring fear, failure and evil to life. This is one of the most menacing tracks on the LP, along with the crazed creative process detailed in “Artist,” as if it were a battlefield for the mind, and “3 Steps,” an angst-filled alternative metal mood-stirrer that rises up from the gutter to depict a creepy stalker.
A fantastic psychedelic break on “Steps” features one of several strong solos by guitarist Jeff Kalemba. The same can be said for the Rage Against the Machinesque “Plastic Jesus,” which vents anger against God because of the religious hypocrisy that continually fails Him.
Saints wraps up with the gnarly groove of “She Said (Good Love),” pierced by dissident guitar squawks to punctuate the tale of a drifter who takes advantage of his latest conquest. A really impressive drum roll by Chris Marzulli leads to a fun, edgy reggae finish.
CDs of Saints will be available on June 30 at the Saint. Sharing the bill will be Ropetree’s buds in Lower the Veil, December Morning and Vextion, whose namesake lead singer-guitarist Kate Vextion sings on “So Bad” and “Plastic Jesus.” Digital copies of the LP will drop July 6 at usual outlets.
Ropetree also have a tasty summer gig on Aug. 18 at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville opening once again for Fuel.
Bob Makin is the reporter for MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at email@example.com. And like Makin Waves at facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.