The Trenton-based punk four-piece Doc Rotten have a bunch of shows coming up in support of their four-song debut EP, “Fallout,” including Dec. 28 at Roxy & Dukes Roadhouse in Dunellen, and Dec. 29 at the Brighton Bar in Long Branch.
The Trenton-based punk quartet Doc Rotten are a part of that Noisy Joisey sound that combines the intelligent edge of The Clash with the rootsy lyricism of Bruce Springsteen, much like fellow Trenton-based band The Cryptkeeper Five and Asbury Park’s The Vansaders. On their debut EP, Fallout, co-produced with CK5 helmsman Sean Glonek, Doc Rotten also bring to the table strong vocal harmonies for which I am a total sucker. The harmonies of bassist Mike Romanowsky and guitarist Andrew Keris sweeten the bitter snarl and sentiments of guitarist Wes Bentley, kind of like a punk-rock take on The Beatles’ Lennon, McCartney and Harrison.
The opening single “Brass Tacks” is Bentley’s spirited salute to punk, its longtime fans and two greatest architects, Joe Strummer and Joey Ramone. On the tune — about a cultural war that has been taking place since 1994, the year Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain died. Bentley roars: “I got a solution, but the government’s outlawed miracles. I made a decision, but again I’m backed against the ropes. I keep walking with my head down, humming a sickening melody. What’s the use in dreaming if you can’t, you can’t break free? One for the movement! One for the cause! This one’s for Joe Strummer and Joey Ramone! Let’s get down to brass tacks. Here I’m a soldier in my own war, the same one that I’ve been fighting since 1994. No one’s ever gonna, no one’s ever gonna take this away from me cuz this is our revolution and you’re its casualty. I didn’t roll with the rich kids, the jocks or yuppie sluts. With NOFX in my headphones, I sat by myself in the front of the bus. An angry teenager, mad at the world, too much to comprehend. Got a problem with a lot of things. That’s why, that’s why I’m in this band.”
Similarly strong lyrics are found on Romanowsky’s “Souvenir,” a Social Distortion-like romp about a lost soul who can’t find comfort in a love or a bottle. “I walked this town for miles and ended up in that field, lost and crossed,” Romanowsky declares. “Nothing left to yield, deluded thoughts chip away, like a rotting fence, paint faded, toxic and jaded. What will guide me home? My mind is overblown. Street lights and the moon’s glow is all that I know. Lost at sea, I’m lost at land. Miles from bed, all I’ve got is this empty bottle in my hand. Screams echo down an empty hallway, and they’ll never reach her ears. A scenario cliché, she couldn’t hear it anyway. A blockade in her heart, it stops and starts. She silences the waves.”
On “Better Days” and the closing “Let Go,” Bentley and Romanowsky share lead vocals to great effect, especially the EP’s final mid-tempo scorcher, which also boasts inspired rolls from drummer A.J. Martinez and tasty bass chunks.
For my money, Doc Rotten are one of the four best punk bands among the vast NJ landscape of them (others being The Cryptkeeper Five, Crazy & the Brains and The Vansaders). Fallout is great, but the live show is the thing to best experience this band. Doc Rotten can be enjoyed Dec. 28 at Roxy and Dukes in Dunellen, with CK5, Newark-based Rough Spring, and the Punk-A-Go-Go Dancers, and Dec. 29 at the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, with The AristoCants.
Other upcoming shows include Jan. 6 at Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn; Jan. 9 at The Saint in Asbury Park; and Feb. 24 at The Tusk in Philadelphia. The band also will be making a second video at noon on Jan. 13 in Trenton, and there’s a party afterward at which they will play with fellow Trenton rockers Alpha Rabbit and Philly’s Trashcats and Lamplighters. See the band’s Facebook page for details.
Bob Makin is the reporter for MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor and still a contributor to The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at email@example.com. Like Makin Waves at facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.