Tag Archives: Blink 182

Under The Radar: Coward

Sometimes you hear a band and think they’ve got something happening that will surely grow in time; you’re witnessing the awkward first steps of a future success. But sometimes, that just doesn’t happen. I could have sworn that Long Island power-pop-punk band Coward was going to make some noise; they were on a major and getting the big push. But…no.

Even when pulling this out today and writing I was certain they made it under another name, but I came up dry.  I did recently track down Joey Sykes, the guitar player and co-writer of many of the songs; he’s got a new album which I’m reviewing for another publication. Producer Jerry Finn (who also handled Blink 182, Sum 41, Green Day and several other pop punk masters) sadly passed away in 2008.

As their MySpace page says, plenty of bands came along later and found success with the same sound. These guys just never made it. Doesn’t mean the album isn’t a good listen! So maybe they’re under your radar, too.

From my original Consumable Online review:

How’s this for irony? The band kicks off the record with a tune called “Cliche” that apes every 1970’s rock move right down to the synthesizer fills and the “C’mon C’mon” vocals. Pretty ballsy – are they in on their own joke, or what?

Must admit that when I got this CD I wasn’t enthused. Front cover band name in “neon lights” (Heavy Metal Alert #1) and on the back cover of the CD, a tight shot of that “devil horn salute” fist raised, pinky and index finger extended) that usually means a moron is attached directly below.

Well, glad I continued. “Fell Down”, the second cut, mines that territory that houses pop bands from The Cars to Silver Jet – attention grabbing, hooky numbers that follow the tried and true power chord formula. However, most of the songs like “Boring” and “My Wisdom” even take it a step further, echoing New Wave heroes like The Jags and The Fools more than modern power pop.

Others like “Swallow” and “I’m All Right” kick in with a harder edge (think Green Day). Good harmonies, chunky guitars and tight playing throughout the record make it enjoyable, albeit short, ride. My favorite is probably the snappy “Popularity Kills” – silly, but with an infectious chorus that you can’t get out of your head.

Probably best heard at high volume with the windows rolled down, there’s lots of promise here, whether they’re truly into this style or just aping a la Weezer. But next time I hope they leave that damn synthesizer at home.

Cheap grab at Amazon.

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Under The Radar: Pop Mafia

Another blast from the trolling tangents of The MP3 Files for Cosmik Debris. Wish I could tell you that these guys are alive and well and making records, but I haven’t found anything since 2003. And yes, I’ve tried Pop Mafia and Popmafia.

The review in Billboard was pretty effervescent: “Remember when rock music was no-frills fun? Somewhere between the new-wave era and the hair-metal movement, rock was simple, unabashedly pop, but aggressive enough to keep punkers happy. Maybe we’re just showing our age, but they sure don’t make music like that anymore.”

I was on board as well. Any time a press release lays down the gauntlet by promising ” the influence of early Elvis Costello and the Replacements” my ears perk up, and so does the high bar. Down at the Astoria is certainly not a stone cold classic like This Years Model or Pleased To Meet Me, but a good fun band and a record well worth your listening time.

Here is my review from 2001…

Let me get this straight…three of the five guys are named O’Donnell, O’Brien and O’Connor, and the band is called Popmafia?

Ahh, never mind, doesn’t matter, because their CD Down At The Astoria flat out kicks ass. They’ve got a skintight hard rock sound down pat, and the production sends it out crisp, clear and loud. Steve O’Donnell’s vocals are strong throughout, ballsy without lapsing into screaming, and bassist Paul Conway and drummer Steve Selezniov are locked into a groove that won’t quit. If Blink 182 covered “She Comes” or “Just Go Away,” we’d all be dancing to the killer hooks. Good songs about sex, love and rock and roll; from the temperate “Believe In Me” to the fiery “Automatic” and the clever “Taintshaker.”

Too many wannabe bands try to combine modern rock with a surf-punk edge and fall flat on their faces; Popmafia never forgets that melody and good musicianship doesn’t mean overkill. Guitarists Matt O’Brien and Steve O’Connor leave no doubt that they’re monsters, but they do it by driving the rhythm and then diving in for clean crisp solos. “Prizefighter” is a good example; as the band slides into double-time, O’Connor rips notes like a boxer nailing his opponent with a flurry of jabs. Hell, make that uppercuts, it’s too good for jabs. I’d love to see these guys open for The Dictators because an audience like that would get it in spades.

Listen to clips and grab a copy via CD Baby.

A later EP Delusions of Grand Avenue also available there.


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