Tag Archives: Velvet Underground

New Album! Jet Black Berries

When I moved from Syracuse to Rochester in the early 80s, I still made several trips back down the Thruway to catch some of the great bands toiling away in that urban wasteland. In retrospect, I’m sure a lot of towns had their own burgeoning scene that was being ignored while A&R people tripped all over each other to mine places like Athens and Seattle.

And like many cities, there were shitty cover bands pulling big crowds while the true artists creating their own path struggled to fill the other clubs. At least some of those underappreciated artists broke out and made careers; the cover bands either faded away or are still playing Journey and Van Halen covers for gas money on weekends.

In Rochester, it wasn’t much different, and the coolest band haunting the boards was New Math. Their dark, swirling mix of psychedelia and punk sprang from influences like the Velvet Underground (whose didn’t?) and they issued a couple of singles and shared bills and tours with some of the hippest bands of the era. But after struggling through a few years, they changed their sound, renamed themselves the Jet Black Berries and in 1984 wound up getting signed by Enigma Records and releasing three albums. Breaking up in 1988, the core of the band continued on through regional projects; original lead singer Kevin Patrick ironically became an A&R man.

The current lineup features drummer Roy Stein, bassist Gary Trainer, guitarist Chris Yockel, singer Johnny Cummings and keyboardist Mark Schwartz. Pulled together for a reunion in 2008, they floored the audience – and themselves – and decided to give it another whirl. Now a new album, their first in twenty-two years, is available: Postmodern Ghosts.

Yeah, there’s some reanimation – “They Walk Among You”, “Ominous”, “American Survival”, “Pipes of Pan”…so what? Neither New Math nor the Jet Black Berries were household names; those of us familiar with the earlier versions will enjoy the songs as much as new listeners. Apparently the first single, “God With a Gun”, is already making waves despite the lack of a cohesive corporate promotion.

More proof that sometimes good stuff just resonates.

Jet Black Berries on MySpace

Listen to samples of Postmodern Ghosts.

New Math’s Wake The Dead.

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New Album! The Hot Rats

So...what are the other two Supergrassians doing?

I love tribute albums more than I should, and when a band tosses a well placed cover into their set or onto their own album it can often be a real treat. And while playing the song straight can be reverential, adding your own flavor to the stew can often be far more rewarding. On Turn Ons we get both from The Hot Rats. While that latter name may call to mind one of Frank Zappa‘s greatest albums, it is also what two famous UK pop stars call their fun side project. 

Gaz Coombes and Danny Goffey of Supergrass have teamed up with producer Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, Beck, Travis) for an album of well-chosen covers of some of their favorite artists including The Kinks, Squeeze, The Doors, Gang of Four, Elvis Costello and David Bowie among others. While some of the songs (i.e. the Lou Reed stomper “I Can’t Stand It”) are made for the stripped down thumping, you will be amazed at how they approached songs by The Sex Pistols and The Beastie Boys

Despite the limited instrumentation, the versatility on the album separates The Hot Rats from the pack of bands flailing to surf the wake of The White Stripes. Simplicity merely repeated gets monotonous, but The Hot Rats wisely employed Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich to add his brush to their canvas, and the result is an exciting and surprising collaboration. At its core it’s brimming with the exuberance and fearlessness of a garage band, and with twelve tracks in just over half an hour, one is left wanting more

Read my full review in Blurt Online.

And yes - grab this too!

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