Words by Jim Testa
Jim Testa founded the highly influential zine, Jersey Beat in 1982 which he continues to edit to this day. Through writing for his own publication and a number of other outlets, including as a staff writer for Hudson County’s Jersey Journal, he has championed local, regional and national up-and-coming bands. Punk has always shunned credentials, but rest assured that Jim won’t lead you astray.
This album’s title works on a few levels: Well-informed fans of 90s Chicago punk certainly consider the Bollweevils essential listening, but the band members also work in “essential” industries (teachers, first responders, and even a doctor). While they’ve been gigging steadily in recent years, this marks their first album since 1995, and the band makes up for lost time with ten furious, ferocious and melodic punk slammers. Many of these tracks have been live staples for years and capture the energy of a sweaty, moshing throng. A couple of songs rework previously released material, but the energy and inspiration here never flag; the roiling, gutsy guitars sound timeless, the bass grinds like the gears of a giant clock, and singer Daryl Wilson (Dr. Wilson to you) consistently stays urgent and in your face. Highlights include the inspired Buzzcockian guitar riff on “Our Glass” and the insanely catchy “Liniment & Tonic.”
This Philly supergroup-of-sorts features members of Kid Dynamite, Halo of Snakes, Ink and Dagger, and Zolof the Rock & Roll, among others. All that experience pays off; these guys crank out rousing punk-rock anthems one after another, from the scene-saluting “RIP Arch Street” to the inspirational “If You Don’t Love Yourself” to the rollercoaster thrills of the exuberant “Stranger Danger.” While the vocals always remain up front, there’s a cacophony of guitars, bass, and drums colliding and exploding through every track, everything coming at you at whirlwind speed and – except for the anthemic finale – lasting less than three minutes. If you’re feeling a little bleh, you could either get a B12 shot or this record. Your call.
These suburban Jersey punks present three new songs and their 2022 demo, available digitally or compiled on cassette (assuming you have a cassette player). It’s nice to know the basements of New Brunswick still nurture raw but catchy hardcore-punk that – whether the band realizes it or not – owes a huge debt to what Buy Our Records was doing in the late 80s and early 90s. It’s part AOD, part early SoCal punk, with some ear-wiggy catchiness (“Seven Dead Soldiers,” “Wig Problem,”) and a few blasts of paint-blistering hardcore, not to mention a surprisingly respectable cover of CCR’s “Fortunate Son.” A band to watch, methinks.
Here’s an interesting idea: An album of covers from Jersey bands from the last two or three decades, reimagined by musicians from those eras (but doing other bands’ songs). The project was helmed by Christian Lesperance, so give him the credit (or blame). But hey, you get Mikey Erg singing Atom & The Package’s “Punk Rock Academy,” and Alf Bartone from Ex Number Five doing Vision’s anthemic “The Kids Still Have A Lot To Say,” and even comedian Chris Gethard mangling Weston’s “Just Like Kurt.” Unless you’re a walking encyclopedia of suburban Jersey punk, you probably won’t know these songs or recognize the names of the people singing them, but I gotta admit, there’s something about Heath Saraceno of Midtown singing the Ergs’ “Everything Falls Apart (And More)” that’s goddamn genius. Granted, the appeal lies with an extremely niche audience, but it’s a fun project and it was great hearing some of these songs again.
A veteran of both the original CREEM magazine and the Angry Samoans, Gregg Turner is by definition punk, regardless of what this musical project of his actually sounds like. I was quite surprised to learn that Turner’s a retired math professor; back in the 70’s, I wouldn’t have bet on him still being alive at this point, let alone having any functioning brain cells. But in fact, Turner has produced a charming hodge podge of witty novelty tunes, rollicking garage rock, faux country, and even a few song parodies. The simple, charming “What Can I Do To Make You Love Me?” recalls Lou Reed’s “I’m Sticking With You,” while “Mr. Freeze” describes a loner in the frigid wilderness (not the Batman villain). As befits a longtime Samoan, there’s mordant wit aplenty, like turning Dion & the Belmonts’ doowop classic into “Necrophiliac In Love,” along with a few songs about drugs and a sacrilegious screed about “The Vampire Dog Of Jesus Christ” that’s a total homage to Roky Erikson. Yes, it’s weird, but it’s also oddly charming and even a bit endearing.
You’d think a band from Colorado could write their own song about beer, but on their sophomore 6-song EP, Trinidad, CO’s female-fronted Townies cover “Shit Beer” by the Taints as well as the Swingin’ Medallions’ bubblegum hit “Double Shot (Of My Baby’s Love)” and fail to impress with either effort. The pissed-off quartet (whose respectable debut featured feisty songs about their dislike of The Beatles and jazz) rant about some other stuff on the four originals here, but mostly they sound like grumpy punk lifers stuck in a podunk town rehashing a lot of old punk and HC tropes.