Star Spangles
The Star Spangles
   NY Rock Confidential By Jeanne Fury
Online coverage of the New York
City music scene since 1996...

In This Issue:
  • The Lawrence Arms,
     None More Black
  • The Star Spangles
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MTV and radio would have you believe the latest punk bands are cheeky and genial. That's because most of them are cotton-candy-packin' sk8r boys (see: Good Charlotte, A Simple Plan, New Found Glory). I, however, would like more props tossed to bitter, unwashed dudes with bad skin and worse clothes, and who favor basements to shopping malls. Start with these two: the Lawrence Arms and None More Black. Let's get pissed off.

The Lawrence Arms and None More Black at the Knitting Factory, August 13, 2003

The usual suspects were on hand at the Knitting Factory for the show, namely, twentysomething guys in baggy shorts with thick, tattooed calf muscles and girls lugging tattered messenger bags adorned with band buttons. After tonight, they surely had another button to add to their collection.

A mix of the Used and the Ataris, None More Black lashed out with the scratchy, scrap-scream vocals of Jason Shevchuck (ex-Kid Dynamite) and rapid, chugging music, much of which can be found on their full-length debut File Under Black. They were rhythmic yet irrepressibly snide. The bass and drums rumbled as if songs were shot through a salad shooter. A mean, black salad shooter.

Chicago trio the Lawrence Arms refer to themselves as "midwestern beer belly despair rock." Fuckers took the words right outta my mouth. Anyway, seeing as how they have six full-lengths under their belt and have been around since 1999, these guys are overdue for fame and fortune, or at least some of your recognition. And with song titles like "One Day, We're All Gonna Weigh 400 Lbs.," "Light Breathing (Me And Martha Plimpton In A Fancy Elevator)," and "Hey, What Time Is 'Pensacola: Wings Of Gold' On Anyway?," how could you refuse?

Needless to say, this band has a stupid (awesome) sense of humor. There's a lack of funny guys in the music world (except that Bright Eyes kid. Man he is hi-larious... not) so when Bren (make up a last name for him) got onstage and rambled like a drunk Adam Sandler, the crowd's laughter sounded like a foreign language. "This is our 513th show," he noted. Then he belched like a hippo. Then the band launched into "Robots, Machinery, and Things That Dance," and Bren spazzed out on his bass like a monkey on crack and barked the lyrics. During songs that guitarist Chris sang, with his high, earnest vocals and dashed chords, the music veered off into more pop-punk areas. And whenever Bren talked too much, drummer Neil cut him off by beginning the next song.

The Star Spangles Record Release Party at CBGB's Downstairs Lounge, August 19, 2003

I'm not a fan of record release parties. Not that I'm invited to many. But I rarely attend even when I am invited. They're everybody-knows-everybody events. And they're usually crawling with record-company execs in button-down shirts and public-relations folks flashing blinding smiles to everyone, including the bartenders. So yeah, I usually pass. Then again, it depends on the band. If we're talking about a bunch of scrawny, throwback rock 'n' rollers from the Lower East Side, I'll consider it. Throw in free beer, free pizza, and Jayne County as the DJ, and I'm there.

The Star Spangles are a noo-yawk band, not a "New York band." They probably can't spell "irony." They went to art school with Jack Daniels and Bud Weiser. They have claimed that Chuck Berry and the Ramones are the only two artists who don't sound wimpy. They are stuck in the late '70s and so is their first Capitol Records album, Bazooka!!! – a Replacements/Ramones/retarded rock-n-roll recording. It's catchy as hell.

Needless to say, there's not much inventiveness when it comes to these guys. But they got the fever for the flava, that's for damn sure. Guitarist Tommy Volume, bless his heart, grimaced and attacked his strings, stumbling into a mic stand as if someone kept pushing him around. Singer-guitarist-soon-to-be-sex-object Ian Wilson was less fervent, preferring to look cool. Bassist Nick Price jerked around wearing his ever-present newsboy cap, leading me to think he's hiding something under there or he has a really funny shaped head. Ultra-excellent drummer Joey Valentine is too cute for words – sorry, it just really had to be noted. The Star Spangles blazed through songs like "I Live for Speed" and "Which One of the Two of Us is Gonna Burn This House Down," and they invited people up on the tiny stage to sing "I Don't Wanna Be Crazy Anymore." (They explicitly stated no magazine people were allowed. Meh.)

Jayne County had the right attitude when it came to dealing with the shmoozers. She played CDs and ate pizza, and looked thoroughly unamused at the whole thing. Rock.

August 2003

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More NY Rock Confidential Installments:
by Jeanne Fury:
Jul. '03: Drive-By Truckers, Barbez, Dresden Dolls, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum
Jun. '03: Fannypack, Liam Lynch, Stratford 4, Nada Surf, Amazombies, ARE Weapons, Deadly Snakes, Essential Logic
Apr. '03: Turbonegro, Madball
Mar. '03: Manda and the Marbles, Count the Stars, American Hi-Fi
Feb. '03: Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, Tiger Mountain, Blood Brothers
Jan. '03: Enon, Penny Arcade
Dec. '02: Lost City Angels, McLusky, Black Keys, World/Inferno Friendship Society
Nov. '02: CMJ, Diamanda Galas, Longwave, Division of Laura Lee
Oct. '02: Sights, ESG, Princess Superstar, Bush Tetras
Sept. '02: Original Sinners, Northern State, Opti-Grab
Aug. '02: Paybacks, Gore Gore Girls, Cato Salsa Experience, Burning Brides
Jul '02: Bantam, Girls Against Boys, the Makers, the Bangs
Jun '02: Slut Em Go, Darediablo, the Liars, the Chromatics, Lovelife
May '02: Hellacopters, Gaza Strippers, Lunachicks
Apr. '02: Distillers, Nekromantix
Feb. '02: Metropolis Fest, Bianca Butthole Benefit, Le Tigre
Jan. '02: Sam Bisbee
Dec. '01: El Vez and Tammy Faye Starlite
Nov. '01: Tracy and the Plastics, Crowns on 45
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Apr. '01: She-Rock-O-Rama, Blast Furnace
Mar. '01: Babe the Blue Ox, the Gossip, Knoxville Girls, White Stripes
Feb. '01: Sarah Dougher, Glen Phillips and John Mayer
Jan. '01: Melissa Ferrick
Dec. '00: Joy Askew
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Oct.  '00: Heather Eatman
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