You are currently browsing the archives for the New Talent category.
Classic Rock News And Views
March 29, 2012
It appears to be something that took Doug Ratner completely by surprise. And who could blame him? Ratner and his band had just performed “Bomb in the Backseat” on a popular local television show called “Mass Appeal.” The show is aired on WWLP in Springfield, MA and although I’m not personally familiar with the program, it looks to be a sort of local Today or Good Morning America kind of show.
By all appearances, Doug Ratner and The Watchmen are an up-and-coming group of rockers who are starting to get some well-deserved attention. The song that has generated so much controversy at WWLP and apparently has the execs in charge of that station hiding under their beds recently made its way to the #2 position on Amazon’s “Hottest New Release in Classic Rock” list and the group is getting some positive press from local newspapers and other media outlets.
Although a song entitled “Bomb in the Backseat” might give someone the wrong impression without the benefit of actually listening to the song and paying attention to the message, the truth of the matter is that Ratner’s lyrics reveal that the song is about a troubled individual who decides to build a bomb with help of information he was able to obtain easily on the internet.
The underlying message, as Ratner himself reveals, is that we have become too reliant on technology and that makes it easy for people like the main character in “Bomb in the Backseat” to access the information he seeks in order to help facilitate his misguided mission.
As far as Ratner and his band mates could tell, things were going quite well following their performance on “Mass Appeal.” They were scheduled to perform for a second time when they were suddenly informed by the show’s host that they had run out of time and the group would not be able to perform again.
Eventually, the truth came out and they learned that it was the simple act of abusing a laptop computer during their performance of “Bomb in the Backseat” that was just a bit too much for the decision-makers at WWLP. Apparently hey had decided that the act coupled with a song with the word “bomb” in it might cross the line over into “condoning violence.”
Ironically, the destruction of the laptop was not intended to convey an act of violence but was intended to be a statement against our reliance on the pervasive technology that makes it too easy for just about anyone to find a recipe for bomb-making with a few keystrokes and mouse clicks. I don’t think that Ratner wants to shut down the internet or put draconian regulations in place to control it, especially when one considers that it’s a form of censorship that gave rise to this whole issue that has him, his band mates and their fans feeling that they’re misunderstood and have been treated unfairly.
Not only did WWLP decide to send the group home before allowing them to follow through with their second performance, they also erased any trace of the group’s appearance on the show from their website. It looks like WWLP wants to distance itself from a song that their poor judgment has branded as something that condones violence.
From where I sit, it’s just another symptom of what’s wrong with our society. We’ve become a nation of hand-wringing worrywarts. It appears that too many people are buying into the stories being spoon-fed to them by the mainstream media and our political “leaders” who want us to think there’s a terrorist hiding around every corner. “See something, say something.” You know the drill.
Well, as a matter-of-fact I do see something and what I want to say about it is that it saddens me to see the direction we’re headed in. What I’m seeing is a TV station doing all it can to distance itself from something that they think might be offensive to some viewers in the name of political correctness. Maybe some of us have we forgotten that it is no longer acceptable to say “bomb” in public. We certainly don’t want to cause any panic, and lord knows, the TSA needs their excuses to stick their hands down people’s pants!
Regarding the destruction of the laptop, that’s certainly the first time we’ve ever heard of a rocker beating up an inanimate object on stage now isn’t it? I’m guessing it was probably an obsolete model that didn’t work, but no matter even if that was the case. Those evil rockers probably didn’t care that laptops have feelings too!
In another bit of irony, WWLP has proudly emblazoned their website home page with their motto, “Working For You.” They’re certainly not the only television station to run that one up the flagpole and I have little doubt that they’re about as full of it as all the rest of them. Perhaps “Working For Big Brother” or “Working For Big Government” would be more appropriate because I ‘m sure not buying the one they’re using.
October 2, 2011
Seems like we’ve had a pretty long stretch of dreary weather here in the northeast U.S., so queuing up some music from a Boston-based band called Blue Moon Harem seemed like a good way to brighten the day up a bit.
There are a lot of bands out there vying for the world’s attention these days and although many of them are quite good, I don’t stumble upon new acts too often that I will actually spend time listening to. That’s pretty much how I decide if I’m inspired enough to write about a new band. If I put their music on and don’t shut it off within 30 seconds or so, I feel as though I may be onto something. If I listen to the entire album and then start from the beginning and listen to the whole thing again, I know I am onto something. That was the case with Blue Moon Harem’s latest album.
The new release is called Finland, which also happens to be the title of my favorite track off this new album. This is their second album, although previous to the release of Finland, I had not heard of them.
Founded by Jonathan Bix and Demetri Joannou, Blue Moon Harem has been garnering more and more attention as listeners to internet radio stations like Reverb Nation and Jango Radio discover their music. They’ve also been putting time in on the road, becoming somewhat of a fixture on the New York City club scene. Although I describe them as “new,” the group has been around for a few years, releasing their self-titled debut album during 2002.
Having sampled tracks from their first album, I wholeheartedly agree that their decision to become “more focused on songcraft than technological wizardry” was the right way to go. That’s not to say that their first album sucked, but I’m not sure it’s one that would have made its way onto my regular play list.
With the release of Finland, however, I think these guys are really starting to hit their stride. It’s got elements of that “classic” rock and roll sound that drew me in on the very first listen. Comparing the two albums gives one the impression that they decided on a pretty extensive make-over.
With the release of Finland a couple of weeks behind them, Blue Moon Harem is taking their new music on the road with bassist Pep Hernandez and drummer Steve Hart rounding out the group.
The video below – albeit a bit rough quality-wise – shows that these guys are indeed at their best when they step away from the electronics a bit and let their songwriting, musicianship and vocal abilities shine.
August 18, 2011
Perhaps I should christen this week “promotion week,” since I have a few new groups I want to mention. As I said in the last post, I sometimes get more promotional material and information than I can handle. I decided that I needed to address this problem somehow since at least a portion of the promotions I get are for groups that are quite good and have that “classic” sound I talk about so often.
The way I decided to address this promotion problem is to share news of more than one new group (new to me at least) in a single post. In many cases, I don’t know a lot about these new groups other than what they sound like, making it hard to come up with a dedicated post. So, I figured, why not just throw their names out there with as much info as I have and at least give them whatever modest exposure this site has to offer them.
First up is one I’ve been sitting on for a while (surprise, right?) that is probably worth checking out if you’re a classic rock fan. 12 Dirty Bullets are self-starters in the true sense of the word. They’re a foursome from London who have been at the helm of their own record label for the last six years, are working on the second album and are planning an extensive North American tour. Check out their video “Fatman,” which is my favorite from their album Downsides to Making A Living.
Whether or not singing with their native accent is something they have to work at I don’t know, but I think it sounds kind of cool. Maybe I’ve missed something but it seems to me that other U.K. bands sounded more American when they’re singing.
Keep an eye on these guys because I think they may be going places.
I’ve only heard two songs from these guys so far, but they may be another group to keep an eye on. Jerzey Street Band is another group from the U.K. – Manchester to be exact – that consists of seven blokes who describe their style as “freight train rock.”
Citing influences such as Counting Crows, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty probably explains why their style has also been described as “Americana Rock.”
There’s probably a lot more coming down the pike from these guys, but for now, give a listen to “Wasting Time.” They’ve just released a new single called “Haigy’s Girl” and although I’ve had a chance to hear it myself and it’s definitely more my style than “Wasting Time,” it looks like it’s only available at places like iTunes and Amazon.com at the moment. Whether they’ll put it on their Youtube channel or somewhere else folks can sample it I ‘m not sure.
The next and final group isn’t one that I’m not particularly crazy about, but that’s because it just isn’t a genre that I care much for. This brand of heavy metal reminds me more of Ozzy Osbourne or perhaps a heavier version of Alice Cooper. I include them here because they have “that sound.” A sound that could have come from the 80’s or somewhere back around that period. I don’t talk a lot about metal here, but there’s no denying that this stuff is classic and it is rock, so check out Cardinal Synne.
With a newly-released debut album, Cardinal Synne may be just getting started making a name for themselves among metal fans. Considering that they’re also from the U.K., this is starting to feel a bit like a new “British Invasion.” Then again, perhaps it never ended.
August 24, 2009
OK, so the name may not mean much to most music fans when they hear it, but this guy has obviously earned the respect of some well-known names in the industry – people who have worked with the likes of Steely Dan, Bob Dylan, The Who, Cream and quite a few others.
I recently received a seven-song CD sampler along with a DVD that features the material from LeFebvre’s first album, entitled Psalngs (pronounced, appropriately enough, “songs”). As some readers may know, I don’t hold back when it comes to reviews. I tell it like it is. I’m certainly not being paid to do these reviews, although it certainly is not my intent to offend the people that are nice enough to send me this stuff from time-to-time. I just assume they can appreciate honesty above everything else.
Now, I bet you are ready to see me slam this album and tell you that it sucks. Not quite. The folks that worked on this album are professionals and they can play. Here’s the thing: I’m simply not a folk-rock guy. However, a lot of music fans are, and for those, this album is definitely worth checking out. Especially since you can download the entire thing for free!
I don’t often veer off course from my usual classic rock ramblings, but LeFebvre’s story is an interesting one, and he clearly has a message that he’d like people to hear. And did I mention you can download this album for free?
LeFebvre’s message may be one that resonates strongly during these times of economic turmoil, and what may be building resentment against a political system that never stops promising “change” and never seems able to deliver.
It seems to me there is little doubt that LeFebvre is allowing this album to be downloaded freely due to his motivation to get the message out about issues he feels strongly about. That says a lot for the man, since this 29-song collection probably had a good shot at being a commercial success.
I think John LeFebvre’s message is worth listening to. And if you like the music, that’s a nice bonus. You may not agree with everything he has to say, but it’s food for thought nonetheless – and pretty good folk-rock music, if you are into that sort of thing.
You can download Psalngs by visiting the official album website.
February 27, 2008
I was intrigued when I stumbled upon a recent New York Times story entitled "The Sound of the ’70s From a Singer in Her 20s" for reasons that should be obvious and perhaps a reason or two that is not.
Classic rock fans don’t get to hear a lot of new classic rock, since it is, well, classic. Some classic groups like Rush and Aerosmith are still working and coming out with new music these days and classic rock fans like myself appreciate that.
It is also kind of nice to discover a group of younger artists who have banded together to create new music that sounds like it may have been conceived of back on the 1970′s. When I learned that this group hails from the neighboring state of Vermont, I knew I had to give them a closer look and I really like what I saw, and more importantly, what I heard.
Grace Potter and Nocturnals is the name these four rockers have chosen for themselves and they appear to be making a very good impression on rock fans, including myself.
For me, this group is about getting back to basics. Nothing about their performances strike me as excessively flashy or over-produced — think opposite of Britney Spears. This group is all about good old-fashioned rock and roll and that’s exactly what they sound like.
The clip below was chosen from a number of them that were readily available, but being the well-known sound snob that I am, I chose it for its quality and the fact that I kind of like the "session" feel it has to it.
I’m also a sucker for a great snare drum sound and this is one of the better ones I have heard recently. (If someone happens to know the specifics of that snare, I’d like to know. Feel free to post a comment or drop me a line.)
Listening to lead singer Grace Potter reminds me a bit of Edie Brickell who enjoyed a hit or two back in the 1980′s when she was playing under the banner of Edie Brickell & New Bohemians. The New York Times story compared her to a grittier Patty Griffin, but when I heard her for the first time I knew she reminded me of another singer I had not heard for a while. I was finally able to dredge up the memory of Brickell’s sound from my memory.
This contemporary group could easily be confused with one from the 1970′s and may even make one wonder whether they actually are from that era and somehow managed to transport themselves a few decades ahead in time.
Classic rock fans are strongly encouraged to check this group out.
Check out the full New York Times story here.