My good friend Nip sent me a private message with nothing more than these words:www.myspace.com/getbentsonI’m now passing those words on to you. Go and check out this band. Immediately. I must be on my twelfth straight listen to “Forrest Ave.” the first of two songs posted on their site. I’m sending Nip messages letting him know i’ll drive us down to any weekend show they have coming up in NYC.
This is catch-as-catch can upbeat pop-punk that reminds of so much of the stuf I listened to in my mid-twenties, but at the same time I say with any real certainty of who they remind me of. I’m in love with the “rat-a-tat” guitars after the chorus, and the drum fills. If you put a gun to my head I’d say Get Bent most reminds me of John Brown Battery, especially the trade of vocals (though these are much cleaner/better) and the quieter guitar parts leading back into straight forward three chord bliss. In an increasingly bleak musical environment where every new band is seemingly some fey little twee shoegazing outfit looking to add more mellatron, it warms my nuts to listen to some unabashedly upbeat pop-punk.
You can order the five song CD demo for a whopping $2. For fuck’s sake you can’t even by a large coffee that cheaply. Order the goddamned CD.
Towards the end of their set, singer/guitarist Chick Graning deadpanned to the crowd “We got lost getting here to the show. We took a wrong turn about eleven years ago”.
Background. Scarce was the first band I fell in love with my freshman year of college. The open for Fugazi about two weeks into my freshman year, and I got to drink my first college beer with the program directors of our campus station beforehand. Scarce blew me away with their set of razor sharp power pop and overall absolute command of the stage. From that point on I was hooked. the release of a new single was cause for giddy celebration. I hosted a graveyard shift Saturday night radio show, and would play both sides back to back just so I could record it on the board and play it back on my cassette Walkman endlessly as I made my way around the campus during the week. Even as I transformed into a shaved head uberpunk that devoured every word of Maximum Rock and Roll as gospel, including their anti major label stance, I wanted Scarce to sell a million records. And they seemed to on the brink of becoming the hugest band in the world. Then it went south. Graning fell victim to a brain aneurysm, and as he recovered, Scarce’s label offered minimal support, for the band and the individuals (the whole story can be found in much in bassist Joyce Raskin’s new book Achin’ to Be, available here. End of story, right? Just another near miss in the dog-eat-dog music biz.
Nope. Buoyed by the book and not quite ready to close out the last chapter, Scarce has reunited. Unlike a lot of one off reunion gigs, this looks to be the real deal, with more shows soon and an album to be recorded in the near future, kicking things off with a show at TT’s in Cambridge.
All I can say is it sure as hell didn’t sound like eleven years had passed between shows. Playing to a packed room, Scarce served a reminder that some folks are just born to be rock stars. It took a couple songs for Graning’s raspy voice to break in, but the stage was his from the get-go. Some people are just born to front a band, and Graning is one of the rare few that can command a room’s attention with understated charisma. There’s no histrionics and carefully orchestrated emotional “outbursts” pr pandering to the audience. It’s in the simple nods of a head or casually flicking wave of an arm acknowledging the cheers of the crowd that serves notice that yep, this is exactly where the band belongs. It was obvious even to those crammed in the back of the club how much they enjoyed a return to the spotlight, and how much chemistry Raskin and Graning have on stage. The catalog dates back close to fifteen (!) years at this point, but Scarce’s brand of thumping early nineties guitar driven alternative rock. After blistering through the first few songs, including a spirited rendition of the high octane punish “Hope“, starring Raskin in the lead vocal role. The highlight of the evening came midway through the set with the midtempo-cum-howler Crimea River.Softly strummed and near whisper verses ruminating on long distance relationships give way to unabashed guitar mayhem over a pounded rhythm section. To say that Raskin “played bass guitar” would qualify as an understatement. Exorcising the frustration knowing this is what should have been all along, Raskin stomped wildly across the stage, her legs kicking in every direction as her feet stamped the stage, hair pinwheeling wildly about her face while never skipping a beat. After closing out their main set with two of their earliest A-sides, the opposite side of the coin jaunty sing along “Days Like This” followed by the abrasive noise fest of “All Sideways“, Scarce came back up for a pair of encores, closing the affair out with a sloppy and joyous rendition of AC/DC’s “Shook Me All Night Long”. I don’t think a single patron, witnessing some of their fondest show memories from yesteryear while gleefully awaiting what’s up the band’s sleeve next could argue for a minute weren’t shaken indeed.
The Young Leaves are three kids from the mean streets of Brockton that have honed the art of producing guitar driven indie down to such a sweet science that even luminaries such as fellow Brockton-ite Marvelous Marvin Hagler have to give these guys props. Largely, the product of singer/guitarist Christopher Chaisson, “Big Old Me is a dozen smartly crafted pop tunes that pay large homage to the times when “alternative rock” was just starting to catch a foothold on the radio an you got to hear something new and exciting for maybe the first time, as opposed to the same old dreck.
“Backhanded compliment!” You say? Then you my friend, simply never had a between semesters summer job as an overnight newspaper delivery boy. You don’t remember those heady times where “Nevermind” kicked open some new doors and craptacular hair metal bands shuffled off to the bargain bin aisle of your local CD shop. When you’re driving a 1986 Honda Accord Hatchback with a busted tape deck and two and a half working speakers, and you’re out at four in the morning, making twelve cents a paper with no tips because you keep forgetting what clients want their paper on the third step and what ones want it in between the screen and front door, and when one of your clients has a pet sheep that head butts your car every morning then shits in the exact spot you need to step in to get back inside the car then you best make friends with the local overnight DJ because sometimes hearing “Web In Front” on the radio is the only thing that keeps you sane. So if that was your summer before junior year you just might damn well appreciate how awesome it was to hear Buffalo Tom Archers of Loaf, Superchunk and Sugar on the radio nearly every hour.
So the fact that these kids would have been at the age where you were more prone to sing along to ‘The Itsie Bitsie Spider” or ‘Hi My Name Is Joe I work in a button factory” as opposed to when “Hyper Enough” would have been on the airwaves is all the more amazing to me. The Young Leaves manage to translate post high school ennui with amps and sticks and create something pretty damn impressive. At time super polished indie pop that veers close to pop punk territory, at other times feedback drenched guitar nirvana worthy of early Husker Du, these guys have got my attention. The cut “Look Sharp, Die Young” is worthy of anything musically Superchunk would have put out in the early nineties, and Chaisson manages to toss off the lines “What if I didn’t speak anymore?/ Settled the score/I’d just end ups till bored“ while sounding like the slightly nasally cousin of a young Elvis Costello. ‘Big Me” is pop-rock reminiscent of Buffalo Tom until a minute and a half remains in the cut. At that point the drums and bass lay down a killer near-dub bass line that sets a fantastic groove, letting the guitar come in for a sweet little solo before ripping the whole thing to shreds in a cacophony of noisy feedback driven squalls. Then, just when you think the whole thing is back on track at the drop of a dime for some pop hooks to close it out. Seriously, if you loved J Masics early guitar work from the SST days, then hop on board with this band. “Big Old Me” has that late period aid back Braid feel to it. It’s growing on me, like, a lot.
So here’s the bummer. It looks like these guys are no more. After another fruitless two hour drive for a show, where they were turned away for not being twenty one, they’ve decided to pack it in. It’s really too bad, because these guys put on an awesomely powerful live show, with a “these amps on eleven” noise fest. If they were a few years older living in squalor in Allston, they could be the O’Briens bar house band instead of languishing in obscurity. I’m about two minutes away from asking if they’ll stay together if we can get five hundred people to send them pictures of their peen or boobs.