Top 30 Christmas Songs Chosen From My Holiday Playlist

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Blame Dinosaur Dracula for this whopper of a post. He created a holiday monster over here by listing his top 5 Christmas songs over at his Tumblr Mummy Shark and I immediately thought it would be cool if I continued that meme, although there was no way humanly possible that I could pick just 5 songs. That’s ludicrous considering the following introduction to the list of my Top 30 Christmas Songs is over a thousand words, so there was no way I could possibly cheat you out of the other 25 songs.

Just like during Halloween season, music is a crucial aspect of creating the proper atmosphere of my holiday season. Currently, I’m in the middle of a soft launch of my diverse and hefty holiday playlist. This week, I’ve been sprinkling in a Christmas songs into my regular playlists, with a full-on Christmas music bonanza most likely hitting the speakers tomorrow.

From mid-November until the very last bit of Christmas Day, I only listen to Christmas tunes. Yeah, I take it seriously. There’s never been a Christmas when it was any different either. My father started this tradition in our family once cassettes became standard in the household. He would record all of our favorite Christmas songs off the radio, essentially making mix tapes for us to listen to the entire holiday season. We had about 5 or 6 tapes chock full of awesome Christmas music. Once we got a more advanced stereo system we even started to “dub” (No, not dub-step kids. At one time dubbing referred to copying or recording) Christmas record albums (younger kids only semi-know what these are) onto cassettes.

My parents had an extensive record collection. A decent chunk of the collection included some pretty awesome Christmas records that provided me with an endless amount of musical discovery when I was really young. I remember going through stacks of records and finding a bunch of different Christmas compilations that my parents got through gas station promotions. For some reason gas stations used to give you full kitchen silverware sets, glassware, and LPs. It was a peculiar, yet f*cking amazing time in America. I guess gas was a tough sell back then? Now all you need to do is announce that there’s a gas shortage and there’s a line of cars 3 1/2 miles long down Route 9.

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And, no…”R2D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas” did not make the cut.

The moment November arrived, I hounded my parents incessantly for permission to bring the Christmas decorations inside. We used to keep all of it in the garage and being that we were one of the only families I knew who actually parked their car in the garage, it was sort of a bitch to get all the huge heavy boxes down off the shelves when there was a big brown Buick in the way. Plus, it always seemed to be very cold, not like nowadays when we’ve been getting random stretches of 65 degree weather. So, my parents took all that into consideration and they would attempt to dissuade me every time, but Christmas overcame me. My Christmas force power was too strong even for my parents who were firm when they wanted to be. As soon as they relented and gave me the exasperated “Go ahead…bring it in,” approval, I would instantly start playing Christmas records.

Christmastime was like a state of mind and a drug to me, and it still is. The excitement of the season overshadowed everything else. It was the fact that everything seemed different and better during the holidays. The music, the food, the decorations, the TV specials, the family get togethers, it was all a total blast to me. What was old became new again although this magical feeling would never work without the music.

On the wish list front, I would craft a very detailed list for Santa each year. Months prior to December, I’d cull from the jumbo catalogs that arrived in the mailbox from stores like JC Penny and Sears and very neatly copied down item numbers and descriptions – wouldn’t want those elves f*cking everything up now would we? Frankly, none of that really mattered, I just revelled in being caught up in the season. It was the one time a year when everyone seemed to honestly set aside their differences (for the most part), have a few drinks, and eat some Christmas cookies. I had so many great Christmas seasons with my family and friends and they were all set to music.

Back to those mix tapes. They lasted for years and we played them over and over again. We also started collecting the Very Special Christmas compilations when they started showing up in stores. To have those official releases were great, but Dad’s mix tapes were LEGENDARY. Songs would abruptly cut off and then pick up in the middle of another song, and then other songs would end and he’d forget to stop the tape, so for 8 years we were able to recite Casey Kasem’s post-song banter. Then there’d be songs toward the end of the tapes that were regular top 40 music so we’d go from “Last Christmas” into “Just a Gigolo” by David Lee Roth. It was quirky for sure, but we waited all year to listen to those tapes.

My Christmas music tradition was enhanced when I got my first iPod back in 2004. Christmas playlists were never the same. Gone were the mix tapes that my father made us, but they are fully reflected fully in my playlist. Essentially, this playlist is just a modern version of those old tapes.

Presently, just to give you an idea of what kind of Christmas freak I am, there’s 433 tracks in my Holiday Playlist, some are IDs with Christmas greetings from people like Kevin Smith, Alice Cooper, and others, and a few are sound clips from Christmas movies, but the majority of the tracks are songs. Keep in mind that I’m not one to rip full albums – especially Christmas albums because there’s usually a lot of filler. To clue you in, the only full album I have on my christmas playlist is Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift To You.

You can’t imagine the difficulty I had choosing these songs. What it came down to was, if I had to delete 400 some-odd songs, what are the 30 that I’d keep in the playlist? I tried to narrow it down to 10 and 20, but there were too many that I absolutely couldn’t part with. Once you get down to around the top 15 there’s a more solid rhyme and reason behind why I chose the songs in that particular order. Some are comedic, some are sentimental favorites, others are rockers, but all of them are nostalgic to me and bring to mind memories of the Christmas season. Not everyone is as anal about Christmas music as I am, so, below, I’ve shared my favorite songs with you and also my thoughts on each one.

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30. “I Wish It Was Christmas Today” by Julian Casablancas – An actual, fully produced non-ironic song based off the SNL sketch with Horatio Sanz, Tracey Morgan, Chris Kattan, and Jimmy Fallon. Just the idea of it made me happy inside. I’m an SNL fanatic so this is great. Julian definitely put his own spin on it and it worked.

29. “Silent Night” by Aqua Teen Hunger Force – Not only is it a Jersey thing, but Aqua Teen is also hysterical, especially Meatwad. I love Meatwad. I wish he could be my real life meat-friend. I love his voice and his laid back nature. I also really love when he starts telling everyone how he’s “the Boss of music” in this version of “Silent Night” from Have Yourself a Meaty Little Christmas, the Aqua Teen Christmas album.

28. 12 Days of Christmas by Bob and Doug McKenzie – A staple for me every Christmas since it came out. I’m not really a big fan of any version of the 12 Days of Christmas because they’re usually pretty monotonous, but this song is never unfunny to me. It’s Canadian humor went completely over my head when I was a kid. I didn’t grasp it at all when this was all over the radio. I just knew they kept talking about beer and thinking tuques, which I thought was funny. Bob and Doug’s interaction set to the sounds of the ’80s keyboard always warms my heart. Hoser.

27. “Christmas Is All Around” by Billy Mack – Romantic Comedies are no friend of mine. I try my best to watch one with Miss Sexy Armpit every couple of years. I give it my best shot, but I usually wind up despising every second of it. One that I did appreciate was 2003’s Love Actually. It’s a good movie for the ladies and it’s more than tolerable for guys as well (i.e. there’s boobs). Plus Bill Nighy sings “Christmas Is All Around,” which gave him a “Do Not Pass Go – Go Directly To My iPod” card.

26. “This Christmas” by Christina Aguilera – This is the one time a year I will listen to a Christina Aguilera song. Aguilera’s cover of the Donny Hathaway song is an excellent update to the 1970 holiday classic and still gets a lot of airplay 13 years later.

25. “Best Part of Christmas” by American Angel If there’s a cult classic status for Christmas songs, this one is in the top 5 for sure. This Jersey band had some decent buzz on MTV in the late ’80s/early ’90s, but was predominantly know for their huge local fan base. You may not have realized it, but their first Christmas song is solid. It’s a bit schmaltzy, but probably the best Christmas song to come out of the 80s rock scene. Think Survivor meets Honeymoon Suite.

24. “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” by The Whirling Dervishes Another New Jersey band with a kickass rock rendition of the Grinch theme. If you don’t have it, get it, you’ll love it.

23. “Christmas All Over Again” by Butch Walker Not much of a detour from the orignal, but this is a bang up job covering Tom Petty. If you are a Butch fan you will love this. Very fun and upbeat.

22. “Christmas Tree” by Lady Gaga – Coming off her fantastic performance on SNL and awaiting her holiday special with the Muppets, fill the void with her electro-pop Christmas romp full of double entendres the way only Gaga can do it.

21. “Silver Bells” by Twisted Sister – There was a trend several years ago where a lot of the popular metal and hard rock bands of the 80s began to record their own Christmas songs and albums. Twisted Sister was at the forefront of this trend. Their A Twisted Christmas album was well done, often tongue in cheek, and actually worked since Dee Snider and Co. didn’t make it a joke, they made a legitimately good rock Christmas album.

20. “I Wanna Rock You Hard This Chrismas” by The Dan Band – You may remember this band singing an expletive filled version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in the movie Old School. They continued their legacy with an original Christmas rock song filled with F-bombs and sexual innuendos.

19. “Jingle Bell Rock” by 38 Special  – There’s a story about this one. When I was in my first year of college I was driving to class in my old Corsica and the stereo reception was extremely fuzzy that day. I was tuned into New York’s Classic Rock Station Q104.3 and I was making out little snippets of a rocking version of “Jingle Bell Rock.” With all the fuzz and the noise from the highway I couldn’t make it out well at all, but a small part of me thought that David Lee Roth was covering “Jingle Bell Rock.” If that was the case, it was imperative that I verify it. Why didn’t I know about this already? This began a several year quest to figure out what song this was. I called 3 DJs at the station about this. I researched their playlists, I scoured the Internet (which was not as advanced back then obviously) and I couldn’t find it. I searched every rock band’s discogrpahy that I thought it might be, but to no avail. Finally a couple of years ago, I was looking at a Christmas album on iTunes from a band who didn’t even enter my mind as a possibility back then. It was 38 Special. Definitely not anything like David Lee Roth, but with all the interference on the station I cut myself some slack. It is a really good rocking rendition of the song and I dig it eve though I still wish it was DLR. This mystery lasted almost 10 years, finally the case is closed.

18. “Rockin’ Christmas Time” by 40 Foot Ringo – You may know this band as a modern offshoot of the New Jersey band Trixter. This bouncy rocker just conjures up all kinds of awesome memories for me. The original Trixter lineup has been promoting their latest album Tattoos and Misery for the last year – check it out, it’s good stuff.

17. “We Need a Little Christmas” by New Christy Minstrels – This specific version was featured on an old album my parents got from a gas station. It’s upbeat with their signature folk sound and it gives me that nostalgic feeling. It was always the first song I kicked the season off with.

16. “Things I Want” by Sum 41 and Tenacious D – In this song there’s a ridiculous Christmas list that comes off almost like a bunch of weird ransom demands. “A Motley Crue Lunch Box filled with sticky buns.”

15. “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams I refuse to acknowledge that Scott Weiland recorded a cover of this. This is the Jaws of Christmas songs because it’s such a damn classic that it shouldn’t be remade.

14. “Back Door Santa” by Bon Jovi – Bon Jovi saturated this popular Christmas song with their ’80s pop metal sheen replete with silly banter, synthesizers, and guitar solos. This was when the band was having fun before it became a weird corporation run by an egomaniac with more interest in politics than rock and roll.

13. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Dean Martin – The kind of music to get snowed in to. And toasted.

12. “White Christmas” by Darlene Love – Possibly the ultimate Christmas song from the greatest Christmas album of all time, A Christmas Gift To You From Phil Spector. It’s pretty damn perfect from the arrangement to Darlene Love’s vocal performance. Many people prefer “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), but if I had to choose, I’d go with “White Christmas” in the end.

11. “Winter Wonderland” by Johnny Mathis Another case of not being able to choose just one, I love mostly all of Johnny Mathis’ Christmas songs but this one is the most memorable to me thanks to it’s superb production quality and the songs ability to literally make me feel like I’m sledding in the middle of Hoth.

10. “Oi to the World” by No Doubt An energetic cover of the Vandals’ Christmas song.

9. “Christmas Vacation” by Mavis Staples – In the vein of ’70s R&B that she was known for with The Staple Singers, this theme song to one of my favorite Christmas movies ever was an instant part of my annual celebration. It accompanies the fun animated intro sequence to Christmas Vacation. Originally, before I was able to find a good copy of it, I started playing my Christmas Vacation VHS tape and held my boom box next to the TV speakers and recorded the song while the movie was playing. I used that for a few years before I was able to get it on a real cassette.

8. “Merry Christmas Darling” by The Carpenters – The Carpenters can do no wrong. Karen’s voice was soothing and calm and brings to mind sitting by my Uncle’s fireplace on Christmas eve, staring at the tree and the stockings, wondering what Santa would bring me in the morning. Plus the line “Christmasing with you” FTW.

7. “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses – Belive it or not I grew up hating this song while my sister loved it. I would beg her to stop singing it. It didn’t take long for me to realize I actually adored it too and I was in denial. Originally it seemed kind of annoying, but I just looked past it. Sure it’s goofy, but it gets stuck in your head. It’s so familar now that it’s a holiday classic that you hear in tons of movies and commercials.

6. “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney – For some reason this song gets a lot of flack. First of all leave Paul alone. This song is an ’80s Christmas classic, in fact, there was a huge blast of Christmas songs in the ’80s that wound up becoming perennial favorites and this is one of them in all of it’s synth glory. Watching him perform it on SNL last year was awesome too. While listening to this track it’s tradition that I get a small paper cup of spiked egg nog and march around the apartment like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the intro to Real Ghostbusters.

5. “Christmas Celebration” by Weezer – I’ve been a fan of Weezer since they debuted, and to the opposition of many fellow loyal Weezer fans, I actually still really dig their modern output, maybe even more than “classic” Weezer if you can fathom that. They recorded a couple of early Christmas tracks, but years later, around 2008, they released an EP on iTunes called Christmas with Weezer. I love all of their renditions of Christmas songs because they maintain the traditional arrangements but plug in electric guitars and incorporate their signature harmonies.

4. “Christmas In Hollis” by Run DMC – I lost count how many times I’ve rapped along to every word of this song. Using a sample of “Back Door Santa,” Run DMC concocted the greatest rap/hip-hop Christmas song of all time. I can never get enough of this one.

3. “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” by BRUCE Springsteen This song makes you feel like you’re down on the boardwalk in Asbury on a cold December day and you’re being introspective like Bruce would be…thinking of whether you’re going to be on Santa’s naughty or nice list. It’s a pure Jersey Christmas song and it’s a synonymous with the Christmas season for me.

2. “Last Christmas” by WHAM – Haters gonna hate, Sexy Armpit gonna love. Agree to disagree.

1. “All Alone on Christmas” by Darlene Love – Wall of Sound. CHECK. E-Street Band. CHECK. Recaptures the Phil Spector magic. CHECK. Tugs at your heartstrings. CHECK. Sax solo by THE BIG MAN. CHECK. References to her own song “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” CHECK. Nobody ought to be all alone on Christmas. Tell ’em Darlene.

NJ T-Shirt Tuesday 105: My Chemical Romance

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Some cool MCR T-Shirt designs

Wow, it’s been a while since I posted a T-Shirt Tuesday, so here we go! If you’re into the rock music scene you’ve probably heard by now that New Jersey’s My Chemical Romance announced their break-up last week to the dismay of their legion of passionate fans.

Often mislabeled and passed off as merely “emo punks,” MCR were more than just a rock band. Each member of the band became a larger than life comic book character in the same vein of The Beatles and KISS. They also created a vast mythology to go along with their music, storytelling like a goth-glam Springsteen times five. Perhaps they’ll go the way of Green Day and formulate a Welcome to the Black Parade Broadway show? I’d go see it.
Most recently in the world of MCR, and prior to releasing single tracks from an incomplete album, the band unleashed the under appreciated Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, a poppy, upbeat spectacle of rock, one which I admire and rotate on my iPod Classic often.

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After 12 years the band has called it quits, yet I feel that they still have more to accomplish music-wise. I’m hoping we’ll see a HUGE reunion tour in about 5 years. I can definitely see them rising to new heights and selling out stadiums in the future. After all, we need a band to be “thee band,” since there’s a major void in rock music nowadays. Rock in general has languished in the past several years so this split comes at a bad time. The world needs another revolutionary rock album and unfortunately MCR was on the short list of bands who could’ve created the next one.
As far as band t-shirts go, My Chem has always had some of the coolest looking tees. Their shirts are usually wearable in any context (i.e fashionable), meaning that some people may not realize it’s even a band shirt because they just look cool. Keep in mind, there are zillions of MCR shirts floating around, but today I bring you some pics of my favorites and a few that I own as well. Many of the designs of their badass t-shirts incorporate their logos, symbols, and characters from their songs. Here is a link to their official online store which is still open for business: http://store.mychemicalromance.com/?q=shop/featured

Not Fade Away…Not Playing In A Theater Near You

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David Chase’s new film about a suburban New Jersey rock band in the 1960’s is currently in a limited release. It would seem that the chances of such a film rooted in the Garden State would be easy to catch at a local theater in Jersey, right? Nah. Why make it that easy for us? The film is already available for pre-order on Amazon so it looks like I’ll be waiting it out for a bit.

Something tells me HBO will eventually get a hold of this one and never let go. I’ll have it memorized by the end of the summer. But seriously, David Chase AND James Gandolfini together again? It’s a no brainer! Of course, a story of an aspiring rock band is far from The Sopranos. Despite a pretty shitty review on IMDB from reviewer, Clayton Davis, who claims it “doesn’t hold a candle to Cameron Crowe’s homage to music…” referring to Almost Famous, I’m still highly interested in seeing this.

*Although the film is set in New Jersey, much of it was filmed in Pearl River, NY.

“Jersey Devil” by Loner’s Society

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Loners Society is a band out of South Carolina who believes in the resurgence of 45 records. I like their thinking! I used to love listening to my collection of 45s when I was a kid. So what if I’m ancient, I found these guys through the magic of the Internet, so that makes up for it!

You won’t find a lot of “southern fried indie rock and roll” like Loners Society on my iTunes playlists, but one song from this band may be making its way into my collection. It’s the B-side of a “45” single called “Pinstripes” inspired by the New York Yankees. Flip it over and you’ll hear “Jersey Devil,” a mellow indie rock track with lyrics that reference “the Pines” as well as figurative comparisons to the outcast aspect of the Jersey Devil creature. The song picks up tempo at about a minute into the song and it becomes pretty breezy for a track about a monster that lives in the woods. I can switch to it for a breather in between Alice Cooper and The Misfits on my Halloween playlist! The 45 style single is $1.98 at their site.

The Loners Society Facebook page lists some of their influences such as Neil Young, The Lemonheads, The Eels, Tom Petty, and Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, The Wallflowers, and Ryan Adams. Presently the band is signed to King City Records and are touring around the Carolinas. You can check them out at their official site http://www.lonerssociety.com or on their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/lonerssociety.

New Jersey’s Great Pop Culture Moments Vol.67: I Wanna Hold Your Hand

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I Wanna Hold Your Hand: Protests, Police, Prostitutes, and PAUL!!!

Some DVDs linger on my “must watch list,” but for one reason or another keep getting passed up in favor of repeat viewings of Mr. Mom and Nightmare on Elm Street. Those things happen. I’m rendered powerless when I turn on the TV and see Psycho on, but when there’s a hundred movies that I’ve been meaning to watch for years and I still haven’t followed through, then that’s a problem. Recently, I finally watched one that has literally been on my list for more than 5 years.

Talk about underrated! I hereby add 1978’s I Wanna Hold Your Hand to the most underrated comedies ever. While growing up I never even knew about this film. It didn’t really play on TV all that much and it didn’t make a ton of money at the box office either. Considering all the movies that have gone unnoticed in theaters and eventually became legendary on VHS and DVD, by rights this should be one of them, but it’s not. As we take a closer look you can be baffled along with me as to why I Wanna Hold Your Hand doesn’t always show up on those lists of classic rock and roll comedies.

There’s several reasons why you’ll want to check this movie out. What’s most noteworthy is that the film was written and directed by Robert Zemeckis and get this – it was produced by Steven Spielberg! If they aren’t the movie Mega Powers, I don’t know who is! Secondly, my notion of the film before I watched it was that it was probably some sort of Beatles biopic like a more straight laced version of Spinal Tap. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. The Beatles merely serve as the catalyst for the teenage characters to get to the Beatles legendary performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Remember when Clark Griswold said “Getting there is half the fun, you know that!” Well that is definitely the case and the Beatles take a back seat to all the craziness that happens along the way.

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I Wanna Hold Your Hand has more in common with a teen period piece like American Graffiti than a straight up rock and roll film. It’s a time capsule of Beatlemania. Naturally it will have more of an effect on you if you lived through the ’60s, but that didn’t phase me one bit. The cast is fantastic and it includes Nancy Allen who makes out hardcore with Paul McCartney’s bass, the late Wendie Jo Sperber in her film debut (you may remember her from Bosom Buddies and as Mary McFly’s sister in Back to the Future) in her funniest role, Marc Mclure (Marty McFly’s brother), and Eddie Deezen who played the geek Eugene in the Grease films.

In 1999, the KISS version of this film was released as Detroit Rock City. That’s not an exaggeration. DRC is one of my favorites, but I couldn’t believe how much that film borrowed from I Wanna Hold Your Hand. Oh, and last but not least…the film opens in Maplewood, New Jersey! 

Vacationing With THE BRIGANTINES!

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Are you planning on soaking up the rest of the summer at the Jersey Shore? Maybe you say “F*ck the Jersey Shore” because you live in Malibu, CA? Well, whatever the case may be – you only have a short time left to wring out the last drips of awesomeness the summer has in store for you. I suggest you do it with The Brigantine’s full length debut, Vacation!, loaded on your iPod.

New bands that do the whole surf-rock thing usually get lost in obscurity. And to say that I’m an authority on surf-rock is a bit of a stretch, but I am probably more of a fan of the genre than most people you know. The Beach Boys may have brought surf rock to the forefront, but their music was bubbly pop compared to some of the other more pure surf rock bands that hit since the style’s inception. Truthfully though, there are a lot of bands that consider themselves “surf rock” but play a confusing mixture of garage rock and second rate rockabilly. But that’s not surf. You want examples? Start up a search on ReverbNation and you’ll hear what I mean. It’s rare to hear a modern day band capture the surf sound so dead-on. Simply put, The Brigantine’s do it most excellently.

There’s an ethereal quality in the best surf rock tunes and that texture is all over The Brigantine’s debut Vacation! A couple of weeks ago, the album hit local record stores as well as digital stores like Bandcamp, Amazon MP3, and iTunes (and streaming on Spotify). I gave Vacation! a few thorough listens during my version of surfing – navigating New Jersey’s Route 287 on my daily commute, and I got really into it. Not every single track blew me away, but there’s much more good than bad here. Let me tell you what I thought about some of the songs.

First, I found it very cool that they kick off the album with the title track “Vacation,” but they also include the instrumental version of the track at the end of the album. It’s a nice book end and it also emphasizes the scene that the title track sets. It makes me feel like I’m back on the beach in Brigantine gazing at that pink sky.

The bouncy and humorous “Ray-Bans” may be the one track that I associate with most. It’s about losing your sunglasses (possibly while surfing) which is something I do a lot (not while surfing). It’s a huge disaster for me so I know how it is. I love the line “…Maybe I should put up a sign,” have you seen my Ray-Bans? HAHA. Love it. Word is that the band has filmed a video for this song which is premiering soon!

For the surf rock aficionado’s out there, look no further than “Brigantine Barrel” and “Reeferone” – songs you can confidently fit into a playlist beside any classic surf track like “Miserlou,” “Penetration,” and “Pipeline.” If you’re not into the surf genre than these guys aren’t going to be for you, but maybe you’ll dig their cover of “Then She Kissed Me,” the re-worded version made popular by The Beach Boys and later by KISS. “Next Summer” is quite possibly the strongest track overall. The head bopping beat and yearning harmony is reminiscent of Jersey icons, The Smithereens.

I’m happy that New Jersey has a new surf rock band on the scene who has delicately produced an album that will go down in the Garden State’s rich musical history. Like I said, I feel that I’m qualified to recommend these guys to you for a few reasons. I once drank 4 Stunned Mullets in 10 minutes down on the beach in Asbury and came away with merely a slight headache. I once interviewed Dick Dale and he talked to me for over an hour and a half about everything you can possibly imagine. And last but not least, I don’t surf, but if I ever do, I’ll be bringing my Shark Repellent Bat-Spray because I’ve seen “Surf’s Up, Joker’s Under” about 346 times and those sharks ain’t nothin’ to f*ck with.

The songs on Vacation! remind me of those laid back summer days you get all nostalgic about. That said, if you’re in the mood for some tasty waves and good tunes, check out The Brigantine’s. If you can’t get to the beach, turn on the album, put on your headphones, and use your imagination.

*I’m hoping this is true: Their bio states that they are working on a Halloween single which is making me flip out. I want it NOW! I love when bands release Halloween tracks. I nearly passed out when Alice Cooper released “Keepin’ Halloween Alive,” so these guys will be on my annual Halloween playlist!

The Brigantines are: Aaron Leonovich, Vincent Minervino, Scott Saint Hilaire, Don Tojeira and they’ll be playing at the bonfire in Asbury Park this Friday night 8/24!  RSVP HERE: http://www.facebook.com/events/322097011214545/
Official site: http://thebrigantines.com
Twitter: @the_brigantines

Titus Andronicus: “No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future”

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Named after a Shakespeare play and hailing from Glen Rock, NJ, here’s indie/punk rockers Titus Andronicus‘ very pro-NJ video for their 2010 track “No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future.” Their sound may not appeal to everyone, but they already have a pretty decent sized fan base. The video is cool and shows a lot of local places around the Garden State. You can check out their official site here: http://www.titusandronicus.net/

Trixter Is Triumphant!

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Trixter’s latest single “Tattoos and Misery” off their album New Audio Machine

On my commute home from work today, “Heart of Steel” came up on my iPod. As I drove with the windows down and the cool air blowing into the car, the song reminded me of how great Trixter was. They still are as a matter of fact! You may not realize it, but they are still rocking! The Trixter guys were the young dudes on the block as the hair bands began to go extinct, so they still have a lot of gas in the tank and they are about to start putting the pedal to the metal once again.

Remember when Rocky climbed to the top of the mountain in Rocky IV? When you reach the top, it’s hard to get any higher. Where could he go from there? Launch himself into space? That’s unlikely, regardless of how awesome he is. Trixter did the same exact thing in the music world. They sold tons of records, had a huge hit video on MTV, and toured the world with legendary acts. The best part is, they lived to tell about it and even cut a brand new record New Audio Machine that was released in late April. A whole new generation of fans is now getting a chance to see Trixter live as they tour around the globe to promote this new set of tunes!

If you are into flawless melodic rock with an edge and enjoy recalling simpler days of carefree rock and roll, Trixter’s songs definitely have a place on your iPod. If you are unfamiliar with their early work, it’s still as fresh sounding as it was throughout the ’80s and early ’90s. Trixter was all over the hard rock and hair metal scene back then. They were on the covers of metal and rock magazines and everyone around Jersey was psyched to have known them or have a run-in with them at the local mall. It was another feather in the cap for Jersey people because in addition to huge acts like Bruce, and Bon Jovi, we were also lucky enough to say Trixter was from right around the corner too.

While “Give It To Me Good” might sound like a line a porn actress might have demanded Ron Jeremy to do to her in the ’80s, it’s actually the song that really put the rocking sons of Paramus NJ on the map. A couple of classics from the era followed with “One in a Million” and “Surrender.” Trixter was also voted #29 on VH1’s Top 40 Hair Band Countdown. Pete, Steve, P.J, and Mark put on such an awesome show and you can read my review of their 2008 show at Dexter’s HERE. Seriously, don’t waste your money on Tom Cruise singing cover songs of the era on the Rock of Ages soundtrack, get the real deal stuff from the guys who actually lived it – Jersey’s own Trixter! New Audio Machine is available on iTunes.

See Trixter LIVE!
September 29th, 2012
Mexicali Blues in Teaneck, NJ.
CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS!

The Dirty Pearls Record Release Party, May 5th 2012

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebptLYZRiwo?rel=0]

Enchiladas can be eaten all freaking year, so I opted for some Rock and Roll instead. 2012’s Cinco De Mayo, a night usually reserved for chips and salsa and doing tequila shots off muffin tops, will go down as a major milestone for New York City’s prodigious party bringers The Dirty Pearls.

In his writings, Nostradamus once prophesied that there would one day be a mass of people who will experience full-length phonic exhilaration at the hands of five defiled gems. Ages later, actually, as of last night, the prophecy has come true. The five defiled gems Nostradamus spoke of were The Dirty Pearls and the full-length record finally came. Okay so Nostradamus didn’t predict any of that, but lead singer Tommy London has been promising a full length record for quite a long time and now it’s finally available! On Saturday night, the band celebrated the culmination of all their studio work with a huge concert at The Gramercy Theatre. London described the album to the packed house as “…our f*cking Chinese Democracy…but it actually sounds good.” It was a big night for The Dirty Pearls and I didn’t want to be anywhere else.

Not only did I try to squelch my insatiable lust for Mexican cuisine all night, but I was also missing Eli Manning hosting Saturday Night Live. See, Rock and Roll is all about sacrifice my friends…and DVR’ing shit. Only the hard working bands were playing out that night, all the others were stuffing their face with quesadillas and mainlining Patron. All the way across the country, The Black Keys were playing a concert in Sacramento. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were playing in Newark at The Prudential Center, (a venue I’d love to see The Dirty Pearls play at, but one step at a time here) but the most monumental show in the entire country was happening on East 23rd Street in NYC.

My ability to really go out and rock hard has decreased exponentially since entering my 30’s. For instance, my tolerance for annoying people is very low, hence I drove rather than took the train. Cinco De Mayo indicated to me there might be a lot of drunken idiots on the train. It turned out to be the right move because the night began with one of the quickest and most stress free rides into Manhattan I’ve ever driven. Emptying the bladder was first on my to do list, as I said, at this advanced age rocking can only happen after all these details are taken care of. Next, I set up Miss Sexy Armpit, our friend Lori, and myself up with a beer. As we caught the tail end of Ariana and The Rose’s last song, we found ourselves in an overwhelming predicament. I stood in a crowd of people and Miss Sexy Armpit’s gaze was fixated on the rows of stadium type seating in the back of the theatre. We were now faced with a huge decision. Do we completely lose our credibility and get our rock licenses revoked by sitting in those seats like a bunch of geriatrics? When the opportunity presents itself, we usually choose seats. Unless it’s Gwen Stefani and she might have her crotch in my face.

Even with all the local bands that I talk to on a regular basis, I had not heard of Liquid Blonde, one of the bands on the bill. They seemed to have characteristics like Powerman 5000 and Orgy. Their look is a little bit futuristic/punk while their sound incorporates electro type beats with heavy rock. Maybe there’s a rap-rock revival on the horizon because a couple of their songs had that vibe. I just Googled them as I write this and see that their tag line is “Electro-Sci-Fi Rock Orgy” so I wasn’t far off. Their drummer is jacked bigger than any of the WWE Superstars and I think they had a topless keyboardist, so there’s that.

The “Super-Moon” was supposedly out on Saturday night, but it was Star Killer that stole its thunder. The band, lead by Jasin Cadic, exploded onto the stage bringing their usual madness. They tore it up with all their tracks from their EP and then some including “As The Sky Is Falling” “Out of Range,” “Too Wrong” and “Picture Perfect.” The winning element to Star Killer’s songs is their ability to transport you to another world. You really get the feeling you’re in some sort of apocalyptic planet when listening to their music. Cadic’s enigmatic style and the aura that the band evokes is almost haunting and resonates in your mind long after their performance is over.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any weirder. It’s not often that you see one guy come out with no band and no crazy lights and merely sing along with a backing track. Whether it’s budgetary or just the way he wants to present himself, Breedlove made a statement. You don’t need all the glitz, you just have to sound great and be original. During his impressive vocal set, the long-haired, bespectacled free spirit Breedlove mentioned that it’s not all the time that he can get a gig as grand as opening for The Dirty Pearls at Gramercy. Pull up his song “I Never Had” and you’ll hear what Breedlove is all about.

As evident on the bill that night, there’s quite a scene going on in the lower parts of Manhattan. A pretty large chunk of credit for that needs to go to The Dirty Pearls who have no problem welcoming fellow bands and singers into their world. During the show, the ‘Pearls frontman Tommy London mentioned that they are all about mutual respect and helping other bands in the scene. Recently, London started up his own label, Rivington Records, which will be spotlighting bands from the New York scene and beyond. 

As far as performances go, I never expect anything less than the best from The Dirty Pearls. They pour with intensity, it’s as if they actually run on “Caffeine and Gasoline” (track 3 on Whether You Like It Or Not, in case you were curious). Marty E., Dougie, Tommy, Sunny and Tommy London ripped through all their staple tracks including “New York City Is a Drug,” “Sucker For a Sequel,” “Static,” “Luvsikluv,” “Whether You Like It Or Not,” and of course “Who’s Coming Back To Who.” After many promises from London about the album having no ballads, they relented and threw in “You Got Me Where You Want Me” at the last minute. As a dude who switches off his brain when bands perform ballads, I was enthralled by how cool this track is. I even fired up my Zippo lighter app on the iPhone. At one point soon after Tommy London thanked everyone for being there and mentioned that he read on his Twitter feed that there were people in the crowd who came from as far as Berlin, Germany and even…NEW JERSEY hahaha!!! Those of us from across the river appreciate the shout out!

For the long time fans they threw in a medley of some old school ‘Pearls tracks like “Rockstarlivin’, “Hollywood La La La,” and one of my all-time favorites “Gimme, Gimme.” After their set was over, fans in the crowd resoundingly chanted “ONE MORE SONG! ONE MORE SONG,” and The ‘Pearls did not disappoint. They indeed came back to give us one more, but it wasn’t theirs. They performed a cover that was indicative of what they were feeling at that moment and that was Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion.”

All these paragraphs aren’t enough to express how perfectly The Dirty Pearls capture the raw emotion of rock and roll. If Elvis is The King, Frankie is The Chairman of the Board, Bruce is The Boss, then The Dirty Pearls head up New York City’s Department of Rock and Roll in the 5th Precinct.  

The Dirty Pearls first full-length record Whether You Like It or Not is available HERE

Van Halen’s New Album and A.C Concert

PhotobucketYesterday Van Halen’s A Different Kind of Truth was released to the delight of their legions of fans. As a fan of Roth, I have been waiting patiently for the past couple of years to hear some concrete information on the new album with Diamond Dave. Most of the rumors and false starts were reported and frustrated the crap out of myself and many other fans. It’s been 15 years since VH created new music with David Lee Roth and I was curious to hear their next evolution.

The first single “Tattoo,” had all the right elements. It was perhaps not as hard rocking as I would’ve liked, but still evoked the light hearted old school VH antics. Pre-ordering on iTunes was a no-brainer for me. Finally, on February 7th, 2012 the brand new VH songs downloaded into my account. 
My favorites after one thorough listen of the album this morning are “Stay Frosty,” the sequel to “Ice Cream Man,” which the L.A Times referred to as a “clunker” (they clearly aren’t fans of VH), and “Big River.” I’ve also gathered from reading various reviews that some of the tracks from the album were reworked from early demos of the band in order to grab that classic VH sound. There’s definitely a few tracks that are as succinct or as fleshed out as they could’ve been. Evidence is clear: there’s a song called “As Is.” 
I’m not an audio expert, but I noticed that Roth’s vocals should’ve been more prominent in the mix on a couple of the tracks. Occasionally, his voice seemed drowned out compared to the literally MIGHTY rhythm section. Truth is definitely a heavier album in terms of the instrumental side of the music, but Dave sounds damn good.
Regardless of the minor gripes, I’m just happy to have a new VH album with Diamond Dave. Is it only a matter of time before they explode into ridiculous in-fighting amongst the band? Should I fear that the March 24th, 2012 VH concert at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City will be cancelled because of another Roth/Eddie blowout? I hope not!