Looking for the New New Jersey

Two of New Jersey’s new generation punk/rock bands invaded Nottingham last week with the Gaslight Anthem playing Rock City and Titus Andronicus being hosted at Bodega.

Tuesday’s night gig at Rock City was possibly the loudest, most unrelenting gig I have been to. There is barely enough time for a guitar solo. Apart from a cover of Winston Pickett’s Midnight Hour and some near-nonsensical story about a barbecue, the pace never dropped. Gaslight play blue-collar, Springsteen adoring rock. The checked shirted, nice guys of New Jersey. Stories related to a school of honest rock. Nothing emo or feeling sorry for themselves. Feel bad? Just listen to some Bruce and get back on the horse. Enough to make The Boss proud. The crowd, a mix of all ages, loved it. They rounded out with a long enough encore and crowd surfing. Nothing ground-breaking but admirable stuff.

It’s some way to start a show by screaming out ‘You ain’t never been no virgin, kid, you were fucked from the start.’ Titus Andronicus come from a more cerebral, darker school of New Jersey rock. The Monitor, their second album is the name of a fictional battleship in the US Civil War and the album is an analogy of darker view in New Jersey than pumped out by Gaslight Anthem. A concept album might be a stretch maybe but the album is a do-or-die affair with chanting choruses, violins, military drumming, distorted guitars and even bagpipes. Springsteen gets a mention naturally but the spittingly-intense frontman Patrick Stickles changes a classic Springsteen line to reflect his angry views “no, I never wanted to change the world, but I’m looking for a new New Jersey because tramps like us, baby, we were born to die”. The gig was small but packed, intense and joyous.

The breath-taking anger and wretchedness of The Battle of Hampton Roads finale is phenomenal. Stickles rants about New Jersey, asking whether ‘there’s a human alive who can look himself in the face without winking,’ later telling us how ‘he’ll drink to excess’ and ‘smoke till it outs holes in his chest,’ apologising to his father saying ‘no, Dad I’m not making this up.’ before the final lament, asking her ‘please don’t ever leave.’ Such breadth, so young. This band is destined for greatness.

I would like to quickly mention seeing Rue Royale at the Jam Cafe last Friday. A married two-piece from the US and the Midlands, their harmonies reminded me of Beach House or The Decemberists and definitely worth checking out if you can. http://www.myspace.com/rueroyale


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