We’ve been coasting and riding that Bronx Slang wave all through the Bronx River as it maneuvered through West Farms, all the way up to Fordham. Ok, literally, it’s just been since last years Bronx Kill Mixtape. It’s worked out though as the duo – Jerry Beeks and Ollie Miggs – are surely setting things up for a new release this year or possibly next. In the meantime, “Just Say No” (Fabyl) is their new single and without a doubt, they bring that heat from beginning to end. The emcees trade bars on what they say is the “ultimate response to what the world is trying to peddle.” As usual, their flows are inviting over a blaxploitation-like beat manipulation. Beeks & Miggs spit with lyrical dexterity and voice inner-city struggles with directness much like the street poets that they are.
We don’t always do well with surprises, do we? The occasional party has everyone jumping from behind closet doors and furniture feigning joy and merriment, which makes us produce forced smiles in return. Has this happened to many or just me?
Now what does come as a pleasant surprise is a third, lost release by NY’s lower east side act the Knoxville Girls, who have a couple of albums under their collective belts before disbanding sometime after the group’s 2001 Paper Suit. The underground supergroup featured an all-star cast including vocalist/guitarist Jerry Teel (Honeymoon Killers), vocalist/guitarist Kid Congo Powers (Gun Club, Nick Cave), drummer Bob Bert (Sonic Youth, Pussy Galore), guitarist Jack martin (Five Dollar Priest), and organ/piano player Barry London. While the band may have drawn comparison to some late 60s, early 70s experimental groups, as well as folk artists, the sound the Knoxville Girls produced, was an infectious gritty, dirty skronk all its own. Now the band’s first couple of releases were forceful, direct, and booming; they sometimes left fans clamoring for more.
Don’t get that pretty outfit twisted though, In A Ripped Dress (Bang! Records) wasn’t actually lost but Jerry Teel decided to pull these recordings out of the vault and mix them just last year. It’s not actually a proper album but much of this are different recorded versions of songs they’ve previously released. Songs were recorded back in his Funhouse studio where a number of standout groups have also recorded – Boss Hog, Chrome Cranks, Demolition Doll Rods, Cheater Slicks, the list goes on – but in any case, the songs lazy & dreamy deliveries are still fully realized. The appeal of “Virginia Ave” for instance rings of a group having fun, experimenting with notes which you probably would have never heard before. In case you were wondering though, this one isn’t found on either one of the band’s previous releases. But even “Warm and Tender Love,” the first song off the band’s debut strikes differently here. This demo version strikes more like what you may have heard the band playing live, headlining at CBGB’s. If you missed it back then, you missed out.
After frequent listens here, In A Ripped Dress is what you would probably get live. It’s fun, it’s dirty dripping with sweat, and literally gives us all an insight on the evolution of the songwriting & recording of Knoxville Girls music. Yeah, this is that shit.
I like many, have never a fan of a sound so directly attached to a particular decade that deservingly belongs to that particular era. There is such a thing as embellishing on influences, adjusting it to your own identity to warrant creative individuality.
Hot damn though if Palm Ghosts doesn’t hark back to an era of dark clothing, thick eyeliner, and polished black fingernails. There are a number of things the 4-piece evokes, but mainly 80s-tinged goth expressions found throughout Lifeboat Candidate, the band’s latest full-length effort. While wearing your influences on sleeves isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Palm Ghosts literally has it stitched through every piece of clothing the members wear. The lazy scribe in me wants to direct all the attention here to comparisons; Gang Of Four playing the music of Bauhaus, Echo & The Bunnymen being ravaged by Siouxie and The Banshees? Possibly the latter, as I’m reminded of Budgie’s percussive prowess.
With a number of releases in the band’s catalog, Lifeboat Candidate overs diversity in its sound. The band is capable or directing intense power and energy, much like on songs like “Easy Math,” which for some reason easily pulls listeners in with unassuming harmonies and a drum pattern that shouldn’t be ignored. The eerie keyboards are alluring while guitars cut through whenever notes are strummed. There’s a storm brewing and I’m all in without an umbrella. Even when the band isn’t in-your-face, the effortless “The Kids” holds its passion from beginning to end. As Joseph Lekkas sings throughout the track, he’s an attention grabber, weaving his words and story with ease.
While the band embraces its 80s fascination, it becomes ever so apparent on “Revelation Engines” but you won’t mind at all. The song rings out like a soundtrack hit off your favorite 80s film. The drums consistency as guitars circle around that chorus: glorious! Palm Ghosts hits its stride by this point but there’s so much more to unravel. “The Perfect Tool” moves a bit differently rhythmically, allowing the band to take a bit of a different route but still keeping with its unifying aesthetic. The melody is much more inviting as guitars swim around the rhythm. It allows the song to take on a life of its own.
Whatever your misconceptions of a genre that’s all but forgotten might be, just understand that 40 years later it could still be as inviting as it was then. Lifeboat Candidate breathes new life within its songs, and that’s not an easy feat.