Really quick, for any of you reading this right now that have seen Will Wood and the Tapeworms perform live before, holy fuck, right? If you know already, there’s not much else to say besides that. The rest of you are seriously missing out. But that’s okay. I’m here to help.
Will Wood and the Tapeworms have truly mastered the art of the live performance. They have an incredibly theatrical approach to the stage, wearing flamboyant outfits and face paint. Almost all of the band members seem to have adopted on-stage personas that are caricatures of themselves. I’m assuming that these guys can’t be as jacked up and dialed in 24/7 as they are during performances, unless they’re doing all the cocaine. Like, ALL the cocaine.
Sound & Shape, out of Nashville, are making their way up to New Jersey this month in advance of the release of their new EP, Peasants (which will only be released on vinyl. Because this band is cool).
These guys have already released four studio albums together, and it shows in their music. Each track is incredibly tight and polished, maintaining melodic riffs over killer guitar and Grant Bramlett’s high-energy drumming, even on alt-rock jams like “Dandelion.” The result is a sophisticated album showcasing variety and talent from every member of the group.
The songwriting itself is thoughtful and optimistic, combining with the music to give the EP an anthemic feel. As Ryan Caudle sings in the title song, “It’s not that easy to be/The only peasant in a world full of kings and queens/In the shadow of the castle/I’ll find everything I need.” These songs acknowledge how shitty things can get, yet they speak of resiliency, and scrappiness, and hope. It’s exactly what I want to hear these days – and you might, too.
So do yourself a favor and see Sound & Shape on January 28th at The Mill Hill or the 29th at The Scarlet Pub. Or go to both shows, if that’s what you’re into. I promise you will be physically incapable of standing still in the crowd like some fucking anti-dancing hipster. Then go and pre-order Peasants on vinyl when it comes out, so that you too can be one of the cool kids.
For anyone who is unfamiliar with Sussex County, or has only passed through it, it is truly like no other place in New Jersey. You know that meme that’s like “when you think you’re from the south but you live in Pennsylvania” well it’s like that, but worse camouflage, worse pickup trucks, and nothing but mint skoal long cut everywhere. Honestly, MTV should have capitalized on this. Buckwild could have totally taken place in Sussex County and then The Jersey Shore and Buckwild could have had a cross over episode. I’d watch that shit. Anyway, sorry for that tangent, but I just felt there needed to be some context to Sussex.
Fuhgawee Hunting Club (FHC), Sussex’s unlikely surf rock band, released a four-track vinyl last month called Mirrors. The songs are fast, powerful, distinct, and full of energy. My favorite song off Mirrors is 18 Wheeler, a song that touches one of the three golden topics of song writing – driving (lovers and addiction are the other two). Unlike your standard highway songs of going on a peaceful, long drive to forget about all your troubles, frontman Joe Chegwidden sings about the fear of driving on a highway filled with 18-wheelers and thinking one of them is going to run you off the road. He screams the lyrics with such intensity. I can very vividly see him getting boxed in by a bunch of trucks on route 80 and screaming THIS COMMUTE IS KILLING ME as he tries to escape.
I met John Cozz in the first weeks of doing N.J. Racket. He was playing at SOLO(s) Project House in Newark, opening for The Randy Haze Trio. I was taken aback by his set initially. He had kind of a crazy look, which matched his crazy sound. His voice was straining as he screamed songs about transporting heroin and potholes on 21 and going to college and his grandmother swimming in the Passaic River. He sure as fuck took us all on a ride with that set, and I for one didn’t have enough bread crumbs to find my way back home. I caught him after the show and told him about the site. He quickly started digging into his backpack and pulled out a copy of his first album, Fall into Place or Pieces, in a cracked CD case packed with self-made art and a stack of stickers that read “John Cozz is a no brain little prick, Stacy!” (That’s a Fast Times at Ridgemont High reference, if anyone missed it.)
I received an email a few weeks ago from Bob Makin giving N.J. Racket the heads up on a buzzing New Jersey “psycho funk” band, Experiment 34, set to release their new EP, Charismanic 2.0, on January 14 at the Asbury Park Yacht Club (APYC). If you’re reading this, you probably know of Bob Makin, but if you don’t he’s been a local music writer since the late 80’s, writing for several medias such as The Aquarian and his own column in MyCentralJersey, Makin Waves. He is one of the true O.G.’s of the scene and someone I have respected and been a fan of since before having started N.J. Racket.
Serious Matters, from Union Beach, has burst on the scene like a battering ram through a trap house with their debut EP, Can You See The Sky From Here. This five-piece ensemble has been together for less than a year, but they attacked this album and scene with a tenacity of a far more experienced band. These six tracks are nonstop, full-throttle, ass kicking. I’ve been in a neck brace for over a week from banging my head so hard listening to this album. It was worth it.