Tuesday, September 28, 2010

SORROWS CD 2010 0n BOMP Records

Sorrows “Bad Times Good Times” Liner Notes

So there I was, having my coffee and New York Post in my big fancy manager’s office, when the guy I

just hired that morning appears at the door asking to use a long distance line so he could nail down his

band’s gig in Boston that weekend. This might sound weird in any other case, but market research

companies, like the one I worked in, were known to be a haven to artists, musicians, actors and other

dreamers because the hours were flexible, leaving time for them to pursue their “real career” aspirations. So

I was used to my "wanna-bes" asking all sorts of favors. I must have already had 23 other guys with bands

pass through my department that month alone, but at least 22 of them would have considered a ferry ride to

Staten Island an out of town gig. “Boston?!?!… Damn, that’s like… really out of town!... I was suitably

impressed. Arthur and I talked for a while about music we liked and the clubs his group played. We had hit

it off and he invited me to see his band at CBGB down on Bowery where they were playing in a couple of

weeks. I asked the band's name and he said – SORROWS (“without the "THE" in front!”, he quickly

pointed out… and has been pointing that out ever since). Sounded pretty gloomy to me.

Now, for me, it's all about the song, so I knew what I was hoping to hear - a song that just burst out, shook

me and made me want to hear it again almost immediately. I've spent much of my life listening to music

that somehow reminds me of that period in my life when rock music was so exciting and .... necessary. As

necessary as breathing, eating and sleeping. When I hear a song that approaches that vibe my focus

narrows, my ears shut out all other sound, the hair on my neck stands up and a tiny lump of happiness

quickly forms in my throat. But that's me... other people have different symptoms.

I didn't have very high expectations, as my reaction to most of the previous invites I’ve received from my

hopeful employees to check out their act, ranged from disappointment to wishing I had removable ears to

save myself. I also had a deep suspicion of bands not using the pronoun "THE" in front of their names. So I

went to see the band, hoping desperately that it wouldn't be as pretentious and gloomy as their name

sounded. The club was dark and reeked of beer, cigarette smoke and sweat. A trip to the bathroom

instantly convinced me that I was man enough to hold it in!…

SORROWS were already on stage. What struck me immediately was that they didn't look like the average

downtown band. No wrinkly unwashed T-shirts and strategically torn tight jeans, and they didn't look like

they had been buried alive under a rubble for the last 72 hours. No, these guys were dressed up and lookin’

sharp! They were joking with the crowd and seemed playful and enthusiastic. A big difference from the

studied cool and pre-fab aloofness of so many other bands I’ve seen. I had a hunch that this was not a band

that ran with the pack, but had a whole different idea about where they were going. And as I was about to

hear, where they were going is where rock n' roll lives and has always lived... what good rock n' roll is

always all about - THE SONG.... the hit single. I remembered Arthur's description of their sound as

"ABBA meets the Sex Pistols". I couldn't wrap my brain around that concept, when he first mentioned it,

but as I sat down for the show, right away I had a feeling that these guys just might be able to mix those

seemingly ridiculous extremes.

I hear the sound guy introduce the band and before he’s finished, over the screams from the audience Joey

lunges into the opening chords of Bad Times Good Times, followed by thunderous power chords, Jett even

finding time to twirl his sticks and chew gum in between, all at the same time… a frenzy of guitars

explodes, Arthur’s blistering Chuck-Berry-at his-best riffs propelled by the relentlessly charging rhythm

section of Jett’s drums and Ricky's bass… inside of a minute, it’s hard to tell if the sweat is flying from or

towards the stage. Over the song’s ending chord Arthur screams out “ooooone, tooo, threee, foooour!!!!”

and the band plows right into Can’t You Tell a Lie like a bunch of mad men… Then, no sooner does that

song end, when I’m instantly transported into the times of Gene Krupa’s swinging drums, which turn into a

rockabilly train groove as Ricky viciously assaults the Stones’ obscure gem - Off The Hook. I notice the

beer bottles the guys have by their mic stands… oh well, I guess not this time either, as the drums start up

again with a loud kick-ass thump and within seconds the band roars into "I Want You So Bad”. The bass

and drums drill so hard into my chest wall I might need a manhole cover, my body literally pinned against

the wall, I’m just breathless…

… and so it went… holy be-bop-a-lula!!!… a total sonic assault that, while ferocious rhythmically, had

hooks strong enough to hang an overcoat on and melodies that stuck like peanut butter on the roof of your

mouth. Song after song, well crafted harmonies, propulsive drums and bass, chiming and interweaving

guitars... These guys were condensing the whole of rock and roll, balling it up and hurling it at the audience

like a constant barrage of spitballs. Their range immense, as Arthur, Joey and Ricky traded off on lead

vocals, each with their own distinct sound, yet able to meld together seamlessly in harmony. Jett played to

his name, pounding the drums with the subtlety of a 747 during takeoff. Ricky's bass was thick and had

bounce with an almost-Motown groove to it. Arthur and Joey’s tight, spiraling solos danced around each

other’s lines to form what sounded like a wall of ringing riffs. I was certainly hearing the uniting of sweet

pop music with the ferocity of balls-out rock and roll and the hair on my arms stood up as they seem to

always do when I am swept away in sound. That whole “ABBA meets The Sex Pistols” thing suddenly

made sense!

By now my beer was put aside too and I had totally forgotten I knew someone in the band. I was hearing hit

song after hit song and my mind was reeling back to the days when great 3 minute songs ruled the world.

The wild abandon with which they were playing and the exuberance they had pulled from the crowd was

electric. One could almost feel their legs and feet disengage from their torso and pump to the rhythm. This

is the height that great rock n' roll hoists one up to, and I was now certainly witnessing a great new rock n'

roll band. I came looking for a song, a possible hit, and left thinking I had heard an entire night's worth of

hit songs played rapid fire, one after another, with the speed and purpose of a Tommy gun.

SORROWS closes their set with a kick-your-teeth-in Street Punk Blues, followed by an apt and

outrageously raucous cover of A Hard Day's Night for an encore (now, there’s a surprise!); the crowd is

bouncing and hollering like an insane asylum gone mad; the smile on my face large enough to blot out all

other facial features, my beer knocked over and splattered on the floor. I am hooked. I had found a local

rock band I could love. This is not going to be like all those other times when come Monday morning I had

to lie and tell someone I worked with: “you guys were awesome!”… I knew this was no longer just a band

that a friend played in; this was a band that stood on its own merits. Actually, they didn't stand. They

swaggered, they strode boldly, they commanded the stage...

As I am writing these words on a hot and sweaty New York summer day, SORROWS new album is blaring

out of my stereo. Know this up front: there's no “theme” or “concept” to this album, no overbearing stabs

at artiness, no important cryptic messages, no virtuoso jamming. What we have here is an arsenal of 3

minute perfectly crafted and played songs. Each and every one made for the radio, awash in melody and

hooks and driven by a powerful backbeat. There's a timelessness to a great song. Great songs sound great

forever. One listen to “BAD TIMES GOOD TIMES” will have you wondering if it's 1965, 1979 or 2010.

There is no doubt that SORROWS honors the past without slavishly churning out copies of styles gone by.

They make songs stand on their own... each one with something memorable to take away, each one tipping

its hat with a knowing wink to the music we grew up loving. Every song sounds so new, so recently made,

you can almost smell it - testimony to the passion that these guys bring to their music, the emotion that rock

and roll stirs and the joy of great power pop. Not that you'd care anyway as you sing and play your air

guitar along with one of the seminal power pop bands still around today.

Here come SORROWS… and remember, no @#%^*#$ THE!…

Barry Dreyfus, (Barry Badman, 11L Radio NewYork International)

New York City, June 2010