Ben Franklin - The Man, The Band And The Land Of “Urgency”
With a nightly closing theme song that discusses the exploits of their namesake, Ben Franklin the band is an interesting group of historians. According to their homegrown lore, Ben Franklin (the man) was not only an avid musician that invented the glass harmonica, but he was an avid attendee of orgies and hot swinger parties. Ben Franklin is also legendary for eating some 36 eggs in an egg-eating contest that he allegedly won in a flourish of “egg-salted” dominance. Other triumphs included, inventing drummers with vaginas; wooden water wings and being ones own wingman. So right away I wanted to hear more of this band’s intellectual verse.
Sometimes a band comes up with the right combination of smart business drive and the intuition of not taking oneself too seriously, and those are the ones that usually move ahead and attract real interest. Ben Franklin (the band) has those ingredients down pat. With several recorded experiments bulging under their belts, including their latest 7-inch vinyl product, Urgency, it looks like they have more than just an incredible set of faux historic tales to tell. This band seems to have the right ingredients of talent and evil mischief up their beer-soaked sleeves, and that combination puts a cynical smirk on my face.
Urgency is the bands first release on a bona fide label. They’ll be the first to tell you that it’s their first real record on a label that they didn't just make up. Killing Horse Records is their savior and comes from the same grassroots mindset. Started in an apartment in Kearny, NJ and manned by Ryan Gross and Mike Sylvia, Killing Horse formed in order to provide a central HQ for local bands to come together strong and help each other grow bigger and more vital, and so far they’ve done quite well.
Okay, so some of the members of Ben Franklin come from Brooklyn, that Woodstock of the Northeast, and while I’ve always felt that Brooklyn is an overzealous hipster farm that grows copycat clones of just about any form of music that condones the daily wearing of scarves, Kevin Federline fedoras and girl jeans, I do have to admit that there’s also something else going on there. Maybe it’s in the dirty martinis, or maybe it’s in the culture overdose of bon bois, but whatever it is, it works as a very specific life extension of, and for, Ben Franklin (the band).
Their sound raises from the traditional non-conformist, spit-in-your-face fuck you of The Replacements, Future Of the Left, Guided By Voices and The Pixies. Ben Franklin (the band) can roll from kitschy little ditties to tidal blitzkriegs of chunky punk rock. Songs from their last full-length disc, The Optimist, demonstrate a well-versed group figuring it out with great composition skill and use of gritty soulful sound. Songs like “Catalyst” and “Tell Us How You Really Feel” bashes and smashes with the hottest rhythm section in town featuring bottom nailing bassist Eddie Garza and drummer Sarah Tomek, who, in my professional opinion, can never be equaled as far as her dynamic style and true love of the music she gets behind.
The Clash-vibed thunder of “The Face Of Proposition 8” and The Godfathers-meets-Foo Fighters vibe of “Drink To Forget” are yet another couple standout tunes that impressed me from that disc.
Their latest CD, Urgency, has been closely guarded before release, but from what I quickly heard, it’s a continuation of sound exploration and colorful swipes at our existence. The title track is a rhythmic and echoing jangle of voice, drums, bass and atmospheric guitar howitzers that pepper the imagination at every turn. Think The Cure and Fugazi and even a little Weezer (before The Green Album) and you’d be in the ballpark. Stops and progressive turns combine with melodic vocal overlays courtesy of Billy Gray. The addition of guitarist/producer Adam Copeland only further adds to the wall of sound that this usually three-piece group gets up to. Other cuts will be unveiled live very soon.
How soon? Well, Ben Franklin (the band) is having their celebratory CD release at the Cake Shop on Feb. 25 along with Jersey cohorts The Gay Blades as well as The Press and I Am Heat. Come see a band that, like its namesake Ben Franklin (the man), is inventing new trends for these United States and beyond. Just keep them out of your living room and away from your harmonica, they’ll break that shit up.
Cake Shop is on 152 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002 between. Stanton & Rivington. For directions for those in the land of the lost call the club at: 212-253-0036 Show starts at 8 p.m. and its $7 to get in. For more info on the band go to: wearebenfranklin.com.
Lance Larson’s Birthday Jam At The Wonderbar Featuring asAp (band)-Feb. 26
I remember Lance Larson back when he was sill holding his Lord Gunner fame high. Asbury Park was a totally different world back then, and so were the people and the bands. It’s wondrous and sad what has disappeared and been replaced by cold corporate stone since those magical days, but Lance Larson has survived where many others have not. He remains one of the top guys that I consider to be a real musical pioneer in this area. Like guitar wild man Sonny Kenn, Larson has brawled with the biggest and the best, going from clubs to big stages and everything in between to perform for people who love his gritty and honest style of hard life music.
Lance remains largely unsung even though he (like Sonny Kenn) helped crack this area wide open for other huge names all along the shore. From the early days of his first serious band the Spartans, who, I might add, rivaled another well-known musician’s band (The Castiles) to playing in a string of traditional rock, country and R&B outfits, Larson has always kept his eye on creating vital music and off the crazy pathway of follow the leader shore clones.
So I’m glad he’s celebrating yet another birthday here in the park and at what I still consider to be his place. Lance and Debbie are two individuals that were here kick starting the club and original music scene in a time when nobody else gave a fuck about that town or the struggling local artists that kept the streets breathing when nothing else would. And they continue to quietly uphold that passionate purpose to this very day.
That being said, Lances birthday guest band will be the asAp band. Featuring Shoreworld friend and axe slinger Joe DeMaio (Faith Healer) asAp isn’t some typical cover band slinging horn hash shore swill. Nope, they take the back roads to different sounds and styles of music familiar to all of America. With years of playing experience from guys that played in bands such as Krypto Jet, MAX and Morning Star, it's looking like this is gonna be a party to remember. Guys, you better play “Frankenstein” and “Pinball Wizard” live…
The asAp band is Danny Colangelo on drums, Joseph DeMaio on lead guitar and vocals, Joey Chiarolanza on bass guitar and vocals, Mike O'Keeffe on percussion and vocals, Mark Rudolph on vocals and guitar and Gregory Zyskowski on keyboard. The band's extensive repertoire spans from the 1950s to the present. 8$ is all it takes to get in.
Wish Lance a Happy Birthday and tell him he HAS to get up and play… go get ‘em over at wonderbarasburypark.com and check out the band over at theasapband.com.