Lisa Bianco – Rock And Roll Momentum Till The Light Of Day
When I first saw Lisa Bianco live, she was a raw and intense performer on her way to something really good. She wasn’t quite there yet, but her songs were edgy, she had a rock and roll attitude that could rival Suzi Quatro, and she could play guitar as good as, or better than one of the boys. Since those formative years, Bianco has matured at a steady rate, bringing a seasoned, blue collar feel to her punk edged sound.
Like many artists, Lisa got her start through the influential push of a musician parent. Her father played accordion and Lisa and her brother, Frank, took up piano before she moved on to flute, an instrument which she excelled at, playing school concerts and recitals well through her high school years. As her brother took up guitar, Lisa got the electric bug as well. A friend gave her some lessons and taught her the rudimentary rock language that would push her further into the burgeoning world of pentatonic paradise.
As she wove her way through life, she balanced her music with the realistic duties of college, forming bands and finding players through Craigslist and the Village Voice. In those beginning years, Lisa has said that she kept her gender hidden during the first phases of recruitment so as not to put emphasis on the stereotype of being a woman in rock and roll. And while she may have harvested a few early lemons, her current band is the cream of the crop, and the days of looking for compatible musicians are far behind her.
Lisa Bianco is a musician that I could talk to all day. An avid guitar enthusiast, we’ve swapped stories and pictures concerning Guitar Acquisition Syndrome (GAS). A Telecaster player by heart, Bianco also sports several other electric and acoustic instruments in her arsenal of stage weaponry.
Her last CD, Momentum, has taken Bianco on a journey to many interesting places. From stages shared with Antigone Rising, Nicole Atkins and Rick Springfield (I love that guy), Bianco has also broken into the Jersey Shore scene with her various club performances and more importantly, her inclusion with Jesse Malin, Willie Nile and the Boss at the Light Of Day event in Asbury Park.
You can catch this Shoreworld member on Oct. 14 at The Saint on Main Street in Asbury Park. Bianco will be performing many of the songs from Momentum with her band, The Fury.
The Saint is at 601 Main Street in Downtown Asbury Park. For further information on Momentum, as well as Lisa’s other recordings and shows, head over to lisabianco.com and for further show information, head to The Saint at thesaintnj.com.
Spanking Charlene – LIVE! At The Brighton Bar On September 28
Spanking Charlene are an East Coast band that is fronted by Charlene McPherson. McPherson and crew turn out no frills rock and roll in the tooth-rattling vein of AC/DC, The Godfathers, Paramore and Alanis Morissette. McPherson’s powerhouse voice slashes across bombastic layers of sonic electric guitar like a razorblade in a girl-on-girl jail fight. Her ability to pull dirty growls and soprano highs deep from her soul and breathe them into each song reminds me of the massive talent of Hoboken vocal queen Jamie Rose (The Fave).
The band was at the Brighton to kick off a show for The Vibrators. Blazing to an enthusiastic crowd, the band launched into a quick, action packed half hour of everything off of their 2012 disc, Where Are The Freaks? But before I get into that CD, I want to do a deeper dive into this interesting band.
This is a group that caught the gritty, garage lurking eye of Wicked Cool Records kingpin Steven Van Zandt. Van Zandt loved the band so much that he went on to produce two of the tracks (“Dismissed With A Kiss” and “Canarsie”) and played keyboards on the disc. The band has been featured on Underground Garage as “the coolest band in the world” as well as being featured on Q104’s “Out Of The Box” and achieving solid rotation on Chicago’s WXRT.
Knowing Van Zandt’s passion for stand out bands, I can see why he picked Spanking Charlene to work with. Where Are The Freaks? was mixed by the legendary Bob Clearmountain and produced (12 tracks) by former Steve Earle and Joan Jett guitarist Eric “Roscoe” Ambel. Ambel’s pedigree also includes time served with the Del-Lords, The Yahoos (with Dan Baird from The Georgia Satellites) and overseeing production projects by rock and roll icons such as Nils Lofgren, Freedy Johnston and The Tallboys from good ole’ Kentucky. His sensibility on Where Are The Freaks? is scary intuitive, and the sounds are a production masterpiece of grungy, gasoline and shrapnel guitar detonators crashing into dirty, nitroglycerin loaded warehouses of vocal gold.
If you mixed the analog attitude of The Seeds with the blaring cool of the Gin Blossoms, Blondie and Avril Lavigne, you’d be listening to the culmination that is Spanking Charlene.
Songs that jumped out at me were the full fathomed fire of “You Suck,” a wall of guitar romp that rides high on the dark and sexy vocal vibe of McPherson. Two string bends rip into the meat of the tune, giving directional pause between funky backbeats and growling basslines as Charlene wails her vocal plea of jaded exasperation with the stone walled relationship game.
“Stupid Me” rumbles out of the player, slashing guitar chords down-stroke under pumping bass and drums as McPherson sets up the mega chorus. To me, this is the hit aimed at the real underground crowd. Simple and intimately passionate, the melodic attack is forever memorable. This is a song I sing in my head as I’m doing laundry or watching Family Guy, which, while it may drive me insane, is a really great tribute to a band that’s writing hook-laden songs. The middle eight string bends would make Waddy Wachtel cry into his SpongeBob pillow at their brilliant execution, feel and placement. “Stupid Me” is a traditional look at the regret of making the same mistake twice, but it’s a mistake that we all relate to and embrace over and over again. Oops, I did it again.
CD title-track “Where Are The Freaks?” blows out of the speakers with the ‘70s muscle of Zeppelin and Bad Company as the guitars ominously bar chord a half step up the fret board while bass and drums hold 4/4 steady. I especially love the single harmonic guitar note plucked in the bridge between verses. That one pinged note is something I listen for each time. The middle bridge flies into a sugary, delicious pop direction before making way for Nate Schweber, who blows the skronkiest harmonica break this side of Sugar Blue or Kim Wilson.
“Tie Me Up” chugs with all the attitude of “You Got Another Thing Comin’” by Judas Priest before McPherson steers it into Blondie territory with her smooth and toned vocals. Lyrical content is hot and amorous as Charlene says, “Tie me up, make me beg, pin my hands across the bed. Bite my lip, taste my sweat, tell me if I’m ready yet.” With a lyric like that, I think you would agree that we are all pretty much ready.
“Dismissed With A Kiss” is the band’s Van Zandt produced hit. Mixing the moxy sing-song verses of Courtney Love with the fast forward, ‘80s pop tension of Sheena Easton and the clever, pesticide sweet taste of The Breeders, “Dismissed With A Kiss” is a good gamble at notoriety and radio airplay. I love the bumblebee fuzz that kicks off the riff. Vicious string bends dig deep into fret boards as open chords ring and chime into the next chugged out verse. Once again, McPherson puts herself out there as the woman scorned in this dismissive swipe aimed at the girl who’s ready to give you rock stars all she’s got… and more.
Spanking Charlene are a band I would highly suggest looking into. Raw, passionate and engaging, they continue to gain new fans beyond New York City’s underground, moving into New Jersey and, as Chris Barry would have said, “the world beyond.” For more on this dirty gem, head over to spankingcharlene.com