Long Branch, NJ has always been a mainstay for punk rock. Going back into the ‘80s, The Brighton Bar was the home of New Jersey punk here in the east, and it continues to be so to this day. Thanks in large part to Greg Macolino, owner of The Brighton Bar, punk continues to reign supreme in Long Branch through old kings and new emperors alike. The one thing about Long Branch and its music scene that can be said is that it lends an air of supreme originality when put up against other areas that claim to be the birthplace of punk. And while different regions of the state hold a current ranking spot when you think about punk, Long Branch is at the top of the positioning for punk music and the scene that goes with it.
That brings me to the Shoreworld’s next subject. The Carousers are a punk rock band from Long Branch, NJ. The group currently consists of Joey Affatato (vocals/guitar), Cassidy Crosby (bass/backing vocals), and Andy Jackle (drums). The band emerged in spring 2016 when college friends Joey and Andy recorded their first demo, She’s the Devil, assisted by Mikey Groch (bass) through Monmouth University’s student-run record label Blue Hawk Records. In need of a bassist for their first show, Cassidy filled in and shortly after became a permanent member afterwards.
They’ve played at a multitude of venues in New Jersey since they formed including well-known venues such as House of Independents, Asbury Park Brewery, Millhill Basement, Brighton Bar, Dingbatz, Court Tavern, Roxy & Dukes, The Saint, and more.
Their debut self-titled EP was produced, recorded, and mastered by Sean Glonek (Julianna Hatfield, Frank Black of The Pixies, Matthew Sweet) at SRG Studios in Hamilton, NJ.
When you think about punk bands in the area, one of the standard denominators for authentication is attitude and presentation. The Carousers hit high on both accounts. While their sound might incorporate newer elements such as sincere melody and pop sensibilities, they hang on to the fundamental principles that keep them well inside the moniker of punk rock, and that’s what we’re here to discuss.
The first song up on their eponymous EP is called “She’s the Devil.” The song kicks off with a fiery salvo of guitar, bass, and drums before vocals kick into the mix. Joey Affatato blends raucous guitar cacophony with staccato vocals and lyrics of pure fire. Bass and drums nail this fast-paced tune to the proverbial floor as Affatato takes the band down the path of musical salvation. His voice is raw, toned and filled with angst and passion and it makes for a bonafide punk anthem. Crosby and Jackle make Affatato’s job more comfortable than it could ever be. This is a tight and able band, and the music makes perfect sense.
Next up is “Strangers.” Affatato kicks right into his melodic attack as bandmates run alongside to keep it all going. Compositionally speaking, The Carousers have struck proverbial gold. The verses, bridges, and choruses are 100 percent cream, and the band is at the top of their game on this song. Guitars are heavy, metered and full. Bass and drums are both complicated and simple, using a useful technique to hold the song in place while Affatato soars. The aural soundscape of the composition is pure and passionate as the band kicks things into overdrive and pounds their point home to beat the proverbial band.
“Cracked Pot” takes the player next. Utilizing a combination of punk and old-school rock rhythms, “Cracked Pot” slips and slides through its paces. Slinky and rugged, it covers all the bases and gets you up and out of your seat in seconds. The chord structure is based on the old 1950s progression, but it works like gangbusters with the presentation and attitude. Sometimes what is old can be reborn when approached with a different viewpoint, and that’s what’s going on here. Affatato’s vocals are primed and filled with genuine passion, and that’s a selling point here.
Up next is “Another World.” Affatato gets fueled from the start as the band shores up the back. Train shuffling rhythms crank up the jams as the boys get busy laying musical pathways. Guitars are searing as bass and drums pack up the song and send it down the tracks. Affatato sings with flair and style akin to Richard “Handsome Dick” Manitoba or Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day, and it’s a showstopper. At 1:54 it’s a short but sweet journey into the evolution of love and emotional good times and Affatato and the boys get the job done with a class to spare.
The last song on the disc is called “Halloween Night.” The song swings with compositional intelligence as the boys join in harmonies that would make Boston sit up and take notice. Choruses are terrific and kick where they should. The modulation at around 1:25 is a nice touch as well. This song is high on the list of listenable Jersey rock music put out this year. The song ends with vocal choruses and a musical cadence that takes the listener back to the heady days of punk’s birth. What a great job overall.
The Carousers are just what the doctor ordered and have already caused quite a stir in the local music scene. With songs such as this, I can only think that they have great things to deliver and will continue to rise in popularity and demand.
The Carousers will be performing at Roxy and Dukes in Dunellen, NJ on Dec. 22 and at the world-famous Saint in Asbury Park on Jan. 25 of 2018. See this band live, as I know they will live up to their record in a live setting.
Find out more about the carousers over at facebook.com/thecarousersnj.