Sometimes the name of a record sums up the whole of a band’s recent past. Losing members or having to replace people for a myriad of reasons can produce inspirational music and aspirations instead of sending one deep into a chasm of despair — and that seems to be the case for Long Branch’s own Bruce Ferguson. I’ve known Bruce longer than most of you have been alive. Mixing, drinking and collaborating as far back as the mid-1980s, Bruce Ferguson has always been a mainstay on the music scene, both in my time and continuing into the present.
I’ve been covering The Easy Outs since they first started several years ago and have been quite happy with each new release that comes from the combined minds of some of New Jersey’s best rock musicians. In 2008, The Easy Outs were formed by lead singer/songwriter Bruce Ferguson, who released their first self-titled album in 2009. Their debut was followed by Desolate Row in 2015.
They are busting out 2018 with Hot Mess — their third release on Dead Walker Records — although members have changed the intense in your face ‘70s rock feel is the same from influences of the New York Dolls, The Stooges and numerous other forces, which can be heard in each song with their twist. This music is rock ‘n’ roll as it should be!
I’m happy to say that The Easy Outs are back with a brand new full-length record, new band members and a hot new attitude that continues to take them towards their goal of becoming one of New Jersey’s premier rock/punk bands.
Members come and go, and while Steve DeVito and Mikey D and Paul Lambert have been replaced or left the band for personal reasons, Bruce Ferguson still commands the focus and has replaced players with new musicians eager to make their mark on the group. New members include John Mansfield and Fred Dixon on guitar, as well as drummer Mike Wretched on drums, along with mainstays Ferguson and John Divuolo on bass.
The record was produced by another Shoreworld alumni, Kurt Reil, from The Grip Weeds at House of Vibes, and he also contributes instrumentation throughout the CD. Kurt added to vocals, keyboards and guitars throughout the record, as well as being featured on a couple of songs that we will discuss later.
The record is a full 11-song disc that features a co-write with Ferguson and Tommy Frenzy on the very first track, “Dirt City.” When I spoke with Bruce, I had mentioned that it sounded like this might be something of a tribute to Johnny Dirt and the famous Bloomfield Dirt Club, and he agreed that that could indeed be part of it, which I like a lot.
So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty and explore some of the songs that make up the world of The Easy Outs.
Song one is the aforementioned “Dirt City.” Co-written with Tommy Frenzy from Tuff Darts, another well-known band that played many rooms on the scene back in the day. “Dirt City” is a gritty barrage of rock ‘n’ roll stew that brings back memories of early Rolling Stones and The Godfathers all rolled up into one big sound of musical greatness. Verses roll into bridges and memorable choruses, and Ferguson regales us with his tales of musical magic. Combining imagery of the world’s raw beauty with everyday problems and situations, Fergusons powerful, vocals tell it like it is as the band cranks behind him. Kudos to new guitarist, John Mansfield, for his outstanding work on the tune.
The next song up is the disc’s namesake. “Hot Mess” rings with all the attitude of early Kiss as Ferguson and crew blaze into their specific jobs to make this song a winner. The guitarists vamp, as bass and drums throb with steady 4-4 on the floor — rhythmic steadiness. Ferguson laid down the law with lyrical stories of the one who is just a total mess and centered on dysfunction and attention. Guitars are old-school cool and work well within the structure of this rock ’n’ roll gem. Kirsten Reil handles guitar chores and is a perfect addition in the studio for this top band. Her style is somewhere between Joe Walsh and Pat Smear, and it’s the perfect combination for this band’s direction. This song also features Mansfield on guitar.
Next up is “(I’ll Be) Long Gone.” If you’re a fan of the Stones during the Some Girls period, you are going to love this song. Rhythmic guitars rub up against solid bass and drum work as Ferguson sings his tome of leaving. Rolling drums shore up simple bass work as guitars lay down separate rhythms that gel with Ferguson’s vocal talents. Verses work into bridges and choruses with magical ease. And speaking of choruses, this one stays with you long after the track has ended. I especially love the tones that Reil gets for the guitars as they work well together, but retain separate sounds and tone. Reil was the perfect producer for this record as he truly understands the music and gets the band to deliver natural results.
Moving around the disc, I came upon a song called “The Assassin.” Rick Reil takes guitar duties here and along with brother Kurt on backing vocals, and it’s a winner. Ferguson is one of the last real rock purveyors in the genre, and his vocal performance is perfect for the tune. Reil’s lead work is reminiscent of his band The Grip Weeds which works in spades here. I also love the guitar riff that’s like a sidewinder in the desert. Dirty, nasty and full of pomp, it’s a right hook that adds to the song with attitude to spare.
“Ephrata” is up next and is an excellent mix of pop and rock that should make radio very happy. Ferguson’s vocals are powerful and precise, summing up the song and keeping it going like gangbusters. Reil is once again featured here, and he doesn’t disappoint. If you are a fan of The Knack or The Plimsouls, his Peter Case style works for days, and it makes this song hum. Slide guitars meld with solid bass and drums, giving Bruce miles of headroom to do his thing. Jangle mixes with distorted magic and solid rhythm work as Ferguson tells his tale of his take on religion and belief.
I have room for one more song and that the tune called “Let It Go.” Born in the backseat of a ‘67 Chevelle somewhere out on Route 66, “Let It Go” mixes dangerous guitar riffs with vicarious lyrics and bottom-heavy rhythms. Ferguson has come into his own as a singer and a writer and “Let It Go” is a perfect example of rock ‘n’ roll brilliance. John Mansfield’s six-string work is bombastic and he’s a brilliant addition to this band.
I also really liked “Wake Up.” It reminded me of REM when they were right. This tune has the sound that I could remember watching back in the ‘80s at Rutgers when music was good. Guitars (courtesy of Kristen Reil) lock with bass and drums as Ferguson lauds the fact that we shouldn’t be afraid to live for today. Verses, bridges, and choruses roll into each other like butter, and the entire song is a keeper for sure. This is yet another song that should do well on radio, and I can’t wait to see the results of The Easy Outs work in the media.
Of course, I’m out of space and time but do yourself a favor and get the new Easy Outs’ record Hot Mess as soon as you can. Head over to their website to get the info and pick up this excellent rock ‘n’ roll record as soon as you can.
For more info on The Easy Outs and Hot Mess, head over to theeasyouts.com and get the info.