Bergen County’s The RocknRoll Hi-Fives return with four new songs on their full-length debut, “Re-Introducing The RocknRoll Hi-Fives,” which also features six older favorites.
It’s so great to hear the various influences that make up the fun, entertaining sound of everyone’s favorite New Jersey family rock ‘n’ roll band, The RocknRoll Hi-Fives. The Centeno Family — 16-year-old vocalist Eilee, who also plays Theremin; 13-year-old drummer Evren; their guitarist dad, Joe, a touring veteran of the Jersey rock scene, and bassist mom, Gloree — have a blast blasting a blend of Ramones-inspired punk rock, Kiss-like glitter rock and power pop ala Cheap Trick. This mix of best-of culled from two EPs, plus four new tracks, is a great place to start if you’ve crawled out from under whatever rock prevented you from experiencing the bliss that is The RocknRoll Hi-Fives. The faithful, meanwhile, will be filled with glee revisiting the past with the fistful of the present that is the band’s full-length debut, Re-Introducing The RocknRoll Hi-Fives, their second release for Asbury Park-based Little Dickman Records following the 2016 EP, the Beat the Sound the Dragon Roar, tracks from which make up half of the new LP.
New tunes are:
- The opening “Same Mistakes,” about a scolded young person who is scolding back
- “Hold On,” the record’s first single about an unrequited love who’s been seduced by a temptress in a red dress
- The super fun, nostalgic “C’est La Vie,” which fuses the West Coast beach vibe of The Go-Go’s with the urban Eastern edge of The Ramones and features a hot closing drum roll by Evren, the 2017 Makin Waves Drummer of the Year
- The standout “Battles,” a grungy grabber that’s a cross between The Ramones and The Runaways with a pinch of L7 and Hole. I love the way the way Eilee simultaneously counters and compliments the rough edges of this song with the distorted, sci-fi-sounding effects of the Theremin, an electronic instrument that emits sound frequencies manipulated by hand.
Five of the six “Dragon” tracks include three single/video releases:
- “El Sueño,” a fun, Ramonesy mix with such great ‘60s girl groups as The Ronettes, The Crystals and The Shangri-Las
- The high-energy “You Got Me (Tongue Tied),” one my favorite RRHFs tracks
- The powerful “Glass Towns.”
There’s also the redemptive “T.K.O.” and “Running Nowhere,” another girl-group nugget funneled through The Ramones, as well as Kiss. I love Evren’s big beat and Eilee’s perfecting of her Theremin skills on this one.
Re-Introducing digs out of the crates from their self-released 2015 sophomore EP, Gold Glitter Shoes, the live favorite “Livin’ the Lost Boy Life” on which Joe admits he doesn’t want to grow up, then launches into a sweet Ace Frehley-like solo. The tasty track was inspired by Eilee’s participation in a school production of “Peter Pan,” rather than their label mates, Lost Boy?, who will play with them at their record release party on June 24 at Mercury Lounge in New York City.
Besides the fact that parents play rock ‘n’ roll with loving teenagers, what’s amazing about The RocknRoll Hi-Fives is that all the lyrics were written between the ages of 12 and 16 by Eilee, who named the band when she was only 4. While nearly all the songs are cute and charming, like she is, they also reveal a life wisdom that defies her age, especially on the closing “Running Nowhere” and perhaps the opening “Same Mistakes,” but it’s hard to say with that one because the lead vocal mix is muffled and buried on the verses.
While with the exception of “Battles,” The RocknRoll Hi-Fives don’t top the previously released tracks on their Re-Introducing, the tunes do hold their own; not that it matters because seeing is believing with this band. The faithful know that the 2017 Makin Waves Live Band of the Year offer one of the best shows in the rock ‘n’ roll universe. Highlights include Joe doing high split jump kicks off the bass drum like superhero or at least a superdad in his RRHFs cape, Eilee shooting confetti so that it joyously rains down on the delighted crowd, Evren also defying his age, his mad, young soul possessed by John Bonham, and Gloree, the superglue mom holding down the imaginary fort in her family’s collective mind.
You also can check all that out at a tour kickoff on July 2 at a beach party at the Anchor’s Bend in Asbury Park also featuring Wetbrain. The summer-long tour then will bring the Centenos to North Carolina, Florida, Texas, California, and the Midwest before they play once again for the home-state crowd on Aug. 16 at FM in Jersey City and Aug. 18 at Asbury Park Yacht Club.
Bob Makin is the reporter for www.MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. And like Makin Waves at www.facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.