Garage rock is a misunderstood and overused term. Most carelessly throw it out there as a descriptive for a bunch of nerdy high school kids exorcising their pimply-faced angst in a desperate attempt to flag some sign of approaching adulthood. But it’s far from that. Some of the world’s best bands started in that humble, oil-stained space and have managed to retain the rare components of that legendary lore and an enthusiastic, creative style.
I have covered a plethora of bands that made their name in that legendary two-car storage space. Groups such as The Chesterfield Kings, The Doughboys (kings of the famed Café Wha? in NYC), The Cocktail Slippers and The Silver Brazilians all come to mind when pondering this strange and wonderful genre here at the Shoreworld.
And as part of that ongoing grunge-encrusted, guitar-ripping lore, I’m excited to bring you yet another long-lasting group that made their name through the fan-shaped adoration of those heady days of rock and roll rebellion.
The Lord Calverts are an NJ/NY-based group with an interesting public relations backstory. Using the rough and tumble tones of yesterday, the band came up with a clever tale to drum up curiosity from the East Coast rock crowd. Claiming to be from Boston’s hard-edged ’60s scene, the group’s bio spins Spinal Tap-like tales of a legendary rise, trekking to New York City in an effort to push the launch button on their primitive and sensational rock sounds. Their bio weaves continued faux facts of greatness to the power of infinity. It boils over with the announcement of their 1965 record, Here They Are…The Lord Calverts, a smash record that saw them go on to churn out eight vital records between that 1965 debut and 1972. But then, at the pinnacle of their success, the band disappeared.
To be honest, they had me at first, and I was searching the internet for anything available on them. It’s funny because as I asked for background information, Askold Buk was probably the most anti-egotist I’ve ever met. Usually, I have guys firing off everything from baby pictures with them holding a guitar to their latest performance at the local flea market. However, I had to pry accomplishments out of this humble rock and roll soul. So I had to laugh at the ingenuity and humor that they have used to spin their PR-seeking story.
But the band is also quick to point out that they’ve left that descriptive behind and prefer to let their music do the talking in the reality of the present. Using that same creative ingenuity, boisterous talent and poppy, raw rock substance, The Lord Calverts…NOW is a project born to grab our attention in its current time frame of garage-bred rock and roll salvation.
Produced by guitarists Askold Buk and Jed Becker, the disc also features the intricate mixing prowess of Carl Glanville (U2, Counting Crows). The Lord Calverts…NOW features an impressive array of songwriting skill and musical knowhow. Joining Buk is lead singer Kevin Lydon. Lydon, a bartender by trade, is also a professionally trained actor and was an easy (and smart) choice as the band’s frontman. Buk says of him, “I haven’t seen such raw charisma and talent in 20 years. He’s like Jim Morrison meets David Johansen live.” When it comes to writing the music for the group, Buk gives me a bit of insight as to how they keep that smooth and seamless balance within the context of the band. “Jed and I have a long-running ‘Lennon/McCartney’-style arrangement for composition construction, and we share everything equally as writers. It’s always going to be Becker and Buk on our credits.”
Joining Becker and Buk is bassist William X Harvey (Urban Verbs) and the thunderous drum action of Rich Capitelli (Gary U.S. Bonds, Jon Secada and Brian Setzer). Both make up a well-versed rhythm section that round out an interesting gang of players.
Buk sent me the 11-song record, and I went through it to pull a few gems from an offering produced by the most mysterious band in the area. Here is what I found out.
The CD makes its direction known from the very first notes of “I Need A Little Kiss.” Summoning the combinative influences of The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Dead Boys, The Lord Calverts tear into the intro with the gritty lead guitar work of Buk and the plaintive, Brit-influenced wails of Lydon. Drums slam into the verse as the staccato stop and start explodes into the chorus. The bridges hiss with grinding cacophony as they snake up and into the bigger-than-life chorus. If you love everything good from the 1960s and the pop-powered result of that magical time, then “Kiss” will leave you breathless and wanting more.
Another call from the traditional British past and into the now is “9600 Reasons.” Featuring the country blues-soaked harp of Jed Becker, this is an old “Down at the Crossroads” number with modern day spit and polish. Guitars sing thick and biting as drums report into sharp dynamic stops with William X Harvey bass work, which pumps the backbone into the steroid-laden tune. Short and to the point, “9600 Reasons” is a toe-tapping explanation that should turn quite a few heads.
“Crystal Ball” is another standout that manages to blend past glory with modern flair. Becker’s riffs on a Vox Continental stand tall, as does Buk’s six-string salvo of toned riffs and open chord flourishes. His lead in the middle-eight is both emotionally raucous and coated in pentatonic brilliance. Bass and drum work is rock steady in support of the powerful vocal attack of Lydon. Lydon does indeed live up to Buk’s description and more. His melodies are simplistic and highly effective for the song. “Crystal Ball” is a futuristic look at the concise and addictive direction of this great band.
Rhythmic suspensions and hang time chords drop and blast on “That Man Isn’t Me.” Ghost-like apparitions of the Beatles mix with Paul Revere & The Raiders as the group whirls into the crux of their craft. Buk rips out a smart and rebellious lead in the vein of Ted Nugent during his time in The Amboy Dukes. Once again, vocals and harmonies cut like a knife as rhythms pound their frantic meter into the end.
The groovy, magic bus action of “Fit To Be Tied” palpitates into the speakers with Buk’s diabolical wah-wah riffs and the bombastic bass and drums of Harvey and Capitelli. Becker mans power chord rhythm guitar and a Farfisa combo organ that’s straight out of the Inspiral Carpets universe. The Lord Calverts remind me of Jersey powerhouse The Grip Weeds in that they initiate their influential top band heroes with an agreeable contemporary sound of today, and that’s a tough nut to crack unless it’s done right. “Fit To Be Tied” tethers the listener into hitting the repeat button for the entire weekend.
With a total of 11 powerful tracks, The Lord Calverts can safely leave their past behind and concentrate on a promising present and future tense. The Lord Calverts…NOW is an album born of experience and passion. A nod to the great rock acts of the past turned into yet another phenomenal directive of current and vital music here in our “Now” time on the Jersey Shore.
The Lord Calverts…NOW will be available on March 3 as the band launches the release at Fontana’s in New York City. For more real information on The Lord Calverts, head over to facebook.com/TheLordCalverts.