Friday, February 10, 2023

Music Reviews from 2005

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2023
Updated from Jersey Beat, 2005
Images from the Internet

Music Reviews from 2005

Some of this was first published in a slightly different form in my column for Jersey Beat fanzine (digital version) in 2005, which is no longer available, and is now alphabetized by first letter/first name,. I have updated it and added new text. This is in a different format than my usual blog reviews. Titles are in italics and songs are in quotes. Please note that as some of these bands are no longer in existence, the same can be said about a number of their contact information.


Alexander HackeSanctuary ( Hacke is also a member of noise-makers Einsturzende Neubauten, probably one of the leaders of the experimental and industrial sound genre. For me, well, this was nearly an hour wasted in my life. While I don’t think that music necessarily needs to follow a formula, I do believe that to keep my interest, it needs to be more plug and play than programmed. With rare exceptions (e.g., Suicide), programmed music has its place, but not in my library. For example, on “Sister,” there are noises over an instructional tape of how to avoid being raped. Hacke’s specialty is to take assorted snippets of recordings, and then have them “filtered, distorted, processed, and re-assembled.” At least two of these cuts are over 10 minutes. What hath Sgt. Pepper wrought?

The Analouges, out of Brooklyn, are a duo consisting of ex-Broadway child star Lydia Doran, and guitarist Jim Saxa. While their self-produced and self-titled CD ( is short, consisting of only 4 songs, it’s a pretty nifty collection. And while their cover of Zeppelin’s “Going to California” is what may stand out for some, it’s the beauty of Doran’s voice and sound produced by Saxa’s custom 7-string and baritone guitars that attracts me. Despite the guitar, their material is the sort of stuff you would almost expect to hear with Doran splayed across a piano in a smoky bar with her chanteuseness in full blossom.

For And This Army, I wanted to make a brief comment on their 4-song eponymous EP (, which they were giving out at a gig. Really masterful playing: they are to punk what prog was to rock, pushing the limits of a definition into a fine form (unlike prog). Each song is solid, with “The Ghost of Johnny’s Pizza” and the very long “Space Elevator” standing out. Good live band, as well.


With just a guitar (herself) and drums (Ryan Heise) backing up her vocals, Andi Camp shines on her new release, Magnetic (Grafton Records, c/o Her voice is a bit rough, but it maintains its power and its vocal equivalent of bedroom eyes. With lyrics that are biting and well written, one cannot put her into a cage of style. She is way too jagged and raved to be considered singer/songwriter, but she is also too soft to be considered rocked. Falling somewhere in-between is actually perfect for her because she is bigger than one brand. Her songs are chock full of longing, yearning, and subtlety. The last cut, “Moonshiner,” is with a full band, and vocals that are shared with Anderson Rice. Although it is different than anything else on the CD (i.e., country; so far away from her previous pop band, Ribbon Fix), it also shows that she can handle the full instrumentation. Very clever CD package (her own design), that could easily win artistic awards, hand numbered by Camp (mine is 354).


Even better than his last release is Cutting Room Rug ( by The Arms of Kismet. Mark Doyon continues his quest for a great song, and his hard work is all the more enjoyable for the listener. Less congested sounding than the last time and yet still maintaining a high sense of quality, Doyon’s songs are melodic without being sappy, pointed without being bitter, and first-person without being egocentric. Again covering many styles, he still stays true to his vision. Remarkable.


When one is a reviewer, many times the way one first hears an artist is when they have the chance to review them. That is what happened with Carrie Newcomer when I wrote about her last CD, Betty’s Diner, which was her ninth release. This new one, Regulars and Refugees (, picks up where the last one left off at the diner, and looks at its patrons, viewing their lives in first and second person. Carrie’s voice is full and powerful. Just a skilled piece of work, whether looking at it as individual pieces or as a collection. The songs have a leaning toward a country lilt, but are certainly not C&W (crossover?), just slice of life examinations that are fascinating. In the booklet, there are short stories about the denizens of the diner, and their life situations that serve as back stories to the songs. Carrie’s voice is deep and mature, and full of emotion. Fave cuts include “I Fly,” and “Five Years On.”


Chris Pureka has a very distinctive style, with a unique voice that is deep with a sharp vibrato. She revels in it on her Driving North ( Hailing out of Massachusetts’s Valley community, she is pure fire and she strips her songs to the basic emotions. The songs are stark in their portrayal of a relationship on the road to ruin, and Chris’s voice is somber and direct. Her guitar playing is stern and unswerving, with each note echoing the high emotion the song relates. It will grab your attention.


Devendra Banhart is stylistically hard to pin down. While the obvious bin of choice is singer/songwriter or folk, that’s a bit too narrow. His voice has a glam warble (think Bolan), and the songs on this CD, Cripple Crow (, have very different influences. Yes, there is s/s style and folk, but there is a wide range of levels of instrumentation, from spare to full-out, and there is more than a share of pop and a smattering of blues/R&B, all without going outside his range, which is nice. There are even some Spanish songs (his background is Latin American), though he associates himself with First Nations culture (with some Asian Indian mixed in). This guy is highly prolific, with four full releases since 2002. That is of the heart of the problem, though. While he writes a lot, it does not mean all these songs need to be recorded. This collection, for example, could definitely use some editing of its 74 minutes length. A perfect case in point is “Chinese Children,” based on a basic I-IV-V progression, but does not really say anything or present anything new. In other words, it is not really a good song. While much of the CD is fine, it needs to be thinned, as it has much too much filler.


Heaven & Earth, Featuring Stuart Smith (, is solid ‘80s style hair band rock with a strong blues background. Just look at some of the personnel on this 72 minute opus, which includes Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi) and Steve Priest (Sweet; d. 2020), and other members of Deep Purple, Toto, Rainbow, and Heart. For some, this is for the early ‘80s what disco was for the ‘70s, and for others, it was sheer heaven and earth. For me, it was, well, there. At the time I was listening to a lot of punk, post-garage, and roots stuff, so metal was not part of my lexicon. I mean, I fell asleep at a Led Zeppelin concert (late ‘70s). That being said, this is much better than I expected it to be, honestly, and I am sure part of that is twofold: first, the vocals are shared song-by-song by varied artists, so it never gets sound-alike. Second, the screechy vocal quotient is kept at a minimum, which is my biggest point of contention of this style. There is a lot of imagination here, as even within its genre it stretched out to embrace Bach’s Concerto, Steeleye Span type material, and just plain classic rock with silliness, like “(I Hate You So Much) It Must Be Love.” One constant through the whole CD is Stuart Smith’s blazing guitar, who fires up a storm.


The surviving half of The Kendalls, a daughter/father duo, Jeannie Kendall strikes out on her own with All The Girls I Am  (Golden, c/o CbuJ Entertainment, 3730 Vulcan Drive, Nashville, TN 37211). She uses the opportunity to break out a bit, covering country, yes, but also adult contemporary pop and some folk based tunes (the title cut, one of the best here). Jeannie’s voice has a bit of a Dolly P. lilt, but she definitely has her own voice, which fits the material. Her choice of songs covers various life stories. Not a songwriter herself, she has picked a number of pieces that accentuate her voice and style(s), including two by pop mistress supreme Harriet Shock, a superb songwriter and singer in her own right.


RealPlayer lists Jules Ellison as “general jazz.” I think her material on Love is a Very Good Thing ( would be more correctly labeled “adult contemporary.” A better way to look at it is comparing her very sweet vocals to one of the songs she covers here, John Lennon’s “Love.” That’s the type of material she covers, sort of ballady, bluesy stuff. About half the songs are hers, and half are covers, but she does each one in her own style, with a soft voice that has a tone of hidden power. This CD never drags as with some AC singers, but rather it has an aerie quality while not being flighty. Am I making sense? Well, one listen will explain it all, and it is worth it if you like this kind of stuff, and sometimes I do.


The one consistent comment on previous reviews of New Jersey native (and California resident) Ken Elkinson and his solo piano works is “emotional.” He shows that on his newest release, Opal (August Son Productions, c/o One reviewer said, of an earlier work, it was New Age. I did not hear that one, but it certainly is not true of this lovely release of original instrumentals. These are almost narrative, with some jazz elements to spruce it up even further. Every one of the single word named pieces can easily touch the heart. Usually with solo instrumentation, I think this would be great to have on in the background while having company, but Ken’s music is so textured, it deserves more attention than that, which is a credit to his work. His use of switching from major and minor keys, with some strong use of dissonance to create a haunting melody (e.g., “Change”), just increases the power of his output.


Kimya Dawson’s Hidden Vagenda ( is so listenable, even if in a totally conventional way. In fact, if I may be so bold as to push on an icon, Kimya sounds like what I would imagine Ani DiFranco would sound like if I were to just read her lyrics. Well, maybe the bastard child of DiFranco and Mary Lou Lords with both Dylan and Jonathan Richman. Yes, it is that bizarre. Definitely in the anti-folk milieu, her voice is child-like and unassuming; well, let’s just say she may never get past the first round in “American Idol,” but that is more the fault of “Idol” than Kimya, who I admire for every aspect of what she is doing. With vocal pacing in a very Dylanesque dance, she comes across as sort of a musician’s musician, which is evidenced by the number of people who sound like they had to join in. Her wordplay is a testament of lyrical stream of consciousness. While the songs tend to sound perky, just about every song is either centered around death, or it is mentioned; and yet it is not in the least morbid. The songs have some great hooks and will stay with you if you listen to this a couple of times.


The Korps  Hello World ( Talk about idiot savants. Kenne Highland coming off the Gizmos and the Marines, and Ken Kaiser joined forces in 1977 to form the Afrika Korps. And from that, they joined forces with some of the Slickee Boys and reformed as the Korps. The music they produce is solid punk-bar-garage. Song topics on this reissue are, well, silly and juvenile, but they’ll hold your attention and odds are you will shake your head and laugh at the pure “what de…” factor. I remember when this LP came out in 1978, I enjoyed it so much. Now that I get to hear a clear version of it again, I remember why it made such an impression on me. It is definitely like two guys next door goofing around, but what they are playing is so cool that you get it. Some songs are love songs, some are love lack angst, some are just ire. There’s even a couple that are just the same words as the title over and over, like “Don’t Get Fresh With Me” and one of my favorite song titles, the bluesy “I Went Downtown, To See My Gal, She Wasn’t There—So I Left.” Actually, there are many highlights here, like “The Progression” that not only fills you in on how to play this song, but tells you how to play most of rock’n’roll: the I-IV-V progression. The highlight, though, is Martha Hull doing the vocals for “(I Wanna) Burn Out,” with lyrics like “I wanna be like Janis and Jimi/A dead and buried wasted hippie.” In the great liner notes by Kaiser, he correctly states, “She took a song that was meant as a little joke and made it into a work of genius.” Tacked on at the end are Kaiser’s 1977 45, which I have always admired, “I Love You Laurie,” some redundant outtakes of “Hello World,” and a fun cut by The Kennes, “With a Shiksa Like You,” from 1977.


Lanky Odd Hour Work Week ( Can a musician sound too pretty? Lanky has a sweet, sweet voice, and with the superb production values and pop sensibilities, his release is beautiful. Perhaps it is the years of my lo-fi and punk sensibilities that make this, well, not pull my chain. Now, I like pretty, too, but this is just so perfect – not a crack or a seam – so mellow, so mainstream sounding, that it doesn’t really fall into any category that my mind seems to grasp anymore. I can imagine loads of Brigitte Jones’ Diary type fans out there clamoring for him, throwing keys and other assorted garments at this Adrian Brody look-alike (at least the picture I saw). Please, get this man some airwaves, as there are loads of people out there who would appreciate his sound; the same ones who listen to Josh Grogan, Bocelli, Andrea, or Justin Timberlake, I guess. He deserves it because it is all just so beautiful.


Lesley Gore (d. 2015) has taken a different road on her first new recording in decades, Ever Since ( by recording new material. Well, that is not totally true: she does a real slow, powerful version of my favorite proto-feminist “You Don’t Own Me,” that just burns. Gore’s voice has certainly matured well, like a velvety wine, playing the chanteuse for all its worth. In other words, she succeeds in growing up with her image and style. Her selection of songs is perfect for her elegance, some by herself, some by others, but many outstanding, such as the beautiful title song, the wistful “It’s Gone,” “Better Angels,” “Words We Don’t Say” (one of my faves here), “We Went So High,” and the slightly snarky “Not the First.” Not a bad cut here. A powerful re-entry. And I would like to say a special thank you to fellow cabaret singer Ingrid Saxon for getting me in to see Lesley perform at a Joe’s Pub gig to promote this release.


Floating smoothly between singer/songwriter, soft rock and cabaret is Mary Gatchell on her Indigo Rose ( Mary’s voice is both soulful and sweet, easily innocent and sensual at the same time. As well, she is a talented songwriter, whose tunes can go from lush, to comedic, to profound. This CD was her first studio release (she had already released a live recording), and starts with the melodic and perceptive “Stronger Backs.” Other fave cuts are “War and Peace,” “Emptiness Settles In,” “Digging for Clouds” (which is an expansion on the saying “fighting for peace is like…”), and the bittersweet yet comedic “Green Card.” The last is obviously recorded live (in studio?) with a bunch of girlfriends, and I dare anyone to listen to it and not be humming it for a while after.

Model Citizens Model Citizens ( Hailing from Birmingham, this trio kicks out. With a definite low-tech, demo feel, they are bar rock in the way that the Gizmos were: not metal, just rock. With a punched-up sound, there are definite possibilities for this band. It is the recording, not the group, which lacks power. The songs are strong, the guitar playing flays, and the band is just plain fun. Coming from Alabama, there is definitely a small country influence, especially on “Green Ashes,” which works for them and does not bog them down. They are worth a listen. I hope I get the chance to see them play, ‘cause I bet they are a hoot live.


With Leave the Sad Things Behind (, Paula Frazer continues her amazingly prolific output, including her days with Tarnation. With a Celtic lilt and a slight ‘60s pop and country influence (she come from Georgia), Paula treads Sarah McLaughlin territory, and Sarah better look over her shoulder, because Paula not only has a powerful and melodic vocal, but a great turn of a musical and lyrical phrase. Her songs are catchy and never pander. I listened to this CD like three times in a row before I could put it down. While the libretto can be seen as the musical equivalent of a “chick flick” (very roses and romance), she remains accessible to all.


Poisoned Aeros Turbulence ( Sheer brilliance. While the band’s name may not raise an eyebrow here in the States, in their native Hamilton, Ontario, it’s a sharp pun. But before I even start on the music itself, just know that they are joined in the studio by the likes of members of Teenage Head, the Forgotten Rebels, the Vapids, Dave Rave DeRoches, Jack Pedler, and even Sylvain Sylvain. Up front is the dual winsome vocalists and chief songwriters, Buckshot Bebee and Rosmarinus (aka Ro the Knife). Think Dictators with female leads. That kind of power and humor are rampant throughout the release. There is not a bad cut here. Having seen them play in Brooklyn (opening for their pals, the She Wolves), I can attest that it is not studio magic that makes them shine, but pure talent. To show their humor, there is a blank disk included, so one can copy the CD and give it to a friend.


Quantice Never Crashed I remember when singer Philly (Rabbit) started out in his first band, Howard Finster. They were fun, but kids. Then it’s a couple of years later, and he fronted the much-improved QNC. Solid screamo approach, his vocals – as is common to the style – has that “Ro Ro Ro-ro-ro”-ness that can be either a lot of fun or really, really grating. Well, this is just fine, I am happy to say. Live, I could not make out a word he was saying, though the music is a rat-tat-tat of slicking power. But with the lyric sheet included, I have learned that their lyrics are very well written, all in first person perspective, and the music is actually quite melodic. Live, as is on the CD, their power is quite noticeable. Hell, they are just a fun band. It is amusing that the first cut is actually an acoustic instrumental that never lets the listener be aware of what is to follow. Also like their fellow Staten Island natives, the late band Monty Love, their song titles have absolutely nothing to do with the actual lyrics, such as “William Shatner’s Powergun” and “Shaolin Casanova.” Worth seeking out.


Tommy James re-recorded his old chestnut, “Sweet Cherry Wine” (Aura Records, co with the help of gospel group the Kootz, (rather than the Shondells) backing him up his time, on this three-song CD. James had found The Lord a number of years ago, and he brings that “light” to this recording, giving the tune a whole different meaning. TJ definitely has his voice intact, and with the Kootz, he turns this song into a powerful testament. The second song is actually a shorter version of the first. The third is the “B” side, “Amy,” which has his distinctive voice, but a rhythm machine and synthesizer to back him, which greatly reduces the feel of the song, unfortunately.


Various: I remember when the president of the Flamin’ Groovies fan club quit because the band covered Warren Zevon’s  (d. 2003) “Werewolves of London.” I don’t have as disparaging an opinion of the guy as the ex-prez, but he always fell into the Dave Matthews column of I-don’t-get-it. Yeah, he writes pretty songs, but the whole appeal never really touched me. On the tribute CD Hurry Home Early: The Songs of Warren Zevon (, one thing I do find amusing, is how well his work is adaptable to the “new” country sound, as it seems a majority of those covering his tunes here went that route. There are some nice touches, and all the songs are respectful, so if a listener is inclined towards moody and edgy kinds of lyrics and non-standard pop-based melodies, I would definitely recommend this. And there are no werewolves of London here.


Various: And then there is the meeting place of extremes – of pretty noise – with the compilation Mama Kangaroos: Philly Women Sing Captain Beefheart ( The Capt was a forerunner in the rock/jazz fusion in a space cadet genius kind of way. Sort of to rock what later Miles Davis was to jazz. One of the beautifies of this freewheeling style is its adaptabilities. Many styles are represented here, from straight on rock to electronica, to Tom Verlaine-ish (d. 2023) guitar ramblings, even to country. The album begins slow with drum machines and programming, but as it starts with “Run Paint Run Run” (Big Mess Orchestra) and the verbal hiccupping of “Apes-ma” (Radio Eris) and “Abba Zaba” (Voices of Africa), it is straight ahead interesting for more than an hour. Some of other fave cuts include “Crazy Little Thing” (Mia Johnson with Tom Gillam), the soulful “I’m Glad” (Janet Bressler), the complete bedlam of “Ashtray Heart” (Beware the Blunted Needle), and the Appalachian “Orange Claw Hammer” (King of Siam). As experimental as could be, which is exactly what the good Captain may have imagined.


Speaking of Devendra Banhart being prolific, he is also a member of the group Vetiver, who label their style as “chamber folk music” to describe their 5-song CD EP release, Between (, which includes a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Save Me a Place.” I would call this more ambient than folk, with Vetiver’s soft, lush tones and anesthetizing quality. Not boring, per se, but lulling, including the vocals by Andy Cabric. Actually Cabric recorded three of the songs as a solo. One may also be surprised that members of My Bloody Valentine and Mazzy Star also make an appearance.


World War IX When A Good Time Turns to Shit ( A two-song single from this band who are a definite throwback in sound to 1976. It is kickass, but it is also melodic. Max’s vocals need to be up front in the sound a little more, making this the feeling of it being more like a demo, but do not let that distract you from getting this. “Intervention” is about exactly what you would think. Actually, “Treasure Hunt” is not that thematically different. If these guys were around when CBGB opened, they would probably be in a few of the history books. And while you are listening to the music, enjoy the artwork drawn by guitarist Justin, and see if you can find his comics (whose topics include his obsession with GG Allin and a retelling of their early gigs), they are worth reading as much as this is enjoyable to be heard.

Sunday, February 5, 2023


Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 1980/2023
Images from the Internet unless indicated

The Steinettes were a brief moment in time, yet their short span made them a cult classic to fans of the ‘60s girl group sounds that they emulated, and for the comic timing in the two singular-word-titled Robert Altman films in which they appeared, HealtH and more famously Popeye, where they appeared as Olive Oyl’s four girlfriends. In both, they were sort of the Greek Chorus with a song in their hearts.

The group as a collective is gone now, but every once in a rare moment, they regather at parties and perform their old routines. Luckily, often, there is someone there with a camera.

This interview appeared in FFanzeen, issue No. 6, dated Year-end 1980.

(photo by Dennis Concepcion)

The Steinettes (1980)

Alphabetically, it’s as follows:

Natalie Blossom, far right
(photo by Dennis Concepcion)

Natalie Blossom. Blonde and sort of modish-looking with ‘sixties hairdo and make-up. The ham of the group, she is always making faces and clowning for both the camera and the audience. Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, she now resides in Brooklyn, just a stones-throw away from the Midwood Theatre. Some of her solos are the Angel’s “My Boyfriend’s Back” and Betty Everett’s “The Shoop-Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss).”

Julie Janney (photo by Dennis Concepcion)

Julie Janney. A blonde who tends to wear a red T-shirt from her home state of Indiana. Of the foursome, her voice is the strongest, so she gets some of the more difficult songs to sing, like “Be By Baby,” and “Walking In The Rain,” both by the Ronettes. Usually, she sways her hips when she sings.

Julie, Patti Katz, Natalie Schaffer 
(photo by Dennis Concepcion)

Patty Katz. The spokesperson of the group and the only native New Yorker (Great Neck, Long Island). This brunette is the bass vocalist (very rare in all-female groups) and her repertoire includes one of the unit’s best renditions, the Shirelles’ “Foolish Little Girl” (with Natalie), and “Dedicated to the One I Love.” Patty is the one who talks the cops out of kicking the group off the street corners when the crowd exceeds the sidewalk and spills onto the roadway (as they usually do, by the second song).

Dianne Shaffer. The “Ringo” of the group, was the last member to join. This brunette is also the shortest. She wears pigtails and is the group’s verbal comedienne (as opposed to Natalie’s physical comedy). A couple of her songs are Shelley Fabares’ “Johnny Angel” (a la Swan Lake), and the Chantel’s “Maybe,” in which she holds the record for saying the most “maybes” in the shortest time span. Naw, I’m just making that up, but I still wouldn’t be surprised.

Singing "Sugar Fit" from Health
(photo by Dennis Concepcion)

Put ‘em all together and no, they don’t spell mother, but they do spell out Steinettes. Now, there are two questions that may be plaguing your mind at the moment:

First, and quite simply, what are the Steinettes? Well, so far we’ve established that they are a singing quartet of girls…er…women. So, what’s so unusual about that? Well, they are New York street performers who make their living by putting a trick-o-treat pumpkin out front and singing a cappella. This summer, it was on West Broadway, twixt Houston and Prince, in SoHo. Next summer, who knows? The police have been giving them a bit of a hassle about their listeners blocking traffic. They also perform once in a while in Sheridan Square Park, on Christopher Street.

Singing "Dominique" by the Singing Nun
(photo by Dennis Concepcion)

As you look over their names, you will notice that there is no one in the group named Stein. The second question, therefore, is how did they get the name Steinettes? The first version of the group, (sans Dianne), was formed by comedian Phil Stein for a review that he was putting on. The quartet was used as filler (what a waste of talent!) during his costume changes. When the show ended, so did the Steinettes. They re-formed for another review, this time with Dianne. When they rehearsed under the Washington Square Arch and a crowd started forming, they thought, “Hmmm.” And a quartet was born – sort of a “Hey kids, let’s put on a show” history. (For more specific details on their early career, check out an article written in the New York Daily News, October 17, 1979.) But think that’s a dull story. Here’s the one they prefer:

Patty Katz: I was going uptown on an express train, and Julie and Dianne were sitting next to each other and singing. It was real empty. I sat down next to them and for some reason I came in with the third harmony. And (Natalie) just got in. She was going to Brooklyn. And she came in and did fourth harmony. And we said, “Hey, cool!”
Dianne Schaffer: “We got a group!”
Natalie Blossom: And they were really getting off singing to each other. I thought they all knew each other. They were laughing at themselves, and I was laughing with them, so I just came in with the fourth harmony.
Patty: We were all singing different songs.
Natalie: That’s why it was so funny.

Any way you look at it, the first official gig as the Steinettes (as opposed to four actresses singing together) arrived around Labor Day, 1978.

(photo by Dennis Concepcion)

Hanging out with Dennis Concepcion in the spring of 1979, we were eating at the late and lamented Burger Towne at Sheridan Square on 7th Avenue South and Christopher Street, across the narrow road from the triangular park (you see it coming, don't you?). As we ate our burgers, through the window we saw this large crowd gathering. Having finished, we went outside to see what was going on.

We entered the park, and saw the four. All were wearing silver jackets with their “Steinettes” logo on the back, sort of like a gang would. Three of the four were wearing sweat-sox in the bobby-sox style, with sneakers. Natalie was wearing black pumps and had on a black and white striped T-shirt that just came short of her waist; Julie, her red Indiana T-shirt; Patty’s was white with a Minnie Mouse design; and Dianne’s was blue with some writing that I can never quite remember. These are still, to this day, their work clothes. Two blondes, two brunettes.

It was love at first sight.

Since that time, between Dennis and myself, we have renamed the spot “Steinette Park,” and thus it shall ever more be. But that was the last we were to see them for a long time.

During the early Spring of this year, FFanzeen managing editor Stacy Mantel, art editor Alan Abramowitz, and I were walking around SoHo (see it coming again, huh?) to the SoHo Music Gallery, a really good record store on Wooster, and we saw a large crowd. I heard the voices long before I saw who it was, but there was no question in my mind who they were. “My God, it’s the Steinettes!” I shouted. The three of us went over and there were two more Steinettes converts – proselytizing was unnecessary. We sat through both of their one-hour sets (with a five to fifteen minute “intermission” to catch their breath and new audience.

A few months after that, an actor with whom I worked named Richard “When’s FFanzeen comin’ out” Hill asked, “Hey, did you ever hear of a group called the Steinettes?” He seemed surprised that I did. Well, as it turns out, Patty is his friend, and before the week was out, my friend Dennis and I had interviewed them. Now we rarely miss a performance.

Of course, there is an argument against them – namely that they are actresses and not really rock’n’roll singers; that they do not deserve as much attention from the music world as they are getting. Bull. They are, in fact, four girls who grew up listening to the Chantels, and Ronettes, and Shangri-Las, and loved them as kids (didn’t we all?), and in their way, are singing for both fun and (hopefully) profit. But that element of fun is very important to the way they perceive their music. No two sets are identical, distinguished by all the improv joking around that happens between them and their audience – even among themselves. They are always talking to the audience, sometimes including them in the act. But more than anything else, they have fun. And more than anything else, that is what rock’n’roll is all about, isn’t it?

Scene from HealtH

But still, there is the acting part of the group that cannot be ignored. And their career seems to be taking off. Robert Altman was turned on to them, and he offered them the role of the pseudo-Greek Chorus in his film, HealtH (1980). HealtH, which took what seemed like forever to come out, has been released in LA, where it was badly shot down by critics (nothing bad said about the Steinettes). So, it was canned before it ever reached New York. However, they are also in Altman’s Popeye (1980), which appears as if it will be a hit. Maybe if it does really well, they will re-release HealtH.

As far as publicity for the film goes, the Steinettes seemed to have been almost ignored. When Life Magazine had a large feature on Popeye, they were never even mentioned in the cast. Ditto with many film magazines. Luckily, they haven’t been totally ignored. Papers such as The Daily News and The New York Post have run articles on them. And now they are going to be on”20/20”, and have a great shot at a guest appearance on the new season of “Saturday Night Live” (it didn’t happen – RBF., 2023).

I hope they go far, because they represent a genre of song-style that has not been around lately, but is sorely missed.

Dennis Concepcion and the Steinettes
(ffoto by Robert Barry Francos)

The following short documentary gives a nice overview of their music, after an intro by Patti. Dennis, mentioned above, took some of the still photos of them performing live, and can be seen wearing a Schaffer Music Festival tee-shirt in front of the crowd at 11:36.


Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Essay: A View of Modern Punk Rock

 Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2023
Updated from Jersey Beat, 2005
Images from the Internet unless indicated

A View of Modern Punk Rock

This was first published in another form from my column in Jersey Beat fanzine (digital version) in 2005, which is no longer available. I have updated it and added new text.

Ramones (pic by Robert Barry Francos)

As a gross generalization, there are two ways to look at music: forward and backward. In the modern punk’s vision, bands and fans imagine themselves doing the former more than the latter. They often deride the First Wave pre-1975 (or so) music as hippie and too structured. Well, as someone pointed out to me, more time has passed since the Sex Pistols broke up (1978) than from the beginning of rock’n’roll (for argument’s sake, let us say 1955) until that point. We all use what we grew up with as a point of reference for what we see in the future. It is easy to look back and say anything pre-Ramones, or even pre-hardcore, is worthless. Okay, but if you were there when the Ramones started in ’74, you had rock’n’roll – not punk – to use as your starting point.

Eddie and the Hot Rods (photo by Robert Barry Francos)

The Ramones used surf and pop as their foundation and gave that a twist, giving the British punks something newer to build upon (Malcolm McLaren learned it here from the likes of Richard Hell and disastrously managing the New York Dolls, and then returned to England to help create the Sex Pistols), and then the hardcore scene combined the First Wave New York and Second Wave London scenes to create the Third Wave. One of the first US hardcore fanzines by the late Paul Decolator was even named Third Wave. Each Wave brought something different into the mix.

As I discussed with a former fanzine editor, some of us who are old enough to remember pre-Ramones seem to find it somewhat easier to see other kinds of music as possibilities. Many of those early ‘70s punks came from the harder sounds of glam and metal (e.g., John Lydon singing along to Alice Cooper’s “Eighteen” as his audition for the Pistols), and I came from listening to folk, both traditional and modern. My punk sensibilities are a bit different than most I know, for that reason.

Dead Boys (photo by Robert Barry Francos)

I have often posited that folk music (e.g., Dylan, Ochs) of the ‘60s is the same in spirit of those of the punk era: protest music that just became more electrified, simplified, faster, and louder. But the themes are often the same (tell me “Positively 4th Street” is not punk). That is why so many members of punk groups started doing solo singer-songwriter styles as they aged and their bands dissipated.

Husker Du (photo by Robert  Barry Francos)

The up-and-coming punks have bands like the Ramones, the Pistols, Black Flag, and arguably Nirvana to use as their history, but we did not. There was no punk. There were bands like the Velvet Underground, the MC5, and the Stooges, but in a time when FM radio was basically album rock (such as Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Yes and CSNY), the odds of even finding out about VU and the like was slim. Unless you knew someone who was hip enough to turn you on to that stuff (in my case, it was Bernie Kugel, the first record collector I had met and a fine musician in his own right).

Richard Hell (photo by Robert  Barry Francos)

But mostly we who were rebelling had very few alternatives. I mean, if you wanted to be really radical, you could listen to Bowie (of whom I was never a fan), or the Count V (who did “Psychotic Reaction” in the mid-‘60s, before just about anyone knew about maniacal fuzz). Hell, even the Rolling Stones were looked on as scary. Once the ‘70s started, I almost stopped listening to broadcast music because there was such a dearth of anything out of the mainstream. I was fortunate enough to see Slade during the early ‘70s though, who showed me what was possible, but even they were arena rock, just as loud and hard as can be (the opening band, that I found tedious, was Aerosmith).

Johnny Thunders/Heartbreakers (photo by Robert Barry Francos)

To sum up: from the opening of CBGB as an alternative music venue in 1974 to now is nearly 50 years. If one was to flip that from the time before CBGB, which would be the Roaring Twenties, when Jazz and Swing were considered radical. When punk started, there was only a 20-year history of rock’n’roll to build on, as opposed to the 50-years of the present punk sound. You can poo-poo early rock’n’roll as being too standard (aka boring), but considering the shift of what the Ramones (and the like) listened to with what they ended up bringing, was far more radical than just about anything going on today. How much of what you are listening to now is fundamentally different than the bands of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s? Or even the Blink-182s of the ‘90s? You better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone…