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Bleep the Bollocks, Here Comes 'The Connection'!
By Mark Kirby
(more articles from this author)
2002-08-20
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Bands send me their stuff in the mail all the time. It's to the point where I can almost judge the bands by the cover. For instance, I tell metal bands that I don't review that stuff, and they will say, "We're not Metal, we're Gothic Progressive Dark Wave." Okay. I open the press package and there's a picture of four guys from New Hampshire with big hair, black leather, flashing the devil sign and sticking out their tongues, Kiss-style. I put the music on, and, yep, it's Metal. Same with Punk. "Hey, yo, dude, we're not Punk, we're Melodic Popcore with touches of oi!' and grind." Okay. I pull out the CD, and on the cover is a collage of riot police and a Union Jack backdrop. I put on the music - yep, it's Hardcore. Again. At least I get to keep the jewel box. It's a shame bands try to get over like this, when they should just send their CDs to one of the many outlets for Metal or Punk that exists just for them. "But it ain't me, babe, no, no, no, I'm not the one you're lookin' for, babe."

So this band, The Connection, sends me their EP entitled "Extended Play." Okay. It's hard to pin down, they say, but it's Rock. Minimal, basic, to the point. On the cover is the band, three guys, on a loading dock with their gear set up. They're wailing. The drummer is in motion, hair flying. The guitarist is in midair and the bass is jumpin', too. Action. Cool. I put on the music, and just like the Punk and Metal bands, you can judge the band by its cover. This is real Power Pop, like The Knack, or The Jam or Guided By Voices (though not as epic). It's retro, but fresh. The songs are cool, rockin', basic, no bullshit. The vocal lines are raw but with good melodies, and the music is 60's, imagined by the 80's but played like Punk/New Wave circa 1979-82 in the year 2002. Time warps and musical dimensions past, present and future collide in a dreamscape where reality is a kaleidoscope of memory and fantasy.

"Duuuude, what the fuck are you talkin' about?"

Okay, listen. I'm painting houses in Berkeley circa 1980. Reagan is a bad joke (the first of many), the future looks bleak (not mine, the country's), and our boss just left. Me and Joe jump in the hot tub, light up a joint, with the radio on. Pearl Harbor and the Explosions come on. Elvis Costello, Cheap Trick, the Kinks. Other bands, now forgotten, play edgy, upbeat Punk Pop, that's happy, sad, jittery. I hop out of the tub and . . . land in the front row of CBGB's and The Mumps are playing, warming up The Ramones. My boy Bill head bangs, his ear stuck to Joey's stage monitor. I'm tripping and hit on a beautiful hippy chick - all long legs, long hair, and buckskin miniskirt - at the bar. Turns out to be Linda Rondstat, with body guards. So I go to the bathroom . . . and it's years later.

"Extended Play" takes me on the above journey. I'm lovin' it. The opening salvo, "Illusive/Delusional," is sweet and sour power, and manifests the band's signature sound. The dense, buzz saw chords and pop melody combined to such effect hasn't been heard by these ears since Husker Du. But in place of Bob Mould's growl (or the Grunge/Nu-metal patented slurred whine) is the plaintive singing of Bill McElnea. Think Elvis Costello and B.J. Thomas (the Tom Jones wannabe in the sixties who sang "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" - ask your parents). In today's world of retro rock and "new" bullshit, it's rare to have a voice with any distinction at all. And his high notes are sung on point and not bellowed or screeched. He's definitely not influenced by Michael Bolton. Talk about keepin' it real. It's used best on the song "Cali," which has that quality almost never heard in today's music - soul. The song starts with a simple, lightly-stroked guitar intro, then Tom Francavilla's bass comes in with a spare riff, along with Mark Agrusti's drums and maracas, played strong but lightly. The instruments and song arrangements, like the vocals, are not overdone. "Island Song" is Pop like punk rockers grew into if they were lucky and didn't OD. That is, it has energy and the below-the-surface depth, but without pretense or ponderousness.

Unlike others in the Brand New Wave world or Power Pop/Post-Punk, bla, bla, bla, world of rock, they haven't ignored the past era's never-mind-the-bollocks realness. This is also evident in the bands web site, www.TheConnectionNYC.com, which has the coolest look, set up, and, like the band is no-bullshit. Go to it, and check it out. There are some other cool downloads as well.


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