Tuesday, December 30th, 2008
An introduction to Gramercy Arms
Stefano GiovanniniDepending on how familiar you are with early-’90s American college rock, Gramercy Arms’ resume will either read impressively or anonymously. Led by former Dambuilders honcho Dave Derby, the New York-based outfit also boasts drummer Kevin March (also Dambuilders and the final lineup of Guided By Voices), guitarist Sean Eden (of the late, loved Luna), guitarist Hilken Mancini (Boston power-poppers Fuzzy) and bassist Rainy Orteca (also of Joan As Policewoman, who aren’t circa ’90s but whose Joan Wasser was also in the Dambuilders). So to say there’s many lifetimes of playing dingy clubs wound into their collective DNA would be an understatement, and that doesn’t even begin to include the number of guest stars who appear on their recordings.
But save for Derby and Manicini, none were ever frontpersons or even main songwriters for their respective bands so to expect Gramercy Arms to sound like any sort of amalgam of their histories would be unfair. And it’s just as well, because they really don’t. Their self-titled debut – released this past Summer in the UK and set for a March 3, 2009 domestic release – is like an east coast interpretation of west coast pop. The mood is light and breezy, but whether by design or circumstance doesn’t sound as sun-kissed as one might expect, nor as eccentric.
Those who come to the band from an affection for the participants’ past works may be somewhat disappointed at how conventional the power pop on offer is. For myself, if I wasn’t told that Sean Eden was on this record I probably wouldn’t have known from casual listening. His idiosyncratic guitar genius is mostly kept restrained, and was put to far better use with Elk City. But as stated above, it’s unfair to come to Gramercy Arms with such weight of expectation and taken for what they do, there’s still much to like for aficionados of guitar pop. But really, would one more ripping Eden solo have been too much to ask?
The Guardian made Gramercy Arms their band of the day back in June. And the band made a Christmas tune featuring Mascott’s Kendall Jane Meade on vocals. Grab it before it’s just so out of season that it’s awkward to listen to.
The Acorn have put together a little holiday gift for their fans in the form of Ear Worms, a collection of 12 songs 30 seconds in length each, and Little Elms, a short 4-song EP. Both are available for free download at their website right now.
Magnet reports that Bob Mould will be releasing a new solo album, still untitled, on April 7, and are going so far as to call it his best record since Sugar’s File Under: Easy Listening. That there’s some high praise – be interesting to see if its warranted.
New Jersey Springsteen/punk acolytes who’ve been popping up on no shortage of year-end lists, The Gaslight Anthem will be a the Opera House on March 20, tickets $15.50.
Spin asks tough questions of The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne. He also gives Exclaim! a list of reasons why Christmas is great, be it on Mars or wherever. And head over here to see some fun behind the scenes footage of the Lips’ recording of the NBC promo theme/jingle-thing. You know, the three notes thing. Whatever that’s called.