The Music Box: Savages by The Gay Blades

Track Listing:

  1. Rock N’ Roll (Part 1)
  2. Try To Understand
  3. Puppy Mills Presents
  4. Mick Jagger
  5. Why Winter in Detroit?
  6. November Fight Song
  7. Too Cool To Quit
  8. Shadow’s Like A Ghost
  9. Burns And Shakes
  10. Wasted On The youth
  11. Every Night Is Like A Revival

The Band:

The Gay Blades are a Trash-Pop duo, (that has recently begun touring as a trio with Mike Abiuso of Kiss Kiss on keys) that operates out of New Jersey and New York City, specializes in no style of music, and admittedly exists under a blanket of mystery and deception.

“There’s a lot written [about us],” said vocalist and six-stringer James Wells in an interview in August, “but most of it’s just lies.”

The two featured members, Wells and drummer Quinn English, are more famously known by the stage-monikers Clark Westfield and Puppy Mills.  Rumor has it that Wells’ pseudonym was acquired because the charismatic vocalist takes exit 135 (the Clark/Westfield exit) off the Garden State Parkway to get home, and English’s is ironic because a “puppy mill,” also known as a puppy farm, is a dog breeding facility that’s focus is on profits rather than its animals well being, while this band is more concerned with musical entertainment than monetary gain.  But who knows really.

When I asked Wells about it after The Gay Blades’ Asbury Lanes show in August he said “We [he and English] were born with tattoos of these AKA’s on the soles of our feet.  We didn’t choose them, they chose us.”  Not about to make the guy remove his shoes, I took his word for it.

Even the origin of the name, “The Gay Blades,” is speculative.

“Have you ever heard of Voodoo?” Wells responded when I inquired about the odd nomenclature.  “It’s an African religion that’s spread its way into the Caribbean.  It’s not a bad religion, people often associate it with dark magic, and it’s not.  But it does require often an animal sacrifice.  And when we found ourselves in need of a name we turned to Voodoo, and the chicken bones, and the fucking beaver blood, and came up with The Gay Blades.”

Has this duo dabbled in the dark arts, conjuring the ability to create such supernaturally splendid works as it’s appropriately named 2008 debut Ghosts and the upcoming sophomore release of Savages?  Could Wells and Mills be Voodoo shamen?  Have they cast a spell on Abiuso forcing him into this band of gypsies by transforming him into a mindless ivory stroking zombie?  Maybe, I mean stranger things have occurred in the world of Rock music.  But I don’t believe it’s magical, these guys are simply talented at what they do.

Release Date: 10/5/10

The Review:

Listening to Savages is like playing a guessing game:  It’s a lot of fun, and you don’t know what to expect next your first time through.  This is a bag of mixed tracks in the sense that each song has it’s own personality, style, and feel.  This lack of a streamlined sound, the band’s possession of immense musical range, this is the most intriguing and enjoyable part about The Gay Blades.  This band refuses to lock itself into a genre for fear of severing the music making supply lines that are Wells’ and English’s creative juices.  This nonconformist attitude has aided The Gay Blades in creating a superb sophomore effort.

Savages opening salvo is a blusified garage crumbling number called “Rock N’ Roll (Part 1) cut from a similar cloth used by the White Stripes for tracks like “Jimmy The Exploder” and “Cannon” on Jack and Meg’s 1999 self-titled debut.  “I’m gettin’ while the gettin’s good!/How bout now, I know that you could,” sings Wells.  This pair of lines is repeated throughout the song and although I’m not sure of the context or meaning, much like the nonsensical lyrics found in the band’s hit “O Shot,”I do know that it makes for one hell of track and one of my favorites in this collection.

“Try To Understand,” the album’s single, has been hailed for its big catchy chorus and blazing brass accompaniment.  However, what seems to have been overlooked by reviewers is this song’s depth.  Wells hasn’t kept it a secret, this album is named after and partially inspired by his little brother Ian Savage Wells’ recent passing, and James offers listeners a glimpse into that strained relationship, with his brother and family, in this song.

“And brother/call and try to get your shit together/One expects you always to be clever/whether, you’ve done the worst or best it’s all you can.”

The other verses are similar to this, Wells calling out to family members, and eventually concluding:

“Me/I, guess we should’ve all just stuck together/ Take my own advice try to get better/Because whether it’s the best or worst it’s all I can.”

So, yes, be sure to enjoy this track, even take some time out of your day to dance to it.  But do take notice of, and respect, the painfully honest piece of writing that is “Try To Understand.”

And if an inside glimpse at the hardships that chaperon a band on the road intrigues you listen to “Why Winter In Detroit?”

“Because it’s kill, kill, kill or be killed!” sings Wells in the chorus.  “And it’s drink, drink, drink, drink til you agree to sell your car/And there’s a great lake here but even still/I think I proved my point so well/How winter in Detroit is hell.”

This upbeat and comedic outlook on a tour stop in Detroit stands out as one of the best songs on the record and you can listen to it here at Altpress.com.

Another favorite of mine is “November Fight Song,” a revolutionary tune about changing one’s self to save a relationship with another.

“Smash my face with bloody hammers/Separate my jaw-bone from my teeth,” pleads Wells.  “Because this mouth is fit to cause some trouble/And I don’t want you to leave.”

The listener is led through this tale of self-sacrifice on the acoustic fret work of Wells and a soft drum beat by English that brings up the rear.  It’s a beautiful piece with intense imagery and you can watch the band perform it at Laudromatinee.com.

This album is a smorgasbord of Rock N’ Roll and will feed any type of craving you need satisfied, save for Smooth Jazz.  It’s slotted high up on my list of top albums of 2010 so be sure to pre-order it on the band’s Web site: http://thegayblades.bigcartel.com/

Rating: 4.5/5

About rote7123

Chris graduated from The College Of New Jersey in May 2011 with a Bachelor Degree in Journalism and Professional Writing, as well as a degree in Communication Studies. He has held down a position in the Asbury Park Press’ Sports Department since September of 2010 and is a contributor to the outlet's Arts & Entertainment section, and has contributed to The Aquarian Weekly all while being the sole operator of Asbury Park's premier music news outlet Speak Into My Good Eye.
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