Scarlet Carson’s “Burn It All” Scorches – Review by Jay Amabile

dirty Jersey,scarlet carson,rock,cd,review
Order Scarlet Carson’s “Burn It All” at this link for $10 bucks

Does rock music still exist? Aside from a few newer bands out there, rock music, albeit the good kind, seems to be nearly extinct. Truthfully, the suckyness of new rock music is one of the reasons why I stopped listening to radio almost 6 years ago. Think about how many rock stations folded or changed formats since that time. My main source for new music are blogs, iTunes, Pandora, MySpace, and any other bands space junk that’s floating around the Internet. What’s amazing is that even a routine task such as checking the Starland Ballroom’s concert schedule on their website lead me to discover a surprisingly awesome band, Scarlet Carson, who recently released their 2nd album Burn It All (available here). My curiosity was piqued, but I figured it was probably too good to be true. I gave the album a few in depth listens and in this review I’ll tell you whether Scarlet Carson is another flash in the pan or a force powerful enough to restore my faith in rock music.
While listening to Scarlet Carson’s fearless brand of rock and roll, I couldn’t believe these guys are from New Jersey. Labeling their type of sound as “Dirty Jersey Rock and Roll,” is brave since they are the first ones to step out of the shadow of “The Jersey Sound” i.e (Sinatra, Springsteen, The Rascals, The Jukes, Bon Jovi etc) and play what they want, not just what people think Jersey bands are supposed to sound like. Coming out of Jersey has only helped intensify their mighty ambitions. It’s not like they grew up around the corner from The Viper Room or The Whiskey, so lumping them into the same category as other rock bands is unfair. But, if you need some examples of what other bands Scarlet Carson might share the bill with at a rock festival, it would probably be Saliva, Papa Roach (who they are opening for at Starland on 4/18), and Pop Evil,  They have already played at CrueFest, so one thing is for sure, they are in NO WAY Nickelbacky. Lead singer and lyricist Santino Campanelli has more in common with Californians such as M.Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold and Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach than he does with any famous singer to ever come out of Jersey.
Their second release, Burn it All, is a superior rock album. In the first track, Overture, a transistor radio has lost its signal, similar to my search for good rock music, but soon the faint sounds grow clearer. Intense driving guitar chords and primal drum beats establish the scene. Finally we’ve got ourselves some rock and I’m sure as hell ready for it. The adrenalized title track features a ballistic guitar solo that will literally melt your brain and make your eyes go crossed. The song rises to a huge climatic finale and trails off with a soft reprise of the songs guitar riff. It’s a cool little reinforcement trick because it got stuck in my head and I wanted to hear it again already. But, with my senses elevated I couldn’t wait to hear the rest of the album.
All of a sudden, a car engine ignites and screeches off as the headbanger “Gone Baby Gone” erupted from my speakers. It’s all about getting away from a chick who is total trouble. Like most of the tracks here, this modern rocker features another blazing guitar solo and sounds like it should be in the trailer for the next Fast and the Furious film. And, whether intentional or not, “Cherry’s On Top” has a riff that’s reminiscent of Aerosmith’s “Love in an Elevator.” The dilemma in this song is that there is some fine looking chick who is so super sexy. Hitting notes like crazy, frontman Santino wants to cover her “in whip cream cherry on top, I’m gonna lick it all off in all the right spots.” This track reflects the libidinous aspect of rock and is definitely not serious, depressing, or emo. Scarlet Carson shows that they are here to party and admire the finer things in life, like ’80s style red lipstick.
Up next is a resounding build up to what could be Scarlet Carson’s signature crowd interaction song. These guys aren’t only talking shit about “Sex Drugs and Rock N Roll,” they are living it. Their lyrics, liner notes, and full throttle commitment to making their rock star dreams a reality, shows there’s a genuine connection to many iconic bands who have lived this tawdry lifestyle before them. The difference? These guys are the first ones from Jersey to do it. Yeah sure we’ve had Bon Jovi and Trixter, but they were less concerned about the rock star lifestyle. Bon Jovi didn’t want to be associated with bands like GNR and Motley Crue because they feared that women and children wouldn’t come to their concerts. It was more socially acceptable to buy a Bon Jovi record or go to a Bon Jovi concert than it was Motley or even KISS. No matter what they tell you, parents feared bands like that because they heard news reports of sex, satanism, nudity, blood and all the other cool shit that is part of their aura. So I commend Scarlet Carson for being themselves from jump street. They better stay true to themselves though. I wouldn’t want to see them sell out and become Justin Bieber’s touring band or some crap like that. Even worse…don’t make a country album. Hey Scarlet – you’ve been warned!
Next, I used my keen deductive skills to determine that a drink pouring sound effect can mean only one thing: a drinking song, even more precisely “The Drinkin’ Song.” Following in the footsteps of distinguished predecessors such as KISS’ “Cold Gin,” AC/DC’s “Have a Drink on Me,” and Guns N Roses’ “Nightrain,””The Drinkin’ Song,” picks up where those anthems left off. Santino’s voice skyrockets into Myles Kennedy octaves here as he shouts, “Let’s get wasted tonight!”. It’s another standout track with layered vocals in the chorus, fist pumping “hey” chants, and a mesmerizing drum breakdown. Scarlet Carson is here to tell you that when you’re literally feeling like a gigantic heap of dung, a few drinks with your crew can help you “forget your worries, forget your problems…” I’m sure fans will be holding their drinks up during this one at the next concert – just don’t spill beer on me.
Whip out your iPhone, swipe your Zippo lighter app on, and bring down the pace a little bit “For Her Sake,” a surefire addition to Monster Ballads 2010. The low key mood doesn’t last that long because these guys aren’t done pummeling you. Get ready for the supercharged, punked out “P.L.A.D” (paid, laid, and die) that chronicles the nights when you wind up out drinking until 6am and waking up with random girls in random motels. Scarlet Carson’s lifestyle is fast paced, indulgent and in the moment, just like their tunes. Listen for the brass section in this track which proves to be a superb feature of its production.
Now we go from rock and roll revelry and drinking binges, into mind probing. What would a Scarlet Carson song sound like if they actually recorded a song inside their own heads? “My Own Head,” stands out from the rest because it’s methodical, reflective, and dark, but maintains harmonic accents. The remarkable production has helped create a very different mood in contrast to the rest of the album. I appreciate that they were brave enough to challenge themselves into creating a track with such a different vibe, and it worked. “My Own Head,” would make for an intriguing music video. If Tim Burton and Rivers Cuomo were hanging out tripping on acid and had a nightmare, this would be a perfect song to accompany it. Zach Braff will direct, I have it all planned out.
Growing up in Jersey, almost every kid dreams of living in California. The west coast seems so much more desirable and warm, and if the Beach Boys and David Lee Roth were telling us the truth, then the girls were wondrous. Don’t forget the ’80s hair band scene, replete with sexy strippers, liquor, and debauchery. What’s not to fantasize about? POOF! Back to reality and the mundane suburban rat race that defines many parts of the Garden State. It’s fitting that I listened to “West Coast Dreamer” when I was sitting in rush hour traffic on 287. This track provides a unique perspective that I haven’t heard thus far. It’s the story of a band from the east coast, dreaming of rock star status on the west coast. It’s almost as if Jersey is a c-ck blocker. It’s not easy trying to exist as a rock star or an aspiring rock star in NJ. For some reason, whether it’s an unwritten law of nature or whatever, NJ just stacks all the cards against you. Whereas you can head out to L.A and catch great rock bands almost every night of the week, all in a 2 mile vicinity. Come to Jersey and you’ll get a few good beer specials but you’ll be bombarded with tons of cover bands who perform rock versions of whatever songs are popular that weekend.
Just a warning, Scarlet Carson’s songs WILL make you instinctually play air guitar, headbang, and jump around like a madman. It might be a good idea not to listen in a place where you might look like a complete idiot. In the midst of your rock-out session, you might be wondering where Scarlet Carson’s monstrous sound comes from? The band is comprised of Santino’s clean scream, Stone’s slash-like guitar solos, Tommy Licore’s surging riffs on rhythm guitar, Mike O Mayhem’s crushing bass work, and Raab who pulverizes the drums.
Above all, the best attribute of Scarlet Carson’s “Burn It All” is its honesty. Santino writes his lyrics about being a loner focused on the bands dreams, and doing some hardcore partying in the meantime. They aren’t creating songs to market to the NFL or MLB like Bon Jovi, and they’re not formulating the next big wedding song, even though it sure would mean more cash, they are simply doing what they want to do. One of the reasons why rock music has been on the road to extinction is because bands don’t have the balls to highjack the reigns of rock. Scarlet Carson does, and they do it in style as they prove on “Burn It All.” In the immortal words of The Marvelous 3, Scarlet Carson has indeed “…brought back the rock.”

Upcoming shows
4/17/10 at the Stone Pony for The Break Contest
4/18/10 w/Papa Roach at The Starland Ballroom
4/23/10 at The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park
4/27/10 w/Saliva at The Highline Ballroom in NYC

Motley Crue Fest Review PNC Bank Arts Center 8/23/08

One of the stereotypes about New Jersey is that most of the guys walk around looking and talking like one of the Sopranos. It’s taken my entire life living here to finally admit that it’s not all that far fetched. Fortunately, I’m not at all reinforcing that stigma but for some reason many of the guys at last night’s Motley Crue concert WERE. Cruefest, a rock festival tour, is the creation of Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue. It made it’s stop at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ last night. This is where I finally closed my case.

If you aren’t familiar with Guidos then you can click here and here for an explanation. They are guys who overtan, over spray on their cologne, and oversweat. They also work out (take steroids), sport ridiculous blown out hair cuts, and have lame tattoos. Oh and as you can see here, they usually they dance like idiots. These guys were piss drunk and launching themselves over the rows of chairs. They kept hugging each other and checking their cell phones. It was a living breathing stereotype right before my eyes. Every time they looked at me or my girl it felt like they were raping us with their eyes. I was completely creeped out. It wasn’t just them. They seemed to be in all the rows surrounding us. If zombies ever take over Jersey or New York, they’ll most likely be Guido Zombies.

One of the problems with this shitty venue, PNC Arts Center, is that they have VIP sections that are permanently bought by certain rich folks and companies. The companies might get a string of ten seats and give the tickets away to business partners and employees etc. The real true fans who want to get a hold of these seats can’t because Joey Stugots from Staten Island has a cousin who is doing a construction job for the company who has the VIP seats. The construction guys are more apt to give a better price if they’re schmoozed with some Motley Crue tickets. That’s just a for instance. You could imagine how many different scenarios there are. But that’s how it is living in Jersey. You could even make deals with teachers, cops, and Dunkin’ Donuts employees. Everyone’s corrupt here. So what made me realize that guidos don’t belong at fucking Motley Crue concert is this:

This blazing idiot was doing the tomahawk chop, you know the one fans do at a Braves or Chiefs game? Every time there was a thumping Tommy Lee beat banging or Vince said “I Wanna see those fists” this guy breaks out his tomahawk chop. THE ENTIRE CONCERT! Talk about inappropriate. While we’re all fist pounding this guy is shaking his hips back and forth while chopping the air. Give me devil horns, give me the middle finger, or even spirit fingers…not the friggin’ tomahawk chop!?!?! You’re at a MOTLEY CRUE SHOW not at a RAVE party asshole. What a fool. Go do that dance down the shore, at the capital of guidoville. Believe it or not, we’re not all like this but it really is a shame that all the stereotypes are true. And apparently Tommy Lee was digging us as he commended that “We’re all gangstas.” He sat on the edge of the stage and had a heart to heart with us. He was shocked by the fact that the parking lot was filled with cars and trucks with their trunk opened as everyone tailgated and got bombed. I always thought all people got wasted before a concert, not just in Jersey and especially a 5-five band festival.

OK, believe it or not, now I’ll actually review the concert:

The openers, Trapt, still known for their 2002 hit “Headstrong,” released 2 albums since then and haven’t been able to replicate that success. In comparison to the bands that followed, it looks like Trapt need to find themselves more personality and a more diverse repertoire of music. I won’t discredit them because they are talented and Chris Brown is a likeable front man. They just really come off as completely generic. It’s no wonder though, since they hit the rock scene at a time when new rock bands were pretty generic. They were opening Cruefest for a reason and let’s leave it at that.

Nikki Sixx’s side band Sixx A.M are immensely talented. It’s almost as if they belong at “A Very Special Concert with the Trans Siberian Orchestra” or something. Lead Singer, Michael James is not only a fantastic, engaging, and cool looking front man, but he’s also a well known writer, producer, and musician. Nikki really lucked out when he started working with him and guitarist DJ Ashba (formerly of Beautiful Creatures.) The Sixx AM team is actually responsible for writing and producing Motley Crue’s latest album Saints of Los Angeles. Wouldn’t you think Tommy, Vince, and Mick would want to write some of the songs too? It makes me gain that much more respect for Sixx AM. The songs they performed from the Heroin Diaries are more serious, and introspective than that of the ballistic, sleazy rock Motley Crue is known for. That’s most likely due to the subject matter. The songs are based on chapters from Nikki Sixx’s book The Heroin Diaries. “Pray For Me”(video posted below) and “Life Is Beautiful” were standouts.

Papa Roach won me over. I wasn’t on the bandwagon with much of the rock scene in the late ‘90s and early 2000’s. It seemed as if rap and rock would be forever married and I grew frustrated. I wanted to like “Last Resort” and it was good song, but deep down I still yearned for at least a touch of bombastic hair metal. I wrote off Papa Roach with a lot of other rap-rock and nu-metal bands like Linkin Park. Everyone was so angry and brooding. It was like grunge but without the ripped jeans. What were they still pissed about? Papa Roach has mentioned in interviews that they don’t rap in songs anymore. According to a Wikipedia article that credit’s an interview with the Dallas Music Guide, lead singer Jacoby Shaddix says “I just want to be a rocker.” That’s all I need to hear. It was actually 2004 when I began to appreciate Papa Roach’s music with their single “Getting Away with Murder.” Since then, WWE Raw, a show that I’ve watched since its inception in 1993, named “…To Be Loved” their theme song last year. So that’s a double whammy for me. Jacoby ventured out into the audience for “Time is Running Out” and they finished up with “Last Resort.”

Some girl in the front row tossed Jacoby a pair of little black panties, so he did what a guys usual reflex is when that happens. He put them on his head and covered his mouth and nose with the “good part.” Mid-song he stops, inhales, and proclaims “Hey…these smell good!” If you’re a guy there’s a 99% chance that you’ve done that before and enjoyed it too. He’s entertaining and crazy to say the least.

Buckcherry or “Buckberry” as the PNC Bank Arts Center program refers to them as were up next. We don’t know how to rock out, and apparently we can’t spell either.

You were probably disappointed if you’re a fan from the start like me, material from Buckcherry’s first two albums have gone almost completely abandoned. Most of their performance consisted of songs from their last album 15. Even though they picked up a few new members, they’re still the raw and sexual band they established themselves as. Some highlights were their new track “Too Drunk” from their forthcoming Black Butterfly, “Next to You,” and “Crazy Bitch.” You can check out footage of their performance at our You Tube channel:

During Tommy’s amusing Titty Cam segment, to encourage boobs to come out of hiding, he said “C’mon, this ain’t a Bon Jovi concert.” Unlike other bands such as Bon Jovi and Poison who emerged in the ’80s, Motley goes into a concert with a different mindset. They definitely want the audience to have a good time but they do what they’ve always done and that’s fuck shit up with no regard. When you see Poison they show a parental advisory warning on the screens but there’s actually no adult content. At Motley, there’s no warning but tons of explicit content! There’s naked girls on the screens and plenty of sexual situations. Instead of turning the place into a party, they want to destroy the place with their hard rock anarchy. There’s something about their music that remains edgy and dangerous til this day. It’s much like Guns N Roses Appetite for Destruction. There’s music on that album that will always sound like these guys must be wrongdoers. Parents hated Motley. Bon Jovi and Poison on the other hand were less threatening and thus more mom-friendly. Motley seemed like they’d bash through your front door wearing all their demonic gear with smoke pouring in, they’d try to bang your mom, steal all your liquor, beat the shit out of your dad, and then break anything expensive in your house. That’s Motley. If Poison and Bon Jovi came over we’d all probably gather around a bonfire in the yard and sing Kumbaya. That’s not to say that I don’t love them, cause I do! There’s just always been a different vibe running through Motley’s show and they come off as ballsier, and more focused.
Motley was on point, and LOUD! The only minor flaw lies within Vince Neil’s performance. I think Vince sounds better than he did say, 4 years ago, but obviously not as good as he did 20 years ago. There’s many instances where the audience is singing for him and other times he’ll only sing the last few words of each line. Overall though, not much has changed with Motley. Motley blasted through their signature songs with reckless abandon. They played all their classics like Kickstart my heart, Wildside, Shout at the Devil, and Dr. Feelgood. After Mick’s guitar solo, Tommy hopped in with some beats and played a few seconds of Voodoo Chile. During the band’s encore Home Sweet Home, the screens showed a montage of all vintage Crue clips.
Whenever the lights went out I squinted to see the outline of Nikki up there and I felt like it was the ‘80s all over again. He still looks basically the same even with all he’s been through. But this was no nostalgia show because The Crue was out there to prove that their new album rocks. Hearing the tracks from Saints of Los Angeles live sound just as brash and defiant as their classics. Their performances of Motherfucker of the Year and the title track SOLA blew the people (and guidos) in the packed amphitheater right onto the parkway and then gave them the finger.