25 years ago this week, The Smithereens, a rock band proud to be from Jersey, claimed their first spot on the Billboard Maintstream Rock Chart at number 14 with “Blood and Roses,” off their first full length album, Especially For You. This is an important album for Jersey music and pop culture because it’s regarded by critics as one of The Smithereen’s best efforts and also cited by Kurt Cobain to be one of his favorite albums according to his journal. In addition to its video getting MTV airplay, the track “Blood and Roses” appeared in the films Dangerously Close, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (I better watch it, that’s 2 Romy and Michele references on this site in one week), and TV’s Miami Vice.
I could have sworn the only thing coming out of New Brunswick, NJ was the vomit shooting out of 2nd floor apartment windows like cannonballs over Hamilton Street after a night of partying, that is, up until the moment an old friend made me aware of a rock band called The Fletchers. They recently released their 2nd album Lights Out Loud, and from the moment of insertion (of the CD you scumbag!), the stereotypes of a repugnant college town cleared away like acne after being doused with Proactive. I can’t guarantee that listening to The Fletchers will work wonders on that jock itch of yours, but hey, it’s worth a shot!
The Fletchers’ Lights Out Loud ascends to heights that their debut album Bright Blue Lights did not. Lights Out Loud is a more focused outing and it’s accessibility makes it apparent that the mind and the voice of The Fletchers, Gary Kaplan, has created possibly the finest work of his musical career. What makes Kaplan different from the host of other songwriters and lead singers coming out of New Jersey is that he’s enjoyed success in bands before. In the ’90s (the ancient times), Kaplan was the singer and songwriter behind two indie bands, Dandelion Fire and Rotator Cuff. His former bands have opened for other big name bands, and Rotator Cuff’s video for “Alfa Romeo” scored airplay on MTV, way back when they still didn’t play music videos, except for a little show at a hideous hour called 120 Minutes.
On Light’s opening track, “Beaches,” Kaplan’s distinct voice almost seems too strong for it’s airy background vocals and breezy, top down instrumentation, but it all comes together less than a minute into the song. Unlike the secretive Coca-Cola brand, The Fletchers formula comes right out of your speakers for you to savor. It’s the juxtaposition of Kaplan’s raspy voice, resonant backing vocals, and music provided by Dan Coffey on bass, Rob Freda on guitar, and Cliff Heaton on drums that provides quite an addictive blend.
Kaplan’s wisdom from his invaluable exposure to the music business has undoubtedly helped The Fletcher’s hone in on their signature sound. Fresh indie rock radiates from Lights Out Loud. Rob Freda’s superb guitar work plays an integral role, but the tunes are also replete with fun choruses, harmonies, and other pop sensibilities. The band’s influences can surely be detected, but The Fletcher’s are not begging to be noticed by the similarities they bare to the groups they listen to on their iPods. Several reviews and critics have cited similarities ranging from Brit-Pop acts to XTC, REM, and The Kinks. A more prominent musical connection, at least to The Sexy Armpit’s ear, is to another New Jersey rock band, The Smithereens. To be clear, The Fletcher’s are definitely not a Smithereens tribute band, but if you punch “The Smithereens” into a Pandora playlist, The Fletchers may very well come up next.
Lights Out Loud was produced and engineered in Hopewell, NJ and mixed in East Brunswick, NJ.
The Sexy Armpit says Download these tracks: “Beaches,” “Maybe,” and “Wasted.” BUY the MP3 album of Lights Out Loud at CDBaby for only $7.99 or the CD for $9.99.Find out more about The Fletchers at their official site: www.thefletchersmusic.com. Friend them on Myspace: www.myspace.com/thefletchersmusic or Become a Fan on Facebook.
The Fletchers play The Loop Lounge in Passaic Park, NJ this Friday, March 5th.
Rarely do I have a hard time finding the right words, but this is one of those occasions. I was alive and kicking in 1994 when Timecop was released in theaters, but for reasons which escape me, “Time Won’t Let Me” remember this video. I also don’t remember much about the Timecop sequel, TV show, or video game spawned from it either. If I wasn’t searching for The Smithereens on YouTube, I wouldn’t have came across this lost treasure of cheesiness.