“Whatever their “thing” is — best described as a lovable mesh of pop, punk and indie — or is not, one thing’s for sure. It’s incredible.”
It’s quite a skill, being odd… But to remain as oddly off-centre as The Blam takes some doing… The Blam require patience before their melodies sneak inside your skull, but when they do they unleash a promisingly slanted noise.
— NME (UK)
The Blam – “Death Or Glory”
The Blam – “Little Pricks”
After the breakup of the late 90′s Brooklyn pioneers The 527S, Jerry Adler needed a new band. In three short years, The 527S had recorded an incredible 187 songs. “That band was almost an art project,” says Jerry. “This was before the days of a professional grade computer studio in any bedroom. We rented the storefront space at 527 Metropolitan Avenue (now The Subway Bar), installed an 8-track reel-to-reel, a couple of mics and some pedals, and went to work. We had no idea about anything, but we just went in there every day and recorded. I wouldn’t say it was all process and no product, but it was close. It’s impossible to describe what I learned during that period. It was the foundation for everything I’ve done since. We might release some of it one day, but I have to say that in this age of the compulsive digital archiving of every thought and action, I like the idea that it exists only in the memories of the people who were there.”
While Jerry’s partner in The 527S, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Shahar Even-Tzur, had always done the drumming on the band’s recorded output, their man for live shows was Yuval Lion. He was first aboard in the new outfit. Next was Reuben Maher. Reuben had been playing, along with former Pere Ubu bassist Tony Maimone and Schumann pedals creator John Schumann, with the just then defunct Poka Poka. The 527S had shared many bills with Poka Poka, and Jerry and Reuben were good friends. Reuben had also been a part of some of the ever-changing live line-ups for The 527S. Needing only a bassist to round out the quartet, Jerry turned to the best one he knew and invited Itamar Ziegler of the also just then defunct hip-hop group Side Effect. For the four members, previously all friends and now together in a band, the chemistry was immediate.
In 2002, The Blam burst onto the very fertile NY music scene that bands like Interpol, The Strokes, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs were just bursting out of. They released two records within 11 months. Both were college radio hits, coming from literally out of nowhere to break into the top 50 on the CMJ charts and each garnered airplay on over 220 stations in the U.S. alone. The band also made a splash in the UK with great reviews, rotation on BBC radio, and a tour. The Blam’s next step was to record two more records simultaneously. One was to be a collection of previously written songs from Jerry’s 527S period, while the other would be brand new material. In the spring of 2005, just as the third record was completed and with the fourth record two-thirds finished, The Blam abruptly disbanded.
Curb Cut Records is excited to begin its catalog by re-issuing The Blam’s first two records—The Blam (2002) and Caveat Emptor (2003)—and is proud to follow that, for the first time anywhere, with the much rumored about yet heretofore unseen third album, Blow Wind Blow (2011). Blow Wind Blow is a marked departure for a group clearly unconcerned with repeating themselves. Gone for the most part are the buzz saw guitars and elevated tempos of the previous records, and in its place is a lovely collection showcasing another side of Adler’s writing ability and with production qualities reminiscent of Friends-era Beach Boys. Though recorded in 2005 and populated with songs written from 1996-2000, this record sounds completely fresh and undated.
THE BLAM – THE BLAM
Whatever “revival” the hype machine might lump this NYC band into, let it be set down now that they are legit. The Beatles, Here Come the Warm Jets-era Eno, vintage Bowie, and even The Velvets are clear reference points, but The Blam never only reproduce the classics. On the contrary, they are a joyfully original psychedelic rock group producing glammy work on par with the best of The Shins, Supergrass, and the little known Oregon outfit The Brother Egg. “Catchy” doesn’t quite do justice to the propulsive brilliance of pop masterpieces like “I Don’t Care About Nobody Else” and “Various Disgraces”. “Little Pricks” is like that long lost follow-up to Hunky Dory that we’ve been waiting years for. Subtle. Bombastic. Glitter. Vibed. Whatever—just mark ‘em down as contenders in the “best new” category. Spin doctors, don’t ruin my band.
The Fly (UK)
The Blam – The Blam
Another NYC group, another great album…
As if we didn’t already know New York was the coolest place on the planet right now, along comes another Brooklyn outfit, ready to shoot its NYC emblazoned goo onto the disgraced face of the British music industry. With sixties frat-rock, spruced up for the noughties by means of Pavement-esque guitars and a filthy bed-time vibe, the Blam shame all formulaic Brit-rockers whose idea of progress is imitation or monotony.
“Before you put that food into your mouth, remember who you are” chirps frontman Jerry Adler on Various Disgraces, a satirical look at the thin distinction between love and hate, that’s swollen with sexual showmanship. And with the candid approach of a hugely capable pornstar, the Blam parade 11 further bursts of timeless rock n tumble to leave other musicians thinking, ‘I wish I could do it like that’.
Crying, creaming or just cleaning up, this debut will undoubtedly leave our indie-rock ‘superstars’ reaching for the Kleenex.
Blam! The sound of an explosion out of Brooklyn, NY whose reverberations will almost assuredly be heard ’round the world very shortly. This debut, hitting the stores with precious little fanfare, packs enough rock and roll punch and brilliant lyricism to make me foam at the mouth for more. With strikingly original guitar riffs and multi-layered production, The Blam have concocted a formula that leaves me hard-pressed to make comparisons. So, I will refrain from trying to do so and state simply that I love this album. It’s just great rock and roll, which is in short supply these days.
KKKK (out of five)
You may think you’ve heard the best the Big Apple has to offer with The Strokes and Interpol currently leading the NY invasion, but The Blam are hot on their scuzz-loving heels. From the high speed tension release of opener “You’re Making My Head Spin” alone, it would be easy to pigeonhole this band as yet another addition to the garage-rock parade, but each track references a wide range of moods and styles, including everything from The Flaming Lips, to Bowie and The Beach Boys. This self-produced first foray, mastered by the legendary Howie Weinberg, boasts both diverse and delicate treatments of melancholy melodies and harmonies, and frenetic angular fuzz rock wound together by Jerry Adler’s boozy and bewitching vocals. The Blam are a treat for lovers of all things hazy and heartfelt.
******** (8 out of ten)
Hailing from Brooklyn, The Blam occupy that often dodgy territory somewhere in the no-man’s land between punk and rock ‘n’ roll. A hybrid so easy to get disasterously wrong, it’s one The Blam seems to have down to a fine art. Two guitarists who, between them, can play more than a total of four chords is always a good starting point – indeed Messrs Adler and Maher play entire melodies and actual solos, which almost by definition negates the punk label. But the general sunny undertones, happy-go-lucky sound of Madness, tongue-in-cheek lyrics (“I Don’t Care About Nobody Else”) and choruses that somewhat narcissistically make you want to do the twist, infuse the whole with everything that we all love about the pogo-ing genre. “You’re Making My Head Spin” pulls out all the feel good, rocking big riff stops. “Easy To Be Good” sounds almost Beatle-esque (a comment that will probably get me lynched, but which has complimentary intentions!). And, “Various Disgraces” takes the award for best modern rock track of the album, with it’s pop topping and impertinent use of sampler additives. In all honesty, it’s probably nothing somebody hasn’t done before, but it’s done with energy, enthusiasm and finesse, which, if you ask me, make it all infinitely worthwhile.
The Blam sure has its fans and have been getting enthusiastic write-ups all over the place. Indie, with influences from retro rock, brit pop, punk, and east coast emo they’re hot in a Hollies kind of way on “I Don’t Care About Nobody Else” and “Various Disgraces” and a Heman’s Hermits kind of way on “Little Pricks” (great name for a song). Goat and Carrot (We Would Get Along), another great name for a song, and “Some Marry For Love” are great poppy, punky rockers. Tight and fun, The Blam are at their best when doing their pretty, rocking, punky, vintage pop thing.
The Blam have rapidly become our favourite “The” band of late – they are everything a “The” band is supposed to be: shamelessly retro, scuzzy, loud, Yank-sounding, clumsy…one imagines they have the kind of nuclear sperm that causes Womb Rupture at first spurt, and they probably only shag girls who wear Converse All-Stars and ripped denim. Proper – in a way most of the young pretenders slogging their guts out at On The Rocks every week can have but pervy dreams about. By no means the best track on their excellent self-titled debut LP, “Brooklyn On My Mind” still kicks so hard it leaves trainer grooves on the inside of your skull. Ker-smashhh!!!
Hey, do you really dig those albums that get down and rock out in a neatly direct, jangly, thrillingly crisp and bang-up efficient manner? Y’know what I’m talking about. The type of album where needless pretense and excess polish take a welcome back seat to straightahead streamlined movin’ and groovin’, with sturdy drums, beautifully fluid guitars, and seamlessly flowing basslines smoothly pushing forward to a ceaselessly steady and syncopated chug-a-lug bumpin’ rhythm. Toss in funky zoned-to-the-bone synthesizer washes, marvelously clear and unaffected raspy vocals, dead simple and uncomplicated lyrics, fabulously plain, just the bare essentials arrangements, and a certain kicked-back, yet still rousing vitality that gets the exciting job done without ever forcing given point. Mix together, stir it up a bit, but never shake too hard, and the net result is a totally ingratiating little lo-fi pip of an album. – Joe Wawyrzniak
Rock Sound (UK)
9 (out of ten)
Alright, so it’s another “The” band, but damn! The Americans are so ace at this sort of thing, and if Brooklyn’s The Blam miss out on their slice of the nu-rock ‘n’ roll pie it’ll be because so many others joined the party earlier, and certainly not down to any failings on the part of this remarkable debut. It’s a sprint down the hi-octane lane of the new wave highway, essentially, with nothing clocking in over three-and-a-half minutes (and the majority of tracks making a sharp exit way before that) and the foursome play fast and loose with their influences, mixing Ramonesian stoopidity with early Eels twistedness and marrying Sonic Youth’s poppier instincts to REM-like observations. Bar just got raised for The Strokes’ return, then. And how!
It’s quite a skill, being odd. Sure you can strip down to your moustache and wobble around onstage to jizz-stained Prince records. But to remain as oddly off-centre as The Blam takes some doing. That’s not to say this debut is without references. Check out the way the guitars in “Let’s Go Away” jolt like “Murmur”-era REM rolling on a floor of mouse-traps. Or the way the band escape from their alt.rock template to produce a pop-pill like “Various Disgraces”. The Blam require patience befrore their melodies sneak inside your skull, but when they do they unleash a promisingly slanted noise.
At first, these NYC newcomers seem to be doing nothing more than attempting to ride the subway car of hype barrelling out of their hometown and into the rest of the world. “You’re Making My Head Spin” opens with pouty singing and a throwback wall of guitars that even a casual listener would recognize as being cut from the same fashionable cloth as The Strokes. However, the song loses its mind in the last thirty seconds as a weird effect makes vocalist Jerry Adler sound like a child, a woman, or perhaps a gay alien. It’s one of many enjoyable surprises to be found in this rather short (just over half an hour) debut. “Let’s Go Away” begins with soft acoustic strumming, after which a huge, swooping electric synth guitar effect divebombs the tune for a bar or two and then retreats. A more conventional electric guitar riff joins the fray as the song builds to a climax, then settles comfortably into a jerky rock groove. For a three-and-a-half-minute rock cut, it covers a lot of territory. An even shorter cut covers still more ground: “8546″ (which for some reason they didn’t call “Isolation”, despite the very catchy refrain featuring that word) somehow recalls Transmissions from the Satellite Heart-era Flaming Lips, first wave ska and Elvis Costello. You can amuse yourself by trying to pick out all of the influences during repeat listens (if you’re a music journalist or similar dork), or you can just take the song as a fascinating whole.
There are more straightforward tunes here, too, such as the rocking “Brooklyn On My Mind”. It’s an appropriate update and relocation of the Willie Nelson classic, as well as a solid rock ‘n’ roll song, rife with crunchy guitars and super-fast joyous drums. That strange feeling that the singer is trying to sound like Casablancas pops up again, but it doesn’t really matter. “Easy To Be Good”, also straightforward, lands at the other end of the spectrum. It’s a slow, loping moaner — conventional janglepop guitars mixed with old school (think Carl Perkins or Roy Orbison) twang. The lyrics, which complement the mournful music, offer a heartfelt examination of personal struggle. “It’s easy to be good,” Adler sings, “when you’re sitting on the top and looking down / Harder to be good / On the ground.” The band’s creativity is fueled by a grim and earnest darkness; here’s hoping they don’t lose that edge if they become stars. If they keep making music this good, they may one day find themselves on the top looking down.
Songs by The Blam feature great pop hooks in their phrasing and delivery making for excellent, memorable choruses. The delivery is very good, leaving one humming along to the catchy and vivid metaphors: “You got your coke bottles on … “You got your nurse’s coat on.” Songs by The Blam are so good as songs themselves, the group’s material could succeed a capella. The Blam seems to be aware of this and does not bury their quality material in ostentatious arrangements, instead relying on a focused two-guitar pop rock approach that recalls 80′s rock. The mix is excellent on the album so that the music never threatens to bury the vocals.
The opening track for this self-titled album, “You’re Making My Head Spin” is The Blam’s most upbeat, full-fledged rock song. Once track one is over they begin to take it down a notch. The slower songs show The Blam as a group of young and talented musicians. The Blam come from New York, where many of the new up and coming rock and roll outfits seem to be coming from. This can work for and against the band. Many New York bands either get praised or just tossed aside. The Blam will hopefully be recognized as a band with a bright future. The majority of the album bounces around at a steady pace and leaves the listener reminiscing of The Velvet Underground, The Beatles, The Buzzcocks, The New York Dolls, and sometimes The Pixies. Songs such as “I Don’t Care About Nobody Else” and “Various Disgraces” stay with you for hours after listening. The Blam wear their influences on their sleeves and take on the overcrowded garagy scene at a new angle, giving it new charm. It is told that The Blam have only been around for a little over a year. This makes it obvious that the members of the band have been busy perfecting and tightening their sound. From the way it’s looking, The Blam are on the rise and won’t give up until they gain the respect and dignity that they
All Music Guide
The more things change and evolve in rock, the more they inevitably stay the same. The success of the Strokes in 2002 reminded us that there is still a place for young bands with a neo-garage/power pop outlook — bands that are rockin’ yet melodic and tuneful, bands that are punky but still know the value of an effective hook. Because the Blam are from Brooklyn, NY and favor a neo-garage approach, this self-titled debut album will no doubt be compared to the Strokes and similar NYC bands of the early 2000s. But the Blam have an appealing energy of their own even though they share some of the Strokes’ influences. A variety of ’60s and ’70s influences assert themselves on this CD, and they are British (the Beatles, David Bowie, the Kinks, the Rolling Stones) as well as American (the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed). There are hints of Bob Dylan in some of Jerry Adler’s lead vocals, although the Blam aren’t folk-rock. Despite all the ’60s and early-’70s influences one hears on infectious tracks like “8546″ and “Brooklyn on My Mind,” the Blam aren’t an exact replica of the garage and power pop artists of that era. Punk is also an influence, but not punk in the Black Flag or Dead Kennedys sense — rather, Adler and his colleagues get some inspiration from punk’s more poppy side and show an awareness of punk-pop combos like the Buzzcocks and Generation X (the late-’70s band that Billy Idol sang lead for before he launched a solo career). So when all is said and done, the Blam’s debut doesn’t sound overly dated. Again, these Big Apple residents have minds of their own, and they hit their mark more often than not on this generally enjoyable debut. -by Alex Henderson
The Blam: Inspired By The Beatles
Wham, bam, thank you The Blam! If you dig The Beatles (and who doesn’t?) you just might like this Brooklyn, N.Y., foursome, who will release their self-titled debut album early next year. After all, Liverpool’s legendary mop-tops are frontman Jerry Adler’s biggest inspiration.
“My favorite of all time is The Beatles — I know that’s not particularly original, but I do have a reason,” singer/guitarist and songwriter Adler conceded, half-laughing, during a recent phone interview. “It’s amazing how they could write any type of song and still have it be them. That’s the type of thing that interests me — the freedom to go anywhere but still maintain some thread of identity.
“We would never be silly enough to make any comparisons with those bands,” he continued, “but we do aspire to making music in that way. And however close we get is however close we get — that’s for other people to decide.”
Narrowing in on the group’s overall mission, he sums it up. “I’m not interested in mining any particular past rock ‘n’ roll territory, or having a particular thing for the band,” Adler said. “I want the ‘thing’ for the band to be that we don’t have a ‘thing.’”
Whatever their “thing” is — best described as a lovable mesh of pop, punk and indie — or is not, one thing’s for sure. It’s incredible. The Blam’s first full-length recording — which they’ll release themselves — is completely enthralling, infectious, jangly, rockin’ and, most of all, real. It’s the sort of energetic record within which you can hear a little Built to Spill, Pavement and, course, The Beatles. It demands your attention and gets more likable with each listen.
Such an accomplishment is at least partly due to the fact that the band — Adler, guitarist Reuben Maher, bassist Itamar Ziegler and drummer Yuval Lion — has its own private studio in Brooklyn. “That’s something that I’ve been putting together piecemeal for about five to six years,” Adler said. “I began with next to nothing and acquired some stuff along the way.
“It’s a really great place because it’s ours, and it just lets you be completely relaxed and free,” he continued. “You’re not on the clock at all. We can come in when we want to and, if things are going great, we can stay all night or, if things aren’t going well, we can just leave. In that sense, it’s a perfect environment.”
One might also say Brooklyn’s currently burgeoning music scene was also the perfect environment for bringing the four together. Each had previously played in different bands around town and each had checked out one another’s groups. They decided to band together in June 2001.”The four of us are really good friends,” Adler said. “Everyone already knew each other [before], it wasn’t just my individual friendships with the other three guys. So, it makes it fun and it makes it very easy. ’cause we get along so well.”
Adler’s songs may be impressive to those who hear them, but he downplays his achievements. “I usually just sit in my room with an acoustic guitar and work on songs alone,” he said. “I just try to relax and see what happens — wherever it goes, it goes.”
Word-wise, Adler aims at not trying too hard but allowing the song’s stories to unfold naturally. “I never start with the lyrics,” he said. “I usually work with the melody and the song and let the topic pick itself.”
Adler writes from experience. “I don’t ever write from a point of pure fiction,” he said. “It’s hard for me to connect with that, so everything has some basis in reality. It’s not necessarily about specific people or what happened the other day or anything like that — just things that might be on my mind.”
One of Adler’s personal favorites on the record, for example, is “8546,” which is, he said, about “a very odd period in my life where some things weren’t going so well. Just a song basically about me sleeping late and hanging around the house.”
Adler has a very open approach to songwriting. “My only goal as far as songwriting is not to put any limits on it, to be as diverse as possible,” he said. “So whatever starts coming out, go with it until it’s done and then make an evaluation after that. I don’t want to get trapped in any particular style or genre — the goal is to be as well-rounded as possible.”
Working in their own studio had its advantages: “We really took our time with the album. There’s some songs we recorded more than once if we weren’t happy with the first version — just the perks of having your own studio.”
The band didn’t have preconceptions about what their album would sound like. “Just to try to make it sound like the band sounds,” Adler said. “I don’t like to go for any specific instrument sounds or drum sounds that are in my head or that I hear on records, because then you just end up closing yourself off to what’s actually happening. Once the sounds start to actually make their appearances in any given song, we’ll just take it from there.”
Adler said he was particularly pleased with “Brooklyn on My Mind” and “Various Disgraces” because they seem to best exude the nature of The Blam. “I mean, I like them all, but those might do well as an intro for people listening to the band,” he said. Both are available for download on the band’s site, theblam.com.
Experiencing firsthand the current revival of rock and punk in New York’s underground, Adler has maintained a positive outlook on the music scene. “I think it’s great,” he said. “It’s strange, it depends on who you talk to. There’s a lot of backlash about it; I think there’s a lot of jealousy in the music scene. But I think it’s great — they’re all rock ‘n’ roll bands making real music, and some may be better than others, and some people may like some more than others, but it’s real and it’s good and it’s something that’s actually happening here.”
“I don’t think there’s anything bad to say about that,” he continued. “It’s not just more mainstream formula crap on the radio being written about, it’s bands with integrity and talent.”
For now, The Blam want to raise their profile and get their music heard. “We want exposure because we want people to know The Blam exist and make their own decisions about whether or not they like us,” Adler said. “So you need the industry for that but certainly we don’t want to be taken advantage of. I guess, like everyone, we try to find some happy ground where we can have our music out there but still maintain the freedom or integrity that allowed us to at least get to this point, to continue to do what we like doing.”
And of course they’re looking for the right record deal. “We’re trying to make the best music that we’re capable of making,” he added. “So we’re hoping for a situation where we can continue to do that. I’d love to be able to keep making records at my studio, but who knows?”
The Blam will head to London at the end of January for a small tour. They plan to tour the U.S. upon their return. — Jenny Tatone [Friday, Nov. 22, 2002]
Q: Okay. Since listening to the debut CD was my first exposure to The Blam, let me get the obvious question right out of the way. Influences? And if your style isn’t directly influenced by anyone, can you tell me what other bands and artists you’ve enjoyed over the years?
A: Some of my favorites are The Flaming Lips, The Velvet Underground, Echo and the Bunnymen, Dylan…but my biggest influence is The Beatles. They wrote any type of song about any subject and no matter what they did it was still them. That’s what I’m interested in. To me, that’s freedom.
Q: I find your lyrics to be very effective in their imagery, 8546 and Goat & Carrot. Do you generally draw your words from your own experiences?
A: Yeah. I find it difficult to relate to them unless they have at least a basis in reality. “8546″ I wrote at a very strange time when I thought I was dying and was basically house ridden for three months and “Goat and Carrot (We Would Get Along)” is about Amy Poehler who’s on SNL now, but I wrote that after the first time I saw the Upright Citizens Brigade perform live.
Q: I understand you just returned from a UK tour. Do you feel you were well-received?
A: The UK tour went great. I wish we were still there.
Q: How long have the four of you been playing together, and how did it come about?
A: We played our first show in June 2001 but we’ve all been friends for about five years. Each of us was in other Williamsburg bands and when they all dissolved we formed The Blam. It’s by far the best musical situation I’ve ever been in in every way.
Q: Obviously, you’ve toured a lot recently due to the CD’s impending release. Would you say that you enjoy playing in New York City the best?
A: I like London the best.
Q: One thing I love about your sound is that, played softly, I get a sense of emotional honesty carried by great melodies; played loud, these same songs just rock like hell. Would you say that your live sound is more aggressive than your studio approach?
A: It is but I feel like they represent each other well and that was a goal of ours. If you like one, you’ll like the other.
Q: I know that the debut was just released, but I for one already can’t wait for more. Any future plans or new songs in the works?
A: We have almost two more albums written and we’re playing those songs live. On this tour only about half of any given set was album tracks. It’s just going to depend on how things unfold before we know what’s going to come out next. It’ll be soon though.
Q: The name. How did you come up with The Blam?
A: The Blam means what it is. That’s all I can say.
Q: Are there any current bands or artists who have really caught your attention, or who you would enjoy touring with?
A: Well, we’re from NY and it’s literally vomiting bands right now. They’re all good though. People will say what they will about the scene but that’s just press. Music is music and the bands are for real.
Q: I notice that your CD is self-produced, which is impressive considering how great the sound is. Has anyone in the band worked on music production in any capacity before?
A: I started putting together a studio about six years ago with a friend of mine. At the beginning we had nothing but we recorded every day. Over time I got more and more equipment but it’s not about gear. There just isn’t any substitute for spending thousands of hours doing something and it’s something I feel really strongly about. If you want to write, write. If you want to paint, paint. People can decide for themselves if our album sounds good or bad but it’s the best we were capable of at that moment in time and the same will be true for every record we make. Our friend Danny Shatzky helped with a good bit of the engineering and most of the mixing and the album wouldn’t exist without him.
Q: What would you say has been your best experience thus far as a band?
A: The last show we played.
Q: Your worst experience?
A: Missing the flight home from England. That sucked.
Q: And now, the question everyone wants to know the answer to: O.J. Innocent or guilty? Feel free to ignore this question, I just enjoy asking it.
A: O.J. was a fantastic running back.
Sky Text Entertainment
Vocalist/Guitarist Jerry Adler
The Blam are easily one of the coolest rock bands to hail from Brooklyn’s currently burgeoning music scene. With their trademark punky thrusts, fuzzy riffs, and strong melodies this four piece have been quick to showcase their unique blend of rock and roll. The Blam produced and recorded their debut LP in their own private studio before it was given the Midas touch by music legend Howie Weinberg. As the band gets set to storm London at the end of February, we hook up with The Blam’s super cool frontman Jerry Adler.
How did the band get together?
We’ve been together for eighteen months but we’ve known each other for years from the Brooklyn and Manhattan music scene.
Describe your music to a new fan.
It’s pop music but that’s become a distorted term, which doesn’t mean much. So it’s a combination of indie rock with elements of punk.
Describe your LP “The Blam”.
It”s a record with 12 tracks which we made in our studio.
Do you own the studio?
Yeah. It’s in Brooklyn which is where we rehearsed and recorded the album. It’s not a commercial studio but I”ve done records there for friends. It’s just our place and we come and go as we please. It’s a great environment.
What is your favorite track?
8546 is pretty close to me as is Brooklyn On My Mind and Various Disgraces. Various Disgraces, our single in the UK, is about somebody I knew who turned out to be quite a seedy character and wound up in prison.
How did you get Howie Weinberg to master the album?
We shortlisted all the very talented engineers. Howie topped the list because of his past work. He’s a legend who’s done some of the best records in the history of rock and roll.
Who is your biggest influence?
For me it’s The Beatles. I think they’re the best band ever. They could write any type of song. They’re incredible.
What have been the highlights of 2002?
Completing our album was a big deal to us.
What’s next for The Blam?
We’re touring in the UK at the end of February and we’re really looking forward to it.
What are your concerts like?
Very high energy. We do pretty faithful renditions of songs from our album.
What do you do to chill out?
I hang out at bars in Brooklyn or Manhattan, but stay pretty low key and keep away from the New York club scene.
How do rate the music scene in New York?
Something very good is happening in New York and there’s a lot of talent around. It’s pretty healthy and there are many rock and roll bands coming through.
What’s the most rock and roll thing you’ve done?
I’ve never had a job. The only jobs I’ve ever had are odd jobs to support my music habit. I’ve done some very dumb things to pay the rent.
Finally, why are you called The Blam?
My best friend made up the name. It just means what it is, if that makes sense at all.
The Aquarium Weekly
The Blam – The Blam (Mootron) by John Fortunato
Though pop-minded quartet The Blam claim to have “no connection” to the booming Brooklyn scene proliferating New York’s burgeoning underground, the modest troupe share the same independent DIY spirit as neighboring neo-no wave minimalists currently all the rage. While playing around town at small venues, The Blam rehearsed, recorded and produced an enticing self-titled debut at their own private studio (with assistance from mixer Danny Shatzky).
Formerly the main songwriter for studio project The 527S, Manhattan-raised Jerry Adler (vocals-guitar) hooked up with Irish-bred guitarist Reuben Maher (ex-Teenage Moustache) and Israel-born drummer Yuval Lion during that band’s inconspicuous tenure. With the addition of fellow Israelite Itamar Ziegler (bassist formerly of premier Israeli hip-hop combo Side Effect), the foursome assembled lean melodic songs under the smashing new moniker, The Blam.
For openers, the driving “You’re Making My Head Spin” piles on chain-linked guitar fury suggesting the primal punk urgency of late-’70s icons the Buzzcocks and the Adverts as Adler spews out the initiating line, “I’m not a dilettante/ I just want what I want” like imperiled Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten. On the perfectly succinct hometown scorcher, “Brooklyn On My Mind”, they cram fuzzy garage riffs loaded with Sonic Youth-styled distortion above full-on rhythmic propulsion for an unbridled assault utterly characteristic of Kings borough’s vibrancy.
To further prove their diversity, The Blam efficiently slip into lubricated power pop on the harmonic digression “Various Disgraces”, the modestly tender acoustic retreat “Easy To Be Good”, and the insouciantly whimsical “I Don’t Care About Nobody Else”. Cleverly recalling the slumbering introspective post-psychedelia of the Flaming Lips, the isolationist dirge, “8546″, and the blurry folk-muzzled, “Sitting in the Sun”, toil in lysergic self-discovery.
I met with The Blam at the basement of Mulberry Street’s Australian pub, 8 Mile Creek, to discuss their musical interests. In between, our conversation easily drifted off into underground pop druggy Julian Cope’s joint-toking stage antics, the merits of Middle Eastern women, and Batman, as we drank bottles of Cooper’s Pale Ales.
AW: Where do The Blam draw influences?
JERRY: I’ve always been into good songs. The bands I like — the Beatles, Flaming Lips, and Echo & the Bunnymen — go anywhere with anything. If you have a good song, you could do whatever you want with the production essentially.
REUBEN: A lot of my influences come from friends who are in music. There’s a band called the Tulips in Ireland. Remember the band, A House, a Dublin-based band. They were great. But most of my musician friends were unemployed and on drugs. Everyone was a hash dealer. So once I got a green card I came here and 15 to 20 of my friends were already here from ’93.
AW: How’d you come up with the cool name, The Blam. It sounds like a fake word they’d show on Batman when one of the villains like the Joker or Penguin got punched in the face.
JERRY: (laughter) We needed a Princeton graduate to figure that name out. My best friend made it up and we were joking about it.
There seems to be a dichotomy between uplifting love trinkets and vengeful, pissed-off banter.
JERRY: To me, the most interesting bands have the most sides to their personality. It’s like meeting an interesting person. The more dynamic, the more interesting. We’re not interested in just going down one road with one type of lyric or music. There’s a song for everything and hopefully I could write them all. (laughter)
“You’re Making My Head Spin” is reminiscent of first wave punk by the Buzzcocks.
JERRY: That song was one of the easier songs to come together. I’m basically interested in writing pop songs as a band. But I have my own definition of that. I love the Buzzcocks. They’re seminal original punk, but their hooks and killer choruses are still pop whether the songs have a punk bent or are something slow and melodic.
AW: “Brooklyn On My Mind” is a heartfelt tribute to the artistically vogue borough you reside in.
JERRY: That’s funny ’cause that’s an older song from six years ago. Occasionally, The 527S did it live. It made the album because not only is it a good song, but it’s representative. It’s strange now with the Brooklyn band explosion. Now it seems like a novelty song.
AW: Actually, it’s a great little anthem perfect for a future documentary of the current Brooklyn scene.
REUBEN: I think it should be the soundtrack to the fuckin’ A train. Those people look real nervous.
AW: “I Don’t Care About Nobody Else” has a gleeful teen innocence reminiscent of ’60s Carnaby Street Brit-pop.
JERRY: That song follows “8546″, because I’m interested in switching it up going from here to there. Going from heavy and personal to carefree and light — not silly. But when you feel carefree, that’s as valid as when you feel downhearted. It’s just a different feeling for a different day. The funny thing is we spent two weeks figuring out the order of the album’s songs and the guy who mixed it put it in just about the same order as the first day we popped it onto CD. Believe it or not, it’s the only one that worked.
AW: “8546″ seems to deal with isolation and frustration.
JERRY: It’s a metaphoric song about a time when I thought I was dying. I had a strange physical illness and no one knew what was wrong. I went to all these doctors and was house-ridden for months. I had the type of mental freak out you go through with something like that. So that song deals with that.
REUBEN: (kidding around with Jerry) I didn’t know that. I thought you were just bored. (laughter)
AW: Do you have a problem with people buying Rolling Stones tickets for $100 at Madison Square Garden when they could spend that money wiser by going to eight different club shows and catch thirty upcoming bands? Besides Tom Petty and Bob Dylan, there are very few heritage rockers I could give a fuck about.
REUBEN: How ’bout Neil Young.
YUVAL: Or Tom Waits. Going to see the Stones is like going to the museum. You’d appreciate it more there.
JERRY: I’d be interested to know if anyone at that Rolling Stones show thought the sound was horrible. It was hard to listen to on HBO.
REUBEN: Keith did that one song by himself and I thought that was really good. But they did the whole over-production thing with too many horns and these Gospel singers on some simple songs that never had that production. And all these saxophone players.
ITAMAR: I think it’s great they still play. They go to the Hilton and they get to go to Buckingham (Palace).
AW:What’s the future hold for The Blam?
JERRY: We’ve got tons of songs. We’ve got good old and new stuff. We’re just looking for someone to back us so we could get to the next level. We’re trying to be versatile and push the edges so the crazy stuff is crazier and the sweet stuff is sweeter. And we have a little more range now. College radio has been tremendously supportive. That’s where you look for good music anyway. Once you’re dealing with mainstream corporate radio, even if it’s alternative corporate rock, it’s a problem. -John Fortunato
Noisefiendz.com Live Review: The Blam @ Arlene Grocery 10/23/02
It’s 10:40pm and I’ve been waiting, along with the 100 other people crammed into Arlene Grocery, for The Blam to start. It’s their CD release party and we’ve been standing here for over an hour.
This is not unusual. This is, in fact, the band’s standard M.O.: Make the audience wait at least 30-40 minutes past start time. Do not hustle with your gear. Do not accept a sub-par monitor mix. As for the crowd, let them wonder whether or not the guitarist Reuben Maher really needs to set up 100 plus pedals for a 45 minute set. Let their anticipation boil over into annoyance and resentment. You find yourself murmuring to the bloke next to you, “These motherf—ers better be good!”
Of course when The Blam kicks off its set, all that shit goes out the window. What follows is 10-12 of the most sublime, infectious pop-tunes you can hear in NYC. Part Built To Spill, part Pavement and fully New Yawk ‘tude, The Blam is a band on the brink of its first album release, its first UK tour and what will likely be a word-of-mouth sensation.
Delivered with uncanny Malkmusian laziness, Jerry Adler’s melodies will stay in your head for days, weeks, months even. Most typified in the refrain to “Various Disgraces” (“Oh you wear me out/And there is nothing I can do/Nothing at all”), they are all marked by the precision of their hook writing and the economy of their cliches (familiar, yet not derivative).
At 11:10, the band is now over its allotted time slot, but only halfway into its set. In the ensuing battle between Adler and Arlene’s hapless soundman, the PA is cut and the exit music pumps out. Maher leaves his amp on, kick-starts his distortion pedal and fills the room with deafening hums and screeches. The band storms off the stage, leaving the soundman to forge his way through the crowd, amid the boos (intended for him) and feedback.
“Well, that’s the last the last time I’ll ever see them here,” I say, unaware that the band would receive a phone call fro the owner two days later apologizing for cutting their set short.
And there you have it. One of the only bands that can pull off that kind of bona fide rock diva bravado and not only get away with it, but get invited to play the Best of Arlene Grocery show two months later.
The Big Issue (UK)
**** (out of five)
Harmony infused garage pop is, as musical genres go, timeless. Emanating from NY and playing a buzzing blend of early Beatles mixed with the scrawling, guitar-powered output of fellow Big Apple dwellers The Strokes, The Blam just flat out rock. Granted, while singer Jerry Adler and his colleagues are strutting their collective stuff, you could easily be back in Hamburg’s Star Club circa ’62 or an Eighties evening in the Marquee but who cares? On this their first UK tour they are plugging the eponymously titled debut album and their infectious, enthusiastic songs should convert even the most vehement cynics.
Mind you, a lot of the good names are already taken, which makes it all the more surprising that there wasn’t a The Blam before now, but, lordy!, the world’s a better place for them being here. As if the album wasn’t getting played here every day at PlayLouder Towers anyway, they played what’ll more’n likely end up as one of the UK debuts of the year at The Water Rats. All scattershot angular twanglism, rocketing rifferama and, quite simply, bloody enormous tunes. You’re going to be hearing this lot a lot, and, jings, they don’t half make us froth.
The Fly (UK)
As everyone knows, New York City is the perennial home of musical cool; The Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs simply the latest in a long line stretching back to The Velvet Underground. But with all this style-led propaganda, it’d be easy to forget the equally glorious history of Manhattan’s misfits.
Following in the footsteps of the terminally nerdy Talking Heads and The Ramones, come The Blam and they’re very, very good…The Blam are pure NYC. Think of The Strokes’ insidious pop, mangled with Sonic Youth’s off-kilter guitar lines with a healthy dollop of Talking Heads weirdness and you’re just about there. Whether it’s the rowdy punk of “Brooklyn on my Mind” or the weed-influenced country pop of “The Box is For Me”, there’s something about this band that confounds and yet makes perfect sense. I mean, what type of band flies all the way to London to play a set composed almost entirely of awesome songs NOT appearing on the album? The geek shall inherit the earth? Stranger things have happened.
The third London show in as many weeks by genius Brooklyn boys The Blam. We wiffled away plenty about them the last time around, you’ll recall, so we won’t bother repeating ourselves except to say that, while cheerfully, clanging mighty enough on the album as you’ll hear for yourselves this Monday, they positively bruise in the live arena and, trust us, liveness in arenas will come knocking.
The Blam are just a year old, but they’re blowing up fast. No small feat considering they don’t sound like any of the big hitters from the borough hype built. The Strokes without trust funds, Lou Barlow with quality control, Lou Reed with a calendar–take your pick.
THE BLAM – CAVEAT EMPTOR
New York City. It’s huge, sprawling, epic, dirty, big, strangely familiar but totally foreign. These are the same qualities that you could use to describe The Blam and their second amazing album. Drawing equally from the New York sound of the Calla, The Strokes, Interpol et al, The Blam never forgets the British sounds that created that sound in the first place, like Eno and Bowie. Alternating between noisy, fuzzed out stomps, like the klaxon call of the opener “Death or Glory” to the shimmering softness of “Calm Down”, The Blam cover many of the best sounds of many of the best bands on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
It isn’t until the title track comes blaring, propelled by Itamar Ziegler’s unstoppable bassline, that you see the full majesty of The Blam’s work. But then, like a thief in the night, they are off on another tangent with the almost Flaming Lips-like “How Did the Flies Get In”, with its whimsical guitar line and Beach Boy harmonies over the droning end. This is hands down one of the most promising and well written albums of 2004… it’s early, mind you, but we are off to a damn good start.
What I really enjoy about this record is songwriter and vocalist Jerry Adler’s rejection of irony and stance. This record is beautiful and lacks all pretension. It is a pure work of love and appreciation and hard work, instead of a simple nod to someone else’s ideas and work. Like I have been told, it is so easy to criticize and copy, but creation of something new is another story.
Caveat – A warning or caution. Emptor – A person who buys.
The warning would be that the New York City band fad of the last couple of years will eventually pass and leave few members standing and the rest will fade into obscurity. As unlikely as that seems currently, you should buy this warning and choose sides now. The Blam, whose style resides on the heavier side of the NYC sound and feels a bit more Brit pop inspired, should be one of the survivors after the smoke of the frenzy clears.
The album’s tracks bounce haphazardly from softly psychedelic retro rock to bouncy punk-pop, creating swells of originality while tipping their hats to the masters such as early Bowie and Beatles, without picking their pockets for material. Opening track, “Death Or Glory”, doesn’t diverge too dramatically from their contemporaries to discourage potential fans from sticking around to hear more. Given a chance, the following nine tracks will prove the catchy hooks are there. The skills to write excellent songs are there. The influence of a lifetime of listening is there. The patience to hold out the best until the very end is there. “I’m In A Panic” rocks with an energy not seen until this point “So far not a goddamn thing’s panned out / But I’m still waiting by the well with my hand out” then “Everybody” winds down the album with a loungy, spacey melody.
A truly original band whose downfall just might be that they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. A group of bands as overcrowded as the city they call home.
These days, super hip New York bands seem to be sprouting out of the boroughs like stalks in a cornfield. That’s why it should come as a surprise to precisely no one that The Blam, being both super hip and from the Big Apple, appear to be riding the straight-away (Parliament Lights first) into all sorts of great things. Their 2003 self-titled debut inspired kind words from ALTERNATIVE PRESS and NME and enjoyed a mini-stint as the fourth most-added college radio record in the U.S. of A. The 10 songs on CAVEAT EMPTOR blend the minimalist garage-fuzz of The Strokes with the sass of Stellastarr* and an abundant breath of fresh air. “Caveat Emptor” flaunts ringing guitars and warm distortion, and the blissful pulse of “It’s Not Personal” is charming in all the right ways. It probably couldn’t hurt to snag this independently-released disc before it gets swallowed up by Sony Music and becomes a collector’s item.
The cover of this CD is very simple, plain in fact. But it shrouds an odd collection of 10 songs. In some ways, I’m reminded of old Sinead O’Connor CD’s, melancholy music that you can sometimes dance to. These songs are short, every one of them. Which is actually refreshing. These songs wash over you, mellow you out but they’re not all mellow. Many of them are whispers that shout at you, for you. Great vocalization and odd lyrical stylings that always seem to make sense. Strange lyric breaks prevail.
Another nice thing about this CD is that all of the artists – Jerry Adler (Vocals, Guitar), Reuben Maher (Guitar), Itamar Ziegler (Bass, Vocals) and Yuval Lion (Drums) – get a chance to shine and show what they can do. Ringing guitars and catchy bass opens the CD with “Death or Glory.” Nice little claps in there by the way. A cute little electronic sample prevails in the mellow “Calm Down.” The title track is one of the best songs on the CD. A soulful, disillusioned “if you break it you bought it. they don’t unring the bell” defines this song. Jaded, jaded lyrics. The guitar work of Maher, Ziegler, and Adler is wonderful on the ears, anchored by strong drums. Of course, no jaded, melancholy CD is complete without the love song. And Caveat Emptor is no different on its next track. This is a sad song, with distorted guitar jams that you must think is the sound of a heart breaking. Also, it has these funky pauses in it that made me think my CD player was messed up. It was like the song got overwhelmed by pain and had to take a break. Thank goodness for ‘Its Not Personal’ chasing behind this track. By far, the funkiest song on here, this ‘things suck’ tune is infectious. WARNING – you won’t be able to get it out of your head for days. The band, which has been tight over all on the CD, really becomes like one on this track. Yuval Lion kicks into serious high gear for track 6. By far, the band’s most forceful showing, “Writing On The Wall” is really framed out by Lion’s percussion work. Not that its just one big drum solo, not by a long shot. Ziegler provides the butter of his bass – and vocal backup – for Adler to slide his vocals along. Maher and Adler put exclamation points to the tune with their ringing guitar style. But the upswing couldn’t last forever. Adler sweetly croons “Elliott,” an incredibly sweet tune for a band that tends toward the jaded. This song sounds like a letter someone wrote to their child. A jaded letter. A soothing ‘Beatles-esque’ tune backs up the softness of the vocals. “The Box Is For Me” is an odd song, but very haunting and pretty. Somehow, it was making me think of Sesame Street in the 70′s and early 80′s – when it was still cool, not just about stupid Elmo, but that’s my issue. The backup vocalizing was great. The Blam picks up the pace a little with “I’m In A Panic,” using rollicking, twangy guitar, anchored by strong a bassline and pumped up by the drums to tell an amusing story about not wanting to end up old and alone. I think. The CD ender has sweet, tart vocalization – to the point of being blues-y – and makes you feel like floating off.
I liked Caveat Emptor. I didn’t always understand why I liked it, but that’s not the important part. The Blam gave a gritty performance that was made easy to swallow by them not driving it home with a sledgehammer. What a good CD.
Wow I’m totally shocked by this cd. The Blam gave me an EP a little while ago that combines so many different sounds, that I couldn’t categorize them. But now they appear to have found a terrific pop sound. Sounding more British than like a NYC rock band, The Blam have speared up their songwriting skills and soothed out some catchy/sweet vocals. “Writing On The Wall” hit me the hardest with guitars/vocals sounding like a more upbeat/happy version of Bauhaus’ “Telegram Sam”.
Concrete music business law #374: Success Breeds Contempt. Or, translated more specifically, other bands can’t stand The Strokes — particularly other New York bands, and especially particularly other New York bands making the same type of highly fashionable, vintage pop-rock reintroduced by a certain over-the-top smash 2001 debut. But for every Is This It success story, there are a thousand allegories to the cruelty of the recording industry, and no venue for professional corporal punishment is more prolific than New York City. Defying the Apple’s significant obstacles to creative fame and fortune is The Blam, the latest (and silliest named) outfit to stake a claim to Julian’s unwanted throne. The band’s sophomore effort Caveat Emptor builds upon the promise exhibited by their eponymous 2000 debut, and — even more impressively — overcomes the high volume onomatopoeia of their moniker with ten cohesive, Roman Numeraled rockers. Frontman Jerry Adler in particular makes a strong case here for closer consideration; after two fairly innocuous openers, his alternating retro-modern takes on the four track mid-album crest bring to mind an Underground-era Lou Reed singing backup to Modest Mouse lead Isaac Brock’s muse. If on the basis of that apex alone, Caveat Emptor earns four stars — one for each killer cut.
Memorable after only a couple listens, Caveat Emptor is filled with sparse but catchy melodies that are delivered with subtlety. At their essence, The Blam play bare bones pop rock with a hint of the British that grows on you after awhile.
It’s not often that an album’s opening track manages to completely obliterate preconceptions of a band. I think anyone these days is going to take another “the” NYC rock band with a grain of salt and with a name like the Blam, you’ve got to figure the strikes have been building up against the group. But then they hit you with a track like “Death Or Glory” (no, not a Clash cover), which opens up their sophomore record with an exceptional NYC rock by-way-of early ’90s 4AD/latter day Jesus & Mary Chain sound. Though the rest of Caveat Emptor is rarely as intense, it does open the door for its journeys through jangly pop, acoustic balladry and mid-tempo art-rock to be heard with a completely different set of expectations. A good thing, since there are a handful of great songs here, especially the title track, “Writing on The Wall” and sentimental closer “Everybody” …Not only a significant step up from their debut but a release that should bring them closer to being recognized as a worthwhile talent from the New York scene that thankfully rarely sounds like they’re even a part of it.
All Music Guide
Just over a year after they released their self-titled debut album, the Blam returned with Caveat Emptor, an album so different from its predecessor that it could make listeners wonder which sound truly is the Blam’s. Gone, for the most part, is the peppy, slightly punky power pop of The Blam; in its place is a dreamy, often breezy sound that often suggests a more energetic version of Luna’s style. Singer Jerry Adler’s soft, slightly detached vocals sound a bit like Dean Wareham or the Church’s Steve Kilbey, and the album’s often spare, jangly arrangements strengthen comparisons to those bands. When Caveat Emptor does rock out, it does so in a way that’s either fuzzier (“Death or Glory”) or darker and more angular (“Writing on the Wall”) than the way the Blam used to turn up the volume, but these songs do provide a balance to the more atmospheric feel of the rest of the album… Songs like”Everybody” and “How Did the Flies Get In?” are certainly pretty, but they’re so soft and gentle that they seem in constant danger of evaporating. However, the most immediate of the quieter songs, such as the title track, “Calm Down,” and the lovely “It’s Not Personal”, show that the Blam can do shimmering pop with more style than bands like Longwave and less melodrama than bands like Elefant. “Elliott”, a largely acoustic song, also works well, hinting that the band could also pull off a folk-pop direction… Caveat Emptor has strengths that The Blam didn’t have, and vice versa. The Blam have done good things, and different things, on their first two albums; here’s to hoping that the band can focus all of its strengths on its next release.
The Blam are from New York and have a generic indie/garage rock band name. Before you listen to Caveat Emptor (or their self-titled debut), these facts might tempt you to dismiss them as opportunistic clones bent on riding the Strokes’ coattails to a level of fame completely out of proportion with their talent. But this four-piece’s surprising good-ness puts a whole new meaning on the phrase “let the buyer beware”. They aren’t all that divergent from their scene; opening number “Death or Glory” bears the clear stamp of both Interpol (in the jaunty hi-hat trickery and undulating bassline) and The Strokes (the triumphantly jangly guitars). The Blam’s sound is certainly informed by the group’s neighbors, but they also bring their own ideas (as well as other influences) to the table.
Guitarist Jerry Adler’s vocals are one aspect that helps set The Blam apart from their world-weary contemporaries. Adler projects perfect sincerity without effectively screaming “look how not-jaded I am!” Nor do his lyrics convey any dubious ivory-tower naivete. True, he has his ingenuous moments — like when he sings “If I’m certain of a thing / This is all I’m certain of / Every human being / Needs a human being to love” in “I’m in a Panic”. But apparently he’s still looking: “So far not a goddamn thing’s panned out / I’m still waiting by the well with my hand out.” The sense of hope in the face of temporary defeat, and the unnaturalness of coldly closing yourself off from others, permeates Caveat Emptor.
All that and it rocks, too. The album’s uptempo songs, such as “Writing on the Wall”, “I’m in a Panic” and the title track, combine intelligent songwriting with driving energy. The mellower, more acoustic-driven “Eliott” and “Calm Down” are lushly instrumented, with synthesizers and Adler’s and Reuben Maher’s heavily effected guitars creating an ethereal atmosphere… though pop structures and intricate but solid rhythm section (Itamar Ziegler on bass and Yuval Lion on drums) keep the songs firmly grounded. There are a couple of missteps, such as the rather pointless refrain in “The Box is For Me” — it is possible for lyrics to be too simplistic.
As well as drawing the obvious NYC comparisons, The Blam channel bands from the other side of the Atlantic: the soaring, chiming guitar riffs and Adler’s sometime nasality both evoke Placebo, and the band’s liking for effects and lush, cinematic arrangements has deep Brit-pop roots. The best bands combine their influences into a sound that’s original yet cohesive, and The Blam, while not creating a new genre or anything, do just that.
“It’s not a long casual unwind,” The Blam frontman Jerry Adler begins, aptly summarizing Caveat Emptor, the meaty sophomore effort from those jangly, onomatopoeia-loving New York City boys. Just 15 months ago, The Blam let loose their eponymous debut, a quirky burst of retro-tinged pop-rock.
The Blam was a confident salutation and a modest success; for Caveat Emptor, Adler and his mates shoot higher, fashioning a more ambitious album that includes — to varying effect — several dreamy ballads that attempt a hazy TV-screen flashback of “Sunday Morning”-style Velvets-sans-Nico psychodrama.
“Death or Glory” stutters the record to life with a fuzz-drenched guitar line that doesn’t entirely click until it falls to the background, and a second one chimes in from above like a life raft. “The rest of it’s long and unforgiving/ All right/ I’ve never been forgiven,” Adler offers in a characteristically sly play, riding a pulsating rhythm and repetitious, kaleidoscopic guitar chords.
“Calm Down,” with its cutesy raindrop octaves and kick-ass electric bridge, follows with more clever verbiage: “We gotta hand/ It to you/ We had a plan/ To fool you.” Not yet six minutes in, and one thing’s already clear: Caveat Emptor’s as schizo as Donnie Darko. Too conventional for prog rock and too angular to be called pop, the purgatorial first part of the album sounds as if Adler’s never very satisfied with the proceedings for very long, trying out different positions of a misbegotten hook to see which ones fit for final display, like a curator moving a piece up and down, left and right, this way and that.
Finally, by the third, title track, Adler finds his spot. “Caveat Emptor” drops with the lively punch of a lead guitar and backing percussion, and then come the vocals — free and easy like a fifth instrument, and in complete contrast to the underlying buyer beware moral of marriage. “Oh I’ve never seen this side of you,” Adler belts again and again on the soaring chorus, and at once a year of seeded promise comes to glorious fruition.
In the moments on Caveat Emptor, the album, that mimic the centerpiece”Caveat Emptor,” the song, all is right in this world of loud sounds come to life: “It’s Not Personal,” the record’s anthem, is an expertly crafted pop-rock gem, replete with perfect structure, pure-poetry verses (“A near death rattle/ In a monotone line/ It’s modern life/ To have and never be satisfied”) and an infectious-like-Ebola melody, and the momentum bleeds right into “Writing on the Wall,” with its sinister tones, overt energy and last-gasp blasts of forgotten rock ‘n’ roll.
Unfortunately, they’re not all like that. Emptor’s quieter tunes are a mixed bag: wispy, whispering “Elliott” and coy playmate “The Box Is for Me,” shoot for hippie and trippy, respectively, but fail to achieve the lazy laconic charm of songs like “8546″ from their debut, sounding clunky and overworked instead; an exception with hand raised, the slight and psychedelic “How Did the Flies Get In,” makes the most of its floating harmonies, chirping synths and reverberated starts and stops. As a textbook closer, the spacey, expansive “Everybody” wields a mighty agenda but is shackled by its own indulgence, in spite of a gorgeous 90-second fadeout worthy of Grandaddy or Built to Spill.
Silly moniker notwithstanding, “The Blam” should serve as a proper modus operandi for the new direction of this band — both lyrically and musically, they’ve swapped ephemeral bus-stop whimsy for explosive, world-weary break-up stories. Jettisoned is the bouncy, charismatic naivete that graced their fresh-faced debut, replaced here with more refined rockers and a slicker, weightier production that at its best oozes accomplishment but at worst sounds premeditated and, ultimately, somewhat predictable.
Still, it feels wrong to blame Adler for such perfunctory effects of maturation; when it works, he’s a songwriter beyond reproach, and he strings together sparse, evocative stream-of-consciousness words that fit their songs well. No, if he’s to be criticized for anything, it’s for the ill-advised softening of his new sound through a few tenderized ballads and overwrought epics that shred some of the continuity from an otherwise cracking rock record. “I don’t have a goddamn thing/ Planned out,” Adler insists, yelping over a throbbing, distorted Black Rebel bass intro on the fabulously punked-out “I’m in a Panic.” Here’s hoping he keeps it that way.
The Blam “or” How I Spent My Summer Vacation Recording a Ridiculous Record in NYC.
I have had the pleasure of not only listening to and reviewing the new Blam record, “Caveat Emptor”, but also speaking at length (via the computer super-highway) with their principal songwriter, guitarist and main vocalist Jerry Adler about music and New York City and the geeky side of recording. As much for my own pleasure as for yours, I have included the contents of our highly personal talk for your perusal.
The beauty of these talks was the obvious love of music, of pretty much all music, and the desire for people to hear it at all costs. The other intrinsic fact about the Blam is that they are a unit, producing frightening beauty as a band and not merely a showcase for any one member’s songs.
Returning to us rather quickly on the heels of the first, self-titled release, the Blam have given us their second stellar record, “Caveat Emptor”. Don’t call it a comeback, or even a sophomore record, these guys have more class than Eleanor Roosevelt High School or M.I.T. Read on and join in the lo…
Let’s talk NYC. You are a NYC band for sure, yet all the band members span a breadth of nationalities. I also imagine that everyone in the band brings something different to the table in terms of experience. Has the immensity and variety of New York City and its populace affected the music of the Blam?
Definitely. First of all, regarding simple geography, The Blam is unique. I am from Manhattan, Reuben (Maher, guitarist) is from Ireland, and Itamar (Ziegler, bassist) and Yuval (Lion, drummer) are from Israel. But, if you think about it, that is what New York has been and will always be about. As far as the music of this band is concerned, I’d say it’s much more about the relationships among the four of us than the backgrounds. Music travels quickly, so even kids growing up in Tel Aviv are listening to all the same great bands that we are here. The important thing is that we’ve been friends for a long time and our talents and inclinations mesh in a way that allows us to make music together.
Crooklyn – As you may be aware, Brooklyn had a few bands that made it kind of big recently. Some say that bands that rise that quickly get caught up in a whiplash of resentment and critical scrutiny when the bubble breaks and the wind changes? Where do you see the Blam in relation to the big label push for indie cred and marketing (like Interpol or the Strokes or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs)?
Well, those are excellent bands that deserve the hype they’ve gotten. If a band makes a great record and then continues to make other great records, it won’t matter which way the wind is blowing. If not, then not, but that’s no different from the way it’s always been anywhere. I don’t understand what the industry does and I don’t try to. As far as the press is concerned, we’ve seen it from both sides. On the one hand, it’s great to get mentioned in the same sentence with bands of that caliber and on the other hand, it can be hard to leap over the obstacle of “another band from NY”. At the end of the day, what these people choose to write is completely out of my control. They’ll either get it or they won’t.
Sophomore Slumps — “Caveat Emptor” is your second record as the Blam. Did you feel the pressure of a second release when it was being written? What expectations did you all put on this record?
I don’t believe in sophomore slumps. You’re either capable of making more than one good record or you aren’t. We felt no pressure making this album.
Graduating to juniors – Next question, based on the complete awesomeness of Caveat, what the hell could possibly be next? More writing? Conquest of the world via touring? Appearances on Regis and Kelly?
We’ll be going into the studio towards the end of the summer to begin the third record. I hope it’ll be out by next spring. We are not messing around. Windows for bands do not stay open for very long and we want to make as much quality music as we can when we can. We’ll be on the road as well, probably here and in England and hopefully Europe. I’m not sure about Regis and Kelly. I don’t get up very early.
The Process – Would you mind telling me how songs are written by the Blam? I think a lot of other musicians should take notes on this.
Usually, I’ll bring in a finished song to rehearsal and we’ll start working on it from there. By finished, I mean words, chords, melody and at least a solid arrangement. At that point, everyone just sinks his teeth into it. They turn from songs into music. At this point in our evolution, we’ve really played a lot together and things move quickly. Once the parts are happening, we’ll get into the fine-tuning of the arrangement, and then it’s done. Now though, because we have played so much together, we are getting to the point where we can blur the line between the stages. “Death or Glory”, for instance, took as long to write as it takes to play. It popped out whole in the rehearsal room and I just took it home and wrote the lyrics. I’m sure we’ll continue to write in both ways because there’s no telling when something good is going to happen and ultimately, it’s just two paths to the same end.
We have talked about the writing of the song… let’s go over some of the ways you have recorded the last two albums? Did you use the same techniques for both records? Amount of time for each one? Change in budget?
The two records were made in completely different ways. On the first one, we started each song with drums and a scratch guitar and built it up piece by piece until it was done. We recorded in our own studio, so there was no budget. From track one to mixing and mastering, we spent about a year making it. We had only been playing together for a few months when we began it, so it was a big part of our process of becoming a band. By the time we were ready to make “Caveat Emptor”, we not only had the first album behind us but also a lot of shows, so we decided to go for something completely different. With the exception of the vocals and a few overdubs, the entire record was recorded live. We isolated the instruments, miked everything, and just played each song until we got a take. It moved very quickly.
The recording of the voice on these records is also pretty damn impressive… Do you have any secrets for the recording enthusiasts, myself included?
I don’t know how technical you want me to get. Most of the lead vocals on this album were done with an AKG-C1000. Some were done with one of the new Neumann tube mics and some sounds were done with one of those mics they used to make announcements with in high school. I like low-grade mics. I like mids and I’m constantly rolling off low end. We always run them through nice things though, and that makes a big difference. We had a Neve pre-amp and an Avalon tube compressor in the chain on all the tracks. If we have a “secret”, it’s the Electro Harmonix Memory Man delay pedal. All the lead vocals went through that but with the delay off. It has a level knob, which is basically another pre-amp and that rounds off the edges really nicely. That technique is strictly in the “necessity is the mother of invention” category. On the first album, all the lead vocals were layered. Usually, they were doubled and sometimes tripled. On this record, which is more stripped down anyway, I wanted one single vocal track on each song.
Are there any producers or engineers that you would like to work with, if you got the chance?
Theoretically, yes. But I really like what we have happening. Danny Shatzky engineered about half of the first album and mixed all of it. This time, we put it completely in his hands from the beginning. We trust Danny implicitly and when we’re in the studio, it’s basically a five-person band. His instrument just happens to have a lot more knobs. We talk a lot and always defer to the best idea. The results are great, but the doing is the best part and I’m excited to see what we do in the future.
What records do you think of when you think of great music, especially as the background influences (intentional or otherwise) to the songs of the Blam?
I can’t speak for everybody, but to me the greatest bands are the people that paid the most attention to freedom and the least attention to the rules. The Beatles, The Velvets, Bowie, the early Brian Eno albums, etc., etc. It’s long list. The ability to change from album to album, or even from song to song within an album is what makes them the best and worth coming back to over and over.
THE BLAM – BLOW WIND BLOW
It’s Never Too Late for The Blam
File the “new” album Blow Wind Blow by The Blam under great rediscoveries. Why did The Shins get so popular and not The Blam? The Blam’s hooks were just as catchy, their guitars just as jangly, their vocals just as pleasantly pensive. And they never got to the point where they started imitating The Smiths and sucking at it, either. If you’re wondering why all this is in the past tense, that’s because The Blam is finished. Other than a rare reunion show, they’ve been history since the early zeros. But just like The Beatles, a band The Blam closely resembled, they still had some songs left in the can after the breakup. Their third album, unreleased until this year, is a breath of fresh air, one casually sunny, smartly tuneful three-minute hit after another. Maybe, rather than counting this among the best albums of 2011, we should go back to 2004 and see where this one falls… hmmm… maybe somewhere between Elliott Smith’s From a Basement on the Hill and Neil Finn’s One All?
The title track plays off a briskly shuffling, casually biting, lush acoustic guitar riff, balmy vocals, “Coming in out of the ill wind…Thought you’d you’d hit me with the rough stuff…” It’s kind of like The Shins with balls. The catchiest songs here go straight back to The Fab Four: the gently swaying, all-acoustic I Don’t Know, with its gorgeously terse twelve-string guitar leads; That Girl, sarcastically bouncing up the stairs and leaving the poor guy wanting more; No Surprise, which with its cool repeaterbox guitar wouldn’t be out of place on a late Elliott Smith album: and Careful Measured Careful Plain, its vocals matching the slow-burning guitars, Itamar Ziegler’s bass rising casual and McCartney-esque, the the perfect blend of Beatle-esque and shoegaze. There’s also See the Monkeys, whispery bossa-tinged Zombies-esque pop with a recurrent ominousness; One Good Blow, which evokes Crowded House at their loudest and most guitarish; and Now Entering Sandwich, an allusively apprehensive, Dylan-esque folk-rock number that foreshadows Mumford and Sons (and also the direction frontman Jerry Adler would take with his subsequent solo project, Flugente, whose two often brilliantly lyrical albums have just been remastered and reissued as well). The album ends with the tensely tuneful Will Still Kill, just acoustic guitars, harmonica and vocals, more kiss-off than lament:
You might get soiled on the way
Or encounter quite a dry spell
You’re heart’s a million miles away
Breaking like the Liberty Bell
The Daily News
Long before he broke off to do his lo-fi solo thing under the Flugente moniker, Jerry Adler fronted jangly indie collective The Blam. The Big Apple based outfit released their self-titled debut in 2003 and sophomore full-length “Caveat Emptor” less than a year later. Adler and his mates were poised for stardom when they abruptly broke up in 2005 after laying down tracks for album No. 3. After languishing in the shelf for a half dozen years, “Blow Wind Blow” finally sees the light of day in this digital only release. It’s a fantastic 10-track collection of tunes that underscores what a shame it was that The Blam called it quits when they did. The title track gets things off to a great start, and The Blam additionally soar on”I Don’t Know”, “See the Monkeys”, “No Surprise” and Careful Measured Careful Plain”. Oh what might have been…
In the early 2000′s Brooklyn band The Blam were getting lots of buzz, along with contemporaries like The Strokes and Interpol. Headed by singer/guitarist Jerry Adler (now of Flugente and Wave Sleep Wave) along with Reuben Maher (guitar), Itamar Ziegler (bass/vocals) and Yuval Lion (drums), it suddenly vanished before this final album released. Now the vault has opened, and we are treated to subtle tunes like “I Don’t Know” that showcase the spirit of Friends-era Beach Boys. To say the album is mellow is an understatement, but some beautiful songs are here like “See the Monkeys” and the Beatle-esque “No Surprise”. The grinding guitars wake us up with “One Good Blow” but that’s about it. An intimate and mature work that I really enjoyed.
The Indie Machine
This band made a real splash on The New York scene back in the early part of the last decade along with The Strokes, Interpol, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They’re back with an album of previously unreleased material and if you’re not familiar with their sound, we suggest you get familiar now.
The Da Da Da
Wow! It’s been awhile… The Blam reappear and deliver their brand of delicious power pop on their third release Blow Wind Blow.
Name: Jerry Adler
Star Sign: N/A
Place of Birth: New York, New York
Now Based At: New York, New York
Level of Education: In progress
First Instrument Played: Guitar. My father had played as a young man, but he quit after a few years. All throughout my childhood, his guitar had been knocking around (literally, there was no case) inside my closet. When I finally decided to play, we took it to get fixed up. As a rank novice, I didn’t know one from another, but when I later learned about styles and models I was shocked to discover that the poor recipient of all those bangs and dings was actually a 1949 Gibson LG-1. It was purchased new for $50 and has only ever belonged to the two of us. I’ve written at least one hundred songs on that instrument and it is truly my most valued possession.
Current Instrument: Guitar will always be first and foremost, but on recordings I’ve played a little of everything—bass, piano and keyboards, harmonica, banjo, ukulele, percussion, drum programming—basically whatever needs to get done. I also recently had a whirlwind romance with the pedal steel.
Last Venue Played: Zebulon
Last Gig Attended: Wave Sleep Wave
Can’t Go On Tour Without: Telling my wife
The Best Thing About Live Music Is: It’s often very loud
The Person I Would Most Like To Collaborate With Is: Walt Whitman. I did a show last year at MIT where I built these really spacey layers of guitar loops while an artist friend of mine read from Leaves of Grass. She was great, but I have a feeling Walt would have killed it.
Worst Thing To Happen To Music Is: The breakup of The Beatles
Best Thing About the Current Music Industry: Spotify. Consider the playing field levelled.
Turn On: The stereo
Turn Off: The lights
Biggest Influence: My father
My Favourite Person On TV Right Now Is: Bill Maher
Childhood Hero: Graig Nettles
When I was Younger I Wanted To Be: Graig Nettles
Last Album Bought: I replaced my copy of Never Mind the Bullocks. That was pre-Spotify, of course.
Last Song Listened To On MP3 Player: Car Jamming. Though long periods away are inevitable, I always go back to my favorite bands. To me, as not only a brilliant frontman, but also charismatic force and cultural icon, Joe Strummer is right up there with John Lennon and Bob Marley. I like the sound of the truth.
The Music I’m Into Is: Almost invariably devoid of cowbell
Favourite Current Band: Wave Sleep Wave
My Favourite Shop Is: New Deal Fish Market, Cambridge, MA. In a world of soulless franchises and chain stores, this third generation family-run business is as rare as it is great.
The Best Boredom Buster Is: Illegal in most states
The Best Film I Ever Saw Was: Miller’s Crossing
My Ultimate Snack Is: Half a sleeve of Oreos and a tall glass of orange juice
The Worst Food Ever Invented Is: Any food that’s invented
The First Thing I Do When I Wake Up Is: Roll Over
I Can’t Leave The House Without: Shoes
I’m Well Known For: Eating quickly
My Hobbies Are: Expensive
I Have A Passion For: Relaxing
First Band Name: The Bed Bugs (I was nine.)
Tomorrow I Will: Find out
My biggest Aspiration: Brevity
I Think Alt Sounds Is: For the people, by the people.
Email: theblam [at] curbcutrecords [dot] com