Social media are rightfully blamed for facilitating the heinous endeavors of such entities as child predators, professional spammers, and Sarah Palin supporters. But on the good side, we self-appointed “critics” of music have been rendered far less harmful by this current state of technology. In the olden days, I could go on and on about how amazing a certain band was, and ultimately you had to take my word for it. If I sold you on a band, you were then required to shell out sizable sums of your hard-earned money, send away for a certain recording, and wait days or even weeks to receive it in the mail. And in the end, if you disagreed with my glowing review, you were out 4 to 20 bucks that could have been better spent on Nintendo games or VHS movie rentals. Technophobes and traditionalists may lament our brave new world. But in a lot of ways, it’s so much better these days. If I talk up a band, you can go instantly to one of their social networking type pages and listen for yourself. Hell, you don’t even have to read another word of this blog post if you don’t feel like it. There are links at the bottom of the page. If you agree with Martin Mull and believe that writing about music is as pointless as dancing about architecture, I’ll bid you adieu and kindly ask you to go check out The Keefs.
The first rule of rockwriting is that when a band can describe itself better than you ever could, you let them. So then: The Keefs play a “blend of old-school punk and rootsy rock & roll with the melody and hooks of power pop and hints of glam rock sheen”. Yep, that nails it. Sounds freaking awesome, doesn’t it? Makes you wanna join the fan club immediately, eh? If you don’t think so, you’ve probably arrived at this blog on accident whilst searching for the Rise Against Facebook page. I’ll go as far as to say that if you don’t think The Keefs are a good band, you probably won’t like any of the bands I plan on reviewing from here on out. That's right - this is a test. It’s not like I randomly picked this to be my first post! Now I’m not nearly as hip to new music as I used to be (there’s just so much TV to watch these days). But from what I've heard of the current wave of punk rock bands, The Keefs might be the best of the lot.
Songs like “The Let Down” (off The Keefs’ debut EP) really make this Delaware/Philly/New Jersey foursome stand out from the pack of typical punk revivalists. Singer Dave Janney has a raspy type voice that’s a little reminiscent of Mike Ness or Johnny Bonnel, but he’s no copy cat. He’s very appealing as a singer, bringing grit, guts, and a genuine soulfulness to his craft. I love the way this song integrates the contrasting aspects of the group’s sound - it’s hard-edged and powerful yet very catchy and melodic. Lead guitar hooks a la the Buzzcocks are awesome and abundant. And when the chorus hits, it really grabs you. You can tell you’re listening to a tight, clicking-on-all-cylinders band. From the high-powered guitars of Janney and Jimmie the Weed to my man Algy Suicide’s nimble bass work to “Two N” Kenn’s hard-hitting drumming, everything comes together like it should. Other songs like “Compromise” and the smokin' new demo “Tell Me When It Hurts” are very much in the same vein - aggressive and tuneful and straight-up great. The Keefs can slow it down (“Lemonade”) or put the pedal to the metal (“Luv Drugs”), and either way you’re getting memorable, rockin’ tunes. And although you might think it pointless to cover one of the greatest songs of all-time, “Bastards of Young”, the Keefs’ version rips so hard that I guarantee messieurs Westerberg and Stinson would wholeheartedly approve!
What I love about The Keefs is that it’s not their style that defines them. Sure, they play a genre of music that’s near and dear to my heart, and that counts for a lot. But more importantly, this is an out and out great band. They can play like nobody’s business. They write fantastic songs. They’ve got a likable, crazy good lead singer. And perhaps most importantly, they manage to put a fresh, remarkably non-derivative spin on a well-worn style of music. Of course they emulate all the right bands (look who they named the group after!). But at the end of the day, they don’t sound like The Clash or Dead Boys or Ramones. They sound like The Keefs. Bring on the album!