Friday, September 29, 2017

Retro Reviews: New York Loose - Born To Loose

Review by Rob Sheley

1990s New York City was a very different place than it is now. It was on the cusp of Mayor Giuliani giving the town a makeover, virtually eliminating the homeless and the Taxi Driver reality of the city. It was his sole mission to make it more tourist friendly and "safe". New York below 14th Street was gritty and dirty and downright dangerous - the perfect breeding ground for creativity in both art and music. Photos don't portray the feel of what the city was. It was something you had to experience, and it was more than just hardcore shows at CBGBs. Rock & roll was finally bubbling back up to the surface at places like Brownies, Tramps, Coney Island High, The Continental, and of course CB's.

One band that gets tragically lost in the shuffle is the New York Loose - fronted by singer/guitarist Brijitte West. Accompanied by a revolving door of players, she remained the one and the only constant member of the band. The band was perfectly poised to make a great splash in the music scene about 10 years before the Yeah Yeah Yeahs & The Strokes re-broke New York as the music hot bed. The New York Loose (named for the great Stooges song) was unique enough - borrowing from the Dolls/Heartbreakers (both Johnny & Tom) owner's manual sonically, with the jangle of '60s radio pop thrown in, similar to the Devil Dogs choice of bands to cover but with more finesse than fury. There were many unfair comparisons of Brijitte to Joan Jett, and they were simply short sighted. Just because a girl fronts a band with a guitar doesn't mean she is a cookie cutter mold of Miss Jett.

Born To Loose is a perfect cross section of a band that either needed to arrive a few years later to catch the mainstream NY wave or have had someone at the label give them the much-needed push they deserved. The band's only mainstream claim to fame was to have a song ("Spit") on The Crow soundtrack. That song is included here from the earlier 7" version with the Crow version on their major label debut Year Of The Rat. After a few tours and a bit of momentum, the band just dissolved, was dropped in the label mergers of the mid/late '90s, and never made the follow up. That was 1996. If they could have made it through the next record and toured a bit, history might be very different. The collection of their work presented here is tracked chronologically, from the 1st single A-side to several unreleased songs that would have made their 2nd major label record. It covers all of the band's most important works, especially the pre-major label songs and comp tracks. The collection does give the listener a taste of their major label work, but the songs are presented in different versions. It mainly shines the focus on their indie work.

The band released two tremendous singles in short order in 1993: "Bitch" b/w "Monolith Kids" & "Luckiest Girl" b/w "Green Light Semaphore". All four tracks are included here, all written by Brijitte with two co-written by Richard Bacchus of D Generation. That alone should give you an idea of what the band was going for. Rick played on them, and they do have a distinct feel of that 1st D Gen record. The band made a reasonable enough wave that Flipside magazine signed them to release an EP. Tragically it was never turned into a 10", but the five songs that it contained were so hopeful as to what could possibly be forthcoming. Aided by Gary Sunshine (Circus Of Power) on guitar, Danny Nordahl (Stiv Bators, Throbs) on bass, and John Melville on drums, this is the lineup that should have stayed together. But as we know, all good thing sometimes do not last. Lucky for us, the release includes all of the tracks recorded by this iteration of the band. These nine songs showcase the presence and power that they had. The fragile yet gravely wail that Brijitte possesses permeates the Flipside EP (all tracks included here), and the additional songs with this lineup are a perfect brush that the band paints with. Tender and hopeful, guttural at times, and defiant when it needed to be, the band's sound was one of the best to radiate out of '90s New York.

This collection doesn't include any tracks from Year of The Rat - I'm sure due to cost issues. But it does include the pre-release 7 inch versions of "Spit" & "Pretty Suicide". Both tracks presented here benefit from a grittier production that was lacking from the debut. "Tailspin" from the Flipside Compilation and "This Train Terminates Here" are excellent rock & roll songs. Painfully missing are their covers of "Boom Boom" by John Lee Hooker (B-side of the "Fade" 7"; "Fade" is included), "Wave of Mutilation" by the Pixies, and their revved up version of "Lust For Life" from the We Will Fall tribute to Iggy Pop.

The collection closes with several unreleased songs from the final lineup of the band. "The Case Of All Gone", "Lord Won't You Send Me A Devil", "Demons", and "Scene Of The Crime" (all recorded during or slightly after a tour with Reverend Horton Heat) spell what could have become of the band.

Upon the demise of the band, Brijitte moved to England and took some time off and then in 2010 began playing as Brijitte West and The Desperate Hopefuls. In 2016 the band created a Pledgemusic campaign to create From NY With Love following in the path that had started with the Flipside EP. The band has re-dialed in the sound that The New York Loose created in the '90s. However, Born To Loose is the necessary place to start. It is the roots and teething years for a band that was right there and should get the proper recognition that it rightfully deserves.

-Rob Sheley

Rob Sheley will be presenting 35 original drawings of Hollywood movie monsters at an art exhibition in Lancaster, PA on October 6th. For more information, check out the event page  on Facebook! 

1 comment:

Michael Kimmel said...

Wasn't terribly familiar with them before this article. I will be terribly familiar with them shortly. Thanks!