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The best kept secret in music


"Playin' By The Rules"

PLAYIN' BY THE RULES -- Everyone's been there: Get to a show around the scheduled start time and find out the equipment isn't set up yet. An hour later the band still hasn't shown. When the band finally does get onstage, there's so much lame banter between songs that there's little actual music.

Not Crack City Rockers.

"We loathe the whole sort of rock 'n' roll lifestyle cliche. We've done everything imaginable to counteract that, especially in terms of our live shows," says Eric S. Gregory, a guitarist and vocalist with the band, which also includes guitarist Ken Coleman, bassist Matt Sherman and drummer Curt Schulz (who freelances music coverage for The Oregonian). "We set up our gear quickly, we go on when we're supposed to go on. We don't mess around between songs."

Fans of the group won't be surprised: Crack City Rockers play a straight-ahead mix of punk and rock, with a strong sense of language thrown in, that brooks little nonsense. Add in members' busy lives, and you have a group that's not really into wasting time.

With members in their 40s, Gregory said, they all have personal and professional commitments outside the band. "But this is still a real prime elemental concern in our lives, so you focus on what's important rather than all the peripheral stuff, like how you look or how drunk you're going to get, or even how hard we rock. I have no interest in stuff like that," he said. "We do what we do and there's this sort of guiding principle of craft."

They've brought that sense of craft to their recorded albums as well, such as "The Good Life," out late last year. For that album, the group again worked with producer Larry Crane, known for working with Elliott Smith.

Gregory called the album the best of their recordings, which include 2001's "Joyce Hotel" and 2004's "New Myths," in part because of the band's maturing. The band's been around for about seven years, and their lineup has stabilized.

"Everything's just a lot more focused. It's coming back to that idea of our own voice," he said. "It's a lot more confident. It doesn't sound so much like our influences in such obvious ways."

Their new work also landed them a prime gig in November. Winning a battle of the bands, they got to open for the New York Dolls at Dante's.

Crack City Rockers had entered the contest on a whim after bass player Matt Sherman saw an ad. Much to their surprise, they landed the slot, a short 20-minute set on a long bill.

"We went into it with no expectations whatsoever. It was a gas to play," Gregory said. Though they didn't get to hang with the headliners, "It's nice to be able to say we opened for the New York Dolls."

For now, the band plans to keep playing to support their new album, with several of the new songs worked into the show. Late this summer, the group could return to Jackpot Studios, where they've recorded before, to start on a new album in hopes of having smaller gaps between records.

The band's not looking for quick success or arena shows, Gregory said, but to make albums that, 20 years down the line will get noticed as lost classics.

"We're not really in it for the money," he said. "We're perpetually underground."
- Oregonian 1/12/2007 by Luciana Lopez

"New Myths Review"

Few records are able to merge the loose quality of a "live" sound with the tightness of studio shine. The Crack City Rockers' "New Myths" is one of them. It's that rare album that fills one with the anticipation of seeing the group's live show - crystallizing the vibrancy and insouciance of a well-performed club gig while not sounding as if it was recorded through a soundboard splattered with booze, sweat and who knows what else. The Portland-based group whirls and rages with short, sharp songs that merge the playfulness of punk with the horn-fueled mania of R&B. It's a unique blend, and it works, particularly on cuts such as "Glory of the Sun," "Munkey," and "Occult Piss" which sounds like an unholy merger of Elvis Costello, the Buzzcocks and the Kabalas. "New Myths" is a quick listen - all of fourteen minutes in length - but it makes the most of its brevity.
-Sean Leary - Amplifier

"New Myths Review"

If New York punk wasn't good for anything else (which, actually it was, but let's pretend), it at least inspired people like Eric Gregory of Portland's Crack City Rockers to build songs steeped in playful lyrics and intense electric energy. Along with an affinity for Television, Richard Hell and the Velvet Underground, the group's debut album, " Joyce Hotel," proved that this band has a knack for mining the depth and width of the punk genre. Its latest EP, "New Myths," goes further. While Gregory has never sounded more like the frantic Mr. Hell than on "Perfect Life," or the guitars sounded more like Television than on "Already Dead," this album shows the Crack City Rockers stepping outside of their NY influences. "Occult Piss" recalls a less emotive Elvis Costello fronting a more aggressive Attractions, while the brilliant "Glory of the Sun," with its fat, bleating sax line and sunny vocals, falls somewhere between Dinosaur Jr. and Madness. And when Gregory sings "So full of joy like I'm retarded, " you believe it.

-Mark Baumgarten - Willamette Week

"New Myths Review"

Add this to the list of things the music industry needs more often: hype-building EPs. Granted, it helps if such a release is a band's first offering and not their sophomore effort, as is the case with New Myths, the latest from Portland, Oregon's, Crack City Rockers, but whaddya gonna do? Few bands arrive on the scene fully-formed, ready to wow the universe with a brilliant debut, but too many bands expect instant fame without paying any dues. In this age of instant gratification and instant celebrity, nobody has the time to lay the groundwork for a solid career -- especially when it comes to the ephemeral music scene. So maybe it's because the Crack City Rockers -- surely the darlings of Portland's Chamber of Commerce -- have bucked the trend and released an EP around which to rally the troops and not demanded unearned fame and fortune, or maybe it's because said EP is very good, that there is reason to get excited over 14 minutes of rock from a promising young band.

Blah blah blah, Steve, what do they sound like? Well, over the course of six songs (plus a throwaway 11-second track, "Munky"), CCR run the gamut from sunny power pop (after all, they do call Paisley Pop records their home) on opener "Glory of the Sun" to organ-fueled post-Heartbreakers (Thunders, not Petty) punk ("Occult Piss"). They even toss in some horns on "Already Dead" that favorably calls to mind the New York Dolls at their, um, horniest. The album isn't long enough to waste any notes.

In addition to catchy songs, the band possesses a sharp sense of humor. How else to explain NC-17-esque lyrics like "Estrogen Mess"'s "when the knife bit your neck and you bit his dick so hard that both of you screamed" with a sunny, upbeat (or is it ironic?) "ooh"s and "aah"s? (Note: the album is much less offensive than the above lyrics would lead one to believe.) Then there's the darkly funny album cover, a clip art joke along the lines of cartoonist David Rees. Sandwiched between Egyptian hieroglyphics are clip art drawings of a mohawked punk, a basketball player, and a woman painting a peace banner, the cynical intimation being that American individualism in the 21st century is as outdated as the ancient Egyptian culture (hence the album title), and the Crack City Rockers gleefully sit on the sidelines point this out, then proceed to rock out in the face of the abyss. That, or else the band didn't have a lot of money and using public domain art clips was a cheap way to illustrate a cover. Either way, it's all good.

But this good-natured, if full of hot air, discussion about the band's sense of humor and their album cover choices obscures my point about the beauty of the EP: Free of conceptual constraints than can (and maybe should) inform full-length albums, New Myths as an EP is free to roam, stylistically speaking. Each incarnation (for lack of a better term) of the band, be it poppy, punky, or even vaguely bluesy (check out guitarist Dennis Mitchell's coda on "Estrogen Mess"), is thrilling and different, yet unmistakably the work of the same band. No matter which direction the band chooses for their next full length LP, fans won't be disappointed. Consider the work of the EP officially done here .

-Stephen Haag

"Joyce Hotel Review"

If you're from Portland, home to these wham-bam-thank-YOU-ma'am! rockers, the album title's a broad hint. The Joyce is a once-lustrous abode now gone to seed as a residential flop whose assorted woes included a notorious '97 sexual harrassment suit involving the hotel manager preying upon female tenants. That's a perfect metaphor for the luckless desperation, waitin' for the man-style glammy punk blooze CCR excels at. The band is led by Eric Gregory, who sketches his street-luv vignettes from a (Lou) Reed's-eye viewpoint and delivers them with a weighty gravity that brings to mind, at times, David Johansen, Steve Wynn, and the Only Ones' Peter Perrett. (Worth noting: Lead guitarist Dennis Mitchell also fronts Rose City power-pop kings the Quags.) And the music's the perfect sonic yin to Gregory's late-night loser's yang. Highlights include the snappy New York Dolls-isms of "I Do All Right" and the funky hepcat shuffle "Now I Know," plus the stone brilliant "Zombietime," which sleekly marries Mott the Hoople to Iggy Pop and makes 'em play Reed's "Vicious." On the CCR Web site, an exhaustive list of "sources of inspiration" includes such disparate icons as Patti Smith, the Clash, the Doors, the Fugs, Mick Farren, writer Terry Southern, rock crit Nick Kent and--dig it--Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. Poets, fools, bums, and visionaries all--nice company to be keeping, lads.

-Fred Mills - Seattle Weekly

"Joyce Hotel Review"

If there were some way to combine Lou Reed's lazy introspection with Marvin Gaye's sex appeal, you might be able to capture the essence of Eric Gregory. As lead singer of Portland's Crack City Rockers, he and bandmates Sean Flora, Dennis Mitchell and Curt Schulz twist old and new, happiness and frustration and love and lust on " Joyce Hotel," their debut album.
Through tales of urban angst and lethargic, bittersweet love, " Joyce Hotel" borrows liberally from the punk rock masters of late 1970's New York City. "Rolling Yr Eyes Blues" combines these two themes in lyrics like, "I spend my days in the city/And the nights are for yr arms/The sun never looks better after a night of yr dancing charms."
With shades of the New York Dolls, Richard Hell, the Talking Heads and a late-era VU, each of the songs pays subtle tribute to the past without appearing too imitative. This definitely is not the Strokes we're talking about. And though there are plenty of cool, indolent tracks on " Joyce Hotel," there are just as many that burst with unadulterated manic anxiety.
"Born Nervous" and "Beggar and a Chooser" could have been written by a more disciplined version of the Stooges that wasn't so obsessed with rabid destruction and screaming. It's fairly easy to imagine Iggy Pop yelling the lyrics from "Born Nervous," "I'm lust-driven and I like it that way." "Hey World" is a neurotic paranoid fuck-you to anyone and everything. Gregory sounds like a man possessed as he yells, "I go out of my skin /To prove that I'm here/Hoping for the best/And gasping for air."
And as you might expect from a band that takes its cues from Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, sex and lust are frequent themes throughout the album. During "Rolling Yr Eyes Blues," Gregory announces to a woman that "If you'd only take me home you can cum all nite long/And I swear I'll pass out on the floor." Sounds appealing, doesn't it?
In the hands of a lesser band, the active pining for sex in many of the songs might seem self-indulgent or sleazy. " Joyce Hotel," however, is laced with an attitude of intense self-criticism that at times borders on self-loathing. Lou Reed's ghost creeps through these songs. You can almost hear his voice from the VU classic "Waiting for the Man," a song about a visit to a heroin dealer in uptown NYC: "Up to Lexington/One-two-five/Feel sick and dirty/More dead than alive." In fact, many of the slower songs add to this atmosphere with hazy, melancholy blues guitar licks that are reminiscent of Robert Johnson.
The Crack City Rockers might be students of the past but they are definitely creating something special for a new generation."

-Kareem Ghanem - The Stanford Daily

"Live Preview"

It is impossible to talk about the Crack City Rockers without inevitably remarking on Lou Reed (so let's get it out of the way). Dirty and shadowy music that bustles with ghosts, sexuality, meanness and alluring, unholy fun. Lead singer Eric Gregory has the very same nervous confidence as Lou Reed-that growls one refrain and then rolls over the next, a junkyard dog wanting its belly scratched. But that's where they depart from their self-avowed idol, with bop and energy, like the first super-charged taste of heroin (and not the 1000th drawn-out desperate need for a fix)."

-Phil Busse - Portland Mercury

"New Myths Review"

Sounding just a shade too old and a bit too well-educated for pop-punk, Portland's Crack City Rockers meld their purposefully snarky lyrics with jagged, high-impact power-pop (complete with keyboards, harmonies and occasional sax lines) on this seven-cut EP. While Eric S. Gregory's lyrics and vocal delivery aim for a cynical and streetwise undertow, the energetic pulse of the performance lift up the music (especially drummer Curt Schulz and lead guitarist Dennis Mitchell), making this an engaging and powerful listen almost in spite of itself. And while it's obvious that Gregory has some serious matters on his mind, there's enough wit around the edges of "Glory of the Sun" and "Truth Drug" to confirm his sense of humor is still functional. There's half a good album on "New Myths," so hopefully Crack City Rockers won't stop after six songs and a monkey yell next time out.

-Mark Deming -

"Live Preview"

Eric Gregory writes cool as ice power pop songs, performs with fire in his heart, and is blessed with very, very good looks. But because he's not between the ages of 19 and 27, his band (the questionably named Crack City Rockers) never seems to get the thumbs up they so rightly deserve. When you consider all the well-coiffed buzz bands that want to claim kinship with the smarty punk of Television, it's pretty clear that this brainy and charming 40-year-old and his hard-living cohorts should have first dibs. If some young coke machine in a tattered blazer played songs half this good, he'd be pretending to smash his guitar on Conan in no time. KIP BERMAN
- Portland Mercury

"Feature/Live Preview"

Two facts that won't surprise anyone who listens to Joyce Hotel, the debut album by Portland's Crack City Rockers: Lead singer Eric Gregory went to graduate school, and he also fronts a Velvet Under-ground cover band.

As the Rockers (Gregory, bassist Sean Flora, guitarist Dennis Mitchell and drummer Curt Schulz) hammer out a sound that owes much to '70s NYC bands like Television and the New York Dolls, Gregory's voice swoops through tales of drug-addled outsiders and love amid urban decay. He sounds like a younger, more tuneful Lou Reed, and he shares the former VU leader's penchant for consciously literate lyrics.

"It wasn't the authentic teen experience, but I was always jazzed about Lou Reed," Gregory recalls. "Reed wrote songs that were like books. Books always used to fuck with my head, and I wanted songs that would do the same."

On Joyce Hotel (the album takes its name from a divey downtown residence), the bluesiest tinge of early punk is an obvious inspiration. The typically gorgeous production of Portlander Larry Crane's Jackpot Studios and a distinct energy--reverent, not worshipful--forge something new from a well-worn idiom. The disciplined approach seems far different from the raucous, tarted-up abandon of CCR's two years of live shows.

"Playing live should be an experiment," says Gregory. "Go from one night bleeding all over the place, drunk, extravagant, to the next time when we're tight rock 'n' roll, all about the songs."

Just to be sure the CD release show isn't excessively rigorous, though, shot glasses printed with the band's logo will be for sale behind the bar, with free bourbon included as long as the bottle lasts. Jay Horton

Crack City Rockers play Friday, Jan. 4, at Blackbird, 3728 NE Sandy Blvd., 282-9949. Richard Meltzer, Blue Balls, the Removes and DJ Crucial Andy also appear. 9:30 pm. $5

- Willamette Week


Joyce Hotel (Paisley Pop CD) 2001
New Myths (Paisley Pop CD) 2004
The Good Life (Paisley Pop/Onan Records) 2006
We've had moderate radio and internet airplay from both records all over the world (Scotland, Germany, Spain, Massachussetts, NYC, Portland).


Feeling a bit camera shy


Crack City Rockers bleed in regimented bursts of compulsion and articulation. At times, we're the 13th Floor Elevators fronted by Allen Ginsberg. We smell like modernist punks and look like hip 40somethings attempting to hold the 21st century at bay. Speed argues with poetics and the present seduces the future. We're immediate, literate, and refuse to admit that rock and roll is something stupid - though we know in our hearts it probably is. So what? Name a preferable alternative and you can have it. We'll still be making records long after your band has split and you're an investments analyst, web consultant, or HVAC repairman. The first record, Joyce Hotel, Paisely Pop, 2001, is an artefact: all NYC 77 rush and Dylan/Reed spewage. The second, an EP, New Myths, Paisley Pop, 2004, refines everything. Songs take on more hooks and spikes, words are edited to maximum minimalism. Rock Critics: see "literate punk" ie. Richard Hell and the Voidoids, the Only Ones, the Serpent Power. Crack City Rockers were born spring 1999 above the old Kelly’s Olympian Saloon in downtown Portland Oregon. One half past Hypermarket (Eric S Gregory on vocals and rhythm guitar) and one half ex-Bumpity (drummer Curt Schulz), immersed in the Only Ones, old Alex Chilton covers, and nostalgic for an 80s that almost was (remember- college radio didn’t have to become just another “market”), the band took limbs, accumulated songs, gained and lost citizens, and never really took flight. But the band continues (endurance is a very powerful virtue). Presently, the two original members are still here and accounted for, and newest comrades Ken Coleman (lead guitars and vocals) and Matt Sherman (bass guitar) carry on carrying the load. With an eye to future history (we’re more than willing to accept pathology as a desperate justification for continued existence) and more songs, more records, more weight, the band will go on. It will go on.