Ruby on the Vine
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Ruby on the Vine

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The best kept secret in music

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RUBY ON THE VINE
This World Of Days

Twenty years ago, Myrna Marcarian was parked behind a Farfisa organ, providing feminist counterpoint to Bob Pfeifer’s dark and smokey urgency in the Cleveland-turned-Hoboken garage band Human Switchboard. They were one of the many great bands from America’s post-punk New Wave beloved by the press but virtually unknown to the public, save for a small, rabid fan base. Human Switchboard’s sole full-length release, Who’s Landing In My Hangar, has been out of print for 20 years, but the band’s name still rolls off the tongue of long-lived rock critics who can’t forget the band’s zesty intelligence, volatile sexual chemistry, and great songs. Unable to find another record deal after the release of Hangar, frontman Bob Pfeifer went on to a career in the record industry, both in A&R and as president of Hollywood Records for a time; he now owns his own management firm. Marcarian hung around Hoboken but has been unheard since the release of a little-heard 1989 solo EP, “Human Touch.” Now she’s back, fronting the New York City-based folk/pop combo Ruby On The Vine. Partnered with former Switchboard drummer Ron Metz and guitarist/co-songwriter Geoff Feinberg, The World Of Days is a remarkable comeback, a fresh and vibrant collection of songs that sounds as if Marcarian hasn’t missed a beat despite a 14 year layoff. Switchboard’s best songs were often driven by the combustible on again/off again romantic relationship between Pfeifer and Marcarian; now, Marcarian’s the older but wiser woman, still sultry and sexual, but less concerned over issues of fidelity than she is with just getting it on. Purring and wailing like the mature Patti Smith, Marcarian’s voice sounds terrific, from slinky sex-kitten torch songs to passionate ballads to driving, garagey (and yes, Switchboard-like) tracks like “Little Demon” and “Why You Wanna Make Me Mad.” The band’s been keeping a low-profile thus far but here’s hoping 2004 sees Ruby On The Vine bring some of that old Human Switchboard magic back to a NYC club scene that’s starved for a band with this much substance and passion. (www.rubyonthevine.com)
- Jim Testa
Jerseybeat Magazine
April 2004
- Jerseybeat Magazine


There were no hang-up calls when Human Switchboard connected person-to-person in area codes from Ohio to New York City at the cusp of the 1980s, as they were resolutely living out the era's creed that Doing It Yourself would restore passion to pop music. But just as the buzz about their Who's Landing in My Hangar? debut album (still a classic, still regrettably unavailable on CD) was cresting in 1982, I.R.S. Records' Faulty imprint was deleted. Human Switchboard were left stranded on their good-press island without a promo canoe to paddle home, and they eventually imploded.

The frenzied heart of Human Switchboard was always the musical clash between vocalist-guitarist Bob Pfeifer—nervous, aggressive, presumably unblinking behind his constant shades—and vocalist-keyboardist Myrna Marcarian, sarcastic and sensual from her bleating-Farfisa hip. In those flailing-notes confrontations, Bob and Myrna seemed like the Sonny and Cher of new wave, albeit with more Mensa potential. Their songs reflected the tough times they'd seen in college towns like Kent, Ohio, including that perennial thesis topic: varieties of infidelity found in cold-water grad-student flats. Drummer Ron Metz faithfully provided the Switchboard's fervent pulse as the thrift-store dishes flew and a series of bassists came and went.

After the split, Bob and Myrna released dueling solos of a sort: his After Words LP of 1987 and her Human Touch EP of 1989, intense records without immediate sequels. That once acerbic critic of corporate rock Bob Pfeifer then penetrated the beast himself, first in A&R at Epic, and then as president (!) of Hollywood Records. Today Pfeifer runs his own media-consulting company, Segnana.


Myrna Marcarian rules the humanist motherboard of Ruby on the Vine, named after an Omar Khayyam elegy but also suggestive of the darkly faceted sheen of Marcarian's vocals. Though she plays keyboards less often than she plays her new signature instrument, acoustic guitar, she sometimes attacks the latter with a hard edge recalling Pfeifer's strum und drang. Ruby on the Vine's intriguing folkpop songs, most written by Marcarian, some with electric guitarist Geoff Feinberg, project a worldview as desire-driven as Human Switchboard's, yet with more accommodation at the end of the stark hallway: Love exists, fidelity too, but you have to work at them—thus, the erotic fiats of "You Belong to Me" and "Don't Be So Sure." The album rolls from homespun ballads like "Gather Round Your Wishing Wall" to the startling (in this context) garage rock of "Little Demon" and "Why You Wanna Make Me Mad," the latter two with riffs that tunnel right through the hangar wall. We already knew she could walk alone, and now she's sounding real sharp again. So maybe next time out, Ms. Marcarian will lyrically address the existential conundrum that continues to bedevil the creative class: Should I have gone to law school?!?


Copyright © 2004 Village Voice Media, Inc., 36 Cooper Square, New York, NY 10003 The Village Voice and Voice are registered trademarks. All rights reserved.

- The Village Voice


Discography

One ten-song LP called This World of Days is available from CD Baby and Amazon and can be found in small record stores around the country. College airplay with "You Belong to Me," "Little Demon," "Let Me Go," "Get Around Your Wishing Wall."

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Ex- Human Switchboard and ex-Feelies members play original songs that cross the traditional lines of rock, pop, folk. Lots of comparisons to Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde, and even Stevie Nicks.