The Crybabies
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The Crybabies

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"LITTERBOX by John O'Neill"

LITTERBOX

Home alone
By John O'Neill

THE RAIN JUST doesn't want to stop. The little garden I had been leisurely cultivating is no longer under control. The herbs are holding their own, but my beloved lion plant, a tough but palsied heliconia, looks to be headed for the great greenhouse in the sky. Meanwhile, the housebound cat is completely off her gourd and targeting the Christmas tree to get attention. And trying to keep the house comfortable is a part-time gig in itself – it's hot, it's cold, I'm sweating, I'm freezing. Doing much more than hitting the sofa with my fave blanket is pretty much out of the question. So of course there's much too much time to sit and think.

The soundtrack to all this melancholia is a nifty little number by the Crybabies called How the Other Half Lives (Dino). It's a straight-up love letter to mid-'60s folk and soul music full of chiming guitars and blue-eyed white-boy lament. The album isn't some studied piece of revivalist slop, à la the Detroit Cobras, and it isn't designed to cash in on the favorable wind that's blowing around "new rock." The Crybabies, as the name suggests, are too fastidious to ever consider toughening up their sound for a few moments of sunshine; they're musicians who do what they do because they just like the sound they come up with. When things are rolling, they might play out twice a month; conversely, they might not get a gig for an entire season – people tend not to pay much attention to a bunch of middle-aged guys who are all hung up on sincere, mid-tempo, three-minute love songs. The reason I know this is that the Crybabies, whose debut album easily ranks on my year-end top 10, happen to be from my old hometown. Which, of course, got me to thinking.

It's funny how people relate to their local music scene. Even the people who should know better, like me. Artie Sneiderman isn't some smooth, roll-in-the-aisle-type singer, but he is awfully reminiscent of someone like Arthur Alexander, a guy who made you believe his heart was being shit-hammered on every song. But if I were living back east and this album came out, would I call him one of the great undiscovered soul voices? Or would I admit that the guitar playing or the songwriting is as good, if not better, than most of what I've heard in ages? Would the album even be on my top 10 if I weren't three thousand miles and a couple of years removed from home?

I suspect not. There's a funny bias based on the idea that music can't be world-class good if it's from your hometown scene. Maybe it's the repeated exposure, or maybe it's impossible to see someone you have beers with as anything but a buddy. And, of course, there's the belief that a band couldn't possibly be good, because "this scene sucks." I saw a lot of that when I first got here. It was stunning to discover that the bands I had built up in my head from the other side of the country were much bigger and far more appreciated outside the Bay Area. And that attitude hasn't changed much.

As for me, I'm hoping I won't make the same mistake twice.

E-mail John O'Neill at litterbox.sfbg.com.
- San Francisco Bay Guardian


"Crybabies tearing up rock'n'roll script"

Crybabies tearing up rock 'n' roll script
December 5, 2002
Section: TIME OUT
Page: C1

By Scott McLennan


WORCESTER -- During a recent sit-down with the Crybabies, guitarist Steve Aquino responded to a question by rocking back in his chair, stiffening his shoulders and retorting, ``What do you mean by THIS kind of music?''

The original question was asked innocently, a query on the band's thoughts about dropping an old-school rock 'n' soul compact disc in the middle of a local music scene heavy on metal and power pop. But Aquino and the rest of the Crybabies made the case that what they do has nothing to do with musical schools of thought, nor are they particularly concerned with what's going on around them. The Crybabies does what it does simply because it knows no other way to make rock 'n' roll.

For Aquino, fellow guitarist Jeff Crane, singer Artie Sneiderman, bass player Cheryle Crane and drummer Joe Sheehan, rock is the sound of the street as rendered through jangling 12-strings, fluttering tambourines, stinging guitar stabs and the sorts of beats that are perfect for both dancing and drinking. Sneiderman can deliver a dozen tales of lust and heartbreak before musicologist types can figure out if the tunes are pre-punk, post-punk, neo-garage, retro-rock or progressive pop.

The Crybabies couldn't care less -- as long as the people keep dancing and drinking.

The band recently released its debut album, ``How The Other Half Lives'' on Dino Records. It will celebrate the disc with a show Saturday at Ralph's Chadwick Square Diner in Worcester. The Crybabies goes on first, followed by Gamma Rays and Belmondos (which also features Sneiderman on vocals).

``How The Other Half Lives'' is a superb snapshot of a group that still reveres rock 'n' roll as a folk art. The sounds and stories resonate with an everyday feel but are rendered with a care and precision that belie the music's scruffy appeal.

``I never tried to be a fine artist about this. A lot of the songs from the '60s that I love are fine art. But things got pretentious,'' Sneiderman said. ``I felt that, along the way, music was losing its heart and it wasn't rock 'n' roll anymore.''

The members of the Crybabies have applied their musical aesthetics in various popular Worcester bands over the past 20-plus years. Sneiderman and Aquino first played together in The Actions, a band that helped define the Wormtown sound in the early '80s.

Aquino's guitar prowess first came to light in the late '70s with Crazy Jack and the Automatics, and he later flourished as a member of such influential underground rocker groups as The Odds (where he played bass) and later The Lyres.

Crane splits his time between the Crybabies and the Ballbusters. His pedigree extends through The Commandos and projects with singer Rick Blaze that explored the sleazy New York City influence on primal rock.

Cheryle Crane, Jeff's wife, grew up in a rock 'n' roll family: Her father, Rick Palmer, fronted the garage outfit Rick and The Legends. She carried on the family business most prominently as a member of Surreal McCoys before joining the Crybabies.

Sheehan, who admits he is still learning the myriad sources that inform the Crybabies, proved his beat-keeping mettle with Sheez Late, and is currently with The Ballbusters, along with Crane.

The band came together in 1998 when Aquino got it in his head to form a rock outfit unafraid to wear its heart on its sleeve and eager to exploit some of the more tender elements of the underground. When the band played at the wedding of Worcester disc jockey (and now Internet radio maven) Mike Malone, Dino Records' Kevin Smith liked what he saw and sought the band for his label.

``I thought that it was criminal that Artie had never been recorded, so in the fall of 2000 we agreed to make the record,'' Aquino said.

``How the Other Half Lives'' showcases great writing chemistry within the band, with the title track in particular coming off as a manifesto for every music-loving outsider roaming the planet.

Some of the tunes date back to the '80s, some are fresh, but all hang together nicely to create a snapshot of a group thinking on its feet and delivering from the heart.

Although its roots stretch deep into the history of rock 'n' roll, the Crybabies is by no means irrelevant to today's music. The band's greatest skill is making sure THIS music breathes and thrives in its own right, free from the forces of nostalgia.

``My music is called eccentric now,'' Sneiderman said, ``but I was called eccentric 35 years ago.'' - Worcester Telegram and Gazette


Discography

Discography:
Album
2003 - How The Other Half Lives, Dino Records
Tracks that have received commercial radio airplay:
Man With Money, Fool Of Me.

Photos

Bio

Three of the original members folded in 2006 and the band now features original members Artie and Steve with a new line-up.
This is now a band with notable provenance. Lead vocalist Artie is a veteran of five former bands - most notably the Belmondos, the Shambles and the Actions, and first sang with a band when the term "'60's garage band" described 99% of the nation's rock groups.
Danny McCormack is well known in both the local and world garage/punk-rock community (which is quite large overseas) as the guitarist for the premier garage band Lyres, whom he joined a year after the band's inception and with whom he played on the group's first two albums, the legendary On Fyre and Lyres Lyres and on the live on radio album Let's Have a Party.
Steve Aquino also put in a heroic stint as Lyres guitarist; in fact he has the record for longest continuous employment in the band by a guitarist (seven years).
Richie was originally a founding member of the legendary Baby's Arm, one of the original groups in Boston's -- and the world's -- nascent "punk-rock" scene (this was two or three years before the Sex Pistols or the Clash were conceived of). He also played in the Last Ones and the Boize, both with Rick Corracio of the Lyres.
The group's newest member, Kevin Mahoney, on bass has worked for some time with the excellent roots band Lucky 57, and also Diamond Platinum Rings.