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The best kept secret in music


"pres of usa review"

Many have pointed to the mid-'90s as the beginning of the end for the alt-rock movement. In the wake of Kurt Cobain's suicide, record labels scurried to reign in and homogenize/neuter the style, leaving only a bunch of bands that look and sound exactly the same. Before the "Darth Vader era" dawned upon the style, however, quite a few quirky acts slipped by and scored hits. One such group was Presidents of the United States of America. Like the wave that had just turned rock 'n' roll upside down, the trio hailed from Seattle. And while they appeared to be influenced by the same garage rock and proto-punk outfits as their predecessors, the Presidents proved to be as unconventional as their guitarists, Chris Ballew and Dave Dederer. Both played instruments that were missing several strings, sounding at times like they were playing heavily distorted basses.

On the strength of a pair of catchy, idiosyncratic ditties from their self-titled debut — "Lump" and "Peaches" — PUSA became the unlikely alt-rock success story of 1995, and it appeared as though the band could even go on to slay the Bushes and Hooties of the world. Sadly, this didn't happen. The threesome lasted only long enough to release two more albums that failed to match the success of its debut, before splitting in 1998. To the delight of PUSA's following, the split didn't last long. The Presidents reunited in 2000 for their fourth release overall, Freaked Out And Small, and have returned this year with another new studio offering, Love Everybody.

But before the Presidents could go on, several warm-up acts did their thing, the best of the bunch being local Long Island heroes The CURRENT ( Since playing the same venue several months ago (opening for the Psychedelic Furs), The CURRENT has slimmed down from a quintet to a quartet. Even so, the group's Dandy Warhols meets Guns N' Roses sound remains as vibrant as ever, evidenced by fresh tracks like "Brand New Car" and old favorites such as "You Are." With just about every young rock band getting a record deal nowadays, it's surprising that these chaps haven't been snapped up yet.

With the crowd swelling to its peak, it was easy to tell that the Presidents' return to New York wasn't far off. Interestingly, the crowd's age was mostly quite young, which left you wondering: how do so many youngsters know about this band? Was it an older brother/sister's copy of Presidents Of The United States Of America that left a permanent mark on their brains all these years? Whatever the case, the crowd grew ecstatic when PUSA launched into a cover of the MC5's barnstorming classic, "Kick Out The Jams."

With longtime member Dederer sitting out a few dates on this tour for family reasons, newcomer Andrew McKeag did a fine job filling in and kept the group sounding as rough 'n' rocking as ever. As could be expected after a few years on the road, the band looks a bit different — the long curly locks drummer Jason Finn sported a decade earlier have been shorn off, for example. Ballew, meanwhile, was dressed in a plain white t-shirt and looked basically the same (if any cast members of "Queer Eye" are reading this, I'll complete the group's fashion critique: McKeag sported an Urge Overkill tee).

No one in the house could have possibly been disappointed with the group's setlist, a balancing act of old cuts ("Back Porch," "Boll Weevil"), new tunes (the latest album's title track), and the expected PUSA classics ("Lump," "Peaches"). Showing that the outfit's sense of humor hasn't dissipated either, Ballew threw out such amusing requests as, "If you have hair, headbang!" He also invited a pair of female fans onstage to supply backing vox for PUSA's rendition of "Kitty" and ended one song by declaring that they would blast the same note in unison 81 times! (Of course, they happily delivered.) Trends may come and go, but the Presidents remain as goofy as ever. Their fans wouldn't have it any other way. - long island press



Feeling a bit camera shy


The CURRENT formed in mid 2002 with Rob Bogacki and Matt Baumbach starting to write songs together. Both had previously come from different worlds of music with Rob, more experienced in new wave, psychedelia and Matt from the heavy rock format. Together they have formed an original sound around a vast amount of influences - ranging from Brit Rock past and present to modern day alternative music. After writing around 12 songs they decided to show the material to producer Machine (Prodigy, King Crimson, Clutch).They soon recorded a 4 song demo which solidified the sound of the band. Now knowing that a real band was needed to be put in place they searched for the right players. After a few lineup changes, they finally found their true unit with the addition of Joe Merrigan on bass and Chris Matthews on drums. Both members had played previously in other bands and had shone as the standout members in each. New recordings soon followed as did shows in the surrounding NYC area. Now having roughly 40 songs ready to go, the band hopes to have a deal in place soon. The sky's the limit!