New Jersey, the perennial butt of jokes from people in The City (New York), has spewed forth a lot more than toxic-waste from its shores. Musicians from Jersey have been entertaining the world for decades. Let’s skip over the obvious: Springsteen, Sinatra, Bon Jovi. This hour we will focus on rock-tinged gems from the Garden State. I would be remiss though not to point out that Jersey is the home to a plethora of talent from other areas of the musical spectrum …. Jazz greats such a Sarah Vaughan and Bill Evans, R&B giants such as Whitney Houston and Kool & The Gang, and Hip-Hop/Rap pioneers such as Sugarhill Gang, Queen Latifah and The Fugees. Ok…here we go…gonna get Jersey on youse guys… Check out the list on Spotify: In an Hour — Jersey On My Mind. Enjoy your hour.
1. I never understood people who actually liked Mondays. Chalk it up to a cynical Jersey upbringing I suppose. Echoing the lack of love for Mondays is psych/garage-rock revivalists The Black Hollies hailing from Jersey City. Hmmm…influences anyone? “Gloomy Monday Morning, I’ll never get to work on time.” The appeal of that opening line is universal.
2. Growing up in Trenton before cable TV and the advent of the Internet, you never felt you were missing out on anything. Trentonians could watch TV out of New York and Philadelphia as well as local fare. The same held true for radio…making it an ideal place for a music lover to thrive … the availability and variety made it a true musical Nirvana. Add to that a killer club called City Gardens, and you end up with the likes of Railroad Jerk. RJ was a genre-mixing mess of a band with one of the most killer tunes to ever come out of Jersey, “Bang The Drum.”
3. Indie Rock up-and-comers Real Estate engulf listeners in a ethereal cloud of pop/rock riffs winning over the ears and hearts of fans and critics alike. Who said Jersey doesn’t have a softer side? Give a listen to “It’s Real.“
4. Simmering under the radar since 2005, Steel Train has toured with the likes of Fun, Ben Folds Five and Tegan and Sara. From E-Street Band percussive tinkles to references to the most-traveled road in the country, “Turnpike Ghost” leads folks on a shimmering yet eerie pop/rock jaunt. Perfect for a trip through the Pines.
5. People from Jersey can seem strange upon first encounter. This is a product of being raised in the most densely-populated state per square mile in the U.S. But, give them a second chance, and you will see that they grow on you. A band that remains perpetually strange is The Misfits. Cult favorites, the Danzig-fueled monster mashup released one of the weirdest cover albums of all time … “Project 1950.” Covering classics from the ’50s in full B-movie schlock mode makes for some interesting listening. Check out their version of Del Shannon‘s “Runaway.”
6. From the opening undulations of the bass on The Smithereens‘ “Blood and Roses” you knew you were listening to something out of step with the rest of the rock scene in the ’80s. Dark lyics, subtle hooks and ohhh that bass.
7. Insipired to name their band after Shakespeare’s bloodiest of plays, Glen Rock’s Titus Andronicus wowed us with “The Monitor,” an album inspirited by a PBS documentary on the Civil War. They also invited musical friends from The Hold Steady and Vivian Girls to help out on that record. “To Old Friends and New” is a slow-churning, post-breakup dose of “you’re gonna miss me.”
8. Literary references by Jersey bands are not confined to Glen Rock, on “The ’59 Sound,” New Brunswick’s The Gaslight Anthem give a nod to Tim Robbins with a heartland rocker that pledges loyalty to friends as the years pass in “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.” Proving that he is the ultimate Jersey band frontman, I still giggle every time I think about Brian Fallon telling an enthusiastic Bonnaroo crowd that he didn’t like California … toooo Jersey.
9. Yet another band from New Brunswick is the long-running pop-punk outfit The Bouncing Souls. Their anthemic punk crowd chanters have been delighting audiences for more than 30 years. Shout/sing and pogo along with “Kids and Heroes.”
10. Eliciting sing-alongs of an Americana nature are The Lumineers. Really … Jersey? You thought they were from Colorado. Just consider this: A mainstay at any Central/Southern Jersey/Philadelphia parade is an appearance by outrageously clad, prancing string bands. I don’t know if anyone keeps track, but I would bet a burrito that there are more banjo pickers per square mile in that region than anywhere else in the world. Now go sing along with Ho Hey…you know you love it.
11. Proving that Jersey Girls rock, Marissa Paternoster and her Screaming Females bandmates show that guitar shredding will never go out of style on “Wild.” The three-piece New Brunswick group’s unique sound has garnered widespread attention from sources as varied as NPR to Steve Albini, who produced their latest album.
12. Indie music icons The Feelies were a mainstay of the New York art rock scene in the late ’70s. The Haledon band were a major influence on the hordes of indie bands that would emerge during the following decades. Lend an ear to “Nobody Knows.”
13. Transisitioning from punker to electronic God proved a good career move for James Murphy aka LCD Soundsystem. Hailing from Princton Junction, listen to the ultimate musichead shoutout shuffle “Losing My Edge.”
14. Providing a pop-punk flag that a new generation of Jersey kids can get behind is Jersey City’s My Chemical Romance. The Green Day tourmates have just released a new single “Kiss The Ring.”
15. Lastly, there is the newest track from Hoboken’s Yo La Tengo, “ohm.” The new album, “Fade” is due out Jan. 15. This is a rolling, fuzz-tinged piece of ear candy from the band with the ultimate Jersey album name, “I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass.”