(-review by Moses Midnight)
Electrajets Make Absolutely Epic Psychedelic Glam Masterpiece!
Cried so much his face was wet, so I knew he was not lying… (-Bowie)
To be joyous is to be a mad man in a world of sad ghosts… (-Miller)
Do ya like good music? Do ya like T. Rex? Brevity and under-statement have never really been my mohair suit and electric boots, so if you have a short attention span, or require a refreshing libation or more ice cubes, now is the time to jump off the night train, as I got plenty I wanna convey to my brothers and sisters and friends of the revolution, about halo-headed electric warrior extraordinaire, guitar star, novelist, and all around NYC bohemian hip-cat, JEFF WARD, and his highly talented Electrajets cohorts. Jeff is a poignant, provocative, and impactful artiste in multiple mediums, a fantastic communicator, a seductive story-teller and romantic raconteur, and I’ll be starting today’s rant, at the beginning, when I was 19 or 20, and still working at a rural smalltown record store in soybean country, miles from nowhere. We sold all those cool, eighties, English import, music magazines, back in the dizzying days of hairspray and cowboy boots, when all us dumb, hick kids were still so super-excited about Izzy Stradlin, an Americanized, fast-food drive-through version of our much beloved, Andy McCoy, and initially, we even mistook Nazareth cover band screecher, Axl, for a ginger haired, Midwestern, anti-authoritarian Mike Monroe, before he got crazy drunk on over-night super-fame and promptly turned into Donald Trump (“YOU’RE FIRED!”) in bicycle shorts.
One day, while perusing Kerrang!, I saw a tiny black and white photo of a U.K. band called GUNFIRE DANCE in a column about fresh blood up and comers. I wrote to their address and was thrilled to receive a torrent of lively correspondence from the Gunfires-handwritten letters on cool Gunfire Dance stationary, glossy publicity pix, and cassette demos. I immediately took to their energetic style of trashy rocknroll and commenced much enthusing about their catchy tunes, “Bliss Street” and “Suit & Tied” in my crappy home made fanzines. We were crows of a feather back then, they became my imaginary friends, I felt like their faraway country mouse cousin, as I had my own dodgy Gun Club covers band in the lynchmob loony Midwest, ridiculously sucking in my cheeks and pushing out my lips, infuriating the apemen, like the gawky adolescent Edward Scissorhands I was, puke stains adorning my frilly pink blouse. Something in my eyes has always enraged the klans-people with authority. The locals really wanted to kill me. They are bred and boot-camped to be hateful and hostile, and will never hesitate to burn you at the stake. Since corporate punk bands rebranded music as sports in the nineties, middleclass, gentrified people in that town pretend it is a punk paradise, but 3 of my childhood pals were murdered there and I lost track of the suicides, it was not a nice place. It’s like Whack-A-Mole in the hick states, whenever a new or weirdish voice rises up, the prevailing status-quo always gets frantic that their long established ruling-class pecking-order is somehow being potentially subverted or threatened, so they always go to absurdly nutty extremes to sabotage, shut-out and silence anyone with a walk, or style, or beat, of their own. Even and especially in piss-puddle nothing, humdrum, dried-up and dreary, sports bar drunken, dying mall towns. Nothing is more offensive to the fortunate son, future Trump voters, and Bill O’Reilly listening squares of the flyover states, than offensively effete girly men consorting with unusually desirable female Depeche Mode or Sisters Of Mercy aficionados. It’s always just high-school sports, country club membership, woodsy suburban street names, ugly clothes, terrible top 40 music, cover bands, television, and oversized white trucks forever and ever with super-sized buckets of draft beer and BBQ chicken wings on oversized, Fourth Of July sundecks, forever and ever, Amen. Alan Grayson once said , “they can’t kill us all!”, but I have never felt even half as confident. I got beat up a lot, it leaves an impression on your central nervous system, eventually, all that repeated boot stomping on your face, cracked ribs stuff. Like I said, 3 of my childhood friends were murdered in that piss-town. The joiners and belongers and eager beaver golf people always saw us as being different, we were always “otherized”. The privileged elements of dumbfuck society can not help but want to snuff our little lights out, for liking Bauhaus and Alien Sex Fiend, or for expressing ideas they do not immediately understand. They’d show up at my job in rabid packs of six or seven to threaten to kill me for the crime of attracting females whom they felt they’d somehow already property-patched and branded with their mom’s influence and allowances from dad, or whatever. It was always madness, so I spent a significant time withdrawing into books and records and old yellowy magazines and just dreaming of someday retreating to a far off emerald city where nobody cared if you had a nose ring or liked blue eye shadow or hot pink leather and the NY Dolls. Unpardonable sins, back in Limbaugh country. My intimate clique of Gene Loves Jezebel goth dollies and Charlie Sexton rockabilly brats, wild haired Robert Smith kids and random AC/DC strays, never had one shred of inheritance, or prestige, or fancy equipment, but we had loads of white trash guts, camaraderie, and goonies are gudd enuff, kicks galore. Solidarity and Gabba Gabba Hey gang loyalty seemed like positive solutions to systemic repression and mob-rules violence. The dominant powers only seemed at all interested in collecting meaningless status symbols, lording over others, and stepping on weaker humans. Flatulent, Jager drunk, pizza belching fat guys in baseball caps. And khaki shorts. Even their supposedly posh and genteel, church a goin’ parents would try to get me fired from jobs and stuff for corrupting their daughters with Aqua Net and Replacements lyrics. The smalltown religious people were livid that even a few of us audaciously dared to play music, print fanzines, draw caricatures, paint stuff, dress the way we wanted, and have hootenannies in the privacy of a rented farmhouse on the edge of town. Art was forbidden. So was androgyny. They called me a Manson like cult leader, but really, I just liked Kid Congo Powers, Flesh for Lulu, Hanoi Rocks, and the Dogs D’amour.
In the Bon Jovi and Poison metal years, my cherished rocknroll escapist prayer life was already being infringed upon, hijacked, co-opted, infiltrated by the usual ham-fisted imposter, sports fratboys, corrections guards, life-guards and ignorant suburban people with sadist cop mentalities. GUNFIRE DANCE were real important to some of us, because we could see ourselves in them, so somehow, their (mis)fortunes somehow seemed tethered to our own. Where I grew up, the 100% complicit, dress code enforcing adults-the teachers, preachers, coaches, administrators, cops, all knew we were being unfairly and inhumanely targeted and harassed, stalked, followed around, elbowed in the teeth, knocked backward down stairwells etc., and they only ever green-lit and encouraged that shit. They really, really, REALLY, frowned upon boys wearing makeup. I knew I had to get out. I was forever urging my former amigos and banditos to relocate with me to grimier gutters. Gunfire Dance will always be part of my personal rocknroll pantheon, in part, because they were so heroically unapologetic about wearin’ all the purple velvet and peacock feathers that nobody wears. They weren’t your typical hairy chested Kip Wingers peddling fluffy power ballads, or stinky ape aggressor, empty headed Nugent thrash dudes. I did not need redneck rock stars. I wanted elegant elfen, Oscar Wilde-ish rockstars. They were one of the coolest looking bands I’d ever seen, with a raw and untamed garage punk sound, that seemed so fresh and original, particularly against the non-stop backdrop of MTV corporate assembly-line metal bands. GUNFIRE DANCE played gritty, savage rocknroll the way I like it, a bit like the Heartbreakers, Stiv Bators solo band, Thee Hypnotics, and the Damned. Their singer, Ant, in his newsboy cap and biker vest and tight leather strides, instantly reminded me and some others of, well, myself, but way, way less inhibited or self-conscious, he was a brave hearted, merry making, boisterous, unpredictable onstage presence, who not only looked flash as hell, but was utterly unafraid to get his silk scarves sweaty, or tear it up, Lux Interior style. He only came to get it on, they meant business, man. GUNFIRE DANCE blew the roof off the sucker. They were all stars-balls of fire, blazing constellations, and it seemed like a senselessly cruel trick of fate that a chaotic pin-up star like Ant would ever end up as a depressed janitor of lunacy with an alcohol problem, like me, rather than a major-label coverboy success story with bubble gum cards and metal lunchboxes and shit, he had such a distinctively unique voice all his own that was variously reminiscent of all our favorite singers-Marc Bolan, Rowland S. Howard, Iggy Pop, and David Johansen, without really copying any of them. To me, he was a real big star. He had his own thing, totally. It was at once, fresh and familiar, and he had a crack team of pirate dandies in his white hot band, a big name rockstar producer, it really seemed like stardom was just a matter of… moments away. Even the bass ace, Birchy was a Face, Oz, the drummer: all 4 could play and looked like front-men, in their own light. Jeff Ward was the lead guitar showman that every basement punk vocalist dreamed of being on-stage with. He was the ultimate guitar-throttler, who threw shapes like the Clash and Thunders and arsonist Beatles in Hamburg, or Stones when they were suckin’ in the 70’s! A lanky, leather clad, wild and hungry, blurry vision of never ending hurricane energy, a boundless bon vivant tornado of Elvis attitude and sneery lips and graceful posing, ala Andy McCoy, Brian James, Mick Jones, and Johnny Thunders. That cat was on fire. All the Lower East Side Ronnie Spectors and Patti Palladin dolls went mad for all of them, once GUNFIRE DANCE finally arrived upon our shores, and conquered Manhattan like natural born motherfuckers. I mean, I think even Brigiite West was going to see their shows Then, the Gunfires, broke up, suddenly, and some of us ardent and avid devotee early fans got real glum about it for awhile, we took it personally. Oh My god, I remember being so gloomy about it. As an indoor kid, only child, I’d spent of my childhood, immersed in books about the Beatles and the Stones, and reading articles about the Clash in smash-hits and Creem magazines, so I was always prone to really waxing romantic about my “when you’re a jet, you’re a jet all the way” stay-together street-gangs, I was totally en thrall to the perennial fantasy of 4 misfits who come together, scorning convention, defying cheap cop-outs and formulas, who shook the world with their velvet hats and Cuban boots, so ya know, it always broke my heart when my favorite bands always seem to crash and burn. I did not understand how hard it can be to juggle relationships with ten other inebriated people in the cold rehearsal rooms and stinky band vans. I did not know the Ramones did not get along, in real life. I probably thought they were actual siblings, as a bohomeless teenager. JEFF WARD continued forging his own prolific ouvre of very highbrow, arty, hallucinogenic rocknroll on his own, that was kinda in the strobe-lit vein of Liverpool’s 80’s psychedelic revivalists, it was a bit like low budget Bolan in Thundersland, but that 70’s glam glossy golden sheen was always missing, his songs always deserved a big, larger than love, major-label, laser-lit, Tony Visconti like, multi-layered production, with the string sections and conga drums and theramin and unicorns and girls goin’ “do, do, do, do, do, do do…” Jeff always determinedly applied a hard working, D.I.Y. ethic to his obscure art and was imaginatively adept at conjuring up ethereal otherworlds, even when he only had access to the most basic and primitive, limited recording equipment. You know you got that elusive “it” when you can even make your cellar dweller, duct-tape, jug band sound like a big-deal George Martin, or Arthur Lee on Elektra teenage rampage psychdelic symphony to god, with no budget, fuelled only by convenience store fortified wines, top Ramen, and an abiding love of Johnny Thunders sensitive solo records. Years after first lighting out upon his Electrajets impossible dream, he has finally achieved this high watermark recording, and at long last accessed the top notch production value and world class squad of untouchably impeccable players, that his rose-tinted originals always deserved. I’m over the moon about Electrajets gypsy-fied rocknroll exotica. He’d already carved out a lasting legacy with his scrappy first band-Gunfire Dance, his ongoing work with NY Junk, his essential books, but this new Electrajets album is really something special. A wonder to be experienced.
After relocating to NYC and struggling for awhile, navigating all the usual hurdles, hardships, obstacles, and rocknroll trapdoors and temptations, Jeff Ward was eventually loved and embraced by the last standing survivors of the 70’s downtown art explosion, and soon joined ranks with a literate, moody, thundering songwriter by the name of Joe Sztabnik, who was best known for his JT-affiliated sleaze punk band, the Dragons, but who also co-wrote “Poison Heart” with Dee Dee Ramone, in NY JUNK. NY JUNK also starred Cynthia Ross, better known in collector’s circles as Cynthia B-Girl, who was the original all girl punk band architect, muse, songwriter, and ground zero idol making, power behind the prince, powerhouse punk pioneer, who helped to kick-start many, many galaxies of iconic cult bands and rock scenes, all over the world. NY 77, Canada, Japan, Modernday NYC, she is a one woman art-juggernaut, planting apple seeds all over the place, with her bands, the B-Girls and NY JUNK, but also discovering, cultivating, nurturing, educating, tirelessly promoting, and managing young talents, and here, she accompanies our dashing beat hero, Jeff Ward, in his intergalactic Electrajets space travels. She is also a poignant writer, it’s easy to understand why she and Jeff Ward are so close. Cynthia is not only an extemporary bass player and historical figure; she’s seen it all, done it all, outlived ’em all, and writes these bruised and raw and nakedly revealing poems that will make you cry. Cynthia is hardcore. I can’t wait for her auto-biography. Jeff’s books, Parasite & Carry On Dreaming and Mac & Beth are so important, I can earnestly assure you that you should own them, especially if you have read my ravings this far. I always recognized his white light starpower in the glittery GUNFIRE DANCE phase, but it was his childlike wonderment and crazy abandon, in his ’round the world travelogs and electrified speed poetry and all night record playing and endless faasciantion with America’s activist history and indigenous subcultures and after-hours speakeasies, and respect for jazz and blugrass and hip-hop, appreciation of sixties writers, and long forgotten folklore, that repeatedly confirms for me what an amazing talent he is. You have to get his books. He is an animal rights activist, a human rights activist, a free press advocate, an antiwar yippie hellraiser in the tradition of David Peel and Harold C. Black, a Wobblies quotin’, power in the union, squatter punk solidarity, power fist, righteous soul bro immigrant blues scholar who makes NYC great again by being a soft-spoken, eloquent voice for the people, and a keeper of the good old flame. He knows way more about America’s civil rights history and it’s original people than most tv brainwashed, miseducated, born in the USA, honky propagandized Americans do. Part Phil Ochs, Victor Jara, Part Jack Kerouac and Brett Smiley. I remember when GUNFIRE DANCE first stormed into NYC in full burst crazy cobalt bloom, they smoked most all the local bands, possessed all the raw materials for Billy Idol super-fame, and really had a genuinely encouraging and affirming, and positive affect on similarly cursed troubadours such as myself and Chris Barry, the World Famous Mister Ratboy, and Deanne Clapper, who were all busy putting our own dark glam and voodoo, crash and burn, singer of the flame, gutter gangs together, as well as on most everyone involved with my fanzine, cable access tv show, record store co-workers, band-house roommates, and our dirty little dead-end blues-punk’s band’s friends and entrouge, all our kooky colleagues and counterparts in Boston’s ghetto-punk underground scene. GUNFIRE DANCE never got rich and famous, but they are still in our hearts, remembered ever so fondly, and will likely always remain one of the coolest rocknroll bands who ever stomped the stage at CBGB’s, or the Continental: at least to me and my raggedy little, teeny, lot of damaged outsiders and pirate lords with PTSD.
That’s a hard act to follow, but this evocative and wonderfully astute and glisteningly anthemic ELECTRAJETS disc is so surprisingly sunny and gleaming and visceral and totally unexpected in times as grim as these. Really, it arrives like a dove, or rainbow, or celestial choir, like they just spiked our drinks with a happy end in the nick of time, or something. Old glam devotees, record collectors, garage junkies, bookworms, aging acid heads, intellectual ingénues, and T. Rex hippies are gonna be playing “Transatlantic Tales” all summer long. Jeff Ward is a new frontier seeking, path finding, fear less truth seeking, envelope pushing, abyss staring, artist in all capital letters. What is so irresistibly charming about the dude is how he is just relentlessly overpowered by his profound love of beauty and adventure and soulful testifyin’, carney people, rabble rousin’ and highway jouneyin’. He’s so good, a vital force. Did I mention how you also have to procure his books? “Carry On Dreaming” is my youth-quaking favorite. Nowadays, his old drummer, Oz from the Gunfires, tours England with Walter Lure ,and Birchy plays in two top bands, the Black Bombers, and also in England’s Newest Hit-Makers, The GODFATHERS. Ant is, sadly, no longer with us, in this knotted coil of mortal, but I will always believe in their fairy dust and magic and lovingly recall all the lost boys of Neverland. The Gunfires will always be deeply appreciated as an iconic underground band who cast their impossibly thin shadows upon my entire personal secret history of complete unknowns gutter punknroll, right? Which brings us, now, to the triumphantly majestic Electrajets album, I never thought I’d say it, but it is even better than the Gunfires! The Electrajets have delivered a glorious masterpiece, and it is even going to be available soon…on vinyl. This is a headphones band, a real album, if I smoked ganja, I’d be high on the couch listening to this with my eyes closed right now, rather than drinking two pots of coffee and furiously typing about it.
Jeff Ward and his ever faithful gang of revolution-stoners, tiger-beats, gypsy-jokers, and rabbit-fighters have gone beyond the beyond with this record. It’s just perfect, really. As Sylvain would say, it’s, “the tits”. Especially if you love Love, Bowie, T. Rex, Slade, the psychedelic Rolling Stones pop art 45’s, etc. Truly, a fabulous, landmark achievement. He was wise to enlist Sonic Ray, ’cause everything he touches turns to gold. The Electrajets core trio of Jeff Ward, Cynthia Ross, and Dahm Majuri Cipolla are joined by Sarah Amina, Ray “Sonic” Hanson, and Danny Ray for this exceptional collection of terrific tunes that was engineered by Martin Bisi, mixed by Jeff, with pre-production by Joe Sztabnik and mastered by Paul Gray. It is real gratifying for long-time fans to hear Ward’s always compelling originals fully fleshed-out in full-color, 3-D, vivid surroundsound. A great big toast to the whole team. This record is a marvelous achievement. Not only does that gang provide guidance and shine their influential klieg-lights upon the next generation of young rockers, but they also provide a roadmap for other die hards who put their own crystal visions on hold to raise families and stuff. Our black flag was still there! In a free society, we’d all have access to this kind of quality music, and not just that awful push-button garbage-pop that assaults us from every corporate media platform. Real music, invested with this kind of high level musicianship, emotional dedication and honest self-expression, improves everyone’s entire quality of life, brings us together in person, makes people want to be fully alive again, pick up their clarinets, or go on a road trip, or have a party, which is why gutsy, artistic, heartfelt music has been mostly banned from the big 5 media monopolies corporate- controlled airwaves. There ain’t no war and private-prison profits in promoting sincere rocknroll that brings folks together, rather than dividing us with fear. Like the Beatles, Bowie, Pink Floyd, or T. Rex, the Electrajets might make you wanna get high, or plant a garden, or mobilize a protest, or liberate the dissident whistle-blowers, righteous truth-tellers, and free innocent children imprisoned in racist gulags. It’s a thing of real honest beauty to hear such a high-level, lavish piece of imperishable beauty still being made in these horrifyingly blackening times.
“Transatlantic Tales” is a fantastic voyage through eccentric after-hours bars, and dawn’s early light get togethers, with an inter-generational array of cosmic dancers, soft machines, bewlay brothers, and baby lemonades. If you like the same kinda music I do, that throbbing, pulsing, old time rocknroll, you will very likely be awed by this dazzling display of psychedelic lightshows and pyrotechnics, sensual violins, surreal David Lynch oompa bands, righteous testimonies, religious chants, noir red-light poetry, power to the people guitar lightning, and mysterious epiphanies to burn. This record is a bit of what you fancy, what we were waiting for-sophisticated and intelligent tapestries of silver comets and golden spires and cotton candy castles and crazy sunsets and….it rocks. The Electrajets are here to answer the musical question, “whatever happened to the teenage dream?” And they do it with a considerable lot of energy and finesse and soul-power; and with the actual first hand, been there, authority of “lived it” experience. If you were yearning for rocknroll to resurge and reignite and revitalize itself in a bright blue burst of happy smack and suicide spaceships, femme fatales asking you for a light in the dark alleyways, bootboy terrace stomps, pixie-stick pop melodies, danger, dynamite, sex, and style, you’re gonna probably really love this record. I will revel in this potent and powerful, ultra-paisleyfied, sinister space rock, for eons to come. An updated incarnation of the Slider or Satanic Majesties. Gorgeous stuff. I’m mad for it. A lethal dose of startlingly unbridled genius, and a fully rejuvenated clarion call for all of us to come together right now and get up and stand up and get organized and help co-create a groovier, freer, wilder, untamed world of dancing, purity, solidarity, light, and sensuality and limitless, inspirational possibilities, strummin’ on the old banjo. It’s up to you-yeah, you: soul-driven rocknroll always makes us wanna reach out to our friends and neighbors, beyond our own private soap bubble, it’s hard to hear supernova soul-music and not start moving your body, putting on cool threads, emptying bottles, opening windows, answering phones, it always awakens your desire to travel, to sing, to commune, and collaborate. Jeff Ward walks through a whimsical, Dali-esque dimension, seemingly of his own making, he has a wonderful voice, draws influences from everywhere and sees beauty in all things. An undeniably blessed and gifted character who makes rocknroll music that instantly wins you over, even if you think you’re not in the mood for it. You will turn it up louder. It moves and grooves like a movie, they are real movers. Their violinist, Sarah Amina adds some Scarlet Riviera style mythical illustrations to their flavor and brings a real Mad Juana gypsy-jazz feeling to the proceedings, hazy echoes of Arcadia’s velvety new wave. Very hypnotic and beautiful. Jazzbo holy-man, Danny Ray, from every cool NYC band ever, lends his always passionate saxophone playing to the mix. Sonic Ray is a flame blasting human torch visionary jedi-knight super hero. So, you know. You might wanna give it a listen. May the madcap, mystical messages of the Electrajets shine on and on and on and on.