Saturday, January 12, 2008

Rude Boys

Yoni Gordon and the Goods, Bur-
ied in the Basement, self-released

I dreamed I saw Billy
Bragg last night, and he spoke
these words so true / He said,
"The songs that you sing, they
won't mean anything, if singing
songs is the only thing you do."
-- "I Dreamed I Saw Billy Bragg Last Night"

The first thing I noticed about the sophomore release from Yoni Gordon and the Goods—after admiring the nifty cover—is that it sounded instantly familiar. I can't say whether the Somerville, MA trio were influenced by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, or simply by the same artists that inspired those Brooklyn rock-
ers, i.e. Elvis Costello, the Jam, the Clash, and Billy Bragg.

There's even a song called "I Dreamed I Saw Billy Bragg Last
Night," which references the Clash. Then, in "Up the Punks," Gordon yells, "CUT THE CRAP!" (The all-caps come from the lyr-
ic sheet.) That is, of course, the title of the final Clash recording.

I'm not accusing Gordon &
Co. of ripping off someone else's sound. There's a fine
line between imitation and inspiration, and they strad-
dle rather than cross it.

Gordon's higher-pitched vocals don't bring Leo to mind, but musically, lyrically, and politically, these outfits are cut from the same rough-hewn
cloth. (As the front man confesses, "I'm a socialist at heart.")

So, he arpeggiates away on his guitar, Scott Eisenberg pounds away on the drums, and Faisal Aswat riddims away on the bass,
as in Leo's classic anthem "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?"

They're Yanks in love with British and Irish punk (think Stiff
Little Fingers and early U2). In "Only So Many Bridges You
Can Burn," Gordon even sings, "Oh Danny Boy, Danny Girl."

Hey, nothing wrong with that. Those are my "influences,"
too—artists who made an impact on me when I was in my
20s. Even if I didn't go on to form a band in their image.

A further look through
the lyrics confirms that
Gordon's stories aren't
twice-told tales; they're spec-
ific to him. And he some-
times writes as if he were
a director or screenwriter.

"When the Sidewalk Ends,"
for example, features the lines, "Cut to wide shot; sidewalk is white hot. You move like someone lit a fuse below / Cam-
era zooms in, but you're always moving / When the sidewalk
ends, where will you go/ Oh, you go on!" I can imagine Leo
singing something similar, but not in such cinematic terms.

I can't predict whether fans of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
will embrace these parallels or reject them. The same goes
for the Clash/Costello crowd. Buried in the Basement fol-
lows in their rousing tracks, yet a closer listen reveals interesting idiosyncrasies. No doubt the next release from Yoni Gordon and the Goods will bear even more of an original stamp.

The lights were going dim, a hush went through the crowd.
Who will have a song to sing when Billy's not around?

Endnote: For more information, please click here
or here. Pictures from Google Images (Gordon), Touch
& Go Records
(Leo and Co.), and PerformerMag (CD cover).

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