Thursday, April 15, 2010

Scarlet Carson's "Burn It All" Scorches - Review by Jay Amabile

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Order Scarlet Carson's "Burn It All" at this link for $10 bucks

Does rock music still exist? Aside from a few newer bands out there, rock music, albeit the good kind, seems to be nearly extinct. Truthfully, the suckyness of new rock music is one of the reasons why I stopped listening to radio almost 6 years ago. Think about how many rock stations folded or changed formats since that time. My main source for new music are blogs, iTunes, Pandora, MySpace, and any other bands space junk that's floating around the Internet. What's amazing is that even a routine task such as checking the Starland Ballroom's concert schedule on their website lead me to discover a surprisingly awesome band, Scarlet Carson, who recently released their 2nd album Burn It All (available here). My curiosity was piqued, but I figured it was probably too good to be true. I gave the album a few in depth listens and in this review I'll tell you whether Scarlet Carson is another flash in the pan or a force powerful enough to restore my faith in rock music.

While listening to Scarlet Carson's fearless brand of rock and roll, I couldn't believe these guys are from New Jersey. Labeling their type of sound as "Dirty Jersey Rock and Roll," is brave since they are the first ones to step out of the shadow of "The Jersey Sound" i.e (Sinatra, Springsteen, The Rascals, The Jukes, Bon Jovi etc) and play what they want, not just what people think Jersey bands are supposed to sound like. Coming out of Jersey has only helped intensify their mighty ambitions. It's not like they grew up around the corner from The Viper Room or The Whiskey, so lumping them into the same category as other rock bands is unfair. But, if you need some examples of what other bands Scarlet Carson might share the bill with at a rock festival, it would probably be Saliva, Papa Roach (who they are opening for at Starland on 4/18), and Pop Evil,  They have already played at CrueFest, so one thing is for sure, they are in NO WAY Nickelbacky. Lead singer and lyricist Santino Campanelli has more in common with Californians such as M.Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold and Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach than he does with any famous singer to ever come out of Jersey.

Their second release, Burn it All, is a superior rock album. In the first track, Overture, a transistor radio has lost its signal, similar to my search for good rock music, but soon the faint sounds grow clearer. Intense driving guitar chords and primal drum beats establish the scene. Finally we've got ourselves some rock and I'm sure as hell ready for it. The adrenalized title track features a ballistic guitar solo that will literally melt your brain and make your eyes go crossed. The song rises to a huge climatic finale and trails off with a soft reprise of the songs guitar riff. It's a cool little reinforcement trick because it got stuck in my head and I wanted to hear it again already. But, with my senses elevated I couldn't wait to hear the rest of the album.

All of a sudden, a car engine ignites and screeches off as the headbanger "Gone Baby Gone" erupted from my speakers. It's all about getting away from a chick who is total trouble. Like most of the tracks here, this modern rocker features another blazing guitar solo and sounds like it should be in the trailer for the next Fast and the Furious film. And, whether intentional or not, "Cherry's On Top" has a riff that's reminiscent of Aerosmith's "Love in an Elevator." The dilemma in this song is that there is some fine looking chick who is so super sexy. Hitting notes like crazy, frontman Santino wants to cover her "in whip cream cherry on top, I'm gonna lick it all off in all the right spots." This track reflects the libidinous aspect of rock and is definitely not serious, depressing, or emo. Scarlet Carson shows that they are here to party and admire the finer things in life, like '80s style red lipstick.

Up next is a resounding build up to what could be Scarlet Carson's signature crowd interaction song. These guys aren't only talking shit about "Sex Drugs and Rock N Roll," they are living it. Their lyrics, liner notes, and full throttle commitment to making their rock star dreams a reality, shows there's a genuine connection to many iconic bands who have lived this tawdry lifestyle before them. The difference? These guys are the first ones from Jersey to do it. Yeah sure we've had Bon Jovi and Trixter, but they were less concerned about the rock star lifestyle. Bon Jovi didn't want to be associated with bands like GNR and Motley Crue because they feared that women and children wouldn't come to their concerts. It was more socially acceptable to buy a Bon Jovi record or go to a Bon Jovi concert than it was Motley or even KISS. No matter what they tell you, parents feared bands like that because they heard news reports of sex, satanism, nudity, blood and all the other cool shit that is part of their aura. So I commend Scarlet Carson for being themselves from jump street. They better stay true to themselves though. I wouldn't want to see them sell out and become Justin Bieber's touring band or some crap like that. Even worse...don't make a country album. Hey Scarlet - you've been warned!

Next, I used my keen deductive skills to determine that a drink pouring sound effect can mean only one thing: a drinking song, even more precisely "The Drinkin' Song." Following in the footsteps of distinguished predecessors such as KISS' "Cold Gin," AC/DC's "Have a Drink on Me," and Guns N Roses' "Nightrain,""The Drinkin' Song," picks up where those anthems left off. Santino's voice skyrockets into Myles Kennedy octaves here as he shouts, "Let's get wasted tonight!". It's another standout track with layered vocals in the chorus, fist pumping "hey" chants, and a mesmerizing drum breakdown. Scarlet Carson is here to tell you that when you're literally feeling like a gigantic heap of dung, a few drinks with your crew can help you "forget your worries, forget your problems..." I'm sure fans will be holding their drinks up during this one at the next concert - just don't spill beer on me.

Whip out your iPhone, swipe your Zippo lighter app on, and bring down the pace a little bit "For Her Sake," a surefire addition to Monster Ballads 2010. The low key mood doesn't last that long because these guys aren't done pummeling you. Get ready for the supercharged, punked out "P.L.A.D" (paid, laid, and die) that chronicles the nights when you wind up out drinking until 6am and waking up with random girls in random motels. Scarlet Carson's lifestyle is fast paced, indulgent and in the moment, just like their tunes. Listen for the brass section in this track which proves to be a superb feature of its production.

Now we go from rock and roll revelry and drinking binges, into mind probing. What would a Scarlet Carson song sound like if they actually recorded a song inside their own heads? "My Own Head," stands out from the rest because it's methodical, reflective, and dark, but maintains harmonic accents. The remarkable production has helped create a very different mood in contrast to the rest of the album. I appreciate that they were brave enough to challenge themselves into creating a track with such a different vibe, and it worked. "My Own Head," would make for an intriguing music video. If Tim Burton and Rivers Cuomo were hanging out tripping on acid and had a nightmare, this would be a perfect song to accompany it. Zach Braff will direct, I have it all planned out.

Growing up in Jersey, almost every kid dreams of living in California. The west coast seems so much more desirable and warm, and if the Beach Boys and David Lee Roth were telling us the truth, then the girls were wondrous. Don't forget the '80s hair band scene, replete with sexy strippers, liquor, and debauchery. What's not to fantasize about? POOF! Back to reality and the mundane suburban rat race that defines many parts of the Garden State. It's fitting that I listened to "West Coast Dreamer" when I was sitting in rush hour traffic on 287. This track provides a unique perspective that I haven't heard thus far. It's the story of a band from the east coast, dreaming of rock star status on the west coast. It's almost as if Jersey is a c-ck blocker. It's not easy trying to exist as a rock star or an aspiring rock star in NJ. For some reason, whether it's an unwritten law of nature or whatever, NJ just stacks all the cards against you. Whereas you can head out to L.A and catch great rock bands almost every night of the week, all in a 2 mile vicinity. Come to Jersey and you'll get a few good beer specials but you'll be bombarded with tons of cover bands who perform rock versions of whatever songs are popular that weekend.

Just a warning, Scarlet Carson's songs WILL make you instinctually play air guitar, headbang, and jump around like a madman. It might be a good idea not to listen in a place where you might look like a complete idiot. In the midst of your rock-out session, you might be wondering where Scarlet Carson's monstrous sound comes from? The band is comprised of Santino's clean scream, Stone's slash-like guitar solos, Tommy Licore's surging riffs on rhythm guitar, Mike O Mayhem's crushing bass work, and Raab who pulverizes the drums.

Above all, the best attribute of Scarlet Carson's "Burn It All" is its honesty. Santino writes his lyrics about being a loner focused on the bands dreams, and doing some hardcore partying in the meantime. They aren't creating songs to market to the NFL or MLB like Bon Jovi, and they're not formulating the next big wedding song, even though it sure would mean more cash, they are simply doing what they want to do. One of the reasons why rock music has been on the road to extinction is because bands don't have the balls to highjack the reigns of rock. Scarlet Carson does, and they do it in style as they prove on "Burn It All." In the immortal words of The Marvelous 3, Scarlet Carson has indeed "...brought back the rock." www.scarletcarson.com

Upcoming shows
4/17/10 at the Stone Pony for The Break Contest
4/18/10 w/Papa Roach at The Starland Ballroom
4/23/10 at The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park
4/27/10 w/Saliva at The Highline Ballroom in NYC

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