PopMatters Associate Music and Columns Editor
With all due respect to Detroit and Los Angeles, New York is the toughest proving ground for hard-charging indie bands. Forget the sheer number of groups to contend with as competition, the most difficult hurdle to clear is living up to the Big Apple’s impressive musical legacy. Take a quick glance at what the city has produced over the years: ‘60s folk was born and bred in Greenwich Village, punk grew up on the Lower East Side, and rap first grabbed the mic uptown. Hell, even disco flourished in the confines of midtown’s Studio 54, while John Travolta caught Saturday Night Fever out in Brooklyn. The list of New York’s legendary clubs (Café Wha?, CBGB, Max’s Kansas City, the Fillmore, the Apollo Theater, etc.) is surpassed only by the roster of indigenous acts to grace those hallowed stages. From the Rascals to Grandmaster Flash to the Ramones, New York is music, and anyone strapping on a guitar or grabbing a microphone better pack the goods.
After a brief dry spell in the mid-‘90s, New York experienced a musical renaissance courtesy of the Strokes and the Mooney Suzuki. From there, the proverbial flood gates opened, and the city was again awash in bands of every shape and size, sprouting up from the cracked asphalt like blades of grass. Now, as it was 30 years ago, Gotham is a vibrant artistic hotbed; the current surge is led by the magnificent Star Spangles, Acquiesce, Bamboo Kids, Wormburner, and the Ways Away, with countless others in hot pursuit. A crowded top tier for sure, but as with every upper echelon of excellence, there’s always room for one more and that one is Future 86.
Having changed its name from the catchy (albeit brow-raising) Pretty Suicide, and dropping the phenomenal After Party full-length disc earlier in 2005, Future 86 has unapologetically elbowed its way to the forefront of the New York scene, aboard a wave of aggressive riffs and rhythms. The band’s sound is a swirling mix of ‘70s hard rock, ‘80s new wave, and ‘90s power pop. Anchored by Larry’s slick fret work and Armand’s machine gun drumming, Future 86 also incorporates the added surprise of Courtney’s inspired vocal punch. Immediate points of reference will come by way of Gwen Stefani and Pat Benatar, but the sheer smoldering ballsiness of Courtney’s voice falls closer to vintage Grace Slick crossed with Debbie Harry. Face it folks, this gal’s got a major set of pipes and she’s not afraid to use ‘em.
One need only fire up the opening moments of After Party to experience all that is Future 86. The album explodes with the big guitar roar of “Give It to Me”, then Courtney’s howling vocals take over, and the celebration is on. Whether injecting some high octane juice into “Get Up”, downshifting with a dose of breathy pop in “Maybe (Hear Me Comin’)”, or dazzling with the tastiest guitar riff this side of Slash and Velvet Revolver (“Tour Bus”), the band careens its way through a dozen energized tracks, juking and jiving the entire time. This is free-spirited music at its finest and most basic, all engineered to get the fun quotient as high as possible.
Okay, so Future 86’s catchy tunes sound great, and are all about bringing a most appealing noise, but what puts the band at the forefront of New York’s musical pecking order? First, the broad scope of influences that make up the group’s creative blueprint has combined to form a recognizable, but wholly unique signature sound. Second, the band maintains an aggressive touring schedule, gigging in and around New York City proper and the East Coast, while venturing to Los Angeles to enlighten those in the Pacific Time Zone. Third, Future 86 kicks total ass in a live environment, without losing one whit of sonic clarity when moving from studio to stage. And if that isn’t enough, the band simply loves what it does, rocking hard with a knowing wink and smile throughout, proving that gratuitous, sneering angst need not be a prerequisite for success.
As Future 86 continues to gather increasing numbers of converts with each packed performance, the band holds one primary goal: To find a major label that has the initiative to deviate from the preening poseur methodology and sign an act grounded in both style and substance. Stranger things have happened, so one never knows…
If you dig the organic New York sound, and love your music loud and proud, NOW HEAR THIS! The future lies before us all as in Future 86. Ain’t nuthin’ but an after party