The bloated New York music scene has been hyped to the hilt with what started out as a Strokes fascination and then moved onto Interpol, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and the whole electroclash thing. While some of these bands are indeed good, there are a plethora of others that are just as bad, not to mention derivative and a dime a dozen. So it's unfortunate that the Realistics, a garage-rock group out of the Big Apple, is part of the NYC "scene" because listeners might make the mistake of writing the four-piece off as crap -- and that, readers, would be a mistake if you're into catchy hooks and feel good music.
The Realistics' band beginnings sounds much like the story of countless others: They met in high school, shared the common addiction of music, traded records, and finally decided to play together. After their first show in 1999, they made their way through NYC stalwarts Mercury Lounge, Brownies, and Don Hill's playing what their one sheet calls "a fueled-up brand of rock 'n' roll" that left audiences "enraptured and clamoring for more."
Though I'm unsure whether or not "clamoring" would be the operative word for audience reactions to this rock act, I'm sure fans were clapping their hands and singing along nonetheless. In fact, when I saw the band a couple months ago in Chicago opening for fellow New Yorkers the Mooney Suzuki, I was pleasantly surprised by the energy and momentum the four-piece carried throughout the show.
The Realistics are power-pop with more rock in them than Rooney and Phantom Planet and they've got more cred because they aren't MTV darlings and don't get by on their pretty boy looks. In fact, you could even call them garage rock if you wanted, but garage isn't really supposed to be this clean and catchy. After struggling a bit with their good, but sometimes unsure debut Real People Are Overrated, the Realistics have turned into a more confident and musically mature outfit. For last year's limited edition EP Go Ahead, they put together 19 minutes of clearly guitar driven songs that are full of hooks and throw caution to the wind.
Album-opener, "It's All-Right, It's OK", is a foot tapping, pulsing piece of pop. The second track, "Angie", has lead singer Dennis yelping about some guy with female tendencies -- though it sounds strange, it's one of the EP's more fervent, new wave tracks. By far, the strongest tracks on the EP are "Stranded in Stereo" -- the keyboard, drums and guitar all working together toward a punchy, falsetto romp -- and "Tiny Avalanches" -- the most emo song on the album. The EP's last track, "Film Star", because it's the closest thing to a ballad on the EP, seems out of place after the punchiness of the six prior tracks, but, regardless, the song closes the album well.
If comparisons to other bands must be made in reviews, then the Realistics retro sound comes close to the Jam. Since their 1999 creation, the outfit has done the 2002 South By Southwest and has shared the stage with Blondie, the Strokes, BRMC, and the late, great Joe Strummer. They seem to be a band that, with the combination of their enthusiasm, songwriting and penchant for fun, have got good things in front of them.