This year has been a downright catastrophe with the pandemic stopping live music and seeing us in lockdowns which have stopped us from seeing family and friends and indeed our favourite artists.
Back in march, Billie Joe Armstrong set out to brighten things up a bit with the Green Day frontman putting out cover versions of songs he loved via the Green Day Youtube channel.
I personally loved this as it was something to look forward to each week and lighten the mood in these dark times.
So what we have here is a release of these songs as a physical document of these timeless tunes Billie decided to put his own spin on.
The album starts off with “I think we’re alone now” by “Tommy James and the Shondells” and in fairness, it’s a great version given the power-pop treatment.
Next up we have “War stories” and this is another tune I really enjoyed and I can’t recollect hearing the original by the group Starjet.
“Manic Monday” is a song that I would be very surprised if anybody had not heard before as the original by the bangles has to be one of the most played songs on the radio. Billy does a great version here with him taking the track in a much more guitar orientated direction and the track sounds all the better for it, we are even treated to a guest appearance by Susanna Hoffs of the bangles.
“Corpus Christi” “That thing you do” and “Amico” are enjoyable tracks and keeps the album going nicely.
“You can’t put your arm around a memory” is a track that this reviewer holds very close to his heart as the original by the one and only legend that is “Johnny Thunders” is a true classic in every sense of the word and in fairness to Billie he does a cracking version of a timeless tune.
“Kids in America” is another tune that will be very familiar to listeners as the original by Kim Wilde is still played on the radio a lot to this day and Billie again turns his guitar up and turns this pop classic into a power-pop gem.
“Not that way anymore” is another song this reviewer holds in high esteem as the original was written by Stiv Bators and Frank Secich and is one of my all-time favourite tunes and Billie yet again delivers with a great version that he puts his own unique stamp on.
“That’s Rock ’N’ Roll” is one of the songs that on first listen I thought I’ve heard this before but couldn’t for the life of me think who the original was done by. After some research, it was done by Shaun Cassidy and is a tune that I will definitely play more of.
“Police on my back” originally done by the Equals and covered by punk legends The Clash is a stunning track that Bille does a faithful rendition of.
Bringing this album to a close is “A New England” and like all the way through this album, Billie puts his heart and soul into it and the album finishes on a high.
Billie Joe Armstrong doesn’t know how to deliver a sub-par project and this is another stunning release from the Green day frontman that will give the listener much enjoyment.
Well, with a brand new album on the horizon we wanted to get the lowdown on whats going on with Tommy Ray and where he’s at musically. Having been a long time admirer of The Cry! and his punk rock record The Decayed Tommy branched out as a solo artist with an impressive debut solo album so, it was time to find out what makes the guy tick and where he’s at with the new record so here’s what we got once we tracked him down…
Solo record number two already you seem to have hit a rich vein of songwriting. Are you writing all the time?
Literally, “all” the time. It’s how I see life; big hooks and jagged verses. My mind is always busy making verse or thinking through a production. Right now, not including “Handful of Hits” LP and the dozen tracks I am holding back for a third “The CRY!” record (hopefully), I have over 50 titles in some active stage of production. I will never have time to finish them all.
As far a the quality of songs, I guess that’s up to the listeners.
I think most people saw The CRY! as your vehicle and you are their focal point for sure. Where are you at with The CRY!? Could you not just have released the solo album under The CRY! banner? starting over even in the internet age seems like a bold move.
Naw. The CRY! is a band and that owes its sound from the members creating collaboratively. TOMMY RAY! Is me doing me. They are similar sounds for sure but my solo stuff has a much harder edge and the lyrical content is more real-life and not as clean cut.
Right now, The CRY! is dormant. Brian Crace (singer/guitarist/co-founder) and I have some pretty bad blood going that needs to get taken care of before we can work together. In time I think we will work it out. Brian is my favorite guitar player and life is short. I do have an LP worth of material and have five or so tracks nearly completed but there doesn’t seem to be the same energy to complete the project with Brian and I not working together. Also, our bass player (Michael Cortichiato) recently left Portland to play with Dr. Boogey in LA (I love those guys and wish them all much luck).
Going back to the debut solo record, I think it was a familiar sound obviously with your voice on it but there’s more of an edge to the sound, is that fair? In your opinion was it the best record you’ve made to date? Even songs like ‘Coming Back’ whilst having the keys is a rougher edge.
All fair! But the records are all different. But, here goes: It is really close but I like the first CRY! record better than the ‘Dangerous Game’ LP. I recently listen to both and was really proud to be part of that. They are both really great records but I like the rock & roll feel of the first record just a bit more than the glammy feel of the second record. Brian wrote more of the 2nd record (‘Seventeen’, ‘Hanging Me Up’, ‘Toys In The Attic’. He also co-wrote a few tracks) and that is reflected in the overall sound of the record.
Also, Evan “Maus” Mersky and Dave Berkam also were HUGE contributors to both studio LPs by The CRY!. Maus recorded, engineered, and played amazing drums while Dave is simply a brilliant all-around musician. His current band “The Reverberations” are pretty cool.
I like the song-writing and production on the TOMMY RAY! Records because (as you accurately stated) the songs are honest, gritty, and produced only as much as needed to get the point across. My mind is a pretty chaotic place these days and I think that that gets across.
Bottom line: I like the new “Handful of Hits” collection…(until the next record) Buy it!
The Decayed is real buzz saw punk rock DIY record? What’s the story behind that record?
That’s my shit! The Portland street-punk scene is where I grew up. I am proud to say that these songs were NOT all written by me. There are songs written by my early bandmates that we played at hard-core house shows and notorious drunken events. We had no way of recording tracks at the time, I didn’t want the songs to be lost, and I still feel the youthful angst so I figured it was time roast those old chestnuts one more time. My old bandmates are super psyched to see me bring back those piss & puke proven classics! My next record project will likely be a 2nd Decayed record.
Coming up to date tell us about the new record? Whos playing on it? Where was it recorded? What’s it sound like?
Truthfully, I played guitar of only a handful of The CRY! recordings. We had better players in Maus, Dave and Brian so I was happy to just write songs and sing my parts. We always said that the best player should record the parts, and they did! Of course, I played the parts live.
Now, I have learned how to play all the instruments so when I made “solo” music, I did it solo. I mean, I recorded all the parts tracks myself here in Portland. I think Brian may play a guitar part (like on Suzanne from the last LP) and Corsh was involved with recording a couple of tracks but the most part it’s all me.
It sounds like me. Not sure who to compare it too… it’s honest…
What’s the lockdown been like for Tommy Ray?
I don’t like it.
I just don’t like it.
What influences have been coming out in your new record? I remember hearing a banana stand performance where you did modern kicks and thinking it was the perfect cover for you and you totally owned it? What other covers you been jamming on?
I seem to recall you asking this question a few years back and my answer is the same as always. Ramones. Exploding Hearts. Ramones. Paul Collins. Ramones. Beach Boys!
I really like a 3 min pop song that moves. You know, “Don’t bore us. Get to the chorus.”
I’ve been playing tons of music and busking in downtown Portland during the recent protests. Where there are people, I will play music. I play mostly standards from the past 50 years. Never gets old. It’s my favorite thing to do. My dad plays a little guitar and slams through the old hits like a savage for hours. I learned from him…
Pandemic easing what are the chances of you coming to Europe and the UK for some shows?
Hell yeah, invite me and I’ll bring the boys and kick it. I’ve never been to the UK. I would like to tour Scandinavia too. My “never suck” policy means the shows would always be epic!
What other bands and performers out there currently delivering the good in your opinion? Who would you think were the right bands for you to go out on tour with?
I’d love to tour with Green Day. They bring the goods and I could learn a ton from Billy Joe. Mad respect there. Tuk Smith and the Restless Hearts are crushing it these days. Love his shit. Shit, there are so many great talents out there I will tour with anyone that is not boring. Too many live acts are fucking boring. Great skills, okay songs, but boring and lacking any “rock & roll”.
So there you have it. the new solo album is out in October and its a belter if you’re already a fan then you’ll love it and if you’re not – why not? Its only Rock n Roll kids and Tommy Ray does it really well.
Billie Joe Armstrong does the best cover of his lockdown by tipping his hat to the one and only legend that was Stiv Bators by taking on the excellent ‘Not That Way Anymore’. already having 100,000 plays on youtube how cool would it be if only 10% of the kids watching looked up Stiv and liked what they heard. Originally released on Bomp Records back in ’79 its classic power-pop from the Master Bator.
SINGLE: ‘SHANE’ OUT NOW
PRODUCED BY LUCINDA WILLIAMS & TOM OVERBY
THE FINE ART OF SELF DISTANCING
SATURDAY’S 9PM UK TIME Here
TOUR DATES SUPPORTING BRIAN FALLON RESCHEDULED
JANUARY- FEBRUARY 2021
Jesse wrote ‘Shane’ after celebrating his hero Shane MaGowan’s 60th birthday at the Dublin National Concert Hall (alongside Ireland’s president Michael D. Higgins, Bono, Nick Cave, Sinead O’Connor…). “I thanked him for everything; the songs, the stories, the inspiration. I told him that he better not to go anywhere, that we still need him.”
‘Shane’ is taken off the album ‘Sunset Kids’– which marks Malin’s first new LP since 2015’s OUTSIDERS – further includes the remarkable Malin/Williams duet, “Dead On,” along with guest appearances from Joseph Arthur on three tracks and newly arranged versions of songs from his classic 2010 LP with the St. Marks Social, LOVE IT TO LIFE. Additional highlights include “Strangers and Thieves” cowritten by and featuring vocals from Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong.
The album was produced by GRAMMY® Award-winner Lucinda Williams and engineered by the late David Bianco (Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, AC/DC) and Geoff Sanoff (Little Steven and The Disciples of Soul, Fountains of Wayne)
In the recent climate of the coronavirus pandemic, Jesse has decided to do a Saturday Livestream series called The Fine Art of Self Distancing where he will be playing songs, telling stories and doing bits and motivational backflips.
“It’s free, but with an option for donations that will help band, the road crew and I get through this crazy
time of tour cancellations and postponements. Look at what the Italians are doing. Sing from your window, your fire escape, your balcony, or your roof. Even from afar, the power of love is stronger than you think. Use this time to reflect on what really matters most. A slower tempo can help you feel the real deal inside. Be brave, open, and stay smart. Keep a positive mental attitude and we will back together before you know it.
The tour dates with Jesse supporting The Gaslight Anthem’s frontman Brian Fallon have now been rescheduled for
29 Jan Manchester, 02 Academy
30 Jan Birmingham , 02 Institute
31 Jan Glasgow SWG3
1 Feb Leeds 02 Academy
3 Feb Bristol 02 Academy
5 Feb Nottingham Rock City
6 Feb London Shepard Bush Empire
7 Feb Norwich Waterfront
Undoubtedly the Trash Bags will often be compared to the Cramps, who are most certainly a huge influence here. And although they take a range of garage-like influences, from the opening, reverb-heavy guitar notes to the snarling vocals, fans of Lux and co. will find something to love here from the New Yorkers’ debut album.
But beyond the obvious influence, what else is packed up in the Billie Joe Armstrong-produced, trashtastically-tainted new record? Well, as they say themselves, it really is gar-bage – gloriously so. As soon as those first few notes finish ringing out, the album kicks into an uncompromising barrage of frantic, messed up garage rock ‘n’ roll.
It’s high-energy junk all the way from start to finish, drawing influences also from the New York Dolls and others. From ‘Crimes’ to ‘Sex Beat’, the album doesn’t drop for a moment. Through the trashy guitars are catchy choruses and slick, surf lead breaks. ‘Hungry for Ya’ is somewhat reminiscent of the great Street Walking Cheetahs.
The Trash Bags are noisy, brash and exciting, and this debut album is a fine way to kick up some dust in New York City. If garage with a touch of PVC is your thing, so are the Trash Bags.