The Rock Shop
249 Fourth Ave., Brooklyn
Friday, March 20, $7-$10, 8:00
Two of the smartest bands around will be at the Rock Shop in Brooklyn on Friday night, March 20, one of them celebrating its first record in more than fifteen years, the other debuting its first full-length. There’s a good reason why we asked Paula Carino to play at our tenth anniversary party at Fontana’s in 2011; she kicks some real ass. The Brooklyn-based singer, guitarist, and songwriter, who has released such well-received solo albums as Aquacade and Open on Sunday, is back with her first band, Regular Einstein (Seven Deadly Songs, Robots Helping Robots), and is about to release the record she’s always been destined to make, Chimp Haven. On the twelve-track release, Carino’s voice is sharper than ever, perfectly in tune with her quick-witted, incisive lyrics about difficult love, the pains and pleasures of self-awareness, and searching for one’s place in the world. “I’m stumbling on all my lines / I fumbled the soliloquy / I wanted to pretend I’m fine / So you would not think ill of me / Cuz when you come back into town / I become a clumsy liar / I’m an amateur production of / A Streetcar Named Desire,” she sings on “Bad Actor,” going on to reference Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Madonna, and other Hollywood thespians. On “Never Saw It Coming” she admits, “I would always skip ahead / No one crying, no one dead / So I never saw it coming.” Featuring original Einsteiners David Benjoya on guitar and keyboards and Andy Mattina on bass, with Nancy Polstein, who joined the band in 2010, on drums, Regular Einstein sounds fresh and bursting with life on the record, which features pristine production from Love Camp 7’s Dann Baker as the band shifts from power pop to postpunk to 1960s jangle, with nods to the Kinks, the Pretenders, the Beatles, and the Ramones. How can you not love a group that declares, “From Forest Hills to Jamaica Bay / Flushing our sunny side away.” Chimp Haven, which boasts cover art by primate Cody from Save the Chimps, is a whirlwind of a record, a burst of sweet, infectious energy from one of New York City’s most underrated talents.
“Believe me / The good times are coming soon / The good times are here,” Carino sings on the jazz-blues charmer “The Good Times.” The bad times are here as well, as portrayed on Lazy Lions’ darker but no less brainy When Dreaming Lets You Down. . . . “Crapped out once again / Fate’s made fools of wiser men / Even the best umbrellas will complain / After weeks and weeks of heavy rain / ’Cause when the wind comes in and starts to slap / The feather’s right out of your cap / The sharpest knife can’t make the cut / You might as well sew your pockets shut,” Jim Allen sings on “Let the Bad Times Roll,” one of twelve tracks that delve into the colder aspects of life and love, feeling right on target during this brutal winter. “Jesus, it’s freezing out here,” he adds later. Singer, keyboardist, and chief songwriter Allen, guitarist Robert Sorkin, bassist Anne-Marie Stehn, and drummer Sean McMorris pay homage to Elvis Costello, Robert Gordon, Joe Jackson, Squeeze, and Graham Parker on the album, with Allen’s deep-throated voice front and center in the mix. “Did you ever feel the winter’s bite?” he asks over a soaring organ on “February.” Meanwhile, for Lazy Lions, it’s not always mind over matter; “The heart hasn’t spoken / Because the head still hasn’t gotten all the facts,” Allen explains on the honky-tonkin’ “Tiny Little Cracks.” The band certainly has its facts when it comes to crafting astute pop songs, making When Dreaming Lets You Down… a canny debut. At the Rock Shop, Regular Einstein goes on at 10:00, followed by Lazy Lions at 11:00; the evening opens with Brooklyn punks Tanuki Suit.