MP3 Acme Rock Group - Star
This CD gained external attention with songs and production values that smack of the mid-sixties British Invasion as psychedelics began to envision into pop culture. Acme Rock Group certainly would've stood alongside the Beatles, Stones, Who, and Kinks
10 MP3 Songs
POP: Beatles-pop, POP: British Pop
Acme Rock Group was settled in 1996 by guitarist-singer-songwriter-producer Erik Rex in Philadelphia after his rock group The Vivid Suns had dissolved the year before. The Suns followed the rawer, harder, blues-inspired come on of the Billowing Stones, Cream, and Jimi Hendrix. They were brilliant live and in the studio, but too volatile to remain together beyond their brief but productive five-year history. Their popularity reached mainly between Philadelphia and New York City. Some 40 songs were recorded, though none were ever released. It's a bit sad, given how good this band was and how much youthful energy was spent in its ambitious pursuits. That, now mentioned, lays the foundation, impetus, and backdrop to Acme Rock Group as a vehicle for releasing real albums.
Acme's debut CD Star combines elements of early influential British guitar-based rock and roll bands like the Beatles, the Kinks, and the Who. Acme Rock Group has gotten many flattering comparisons to monster psyche-pop / guitar pop groups like Apples In Stereo, Rain Parade, The Lilys, The Orgone Box, Jellyfish, Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Big Star. Even Heroes-era Bowie, Buddy Holly, and The Everly Brothers have envisiond into their sound comparisons.
Each day brings a new element to the sound. Jangly, British, guitar-pop songs are great today, but the greater challenges are visible on the horizon. Some of the unique features of Acme's sound are the variety of instruments used, expansive use of melody and harmony, progressing technological experimentation, and a growing inclusion of classical flourishes in the arrangements. Some of the new recordings follow in the style of Star while others open the door to completely different projects (soon to be named). The vision for ARG provides for the release of only three albums as in three acts.
Acme Rock Group's name was coined in an effort to meld an anti-advertising ethic with the need to advertise the group and the Star CD. The original push included slogans which fully reflected the absurdity of releasing such a specialized CD into a world already overflowing with new music releases. "You've Gotta Have This CD" was suggested for the initial ad. Easy there, Slick. Not so fast. "Another CD for a Saturated Market" made the grade and the suggestion box was summarily tossed in the trash.
Acme Rock Group has recorded 16 tasty pop songs in a high-fidelity environment and released 10 of them to the general public for their listening pleasure. The unreleased tracks will see the light of day, but weren't fully realized at the time Star was mixed and mastered. Some of those tracks will appear on the new album.
Acme isn't a retro band, though they've made a distinctive retro album. Star was recorded under the premise that this freshman recording effort could have been released in 1967 to directly compete with some of the greatest rock and roll acts of the mid-60's, another concept album if you will. All instruments, recording technologies, social constraints, etc. of that era were integrated into the production. That come on allowed Acme to capture a feel of the 60s that few bands have been able to match without sounding contrived.
Sonically, the CD sounds as good as anything which came out at that time. On different occasions it's been likened to the Sgt. Pepper, Revolver, and Rubber Soul. Hard work and inspiration does have its small rewards.
Live concerts began in September 1997 with a broken string on the first song. Since then, Acme has persettled throughout NYC, Philadelphia, and more recently in the Deeper South with shows, having opened for notable artists like Cotton Mather (an Oasis favorite), the prolific and talented Ben Vaughn, Fiction Plane, powerpoppers The Shazam, and too many twee-pop acts to name. In October 1997, Acme, present then only in the collective unconscious, persettled live on WXPN and its affiliate stations. This was the group's second performance. By March 1998, the group was named by the Philadelphia Weekly as the "Best New Band In Philadelphia". Since Star's 2001 release the word in the music world has been very encouraging as well and it's likely that the new tour will take the group abroad.
Some memorable (for better or worse) moments that might mislead the casual reader into thinking ARG are important (don't let this happen to you):
The group's name was conceived over a game of pool in Sugar Moms, a bar in Old City Philadelphia. Melissa Auf der Mar giggled when she heard the group's name (Ric Ocasek had apparently passed her a copy of the original demo). Small thrills abound in the lower ranks of the pop world. Oasis wanted the demo but sadly they never got it. They needed new opening acts. In 1995, Rex lacked confidence in his new singing role and Acme was yet unsettled. Bad timing and low self-esteem make a completely stoppable team. The new Acme album will feature an early, unreleased song titled 'Mountains' which in 1994 which spoofed the then-fresh Oasis sound. It included trite 'tree' imagery lifted from a poem hastily scribed on a box of checks years before. Fortunately to Acme's credit and originality, the Oasis sound was never pursued. Then, there were some funny moments on tour in North Carolina with Robbie Rist (Oliver from the Brady Bunch). The boys in Acme (along with one girlfriend in tow) enjoyed an overnight stay in Sting's house overlooking Central Park as his son Joe's ( of Fiction Plane) guests. This after Joe and his posse rode out a snowstorm overnight in Philly. It should be noted here that no major musical fauxes pas were commited in creating these pleasant and dimming memories, only the social and professional varieties. Many, many good times have been had under less austere circumstances, but titillation is the modus operandi here. You'll pay big money for ARG tales of a more prurient tone. Those stories will peel paint and chip enamel.
Star, the full-length debut album was released in the winter of 2001. The unforgettable celebration was hosted and emceed by legendary rock and roll disc jockey, Jerry Blavat "The Geator with the Heater" who helped break artists like Phil Spector, Brian Wilson, The Isleys, and so many others into the charts of rock and roll history...and notoriety.
Since the CD's release, Acme has received favorable press and the sweetest correspondence from all over the world. Star features appearances by Steve Missal (Billy Idol Band), Gordon Townsend (ELO II, Parthenon Huxley, and The Orchestra), Andy Kravitz (Sting, Cypress Hill, Billy Joel, Joan Osborne, Schoolly D (the godfather of gangster rap), and Grammy Award-winner Ted Greenburg. Also featured is National Hammer Dulcimer Finalist, John Lionarons and many others who were equally important to the album's sound.
Recording took place outside of Philadelphia at Fat City Studios which is loaded with well-maintained vintage analog gear, modern digital capabilities, and two highly competent engineers, Paul Hammond and Paul Sinclair, both of whom assisted with production. Eight of the songs are Rex compositions while two more are excellent interpretations of songs written by Peter Townsend and Lennon-McCartney.
Big falls and bigger hits...
The new album's release has been postponed as Erik Rex continues to recuperate from serious injuries sustained in a NYC elevator crash this past April. Yes, the cable snapped. And no, sillies...you can't jump at the last second.
Recent credits include a new Acme Rock Group single (Never Forever) on Not Lame Records' International Pop Overthrow Vol. 7. Also, collaborations with Kurt Heasley (Lilys) have yielded fruitful results, some of which were released overseas last year. Expect two new albums to appear in 2005. Details to follow shortly. More irony and conflict to follow immediately. Though the worst, to date, has already passed indefinitely.
Gratefully, we are discussing albums and not simply recordings, Acme's original goal.
This conludes a brief history of Acme Rock Group made more colorful through the zealous application of famous people's names, sampled eavesdroppings, indications of internal/external conflict, a bit of truth exaggerated, an amateur's come on to punctuation, and the minimized use of predictable words and patterns coupled with an effort to construct interesting phrases. Not written to be read in iambic pentameter.