Don’t Wanna Be Sedated
Rooney‘s cover of “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” is my favorite song on We’re a Happy Family, the Ramones tribute album. Da bruddahs have always mentored young bands—Marky’s Bullys, Joey’s Independents, CJ’s Blackfire. Likewise, Johnny showcased the SoCal teens, situating them among godz like Metallica, Rancid, Pretenders, and U2. But Rooney aren’t die-hard Ramones fans or even delinquent outcasts. Johnny himself says, “They’re a different breed of kid.” They’re from Hollywood. With their Small Faces haircuts, velvet sport jackets, pressed button-down shirts, and Frye boots, these neo-power-pop rockers sound more like ELO than Iggy Stooge.
Johnny met Rooney guitarist-frontman Robert Carmine (a/k/a actor Robert Schwartzman) at a Coppola family soiree. “He’s Talia Shire’s son; everyone kept talking about his older brother (Phantom Planet’s Jason Schwartzman). Robert had this demo. I heard the first cut, I said to myself, ‘He’s good, he deserves something too, he has the stuff to back it up.’ ” So the paramilitary Ramone challenged Carmine to deliver a knockout tribute track, and he did. These days, Johnny imparts rock history to his young friend through Ramones videos, and Kinks and Troggs records.
Last Friday, Rooney opened for Pete Yorn at the Hammerstein. Girls drove up from Mechanicsville, Maryland; boys screamed, “I love Rooney!” Even before their video and eponymous first album, their fan base mushroomed from MP3 cyber-swap meets, teen mags, and girls smitten by “Royal Robbie” films like Virgin Suicides and Princess Diaries. This was a tight, upbeat set for gloomy times. Rooney’s first single, “Blue Side,” mixes cute Brit-boy swagger and poppy harmonies with subtle darkness. “If It Were Up to Me” gives a doo-woppy nod to obsessive teenage love. But what sets Rooney apart from sonic cohorts Weezer, Nada Surf, and Fountains of Wayne are Robert Carmine’s vocals—they’re why I play his Ramones cover 26 times a day. Carmine’s voice doesn’t sound like Joey’s, but they have something in common: a velvety resonance that’s at once innocent and sophisticated. They wanna be your boyfriend. —Donna Gaines
Punk Heart Specialists
With their self-titled 2002 debut, Transplants—Rancid ‘s Tim Armstrong, Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, and newcomer Rob Aston—produced a minor punk rock miracle. Bubbling over with left-field samples, dope-dealing narratives, Aston’s shout-’em-out gangsta raps, and Armstrong’s painstaking guitar rush, the record was heartfelt, innovative, and undeniably propulsive, as well as a reminder that within punk’s well-trod pugnacity great possibilities still loom.
When the Transplants hit Irving Plaza last week, the album’s nuanced attack was subsumed in a fairly standard guitar-bass-drums thrash—though that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Even with an extra guitarist and keyboardist—sample-monger in tow, the domineering, shirtless Aston and the soulful, shirtless Armstrong ruled the roost, rapping, railing, and warbling with conviction. Detailed chronicles of suburban dystopia like “California Babylon” and “Tall Cans in the Air” sported grooves and choruses so memorable that they sounded great even when execution was sloppy. Of course, the under-18 punks-in-training who comprised half the audience may not have cared one way or the other; most of ’em just wanted to mosh.
Sadly, the ‘Plants encore-less set lasted just 35 minutes—whether because Irving Plaza wanted the high schoolers out or because the band was on a kind of Ramones-y leave-’em-wanting-more kick was unclear. Fellow Californians Lagwagon later trotted out their totally forgettable pop-punk, though a sizable chunk of the crowd had wisely taken off by then. Outside, Armstrong (flanked by buddy Billy Joe from Green Day) gave hugs and signed autographs for earnest young ‘uns. Armstrong’s regard for his followers made sense: Though his new band can sound menacing as hell, he also knows you have to genuinely give a shit to come up with music so meticulously badass. —Christian Hoard
Undoing the Laces
A Guinevere flouncing around in a gauzy ivory gown, a coronet of rosebuds winding crookedly across her crown, fluttered a tasseled fan with lacy cobwebbed fingers, the better to spank her mistress’s bottom. Thwack—and she knocked back a jigger of tequila. Belladonna sister girlfriend! How very “Edge of Seventeen”! And so the glittery, redemptive ministries of goddessness and raptured corruption were resurrected and exalted last Friday at the 13th annual Night of a Thousand Stevies tribute to gypsy siren Stevie Nicks at Don Hill’s.
“Stevie’s such a ruler,” gushed founder Empress Chi Chi Valenti, while her fellow boy and girl proselytes to Rhiannon jangled tambourines strung with plastic white winged doves and teetered on platform boots in blond wigs and cloche hats like addled Susan Antons.”Sickly enough I come every year,” Johnny Quinlan admitted, before bragging that his nastifyingly shrunken, studded leather pants revealed that “downstairs I look like The Matrix Reloaded.” This year’s leitmotif was Welsh Witch (suggested dress: “crystal balls, handkerchief hems, Wiccan eveningwear, Nightbird cloaks”) and cardboard cutouts of Celtic knots and crosses dangled from the ceiling. Stevies necked in dim corners. They lip-synched along with the lip-synchers onstage. Mostly, though, they just sang and sang: “Stand Back,” and “Rooms on Fire,” bolstering Hattie Hathaway’s achy breaky minimalist “Silver Springs” and Jonny Tingle’s gravelly homage to “Landslide.”
Who triumphed in the “Battle of a Thousand Stevies,” when the last of the velvet-caped Nicksians rose up in a growling contest to finish all the hallucinatory pageantry at dawn, regrettably, I cannot say. Just before 3 a.m., I got sleepy and left. The next morning, though, I found five flower petals and a single ostrich feather stuck to some gum on the bottom of my shoe. And gold dust in my hair. —Nita Rao