Very little of musical worth has ever come out of New Jersey. You can go on and on about Springsteen all you want, but the guy’s slugging percentage is still pretty low in my book, with one album (Nebraska) that’s truly earth-shattering, a few others worth owning, and a whole lot that’s merely elevated bar-band excursions. Otherwise, aside from The Misfits, The Feelies and Sinatra, the Garden State hasn’t produced a whole hell of a lot worth hearing.
Now I’m not about to call the punkish spree of Jersey five-piece Liquor Store the state’s saving grace (for one, I’m not sure that the state is worth saving), but the band’s latest album certainly has a lot going for it. By any means, the record is certainly not about to turn the world on its head, but as far as music being created in the second decade of the new millennium, Yeah Buddy is a refreshingly caustic shudder of seismic activity. It doesn’t seem to be the band’s intention to turn heads. Rather, Liquor Store is no doubt more inclined to knocking all within earshot on their asses, either literally or figuratively, whatever the case may be. And for that you got to applaud them, even if ultimately you know it’s just an ephemeral kick.
Lead by former LiveFastDie guitar slinger Sarim Al-Rawi, Liquor Store dabbles in a potable mix of punk derivations. One can liken a lot of what can be heard to the kind of ruckus the Black Lips churned out before they became so predictable, but Liquor Store’s reserves run much deeper. “Gas Station” hearkens further back to first-wave punk classic like Alternative TV’s “Action Time Vision,” while “Detroit Weirdness,” appropriately enough, is more evocative of early 21st century weirdness like the Clone Defects. Yet, Yeah Buddy isn’t as all over the map as that may make it sound. For the most part, the band sticks to up an amped up approach that allows for slight tangents here and there, but never strays too far from the blitzkrieg of greasy riffs.
I guess what’s remarkable about the record, though, are those slight diversions. “Banned from the Block” introduces piano into the mix to reveal that Liquor Store’s slop ain’t so far from the kind once poured out in Sun Studios. Tunes like “Oilin’ Up My Boy” and “Jerkin’ It” obviously revel in a certain amount of sophomoric hijinks, but musically, the band never regresses to rote primitivism. No, even Liquor Store’s basest impulses seem to stick when thrown at the wall. Yeah Buddy ain’t necessarily “artistic,” but it’s shockingly smart despite itself, and with all the intangibles the band also throws in, beautifully spastic.