Where to Start: New Jersey

If all you know of my beloved Garden State is the smell of the Turnpike, Bruce Springsteen, guido stereotyping and the airport, you’re missing out. From the very beginning of stoner rock, New Jersey was right there making landmark contributions to the genre, and as the most crowded, most densely-populated state in the union, there’s always been a special brand of annoyed attitude that comes out of New Jerseyan bands that you can’t get anywhere else. It’s like the music is calling you out on your bullshit.

Of course I’m talking about the Red Bank scene, which is unquestionably the state’s biggest contribution to the canon of underground rock, but even that’s not the end to New Jersey‘s influence. As a lifelong resident and vehement defender of the state in the face of embarrassing reality shows and the rest of it, I humbly offer this list of NJ bands for anyone looking for a place to start in discovering the scene:

Monster Magnet: They’re quintessential stoner rock. Spine of God from 1992 is one of the most pivotal albums from the genre and if I didn’t mention them and it first, this entire list would be a sham. Tracks like “Zodiac Lung,” “Nod Scene” and “Spine of God” are absolute classics and unparalleled by either psych- or riff-obsessives.

Halfway to Gone: Their sound had no shortage of Southern influence, but the crunch they brought to it couldn’t have come from anywhere but the Northeast. 2002’s Second Season stripped down the songwriting from the first album and showed a meaner side.

The Atomic Bitchwax: Their 1999 self-titled gets a lot of play because it boasted Ed Mundell from Monster Magnet on guitar, but to me, the band really came into their own when Core‘s Finn Ryan replaced Mundell on 2005’s 3. Start with that, or if you’re craving Mundell, its predecessor from 2000, II.

Solace: I know I’ve said a lot about Solace lately, but that proves all the more why they need to be on this list too. Their first two albums, Further (2000) and 13 (2003) are killer, but 2010’s A.D. blows them out of the water. Best thing to come out of Jersey in a long time.

Evoken: Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum from all this guitar rock, Lyndhurst‘s Evoken make some of most grueling, most punishing funeral doom ever. Their earlier work had rough production, so I’d say start with 2007’s A Caress of the Void and work your way back. Slowly, of course.

For further reading: Various side-projects and offshoots of the above. Bands like A Thousand Knives of Fire, Core, Gallery of Mites, and so on. Also worth digging into are Lord Sterling (now defunct), abrasive duo Rukut, the righteous heaviness of Clamfight, A Day of Pigs, The Ominous Order of Filthy Mongrels, and many more.

If I forgot anyone or anyone wants to really go to bat for that first Bitchwax, leave a comment.

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10 Responses to “Where to Start: New Jersey”

  1. Woody says:

    Dude! What about Adrenalin O.D.?

  2. Flyin Ryan says:

    great list. Whenever anyone asks me about awesome bands from Jersey I always mention Shovelhead. those guys fucking rock. maybe not the best place to start checking the NJ scene, but def a hidden jem of it. http://www.myspace.com/shovelheadnj

  3. Rusty Baffles says:

    Goin’ to bat for Atomic Bitchwax. I love I and II better than anything I ever heard from Monster Magnet. Ed Mundell freaks out on the six strings to the max.

    “3” was a huge letdown for me. However it did lead me on a tangent to find Black Nasa, another Jersey band. Maybe they’re more ‘pop bar rock’ than you like your doom, but I think they’re a good time on wax and I play them often.

  4. Shovelhead for sure. Great post!

  5. dogmaofdespair says:

    Fight Amp are from Jersey, are they not? Perhaps not the first place to start, but they’re a worthy artist to check out.

  6. dd says:

    NUDESWIRL!!!

    SLAP ROCKET!!!!

  7. Brad Van says:

    Bitchwax 3 rules. My favorite of theirs. Mundell has skills no doubt, but I think Finn is much more tasteful with what he lays down. Stu is also a badass on the axe. I never got into Halfway To Gone, but I saw 1,000 Knives Of Fire a couple of times and he blew my mind. Bugs On A Bluefish is a killer disc too. I still listen to it regularly. Great list!

  8. Rukut says:

    Rukut Sucks…

  9. OG Kush says:

    Mundell all the way.Finn is great(big Core fan) but when Finn joined they should have changed ther name. Its 2011 and i still listen to 1&2 daily along with Slaprocket(my fav),Nudeswirl,Solace(AD is slammin),Magnet,Halfway To Gone,Ripping Corpse,Gaffed,Human Remains etc. etc. The greater Red Bank,Strong Branch and Asbury scene has alot of great bands to check out if your not in the know

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