01. Transmogrify (John Morton) 1:38
02. No Means No (Tom Warnick) 2:38
03. Fly Away (Tom Warnick) 2:30
04. Mr. Handsome (Tom Warnick) 2:29
05. Imposter (Tom Warnick) 3:41
06. When I Was Young* (Briggs, Burdon, Jenkins, McCulloch, Weider) 4:51
07. One More (Tom Warnick) 3:44
08. City Of Women (Tom Warnick) 1:51
09. Agitated** (McMahon, Morton, Marotta) 2:01
10. I Am Scared (Tom Warnick) 2:43
11. I Wish I Was High All The Time (Jamie Klimek) 3:42
12. Big Room (Tom Warnick) 4:26
Paul Marotta: vocals, guitar, piano
U.K. Rattay: guitar
Al Margolis: bass, vocals
John Keith: drums, vocals
All Songs published by Jilmar Music and Rattay Music, except:
* Carbert Music Inc, Little A Music, Unichappell Music Inc
** Jilmar Music, Imitation of Life Music
Produced by Paul Marotta and U.K. Rattay
Mixed in August and September, 2006 by George Evageliou at G E Studio, NYC
and by Jürgen Müller at Pink Noise Studio, Aachen
Recorded by Jimmy Goodman at Leopard Studio, Stone Ridge, NY
Mastered by Michael Schwabe at Monoposto, Düsseldorf
Cover design by Harald Bernhard
Paul Marotta is an early riser - 5:30 isn’t unusual. The man couldn’t be further away from the cliché of a wild rock and roll animal. But that’s completely in character as the new album from Marotta’s band, The Styrenes, is anything but a cliché. Hard, rough, mean, unwashed, and slightly verminous; with bad breath and nicotine teeth, City of Women is the kind of rock record we haven’t heard in a long time.
The buzzsaw guitar snips away at the body of a song, nagging and spitting, and the next minute it’s a tiny little melody that’s neat as a pin. Bass and drums swoop and rumble, the vocals are broken, like they’ve got screws in their jaws. The Eric Burdon & The Animals’ classic When I Was Young is hardly recognizable, engaging and expressive, while dispensing with the romantic veneer of the original. Agitated is a malicious bark. I Wish I Was High is pure fed up with life, and Mr. Handsome is that really unpleasant guy – a fatal attraction – the one we all have to encounter sooner or later.
Bright lights and long shadows, pills and booze, love, alienation, and pure desperation, and (heavens, no) maybe even something about your personal life. These Styrenes can be cunning. Most of the songs were written by the New York based singer-songwriter Tom Warnick. Marotta recalls, “We shared a bill once with Tom’s band, and I found myself humming his tunes all the way home. So we recorded a bunch of our favorites. And then added a few tunes that we’d been playing live for years but hadn’t gotten around to recording”. The Styrenes’ knack for turning most anything into pure and straight energy keeps this cozy little trip from going straight to hell. These guys aren’t youngsters and there’s enough experience between them to create what might seem like an impossible blend of urban rocksong, art-wave/art-punk, maybe even some glam, in a consistent, consciously artistic manner. The concept is simple, sophisticated music with punk energy. No beer-filled sports fans chanting, no pseudo-provocative nostalgia, no post-punk jigs. But something complex and truthful, something both thought provoking and visceral. And then, just when you think you’ve got it, the album takes another left turn.
This City of Women may not be an affable place, but it sure is alive.
Styrenes – a brief history
Paul Marotta formed The Styrenes in 1975 in Cleveland. Marotta, had been a member of Mirrors, working as their interim bass player at first and then on keyboards and violin while playing guitar in The Electric Eels.
Strange names that never really got around – except that of another Cleveland band, Pere Ubu, Mirrors, The Electric Eels and The Styrenes, plus a few others, are reckoned as germ cells of the Cleveland scene and proto punk, a post-industrial music from years before industrial music and other things that changed the perception of pop music were “discovered”. For listeners who walk those musical territories on a regular basis, these groups are certified legends. Their broken-down, powerful, sometimes hostile, and emotionally shattering music that completely defied technical evaluation has no equivalent in the history of time. A case in point that substance, innovation and authenticity do not necessarily lead to popularity. Especially when the name of the band is steadily in flux.
By the time of the Styrenes’ debut single “Drano In Your Veins” in 1975, the band was operating under the name Poli Styrene Jass Band. Then came The George Money Band, The Styrene-Money Band, the Styrene Band, and finally The Styrenes. The first band consisted of Marotta, guitarist Jamie Klimek who was also leader of Mirrors, bass player Jim Jones (to become Ubu’s guitar player during the Eighties), drummer Anton Fier (subsequently in the Feelies and Golden Palominos mastermind later on) and Michael Antle (later Michael Gene of Buzz and the Flyers). The combo played the Cleveland clubs and released self-produced idiosyncratic punk/new wave. „We were a pretty anti-social band“, Marotta says, „only the Electric Eels were worse. If someone from the audience would jump onto the stage during a show it was more likely for the guitarist to kick him back down again than just let him dance and have a good time. A typical artiste thing.“
In 1980 Marotta and Klimek moved to New York where they set up a new Styrenes line-up working exclusively at their own expense. Not by choice, as Marotta recalls: „Many of the other Cleveland bands had secured recording contracts when the recording industry had found out about the area – but that passed us by. So we recorded our stuff when we happened to have some money to book a studio. We would record two or three things, a few weeks or months later the next two or three and so on, with constantly changing personnel.”
Recordings were released sporadically. Girl Crazy, the debut album, came out in 1982, a now-out-of-print 3-track 7”-EP in 1983, and Marotta’s solo LP Agit-Prop Piano in 1984. The follow-up Styrenes LP came seven years after the first. A Monster And A Devil (re-released in 1998 with additional tracks as All The Wrong People Are Dying), lyrically a downright shattering experience, was a spoken-word-in-rock-record with Mike Hudson, ex-vocalist of the Pagans, another Cleveland legend. 1991 saw the release of It’s Artastic (re-released in 2002 with bonus tracks as It’s Still Artastic), 1994 a new Mirrors album named Another Nail In The Coffin. And again The Styrenes disappeared into obscurity.
When they re-emerged in 1998, they started exactly from where they had stopped. The new record We Care So You Don’t Have To presented a rattling, rough and tumble rock band with punk in it’s veins and art in it’s brains that obviously didn’t have anything in common with today’s cleanly corporate punk. Guitarist Klimek, psychically burnt out, had thrown in the towel and was replaced by UK Rattay.
The next Styrenes record only took 4 years to appear but was so completely different from anything they had done before, that their small but loyal fan base hardly recognized their beloved combo. As a rock band – guitar, bass, drums, piano - The Styrenes had recorded In C, one of the main orchestral works of the twentieth century written by minimalist composer Terry Riley in 1964. The critics were surprised but delighted and the name of the band made the rounds in a very different circle of listeners.
For the new album, City Of Women, released on Rattay’s Rent-a-Dog label, Marotta moved from piano to rhythm guitar - „I like both instruments equally“, he says laconically and offers only “logistic reasons” for touring as a guitarist. They may look like a squad of old rocker sods but the Styrenes’ world-weary, greasy sound seems uninfected by age. Maybe this will infect the ear lobes of the willing listener. Enjoy.
The Styrenes/ City Of Women
rent a dog CD bone 3010-2
The Styrenes/ It’s Still Artastic
ROIR 8276 CD
The Styrenes/ Terry Riley’s In C
Enja 9435 CD
The Styrenes/ And Every Year, Christmas
Atta Disc CD Single
The Styrenes/ All The Wrong People Are Dying
Overground Trading (UK) CD Over74
The Styrenes/ We Care So You Don’t Have To
Scat Records Scat 63 LP & CD
The Styrenes/ One Fanzine Reader Writes b/w All The Wrong People Are Dying
DRAG CITY DC-108 12\"-45
Mirrors-Electric Eels-Styrenes/ Those Were Different
Times Scat Records CD and 3-10\"vinyl Box Set
Out of Print:
01/89 Hudson-Styrene/ A Monster And The Devil
LP Tinnitus 191305
08/82 Poli Styrene Jass Band/ Drano In Your Veins
Cassette/Trouser Press Guide to American Underground ROIR 124
07/82 The Styrenes/ Jaguar Ride on \"Cleveland Confidential-The LP\"
12\" LP Terminal Term 6
04/82 The Styrenes/ Jennifer Gymshorts; Exasperation b/w No Deposit No Return
7\"-45 Mustard Must 108
02/81 Charlotte Pressler w/The Styrenes/ True Confessions b/w True Confessions instrumental
12\"-45 Mustard 4002
07/80 The Styrenes/ Girl Crazy
12\"-LP Mustard MM 4401
10/77 Styrene Money Band/ Jaguar Ride; Everything Near Me b/w I Saw You
7\"-45 Mustard MM 103
02/77 Styrene Money Band/ Just Walking b/w Radial Arm Saws
7\"-45 Mustard MM 102
11/75 Poli Styrene Jass Band/ Drano in Your Veins b/w Circus Highlights
7\"-45 Mustard MM 101