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CD REVIEW: The Cringe - Scratch the Surface
By Francesco Emmanuel - 07/16/2007 - 11:17 AM EDT

Artist: The Cringe
Album: Scratch the Surface
Genre: Alternative Rock
CD Review: The Cringe hail from New York, and have released their debut album ‘Scratch the Surface’ – an album deeply submersed in the solid history of rock ‘n roll, punk and alternative. It is rich in songwriting and is as good as the men that make up this unit.

The band comprises John Cusimano (a veteran on the New York circuit) on vocals and rhythm guitar, Rob Levin on guitars, Matt Powers on bass and session whiz Shawn Pelton (who has toured with Pavarotti, Sheryl Crow, Bruce Springsteen and Rod Stewart….just to name a few) on drums.

The album had a raw feel; no great overproduction within the mix, well rounded tones, refined harmonies, and solid drumming, the mix is rather clean and simple.

It is solid-kicking rock ‘n roll, with hints of 70’s classic rock, country and blues, punk and alternative.

John (the band principal songwriter) has a smooth, easy going voice, with certain raspiness at times. His voice gives the sense of simplicity and honesty.

‘Burn’ the band’s first single is an upbeat track; I got the impression of a country & western theme in the chorus.

Check out the harmonies on ‘Been Alone’, very 70’s classic rock style, executed perfectly. Nice choice of notes and picking style for the guitar solo in the bridge, which leads back into the chorus as the guitars trail out till the end.

‘Empty Table’ has a great guitar line that starts the intro; the vocal melody is an instant hook, the chorus grooves heavier in a medium-paced 4/4 timing.

‘Blood’ has an unsuspecting switch from major to minor keys in the transition from verse to chorus, it’s balanced with a few stops and fills in the chorus back into the verse. The guitar solos till the song finishes with one heck of a drum fill.

I particularly liked the use of delay on certain tracks, like the instrumental ‘Song 13’. It gave an ambient touch, it wasn’t overbearing and certainly mixed things up a bit. Placed among all the solid rockers of songs, it was a welcomed change.

I’m a bit biased toward guitar players (blame it on being one), and I was quite impressed with the tones used here, there was a nice well-rounded approach to the guitars in the mix, warm but punchy, they were perfectly balanced.

The Cringe were regulars at the now defunct CBGB’s and did a set once between Joss Stone and the Doors of the 21st Century at Sunfest in Palm Beach, Florida. The boys are currently gigging around New York, and then do Portland and Vermont later in May.

These guys are doing pretty well for just over 2 years together as a band, perhaps it is the wealth of experience and talent that collectively, these four individuals bring to the table. Only goes to show, that sometimes things come together gradually, based on many years of hard work and prior knowledge garnered first hand in the business of rock ‘n roll.

John says the main focus of his songs is ‘about how life is kind of fleeting, and how we’re always trying to figure out what it means.’ It’s about looking at the world, the situations, the people and reporting back on what was witnessed and experienced.

Scratch the surface’ is available on vinyl and CD. It’s the band’s hope that even though the music is usually dark, that people who come to their shows leave feeling happier than when they came in.


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