Tommy & the Terrors, In Harm’s Way, Suspect Device, Musclecah – The Middle East, Cambridge MA (December 19, 2001)

Musclecah opened this one. Personally, I’m already sick of the so-cheesy-it’s-cool hard rock schtick, but I’ll say this about Musclecah: these guys aren’t being ironic; they really are old long-haired rockers from Worcester. They actually bought their mesh baseball caps in the ’80s at the mall, not yesterday at the Salvation Army. Anyways, some good heavy riffs and an entertaining singer.

Next up was Suspect Device. For an explanation of their anthemic street-punk sound, refer to my gushing review of their CD, also in this issue. And if you have the CD, well, tonight they played several songs from it, such as “Another Day,” “Carry On,” and “Street Rock Soul.” Suspect Device are a non-flashy, inspiring band who rock the house. Even when he’s singing, Jay Bennett does not stop moving and jumping around, throwing his guitar neck up in the air at every hit as the drummer pounds away. The growing crowd perked up immediately.

I was surprised at the next band, In Harm’s Way. These young hardcore kids were not bad at all – I didn’t take too many notes because I was suddenly moved to jump in there and rhythmically punch and kick the air as if it was a real show. So that says something about In Harm’s Way and their good blend of old and new school HC.

Last up was Tommy & the Terrors. Tommy on stage is a well-spoken soccer hooligan. He humbly deflects applause and says what “an honor and a privilege” it is to play with the other bands. Then, suddenly, when a song starts, his face goes red as he furiously barks lyrics, pounding the air and wrapping the mic cable around his arm like a man possessed. The Terrors’ talented new lead guitarist gives them a professional, Skynyrd-esque element in the form of solos and a leopard-print guitar strap. The closer was “I Love Rock n’ Roll” by Joan Jett (or whoever the hell did that song originally).

By Pat Kennedy

Suspect Device, Kings of Nuthin’ – Middle East, Cambridge, MA (April 12, 2003)

Here’s the deal. The Street Dogs and the Hudson Falcons played this show. But that afternoon I heard a rumor that the Street Dogs weren’t playing. “So,” I reasoned. “I don’t need to get there until 10 to see the Falcons.” At approximately quarter to nine I began preparing a ridiculously elaborate Italian-style dinner in my kitchen. It was a task that, once begun, couldn’t be broken off halfway through. Then there was the eating of it. Long story short, I walked through the door of the club as the Falcons were carting their stuff offstage. To make matters worse, Mark told me later that it was their last show of the year (they’ve played 600 shows in the last three years and are ready to take a step back, he said). I also learned that the Street Dogs did indeed play. Great.

Anyways, now the big question was, would the Kings of Nuthin’ light stuff on fire as they used to? The answer was no, and frankly, that makes sense. (Especially considering the Cambridge fire marshall was in attendance.) The Kings can and did play a kick-ass set without the use of lighter fluid.

If for some odd reason (detox stay, space travel) you haven’t seen or heard of the Kings of Nuthin’ before, I’ll sum up with the boilerplate description that they look like 1930s gangsters and sound like the rival saloon’s windows shattering from a blast of dynamite tossed out of a screeching black sedan. Chuck Berry on speed vs. Jerry Lee Lewis on downers. Or “Tom Waits and Slapshot” in the words of singer Torr, who phlegm-roars himself hoarse every show, backed by a finger-snappin’ maelstrom of drums, guitar, upright bass, piano, and saxophones. (The band currently has three saxes)(and no more washboard.)

Highlights: They rolled out a new song named after their two favorite things, “Women & Cadillacs.” Closed with “Fight Songs for Fuck-ups,” then for an encore brought out Kevin Stevenson (Shods) to sing “Born to Lose” by the Dead Boys. Fans onstage threw beer on everyone.

Suspect Device played last. Overall for the night there was a fantastic turnout. Unfortunately, half the crowd jetted after the Kings. Their loss, because they missed a great set by Suspect. (In fairness, many may have been trying to catch Mung and Gang Green at the Linwood that same night.)

Like the Falcons or, yes, Stiff Little Fingers, whose hit song gave this band of Roxbury punks their name, Suspect Device play catchy, moving street rock songs that are fun to drink to and sing along with, and sometimes even give you the chills. They played a new one tonight that singer/guitarist Jason said will appear on a split 7″ with Fit For Abuse, Tommy & the Terrors, and I forget who else. During that song, a fan doused Jason with water.

“The fact that I have an electrical appliance strapped to my body completely escaped you, didn’t it?” Jay asked.

Next up was a cover of Cock Sparrer “Take ‘em All” that got everyone jumping around up front, followed by a new one sung by guitarist Matt. “This goes out to everyone who left – it’s called ‘Fuck ‘em.’”

Well, those who stayed would not regret it.

By Pat Kennedy

Suspect Device: Boston Massacre

Suspect Device are the Stiff Little Fingers of Mission Hill. Like Jake Burns, Suspect singer/guitarist Jay Bennett grew up to a soundtrack of sirens and gunshots. When he sings, “Who remembers ’89?”, he’s not talking about the punk scene. But, as did SLF, this four-piece have turned bad experiences into upbeat, powerful street-punk anthems. And they’re no rip-off; these are damn good songs. With his rich, Bragg-cum-McColgan voice, Jay belts out catchy melodies over quick beats and tight riffs. Nearly all the twelve 3-minute songs are fast, but they snugly fit short solos, reggae breakdowns, a ballady intro. You’ll crank this again and again.

February 2002