New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here

Record Roundup with Successful Failures, Bulletproof Belv, and Lowlight

originally published: 09/24/2019

Record Roundup with Successful Failures, Bulletproof Belv, and Lowlight

For more than a dozen years on half a dozen full-length albums, The Successful Failures have been a great, ragged, edgy mix of indie power pop and American-inspired roots rock. The 11-song “Saratoga,” their seventh collection on singer-songwriter-guitarist-keyboardist Mick Chorba’s own FDR Label, starts right off with that signature sound on the opening “Because We’re Ghosts.” The rollicking rumble ‘n’ ramble is a prime example of the band’s patented mix of The Beatles, The Replacements, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and The Rolling Stones.

On the single “Love You So,” Chorba & Co. — bassist-vocalist Ron Bechamps, drummer Rob Martin, lead guitarist Pete Smith and former guitarist-keyboardist-vocalist Greg Potter — take the sentiments of the same-titled jazz standard, sprinkle them with Beatlesque charm and spike them with a Replacements edge. Subsequently, the raucous rocker, “The Ocean and the Stars,” seems inspired by “Blonde on Blonde”-era Bob Dylan and early Tom Petty.

Next up are two tracks that pay homage to Knoxville, Tenn., the Chesterfield-based band’s home away from home. The three bits of “Knoxville Suite” are all about self-realization. In “Oh Dear Mother,” a mom realizes, “Oh crap, motherhood isn’t what I thought it was!” Then “Giving Back the Awards” shifts to a narrator, perhaps a decorated veteran, who also realizes that everything they thought was important doesn’t really matter. The Lennonesque suite closes on a more romantic note with “In this World,” a realization that nothing much matters unless shared with a significant other. The suite includes a particularly impressive bass performance by Ron.

“No White Knight in Knoxville,” the latest of the album’s three singles, continues the salute to the southern city, as well as self-realization, taking its inspiration from the signature of a “Dear Abbey” letter that Mick’s wife cut out for him. Following several Successful Failures songs inspired by news stories or literature, “No White Knight in Knoxville” is about the protagonist finding peace within and appreciating a regular-guy reality by accepting that his ordinary life is balanced by fresh food markets and Taco Bells.

Mid-way through “Saratoga” comes a previous single, “Disgruntled Bankers,” a Makin Waves Song of the Week that recalls The Replacements’ masterpiece “Here Comes a Regular” with a similar forlorn longing.

Mick has such a great penchant for The Replacements that FDR released a 2001 compilation tribute album to them, “Left of the Dial,” featuring 24 contributing acts, so it’s no surprise “Saratoga” features the Replacementsesque “Oh Diane.” The tasty track also features sweet Keith Richards-like guitar playing.

“Saratoga” also includes:

* The funky, bluesy yet poppy swamp rock of “Ruby Ruby,” which recalls Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Radiators and early ‘70s Stones, especially great Mick Taylor-like slide guitar playing

* The psychedelic pop of “Already in Two”

* The rootsy Beatles-meet-The Stones pop of “Everywhere She Goes It’s Raining”

* And the closing bluesy garage-rocker “Where Were You,” which sounds like a cross between the Stones’ early days and the most upbeat tracks on their masterpiece, “Exile on Main Street.”

Saratoga” is available digitally, on CD and via 12” vinyl and can be heard live Sept. 25, The Asbury hotel, Asbury Park; Sept. 27, Human Village Brewing Co., Pitman, and Oct. 4, Tirnanog, Trenton. 

Prolific Asbury Park rapper Bulletproof Belv is back with his third full-length album in only 19 months following last year’s “With or Without You” and 2017’s “11:11 Wishful Thinking.” Much more sexually graphic and violent than its predecessors – as well as other more positive and uplifting Asbury area rap -- “Everything Earned” features just Belv and his producer El Trapo Cheese without any of the guest appearances that powered the first two albums. 

The eight-song collection kicks off with the quasi title track, “Earned It,” an examination of how faith without works is dead that features great wordplay in the chorus, “Everything earned from the cradle to the urn, I earned it.” The sequel to Belv’s 2017 local hit, “Dark City Lights,” is a Makin Waves Song of the Week.

Whereas “Earned It” is a sequel to “Dark City Lights,” the closing “Insane Wave” is a sequel to the opener, as well as the 2018 single, “Wave Runner,” feat. platinum-selling North Jersey rapper Fetty Wap. All three look at the mean streets of and around Asbury’s Bangs Avenue, where Belv was raised and shot twice at close range, yet survived, hence, Bulletproof. Like “Wave Runner,” “Insane Wave” is dedicated to Wave Runners – or Born Gettas – a group of rappers consisting of family and close friends with whom Belv collaborates and utilizes as a sounding board. 

A 10-year window into their rough ‘n’ tumble lives offers a glimpse at their often violent adventures with “10 Summers 10 Winters.” That’s followed by “We Just,” a chronicle of sex buddies who scam for money. It’s interesting how the couple in this track are “just fucking,” whereas a little later on, Belv expresses heartache in “Loved and Lost,” a powerful breakup song.

“Everything Earned” also includes:

“Build Another,” a look at how Belv remains connected to the community in which he was raised

“Scream,” an expression of a desire to perform, particularly once again at such high profile venues as Asbury Lanes and House of Independents

“Far Away,” a play on the Michael Corleone line from “The Godfather” – “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” – which Belv inverts by keeping his enemies as far away as possible because they can be so violent. 

Look for Belv to announce live shows. Until then, enjoy “Everything Earned” and its bleak and broken landscape that depicts what life is like for most of Asbury Park rather than the La La Land of the well-enforced waterfront.  

From the first seconds of the Phil Spector-meets-Brian Wilson-like symphonic surf-rock of the opening “Give it a Minute,” Lowlight had my full attention with their new LP, “Endless Bummer.” Complete with a sweet slack key-like steel guitar that follows a great childlike choir at the end of the track, “Give It a Minute” is a Makin Waves Song of the Week.

The 10-track album doesn’t let up for a minute offering haunting slide-oriented guitar sounds by Derril Sellers, who also produced, recorded and mixed in his home studio in South Bound Brook; alternatingly eerie and pretty keyboard riffs by Dana Sellers, Derril’s wife and longtime band mate, and tight-as-funk rhythms by drummer Colin Ryan and bassist Rey Rivera. On top of it all are passionate vocal performances and stories by singer-songwriter-rhythm guitarist Renee Maskin.

“Horsefoot” is an excellent example of wonderfully haunting guitar and eerie keyboard sounds. The pining guitar is like a ghost who wanders and creeps along creaking walls and floors captured by Dana’s keyboards. Renee’s vocals float above it all until it comes to an unsettlingly abrupt end. 

"Every Time” features a great accordion-like sound, as well as warped keys that seem like a Wurlitzer turned upside down. Both compliment more impressive slide playing by Derril wrapping around a tale about a series of one-night stands. 

The guitar work on “Coastlines” and “Locals Only” also is extremely impressive. On the latter, Derril’s guitar sounds like a whip-poor-will in a weeping willow. 

The energetic “Burkhalter” showcases the band’s polyrhythms, a strong vocal performance by Renee, and Dana’s inventive keyboard parts, particularly an exotic, hypnotic intro. “Clotheslines” is an all-too-brief acoustic-driven quasi-title track. “The Unreliable Narrator” is bluesy ode to the jungle and Keith Richards, while “California Blue” is funky fanfare that must’ve been fun for Derril with more Phil Spector-like pop-cestra production. 

That brings us to the fascinating, chorally arranged Tom Waits-like closer, “Voyager,” featuring great guest performances on sax and violin, as well as Colin at his best, which is better than most everybody else. 

Recently released by Jersey Shore-based Telegraph Hill Records, the album is the band’s second full-length following 2016’s brilliant debut, “Where Do We Go from Here?” and sandwiches last year’s “Born to Run” EP and a live outing. Hear it live Oct. 5, Chubby Pickle, Highlands, and Nov. 22, Pino’s, Highland Park, with San Tropez, The Brixton Riot, and Tom Barrett of Overlake.

All Songs of the Week can be heard at Makin Waves’ Spotify and YouTube playlists. 

For more by this author, click here

More Articles You Might Like

Celine Dion To Perform At Prudential Center On March 7, 2020
Celine Dion To Perform At Prudential Center On March 7, 2020
Prudential Center Presents Bad Bunny
Prudential Center Presents Bad Bunny
The Outlaws To Perform At Newton Theatre On November 2nd
The Outlaws To Perform At Newton Theatre On November 2nd
Tusk Comes to The Newton Theatre On November 23
Tusk Comes to The Newton Theatre On November 23
Prudential Center Adds Second Show For Celine Dion
Prudential Center Adds Second Show For Celine Dion
Soulshine: An Allman Brothers Experience Comes To NJPAC On October 19
Soulshine: An Allman Brothers Experience Comes To NJPAC On October 19

Event calendar
Saturday, Oct 19, 2019


MELVIN SEALS & JGB FEATURING JOHN KADLECIK @ The Stone Pony, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

THE BILSBY BROTHERS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

Reock & Roll Revue | A Tribute to Chicago II @ The Millstone Performing Arts Center, Millstone - 7:30pm

Eaglemania @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Last Whispers @ Alexander Kasser Theater, Montclair - 8:00pm

RICK SPRINGFIELD & RICHARD MARX @ The Wellmont Theater, Montclair - 7:00pm

KIP MOORE: ROOM TO SPARE ACOUSTIC TOUR @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm

American Song -Disney and the Boys: Will and Anthony Nunziata sing the Sherman Brothers @ The Chase Room @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 6:00pm and 8:30pm

Soulshine: An Allman Brothers Experience @ Victoria Theater @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 8:00pm

TOTO @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Floyd Pink @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm

Annie Sing-Along! @ Kelsey Theatre at Mercer County Community College, West Windsor Township - 10:00am


East Lynne Theater Company presents POE BY CANDLELIGHT @ First Presbyterian Church (Cape May), Cape May - 8:00pm

Monster Princess Tales @ West Hudson Arts & Theatre Co, Kearny - 3:00pm

House on Haunted Hill (World Premiere) @ Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts, Maplewood - 4:00pm and 7:30pm

Chasing Rainbows: The Road To Oz @ Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn - 1:30pm and 8:00pm

Theater of Fear @ The Mill Race Theatrical Company, Mount Holly - 1:30pm and 7:30pm

Our Town @ Jay & Linda Grunin Center For The Arts At Ocean County College, Toms River - 8:00pm

The Late Christopher Bean continues at WCP @ Westfield Community Players, Westfield - 8:00pm


Get Happy! Hollywood Hits from Harold Arlen @ The Avenel Performing Arts Center, Avenel - 8:00pm

Comedian Kevin Downey Jr @ Brook Arts Center, Bound Brook - 8:00pm

THE JIM BREUER RESIDENCY @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Jo Koy @ Prudential Hall @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 8:00pm


Nimbus Dance: 15th Anniversary Crystal Gala 2019 @ Harborside Atrium, Jersey City - 7:00pm



View all events


New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 |

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.