Makin Waves’ Record of the Week is Asbury Park-based The Vansaders’ highly anticipated “No Matter What” EP produced as part of the impressive stable of Bouncing Souls guitarist Pete Steinkopf’s Little Eden Studios (The Battery Electric, Crazy & the Brains, Hot Blood, Lost in Society). The five-song collection will be followed by a flurry of activity, including record release partiesAug. 11 at Bond Street Complex, Asbury Park, and Aug. 26 at Mill Hill Basement, Trenton, which sandwich a Joe Strummer tribute on Aug. 19 at The Stone Pony.
From the opening blast of the rowdy, raucous, reluctant love song “Roll the Dice,” Asbury Park-based The Vansaders offer a brand of well-crafted, lyrical punk rock that recalls the kind of thought-provoking songwriting that made The Clash one of the greatest groups of all time. “No Matter What,” which takes its title from a rousing line in the opening track – “Even though I can’t pretend that I got my life in order, but I will love ya’ till the end, no matter what, no matter what. No matter what, there’s nothing left to say” -- isn’t just adolescent angst channeled into two chords through speakers on full. It’s edgy like that, but with a sense of patience, focus, style and nuance that also will interest fans of great songwriters, such as Johnny Cash and Bruce Springsteen, and other shapely but sharply crafted bands, like The Waterboys and The Animals.
The Vansaders’ three previous releases – 2014’s full-length debut, “Stuck in New York City”; the 2015 six-song EP, “Jumping at Shadows,” and last year’s five-song follow-up, “The Time Around” -- offer many similar moments, but not to the extent of “No Matter What.” This is, no doubt, the already impressive, Asbury Park Music Award-winning band’s greatest work to date, and most likely its most explosive, not just in sound and substance, but impact.
In addition to vocalist-guitarist Doug Zambon’s strong songwriting, credit goes to the smart production of Pete Steinkopf. The Bouncing Souls guitarist has built himself quite a stable at his Little Eden Studios, including The Battery Electric, Hot Blood, Crazy & the Brains and Lost in Society. I really love the way the bridge in “Roll the Dice” brings the energetic song nearly to a stop for a reflective pause, only to start up again toward a stomping conclusion. Without Steinkopf’s subtle touch, that moment might have been lost and the power of the record diminished.
The surprisingly somber, low-key acoustic finish of “No Matter What” on the closing “So Far Away” is another demonstration of a mature and impressive approach to making music, especially punk rock. I also really like the anthemic single, “Sunrise,” which offers hope for another tomorrow in the face of an increasing downtrodden nation. Zambon’s friends at Bond Street Bar will love the line: “Say bye bye bye to Bond Street because they won’t let me in.” Maybe one day one of them will tell me what rack ball is, perhaps at The Vansaders’ record release party on Aug. 11 at Bond Street Basement, which is a dual celebration for Trenton-based The Cryptkeeper Five’s forthcoming “The Stronghold” also with Almost People. The two bands also will celebrate their new records on Aug. 26 at Mill Hill Basement in Trenton with Hot Blood, Molly Rhythm and Bucky Harris.
Based on the Clash-like strength of “No Matter What,” other releases, and a captivating live show, it’s no wonder The Vansaders were picked by Summer StrummerJam headliner Jesse Malin and co-producer/90.5 the Night Music Director Jeff Raspe to play theAug. 19 Joe Strummer tribute. The charity show at The Stone Pony also will feature acoustic rocker Matty Carlock, plus an all-star jam in which Zambon will participate with Brian Fallon of Gaslight Anthem, Richard Barone of The Bongos, Craig Finn of The Hold Steady, Daniel Rey of The Dictators and more. Proceeds will benefit The Joe Strummer Foundation for up-and-coming musicians, as well as Music & Memory, a nonprofit that combats a variety of cases of memory loss with the power of music.
Other upcoming Vansaders shows include Aug. 12 at The Barbary, Philadelphia, with Almost People and SteveO & the Crippling Addictions; Aug. 17 at Bowery Electric, New York City, with Killing Floor; Aug. 23 at The Wonder Bar, Asbury Park, with The Living End, and Sept. 1 at TUSK, Philadelphia, also with The Cryptkeeper Five, as well as The Barren Marys and The Up Up Ups. Look for a video from “No Matter What” to drop soon.
Bob Makin is the reporter for www.MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor and still a contributor to The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at email@example.com. Like Makin Waves at www.facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.