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REVIEWSPaper Thin Walls
Left Hip Magazine
Mira el péndulo
The Big Takeover
Tasty Fanzine (Long Grain Rights)
Tasty Fanzine (Nicotine Bubblegum)
OTHER PRESSThe Jewish Week
Time Out New York
Paper Thin Walls ("Three Woman Blues" Track Review, 8.0/10)
September 6, 2006
"I wouldn't be a misogynist, if my heart didn't hurt as bad as this," the Wowz rhyme brilliantly on the drunk-a-long chorus of the year. Maybe not, but they also wouldn't be able to escape unscathed (and even a little endearing) from such a claim if not for their cherubic Simon And Garfunkel-gone-anti-folk harmonies. The vibeĐgive or take the baile funk whistle and electro-grooveĐis all '66 Dylan, as the Wowz rattle off their list of offenders, including the "early-to-bed woman" with "Benjamin Franklin eyes and electrical storm headaches." The most dastardly "white carpet woman," revealed after a slide-shock transition to the middle eight, is a purely modern creation though: "she moves in a stupid way and she's, like, obsessed with putting things away." ("Love Is," its follow-up on the currently unreleased Go Figure EP, is also dang near perfect, filled with a cascading vocal arrangement that shows off the Wowz' skillz to maximum effect.) Retro perhaps, but shambolically anthemic and totally bitchin' -- in the case of "Three Woman Blues," kinda literally.
Salon.com ("Unbroken Chain" Daily Download)
May 3, 2006
Not all that long ago, New York trio the Wowz played hyper-energized, smart-ass folk songs, but recently they've zeroed in on early '60s boy-band power pop, and they're nailing the style with increasing confidence, the polished wit of their lyrics playing off nicely against a loose and ragged band sound. They've posted six tracks from their latest, "Cool Dump," here, and I recommend downloading all of them. If you only want a couple, grab "Unbroken Chain" and "Out of Focus."
Pitchfork (Track Review of "My Baby Loves Me")
September 16, 2005
The Wowz' nugget-pop are happy pills for manic-depressives, sucked-out helium from dodgeball-sized balloons. Looking and singing like some oversized kewpie doll, Sam Grossman co-writes this chipper anti-folk anthem with Dave Longstreth of the Dirty Projectors, and it turns out precisely the charming heart-of-gold loser jam you'd expect to spring from their super-clever collective loins: "My baby loves me/ and I can't understand why/ I've come to believe that her standards aren't very high." Seems basic, but still, the Wowz are smart enough to know that cheery self-effacement, far from improper, speaks volumes of sense.
Issue #4, November/December
This is an interesting album, with almost too much going on for me to classify simply. Let's say modern Strokes-ish indy rock, with a Grateful Dead feel, especially in the Harmonies, combines with a little bit of early Beatles, and some folky roots behind those electric guitars. The real trick to it is how they combine the folkiness with the rock n' roll in a way I've never heard before, where they blend together well, but each component remains distinct at all times. More like a well shaken vinaigrette than a mayonnaise. Beyond just the cleverness of the sound though is the fact that the music is really good. These are well crafted songs with strong melodies and nice arrangements, on an album that is well constructed, moving fluidly from song to song and sound to sound in what appears to be a consciously constructed journey which was well thought out. The production behind all this is clever and smooth. Maybe it's just because I wasn't expecting to hear Grateful Dead harmonies from a band who looked like they were going to be indy rock hipsters, but for whatever reason this album struck me in an unexpected way. I can't help but listen to it repeatedly now trying to understand out what the hell they're up to, happy enough to hear it the whole time.
Left Hip Magazine
Usually, anything even remotely Beatles influenced gets rudely ejected from my car stereo and lovingly set free out the lowered car window while I continue merrily on my way at 110km per hour; The WoWz survived this bug music cleansing because they made me laugh with them and not at them. They have a smart sense of black humor that snakes its way through most of the acoustic rave-ups and sardonic songs on the full-length Long Grain Rights album.
"Happy Today," a feel-good, noisy romp, opens it up with loose, dustbowl vocals, empty bottle percussion and simple earnest lyrics that make you feel like you might have picked up a kids record by mistake; be assured you have not.
They start to darken it up a bit with "Twist in the End." Wowz have a way with the words -- some good poetry happening here, as "everybody will be dancing with the gravestone of the world." Nice acoustic playing and just a really cool offbeat tune.
"(646)" is a pseudo doo-wop / weird show tune amalgam where the protagonist laments the lack of a certain girl's number. He regales us with his wants, needs and odd details of his stark existence. We all know this man and may have once have been him; think of a real demented Sha-Na-Na tearjerker or Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite.
A bit deeper into the record, The Wowz get off a good one-two punch. "When I Die" runs lyrically like early acoustic Bowie. They drop the black humor and just take through with thought-provoking imagery. The left hook tongue in cheek ramble drive of "See You in the Paper" is Long Grain Rights' most fun track; we get dragged, play-by-play through a relationship that travels north to south in few weeks. The lyrical turn of "spent the next day breakin shit and crying...three weeks I was half hearted and depressed" being teased along by a loping, jangly, upbeat ditty nearly had me on the floor in tears of laughter. Well done, gentlemen!
NYC's The WoWz are solid players who know how write a snappy tune. They must be a riot to go drinking with and probably get invited to a lot of cool Big Apple loft parties. Hell, I would invite them over and ply them with good wine in exchange for an impromptu performance of Long Grain Rights.
The Wowz' full-length debut, Long Grain Rights, is a righteously shambolic North Brooklyn hootenanny filled with neurotic surrealism, joyous lust, and more catchy folk-rock melodies than you can shake a cryogenically frozen hipster at. The sing-along begins with "Happy Today," which sets the keynote by applying bipolar logic to Beatles- like warmth. "I'm feeling happy today just to be living," they sing with the heart-wrenching sincerity of a manic-depressive on a three- day/no-sleep joy binge, "and I know that this feeling won't go away, 'cause I'm feeling happy today." "Nothin' Would Be Better" is perfect teen-pop: "I love just sitting here contemplating / the geometrical perfection of her kiss." Again, though, there's a manic edge to it all: "I used to think that being happy wasn't interesting / until I realized I love everything!" And then a middle eight! With handclaps and harmonica! The band's tempos are maddeningly uneven throughout. Mostly, it's right charming - a genuine twist on the canned fake-folk of The Beach Boys' Party LP. Some songs, though, like the beautiful, straight-offa-side-two-of-Bringing-It-All-Back- Home weirdness of "When I Die," would probably better be served by a steadier pulse. But when there are lines like "from flesh to ask and dust to salt / the ocean is a landlocked vault," who really cares? At the center of Long Grain Rights is a take on modern, urban (?) life that owes more to Lou Reed's shock-happy Transformer than any innocent '60s pop. "Everybody will be dancing, every tranny boy and girl," they sing on "Birds Fly High." "See You In The Paper" is a wry recounting of a doomed relationship, appending "... when you're dead" to the title for a wickedly infectious chorus. Even on less successful ventures - like the drifting "He Wanders" - the band finds nooks to mine. If the trio -- guitarists Simon Beins and Sam Grossman, and drummer/percussionist Johnny Dydo -- can continue to expand on this initial fusion of inspirations, they could be plum fucking huge.
Salon.com ("Happy Today" -- Daily Download)
July 29, 2005
New York City trio the Wowz, whom Time Out New York described as "a coked-up youth group sing-along," are among the best bands in the almost uniformly obnoxious "antifolk" scene (amateur-on-purpose folk rock with smart-ass lyrics). "My Baby Loves Me," which was co-written with the brilliant and cracked Dave Longstreth of the Dirty Projectors, is the band's ragged but charming take on '63-'64 Beatles -- the time of the Beatles' career that no one really bothers copying anymore, and that adjectives like "Beatlesy" and "Beatlesesque" never refer to. Also try "Happy Today" for a dose of their cheery irony ("I know that this feeling will soon go away, but I'm feeling happy today").
August 3, 2005
Well sit me on a porch with a washboard and break out that old time jug 'o moonshine. The Wowz certainly put you in that sort of mood with their strange Appalachian musical ways. There's a little bit of everything in here, country folk with drunken down harmonies, kitchen sink percussion, and the requisite banjo. But there is something strange and off kilter in the mix that makes them sound more like the Silver Jews or Bill Callahan.
The singing on "Happy Today" from their Long Grain Rights CD is pretty quirky as is the rest of the instrumentation. It sounds sort of like the boys just set up shop on grandpa's porch and started in on the hoedown.
"Birds Fly Higher" [sic] is a more standard countryish song, though still just as bouncy. I feel like this track could have been a Schoolhouse Rock song in the 70s. The Wowz mix silly melodies and instrument lines that sound very Beatlesque on this song. Their easygoing and lighthearted ways are pretty infectious. The band is made up of Sam Grossman (guitar, bass, vocals), Simon Beins (guitar and vocals) and Johnny Dydo (drums, vocals). Hey look, everyone sings!
Who out of here used to love the Dead Milkmen? That silly, but quirky sense of humor with a punk rock spirit championed a new sound for the college market. That is back when indie music was considered college/alternative rock. The WoWz have managed to bring back the fun in indie music while still making some good pop songs("See You In The Paper"). These are fun tunes for fans of Ween, Dead Milkmen, and early The Flaming Lips.
April 7, 2005
Talk about a lack of subtlety! "Happy Today," the first song on Long Grain Rights, is as instantly addictive as a shot of heroin, and it sets a pretty high standard for the rest of the album. The song is catchy as all get-out; with its loud strummy acoustic guitar and happy, upbeat singing, there's no reason for you to not feel happy today. Seriously, folks--this might be unfortunately classified as 'anti-folk,' but to this writer, The WoWz do not sound a damn thing like any of those kinds of bands, nor should they be classified as such. (Damn lazy music writers, always forcing bands into meaningless genres!)
Comparisons to bands like the Byrds and the Beatles may abound on their website, but there's something a bit more...childlike...about their music. The wholesome innocence of sing-along numbers like "Happy Today," "He Wanders" and the clappy-sad "Nothing Would Be Better" are reminiscent of a weird blend of Daniel Johnston, Half Japanese and Beck on a Schoolhouse Rocks! tip. The simple melodies are compounded by words that are instantly catchy; it's easy to envision the WoWz as a great live band, one who gets the audience worked up and happy--even though, of course, sometimes they're singing songs about breakups and death and not happy stuff. New York has too many people and even more crappy bands, but the WoWz stand out in the crowd.
Literally--they're the kind of band you're more than likely see standing out on the street, singing outside subway entrances and street carnivals, entertaining the crowd.
Getting hooked onLong Grain Rights is really easy to do--it's getting off of them that's complicated. Once you've put this deceptively simple record into your stereo, you'll find that attempting to remove it is an utterly complicated thing to do. Now, how's about coming out and wowing the rest of the country? In complicated times, The WoWz's simplicity and wholesome innocence is a welcome relief.
Long Grain Nights, alt-country-folk-whatever-you-want-to-call-it, is wholeheartedly a fun record. The first track starts out with clanking bottles and a burst of hearty laughter over a foot-tapping guitar and banjo tune. The vocalists, accompanied at random by some happy drunks at the bar, sing about recognizing happiness on those rare occasions one comes across it. The lyrics as a whole are composed mostly of interesting narratives that range in mood from emotive to comical. The humorous bits are similar in their silliness to early Bob Dylan or certain Pavement songs. "646" is an exaggerated plea for an elusive girl's phone number. The song most notably features a pathetic interlude where the guy begs, "Baby, please give me your telephone number, because as it is, I'm just sitting at home watching commercials, picking my sc alp, drinking Private Stock through a straw, and thinking of you." How sweet. "See You in the Paper," a rockabilly love story, follows a ripening relationship gone sour, ending with the perfectly bitter last words: "I'll see you in the paper...when you're dead." I laughed out loud. Long Grain Rights also has its share of sadder songs, including "Snow Covered Eyes," which features some tasteful guitar work, a wandering distant harmonica and only a tambourine keeping beat: Perfect company for a lonesome trek through the countryside. I can't help but think Mid-western, though the band is from New York City. As far as the recording goes, it is raw and loose, the drums especially, and fits well with the flavor of the music. The album ends with "Sometimes I Feel Life," which is marked by strange slightly off-key vocal harmonies in the chorus that are somehow not distracting but charming. The Wowz pull off something rare with Long Grain Rights: an honest, successful coupling of humor and sentiment. Hats off.
March 22, 2005
With Long Grain Rights the Wowz have revived the long lost art of the Hootenany, a loose sing along celebration of hand claps and woolly guitar strumming. "Happy Today" is a ditty the whole gang can get into, the kind of shuffling, cheery folk song that little kids instinctively dance to and men can wear overalls without shame while performing. The Wowz probably aren't real hillbillies, mind you, rather tasteful Lit majors who likely grew up on the Pixies but nonetheless have a genuine love for American music. It's all in there, though - the harmonizing chorus on "Birds Fly High" bears a striking resemblence to portions of Working Man's Dead, minus the acid damage and suspect odors. "Twist In the End" is a more brooding and foreboding track, a thoughful head nodder to hold time between the other jug band knee slappers. "Nothin' Would Be Better" mines the late 60's folk-pop scene whereas "(646)" sounds a bit out of place as a drunken Richard Hell demo (in a good way). "Where I Die" [sic] is almost Neil Diamond-esque at times, a well crafted folk epic with twists, turns, epilogues and post scripts. "Sometimes I Feel" is a whistful closer, vocal harmonizing on top of a pervasive distorted guitar line. It's clear that the Wowz have an impressive record collection and have harnessed those reference points to craft a clever love letter to the rustic 60's pop music for which we all rightfully have a soft spot. Well done.
New York City's The Wowz are a trio that demands to be reckoned with. Whether it's their affinity for Americana as evidenced by their album opener that would have fit right in with any old Dylan record. This sort of lo-fi folk rock will appeal to the purveyors of the anti-folk scene but won't be so elitist that the less "tre cool" kids would feel dumb for showing up to see them perform live at the old ramshackle coffeehouse down the corner. They've garnered a bit of comparisons to The Beatles, which is righteous only because they write upbeat and inventive tunes. Pick up this CD now from your indie store--there's no excuse for not owning g enius like this.
Issue #66, March/April 2005
Either good music is timeless, or these guys have figured out how to create Beatles-esque and Dylan-ish music without sounding like a tired nostalgia trip. They don't strictly sound like these artists, but with songs built on strong harmony and a stripped down musical approach, those are the two most obvious comparisons.
Mira el Péndulo
February 20, 2005
Muy buen trio de Nueva York que publicó hace unos meses el excelente álbum Long Grain Rights. A este disco se le puede clasificar como indiepop de corte folkie lleno de melodías alegres y letras optimistas. Nos recuerdan mucho a la música pop de los 60s.
--El Hombre Bombilla
January 10, 2005
A street corner band making anything but street corner sounds. Oh sure, that rumpled charm is in there, but then so are some damn fine polished melodies and playing. The Wowz are doing The Beatles doing modern rock on the street. There's a slight Camper Van Beethoven bent to the pro ceedings as well, which never hurts, especially when you can pull it off. At any rate, be sure to check out such fine tunes as "Birds Fly High", "Nothin' Would Be Better", and the bizarre "(646)". My only complaint: the production at times sounds like this album was copied from not-so perfect mp3 files. Some of the tunes here have that "washed out" floppy sound that mp3s can sometimes get when they're not ripped at a good rate. Nevertheless, Long Grain Rights is a lot of fun and a definite keeper.
January 13, 2005
Long Grain Rights kicks off with the optimistic "Happy Today", which sets the tone for the album's largely-cheery bluegrass and country-tinged folk. The songwriting is strong and the interplay between the instruments is interesting, especially on the complex "Twist In the End" and the Spanish-tinged "4 Da Boydz", but for some listeners, the nasal vocals and over-emphasized lyrics will grate a little too much.
That's a shame, as on the whole, the album's coffeehouse atmosphere, cheery harmonies and simple piano lines are very enjoyable. If nasal vocals aren't an issue, there's plenty here for discerning alt-folk listeners, and "See You In The Paper" fills the void left for fans of early Crowded Hous e, but it's no exaggeration to say that Johnny Dydo's singing on "(646)" sounds like Jonathan Richman overdosing on cough syrup and slurring out a few words before he chokes on his own vomit. This may be intentional, and I might have missed the joke -- the guy who sings it isn't even The Wowz' usual vocalist -- but it makes the song almost unlistenable and doesn't improve on repeat listens.
As the beginning of "Head Fell in Love" and the album-ender "Sometimes I Feel Life" illustrate, Simon Beins has a great voice -- when he reigns it in a bit. Until he does so more often, I won't be listening to The Wowz.
October 22, 2004
It is always difficult to review the band of a friend of a friend, especially when the drummer goes to your college. You can't fall into the rock-writer saftey net of hypercriticism for fear of making enemies, you can't be too positive or it looks like you're kissing ass, and you certainly can't give their album a halfhearted "pretty good" because that's lame.
It would be a lot easier if I hated the Wowz's first full-length--I could make fun of their name and complain about the lack of decent music coming out of Columbia College--but the problem (as if it should be a problem) is that their album is actually quite good. Long Grain Rights is a folk-rock album remi niscent of Bob Dylan, with quirky, off-key Beach Boys harmonies and a lilting, tipsy pop sensibility reminiscent of early Beatles songs. Their sound is definitely old but not exactly retro (in a hip, Strokes kind of way). It is clean as opposed to trashy, and unlike the music of most trendy but backwards-facing bands of today, it doesn't sound like it was recoreded in a smoky cardboard box. Lyrically, the Wowz have realized the redundancy of teenage angst and adopted a sincere but slightly mocking positivity that is cute, funny, and endearingly sardonic; their songs handle the usual love and death themes, but with a refreshing tongue-in-cheek punk mentality. If you need a little sunshine on a rainy day, "Nothin' Would Be Better" is guaranteed to make you smile, and play "(646)" when you've had a few too many--it's a drunken, self-indulgently heartsick, 1950s karaoke tune.
This album is a gem no matter what sort of music you're into; it does not trap itself in any particular style, but rather, crosses borders and pushes boundaries to make music that has something in it for everyone.
The Big Takeover
Issue #55, Fall 2004
The contradiction at the heart of this N.Y.C. trio's music is right there in the chorus of the first song on Long Grain Rights: "I know that this feeling will soon go away / but I'm fee lin' Happy Today." So often on LGR and the five-song EP, the music's cheery, but the clever lyrics are disaffected. The vocals, caught between music and words, reflect this by emphasizing the strains and stretches. When these guys take the plunge into a sad-sounding song on "(646)," it's with such outsized expression that exchanging phone numbers with a girl becomes an act of howling desperation that's downright comic. Stylistically, the WoWz hark back to '60s sounds -- Dylan on the dark imagery and acoustic, ramshackle "When I Die"; a scruffier, folkier Hollies on "He Wanders" -- but with a deliberate lack of polish that's very modern. The creaks and cracks in this music make it go down roughly, but they're what make it interesting.
Well, this is nowhere near as 'lo-fi' as the previous EP and the extra production hasn't ruined the album one bit. Again the melodies and the sweet pop songs are there, but all with a much stronger country undertone.... Take the list from the EP review and add in a healthy dose of The Band. That should do it.... Possibly a bit of Smog as well.
There really isn't too much to say about this album, it is a joy to hear, it's rather chirpy, without being irritating, and it contains some of the best quirky pop you will hear this year.
Twelve fresh cuts from one of the hottest 'Antifolk-Rock' acts on the scene. If the Byrds got a late number at the Antihoot or the Lovin' Spoonful were really XTC...The Wowz!
December 1, 2004
I fell in love with a local band...called The Wowz, whose new album--Long Grain Rights--is one of the best I've heard by anybody this year.
Maybe the packaging didn't endear this CD to me (poor handwriting photocopied on pink paper...hmm?) but once inside that is largely irrelevant. What is served up here is a collection of sterling lo-fi pop nuggets, and frankly that is all there is to it. If you mind will allow it please try to imagine a hybrid of The Beatles, The Velvet Underground and Pavement and you could be getting close to what you will find here .
Good stuff, if you ask me...
The Jewish Week
Under One Groove
June 17, 2005
The son of a prominent Satmar community host rubs denim shoulders with a Lubavitcher hip-hop artist.
An ex-philosophy professor grooves to the beat with the founder and sole member of Jews with Tattoos.
A religiously born-again biker scouts for a nice frum Jewish girl, piercings optional.
It all happens at "Hasid Meets Hipster." And you can find it every second or third Sunday night inside the back room of a Polish-American-run saloon, one bright spot on a dark corner at the very northern edge of Brooklyn.
For the last year and a half, the "Hasid Meets Hipster" series (or "H and H," as known to its regulars) has been gathering artists and professionals from Williamsburg and Greenpoint, on the one hand, and chasidim from Williamsburg, on the other, around performers from Brooklyn's independent music scene. In its current roost at Tommy's Tavern at the quiet tail end of Manhattan Avenue, the evenings draw up to 100 participants who come to party but may leave with something more, according to series creator Seth Braunstein... Read the rest here.
Facelift Doesn't Square with Park Regulars
May 18, 2005
[While we were playing in Washington Square park, a friendly young reporter from the free New York paper that everyone reads--no, not am, the other one--Metro--approached us to ask how we felt about the planned Washington Square Park construction project. Simon knew nothing about it. S.T. was busy telling jokes. Johnny had too many cigarettes in his mouth to talk. She nonetheless extracted a few quotes from us and underhandedly made us sound like normal folks. But she left out the best part: we played her a song cause she asked for one, and as we did so, buncha kids, bunnies and deer crowded around to see what the show was all about. The article is kind of long and you might not be interested in the whole thing, so here are the parts that concern the WoWz.]
...Simon Beins, 25, who plays with his band WoWz, thought the renovation wasn't needed. "People are easily satisfied," he said. "They just need some nice weather to hang out."...
Johnny Dyd0, 24, who performs with his WoWz bandmates when the weather is nice, said, "Why are they going to blow so much moeny to change something that's worked for over 100 years?"...
Some park-goers, like S.T. Grossmark IV, a WoWz guitarist, thought the changes however, well intended, were just not necessary.
"It's a fitting place to throw money into a fountain."
Antifolk Only in Name, Not in Sound or Style
April 15, 2005
Located on 6th St. and Ave. A, the Sidewalk Cafe overflows with lively chatter, cheap beer, and a charming, downtrodden optimism. In the past few decades it has become, and still remains, the center of the Antifolk scene, a New York-based folk-punk movement that embraced artists like Michelle Shocked and the Moldy Peaches before they became famous. With no cover charge and a friendly atmosphere, Sidewalk is a great place to hear new music and escape from the redundant bar scene of Morningside Heights.
Quirky folk-rock trio the Wowz are one of the newer Sidewalk regulars to fall under the Antifolk label. Attempting to explain what the enigmatic term meant, they agreed that 'the real elements of "Antifolk" are really folk and punk.' They are currently working on their third album and a soundtrack to the documentary King Corn. With lyrics that are as ironic as they are good-natured and a melodic, genuine folk-rock sound, the Wowz are becoming increasingly more part of the New York bar circuit, and, judging by their full length album Long Grain Rights and original, entertaining performances, are certainly among the most talented of their milieu. "I think the thing about us is that we play electric sometimes and acoustic sometimes, so we have two scenes," says singer-guitarist Simon. He seems unsure of how well the band fits in the scene, but despite this questionable detachment, the Wowz embodies the values and mindset of Antifolk in more ways than one... Read the rest here.
Time Out New York
The Wowz are kind of like a coked-up youth group sing-along; the duo plays hyperchirpy, manic songs with ecstatic titles like "Nothin' Would Be Better" and "Happy Today." Watch out, though--their cheery outlook (ironic or not) is contagious.
January 14, 2005
You tired, you poor, you huddled and rock-deprived New Haven masses--you'd best catch The Wowz at The Space in Hamden on Tuesday at 9 p.m. As Queen so aptly put it: They will, they will, wow you.