New York band The Compulsions show you how they “Beat the Devil” after they’ve “Been Through Hell” in New York City. Native New Yorker Lex Pistols gives you a true New York perspective on one of the LAST true NYC style Rock & Roll bands.
If Alphabet City was made up of enough letters to leave behind an obituary for the East Village, it would spell out the lyrics to every song by The Compulsions. The Compulsions are one of the few remaining Rock n’ Roll bands who accurately revive an element of New York City’s identity that our social climate hasn’t witnessed in decades. Their lead singer – Staten Island born – Rob Carlyle, in his very early childhood was fortunate enough to experience a world many did not in New York. This was a world where NYC was less dominated by mass advertising brigades, and where there was more freedom in the streets to speak your mind and behave as you wish, without a cop trying to arrest you or give you a summons for every little thing short of inhaling and exhaling.
NYC used to be a place where anywhere in your local bar you could spot the neighborhood bands that lived the lives they spoke about in their music: loud, fast, Rock n’ Roll. This city used to breed genuine creative people with a “fuck the bullshit” attitude. This is the music that depicts a once industrial, grim, harsh, uncompromising city that never bit its tongue. Supporting Carlyle’s die-hard Rock ‘n’ Roll crusade of dark alley, danger zone magnetism are Guns N’ Roses all stars Richard Fortus on lead guitar and Frank Ferrer on the skins along with bassist Sami Yaffa of the iconic Hanoi Rocks.
Kids come to our city from all over to form bands, and they know why they’re here; the irresistible impulse to be around the seedy, edgy charm of records like Chinese Rocks by The Heartbreakers, or 53rd and 3rd by the Ramones (Chinese Rocks actually being Dee Dee Ramone’s record, rightfully). They come from far and wide to be amongst the world that was home to these bands, only to discover it is slowly being depleted. We know, as New Yorkers that people all over the world are infatuated with our street-talk, concrete-jungle appeal and our no bullshit, three-card monte fast-life attitude. People itch from it like a “Jungle Disease” – which is exactly why The Compulsions give you pertinent title tracks such as this, that serve as theme music to our way of life.
There used to be times when I would live a life of “Dirty Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap” and sometimes that isn’t done with a clear conscience. Having music you can identify with, gives you a reassurance that not only do you share that way of life with others, but someone else also paints that picture so the rest of the world can see what we see in the street. New York – as many may know – is a VERY rough city. Some of us like myself, are gentlemen despite the dirt we do. We may open doors for ladies, buy our mothers flowers, but we like our whiskey well aged, our gain and volume on the highest levels possible, and we’ll punch you in the face without spilling one drop of the pint in our hand, if you piss us off. We like to know that we have a soundtrack to the reality we call “home,” provided by a band that conveys the imagery authentically.
The East Village was once a dangerous, run-down wasteland that became a creative breeding ground for artists and musicians. You almost had no choice as a little kid seeing all this – it was either you were going to become a career criminal or deviant, or you were going to become an artist or a musician and convey this scenery for everyone to see through your eyes. Rob Carlyle authentically brings this time period in New York City’s timeline to life in his music.
I’ve spent some time in Southern California, and one thing I’ve noticed about music in SoCal is that they’ve always had a very accurate, consistent portrayal of their communities. For example, you hear alternative bands like The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Sublime, Hard Rock bands like Buckcherry, and Motley Crue, or SoCal Punk Rock of the late 70’s and early 80’s, and you can hear it in their lyrics and sound that these guys are so Californian, their faces might as well be on the state flag. They represent and PRESERVE all that California’s cultural lifestyle is about: whether street life, hot-rod culture, skateboarding, “girls, girls, girls,” you hear it in their music, and their communities preserve their identities. We don’t have that here in New York anymore; AT ALL. It’s all general filler, and self-congratulatory “artistry,” for the sake of current trends, but nobody here is preserving the identity that made New York City a bad ass place on the map, that you wouldn’t want to be lost in.
We’re losing our city to a bleak corporate cloud of homogeneity. It used to be that your neighborhood had a certain dynamic; everyone would look out for each other and somewhat “police” the community. This practice bred very street-wise, tough individuals. The music that came from this time period was very reflective of a “street-conscious” element of our city. The current fog of complacency has made our city become very boring, and diluted for people who truly identify with the authenticity of a historic city.
Not since the Ramones has there been a band who is able to accurately personify the mood, and behavior of the traditional archetype urban New Yorker. There were days when big record labels and their corporate practices would keep musicians from being the band they truly wanted to be. It would take away from all their originality, by packaging them as a “product.” Its refreshing when musicians like Rob Carlyle freely and truly write songs he wants to hear, inspired by music many of us grew up listening to, and still enjoy. His band is a band that comes from the roots of what made this city known for it’s music in places like CBGB’S and Don Hills. These places are being taken away from us one by one, by the huge corporate presence in New York City. I miss Mars Bar. I miss CBGB’s, and I feel like the Native American in that old “Keep America Beautiful” commercial every time I walk past St. Mark’s Place and I see a red velvet rope in front of Continental with a big bouncer outside dying to tell me “Hey buddy, you can’t come in here without sleeves.” (That has really happened, by the way.)
The elements of the late 70’s throughout the 90’s mood of New York City “hard times” hunger might not be entirely applicable to the current complacent Whole Foods-fed, spirit of the times in the same way as it was then. Hopefully, awareness of the SOUND itself, will initiate a counterculture of those sick from vapid corporate presence in New York, bringing about a revival of true, raw expression of this through music. We want our Rock n’ Roll city back. The Compulsions are more or less all we have left of a monumental time period. They might as well be known as a four-man CBGB’s.
I could find countless ways to compare these guys to any great band that they resemble, like the Stones, or G N’ R, The Heartbreakers, or The Dolls. . . The most outstanding element of this band regardless, is that they capture the aura of New York City through sound like the Brooklyn Brewery offers it to you in bottles. Members of the band [Richard Fortus] have expressed in the past, that the band’s sound and direction is particularly Rob’s vision. You won’t be disappointed with what The Compulsions offer. This is New York’s Hard Rock music at its rawest- which is very rare these days. You have some veteran all stars in the current line-up, two of which are coming from Axl Rose’s recent line-up. So if you still have a lingering appetite for destruction, we have a Jungle Disease for you.
The most current body of work by The Compulsions features one of my favorite tracks called “I Just Wanna Play Guitar.” That says it all, and if you too, also play guitar, I need not say anything more. With a native New York front man who has seen New York during its purest years, and three other bad-ass musicians who preserve this sound, we need a city flag made with these guys on it. We miss our city. I run into Rob every now and then. Keep checking in with us and you just might find a very detailed interview with him and the boys and how we’re gonna bring “Old York” back in the very near future. In the meantime, you can find their music on Amazon, iTunes and even Spotify. I will post updates as I get them regarding live shows in our blog. Keep eyes n’ ears out. “Rock n’ Roll is just Rock n’ Roll!”