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  Scratch the Surface  
  The Cringe  
  Listen Records  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:
  Brett Spaceman  

These guys are trying to win me over with pictures of spacemen on their cover art. Cheap and nasty toy astronauts on a monochrome photo; this is artwork befitting a garage punk band, but that would be misleading. To give you a quick fix on The Cringe, imagine the famous rock or metal acts from the 70s & 80s. (Led Zep, Sabbath, AC/DC etc), then jettison the lead screamer in favour of an alt-rock, nu metal warbler circa the 90s to date. Voila: The Cringe.

Scratch The Surface is an ambitiously self-produced debut. Although aided by professional engineering, the end product is ever so slightly soft focused, an interesting detour from rocks usual sharpness. I suspect they were going for a garage rock feel, but vocalist/guitarist/producer John Cusimano has lent his record a blurry feel rather than any garage roughness. Yet with the evidently strong songwriting here (more of which we'll come onto in a moment) I can't help wondering if it might have been wiser going for a more polished production job?

This record is loaded with tunes! Jam-packed, if you'll pardon the expression? Riffs, guitar solos, a veritable homage to rock without ever falling into parody such as The Darkness. Certainly no leotards or big hair in evidence on the sleeve photos. Burn, the second track in, is unashamed in its metal pilfering. A late entry, perhaps, in the pantheon of rocks great guitar riffs? Little wonder it was played to death nationwide by ranking Radio Stations. Too Many Problems sounds comfortably familiar too. Vocally this one drifts into nu metal territory until the guitar solo thumps it firmly back into Rock. Kiss Me When You're Dead and Grave are accomplished soft rock ballads. Think Led Zep plays Kalifornication. Wonderful guitar interplay in evidence.

Possibly my favourite cut on the whole record is Been Alone, which is a paean to relationship problems. The morose undertones of the song belie its inherent rallying cry. "I've been alone…….with you". Somehow there's an implied emphasis of the "been", i.e., past tense. The situation is clear and its time to move on. Not so much haunted then, as exorcised!

Although it may appear so, Scratch The Surface isn't really brooding or pessimistic. See it more as a learning or un-cluttering process. Cusimano examines his various life situations, junks the bad stuff and moves on, cleansed from the experience. A breath of fresh air for tortured adolescents everywhere. Listen to THIS. The sun WILL come up tomorrow.

The overriding impression is of a truly strong, tight band. No weak link. Crafted drumming, urgent bass, flourishing guitars and a confident, competent voice. Add an abundance of songwriting riches and you might think The Cringe are an unstoppable force in music. They should be but I suspect they want to be 'Alt' while their talent lies in pure undiluted RAWK. Perhaps with a clever angle, a bit of luck or some friends in high (MTV) places and these guys could take off big time? Maybe too, not fitting into New York's rising sea levels of shoegaze and art rock will help them standout? We wish them well.

Feel no shame for what you are.

Related Links:

The Cringe are currently writing their follow-up to Scratch The Surface. You can hear a selection of Scratch The Surface songs via the bands myspace.
Band Site:
Gots to have the MySpace:


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