The Fiendz

Black Pumpkin Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


There's something about East Coast punk rockers The Fiendz that strikes me as odd. One of the forefathers of the new punk movement, their latest disc, Cole, doesn't have as urgent of a sound that I would expect from bands in this genre.

Of course, seeing that Jerry Jones and crew have particularly gone out of their way to continually change and develop their sound with each album, this would probably be taken as a high compliment. While the music on Cole is somewhat intriguing, the almost laid-back power-punk style is one that takes some time to get used to.

Lead vocalist/guitarist Jones, bassist Larry Assuntino, drummer/vocalist Joe Darone and guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Joe Mahoney are obviously a talented group of musicians, and The Fiendz is as tight a musical collaboration as one would expect to hear. (After over a decade together, the band should be.) Producer Tim Gilles (who also contributes backing vocals and other musical touches) knows this band's sound well; he's been involved with most of the band's albums. (I would, however, have raised the treble level just a shade - no big deal.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

What is confusing about Cole is that it's musically all over the spectrum. The opener, "Listen To Me," might make the listener think that they're about to settle down with an album of power pop. However, the addition of horns to some songs ("Scene," "One I Dream About") almost gives the album a ska feel at times, even though rhythmically the songs weren't really ska.

Through it all, Jones and crew deliver a potent message that is hidden behind solid musicianship and harmonized vocals (from "Spent": "All used up, you lost your magic / And you know that's fuckin tragic / But you'll never take the kid out of me"). I would dare say that the lack of a real punk flavor to the music blunts the message of the lyrics at times - and that, in the end, works to the disadvantage of The Fiendz.

Oh, it's not that the casual listener won't enjoy Cole or that they won't get all of the messages that Jones and crew sing about in these songs. But unless you sit there with the liner notes and read what is being sung, or you listen very closely to the songs, chances are you'll miss some of the messages that make up the punk ethic of The Fiendz. Granted, this is an album that is worth multiple listens. But I wonder if most listeners would have the patience to go through such a discovery process.

I could rant about The Fiendz committing the cardinal sin of throwing on a "hidden" track at the end of the album... nah.

Cole could be called the punk album for those who don't like punk, as well as a pop album for those who don't like pop. It's still satisfying, though it might have been better for The Fiendz to have picked one musical style and attacked it full-blast instead of straddling both lanes of the musical highway.

Rating: B-

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Black Pumpkin Records, and is used for informational purposes only.