By Robert Nevel
Miami native Ben Katzman’s latest release Degreaser is on his own BUFU Records label, and is promoted as a “lo-fi cock rock shred collage.” The cover featuring Mr. Katzman looking like a punked out 1950’s car enthusiast (a la Travolta) next to a Kiss record is a greasy image to be sure, but the music is not cock rock. The only things that make it a shred collage are some strange sketches in between songs where two guitars noodle around as Katzman talks of hooking up to Kiss’s Love Gun and other rock related things. In one of these a Van Halen song plays in the background.
The grease is there though. It is lo-fi and the melodies contain a nostalgic oldies hook. It also happens to be some of the coolest garage punk I’ve heard in a long time. The songwriting is like if Weezer started shooting heroin before the Blue Album – in a good way. Also, the song “jontraband” brings up the aforementioned Grease (the play/film) star by name, Katzman proclaiming, “Oh how I wish I was John Travolta…”
Had this album been released in the late-70’s or during the original 1980’s hardcore movement, they would no doubt have been one of the shaping pioneers of the punk rock scene.
Nowadays with everything the style has gone through, Degreaser is not likely to get that sort of credit. Punk turned into New Wave, Hardcore just kind of went away, and then the Green Day pop punk geniuses of the early nineties turned into, well…the Green Days of now. So it goes.
Even though this is the case, the album should certainly not be overlooked. In the crusty corners of alternative music there is still a place for masterpieces such as this. For anyone who likes to push trends aside and just listen to good music because it’s good, this album is a pleaser. For anyone else, it may just be good enough to change their minds. A good place to start is his latest video release for the album track, “Dance With a Hopeless Romantic.”