In Defense Of New Jersey

It's not that you don't like Bruce Springsteen, you just haven't found your song yet.

Aug 14 2012, 6:20pm

The New Jersey state bird, as seen on the cover of Overkill's loudest EP. Yes, they're from Jersey.

It's 4:00 AM and, after reading VICE's blatant attack on the New Jersey music scene, I've decided to chug a cup of coffee and scrap my article that is due in five hours in exchange for this fortified and well-deserved retort.

Don't fuck with New Jersey. Seriously.

I was born and raised in central New Jersey. There is not, nor will there ever be, any shame in that fact. I grew up encountering people who incessantly asked "You're from New Jersey? What exit?" These people accused me of having ties to the Mafia, and some even insisted that I had a thick New Jersey accent reminiscent of some bonehead from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Not only did I not live anywhere near the Parkway or the Turnpike, but I didn't even own a "dawg" nor did I drink much "cawfee" until I moved to the big city.

Early in my life, New Jersey stereotypes began to roll in. We can all thank Troma Films for encouraging the misrepresentation of all of the Garden State as a radioactive playground for characters like Toxie a.k.a The Toxic Avenger in the mid eighties.

We can also agree that we are ok with that particular stereotype. If you were living in New Jersey anytime during or after the release of the Toxic Avengers Movies, you know what I mean. The thing is, it was kind of cool to be from an area drenched in such cultural and environmental controversy. It encouraged groups like the thrash metal band Overkill to rock even harder, and groups like hardcore punk pioneers Adrenalin O.D. to shred and wail about their suburban New Jersey experiences. These bands (and countless others) had a fresh influence on music that would quickly spread beyond their hometown industrial parks and cul-de-sacs.

What wasn't cool was what began to also happen around that time with the arrival of bad hair metal and pop metal. New Jersey became a breeding ground for teased hair, tight pants, and bands who decided that the next evolution of music was to stop rocking and produce albums chock full of back-to-back ballads. New Jersey became the slop bucket for tired glam acts gone shitty and the birthplace for groups like Bon Jovi, who would eventually become the poster boys for a scene all their own. That scene would attract fans of both sexes: girls who loved the crimped hair rockers and wanted to be with them, and the men who loved those same rockers and wanted to bone their groupies. Wave a lighter, take her to the point in your Trans Am, and nine months later you have 50% of the kids who, now in their mid-20's-to-early-thirties, moved out of state to perma-hang in Brooklyn. These may or may not be the sad facts of the surface of a strange regional musical scene, but it should be noted that all the while, like any other popular culture, there was and still is a proud sub-culture and these examples are merely the tip of the iceberg.

Adrenalin O.D. suburbia could remind NJ natives of the time they peeled out when picking up their film at FotoMat, but definitely doesn't draw upon memories of a douchey New Jersey experience.

While all of this other drek was floating to the surface of the New Jersey scene, actual Jersey Shore musicians, on labels like Long Branch NJ's epic hardcore label Mutha Records, were pumping out releases that would eventually become some of the most sought-after punk records out there. These guys hated the popular sound that New Jersey was getting known for and after all, isn't that the idea behind punk rock anyway? Numerous punk, hardcore, power pop, rock 'n' roll, and metal acts would boastfully emerge from the state's diverse scenes for decades to come, but eventually the inevitable would happen again. New Jersey would get a fresh branding for something embarrassing upon the arrival of half a dozen douche bags (most of whom weren't actually even from New Jersey) and a television show conveniently named "Jersey Shore." Our home state would swiftly acquire an atrocious rap for being saturated in spray-tanned Jäger-bombing doofuses whose incestuous conduct would make the raciest episodes of Beverly Hills 90210 look like passages from the New Testament. Ugh.

When I asked my girlfriend Stephanie what her opinion on NJ was she sent me this.

The actual Jersey Shore sound, as I previously mentioned, has absolutely nothing to do with these clowns. Sadly, that misrepresentation has convinced uninformed outsiders that New Jersey's music scene involves wrestling your girlfriend for looking at some other dude's muscles under the strobe light at a shore side nightclub or bands you consider diet Springsteen.

If there was time for a lengthier history lesson, I'd remind you of your band who more than like likely was booked in NJ at some point by the Gaslight Anthem's drummer, Benny Horowitz - one of our generation's working class legends.

I will leave you with a line that my friend Chris Batten once eloquently asserted. "It's not that you don't like Bruce Springsteen, you just haven't found your song yet."

Previously - Simple Tips On Wizardry for Billy Corgan

If you live in New York, you can go bother Jeff at Black Gold Records in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

You can also follow his (mostly) music-related thoughts at @jeffogiba