makes a positively anthemic, stripped-down hobo-folk-blues-country-ish
noise... Picture a very friendly musical collaboration between Sam Cooke,
the Holy Modal Rounders, and Hank Sr. going down in a junkyard, the lyrics
a sliced-up-life, poetry-of-the-particular triumph.”
- Mike McGonigal, Yeti 2002
White Hassle's blend of rural country blues, 70's pop, 50's pop
(Everly Bros.), and skiffle
punk (Violent Femmes) is the stuff of genius.
White Hassle (named after the American fast food chain White Castle) is
a NYC band consisting of Marcellus Hall and Dave Varenka. Hall
plays harmonica, guitar, and sings. Varenka plays drums, metal percussion,
and sings harmony. Both Hall and Varenka played in the band
Railroad Jerk* (see below).
White Hassle released a full-length album on Matador Records
called National Chain (1997) and a 7 vinyl single on
Super 8 Records (1997). WH recorded for John Peel's BBC radio program
in London (1998). The band toured Europe via train (1998) and half
of the U.S. (1998). WH released a critically acclaimed CD-EP in June of
2000 on Orange Recordings (http://www.orangerecordings.com)
entitled Life Is Still Sweet. With guitarist Matt
Oliverio and other guests, WH recorded a full-length CD "The Death
of Song" (2002). "The Death of Song" was released
in Japan on the Mazri label (http://www.mazri.com,
2003), in Europe on Fargo Records (http://www.fargorecords.com,
2003), and in North America on Orange Recordings (2004). With guitarist
Chris Maxwell (formerly of Skeleton Key and the Gleaners; see
http://www.gleanersnyc.com and http://www.eleganttoo.com),
the band toured Europe for three weeks in November 2003. In 2004 Isaac
Brock of Modest Mouse tattooed "Life is Still Sweet" on his
arm and invited WH to play the "All Tomorrow's Parties" festival
in Long Beach, California.
White Hassle has been playing live and recording with
various special guests, notably DJ Atsushi Numata on turntable and Meredith
Yayanos on violin and theremin. See the "Shows" page on
this site for current band news.
The band has played the annual Austin, Texas music festival,
South by Southwest (SXSW), as well as the L'Abordage festival in Evreux,
France, July 2000. Since 1996, when WH started, the band has shared
bills with Pavement, Johnathan Fire*Eater, They Might Be Giants, Delta
72, Skeleton Key, the Melvins, Speedball Baby, Chavez, Rex, Hasil Adkins,
French Kicks, Catpower, Come, Fuck, Boss Hog, Luna, Bettie Serveert, the
Meat Puppets, the Blues Explosion, Girls vs Boys, the Shins, Polyphonic
Spree, the Country Teasers, the Rogers' Sisters, the Fiery Furnaces, Spoon,
Ugly Casanova, and the Walkmen, among others.
CDs may also be available at http://www.cdnow.com
revie w of the white hassle ep at suite 101.com
CMJ review at http://www.cmj.com/
review of White Hassle's "Life is Still Sweet"
REVIEW OF 'THE DEATH OF SONG'
NYC's White Hassle finally delivers
the goods with a collection of songs that masterfully
blend country, blues, indie rock, hip hop and classic
pop elements to their fullest potential. There's not a
bum track among them, but you've absolutely got to
hear the seething 'I Can?t Imagine (That You're
Happy)' and the exquisitely heart-breaking '2 By Sea.'
- Emmet Matheson, Regina Canada
REVIEW OF 'LIFE IS STILL SWEET'
With this long-awaited (by me at least) follow-up to 1997's NATIONAL
CHAIN, White Hassle displays a maturation of sorts. Where many
of the songs on NATIONAL CHAIN were admittedly experiments in
a different style of song-writing for Marcellus Hall (also known
for his Beefheart-meets-Pavement hi-fi outfit Railroad Jerk),
LIFE IS STILL SWEET sure-footedly showcases the lyrical dexterity
Marce Hall is adored for.
The title-track alone is worth the sticker price of this EP.
"Life is Still Sweet" is a melancholy affirmation of beauty,
that calls to mind Jack Kerouac's advice to "Accept Loss Forever."
Plaintive harmonica twinned with skipping-heart percussion by
Dave Varenka, will lift your spirit while leaving a lump in you
throat. When Hall pleads, "Please step away from the car/Please
step away from the car!" it's like having every single one of
your heart-strings plucked.
"Watertank," the first cut, jumpstarts the whole thing with
boom-sh-boom-boom, while "Futura Trance" puts the spotlight
Varenka and his bizarro collection of noise-makers and bangables.
An oddly faithful yet totally different (turntables and such)
Everly Brothers cover sneaks in, and before you know it, the
CD is over and you have to play it again. Which leads me to the
only complaint about LIFE IS STILL SWEET: I want more!!!
- Emmet Matheson, Regina Canada
WHITE HASSLE IN CONCERT ON THE WEB...
must register at this site to view
Over the span of ten years, Railroad Jerk - the celebrated, premiere,
industrial-folk, junkyard blues, rock band of the 90's - made four full-length
LPs for the independent label Matador (http://www.matadorrecords.com)
and toured the world. Beginning with "Railroad Jerk" (1990)
and "Raise the Plow" (1992) the quartet defined the blues-punk
sound of the era. Although never achieving the kind of mainstream recognition
enjoyed by other bands of the time, Railroad Jerk was an influential force
in what became known as "alternative rock." With the release
of "One Track Mind" (1994) and the legendary line-up now in
place, Railroad Jerk reached its biggest success. Drummer Dave Varenka,
guitarist Alec Stephen, bassist Tony Lee, and guitarist/vocalist Marcellus
Hall brought the RRJ sound across America and to Europe and Japan. The
"Rollerkoaster" video was shown on MTV's Beavis & Butthead
and the boys were sharing bills with the likes of Guided by Voices, The
Blues Explosion, Cibo Mato (sp?), Girls vs Boys, and Catpower. Everywhere
people could be heard shouting "Bang the drum!" and the song
"The Ballad of Railroad Jerk became a college radio hit. By this
time the band had become known for its excesses on and off the stage.
When "The Third Rail" (1997) was released, the nonstop touring
and whirlwind media circus had begun to take its toll on the boys and
they took refuge in the studio, recording demos for the fifth Railroad
Jerk LP which was to be entitled "Masterpiecemeal." This final
LP was never released but a bootleg cassette version is coveted in underground
circles as a record of the what many believe was the band's most productive
period. Dave Varenka and Marcellus Hall went on to form the much lauded
band White Hassle.
To see Railroad Jerk videos visit http://www.launch.com
and find Railroad Jerk