Manhattan punk survivors finally deliver their first studio LP with Established 1972 NYC
Artist: Binky Philips and The Planets
Album: Established 1972 NYC
★★★★★ (5/5 stars)
Right out of the gate, this first official album from Binky Philips and The Planets could serve as a primer for how to make a damn near sonically perfect rock & roll record.
Every instrument, every note is recorded flawlessly and tucked neatly into its proper place in the mix, but there are still some raggedy edges and a looseness that give it a raw energy and yearning. There are some epic guitar tones contained within, as well. Gearheads will have a field day trying to identify each of the 14 vintage guitars that Planets’ founder, leader, songwriter and, of course, guitarist Binky Philips played – with great finesse – throughout the ten tracks.
Now here’s the kicker: This is the band’s debut release, yet they’ve been around and active since 1972 (hence the album title). You can do the math yourself, but the fact that this band has never put out any previous recordings during its lengthy existence is pretty mind-blowing. The Planets were a fixture at CBGB and Max’s during those heady rock & roll days of yore, enjoyed critical acclaim by all the cool kids, and were once offered a major label deal that was never inked. It’s the story of many a talented indie band that didn’t quite get there, but oh so deserved it. So…a decades late first release, is better than never.
It’s well known that Binky (referring to him by his last name will never work me) is one of the world’s biggest Who fans and it’s evident that the other fellas are pretty keen on them, too. You have to be a hardcore Who aficionado, though, to really hear their influence on this record, so, yeah, no derivative shit here. Lead vocalist Nolan Roberts does remind me, from time to time, of a post-Tommy era Roger Daltrey, but I also hear a less cultivated Freddie Mercury and even a smidge of Ian Gillan. In spite of some of the over-the-pond musical infiltration, the whole band together feels so spectacularly New York to me. It’s what I imagine the grit and sleaze of the New York City rock scene in the 70s was like, but infused with some second-phase, post-moptop British Invasion elements in the mix. Oh, and some meaty and beaty songwriting on top of all that. Don’t get me wrong, this record doesn’t necessarily sound dated. There’s a modernity underneath all that nostalgia that suggests just how well this record could have done in the Meet Me In The Bathroom era.
Kudos to producer/engineer J Z Barrell for recording drums so they sound like, well, drums. Every snare snap and cymbal slice in its organic realness. Same goes for the bass sound. I told you this record is an aural delight. Sure, credit is due to drummer Bobby Siems (who, I suspect, spent some of his youth worshiping at the altar of Keith Moon) and bassist Mike Greenberg, who provided Barrell with the high-quality raw materials. Speaking of Greenberg, the bass line on “Blink,” a standout track for me, is glorious. Other standouts include “Just Fine,” with its quirky, Belewesque guitar solo; “Leave Me Hanging,” accented in the chorus by an open, hanging guitar chord, for which I am a sucker; “Plumbing the Depths” and “Goodbye to All That.” But, for me, Established 1972 NYC works best as single entity from start to finish. Sure, the songs sound fab on their own, but they’re that much more satisfying as part of the whole shebang and in the proper sequence.
A top-notch first effort. Keep it up, lads, you may be onto something.
VIDEO: Binky Philips and The Planets perform “Little Tin Soldier” at the Trouser Press 40th Anniversary Party