Swingin' Neckbreakers -- Shake Break!

Growing up in rural New Jersey, I didn't have very many ways to discover new music. The local mall's shoebox-sized Sam Goody was, for most of my youth, the only music store around and, while I was able to buy a few Ramones, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, and Dead Kennedys cassettes there, the amount of punk rock available to me was pitifully small. Nor was the Internet much of a help because, in my mid-teens, it was still restricted to academics and military intelligence. So, it was a small miracle when I picked up a copy of Maximumrocknroll on one of my infrequent excursions to a slightly more populous area. That issue blew open my musical menu and I read that damn fundamentalist punk rag cover-to-cover. Still, lacking a checking account and, even more devastatingly, a turntable, I couldn't order many of the bands I'd read about.

What MRR did give me, though, was a sense of what was out there, of what was possible. Within a month or two, I started my own fanzine, Sobriquet Magazine, the photocopied-and-stapled publication that has evolved into what you see before your eyes today.

Of the twenty-two copies I sold of that first issue, four were sold by the owner of Hackettstown's wonderful little independent record store, Sound Effects. When I went to check in on the zine, the owner, Jerry Balderson, informed me that he'd sold all four copies of the zine and went to get the four dollars he'd collected for me. Once I realized that this man had generously sold a zine for some kid he'd never met before without taking a penny for himself, I decided to buy something from his store as a teenage attempt at showing gratitude. Looking around hastily and not really expecting to locate anything that I would have really wanted, I happened to see a small stack of Book Your Own Fuckin' Life, an annual MRR publication that the zine had been touting as the DIY Bible. When I reached for my wallet, Jerry insisted that we "trade" my four zines for the BYOFL, essentially giving it to me for free.

When I got home and started paging through the listings in BYOFL, I was delighted to find a listing for Princeton's WPRB Radio's punk show, "Hey You Kids, Get Off My Lawn!" and promptly nudged my radio's dial into position. Every Saturday night for the rest of the time I lived in New Jersey, I listened to Jen and Mike's program, discovering bands like Screeching Weasel, Tilt, Teengenerate, and New Jersey's own Swingin' Neckbreakers.

After I had taped every broadcast that I could, I made a compilation of my favorite songs, which I would bring with me on my next decade's travels through Norway, Minnesota, Quebec, and New York. By the time the cassette had worn out to the point where I didn't really want to risk playing the tape anymore, I'd systematically located most of songs on CD, but I could never find the Swingin' Neckbreakers. Luckily, Little Steven's fondness for the band meant that the Neckbreakers were featured regularly on his Sirius channel, the Underground Garage. Of course, he never played "I'm in Love With Me," the track I'd first heard more than ten years before. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I was able to locate the song on Shake Break! which I promptly set out to get my hands on. Of course, it wasn't available on iTunes or any other MP3 site I checked out, so I had to order the disk and I had to pay handsomely for the privilege.

And you know what? I don't regret it a bit. Shake Break! is a wonderfully fun garage punk-meets-Creedence Clearwater Revival record. Between originals like the aforementioned "I'm In Love With Me" and "Help Wanted" and covers of tracks like "Ice Water" (Glen Barber) and "Brown Eyed Girl," the Swingin' Neckbreakers are every bit as entertaining as the wrestling move from which they take their name (see the Honky Tonk Man's "Shake, Rattle, and Roll").


Track 1. "Wait." This fast, poppy tune channels the spirit of the Kingsman Trio and infuses it with a burst of pop-punk energy.

Track 2. "Mighty Mack." Here we have "a silly white boy" singing about a"mighty black" singer named Mighty Mack who, despite the fact that he "could have been the King," was forgotten by the music establishment that ripped him off. With a steady, pounding backbeat, "Mighty Mack" is one of the album's most immediately accessible tunes.

Track 8. "I Wanna Be Your Driver." A frenetically-paced, bluesy chunk of pure rock and roll.

Track 9. "I'm In Love With Me." The reason I bought this album. A sardonically-told tale of narcissism ("And there's no one that's gonna come between me"; "you're in love with me, but you're too late. I'm already taken by me," etc.) sung over a straight-forward punk background. Fucking brilliant.

Track 12. "A Thousand Times a Day." Fast, loud, and catchy: the sort of love song that a tough guy can play for the apple of his eye without having to worry about compromising his cool.

Track 14. "The Girl Can't Help It." A speedy, thoroughly energetic cover of the Little Richard classic.


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