Video by Rahil Ashruff
Seeing Liquor Store at Death by Audio on the night of the fourth proved to be a good decision. “In these times of high spending and jacked up rent,” I said to myself, “tonight, on the most patriotic and sacred of holidays, I will live as a wild man set on a path for Dionysian debauchery.” And I’m proud to say, I did. It was the perfect way to enjoy the music of these north Jersey natives, who did what they’re known for: bringing true rock n roll. No flashy lights tied to keyboards here, no slick kids dressed in all black still jerking off to Joy Division. You don’t need brains to get this music. Just lead singer Sarim Al-Rawi entertaining the crowd with jams about suburban rage and good-times-gone-weird, backed by the lead lines from Evan Campbell and the steady force of Derek Warren on bass and Bill Bailey on drums.
Obviously, kids dug it. Sometimes I’m the only one rocking out during a show while the general public plays it cool, but for Liquor Store, Brooklyn’s young and beautiful lost themselves to the raw sound. These guys can bring out the howling bastard in anyone. You can be from anywhere and these guys will speak to you—hell, even my Indian cameraman loved them! They unleashed jolts of primitive dynamics with audacious force, hypnotizing the room into a troglodyte groove with songs like “Proud to be an American” and “Midnight Walker.” And with its catchy chorus, shake’em up rhythm section and a twin guitar attack, “Showdown at Wookie Lake” is a perfect example of the band’s might. The classic “Banned from Block” is another killer, pairing a 1950s sound with a lament about alienation — a theme we can all relate to.
These guys aren’t as technically proficient as their mall rock contemporaries, who shout dramatic heartbreaking choruses that recall days of sharing hearts and kisses at Hot Topic, or the scissor-kicking, rich kid emo bunnies, who hang their guitars around their ankles and thrash as if reenacting the seizure of a distant relative. Liquor Store doesn’t need this theater; their stage presence is grounded in strict confidence; they just stand there and play and let the music speak for itself. Sometimes it can fall flat. I like these guys and I’ve been seeing them for years, and you can have a historic show like on the fourth, or they can play looking like they don’t give a damn. Garage or punk can be the easiest music to play, but it’s the hardest to make raw, brutal, and badass. After you create your riff in your rehearsal space a bunch of pissed off kids in their parents basement are right behind you.
It’s been a long haul for Liquor Store, and constant touring in a mini-van can really be damaging to the psyche. But something tells me they can take the crap that this planet gives them and face it with a “Yeah Buddy” war cry, the tires still spinning. I hope these guys continue their gospel of truth, guitars, and the American way of partying, because rock is slowly turning into the drunk uncle at the family reunion that nobody wants to talk to. Maybe it’s the lack of sophistication that you get from Al-Rawi’s drunken shout-out singing style, or the unchangeable 4/4 rhythm of the bass and drums, but the bottom line is: If you don’t get their statement then, well, maybe it’s you that’s crazy.