To stand out in Manhattan, you have to make sure to do something a bit against the grain. Josh Yavneh, a veteran to the NYC music scene, is well aware of the different nuances involved in taking influences from some of rock’s greatest performers and carving out a new sound with his group, Josh Yavneh and the Culprits. After all, he’s been grinding since 2005, writing and refining original music all the while. In their most recent release, On the Table, the band showcases their ability to write around Josh’s rock-styled singer/songwriter originals. Pulling from the likes of Tom Petty and Wilco, these “good ol’ rock n roll” tunes are amped up with fuzz-washed bass lines and concise, distorted guitar leads. Timothy Kessler (bass) provides a lot of character to the lower end of every song, while Kevin Maryles (lead guitar) mirrors the fuzzed-out tones on guitar. John Kurzman (drums) keeps a steady pulse in the pocket, but also shows his ability to break out and provide energy with his fills. All of this makes for a nicely formulated rock EP.
The band takes a big cue from the blues in general, especially with the raspy vocals and quick, efficient lead solos. As a tip of the hat to Josh, it’s quite the accomplishment to get that kind of vocal tone without sacrificing intonation, but he is able to pull off a good Fogerty-styled vocal performance on these songs while also keeping his own unique baritone resonance ever present. The first and second tracks (“Grey Clouds”, “7:35”) maintain a consistent feel, giving the EP an immediate feeling of live energy. The band’s performance is great, and the songs never seem to drag at all. You can tell just from listening that the band is having fun. The EP makes the listener feel like they’re in the bar seeing the band; one hand tending to a beer, the other in their pocket, head bobbing to the beat- just getting ready to really rock out once the solo kicks in.
The group harnesses that energy and bottles it a bit in the third track, “Like a Dead Horse (On the Table)” to opt for a more ominous tone. The guitars and bass do a good job of using their effects tastefully to differentiate lead parts and to put the vocal parts on a pedestal when appropriate. The song eventually climaxes right at the end, leaving off on a more energetic note and setting the mood for the energy to boomerang back. The final track yields the most depth. The shouted chorus “Bad ache!” sets the song up for a Morello (RATM) styled guitar solo- complete with whammy and moxie. Add to this a spacious harmonica lead to trade off with the guitar, and this song acts as a great EP capper. The band fuses influences from so many rock greats and does so while remaining original and exciting. It would be interesting to hear a release with more lyrical content, and either crisper production or grittier production. Josh Yavneh and the Culprits define themselves as a rock band but also leave the door open to continue to form their sound and evolve. If you’re in the NYC area, and you’ve yet to catch these guys live, get out there and do it! Take a listen to this EP to learn some of the words to sing along.