Amber Lamps & the Musical Catnip Of “Plaidypuss”

Music being used as a form of therapeutic influence to affect behavior is an ages old technique, going as far back in time as the respected etchings of Plato. In the early 1800s, writings on its possible healing powers began to appear from Edwin Atlee and Samuel Mathews, med school students who were strong proponents of using this art form as a way of treating diseases. Interest in this field of “music therapy” picked up steam in the 1900s with the formation of several short-lived organizations such as the National Society of Musical Therapeutics (1903), the National Association for Music in Hospitals (1926), and the National Foundation of Music Therapy (1941).  Although their findings were full of factual reasoning, they were unable to secure nor develop their practices into a clinical profession. What they did accomplish, however, were the roots that helped lay the foundation for the National Association for Music Therapy, or NAMT, which was founded in New York City on June 2, 1950. NAMT succeeded where its predecessors failed by pushing the envelope on furthering research and developing higher standards on the education front, lasting well up until 1997. The American Association for Music Therapy formed in 1971, and helped launch the American Music Therapy Association in 1998 (in conjunction with the folding NAMT), with the mission of furthering public knowledge of the benefits of this “probably won’t be covered by my insurance” medical practice.  While this is all well and good, it doesn’t take a degree in “music medicine” to understand how a song can affect the way you feel. Or what you may pick out from your record collection to help you get over a bad day at work, some depressing headlines in the newspapers, or the fact that those “Cagney & Lacey” reruns are no longer on TV Land. The simple fact is, it’s human nature that you’ll prescribe yourself an uplifting platter of positive tunes and upbeat ditties that can help pull yourself out of an emotional crawlspace. That, in itself, is one of the most often used forms of self-remedies, ranking up there with apricot brandy for chest colds, and 8% IPA for a good kidney flush (or is that just me?).

The artwork for “Plaidypuss” is begging for its own underground comic book.

Having an old stand-by (or two) for that musical Robitussin is a necessity, but it’s always a welcome addition when a new album comes along from a new(er) band that allows you to explore your emotions with a psychological rum punch. “Plaidypuss” is that needed cocktail/prescription (and debut release) from Amber Lamps, a power pop/punk trio from New York (home of the aforementioned National Music Therapy Association, bringing this all full-circle) that includes vocalist/guitarist Brian Greene, bassist/vocalist Eddie James, and drummer Steve Roscigno. They formed originally as a covers band for Eddie’s high school graduation party in 2009 (under a different name and with a different drummer). Later that summer, the band began to write some music that would culminate into the song “Eddie’s Basement” with the lyrics being improvised by Brian on the spot. Playing on and off for the next few years, the group took the name of Amber Lamps in 2015, the same year that Brian and Eddie met their current drummer, Steve, at an open mic night in Bethpage on Long Island. With their creative juices flowing, they all wound up setting up their rock ‘n’ roll fort in Astoria, building a fast(er) growing fan base with their relentless gig schedule, and with an impressive portfolio of tunes, they were primed and well-oiled ready to hit the studio. Securing the talents of producer/mixer Mike Mazzotta of Providence Music Group in Lynbrook, the guys began recording their debut, which was released last year with mastering by Scott Hull of Masterdisk.

Great gift idea for those “hard to buy for” types.

“Plaidypuss” is the direct result of master songwriting, hard work, the recognition of catchy hooks, and emotional depth. Basically it’s the recipe of putting together an album that speaks. Sure, you’ll hear the echoes of Green Day and Blink-182 (whom they cite as influences), but it goes beyond the “phoning it in” of lazier Good Charlotte copycats. Highlights (for me) are “On the Radio” with its Rezillos-meets-Cyanide Pills style of fornicated new wave/punk, “Bitter Ride” which could have been a Jam song back in the day, yet covered in the modern era by Billy Joe Armstrong and company, and “Between the Lines” delivers a fist-in-the-air pumping good time that you can’t help but get a rush from. The four songs that round out the album, “Adrenaline”, “It’s Not Alright”, “James”, and “Legacy” are known as “The Quadrillogy”, the most personal songs on this disc. Two are about Brian’s struggles with panic disorder, and the latter duo focus on Eddie’s younger brother, who tragically lost his life in an automobile accident in 2015. Although one may be hard-pressed to view this as a downturn, what this does is demonstrate the maturity and thought-provoking lyricism that separates Amber Lamps from the usual Vans-wearing faux hawk-sporting crowd. Providing songs penned from the soul, it’s obvious that the boys from the land of “music therapy” are going to provide a soundtrack of mood music that will not only let you escape, but also bring you back home.

“On the Radio”

“Bitter Ride”

“Between the Lines”

Purchase “Plaidypuss” as a digital download or as a physical copy on Bandcamp.

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Joey Camp

Joey Camp is a former podcaster that's worked with the GaragePunk Hideout and Real Punk Radio. He currently resides in Roanoke, VA, and you can follow him on Twitter @Joey Camp.

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