Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Best Band You Have Never Heard Of- Marah

I am a hopeless romantic when it comes to this band. I love Marah, always have and always will. They are my third favorite band of all time behind The Beatles and Uncle Tupelo . They are the best live band I have ever seen and I have seen them numerous times. Never have I seen a show that was even remotely disappointing. They always leave every ounce of energy on stage. I have seen them in traditional clubs and church basements and they have always given their everything whether there were 30 people or 230 people. They bleed rock and roll music and all that comes with it. When someone asks me what rock and roll music is, I tell them to listen to Marah. They embody its grit, attitude, soul and never let it go.

This is a band loved by many from Bruce Springsteen, Oasis, and Steve Earle to author Nick Hornby. Yet when I mention them, the typical answer I get is “who?” Even many of my music friends have never heard of them. Why then aren’t they huge and on everyone’s tongue? It seems that they are destined to live the image of what a rock and roll band should be. They have always trusted themselves rather than the labels, management, or record companies. They bring a swagger and attitude with them and I imagine that doesn’t sit well with the upper wrung of executives who want to control them. They have recorded 9 full length albums that have been released on 5 different labels. To be honest, at times they almost seem to self destruct. I don’t know whether it is themselves, bad luck, or whatever but this seems to be part of their destiny. For their real fans, this is what makes us love them and their style.

The two principals of the band have been the Bielanko brothers, Serge and David. They formed Marah in Philadelphia in 1995 and released their first album Let’s Cut the Crap and Hook up Later in 1998. It got a lot of great press. They followed it up with Kids in Philly in 2000. Again another critically acclaimed album. This is one of my Top 5 albums of all time. They go through personal and label changes but always continue to further the Marah sound. In 2008 they released Angels of Destruction which was supposed to finally put them into the mainstream psyche. Their songwriting on this album was superb and this was my favorite line-up. Then a few days before a major European tour the band fell apart. It seemed the title about destruction seemed to fit them. Serge left the band after this album to start a family and we all figured Marah was finished for good. But David hooked up with some new players and released the aptly titled Life Is a Problem in 2010. In typical Marah fashion they only released it on vinyl and cassette until late last year when they finally agreed to put it out in CD. David is in the process of writing new material and putting it out this year.

Enjoy this live video of It's Only Money, Tyrone which is a song from the Kids from Philly album. It captures the enthusiasm of their live show and it is from my favorite Marah line-up. Make it full screen and turn up the volume!!

Despite all the reason to give up on Marah, I can’t. They are too good no matter what they do to me. How can you not love a band that uses bagpipes, bottles, lap steels, horn sections, dobros, train whistles, xylophones, and tapes of sleeping people and phone calls into their music. How can you not love a band that has recorded in an auto repair garage as well as a bathroom? This is what rock and roll is about. Trust your instincts and go out and do it, despite that people say differently. How can you give up on a band that gives their all every time out whether it is in a studio or a live show? Once you get them in your soul, they will never leave you. Working the merch table for many bands I get a lot of cool memorabilia. My favorite band memorabilia is a huge signed Marah poster that has David on the ground paying homage to his guitar and the crowd in front of him. It is Marah. It is rock and roll.

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