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Crank it up

The return of the Marvels
By BARRY THOMPSON  |  August 18, 2009

ANALYZE THIS The Marvels — Jesse Von Kenmore, Jimmy Burke, Michelle Paulhus, Staffy, and Zimmy Coma (with guitar) — don't agree about much except doing this band again.

Turning 21 was supposed to be the best thing ever, but the upgrade brought with it significant disappointment. Just as I achieved the required maturity for admission to grown-up clubs, the Marvels went and broke up. Their crunching, corrosive, punk 'n' roll anthems of self-loathing/destruction might lead fans to assume this fragmentation went down as a speedball-fueled, broken-bottled, switchblade-laden slobber knocker.

Turns out, the split was pretty amicable. Explains sardonic frontman Staffy while nursing a Guinness at the Marvels' dockside practice pad in Charlestown, "Zimmy [Coma, lead guitarist and songsmith] got offered a job in Florida. He thought it was for six months. Six months turned into two years. We didn't want to keep playing the same set over and over. If we'd had more time to write, we would've kept going, but it wasn't feasible to put the time and energy into the band that it deserved with him down in Florida."

Instead of going flat like a beer left on the counter all night, the Marvels opted to explode like a beer left in the freezer. They said a pair of shows in August of '05 would be their last. They lied, and for what it's worth, lies make baby Jesus cry. The skeevy punk 'n' roll elites return Friday to the Middle East.

"I've been in at least 25 bands," says drummer, persistently sober family man, and part-time New Alibi Jesse Von Kenmore, "but there's something about this one — it's like that psychotic girlfriend who's the greatest fuck of your life."

Ex-Dent and current Marvel bassist Michelle Paulhus begs to differ. "I don't feel that way. But the rest of them do."

"Michelle, you douchebag, I'm speaking fucking metaphorically!" retorts Von Kenmore.

The Marvels disagree about a bunch of shit. Von Kenmore thinks "Dead to the World," the acoustic closer off Cheat To Win (Abbey Lounge Records, 2004), could use a "swingin' country feel." Coma thinks blending other genres into rock and roll dilutes its asskickery. Paulhus likes Sandinista!; Coma doesn't. Von Kenmore doesn't drink; Staffy does. But they're all agreed about doing this band again.

It was following the undoing of the Throwaways (the band Staffy and Coma formed upon Coma's return to Boston) that an informal jam session comprising Coma, Von Kenmore, and Paulhus led to their propositioning Staffy and guitarist Jimmy Burke to re-form back in April at the Rumble. The opportunity to pick up where they left off presented itself, and, well, why the fuck not? Hardly content to phone it in with their back catalogue, they're brewing fresh Marvels material. And you needn't fear that time has turned the outfit that wrote "Hate Myself" and "I'm So Ugly" into a docile, well-adjusted bunch.

Let Coma tell you why. "Some people write songs about sunflowers and girlfriends and how the world should be. Some of us talk about how much we hate ourselves and hate our lives. It's a lot cheaper than going to see a shrink. It's tongue-in-cheek, but it's also very self effacing."

Just goes to show, self-loathing isn't really so bad. The only people who should really hate themselves are the ones who don't realize how much they suck. It's a very Bostonian sort of wisdom.

Von Kenmore sums it up: "There's a weird glass ceiling in Boston that a lot of people never quite punch out of, but you can exist in that place if you continue to be interesting and love what you're doing. Clubs come and clubs go, and scenes come and scenes go, but Boston supports that. It's a pretty good Petri dish for the Marvels to exist in."

THE MARVELS + DIRTY TRUCKERS + VAGIANT + PULP 45 | Middle East upstairs, 472 Mass Ave, Cambridge | August 21 at 9 pm | 18+ | $10 | 617.864.EAST or

Related: Noise in the hood, Fortunate one, Four play, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Sandinista National Liberation Front, Michelle Paulhus, Michelle Paulhus,  More more >
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  •   CRANK IT UP  |  August 18, 2009
    Turning 21 was supposed to be the best thing ever, but the upgrade brought with it significant disappointment. Just as I achieved the required maturity for admission to grown-up clubs, the Marvels went and broke up.
  •   GLOOM MERCHANTS  |  August 05, 2009
    It would’ve been nice if Bobby Hecksher, songsmith and ringleader of the Warlocks, had spoon-fed me some anecdotes from back when he used to trip out with Timothy Leary.
  •   THE NEW ALIBIS | HARD PROMISES  |  July 01, 2009
    Stick around any scene long enough and after a while everyone's been in a band with everyone else.
  •   WANDERING STARS  |  June 24, 2009
    The line between art and entertainment gets thicker and darker every time someone opens a Facebook account. Most of us music types are entertainers, because entertainers just want attention.
    There's nothing lazier than the typical cover band: musicians taking the easy way out for listeners who don't want to be challenged — or, worse yet, revisiting the glory years when their shitty taste in music was current and therefore socially acceptable.

 See all articles by: BARRY THOMPSON

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