Just Water

Downtown and Brooklyn: The Complete Recordings

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In the mid- to late '70s, Just Water were part of the clutch of bands emerging from the New York new wave/punk circuit. But they didn't get to put much on record, issuing a sole obscure 1977 LP and, on 45, a cover of "Singin' in the Rain" that made a stir on East Coast radio. This three-CD compilation unearths more Just Water than anyone outside of the band likely suspected existed, including the entire 1977 LP, The Riff; the unreleased follow-up album, Meet the Competition; the slightly different U.S. and U.K. versions of the "Singin' in the Rain" single; and numerous studio outtakes, demos, and live recordings. The band is billed as "one of the very first mainstays of the New York Punk Rock scene, 1974-1979," but while this collection does document an overlooked group with connections to that scene, caution should be exercised by those expecting or hoping for some actual punk or new wave music. It's not punk; in truth, much of it sounds closer to a more power pop-minded, indie Who than the New York Dolls, Ramones, Blondie, Television, and so forth. That's nothing to be embarrassed about; it would just be more suitably billed as part of the early New York '70s indie rock scene than as part of the punk scene in particular. Much of the material sounds something like the Who with more trivial subject matter and a slight bent toward sardonic novelty-tinged lyrics, with the raffish cover of "Singin' in the Rain" being about as close as they ventured to a new wave approach. Frankly, the material's not nearly as strong as songs by the Who or, for that matter, the best of the other emerging N.Y.C. bands operating outside of the mainstream; it's not bad, but it's no more than average, either. There's too much music here to justify a purchase by the casual fan of the style/era, but it's certainly well-packaged, including a 40-page booklet with a detailed band history, photos, and track-by-track commentary.

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