THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1996, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Sunday, May 19, 1996 TAG: 9605160221 SECTION: CAROLINA COAST PAGE: 20 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: john Harper LENGTH: Medium: 87 lines
Too Much Joy, playing the Atlantis nightclub Friday, recently received a thank-you letter from a fan not commonly associated with alternative rock.
Seems that earlier this year, the New York band passed through Washington, D.C. At a gig in the nation's capital, a guy in a TMJ T-shirt approached the band and said he'd turned Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich into a Too Much Joy fan.
Apparently, this kid, Jeff Holland, worked for the GOP in the 1994 elections, and played TMJ's ``Theme Song'' at a staff party.
The fan said Gingrich, Dick Armey and other members of the Republican leadership were so struck by the song's chorus (``To create/You must destroy/Smash a glass and cry/Too Much Joy!) that they played the song over and over.
The fan later presented each member of the four-man band with a letter from Gingrich, explaining how much he liked the song and thanking them for the inspiration it provided the Republican Party.
Asked for his reaction to this bizarre and unexpected turn of events, Too Much Joy vocalist Tim Quirk said on a Discovery Records press release: ``We've always considered our songs as our children. I guess `Theme Song' is the black sheep of the family. But we still love it.''
Although the speaker's adoration may prove fleeting, the 10-year-old band has a solid following that embraces the group's fast, loud music and biting lyrics.
``We do melodic pop,'' says TMJ guitarist/vocalist Jay Blumenfield. ``It's massive pop that slips into your brain and then explodes.''
Too Much Joy is on the road in support of ``Finally,'' the band's first album in three years and fifth overall. The first two albums, ``Green Eggs and Crack'' and ``Son of Sam I Am'' were independent releases. The last two, ``Cereal Killers'' and ``Mutiny,'' were on Giant Records, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers.
``The name of the album fits,'' Blumenfield says. ``We've finally made the album that shows what we are.''
``Finally'' is angst-driven rock 'n' roll, but with a catch. The music is loud, but not angry.
``If you just play harsh and angry music all the time,'' he says, ``you're just preaching to the converted, and who needs that?''
``Finally'' was produced by William Wittman, who recently became the band's bassist. Wittman worked as a producer and engineer on records by Graham Parker, Cyndi Lauper, Hooters and Joan Osborne.
One of the dozen songs on ``Finally,'' is ``Mrs. Now.'' Fueled by Blumenfield's grungy guitar lead and Tommy Vinton's jack-hammer drumming, the song examines a man seeing an old girlfriend who now is married to someone else.
``Sitting on my couch/Trying to decide what's appropriate/It's kind of strange/Don't worry about me I can cope with it/You call that a kiss/You treat me like I'm your brother/If that's all there is/Wish we just despised each other.''
Who hasn't felt some of that?
The first single is ``The Kids Don't Understand,'' a numbing anthem about dead-end jobs and the failure of love.
``We're not dumb, even if you spell it/We catch on, don't have to yell it/I see her flinch when you raise your hand/There's not too much that the kids don't understand.''
But don't expect the live show to be so serious. TMJ has been known to throw in cover tunes like Terry Jacks' sickly sentimental ``Seasons in the Sun.''
``We'll do a cover,'' Blumenfield says. ``If we can make it our own.''
The truth is you never know what to expect during a TMJ show. In 1990, the band was arrested for performing songs from 2 Live Crew's banned ``Nasty as They Wanna Be.''
``A lot of groups don't like to play live,'' Blumenfield says. ``But our theory is to play a lot of shows and get people talking about you.''
``Our live show is something special. We become one with our audience. But, we're also happy if they go away with something.''
Catch Too Much Joy on Friday at Atlantis. But be prepared to listen and think at the same time. MEMO: John Harper covers Outer Banks entertainment for The Carolina Coast.
Send comments and questions to him at P.O. Box 10, Nags Head, N.C.
ILLUSTRATION: Photo courtesy of ROBERT LEWIS
Members of the group Too Much Joy include, clockwise from top left,
Tommy Vinton, Tim Quirk, William Whitman and Jay Blumenfield.