FIREWOMAN'S LIFT REVIEWS
“Unexpectedly philosophical and human. Well worth catching.”
Actress Cathy Haase is a firewoman trapped and helpless with her audience in a lift of the World Trade Center on September 11 in this one-woman show. Informed by interviews with New York’s firefighters and first-hand accounts, the play invites audience members to ride in the elevator of the World Trade Center with an off-duty woman firefighter, trapped in a situation that is incomprehensible and intense but unexpectedly philosophical and human. This is the world premier of the play. Well worth catching before the run ends today.
“By far one of the most powerful experiences of my day- in fact, one of the most powerful experiences of my year is seeing Cathy Haase performing Risa Mickenberg’s one-woman playlet FIREWOMAN’S LIFT….This is a terrific symbiosis of space and work, heart and head…(A) quiet, moving character study…with more warmth than one would have thought advisable in a confined space…Theatre gets no more close up and personal than this.”
“Among the more striking events (in unusual venues) is Firewoman’s Lift written by American playwright Risa Mickenberg. An unusually intense experience.”
REVIEWS NEW CD
The New Yorker
Brian Block Epinions.com
BEST ALBUMS OF 2008
13. Jesus H. Christ and the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse, Happier than You. Risa Mickenberg is, as far as I know, the funniest lyricist going these days, which is not to say her band should be filed (or dismissed, if that's your sad way) with Tom Lehrer or Moxy Fruvous or They Might Be Giants. Hers is a social, storytelling humor of the people around her, Atom and His Package with more devoted rhyming skills and a less-flourished geekiness. Why, seven of the thirteen songs are about male/female relationships, even if Risa is more likely than most to ask you to be her "Back Burner Guy" ("you can stroke my ego, but that's all") or to imagine a song in Missed Connections Craigslist ad form. The jazzy Rogers-and-Hammersteiny show tune "I Miss Your Arm" doesn't miss her ex's brain or his personality or his sexxxing her up, but does miss his sheer comforting physical presence. Which actually isn't funny, but humor often is simply the guise that unused good ideas hide in.
When they want to, the Four Hornsmen play top-notch good-time rock and roll, supplemented with horn section (hence the name) and the sprightly Cars-style synth lines that Del Shannon legitimized way back in 1961. More often they're futzing skillfully with surf-rock ("Vanity Surfin'"'s internet goofery is lyrically simple but musically far more developed than the genre requires), or balancing piano balladry with thrash-punk, or waiting for some Rockettes to prance by, or doing a gentle folk sing-along tribute to the "Alcoholics in My Town". I have no idea how sincere the album is, and I may not have expected to care. But the spoken-word sections of "I Hope You're Happy" are as emotionally universal and touching as they are weird and specific in detail, "Pathetic" sure works as an anthem, and "I'm Around" actually sort of frightens me and probably drops the album a few ranks from where it belongs. The lesson being, don't judge a band on their stupid name, even if, like me, you're in favor of the stupid name.
"Sexually experienced Manhattan SWF seeks companionship--really wants to talk about it
Backed faithfully by an all-male septet that injects stealth hooks and four horns into its accomplished theater rock, Risa Mickenberg speaks for the neurotic women on whom neurotic men blame their problems. A satirist who aimed for laugh lines on Jesus's 2006 debut, she's both sharper and nicer here. Though "Liz the Hot Receptionist" is incurably dim, and anyone willing to stay on ice as Mickenberg's "Back Burner Guy" has only himself to blame, the missed connection of "Julie on the Fung Wah Bus" is a romance disguised as a spoof, and you'd have to be meaner than Mickenberg to mock poor Monica, the character whose answering-machine entreaties provide the entire lyric of "I'm Around." Mickenberg has the kind of cutesy voice that jerks find annoying unless it comes with porn skills. Non-jerks who go for the brains it masks stand a chance of being remembered as fondly as the lost love of "I Hope You're Happy."
Blender, Dec. 2008
BLENDER THEATRE AT GRAMERCY
127 E. 23rd St. (212-307-7171)—Oct. 20: The local ensemble Jesus H Christ and the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse has a crusading horn section, some fine guitar playing, and a growing catalogue of sharply satirical power pop. Having made a splash on the Internet and satellite radio two years ago with the sparkling ditty “Connecticut’s for Fucking” and a self-titled album, the group has a new album of prickly songs, “Happier Than You.” Oct. 21: The rapping Chicago duo the Cool Kids boast of being the new black Beastie Boys, and their old-school bass-heavy approach has put them on the vanguard of the underground hip-hop scene.
Jesus H. Christ & The Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse - Happier Than You (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]
Imagine that Sarah Silverman never decided that saying "fuck" and shocking people was clever, and it actually made her funnier. And then while working on Mr. Show, Jack Black played her a Tenacious D demo and she decided to steal the idea and rework it as horn-laden power pop. That's basically what we've got here, and it is fantastic. Any album that teaches me a new song to sing for my 2 year-old, including the lyric "Like an anorexic needs self-esteem/you gotta have a dream" ...well, that's a winner. - tom d.
MSN.COM INSIDE MUSIC
Remember Lina Lamont in "Singin' in the Rain"? Imagine a woman who sings the way she talks -- only she can carry a tune and use her brain. Most guys consider her affected, but therapy has taught her that that voice is just part of who she is, like her insecurities, and she copes with both. Mostly in the first person, she explores characters like the compulsively obliging half-Broadway chameleon she is, even a guy once. She's manipulative in "Back Burner Guy," desperate in "I'm Around," over it in "I Miss Your Arm," not actually over it in "I Hope You're Happy" post-celibate in "Dry Spell": "Suddenly she feels pretty/Suddenly she feels young/Suddenly her neighbor on the co-op board is not wrong." If you have a heart, you'll wish her the best.
Perhaps more intimidating than Jesus H. Christ and the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse's portentous name is the collective musical experience represented by the approximately 8+ piece band, and as a reviewer I hesitate to attempt an adequate description of the ribald intelligence clearly manifest when musicians who have played with artists from Prince to Elton John join others who include Broadway performers, a recipient of the Pushcart Prize and the author of the book Taxi Driver Wisdom. The seemingly incongrous list of descriptors that the band offers on their website, featuring more nouns like "compassion fatigue, boobs, Old Lyme, and widower-lust" than typical promotional adjectives, implies both their winking sense of humor and allusive creativity. Happier Than You is accordingly flippant yet shrewd; too burlesque to be severe, yet too smart to be trivial.Much like the similarly theatrical World/Inferno Friendship Society, the acronymically daunting JHC&TFHotA creates a specific band identity and internal culture comprising idiosyncratic narrative vignettes. Songs like album opener "Liz the Hot Receptionist" work in part because listeners recognize the stereotype of the attractive secretary who buys Sudoku on her way to work and eventually marries a real-estate agent. "Alcoholics in my Town" collates various personalities affected by the titular habit before chorusing across brands of liquor and ending in some of the most sardonic "ba-ba-ba's" this side of the But I'm a Cheerleader soundtrack. Most songs present their subjects through this satirical lens, either advocating "a brand new surfing sensation/for the sedentary generation" on "Vanity Surfin'" or celebrating the simple fact that a formerly celibate woman was finally able to "get her rocks off" on closer "Dry Spell." Even the album's most overtly self-loathing track, "Pathetic," lampoons its piteous narrator with mock questions like "Do you hate me for asking if you hate me?Yet, all the derisive witticisms of a late George Carlin act may not always constitute a successful music album, and fortunately JHC&TFHotA supports its lyrical acumen with rousing horns and a powerfully voiced female vocalist who leads the whole procession as if they were in turn helping her lure a cartoon wolf listening with his tongue on the floor. The trumpets and trombones accent rhythmic guitar work that transforms styles between bouncing ska riffs, punk distortion and a little bit of surf, while pedal steels, upright basses, and the sound of tap dancing all add to the carnivalesque atmosphere. At times I was left hoping that some bittersweet moments had been extended further, such as those slightly melancholy details mentioned at the beginning of "Liz the Hot Receptionist," and occasionally the band's irreverent personality seem lacking in sympathy for the characters it creates. The searching specificity of these comments, however, indicates how rapidly this collection of talent has then realized its singular identity.
ALL MUSIC GUIDE
If you call your band Jesus H Christ and the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse you better be ready to bring some serious mojo to the party. It's a name that's guaranteed to piss people off and produce a strong reaction, and the band lives up to its snarky moniker with 13 tasty little gems that take a jaundiced view of modern life in all its vexing complexity. The Hornsmen play in a variety of styles that reference everything from blues shuffles to ska syncopations to new wave jitter. They keep the party going with their energetic presentation and the terrific vocals of lead singer and songwriter Risa Mickenberg, a stylist who can shift from girlish merriment to smoky solemnity in the batting of an eye. There is indeed a horn section, but it doesn't take center stage, except on the new wave/ska/B-movie theme instrumental "The Vixen." Mostly, it's part of a unified front that puts everything into the service of the song, and the songs here are uniformly superb. If you think of the the B-52's doing songs written by Elvis Costello and arranged by Nick Lowe you'll be in ballpark, but the band has a skewed personality that's all its own. Take "Back Burner Guy," for example. It sounds like a '60s era girl group pop tune, but the attitude of callous narcissism is contemporary. Mickenberg sounds gleeful as she keeps her second string beau at arms length with a teasing vocal. "You'll never kiss me, so don't even try," she sings, with enough of a smile in her voice to keep the sap hanging on. "Vanity Surfin'" is indeed a surf tune, but it's about people who surf the net to Google themselves for a cheap kick and is a lot funnier than this dry description might lead you to believe. "I Miss Your Arm" is a late-night salon standard that could have been written in the '40s, a song of lost love that Mickenberg sings with aching sincerity. "Alcoholics in My Town" is either laugh-out-loud funny, or a pathetic commentary of small town life; it probably depends on your viewpoint or drinking habits. It's a slow bluesy tune with a touch of surf guitar twang that paints little vignettes of the loners and losers we've all known. "I Hope You're Happy" is a modern talking blues with a deadly punch line, about trying to come to terms with a failed relationship. Mickenberg and Joel Shelton, the band's guitarist and co-songwriter, sing the lyrics with a deadpan delivery that intensifies its deadly irony. The Hornsmen have obvious influences, but they've been blending into the band's unified vision. Their literate, darkly humorous lyrics, inventive arrangements, and the edgy, effervescent vocals of Mickenberg make them something special. ~ j. poet, All Music Guide
BEST ALBUMS OF 2008
CHUCK EDDY- RHAPSODY BLOG (#79)
Jesus H. Christ & the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse
Happier Than You
Most of us pass through this vale of tears whipsawing between rage and despair at the annoying dreck on display around us. Brothers and sisters, Risa Mickenberg feels your pain. Her group's second album is another fabulous collection of punchline pop -- theatrical, funny, catchy and most of all smart. From the titular subject of "Liz the Hot Receptionist" to the self-esteem-deprived loser in "Pathetic," you know these people -- or you are these people.
LARGEHEARTED BOY (Interesting music releases)
DUKE OF STRAW
Not only do Jesus H Christ And The Four Hornsmen Of The Apocalypse have one of the best bands names in music today, they also make a kind of music no one else is performing. Let’s call it: Ska-mical (part ska, part comedy).Their songs are humorous in nature and have a strong horn presence. The powerchord guitars are nicely distorted. And they use the whole band for backup vocals.Their new album is called “Happier Than You” and has 13 lucky tracks. They may have gained some interest with their song “Connecticut’s For Fucking” but this new album proves they are more than just a one-of novelty band.
SPIN MAGAZINE- SONGS TO DOWNLOAD NOW: Alcoholics in my town