Released on Mike Simonetti's influential Troubleman Unlimited label in 1994, Rye and the Coalition's Teen-Age Dance Session 7" opened me up to a sound that I hadn't embraced yet. The New Jersey combo's sonic assault of dissonant guitars, jerky rhythms, and snotty vocals were a revelation to 19-year-old me. Hooked on their sound, I became a regular at the group's live shows at NYC/NJ area clubs like CBGB's and Maxwell's.
Shortening their name to Rye Coalition, the band shed most of its post-punk leanings by the time they released their debut album in 1999, The Lipstick Game, opting to go for a dirty rock 'n' roll approach that owed a debt to Bon Scott-era AC/DC. After their Steve Albini-engineered third album, 2002's On Top, hit stores, major label A&R scouts started sniffing around the band's van doors.
Signing with Dreamworks Records shortly after that, Rye Coalition secured Dave Grohl to produce their debut for the label. Even though the sessions yielded a superb album called Curses, the record got stuck in label limbo as Dreamworks was dissolved after a corporate shake-up. Curses eventually hit stores in 2006 via one of their former labels, New Jersey's Gern Blandsten, but all of the momentum Rye Coalition had going for itself was stunted by the band's label woes.
The Story of the Hard Luck 5 is a brand new documentary that chronicles Rye Coalition's journey from Jersey basement shows, to major label signees, to music industry survivors. Directed and produced by Jenni Matz, the film features interviews with the aforementioned Grohl, and Albini, plus Jared Warren (Big Business), Allison Wolfe (Bratmobile), and many other collaborators and fans of the band.
Clocking in at over 77 minutes, The Story of the Hard Luck 5 is a warts-and-all look at a band that got put through the ringer, but still maintains a humorous attitude about the whole thing. Being such a fanboy of the group, I've eagerly awaited the documentary's release since I first heard about it a couple of years ago. I must say that I'm impressed by Matz's work here. She not only did a bang-up job of telling Rye Coalition's story, but she also did a wonderful job of capturing the distinctive personalities of each member of the band. I'm sold.
I'll let Mr. Probot have the last words about the band:
"If everybody got a chance to see Rye Coalition, they'd go again. If they could FIND their records, they'd buy millions of them. These guys are badass and they can fucking smoke anybody."
- Amazon (DVD)