Back in the early aughts, the Boston-adjacent city of Waltham, Massachusetts produced a pair of the decade’s best power-pop bands — one named after the city the two groups called home (Waltham), the other named after a character from Fast Times At Ridgemont High (Damone). The two bands literally grew up together and had some overlapping personnel and shared influences: Cheap Trick, the Ramones, the Cars, Rick Springfield, the Outfield, Eddie Money, Van Halen, Weezer. Waltham had a male singer (Frank Pino) and Damone had a female singer (Noelle Leblanc), but they sounded pretty similar in most respects, due in no small part to guitarist Dave Pino (Frank’s brother, and a 100%-legit guitar god), who played in and wrote for both bands. Because they came of age when the music industry was still a semi-functional source of revenue for rock music, both Waltham and Damone got big label deals and prominent song placements and were ticketed for arena-size success. Needless to say, they fell short for whatever fucking reason(s), and success, it never came. Waltham kinda stagnated and Damone pretty much fell apart, but both stuck around long enough to release a few albums that I’ll carry around with me till the day I die.
I’m not saying this just to say it: I LOVE those bands and those albums. I think it’s a goddamn crime that they never got even a fraction of the burn they deserved, and I’m seriously thankful that I found them before they were lost to history. But the core members of those bands are still around, still in contact, still supremely talented, and sometimes they step away from their day jobs long enough to drop new music, not because they have visions of loaded stadiums or ballparks or because they wanna relive past glories, but because they love making music and they are super-fucking-great at it. And anytime they make a brief return (the last time was a Waltham EP in 2014), I drop everything else and listen. I have never once been disappointed.
Anyway, today Waltham are back with a one-off called “Summer Nights,” and it’s a sorta extra-special track because it features Damone’s Noelle Leblanc on backing vocals. Do you know how happy that makes me? You cannot possibly know. It makes me, like, deliriously happy. If these guys launched a Kickstarter to do a Waltham full-length with Noelle doing lead on half the tracks, I would pledge and gladly pay $100 — that’s ONE HUNDRED AMERICAN DOLLARS — to help them get to their goal. I dunno if they could make an album on a hundred bucks, though. Bizarrely, the song comes accompanied by a video featuring Waltham and Noelle as puppets and … Corey Feldman as … himself? Not totally sure. The song is outstanding. Check it out below, and below that, I’m gonna drop in a pair of old songs, because who knows if I’ll ever get a chance to talk about Waltham and Damone again. I hope I do. I gotta believe I will. Listen.
You can download “Summer Nights” at Waltham’s Bandcamp.
Here’s a song from Damone’s 2003 debut LP, From The Attic. It is appropriately called “Frustrated Unnoticed.” It rules so hard.
Here’s a song from Waltham’s 2005 self-titled LP. It is called “So Lonely.” It too rules so hard.