For the first time in several seasons, there’s new music from Joey Sweeney & The Neon Grease: The Magazine Moonlight EP, a five-songer that might just be the leanest, meanest, cleanest thing they’ve ever done.
After a spell recording as a stripped-down trio — Sweeney with longtime Grease rhythm section Jared Styles and Alec Meltzer — the band has added pedal steel player and harpist Jesse Sparhawk to the band. And with their Giving Groove label honchos Matt Teacher and Mike Lawson at the helm, tracking was done at Sine Studios. Which is important to the sound. The studio is located in the old Running Press brownstone, and recording was done entirely at night, overlooking the AM/PM gas station and the ghost of the old “Station of the Stars,” WPEN, on 22nd Street in downtown Philadelphia.
“For all the records I’ve ever played on,” says Sweeney, whose resume goes all the way back to The Barnabys in the 1990s and The Trouble With Sweeney in the 2000s, “we’d never made a record downtown, at night. But that’s the kind of music we make!”
And “downtown at night” is the sound they were looking for even harder than your cousin, Marvin Berry. And guess what? They found it. You can hear it already on the two songs that are already out on streaming platforms: “Air Traffic Controllers” has a Stones-y swagger with some, uh, Judd Apatow energy, and “Not Now” channels the Cars by way of a Jeff Tweedy-ish falsetto.
There’s more where this came from. All one must do is look to the nighttime skies. Magazine Moonlight is here, and you can bathe in it until the break of dawn.
Joey Sweeney has been writing songs and prose since the 1980s. Over the years, he has fronted the groups The Barnabys and The Trouble With Sweeney, as well as recording and performing as a solo artist. Meanwhile, he’s also written for a wide array of publications, including Salon.com, Philadelphia Weekly, the Philadelphia Inquirer and his daily perch, Philebrity.com, the cityblog he established in 2004 after a decade-long run as a rock critic.
His songs and records have received widespread critical acclaim over the years; he’s also garnered curse and praise as a writer of prose, having won the AAN Award for Music Criticism and appeared in Best Music Writing 2002. All the while, he has also continued to make music, gaining accolades from Pitchfork and American Songwriter, just to name a few, as well as continuing to write short stories and essays. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, the poet and editor Elizabeth Scanlon.