≡ Menu

Jewish music that doesn’t suck

This was originally posted on Heeb

One of the biggest problems with Jewish music is, well, its too Jewish. I dont understand why Jews cant write music about Jewish issues without bringing up the Torah. I recently drove a U-haul from Texas to the Bay Area and it only had a radio, no CD player or auxiliary audio jack for mp3s. If youve driven through the middle of nowhere before, you already know theres usually a surplus of Christian radio on the dial. On my trip I listened to a lot of surprisingly good Jesus music, but I couldnt tell it was Jesus music until the commercials about supporting families and protesting gay marriage came on. I began to wonder, Why cant Jews make music that doesnt sound or deal with inherently religious topics?

Meet The Groggers, possibly the first
Orthodox Jewish band that doesnt sound Jewish. Fuck, even Matisyahu cant go a few lines without throwing in some biblical verse. And dont even get me started on the so-called Chabad hip hop movement. I was listening to the new album from The Groggers the other day and for the first time in my life I forgot I was listening to Jewish music. I thought for a second that I was listening to MXPX or New Found Glory. The Groggers are a Modern Orthodox Jewish punk rock band from Queens that sings about young Jewish angst.

I first heard about The Groggers last year when they put out a music video about giving a girl a get. A get is a religious divorce document required by Jewish law so that a woman may remarry. In some instances a man may withhold theget,to keep a woman in order to extort money or retain power over her. It was a pleasure to see a song about such a serious issue from an Orthodox band.

The new album Theres No I in Cherem is filled with songs about dating, the Upper West Side, Israeli politics and playing ball on Shabbos. Its pop-punk, feel-good music that makes you bob your head in the car and forget about the stop and go traffic on your morning commute. Malka Jihad is their take on Israeli politics. The song is about a boy who falls in love with a liberal Jewish girl who supports the creation of a Palestinian state. Its funny and although obviously right-wing, I respect that they werent clich in their unwavering anti-Palestinian stance.

Their newest video is decent, but it’s the music that rocks:

Search for the groggers on 4torah.com

{ 58 comments… add one }
  • H.E. Pennypacker September 8, 2011, 4:05 PM

    lame

  • yankel September 8, 2011, 5:10 PM

    not lame

  • Moty September 8, 2011, 6:02 PM

    uh oh, who’s gonna be the tiebreaker?

  • Crowin' Cock September 8, 2011, 6:15 PM

    Extremely lame.

  • Chaim September 8, 2011, 6:15 PM

    I think the reason for singing songs that only have to do with either Hashem or Mitzvss is because after the churban bais hamiksdash all music was banned except when the song is singing praises of hashem or increases in torah observance

    • Heshy Fried September 8, 2011, 10:26 PM

      And who exactly decides what will increase someone’s torah observance, because Miami Boys Choir makes me want to leave the derech right now.

      • ghottistyx September 9, 2011, 4:33 PM

        MBC makes me want to shoot myself!

        • random reader September 11, 2011, 9:30 PM

          but Athens Boy Choir’s Bar Mitzvah Superhits of the 80’s 90’s and Today leaves me feeling affectionate for my Jewishness, and it is definitely not all biblically themed.

          http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/athensboys2

  • ploni September 8, 2011, 6:16 PM

    Oh please, the get song isn’t even about withholding a get after separation, and the song doesn’t deal with the issue maturely or seriously at all. Also, there are plenty of Orthodox artists that don’t have the “traditional” Jewish music sound. On a more positive note, it’s a fun album to listen to. And the Eishes Chayil video is great.

    (stupid comment system ate up my previous post so apologies if this appears twice)

    • Dan September 8, 2011, 11:55 PM

      I think that is kind of the point. It is just music to enjoy.

  • Yosh September 8, 2011, 6:20 PM

    Except Saturday. They’re excellent and sound a lot like the Goo Goo Dolls in the early 90’s, except with Jewish themes.
    http://www.exceptsaturday.com/

  • MARk September 8, 2011, 6:41 PM

    EXTREMELY NOT LAME!!!!

  • ghottistyx September 8, 2011, 7:17 PM

    Come on, the Groggers can’t be the only Jewish band out there that doesn’t sound Jewish. I’ve seen Soulfarm go entire sets without Jewing it up (at my sister’s wedding, per my request, they did an entire Grateful Dead set, my brother-in-law and his brother did “Rapper’s Delight”, and they ended the set with their cover of “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell, though they play it like CSNY).

    • Crowin' Cock September 9, 2011, 5:42 AM

      Ghottistyx,

      Anthrax doesn’t sound very Jewish either, nor do Kiss or Disturbed. OK, I realize they’re not singing about the same themes, but I don’t understand why Jewish themed popular music has to suck.

      Back in my yeshiva days, non Jewish music was banned. Made us hate Avraham Fried and the boys choirs even more. To the point where I actually attacked Avraham Fried when while really drunk one night. Poor guy didn’t know what hit him, get’s a shot in the head from some drunk wacko in a black hat telling him Ozzy rules.

      • ghottistyx September 9, 2011, 4:36 PM

        nor do the Beastie Boys, or Billy Joel, or Neil Diamond, or Simon & Garfunkel, or Adam Sandler, etc.

        I am speaking, of course, of bands that identify themselves as Jewish, play for Jewish audiences, etc. Actually, I’ve read a quote from Duvid Swirsky of The Moshav Band saying that his band has so much crossover appeal, that calling them Jewish is like saying that Bob Marley was a Rasta.

        • Crowin' Cock September 10, 2011, 5:49 PM

          Ghotti,

          I guess we’ll be stuck with sucky Jewish music until the end of time. If you ever read the laws of the Leviim playing music in the Beit Hamikdash, you wonder what they sounded like. They weren’t allowed any drums, only 1 cymbal, up to 18 trumpets, 100 flutes and unlimited harps (if I remember right).

          Thank God for Metal Church, probably the only church I have any respect for or listen to. Hopefully the 3rd Beit Hamikdash will find a heter to include distorted electric guitars and wawa pedals.

  • OfftheDwannaB September 8, 2011, 10:09 PM

    I think the chevra was the last straw for me. Yhei yhei yhei shlama rabbah. Please. Just stop.

  • Tevy September 8, 2011, 10:43 PM

    You know what it is that bothers me with Jewish music? It’s not so much the lyrics, but rather the music.
    If it’s not a “big band” sound, you know with the trumpets and either the sad piano or the synthesizer; it’s the Carlebachian wannabe-hippy sound – driven by poppy acoustic guitar melodies.

    It doesn’t change. It doesn’t evolve. And it’s repetitive and bland. And sure the boring mainstream masses may like the cookie cutter blandness, but not everyone is made to appreciate that kind music. Where’s the rock? The jazz and blues? The Pink Floyd prog rock sound? The metal? Heck, I’ll even take country, even though I can’t stand it… it’s still something beyond the expected.

    As long as the music changes, I’ll be happy.

  • Jonathan Henry Marcus the Fourth September 8, 2011, 10:52 PM

    you should try some israeli stuff, chaim yisrael, itzik eishel, and the like.

    But its true that most jewish music sucks. Bad. I mean, did you ever here music where random words were just repeated and repeated for no reason other then to fit the tune, without making any sense? never.

    • A travelling Jew(ess) September 14, 2011, 1:01 AM

      Ever heard almost any modern dance music, for example?

  • jewish "music" sucks, right about that one hesh September 8, 2011, 11:55 PM

    try some israeli stuff, chaim yisrael, itzik eshel, and the like. its many times better than the other stuff out there now.

    But its true that most jewish music sucks. Bad. And not because its about jewish topics. Did you ever hear music that repeats words mindlessly over and over and over, for no reason at all other than to fit it to the (horrible) tune? Never.

    (eg shweckys viahavtah. zeh klal gadol, gadol batoirah, etc etc hunderds and hundreds of modern jewish songs. practitically every single one of them does this. utterly horrible.)

    Modern jewish music is EVEN worse than modern pop music (j bieber gaga spears etc etc) if such a thing is possible. Give me some GNR, AC/DC any day over this pathetic excuse for music. And i wasnt born in the 60s. i was born in the late 80s

    • rainman September 9, 2011, 2:18 PM

      agreed. the pop of today, and the jewish popular “music” of today, both suck horribly. 80s rock is king

  • AstroTheSpaceDog September 9, 2011, 8:37 AM

    Try some Israeli rock. Reva L’sheva, Adi Ran etc… Abi Rottenberg still #1

  • Neil Harris September 9, 2011, 1:04 PM

    After being frum for 24 of my 40 years of life and davening for a Jewish band to have the intensity of Husker Du, the intelligent lyrics of Bad Religion, and the soul of Piamenta. I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that it will never happen. Primarily because any Jewish musician who makes a real ROCK album will be totally put in cherim faster than Hatzolah of Boro Park can respond to a call.

    Aside from the fear of cherim, there’s the guilt associated with the fact that if a musican/band puts out a rock album and sites their influences then hundreds of teens will start listening to those infuences and we’ll have trouble in River City.

    • anon September 11, 2011, 5:27 PM

      How about Ari Boiangiu? I wouldn’t say his music isn’t rock, though lyrics, obviously, are frum.

  • Crowin' Cock September 10, 2011, 9:19 PM

    Neil,

    Raya Mehemna was OK back in their day (early 80’s), though they didn’t compare to the non Jewish stuff being produced at the time. They were BT’s that new a bit about rock, the drummer/lead singer had opened for Zeppelin in France before becomming frum. Their stuff was BT-ish pop rock, similar to some Piamenta stuff I’ve heard.

    Speaking of Piamenta, he has some mainstream stuff he did on youtube, saw him do Zeppelin’s Black Dog and Hendrix’s Red House to name a few. To bad he doesn’t put that talent to better use.

    • Neil Harris September 12, 2011, 12:06 AM

      Heard the “Heavenly Jam Band” stuff and saw him perform Red House and Little Wing @ the Wetlands a”h, back in the day.

      • Crowin' Cock September 12, 2011, 5:24 AM

        Neil,

        You should check out Yoni Lorber on Youtube as well, if you haven’t already. Saw him play a local wedding and was amazed at the quality of his guitar playing for a Jewish wedding band. Then they guy that made the wedding told me he was Piamenta’s nephew or cousin, so I checked out his stuff. Not to shabby for a frum dude, he’s got his own version of Red House and Hey Joe together with Piamenta.

        Anyway, it’s more blues/classic rock than metal. I’d love to see someone put out some Jewish metal. Closest I’ve heard is Gods of metal that put out out Chanuka gone Metal, kind of sounded like Judas Priest.

        Then there’s my buddy David Lazar (aka the rockin rabbi), but he’s more focused on being a shliach now (still jams and drives a Harley). His last album was in 2004, you can sample it at: http://www.myspace.com/davidlazzar/music/playlists/my-playlist-193323

  • yossi September 10, 2011, 11:07 PM

    The groggers are prob modern chabad…. notice, how the “aishes chayil” music video is filmed in Crown Heights

    • prili October 25, 2011, 9:14 PM

      They aren’t modern chabad, they’re modern orthodox. And the aishes chayil video was filmed in a house in 5T and in Queens.

  • FaustianSlip September 11, 2011, 4:15 AM

    I don’t think “Malka Jihad” is about a liberal Jewish girl- it’s about a Neturei Karta chick. The lyrics say she “sounds like Islamic and looks like Chabad,” which doesn’t describe the liberal Jewish people I know (including myself).

  • Adam Perah September 12, 2011, 1:54 PM

    listen to this guys wide range of music…
    http://www.lazerlloyd.com/

  • Adam Perah September 12, 2011, 2:00 PM
    • Crowin' Cock September 12, 2011, 7:43 PM

      Nice blues.

  • Shira Salamone September 13, 2011, 2:14 PM

    Neil Harris said, ” . . . any Jewish musician who makes a real ROCK album will be totally put in cherim faster than Hatzolah of Boro Park can respond to a call.”

    Or, at the very least, his music will be banned. Neil, I’m sure you remember this guy.

  • A travelling Jew(ess) September 14, 2011, 3:03 AM

    IMO, the problem with most Jewish music is not the ‘too Jewish’ content – nothing wrong with expressing who & what you are in your music, or with Biblical verses – but with the music. Too often there’s an assumption in the frum circles that the message is more important than the music, and so songs with ‘correct’ content and a horrible tune are given the stamp of approval.
    The other problem is the derivative nature of the music. I’ve noticed that even those of you who recommend a Jewish band/ artist you like tend to remark, ‘they sound like…’ That’s just wrong: a good band should sound like themselves! (Of course, it’s not *only* the problem of Jewish music.) And since when is doing a cover a sign of merit? I’d rather listen to an original. If I want to hear Black Dog, I’ll just listen to the Led Zeppelin version.
    BTW, thanks to everyone who recommended bands/ artists; I’ll check them out. I still listen to more secular/ non-Jewish music, but would love to find more Jewish music I’d like.

Leave a Comment