When I first saw Chris Gennone perform, it was at a pay-to-play “battle of the bands” at Just Jake’s in Montclair, NJ, sometime around 2010. It was one of those pyramid schemes that young bands find themselves getting sucked into, just at a chance for a “gig.” It was stupid.
My band, The Deafening Colors, played too. We lost. Chris’ band also lost. Neither of our bands had sold enough tickets for the “promoter” to let us play, but we forked over money out of our own pockets to get on the stage. It was the first and last time we ever did that.
His band, at the time, was called Hiawatha. They looked like they were having a blast on stage. They were absolutely not the most polished band around, but they were probably the most genuine, and the most original, even if their guitars were slightly out of tune. They were either in high school or had just graduated.
Now about seven or eight years later, and after five or six band changes, Chris Gennone is still at it, now under the moniker C.R. and the Degenerates. He has written and released hundreds of songs, worked on countless projects, and is easily one of the most prolific young songwriters on the east coast.
The Degenerates newest album, aptly titled Degeneration, feels like an artist truly reaching maturity. Gennone’s jaunty, almost Neil Young-esque guitar parts, his soaring vocals, the spot-on backing vocals from James Abbott (Guitar, Lap Steel), Harrison Bieth (Keys), John Crane (Bass), and Evan Luberger (Drums) elevate each track.
And then there is Max Rauch, who also drummed on some of the tracks, and sang backing vocals, engineered, mixed, and produced the album. Rauch has been involved in dozens of NJ-based indie band’s albums—both he and Gennone seem to never stop working on new projects.
I once read in a book, the title of which I’ve forgotten, that a pottery teacher once ran an experiment. She told one group of students to work on one piece of pottery until it was perfect. She told the other group to work on a new piece every day. At the end of the series of classes, the students who worked on something new had created far better pieces. The students who worked on one piece until it was “perfect” ended up with junk.
Chris Gennone and his band, by constantly working on something new, have created their best work to date with Degeneration. One just hopes they do what they’ve always done—refuse to look back, and start working on the next thing as soon as possible.
Degeneration, released on July 7, 2017 from Sniffling Indie Kids, is available below to stream/download as well as all the typical streaming services.