Premiere: LJ Sleeze Tears Through Snarling Punk Tirade “Dead Or Alive”

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It’s been nearly sixty years since The Sonics recorded “Have Love, Will Travel,” leaving the underground rock world with a blueprint for barebones intensity. In 2024, this legacy is upheld by bands diving into the riffs, melodies, rhythms, and frenzy that defined the era-bridging garage rock and first-wave punk. Of course, it’s useless to get caught up in the murky defined genres and scenes. The charm of “protopunk” lay not in its uniformity but in the irregular paths musicians took to create a fertile sound, where a minimalist approach and maximalist execution thrived. Three chords and a driving beat were sufficient if the guitar tone was sharp and the vocals crackled with energy. It’s a sound many aspire to but few can pull off with exact conviction. Luckily for the Richmond scene, we can thankfully turn our ears to the snarling sounds of LJ Sleeze, formerly known as LJ & The Sleeze, when we’re in the need for some gritty haymakers.

Since 2020, LJ Sleeze has been crafting their sound, drawing on classic influences without relying on them as a crutch. They wear their inspirations openly, from the Ramones’ iconography to the punk ideology of bands like the Dwarves, but also forge their own path forward with their own sordid aesthetics and awry method. This year, they are set to release their latest album, Dead Or Alive, a collection of tightly written, performed, and recorded tracks that snap with musical crispness and slam with riotous energy. Dropping on June 28th via Dead Beat Records and Eight Ball Record$, the band is offering an early glimpse of their fierce sound in the form of a lyric video for the album’s title track–a raging confrontation of sonic indignation and rhythmic energy. Today, The Auricular is excited to premiere this video and song, which you can view below, followed by additional background into the band’s innate ferocity.


LJ Sleeze is the brainchild of Max Gottesman, a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and sound engineer. Gottesman has contributed to various acts over the years such as Gottem and Babe Grenades while also working on numerous other projects, recording, mixing, and mastering under the Gott Sound banner at his own space, Red Tone Studio. LJ Sleeze emerged from Gottesman’s recording system, creating a distinct yet familiar sound rooted in gritty garage rock and proto-punk.

In the summer of 2020, the band released Keepin’ It Sleezy, a bold record that captured attention even as the band sequestered during lockdown. Their follow-up 7” EP, Put Something Sleezy Between Your Legs, arrived in early summer 2021, featuring four diverse tracks that maintained Gottesman’s raw, irreverent style. As venues reopened, the expanded five-piece band packed shows across Virginia and re-recorded earlier songs with the full band, resulting in the early 2022 cassette release Stay Sleezy, soon followed by a split release with Killer Hearts. After a short hiatus, they dropped Ain’t Easy Bein’ Sleezy in summer 2022, part of a mini rock opera, and performed in several dates around the country, earning critical acclaim at various venues and festivals. With Ben Rosenstock on drums, Billy Bacci on keys, and Chris Spies on sax now backing him, Gottesman continues to push the boundaries of the band’s sound that promises to thrill any fan of rough-and-tumble rock and roll.

Ten tracks comprise the new record, Dead Or Alive, with the title track offering the first taste of its frenetic energy. Gottesman channels the punk spirit with a crackling howl, laying out his cantankerous and combative views. “Now I don’t care if you rock with this, just don’t feed me anymore of your shit,” he rails, showcasing the biting tone that makes the song an instant standout. The music buzzes with rock vigor, evoking the atmosphere of a gritty garage space where a tight punk band with a flair for glam rock rehearses. For crate-divers who cherish original pressings of first-wave punk singles, this track feels like a hidden gem, reminiscent of a night at CBGB’s with The Stooges and T. Rex headlining. It may sound like hyperbole, but when Gottesman barks, “Come get me motherfucker,” before the scorching guitar solo, you’ll sense the raw energy that defined 70’s underground rock and trash culture.

The rest of the record contains many surprises, like out-of-control sax solos and post-punk bass grooves, but “Dead Or Alive” offers the most streamlined version of the record’s sound. It’s an unapologetic snapshot of rock music at its most granular, where passion erupts onto instruments and forms a cranky harmony that has provided half a century of musical delight. No matter your personal taste, Dead Or Alive is a surefire hit that’s set to soundtrack all the crazed frenzy awaiting us in the rest of 2024. So keep this title track on steady repeat for now and be ready to wear out your earbuds with the madcap delight later this summer when this record finally drops!

Dead Or Alive is set for release on June 28th via Dead Beat Records and Eight Ball Record$, which you can pre-order on CD now by clicking here or pre-save digitally by clicking here. To keep up to date on future releases from LJ Sleeze, make sure to follow their Linktree or follow them on Instagram.


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