Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Grip Weeds: Infinite Soul: The Best Of The Grip Weeds

The Grip Weeds

Infinite Soul: The Best of The Grip Weeds
Wicked Cool Records

Introducing a band that's been around for 14 years. Sound familiar? A lot, but not too many older releases always have a new life when you hear them. New Jersey's The Grip Weeds provide a case in point. Their new release Infinite Soul: The Best of The Grip Weeds is a compilation of their four full length albums plus a remake of the 1993 single "She Brings The Rain" set in random order. The best way to describe the band is psychedelic, but it's a lot to discover. Like the super technicolor album cover, it's a mix of British Invasion, LA folk rock, and late '60s to early '70s Who, with some loud, heavy powerchords but with some slight lean towards different elements like Cream, at least that description is a good start. The opening track "Every Minute" from the 2003 release The Sound Is In You is a fresh blast or guitar chords and loud, frantic, Moonesque drumming whose BIG sound is reminiscent of "I Can See For Miles" and "Pinball Wizard" without the synthesizer experiments. It's a little simpler, more like one might guess '60's era Who attempting to do their early '70s material. Let's just say it's louder, but the chord emphasis makes it powerpop, a term actually coined by Pete Townshend to describe their music in the '60s, only "Every Minute" has enough volume to sound edgier than that. It's also a perfect illustration of one of the ways The Grip Weeds describe themselves: The Who on psychedelics! That's an awfully gutsy description. Lucky for them, it works!

The followup track "Salad Days" was dubbed "Coolest Song in The World" by Little Steven (14 years after it came out)! Although the overall feel of the song is melodic due to the vocal harmonies from drummer Kurt and rhythm guitarist Rick Reil, with the added vocal of lead guitarist that throws a slight twist that is definitely cool, Rick's guitar takes a stronger approach to playing jingle jangly rock, but Kristin's licks provide the louder, '70s rock feel. Another great point of the song is that because it's psychedelic, there's a lot going on that almost equalizes everyone's role, whereas if the music was more basic or leaned towards their basic influences, Kristin would be walking away as the most important member of the band since she plays lead guitar. Luckily, her loud riffs blend in and contribute to a greater synthesis. This balance and overall loudness alludes to the second way The Grip Weeds use to describe themselves: The Byrds on steroids. However, that extra kick comes from a woman playing lead guitar, which is a rare but very cool thing. Kristin also takes lead vocals on one song, "Closer to Love," a song that can match the heart and great song structures of Fleetwood Mac's Rumors (I know what you're thinking, that's not rock 'n' roll! In fact, it is. Everyone in the band broke up with each other during the recording, so it's an album full of people falling apart, angst and sadness that they channeled into someting great. Besides, Lindsey Buckingham is cool), but relies on a stronger acoustic guitar base and sitar that could overpower the '70s greats to the point that they would think "I wish I could have done that." An odd but pleasant surprise on The Grip Weeds is "It Ain't No Big Thing, Babe," a Nashville tinged heartringer originally penned by Val Stecklein of the '60s folk/psychedelic greats that remain mostly unknown, The Blue Things. Surprisingly, it doesn't feel very psychedelic, but more like Bob Dylan. It's quite a great curveball and shows that The Grip Weeds have a lot more to show us. Luckily, they're currently recording an album of all new material at their own House of Vibes studio, not just a little piece of heaven somewhere in Highland Park, New Jersey, but an impressive space in the basement of a house stocked with digital and analog recording equipment and a bevy of vintage musical instruments. As if not a suprise, The Smithereens recorded their album Meet The Smithereens there with Kurt co-producing.

Psychedelic rock was not as much of a genre as an approach to making music that attempted to replicate the experience of taking hallucinogenic drugs, which many bands experimented with literally and musically during a brief time period from about 1964 to 1969. Although it was cited most for albums like Revolver, Sargeant Peppers, Her Satanic Majesty's Request, Fifth Dimension, and Piper at the Gates of Dawn - from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Byrds, and Pink Floyd respectively and one can hear these influences in The Grip Weeds, heavier, more blues oriented outfits like The Yardbirds, 13th Floor Elevators, Jimi Hendrix and Cream also made their own forays into psychedelic rock that were a little harder. That extra 'punch' of harder edge influenced by the heavier acts is what helps push The Grip Weeds into a rock 'n' roll band and not a psychedelic band. Although the songs sound too well crafted to be "garage rock," the term "psychedelic rock" was actually coined by Roky Erickson of The 13th Floor Elevators, a band revered by many as a "garage" band. The "fuzz" guitar effect as well as a Hammond or Farfisa were considered essential instruments for psychedelic rock, but coupled with a 12 string electric guitar. Also, the literal loudness and affinity for powerchords maintained by The Grip Weeds give them an edgy rawness that certainly rocks.

"Life and Love, Times to Come" is a track including tabla, hammond, mellotron, and mandolin that draws from Love's "Red Telephone" with added Eastern sounds and builds up so well that one is taken on their own mystic trip while listening. Other tracks like "Infinite Soul" and "She Brings the Rain" are a little more straightforward but rock with great melodic guitar plus The Grip Weeds now aptly described psychedelic touches like sitars, harmonies, and full on power chords. Infinite Soul: The Best of The Grip Weeds comparable to "Alice in Wonderland" because there's something new around every corner, but things run awfully fast and it never gets boring or predictable. The songs stick to mostly the basic garage rock structure: 3 chords and short songs, but it's amazing what The Grip Weeds have packed into those short periods of time. It's rock 'n' roll with something new to discover with each rotation. Songs on it that one might not be enthusiastic about grow on you. The songs are short, loud, and incredibly dense, making them a music fan's listening music, but still have the powerpop punches to make you get up and rock. The Grip Weeds have set a new standard for powerpop. It's never been done this way before. Infinite Soul: The Best of The Grip Weeds and their anthology Infinite Soul: The Best of The Grip Weeds offer a great taste of new adventures to come.

"Astral Man" is a great song that sums up their talents- vocal harmonies, intense psychedelia, some '70s guitar licks, some loud drums! It's a great video, too!







Note: The band's name came from John Lennon's character private Grip Weed in the relatively unknown movie "How I Won the War."

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