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June 2006

The Grip Weeds

Grip Weeds: Hail The New Lost Classics

Hailing from Highland Park, New Jersey, the guitar-centric Grip Weeds are Kurt Reil (vocals, explosive drums), Rick Reil (vocals, chiming rhythm guitar), Kristin Pinell (vocals, biting lead guitar), and Michael Kelly (vocals, McCartneyesque bass).

The Weeds serve up straight-ahead American rock and roll with lots of treble and 12-string shimmer. They’re the sonic equivalent of a perfectly tuned, butternut yellow 1967 Chevelle SS throttling up on a stretch of Ocean Parkway with no cops in sight. Lots of power and muscle, but lots of control and finesse too.

On one tune, their sound can be psychedelically dreamy a la Moby Grape, with multi-part harmonies that feather those wiry guitars in a way that’s very reminiscent of The Byrds. On another, they can simply bomp the way the dBs did on 1984’s “Like This” in redefining the crunchier Sixties garage version of the three-minute pop song.

The band, which took their name from Sgt. Gripweed, the character John Lennon played in Richard Lester’s “How I Won The War,” wears their myriad influences openly – mostly on the sleeves of their green Nehru jackets and paisley shirts.

Among those influences are “the Beatles, the Byrds, the Who, and all who sound like them,” to quote their MySpace bio.

Badfinger, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Pretty Things, Nick Drake, and The Zombies should probably be added to that list.

The Grip Weeds’ MySpace player features four sterling cuts from their fourth album “Giant on the Beach” (Rainbow Quartz, 2005):

* “Closer to Love” – Sung by Pinell, the lyrical progression of this song is right off a Hollies album. About two minutes in, after a series of “Walking Barefoot” verses, she crosses an echo-laden bridge between islands of phased, swirling guitars and reverb, and charges into the chorus with her clear vocals way out front. Right then and there, I’m mindlessly smiling. Sonically, the song reminds me a little of Let’s Active around the time of “Cypress,” but if I close my eyes I also think I might be in the middle of a Peanut Butter Conspiracy show at the Pasadena Exhibition Hall circa 1968. (Yes, kids, I’m carbon-dating myself there.)

* “Get By” – starts like CSNY’s “Ohio,” acquires a martial “Children of the Revolution” stomp, and then kicks up a wall of slicing Rickenbacker 12-strings. The interlocked Televisionesque playing underscores vintage Britpop vocals that evoke the best of the “Go Now”-era Moody Blues. Is it me, or is the drumming here as primally groovy as Ian Paice’s on Deep Purple’s “Fireball”? On “Strange Kind of Woman,” maybe – guess I gotta pull that one outta the milk-crate to find out.

* “Realities” – a paisley pillow for your 9-to-5 head featuring a wall of jangling Les Pauls that wax purple and oh-so-hazy under later, more serious Monkees-like vocalizing. Features some Harrisonic sitar-like backwards playing and premium Roy Wood fuzz meeting up on the soul train to visit Maharishi with Kula Shaker in tow. Someone, somewhere is breaking out their hidden-behind-the-belt-buckle hash-pipe to this slice of a great band in complete harmonic convergence.

* “Infinite Soul” – a wah-wah-drenched bit of acid-folk with blistering Merseybeat hooks to die for. Made for the neo-velvet-booted set to shake their moptops to while contemplating the breakup of the Beau Brummels. Or for Summer of Love junkies to hum while dreaming of discovering a cache of lost Scott Mackenzie tapes. Quicksilver, clanging Superdrag guitars punctuated by a steel sliver of a solo, and those so-Posies vocals that always send me on a search for a girl with flowers in her hair. You know, the type you’d like to slowly body-paint a peace sign on. I caught the tail end of this one on Idle Rich’s garage-band show on WMUH-FM while on I-78 near Allentown, PA after a Smithereens show this Spring. It was the creme between the cookies of The Easybeats and Screaming Lord Sutch. I know, I know – that sounds like the perfect musical Oreo for the Little Steven in all of us.

While these four tracks could be convincingly passed off as chart-toppers in the Summer of ’67, the patchouli quotient of the epigrammatic lyrics about love and lost innocence is effectively hopped up by assertive, more modern playing that makes each song fresh-sounding. This is not your father’s (or grandfather’s) drowsy, zen-positive hippie music. I would imagine Paul Weller and Andrew Loog Oldham might listen to this stuff while pouring themselves Sunday morning black and tans.

MySpace also showcases the video for “Astral Man,” which is a swirling dervish of a track soaking in Sixties power chords and poesy. Shared-mike high-harmony vocals by the brothers Reil, and Pinell’s scorching riff-work on that gold-top Gibson of hers, drive this song ahead with Who-meets-Zep fury. Images of the band on a magic carpet ride through space and time are inter-cut with the playing, giving the whole thing a sweetly cheesy electric kool-aid acid test feel.

And, by the way, any band that puts a pic of Rex Ingram on their CD is A-OK in my book. Rex played the menacing, giant genie in 1940’s “The Thief of Baghdad.” That’s as seminal an image from my youth as a Blue Meanie or Godzilla, and it is undoubtedly lurking in the heads of all four Grip Weeds too.

-fin-
www.myspace.com/gripweeds

posted by MyspaceMusicReview @ 12:25 PM