Things I'd Rather Be Doing
Iowa City, IA
8.28.2007 Tuesday Tuneup: The Grip Weeds I was fully under the spell of power pop in the late 1990s, but somehow the Grip Weeds eluded my ears. I had heard of the band -- heard it was among the finest of what had become a crowded field of power poppers, in fact -- but I simply didn't follow up. I know I heard the group on compilations, and eventually picked up one of its later albums, but it's debut, House of Vibes, never graced my CD player. Until now. Playing on the trend of constant re-evaluation and reissue in the world of popular music, the band has cleaned up the sound of the disc through what sounds like a fairly intensive remastering process. Old tapes recorded in DIY fashion in the actual House of Vibes that gives the album its name were remastered, with tracks that had been combined at the time now separated for clarity's sake. Not being privy to the original, I'm not sure how much better this sounds, but I can say it sounds pretty great.
Though it has only been 13 years since the disc's original release, it seems like a smart move to revisit it. The Grip Weeds became a better, more accomplished band since, but there's something about this debut that captivates at times. The rough edges of the band's sound have been smoothed a bit, but here the garage rock the members clearly love is an obvious and welcome influence. The hook may come in the soaring three-part harmonies, but the thing that keeps those confections from sounding too sweet is the grit of the overdriven, distorted guitars and the pounding drums that give things a libidinous pulse.
The quartet -- brothers Rick and Kurt Reil (guitar and drums, respectively) are joined by guitarist Kristen Pinell on vocals, while on this disc bass is handled by Mick Hargrave -- crafted a dozen catchy pop songs here. Standouts include the rockers "Salad Days" and "Someone," as well as the more dreamlike "Edge of Forever." This revisited version includes even more, with demos of songs on the album and those that didn't make it, live tracks and acoustic sessions. There are even a few radio interview snippets interspersed throughout, making it sound like one long radio program.
I'm not sure why I fell away from power pop a few years ago, though the ratio of good to bad as the genre exploded made looking for a good disc akin to strolling through a mine field (something that also led to a disenchantment with alt-country). Reconnecting with the Grip Weeds has been a pleasant surprise, and House of Vibes Revisited gives me a welcome chance to make up for lost time.