Paisley Umbrella
Friday, May 7, 2010

The Grip Weeds New Release: Strange Change Machine
Rainbow Quartz Records

The Grip Weeds establish a colorful, maybe murky, but distinctive space in the musical aether. Their discography itself is a trip through jangling 12 string Rickenbackers, Mellotrons, wah wah pedals, three part harmonies, melodic but simple bass, and more. Imagine the veritable kitchen sink if one has in it the best vintage instruments combined with the best recording gear and all in the hands of four people who are talented enough to make them work together. Eureka! Now we’re getting somewhere. To summarize The Grip Weeds, go back to the beginning of the review.

In their new offering Strange Change Machine, they offer an interstellar blast from start to finish. The opening “Speed of Life” is a soaring power pop blast with a building beat, Kurt Reil’s infinite drum flourishes, distinctive guitar licks, both jangly and wailing, and art rock keyboards that are definitely spacey. It’s almost like having as much as many bands can put into one album in to one song, but it never loses its simplicity and excitement as a fun rock song. The Grip Weeds are rock and roll fans, so their frame of reference is based on “what’s good” and not using a genre to define that. Among the results of this broader appreciation is “Sun Shower” an acoustic based, psych folk song with Kristin’s flute and a building tempo that goes into rock, but the buildups keep the song engaging. This is definitely a standout song.

The albums title track “Strange Change Machine” is unabashed, cranked up rock with added vocal harmonies that best communicates what the band is all about- “Pull you out of the same, mix it up in a Strange Change Machine.” This album was sequenced and putting the title song on the B-side of the second album is a great way to tell the listener who they are without announcing themselves by using it as the first track. Instead, one gets a an incredible rock experience with the songs before it, but having the title track afterwards is like getting to the meat of an essay after a strong introduction.

In true contradiction, the longest song on the album is “The Law,” which is also the most basic rock song with it’s emphasis on Rick Reil’s strong, loud, power chords. It also stands out in true rock ‘n roll spirit not only in it’s rawness but also in its outright middle finger to authority. One might also find themselves singing along to the loud guitar intro of “Hold Out for Tomorrow” only to be surprised by the backing vocals reminiscent of Cream. The hard power pop near the end of the second album is interrupted with a Nick Drake based instrumental “Love in Transition,” but the addition of flute and a simple beat accompanied by tabla and more aggressive acoustic flourishes give traces of Arthur Lee and Love. As much as one could stay true to the basic rock milieu and admonish the idea of giving prominence to a “non rock” instrument, the song is a great surprise that has a wonderful depth.

The closing “Mr. X” is a pure stroke of genius. Not only in its multiple melodic nods to “Tomorrow Never Knows”, but also in using it as the closing track. Much like its comparison, the ending notes stay with you and make one want to play the song over a few times.

New Jersey’s The Grip Weeds occupy an odd space. On one hand, they’re a ‘60s rock inspired band. Now that we have a primordial ooze of their foundation, the confusion begins. The frenetic beat and feedback of The Who, the wonderful jangle of The Byrds, the sweet melodies of The Beatles, the rhythm of The Kinks, the Delta Blues solos of The Yardbirds and the bands that followed: Led Zeppelin, Cream, the psychedelic leanings of most of them combined with The Creation, The Move, The Zombies, and more, possibly some louder wailings akin to Ron Asheton of The Stooges, even. It’s been five years since their last studio release “Giant On The Beach.” That’s a long time. A lot of change, things brought into the soup, balances changing, things shifting. All that time away resulted in a groundswell and resulting outpouring of creativity. This double album over 80 minutes long was worth the wait. It’s packed full of great songs, epic in length and substance, but stand out as a great rock album that has material that will continue to be discovered, which is the true trademark of a great, enduring rock and roll album.

The album will be released in the next month. Currently, CD copies are available for purchase during their performances in the New York area. However, a deluxe CD edition as well as a double album vinyl edition are forthcoming. A free 10 song download is available if you sign up for their fan club at The Grip Weeds home page.