February 12, 1999
THE GRIP WEEDS
The Sound Is In You
Buy Or Die (BOD 9817)
This New Jersey foursome is making a rapid ascent from alternative underground cult status to mainstream acceptance. The Sound Is In You, the Weeds' second album, will help solidify the reputation that began with House of Vibes, their first album released in 1995.
The band, fronted by brothers Rick and Kurt Reil (guitar and drums respectively), also features Kristin Pinell on guitar and Michael Nattboy on bass. All band members share in the vocals which is one of the group's undeniable strengths. Their music is rich in vocal textures and unusual harmonies, and is surprisingly melodic. These are engaging qualities that seem to be in short supply in much of contemporary rock.
There are virtually no throwaway tracks on this 16-track collection, and no fewer than six of them could make a strong bid for the singles sweepstakes ("In Waking Dreams," "A Piece Of My Own" and "Games" are notable). The band writes and arranges its own material (all but Neil Young's "Down To The Wire" are original here). This is quite an accomplishment given the complexity of these performances.
Various reviewers have harkened The Grip Weeds sound to the early Who, The Byrds, and The Smithereens. The Who connection is particularly apparent on "Every Minute." Others have noted more than a passing nod to psychedelia. I'd throw in salute to The Kinks on "Better World" and, to my ears, it's hard not to include mid-period Beatles in the derivative mix (especially on "What I Believe Is You" and "Strange Bird"). Maybe it is easier to describe this band-- which gets its name from Private Grip Weed, John Lennon's character in the film How I Won The War-- as being on a mission to capture what is best about '60s group music for a new audience in the coming millenium. It's an honorable task and, by the evidence on their first two CDs, these hardworking and talented musicians are up to the challenge. (174 Main Street, Hacketstown, NJ 07840)
-- Hank Davis