The Grip Weeds
Summer of a Thousand Years
US Release Date: 23 October 2001
by Gary Glauber
PopMatters Music and Books Critic
Retro jangle rock sounds abound, and The Grip Weeds lay claim to their own fair share of 1960s musical memories, though not necessarily the same obvious ones as other bands. Apart from the clean harmonies and Byrds-y guitar riffs, The Grip Weeds specialize in creating their own type of well-crafted pop, sprinkled with extra layers of melodic twists and turns that reveal themselves with extended listening. This group isn't afraid of venturing into minor chords or tempo variations and thus creates music that seems at first more retro album track fare rather than easily accessible single-type songs. Yet with additional plays, familiarity breeds appreciation. These 13 original songs all are well put-together, feature superb vocal performances (two-, and occasional three-part harmonizing) and any one of them could stand out proudly with transformed retro flavor as a modern pop single (there's also a fine cover of The Who's "Melancholia", featuring lead vocals from standout lead guitarist Kristin Pinnel).
On this their third CD, Highland Park, New Jersey-based composing brothers Rick and Kurt Reil have really come into their own, maturing in style both independently and together. Along with the requisite Fab Four influences, there are plenty of Hollies, some Yardbirds, a pinch of Zombies, a dash of Buckinghams and Buffalo Springfield, and the performance energy drive of The Who and The Kinks as well. Top this with accents of psychedelia, and you get a sense of what The Grip Weeds are about.
Summer of a Thousand Years is a fond look backwards, but it works first and foremost because of the tightness of the band. There's not a hint of sloppiness in the studio here; you get the benefit of a well-practiced energetic unit that works as a whole. You get Kurt Reil on drums, Rick Reil on guitars, Michael Nattboy contributing very solid basslines throughout (check out his fretwork on "Moving Circle"), and Kristin Pinell offering up the perfect complement stylistically in all lead guitar moments. The brothers Reil trade off on lead vocals (usually reflecting which of the two wrote that particular song), while Pinell lends her capable voice to the mix. Andy Burton adds some keyboards (Wurlitzer, mellotron, etc.) on a few tracks as well.
The second reason this all works is the strength of the songs. The first single is "Rainy Day #3" featuring drummer Kurt on lead vocals (which is very Dave Clark-ish), backed by brother Rick with perfect chorus harmonies, while Kristin adds just the right amount of harmonica highlights. The lyrics are simple yet effective, again mirroring the style of years past. If that's not good enough for you, blame it on the weatherman.
"Save My Life" has an almost Spongetones meets the Byrds-like flavor, as it jangles its way through a story of a woman in need: "inside / she cried / save my life". "She Surrounds Me" rocks nicely in a psychedelic manner, with lyrics that are adept without being profound. It's your basic story of how he seeks to know all through surrounding himself with her love: "Words are spoken / I am turning the key / spells are broken deep inside of me."
"Don't Look Over Your Shoulder" is another catchy vehicle with harmony vocals and great accompaniment on drums and guitars. "Future Move" is quietly beautiful, with its great bass work holding the bottom together beneath vocals talking again around love: "Out of sight and out of my mind / when I caught your eye I felt the future move." "Window" (a rare Pinell/ K. Reil collaboration) is a pretty song with trippy electric guitars behind suitably psychedelic references. "Is It Showing" is another fine number, while "Changed" attacks with nice guitar and drums that rumble beneath. None of these songs reinvent the wheel, but they all keep you rock-and-rolling along.
Check out the rhythm section working hard on "Love's Lost on You", with Kurt challenging himself on drums, and Michael Nattboy shining with impressive bass work. "Love That Never Ends" follows the formula of jangle pop and makes an old sound sing anew. Frankly, there isn't one bad track here. All of the songs offer the quality sound of the sixties with the energy and technique of a new millennium.
The CD closes with the title track, a somber musical treatise on how the past converges with the future when you're living in the present in the summer of a thousand years (hey, as they say in the lyric -- the more you learn, the less you know). The overall point is that many remain convinced that music reached its peak in the revered heyday of the mid-1960s. For those who loved that wonderful sound, The Grip Weeds is a rewarding musical anachronism, infusing the past with the present. Their retro melodies are stupendous, the harmonies great, and the skill of their musicianship more evident than ever. Summer Of A Thousand Years has that sort of timeless appeal, with the added benefit being this: the more you listen, the better it gets.