You can make the argument that “classic/’60’s style pop” is making an upward surge in a big way from the United States and leading the charge would be New Jersey veterans, The Grip Weeds. Jangly, quasi-psychedelic, harmony rich and masterfully crafting full-bodied songs. For a band that’s been around and for all intents and purposes, local, for the last twenty five years, The Grip Weeds still sound as fresh, lively and exciting as they did when I first heard them a decade ago on “Little Steven’s Underground Garage” (and that was after they’d had miles behind them). But here we are in 2015 and they deliver a stone-cold masterpiece, How I Won The War. If some of this sounds familiar, it’s because they took the band name from John Lennon’s character, Private Virgil Gripweed in the 1966 film, “How I Won The War” – not that you couldn’t already figure it out. And being that this is their first new album after signing with Marty Scott’s Jem Recordings, it seemed like the most appropriate title (it should be noted, this will be their tenth album, overall).
This new album is almost that once-in-a-lifetime everything-comes-together kind of album; while the songs differ, there’s a stylistic and thematic unity that thread each track into one cohesive unit. Driven by the chunky and crisp ’60’s twin guitar attack of Rick Reil and Kristen Pinell, the path is cleared for the garage-y vocal stylings of lead singer/drummer Kurt Reil (Rick’s brother and Kristen’s husband) – all of this anchored by the deep bass boom of Dave DeSantis, which makes this band sound like now as well as then. From the opening title track onward, you know this is going to hold you from end to end. “Follow Me Blind” with its background harmonies which give way to a punching chorus is beefy and one of the early standouts; “Life Saver” is as pure power pop as you could hope or want; “Other Side Of Your Heart” is slower and passion-rich with a warm acoustic undertone and “Vanish” kicks you from the opening bars onward with its dynamics. “Heaven and Earth” could be an Association outtake (!) framed with its neat harpsichord body and harmonies; “Lead Me To It” is one of the (several) rave-ups and closing this remarkable 17-track collection is a stunning rendition of “The Inner Light” (yes, THAT “The Inner Light”), complete with note perfect sitar licks and flute-backing on the vocals.
This early into the year and I have a front-runner for my favorite album. How could it not be? It has everything I love in the right places and cadences. And they’re local; they’ve been at it for years and nothing’s going to slow them down. So dig on this – this is The Grip Weeds. And they’re going to be making a lot more noise now…
How I Won The War will be released Tuesday, April 7th, 2015