The Grip Weeds are back with the rough side of live on their electric drenched release, Speed Of Live. The Grip Weeds serve up a whopping 15 hook-laden pop rock gems on this release, and the music hungry public is gonna eat it up. There’s also a companion DVD that comes in the deluxe version of Speed Of Live and it’s called Live Vibes, an in-depth look at the studio process as well as exclusive interviews with the group.
The Grip Weeds’ penchant for combining psychedelia with solid, radio friendly arrangements are unsurpassed, and in a business that praises mediocrity, this band easily shines like a supernova. Moreover, they aren’t another boring and cutesy retro revival offering. Their gritty, controlled style melds amazing four-part harmonies with luxurious chord voicings and solid rhythm work in a catalog of compositions that left me shaking my head at their state of major label independence.
If you enjoy music from bands such as The Amboys, Plimsouls, Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Byrds and The Smithereens, you’re going to love this record. The later comparison is of no surprise, as singer/drummer Kurt Reil recorded three albums with the legendary Smithereens, as well as three solo projects produced by Smithereens singer Pat Dinizio.
What I immediately notice is the amazing talent of harmony perfection that intertwines with the most sonic guitars on the planet. This isn’t any fluff compliment on my part. I’m a guitar guy and this platter is a joyous, sensory overload of six-string dynamite.
Lead singers (and brothers) Kurt and Rick Reil are yet another set of anomalies in a very small circle of Jersey svengali’s. Their vocal abilities are A-list contoured and Kurt’s drumming is a controlled and vintage chaos of the finest variety. On the guitar front, Rick Reil and Kristin Pinell hit everything they shoot at on this disc. Their live sound is muscular and packed with a strong sensibility of writing guitar lines that become memorable hooks. I couldn’t think of a thing they do that I would suggest could be done better. Michael Kelly does what a real bass player should do; he holds the whole set down on the ground while the band lobs distortion- laced blitzkriegs all around him. Forget about that eight-string nonsense, four strings and a killer imagination land this guy firmly in the middle of vital, rock and roll territory.
The disc opens up with “Every Minute,” a tune that was recorded at the now defunct Court Tavern in New Brunswick. “Stepping Stone” meets “Blood And Roses” is what this first song hits me with. Mega-energy blasts from gritty tube amps as The Grip Weeds launch a journey through the center of your mind. What really blows my brain is that these are completely LIVE cuts and they sound amazing. Tight as a tick, the band’s surgically precise sounds are rare in a live engineered environment. The double tap attack of Reil’s drumming set things off and signals the band to roar up to the starting line before tearing away. You’ll hear me speak of The Grip Weeds’ vocal talents throughout this piece. The Reil brothers and Pinell are like a three-layer cake of uniformed goodness. They lock in and soar in the most original and appealing way possible. Steeped in the tradition of The Byrds, they use their influential heroes to carve a trippy niche into rock and roll history.
“Salad Days” bursts out of the speakers with broad, sparkling guitar chords and gritty vocals akin to the late Kurt Cobain’s raw and raspy style. Recorded at The House Of Vibes in Highland Park, “Salad Days” contains archaic, secret agent guitar riffs that dart into the verse bridges and out of the way for the ascending chord progression that takes the listener on a wild ride of compositional brilliance. The middle-eight lead is early Ben Deily (Lemonheads) and it slips in quickly, shanking the surprised listener with sharp and edgy pentatonic jabs before retreating under the cover of a chorus that kicks you down the rabbit hole of melodic mystery.
Moving around the disc, I came across a song called “Be Here Now.” This is a song that has radio hit written all over it. Beach Boys styled harmonies fly above jangly, ‘80s guitars and four on the floor rhythms that make way for the simple and splashy lead work. This song was recorded live at The Record Collector in Bordentown on July 9, 2010. Speed Of Live is one of those rare CDs that makes you feel something on every song. The overall vibe is one of summery, sunny California gold. Reil and crew are well versed at writing emotional music that forces the listener to react strongly, and what better gift could an artist ask for?
“Close Descending Love” fires off a dark and heavy Beatles guitar vamp as Rick Reil growls out his raspiest and most urgent vocal plea. Brother Kurt pounds this all the way to the English garden as the guitar work of Pinell gently weeps and gnashes down the middle of this atomic composition. Not a note is wasted here and the end result must have left the Record Collector crowd fired up and ready for more.
“The Law” shimmers with tremolo fueled guitars and the rebellious vocal attack of Rick Reil. Steeped in a strange rock and roll power of the Meat Puppets and the harmonic sensibility of The Knack, “The Law” lays it out in certain and dynamic terms. The middle-eight lead is a simple, dark toned blues adventure that disintegrates into sonic, open-voiced chords before warbling into the deep background.
“Love’s Lost On You” is another record collector feature that would make REM jealous enough to head back to their roots and abandon their hierarchy of generic pop rock. The Reil brothers anticipate each other’s moves in a quite intuitive manner. Their compositional choice of chorus makes this song a top pick and bona fide hit on this CD. Their harmonies race miles high above the solid bass work of Kelly as guitars spin and spiral shards of controlled feedback into the drum cacophony of Kurt Reil and Pinell’s additional vocal icing.
Several other tunes are met with satisfaction, including covers like “Shakin’ All Over” and “(So You Want To Be A) Rock And Roll Star.” Other original notables include “Strange Change Machine,” a veritable time machine that travels back to the ‘60s. Lush and exploratory harmonies melt into guitar work of the most mind-altering design. The chorus really shows the band’s influential background (Strawberry Alarm Clock is a key influence here) as they blend layers of multifarious melodies into a shimmering psychedelic dream.
The CD boasts a total of 15 songs and that guarantees that there is more than enough music for listeners to really explore the true nature of The Grip Weeds and understand what this band has to offer. The DVD is also of special interest to fans and newcomers alike, and shows in-depth interaction and interviews with a band that actually has something good to say.
The Grip Weeds continue to evolve, blending the past with current trends and creating a hybrid of the best rock and roll has to offer us. This is an act that I truly enjoy and I cheer their live and recorded sound all the way to the bank. Speed Of Live is a great, inside look at a set of originals that span The Grip Weeds’ entire studio catalog. I would emphatically encourage you to seek them out and drop this into your collection posthaste. For more information on this brilliant New Jersey band, head over to gripweeds.com.