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Reigning Sound - Love and Curses

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Artist: Reigning Sound

Album: Love and Curses

Label: In the Red

Review date: Aug. 11, 2009

In the five years since Reigning Sound dropped Too Much Guitar, garage rock has gone from being a fetish lionized by dusty-fingered vinyl hunters to the default setting of an army of ambitious young rockers. Sinking coin into 1960s reproduction Gibsons and copping moves from the Nuggets comps now seems to be the application process for acceptance at Ivy-League indie labels across the country.

Long one of the finest conjurors of this sound, Greg Cartwright and his gang of Asheville-via-Memphis lifers have always rested comfortably on the fringe of any so called scene. Cartwright’s music – both in gutter-grazers Oblivians and his current outfit – is clearly born more of fascination than fad.

Love and Curses, the band’s forth full-length, is the healthiest representation yet of this musical obsession. While Too Much Guitar was torn and frayed like a band playing the last show of a marriage-dissolving tour, Love and Curses is the sound of a group at the peak of stability. Beefed up to a four-piece with the addition of Dave Amels on keys, and aided by some legit recording time, the boys are confident and taut. Bagging the live-in-store approach that provided Too Much Guitar’s tweeter-tearing fuzz, the new album was conceived in the studio, with tracks recorded in North Carolina’s Echo Mountain and Memphis’ legendary Ardent Studios.

Thankfully, with Reigning Sound a bit of patience recording does not a ‘mature’ record make. While Cartwright may not sound like he’s about to shed blood with his guitar strings, Love and Curses lacks none of the fire exhibited in the live setting. As a songwriter, Cartwright doesn’t need long to get his point across and the band favors stoney solidity over embellishment; only two tracks on the album break the three-minute mark. "Call Me" is strutting, sex-charged soul of the sort Cartwright seems able to toss off without batting a ‘lid. "Only Want You More" finds bassist David Wayne Gay and drummer Lance Wille pounding the beat into the pavement while Cartwright yowls and cries. The record’s sole cover, "Stick Up For Me," originally recorded by the Glass Sun, is the rawest cut here, with Cartwright shearing away his vocal chords over peals of organ and dual channels of riptide guitar.

Adding to the album’s depth are a number of mellower tracks, songs more in tune with the material on the Home For Orphans EP or the band’s underrated debut Break Up, Break Down. "Something To Hold Onto" is one of Cartwright’s stronger Byrdsian ballads. "Polly Anne" deals in the romance of the down-and-out, dictating the story of a girl set out to paint the world in a swath of broken hearts. On "The Bells," Cartwright, smoke-voiced and sincere, is found pleading, “pierce this night / with your honeyed voice / let me know I still have a choice.”

In an era where kitsch too frequently trumps class, it’s a proud moment hearing a band driven by none more than their love of the material. Love and Curses is a rock ‘n’ roll record with neither pretense nor manicure, a clean glimpse into rock’s exposed essence.

By Ethan Covey

Other Reviews of Reigning Sound

Too Much Guitar

Live at Goner

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View all articles by Ethan Covey

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