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House of Vibes Revisited

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Album Review

On its first full-length, the Grip Weeds immediately cut a wild swath to the front of the nineties pop line with its vibrant pop, partly because it eschewed the giddiness that many bands falsely take from Sixties pop, instead infusing its plucky melodies with Eastern-psyche progressions and mysterious-sounding modal harmonies. Put simply, a Grip Weeds song is so distinctive and unique that it obliterates most pop pretenders, retro-mongers, and fetishists, showing them for what they are: copyists working according to genre rather than inspiration. And there is plenty of inspiration on House of Vibes, plenty of odd vocal touches and indefatigable playing, and the Reil brothers seem to have mastered the art of two- and three-part harmony. The normal shorthand would probably go something like this: the band plays Byrds-by-way-of-the Who ("Out of Today," "Realize," "Haunted," others) or Who-by-way-of-the Byrds ("someone, " particularly, and Kurt Reil's propulsive drumming throughout), while occasionally displaying the mellow country lope of Buffalo Springfield on "Salad Days" and "Realize," filtering them all through Middle Eastern melodies, psych-styled guitar, and an uncommon spiritual yearning. And those touchstones would seemingly place them firmly in the backward-looking notion of Sixties pop synthesizers and hopeless retroists. But it simply is not so, and that sort of cynicism is mislead anyway. The Grip Weeds progress from various musical precedents just as Sixties pop acts were progressing from the wellspring of early rock & roll (though the divergences were much more pronounced then because there were far fewer sources). And like those Sixties band, the Grip Weeds do not wear their influences on their sleeve, they have absorbed them, and have used them to create melodies so good that they seem to have always existed. Both Reil brothers display tremendous songwriting skills, and bassist Mick Hargrave raises the number of strong songwriters in the band to three. And the music, rather than sounding either trendy or antiquated, shows aspirations that reach beyond simple commercial success. If there is one way in which House of Vibes does harken back, it is this: the music recalls a era when a pop song had the capacity to change the way the world looked, the way you look at the world. That is a quality too often missing in any music.

Biography

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

The Grip Weeds' name tells you a lot about the New Jersey band, which got that name from John Lennon's Private Gripweed character in the 1967 comedy How I Won the War. Consistently mindful of 1960s rock, the Grip Weeds are a retro-psychedelic outfit whose influences range from the British Invasion power pop of the Who, the Kinks, and Revolver-era Beatles to the Southern California jangle pop of the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield. The rockin' yet highly melodic quartet has often been compared to another...
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House of Vibes Revisited, The Grip Weeds
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