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Album Review

THE GRIP WEEDS
Speed of Live

Please. Would someone please tell me why The Grip Weeds are not riding the top of whatever substitutes for charts these days? I've been a Grip Weeds fan for a few years now and I tell people about these guys and a glaze comes over their eyes and they change the subject. I don't get it. These are the same people who say they are looking for music like it used to be, music that isn't bieber-ized or auto-tuned and yet when I point to the obvious, they shut down. Little do they know that when they shut out The Grip Weeds, they're shutting out a band which could jumpstart just about any hippies' memories of the past. For myself, it jumpstarts memories of Brit Rock, jangly twelve-strings, spacey harmonies, psychedelia and a whole lot more.

If The Grip Weeds were not already one of my favorite bands, they would be now. One time through Speed of Live has me convinced that they are one of the best psych/retro rock bands playing today. They have a sense of the past without falling into the trap so many retro bands do--- excluding all but the retro. Seriously. We don't need bands which copy sixties or seventies psych note for note nor do we need a rehash of all that once was. What we need is refreshing modern day music with those roots we all love. The Weeds give us that here, in spades, starting with a crunching rocker, Every Minute. It's the perfect opener. After listening to this album numerous times, I think it might be the perfect opener to an almost perfect album. It's not really psych, but it's loud and solid, powering its way into your consciousness before you can resist.

A lot of what is on this album is not really psych, if you want to get technical. It is rock--- crunchy sixties-edged rock with just enough of everything needed to make it exciting but not overbearing. Crunchy guitar, both rhythm and lead--- check. Power drumming--- check. First-rate vocals, lead and harmonies--- check. You couldn't ask for much more.

When they do enter the psych mode, though, they do it with confidence and a vengeance. The vocals on Strange Change Machine, for instance, which scream everything from Strawberry Alarm Clock to The Fifth Dimension. The odd chord structure of Speed of Life. The speed-driven cover of Rock n Roll Star. The San Francisco-influenced Sun Ra Ga. And the song which convinced me years ago that The Grip Weeds were worth their weight in incense: Astral Man. (Watch video here)

Live albums are pretty much hit and miss, to my mind. Most have been record company attempts to cash in on the hits and nothing more and, on the whole, not worth the vinyl. Others were acceptable substitutes for mediocre albums which contained a hit or two (you string tracks from three or four of those together and you might have enough decent material to warrant live versions--- it's either that or a Greatest Hits album). And then there have been the amazing few--- albums which contained material well worth the effort--- Cream's Wheels of Fire, for instance, or Cheap Trick At Budokan or MC5's Kick Out the Jams. You can add Speed of Live. The Grip Weeds' studio albums are topnotch, to my ears, understand, but the live treatment here is something else.

There used to be a sticker record companies would put on their rock albums occasionally which said “Recorded loud to be played loud.” Play this one loud. Then you'll understand.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.


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