REIGNING SOUND - Too Much Guitar CD
I've been a real slow coach coming 'round to this one, that I'm willing to admit. I was given a copy of this about 3 months back and, much as I love In The Red as a label, I didn't give it any kind of priority listen. The scenario was all-too-typical: a spin or two, a nod of the head and a barely-informed opinion of "It's OK". In the meantime, more straight-down-the-line rock 'n' roll friends of mine were gushing its praises and appeared a bit put off by my nonchalance regarding The Greatness of Too Much Guitar. I figured they were sniggering at me and probably uttered lines behind my back like, I bet Dave would like it if it had a long-lost, sadly impoverished black guy wailing away on sax, or maybe if the guitarist was known for attacking his instrument with a chainsaw. Wrong on all counts, kids!
I like rock 'n' roll as much as, well, the next rock 'n' roller, and when it's done this well, I like it a whole lot more. As stated in my pro-Cheater Slicks rant you probably skipped over, my beef with Rock (you know, the capitol "R" shit) per se is more pointed towards the C-grade fluff that seems to get all the attention and even more so towards the brain-dead, narrow-minded fans who persistently hail this godawful waffle as the Second Coming and dismiss anything that falls out of their two-inch-wide boundaries of what constitutes "great rock" as "hippie" and/or "fag shit". There are two (related) streams of rankness of concern here: all that in-fucking-describably woeful post-Hellacopters European cock-rock garbage which, for whatever reason, still has a big following down here, and the whole faux white-trash/redneck/hot-rod "garage punk" scene cluttered with an abundance of trucker caps and bad tattoos. Bring 'em all together and throw 'em in the trash can, I say. On the other end of the scale exist a band like the Reigning Sound.
I've never heard any of their previous releases or even anything from the Oblivians' (one of Greg Cartwright's pre-RS outfits) highly-praised catalogue of the '90s (I was too busy listening to long-lost, impoverished sax players and guitar-destroying art-fag combos at the time), but maybe one day I'll come around to them. My sole exposure to any Oblivians-related ephemera would be Eric (Oblivian) Friedl's great, sadly defunct fanzine from 10-odd years back, Wipeout!, an awesome collection of smart-arsed bagging & praising which covered everything from the latest garage trash to Japanese noise to all the free jazz reissues which were coming out at the time. You see, that's what separates the great rock bands from the imitators: the gents from the likes of the Oblivians could wax lyrical on anything and everything from Howlin' Wolf to John Cage (or whatever). Try discussing anything but, ugh, the Hellacopters or Nashville Pussy with a band like the Flaming Sideburns (or the thousand fucking bands who sound exactly like them) and you'd probably get a big, Daffy Duck-style question mark over their head. But I digress...
The weather's clearing in ol' Melbourne town and Spring has sprung. At this time of year I start pondering what may become The Feel-Good Hit of the Summer, and I get a feeling that Too Much Guitar may just hit the mark. This had made a pretty comfy home for itself next to the work computer of late, so yesterday I decided to put it to use and gave it a spin. Out of laziness I gave it another. Then another. Before you knew it I was blasting this out the office window and, damnit, I felt alive! Two songs in particular struck my fancy, so strongly written were they with hooks a-plenty, I figured they must be covers: "Funny Thing", a mid-tempo weeper with husky vocals and a chorus that won't let up, and "I'll Cry", a party stomper of Animal House proportions that makes me want to join the nearest booze-lovin' frat house, and fast. Both are Greg Cartwright originals. That, dear readers, is a sign of a Really Strong Release. Add to that a couple of real covers (Isaac Hayes, Hank Ballard, Carpet Baggers) and a bevy of originals which are no slouches themselves (not a runt in the litter, in fact), and you've got a bonafide hit on yer hands.
Reigning Sound know how too "rock" without resorting to stupid cliches. They won't change your life nor are they re-writing the rules of contemporary songwriting as we know it, but as far as Rock in the year 2004 goes - Rock of the loud guitars, short songs and Everyman Lyrics variety - the Reigning Sound are probably just as good as some of my friends claim them to be. As far as I can tell, they don't sing about their motor vehicles, crazy monsters or B-movies, nor do they engage in guitar heroics or the kind of clueless, frat-boy antics that those of I-can't-believe-people-actually-fall-for-this-Z-grade-dumb-as-a-box-of-hammers baloney various contemporaries of theirs engage in. The verdict's in: Too Much Guitar is a "loose, sloppy, beer-drenched" rock 'n' roll album which is a whole lot better than that description may imply.