The Difficult Sheen of Perfection
For a couple of weeks I have been struggling to figure out what I might tell you about Love and Curses by Reigning Sound. It arrived in my mailbox, the physical one (which I think is important to how things ended up between me & Love and Curses: its pathway to reception), and I thought, oh, hey, Reigning Sound, Chas at Bull City Records thought Too Much Guitar! was pretty much the best thing ever and I bought it on his recommendation and thought it was good but not as great as he did.
I forget whether Love and Curses sat on the dining room table for a day or two or three, though it's likely that it did, though in my own defense I want to say that I've been trying to give promos a spin the second they arrive so that I know whether to hang onto them or not before they end up scurrying off to the corners from which they won't get retrieved for days or months or years. At any rate, when I played it, alone on a weekend evening in the house & doing nothing in particular besides sitting at the dining room table listening to CDs through the trusty old boombox that I hauled out of mothballs for no particular reason a while back, it sort of knocked me over from its first chord.
But at this point, telling you more about it is going to be difficult, because it's just a rock and roll record, albeit a better one than I've heard all year. Every song on it is really good, and most of them are great; it is beautifully written, sung, played and recorded. Every time I play it, which is pretty much daily right now, I end up saying "man!" several times, stopping whatever I'm doing to look over at the Sony Radio Cassette-Corder CFD S-26 and just stare at it while truly outstanding music spills out from its speakers, which, let's face it, are not the greatest speakers of all time. But they do the trick; they get the music out to me, and I hear it with real wonder, which is as rare for me now as it probably is for anybody else who lives in the age of constantly available musical accompaniment. The band playing on it sounds like Dylan's backing band for Blonde on Blonde, but the songs are Dylanesque at all; they're more between classic Velvets in the pop mode ("Foggy Notion," "Beginning to See the Light," "Head Held High") and the Shangri-La's. For me to compare anything to the Shangri-La's is for me to say "I love this unreservedly." But beyond that, what can I say? The mood of each song is fully realized, and individual; the vocal performance throughout is more persuasive than any vocal performance I've heard this year; the real love lavished on the overall sound elevates the album from what might otherwise come across as a genre exercise.
I had sort of thought that I was past the point of being impressed by this style of music; I thought that the Cheater Slicks & Monoshock, both more extreme and less song-driven than Reigning Sound, had kind of finished it off for me. But Reigning Sound is in the class of both those acts: there is a depth of creativity here that you'd usually expect from people trying to break new ground instead of exploring established domains. I can't really blame anybody who feels like straight-ahead 60s-style rock music has nothing left to say to him; if I never heard another record from the 60s I guess I'd be OK with that. But this is different somehow. If I were retagging its genre, I'd call it "Occult Brain," which is something that makes intuitive sense to me & which I'm not going to try to explain. I wish singer Greg Cartwright were telling a more general truth when he sang "like the salt that fills the sea/there'll be plenty more like me/back where I came from," though. But he's not, so seek out Love and Curses. It is singular.
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