March 15, 2004

GINGERSOL -- EASTERN

Gingersol CD cover.jpg

Life's bummers wrapped with memorable melodies

It's easy to listen to Gingersol's third full-length album, Eastern (Rubric Records), and draw similarities to the avant-garde, alt-country-pop tinkering that Wilco fashioned to much acclaim in 2002 with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

But while the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based band wraps its songs in a wide spectrum of sound effects -- via percussion, keyboards, synthesizers, loops, muffled drums and even the occasional mechanical hiss -- Eastern never turns into a show of how many distinct noises can be wedged into the mix.

Instead, the busy but tasteful production by guitarist-singer Seth Rothschild only enhances the band's best device -- treading dark emotional ground, while clinging to the hint of hope in its uplifting melodies. The obvious case of this is the album's centerpiece, the heartfelt "None of My Friends," a seven-minute ballad of uneasiness that finds Steve Tagliere (who handles the bulk of the lead vocals for the band) sounding most vulnerable. There are references to psychological scars from 9/11 ("Like a razor/Like a black box/Can I trust you?/Do I need to?"), and Tagliere, with his slight rasp, sends this chorus soaring over layers of guitar, synths and backing vocals, making for a feel-good harmony you might expect from Brian Wilson. It is a strikingly powerful contrast.

There are lighter, simpler arrangements where Gingersol's tried-and-true pop craftsmanship shines through, as in the album's ultra-catchy opener, "I Tried." Even then, a sense of dissatisfaction creeps in: "When you're crashing through the walls you'd never climb/Remember how hard I tried."

Likewise, somebody's coping with a huge bummer on "You and Your Clouds," while on "Dunce Cap," Tagliere confesses a need for somebody to "talk me down" from the ledge now that it seems "everything has passed me by." On "I Did," Rothschild seemingly one-ups him in the doom-and-gloom department with his offering to a lover, "Till death do us part should mean we're one deader."

The good news is that in Gingersol's world, things never truly hit a dead end. For every sour moment, there's a great hook to make it a little sweeter.

-- By George Henn

Posted by medleyville at March 15, 2004 05:09 PM
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