Reigning Sound - Shattered (Merge Records, 2014)
Make no mistake about it, Shattered is nearly an entirely different record when compared to other albums by Reigning Sound. Fist and not least important is the presentation of nearly an entirely new lineup … with this limber crew allowing for a smoother more flowing sound, one that hangs together a bit more loosely, one with an undefined funky side that instantly brings to mind the earthy era of Stax Record productions.
[laughing] If I were forced to describe this sound it would be more along the lines of mod-R&B, rather than garage or punk, even though there is a ruggedness and immediateness to the music. It’s the notion that the riffs, and even the lyrics are more sparingly laid out, cleaner and sharper, more dynamic, meaning that they’ll hit you harder, getting you up on your feet and moving as they lay down one relentless track after another. And this fluidity doesn't stop there, Greg Cartwright finally seems to have found a home, dolling out songs that are presented without hesitation, as if they too have purpose, worthy too of exploration, meshing together with the instrumentation to nearly explode from your speakers in a controlled manner, hinting at a sophistication that can only come from years of trial and error … meaning that Cartwright may have just found a band he’s happy to be working with, and a presentation that suites what has eluded him for so long.
The most majestic aspect to this outing is the fact that Shattered has a home spun Van Morrison quality to it, where the lyrics are about everyday people doing everyday things with everyday problems, which also brings to mind what Dylan and The Band where doing down in the basement so many years ago; except that here on Shattered the concept has been polished and updated. Of course not all of the tracks are funky or blisteringly hot, and it takes a band with a refined chemistry to shift gears while moving into numbers that require more tender handling and phrasing without coming off as sentimental and sounding both uninspired and untrue.
There’s nothing disingenuous to be found here, and nothing adventurous or over the top … though perhaps to be adventurous and over the top, one needs an honesty and optimistic view, an ear for heartbreaking melodies along with uptempo sensations that are skillfully written and presented to completely own a sound, meaning that it all comes together sounding effortlessly off the cuff, and that’s the true mark of an album that ‘sounds’ over the top.
This is astoundingly good grown up rock n’ roll that requires little embellishment, coming at you with a quality that’s been missing for a very long time.
- Jenell Kesler
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