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The Grip Weeds: Inner Grooves

For over a quarter century, one of rock’s best kept secrets has been The Grip Weeds.  Over the course of five albums, the Grips have mastered the art of the perfect power-pop record, to the point that they sound like the inventors of the genre.  Listening to the Grip Weeds is often like traipsing through the Coolest Record Collection In The World, albeit some parallel world where the songs are all different and, dare I say, better.

Bold statement, eh?  Folks, it ain’t no lie.  The Grip Weeds went from being nowhere near my radar to one of my favorite bands in less than the three minutes it took to hear “Astral Man” on Little Steven’s Underground Garage (aka “The Only Radio Station In The World Worth Listening To”).  That’s all it took.

Comprised of brothers Rick and Kurt Reil (guitar and drums – both split vocal duties) as well as Kristin Pinell on lead guitar and Michael Kelly on bass, this is a band that was clearly raised on the right sort of records, the kind of records that Record Store Dudes pine over, the kind of records that made the world a better place, the kind of records that influenced everything that came after, whether the influenced knew it or not.  I’m talking about original British Invasion bands and West Coast Psychedelic and Detroit Garage Rock and British Psyche and acid-folk, and everything else that rock and roll was really built on.  But rather than just rehash those old records, they weed out the best bits and weave them into their own propulsive sound and make them their own.  The proof, my friends, is found within their body of work.

Their most recent release is also one of their most revelatory and one that really drives home their genius.  Inner Grooves is, as Peter Tork described, “the collected neglected”.  Outtakes from previous albums, songs from compilations, alternate versions of album tracks, that sort of thing that generally leads the listener to expect some sort of closet-clearing, slapdash compilation, and I admit that I was dubious when they first announced its release.  Their albums are so strong that surely this would lack verve and focus, I thought.  I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised when I first put this on.

Nothing here ventures anywhere close to being a “throwaway” and, in fact, some of the band’s best songs can be found on this disc.  Kicking off with “Rainy Day #1&2”, the band quickly offers up some of the finest power-pop the world has seen since the Posies’ masterful second album, Dear 23.  If this world were a perfect place where the masses had actual taste in music, this song would be a landslide hit.

“Nothing Lasts” reminds me of Count Five or maybe early Beau Brummels, filtered through Big Star.  “Every Minute”, originally from The Sound Is In You, is featured in an acoustic version that would feel at home on The Who Sell Out, while “Over The Edge” is about as Merseybeat as one can possibly get without being Gerry & The Pacemakers or The Beatles.  All suspicions of influence are confirmed on the spot-on take on The Byrds’ “She Don’t Care About Time”, one of the greatest things to come from the pen of Gene Clark.

Despite having bits and pieces that are reminiscent of other bands and styles, none of this sounds put-on.  It doesn’t even sound intentional.  In fact, it sounds like some of the most honest music out there.  While drawing from the greatest records of all time, the end result is a sound that is all their own, their influences merely the fabric from which their tapestry is woven.

“Love’s Lost On You”, previously released on Summer Of A Thousand Years, is offered up in an acoustic-based version that features those two staples of the classic psych record:  electric sitar and backwards guitar solo.  This is another one of those songs that, at least in my imaginary perfect world, is a smash hit.  Speaking of Psych, “It’ll Never Be Me” sounds almost like a lost track from SF Sorrow by the Pretty Things, with one of those shimmering Grip Weeds choruses that brings it right home.

“In Waking Dreams”, previously from The Sound Is In You, is presented in a brash, early take that reminds me of Guided By Voices, especially in the big, pounding Who-isms – I could hear this on Universal Truths And Cycles or even one of GbV’s 80s albums.   Such is the case with “We’re Not Getting Through”, originally from the same album, presented here in an alternate version, released as a single, that is even better than the LP version.

“Sight Unseen”, originally from the Giant On The Beach album shows up in an acoustic version that reveals the utter beauty of this song, and a harmonized guitar solo that confirms it.  Closing out the CD is “Sun Ra Ga”, an epic jam that proves that this band is more than just catchy pop songs.  Two parts of this were excised and released on Strange Change Machine but here it is presented in its full glory.  A propulsive vamp that reminds me a bit of the Byrds’ (Untitled) version of “Eight Miles High”.  This is a direction I’d like to hear more of from this band.

Digital copies of the album include a bonus track in the form of the uncut version of “I Believe”, originally from Giant On The Beach, that proves that even the bottom of the Grip Weeds’ barrel is still better than most artists’ whole stash.

Do yourself a favor and check these guys out.  If a collection like this sounds a bit daunting, it really isn’t.  This record plays out that well.  But you can also begin with their 2008 best-of, Infinite Soul, compiled by none other than Little Steven.  And you know he knows what he’s doing.  Whatever you do, just get on the ball now.

Written by: Chris Anderson

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