Golden State’s James Grundler must really wonder what we’re all so afraid of. It seems that ever since the Beatles turned their back on “A Hard Days Night” and set their sights on Abbey Road to write more obscure, sophisticated songs every band has followed suit. Radiohead basically renounced the fridge buzz of “Creep” for the apocalyptic movements of “Paranoid Android.” At The Drive-In turned on their songs and dismembered in order to shape and fold genres and time signatures in the Mars Volta.
And though all of these bands have found varying degrees of success in this progression (I for one find Radiohead’s latter work far superior to Pablo Honey and On A Friday) it can’t helped but be asked – what’s so scary about the pop song and what’s wrong with sticking with the old?
“Sifting through the old seems to be the new black! With any luck someone will get it right.”
After a dismissed album with the Din Pedals and two strong yet largely overlooked albums with the now defunct Paloalto, singer/songwriter James Grundler has reemerged with a new band and a new sound but in an all so familiar direction. Focusing on the craft of song, Golden State grabs at influences that are more classic than contemporary.
“Rain,” the lead off track, immediately explodes with sound that seems to be ignited by the mere action of pressing play. The sweeping vocals and hopeful lyrics ring reminiscent of an almost Bono-rific ability to croon and swoon. “Ordinary People,” the largest departure for Grundler but still no vacation, takes the now standard Interpol hit-pause chord progression and capes it in reverb drenched harmonies that would make any ordinary person stop to ponder the possibility of being saved. The possible Top 40 hit, “This Time” is really a warning that after years of being in the wrong place at the wrong time there are good things that come to those who wait.
The standout song on Splinters Out, “Criminal,” wanders through forgiveness and longing for love once had. Though Grundler sings of his innocence it is simple to envision the forsaken lover in his cell with only his memories of the love he has lost and a hope to make it all right. The song borrows from classic Beach Boys chord progressions and elements of Motown linger throughout the songs lyrics. And as for irony, the song’s “wall of sound” production is enough to make the suspected criminal and Let It Be guru, Phil Spector blush.
The Splinters Out EP is largely a collection of songs that the band has been showcasing in LA over the last year. Though it is a demonstration of Grundler’s ability to keep his audience focused he does sometimes fall short. “How Long” teeters on the fence between heartfelt and whiny, eventually falling before it makes it to the end. Fortunately these trivialities don’t take away from Golden State’s reputation of Los Angeles’ most unknown rock treasure. With the exclusion on the EP of the live staple “River Runs Dry” (quite possibly the strongest rock song Grundler has ever written) Golden State makes it known that they still have plenty of arsenal in their war on music.
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