Review & Track Premiere: The Golden Grass, Absolutely

the golden grass absolutely

[Click play above to stream ‘The Spell’ from The Golden Grass’ new LP Absolutely. Album is out April 6 via Listenable Records with preorders here and The Golden Grass are on tour in Europe with Heat this May. Click here to pop out the tour poster.]

The very first lyrics one hears on the opening track of The Golden Grass‘ third long-player, Absolutely, arrive in the line, ‘I want a piece of the action.’ In no small way, that’s been the story of the Brooklynite trio all along. The boogie-minded trio made their self-titled debut (review here) in 2014 through Svart, and followed that up by signing to Listenable Records for the 2016 release of Coming Back Again (review here), a more spacious and progressive offering that nonetheless held onto the maddening catchiness of its predecessor. With Absolutely, they do likewise, and rein in some of the more complex impulses of the second album in favor of good-time heavy rock more akin to the debut.

Like everything the band has done since their outset, that can only be the result of a conscious decision — nothing in this group, whether it’s the vocal harmonies between drummer Adam Kriney and guitarist Michael Rafalowich on “Catch Your Eye,” the opener alluded to above, or the persistent shuffle in the penultimate “Out on the Road,” on which KrineyRafalowich and bassist/backing vocalist Frank Caira put themselves in direct conversation with “Wheels” from the debut in several interesting and telling ways. As they tell tales of the road, to think of a line like “Rock and roll was just out of season” working its way into “Out on the Road” could easily be taken as an assessment of their touring experience over the last several years, at least in the US. At the same time, “Out on the Road,” which is the longest track on the 39-minute Absolutely at 8:58, operates more efficiently than did “Wheels,” or, say, “See it Through” from Coming Back Again, the perspective of which also seems to be a factor here.

Could it be that a cynical or more jaded perspective is taking hold in the band after two records that, by all accounts, probably didn’t get the attention they deserved for their stylistic cohesion, nuance of sound, and quality of performance and craft? It wouldn’t be unreasonable if that were the case, but I’m not sure it is, because while The Golden Grass may have their frustrations as they approach the end of a resoundingly productive first half-decade together — three records, numerous tours at home and abroad, picked up by quality labels pretty much from the beginning — they’ve also never seemed to put more into their songwriting or arrangements. Cuts like “Show Your Hand” and “Runaway” deftly balance accessibility and subtlety in their execution.

the golden grass

The hooks are forward as ever, but there’s more complexity to the interplay of the trio singing together that would seem to be a lesson learned from Coming Back Again and repurposed into more straightforward songwriting — not that there isn’t still room for some psychedelic flourish from Rafalowich‘s guitar in “Runaway” or the brief “Never You Mind,” just that it comes in conjunction with the ultra-boogie of side B’s “The Spell” and harder-edged closer “Begging the Question,” which brings Iron Butterfly-via-Hendrix-style late ’60s fuzz to bear amid a longer instrumental stretch of dug-in turns and more highlight lead work from Rafalowich, who shines throughout Absolutely in a way he hasn’t yet done in The Golden Grass‘ material. The same could be said of his vocals as well in standing up to Kriney‘s still-the-lead-singer positioning, and more than ever, it’s the dynamic between these two that lets The Golden Grass be who they are throughout this mature and deceptively forward, hook-laden and gorgeously executed third outing.

And if The Golden Grass “want a piece of the action” — which I’ll grant they’re talking about in something of a different context in “Catch Your Eye,” but I still think applies to their situation overall; they started out as a band with an idea of who they were looking to match themselves with as broad an audience as possible — one could only say it would be a piece well earned. Their sound, which has always been so much their down despite basking in a swath of classic influences as it continues to do, has never sounded so developed or quite so engaging as it does here as “Never You Mind,” “Runaway” and the trippier “Walk Along” draw listeners deeper and deeper into the meat of the album, headed to the apex in “Out on the Road”‘s plotted but still jammy-sounding take, sounding no less like it was written for the stage than “The Spell” before it or “Show Your Hand” earlier in the tracklisting. Having long since mastered their aesthetic, The Golden Grass have yet to stop developing it, and that’s emblematic of the underlying force of will that drives them overall. Make no mistake, they still sound positive. The melodies are still sweet. The songs are still unbridled, unashamed fun and the vibe remains as upbeat and welcoming as one could possibly ask.

Three albums deep into their tenure, it’s strange to think of The Golden Grass as underrated, or as a cult band despite the absolute lack of sinister edge to what they do, but somehow both terms apply. Nonetheless, what was true about them four years ago remains true on Absolutely, and that’s that their good-times spirit is delivered with genuine and engaging energy and that it puts them in a category of their own in heavy rock, and remains a very-much-needed breath of fresh air in a heavy rock scene so often geared toward pessimism. Underrated or not, The Golden Grass remain a singular good time and sound more content than ever to let the rest of the world do what it is while they throw a party to which anyone and everyone who can get down — even for just a little while — is invited. That means you. They don’t want your blood. They just want you do dance. For those who take on the dare to let loose and meet The Golden Grass on their own level, Absolutely should be no less revered than anything they’ve done to-date. If anything, more so.

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