The concept of garage rock can be fleeting. Bands whose music is pigeonholed hereabouts provide some thrashy guitars, a good deal of vibrant drumming, and vocals that tend to stay on a particularly steady wavelength. Bands like The Monks were shredding about in the ’60s, and then the emergence of punk somewhat overshadowed this particular brand of rock ‘n’ roll. Then along came the “revival” at the turn of the millennium, with bands like The Hives, The Vines, The White Stripes and The Strokes bringing new attention to garage aesthetics and giving hope to millions of young, hip kids who dreamed of moving their instruments from garages to arenas.
The Greenhornes are no strangers to this style though, having released three albums, it’s been a lengthy wait for their newest release, ****. The band went on a little hiatus, with bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler collaborating with Jack White and Brendon Benson to form The Raconteurs. But they’re back and, despite being apart for years, the band have lost none of their previous magic. **** is both strong and bold.
The album opens on a vibrant note with Saying Goodbye; a little ironic considering it’s the first track, but maybe irony was their intent. The drumming and guitar work remain consistent throughout the album, as singer/guitarist Craig Fox belts out some impressive, Detroit-rock style riffs. The instrumentals work; with such a long time away from the studio, it makes sense that the band would here and there adopt an introspective tone, notably on Cave Drawings. The lingering acoustic guitar in the background adds a nice layer atop an already dynamic song.
Punk roots are also to the fore; most of the songs range from two to three and a half minutes, each packing a quick punch within their time constraints. A key track on the album is Go Tell Henry; Fox’s guitar work seems subtle and bluesy at first, then as the thundering drums start to kick in, he lets loose some wild riffs. The harmonies echo over the distortion like a menacing angel lingering over the dark ages, but it’s a welcome change from the faster tracks that precede it.
Although The Greenhornes have displayed a fine sense of good old garage aesthetics, this album can seem a little bland at first glance. It could be passed off as another garage rock revival album that does not live up to its promise. But on closer listen it is so much more. In an age where musicians are constantly looking toward a more futuristic sound to portray their craft, The Greenhornes are living proof that looking back is sometimes the best bet.