The Sides and In Between
Reviewed by: Max Miller
It’s easy to forget that, just five years ago, garage rock was having a sort of renaissance. The White Stripes’ position in the classic rock canon was nigh unquestionable, and the Black Keys’ El Camino debuted at an unprecedented number two on the Billboard 200. Artists like Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall were popping up prominently across festival lineups and music publication headlines. More cultish acts like King Tuff and King Khan were preparing albums for major indie labels like Sub Pop and Merge.
But now, that moment feels far away. Music currently en vogue is often aggressively futurist, or, if nostalgic, gazes back fondly at the ‘80s and ‘90s instead of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Writers refer to rock bands timidly as “guitar pop,” and even then the bands getting the buzz are ones like Bellows and Porches who have steadily incorporated more and more electronic aspects. I’m not suggesting things are worse; just different. Jack White and the Black Keys are only marginally less popular, and both Segall and Thee Oh Sees released intriguing albums this year. Other garage rock revivalists who’ve been active since long before the genre’s most recent day in the sun still continue to make retro tunes for their devoted followers. Case in point: Atlanta, GA four-piece Gringo Star.
Founded in 2007 by brothers Peter and Nicholas Furgiuele, Gringo Star have released a steady stream of soul-damaged garage rock records, culminating with this year’s The Sides and In Between, their fourth LP. The album was recorded by Peter, the younger of the Furgiueles, who gives tracks like “Rotten” and “Get Closer” an appropriately retro-psychedelic feel. The empty spaces on the record are painted over with twangy guitar lines that sound like they emerged from a wormhole leading back to the Summer of Love. Peter goes heavy with the studio overdubs at times, like on “Magic,” which opens with tinkling exotic percussion, or “Going Home,” which features a whistled hook, melodic bells and guitar accents that sound like hypnagogic seagulls. The album’s penultimate track, “It’s You,” sounds like it could be the theme to a Western movie, with its chanting vocals and tremolo-picked acoustic guitars.
On the whole, The Sides and In Between remains relaxedly groovy for the majority of its 30-minute running time. That, coupled with the subtle Southern signifiers the Georgia-born and NC-raised Furgiuele brothers slip in across the record, makes for an album begging to be played on summer drives or afternoons by the lake. It’s just a shame that fall is already on its way. But don’t fret — just like garage rock, summer always comes back eventually.