They revel in their retro-rock genre with mellifluous joie de vivre.
David Sheppard 2010
Innovation is overrated, or so you imagine The Greenhornes would have us think. Certainly, based on the evidence of the 12 pocket battleship essays on ****, the Cincinnati combo’s fourth album in a decade (and first for eight years), their obvious predilection for classic garage rock, R&B and British Invasion guitar pop would have us believe that amplified rock’n’roll music peaked in 1966. Stuck in a time warp they may be, but singer-guitarist Craig Fox, drummer Patrick Keeler and bassist Jack Lawrence (the latter pair better known as the rhythm section in Jack White’s Raconteurs – Lawrence also plays with White in The Dead Weather), revel in their chosen genre with such mellifluous joie de vivre that it’s hard to deny them their retrospective orientation.
That’s very much the case on vigorous opening cut Saying Goodbye, a slice of over-compressed, vintage valve amp mod-rock that perfectly bisects and dissects The Who, The Kinks and The Pretty Things in their frilly shirt-front pomp; all windmill guitar chords, bovine bass runs, clattering drum fills and soaring three-part vocal harmonies. And so the album unfurls, running the gamut of variously nuanced extrapolations on guitar rock as was, poised forever on the cusp of psychedelia. Thus, Better Off Without It (a Box Tops manqué, all Motown beats whirring Hammond organ and wounded boyfriend vocals) bleeds effortlessly into Cave Drawings (a slowly evolving baroque-rock ballad, a la The Zombies, replete with harpsichord and fuzz-tone guitar solo) and Song 13 (unadulterated garage bubblegum, with a hint of The Lemonheads and some ambitious handclapping), amassing like tracks from a lost volume of a Pebbles or Nuggets compilation, albeit with superior production values.
As good as it is, when the trio step off the retro gas just a tad, as on the slow, plaintive My Sparrow, they evince an equal facility for hymnal guitar balladry with a touch of Big Star-like grandeur that, while it still draws on ‘golden age’ spirit, feels fresher and more sincere than much here. Indeed, after that, the churning freak-beat of Need Your Love and The Electric Prunes homage Left the World Behind feel ever so slightly phoned in.