Bands named after people are, for the most part, pretty hit or miss. For all the Lynyrd Skynyrds and Dead Kennedyses of the world, there are just as many Jethro Tulls or Ed Geins. Atlanta garage-rockers Gringo Star may have chosen to name themselves after the least popular Beatle, but their sophomore album, with its simple, driving hooks and catchy songwriting, puts them in line with the decidedly more popular Beatles of Paul McCartney or John Lennon. May we suggest another name change, fellas?
The band isn’t going to write the next Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (although “Beatnik Angel Georgie” is a great ode to the bizarre pop style the Beatles invented). Instead, the band has mastered a simple style of making great garage rock without going too far overboard. “Shadow” feels like this burned-out rock song ripe with potential, a gem that shines with the glow of a pop song and the abandonment and minimalism of pure garage rock. And good luck not getting infected by the song’s haunting yet cheery “ooooohhs” and “ahhhhhhhhhhs”.
The group’s true appeal, though, is in its ability to mine for vintage gold and still sound fresher than some of their contemporaries. “Come Alive” has some of the most retro instrumentation on the record, with lush yet rigid guitars, amazing keys/organs, and this undeniably psychedelic pacing to it that makes for a real trip. “Make You Mine” is every ’50s love song rolled into one, but chunks of punk energy and crunchy guitars are successfully spun into it. Showing off their skills further, “Mexican Coma” breathes like an old Eagles track, boiled down to its most essential and lonesome with an equally amazing guitar part.
In the end, any name in the world means nothing if the band can’t deliver musically. Thanks to a dedication to old-school sounds and a timeless sense of songwriting, Gringo Star has established itself as a truly great act. Take notes, Ringo.
Essential Tracks: “Shadow”, “Make You Mine”