Blind dates can really suck. And I don't just mean the pre-date anxiety and anticipation. No, it's the feelings that can stem from the date itself, from the person you'll be meeting. Because sometimes, no matter how pleasant, smart, attractive, witty, etc., your date may be, the two of you just don't click.
I was reminded of this while listening to Gingersol's new album, Eastern, which my editor suggested I review. It's certainly a nice, respectable album but, for all its many good qualities, it's just not right for me.
Me me me me me. What, you ask, about Gingersol? Well, the band is essentially a duo made up of singer/guitarist Steve Tagliere and multi-instrumentalist/singer Seth Rothschild, multi-tracking like mad and working with drummer Konrad Meissner and a few session musicians. Eastern is the band's third album, and the first they've written and recorded since moving cross-country from Los Angeles to New York in 2001. In a strange twist, even as the band has left the land of silicone for the mean, dirty city streets, their music has taken on a shimmery sheen that suggests too much time spent in the studio and too little time playing out to audiences.
Me, I'm attracted to girls who don't wear much makeup, or at least ones who disguise it by using it right rather than painting it on. Similarly, I generally prefer bands that don't go overboard in the studio unless that's part of their overall shtick. Unfortunately, compared to the older tracks I've downloaded from their Web site, the Gingersol on Eastern is way more Ginger than Mary Ann, if I can wax Gilligan-esque for just a moment. It's evidence in the case against digital home recording give musicians nearly unlimited tracks and effects, and they just might use them.
Which is a shame, because underneath all the cosmetics, Gingersol delivers some
fairly good rock and/or roll songs. Mid-tempo opening track "I Tried" would be
on AOR radio regularly in a better world, Tagliere's winsome voice sharing a
of love lost over a slightly fussy arrangement that combines layers of electric
and acoustic guitars with bell-like keyboards and a distracting mix in which
the drums disappear into a single channel on the verses.
Similarly, the energetic "Blink" employs gurgling synths and tape loops and some very Johnny Marr-ish guitars unfortunately, it's tinny Electronic-era Marr rather than ringing, Smiths-style fretwork. Kudos for some clever lines, though: "That's what I get/ For not looking both ways/ When I cross my eyes/ For believing teenage lies/ For wasting so much time."
A strong current of sadness runs throughout Eastern (Tagliere describes their music as "happy-choly"), chronicling the recent dissolution of both Tagliere's and Rothschild's marriages. "I Did" finds Rothschild drawling a clever opening couplet ("For better or worse should mean there's better/ 'Til death do us part should mean we're one deader") over a very '70s Cali-rock groove, electric piano and brushed drums building to a heartbreaking chorus of "You do/ You do/ But what did we do/ Just said 'I do'/ And we lied to the world."
Much of the ballad-heavy Eastern finds Tagliere and Rothschild similarly laughing to keep from crying. The seven-minute "None of My Friends" floats on a gentle bed of percussion before building toward some powerful harmony vocals and somber guitar wailing, Tagliere singing about a friendship that's never gonna sail.
"Please Let Me Go" plays like a countrified Beatles tune, lap steel guitar brushing up against a Mellotron's flutish tones. The sole stinker is the too-clever-by-half "Yesterday," which rides an annoyingly peppy piano line into the Randy Newman-ish opening couplet of "Lions and tigers/ Lawyers and bears/ High on the soapbox/ And nobody cares," suggesting that you can take the boys out of California but you can't take the California out of the boys.
But ultimately, well… please believe me that when I say it's not Gingersol, it's me. Really, I mean it. They're good at what they do; I'm just not much into it. And, well, they come on a little strong for me with the layers and layers of sound. But I'm sure there are plenty of fans out there for them heck, my girlfriend is already one. As long as Gingersol keep on keepin' on, they'll find plenty of fans. Maybe even you.