Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Reigning Sound and Owls

I was introduced to an album this week I wish I had when it came out in 2002, the Reigning Sound's "Time Bomb High School." Pulling influence from common garage sources like the famed "Nuggets" box set and vintage R 'n' B, the Reigning Sound rock with the soul and fury enjoyed by Fender-wielding outcasts for decades, armed with nothing but a van, Jim Beam and amplication.

And they're from Memphis, only adding more cred to the grit-and-grease harmonies and smokey vocals. Fans of anything from the Greenhornes, White Stripes, Rolling Stones or the golden voices of Stax Records would probably enjoy the Reigning Sound.

The album begins with a cover of "Stormy Weather," a lead off track a bit on-the-nose for a band who finds influence where it does, but lead singer Greg Cartwright, formerly of '90s noise-rockers the Oblivians, quickly wins over the listener with songwriting and vocals occasionally reminescent of the throaty-yell of the Replacements' Paul Westerberg. That intersection of college rock, indie punk and the super sounds of the '50s and '60s has been a winning, and often common combination in the early 2000's, when the nontrend of the "the" bands were supposed to save Rock 'n' Roll. The Reining Sound thankfully never caught that wave, which may have been kind to their pocket books, but unfair to a band with real heart and soul.

The album was included in the AV Clubs decade-end "Orphans" list, aka albums left off the best-of-the-decade list that individual AVClub music writers had a particular affinity for. This list was in many ways more interesting than the official list crammed with albums we all know and love but have been reading about in year-end lists for a decade.

Another under-the-radar record on the list was the eponymous 2001 debut and only album by Chicago outift Owls. Sinewy guitars that snake in and out of sneaky drum patterns are the immediate attraction, but Pavement fans should immediatly hear Malkmus's influence in the lead vocalist's charmingly languorous approach to singing that somtimes obscures the knotty lyrical puzzles.

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