In the Red, 2009
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2010
A lot of my favorite records have a certain universal quality. That is, when I heard the Reigning Sound's Love and Curses for the first time I immediately related to it in a way where I thought “this is exactly how I felt in 2008.” Going through a pretty stiff break-up that whole year, this record would have come in handy, as it's one of the best damn break-up records I've ever heard. Full of pain and misery but never maudlin and never feeling sorry for itself. Maxims of heartbreak are delivered with balls. LITERAL maxims of heartbreak, like in the magnificent opener “Break It,” which well, is one of the most eloquent and non-weepy but utterly painful songs I've ever heard, inquiring the heartbreaker to break the singer's heart one more time to remind him that it no longer belongs to her. It oozes with pain but plays it cool, which is an incredibly hard thing to do, and something that only seasoned vets like the Reigning Sound can pull off.
I knew basically nothing about this band when I listened to the record for the first time, which was at work. The CD came in, and I remembered hearing good things about it but remember being so over-burdened by all the garage rock coming out at the moment that I never made time for it. So it came in to work, I put it on after we closed, and then I bought it the next day and it has rarely left my car stereo since. After a couple weeks, the album proved that it wouldn't wear itself out, which is a pretty clear sign that I need to buy it on vinyl so I did, and it's one of those records that haunts the three major set pieces of my life: Home, Work, Car. I listen to this record in all three places as much as humanly possible and it never wears out. I've been courting this record for a month, and now I feel really bad for going home with a headache before the Oblivions played at Scion Garage Fest and even more annoyed with skipping Greg Cartwright's solo show at Love Garden the night before because, well, I didn't know who the fuck that guy was. And then a week later I fall in love with this stupid record. Such is life. Finding a record you're going to keep with you for the rest of your life at the cost of missing a show that you would have throughly enjoyed with all your heart had it happened a week later.
I think this is a perfect record. I've felt pretty beaten down by music since I left the music director post at KJHK and realized what a toll it takes on you when you have to keep on the tip of every single thing that is coming out to make sure nothing slips through the cracks and as much stuff gets out as possible. When I graduated, I no longer had to pay attention to anything new and sank into a wonderful abyss of mid-90s alternative rock. Maybe that's why Love and Curses was such a beautiful fit. It's like a wedding, something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. It's definitely all those things. A group of geezers releasing a new album that shames the up and comers trying to do garage rock revival while playing a borrowed genre themselves and playing heartbreak in the spirit of all those long lost blues legends. Something like that. It's like comfort food. I'm a sucker for a good break-up record, and despite being in an incredibly stable relationship and being happier than I've been probably ever, I still can't get enough of this record. I listen to it all the time. I listen to it in the car whenever I get sick of whatever new record I'm listening to in an attempt to get back with the program, I listen to it when I cook dinner and do the dishes, I listen to it at the gym. It's versatile and all-purpose and even though I don't relate to the feelings that Cartwright is so perfectly expressing on this record, I still remember when I did feel exactly like “Love Won't Leave You a Song,” “Debris,” and “Call Me” at a point in my life and I think that's what's really important. It's a record that strikes a personal chord. It was written for me, and hundreds of other men who've made the mistake of not letting go. Which is most of us, I assume, which is why this is a perfect record. You've been there, they've been there, but man, they do it with brilliant turns of phrase, perfectly placed organ solos, bitchin' solos, and gravelly pack-a-day vocals that hammer the point home. Heartbreak was never this much fun, and to any woman who's ever wanted to know what dudes go thorough when they get their hearts broke, well, this is pretty much definitive.
I want to say this is my favorite song on the record, but there are at least 5 songs that fit that description. This one best exemplifies the Reigning Sound's ability to walk the line between tenderness and bitterness, again, without seeming like a bunch of fucking pussies.