Reigning Sound’s take on heartbreak works just fine

by James Brotheridge


cd-reigningReigning Sound
3.5 out of 5

Of all the things Reigning Sound’s new LP has going for it, earth-shattering originality isn’t one of them. But that’s fine, because you never get the impression that frontman Greg Cartwright is going for that; instead, Shattered is all refinement, variation and stabs at evoking genuine emotion.

Cartwright never sits still for long. Over the years, the man’s been in more than his fair share of great bands (including Compulsive Gamblers, The Oblivians, and contributions to The Deadly Snakes and The Detroit Cobras). These days Reigning Sound is his main gig, and they make their home in North Carolina, also the home to their new label, Merge Records.

The fidelity of the recording is almost surprising. Cartwright’s a garage-rock king, and since the current trend is fuzzed-out riffs, vocals and everything else, the quality work that went into producing Shattered could almost be seen as a statement.

There’s also some content that deserves to be highlighted by the sparkling recording quality. They mix in roots rockers like “Baby, It’s Too Late”, but a greater part of the record is dedicated to near-torch songs. Slide and strings are used sparingly, complementing the solid and unobtrusive work from the band, with Dave Amels’ organ work often leading the way.

The music is intuitive and real, and Cartwright matches that with his lyrics: when he says “let’s play the game” to the “North Cackalacky Girl”, you can tell it’s a game he’s been through many times before. “The fool in my bed still believes every word you said” from “In My Dreams” is a good line, and when he starts sounding a little like Bob Dylan’s “The Man in Me” in that song, it feels earned.

The broken man isn’t always the most adventurous place to come from, but when done right it hits the spot.


Dirt Cult
3 out of 5

People who are too young to remember The Sonics, people who are too young to remember The Tubes, people who are too young to remember Doug and the Slugs, people who are too young to remember NOFX, people who are too young to remember Gob –– well, they just missed out. But they’re  not yet too young to remember Needles//Pins, the latest entry in the great West Coast rough-voiced power pop canon.

Shamebirds is the Vancouver trio’s second LP, and though it reminds you of every snotty garage-pop band you can think of, it’s not a throwback so much as a carrying of the torch. Ten bare-bones tracks full of catchy hooks, bad attitude, emphatic swearing, and a great love/hate take on Vancouver. Memorable and enjoyable. /Emmet Matheson

Constricting Rage of the Merciless
Metal Blade
3.5 out of 5

Before giving this album a first listen, I posted on Facebook that I was reviewing it. “Does not sound like ambient dinner music,” someone commented. “Not unless you were making the meal from scratch and starting off by slaughtering a meat-bearing animal,” I replied, which was a bit of an exaggeration on my part.

Yup, the sixth full-length for this New Orleans-based outfit is plenty heavy. And along with the ominous album title, there’s songs like “Poisonous Existence In Reawakening” and “Cold Earth Consumed In Dying Flesh” that totally inhabit the realm. But there are also a few, “Baring Teeth In Revolt” in particular, that veer more toward hard rock. Being from the Big Easy, Goatwhore probably comes by their apocalyptic mysticism honestly. It’s not my cuppa. But if it’s yours, or if you just enjoy heavy music once in a while, this is decent. /Gregory Beatty

cd-unUnited Nations
The Next Four Years
Temporary Residence
3 out of 5

United Nations may be punk rock’s biggest open secret. They’re a loose collective that draws from big-name hardcore acts, all sworn to anonymity except Thursday’s Geoff Rickly.

But while U.N. has withheld their long-form birth certificate, it’s been confirmed that members of Converge and Glassjaw have also made contributions. That makes perfect sense, as The Next Four Years sounds precisely like Converge’s scorched-earth metalcore mixed with Thursday’s post-rock tendencies.

It’s not a unique combination, but it is an engaging one — frenetic and with a varied enough sonic texture to stay interesting. But despite their intentional “Nation of Ulysses” vibe, lines like “Everything that we touch is made for sale” and the mantra “Changing parties/always the same” are less Situationist and more “no shit, Sherlock.” Perhaps their transition from mysterious studio project to full-time band will help them see that their strength lies not in the conceptual gimmicks, but in the face-melting they do so well. /Mason Pitzel