Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

New Grenada shows songwriting skill but covers it with distortion

February 27, 2010

New Grenada doesn’t have the same dark sound that most early nineties grunge bands had, but they do have an aesthetic in common with them: they write pop songs, then distort their guitars and play them at ear-deafening levels. The disappointing thing about Energy Shortage is that New Grenada’s non-distorted tunes far outweigh their distorted ones in quality.

Songs like “Lightning Bolt” and “Modern Communication” are pop songs that wouldn’t sound much different from the Fountains of Wayne if they just dropped out the mega distortion. All the distortion serves to do is make the songs more bland; these songs are very diverse in the songwriting ideas employed, but covering half the album in a massive wall of distortion makes half of those decisions negligible.

But the other half of the album is excellent. The slow and quiet verses/wild and frantic chorus of “Years of Decay” show what can be accomplished when the wall of distortion is used sparingly. The low-fi intro to “Pitfall” makes the rest of the song great. The totally acoustic “I Hope Not” is one of the most memorable tracks here, although it can be argued that it is only so noticeable because of its starkly different surroundings, and not because of its songwriting merit.  I would disagree, but it is an arguable point.

What’s not arguable is that “It Doesn’t Matter Now” is the strongest artistic statement here, combining a fuzzy sample with a clean electric guitar, accordion, saxophone and trip-hop drumming to create a song that sounds like the Rural Alberta Advantage on uppers (which is no small feat). It’s the track that hooked my ear and kept me listening. With songwriting skills this unique and interesting in their arsenal, it boggles me that the band would want to go cover everything by stomping on the distort pedal.

Energy Shortage is inappropriately named; there’s no shortage of energy anywhere on this album. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of their songwriting choices, they pull them off with an undeniable passion and energy – even the acoustic-based tracks.

New Grenada’s ten-song LP Energy Shortage is not my favorite release, but the band is talented and has a lot of songwriting skill. It will be interesting to see where they go with their next release, as they set up two distinct directions the band could go: off into the rockin’ future, or more toward their less-distorted songwriting selves. Only time will tell.

New Grenada-Model Citizen EP

May 1, 2008

New Grenada – Model Citizen EP

(http://www.asaurus.org/records/main.html)Asaurus Records

Vintage grunge in a modern world. What?

I have nothing against grunge. I like Nirvana, I enjoy “Yellow Ledbetter” by Pearl Jam and I’ve been known to hum Soundgarden songs from time to time. So trust me; when I say this next phrase, I say it as a statement of fact, not a statement of anger. Here it is:

Grunge is dead.

And I’m not sure anyone told New Grenada that when they set out to write Model Citizen.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with Model Citizen’s four songs. The band plays together. The high-pitched vocals, while not the greatest in the world, fit with the material. The guitars play hooks. The drums provide some really nice fills. You can even hear the bass player, whose presence is not as common as I would like it to be in modern music. No, there’s nothing that’s wrong mechanically with these tunes.

Stylistically, they sound like they’re stuck in 1993. I suppose if you’re still an avid supporter of grunge, this is great for you. For me, this is a confusing release. “My Spirits Go Down With The Sun” is a really distorted, strum-up-and-down grunge song. It just is. “I don’t know what to think is true, and I don’t know what to think of you,” lead singer John Nelson cries out in the chorus, and I echo the sentiment. Even the solo has the tone and the rhythmic ideas of a grunge solo. I just don’t get what’s going on here.

“January 1st” and “Model Citizen” follow the same guidelines. Again, there’s nothing wrong with the performances, but I just don’t know why these songs exist. It’s like they’re mining a mine that people long ago found to be empty. “Model Citizen” even appropriates the low-end, clean-electric guitar tone that Nirvana nearly trademarked.

The one saving grace is (very appropriately) “I Will Let You Know Why.” If the title is to be believed, the reason that they had three grunge songs before it is to show us their influences when they reveal the less-grungy, more garage-y sound of this final track. The previous three tracks have a very closed feel; this fourth one has a wide-open, exciting feel to it. There are female harmonies, there are high-hat rattles, and they’ve dropped the monotonous grunge strum pattern for a more herky-jerky one that sounds more modern. It’s a good song, and I could see myself listening to it on the road.

So, in short, this release is confusing. If you like grunge, you’ll really like this. If you like garage-y, beach-y type music like the Raveonettes, you should iTunes “I Will Let You Know Why.” Other than that, this one is a puzzle.

-Stephen Carradini

Stephen@independentclauses.com

New Grenada-Modern Problems

June 1, 2006

newgrenadaBand: New Grenada

Album Name: Modern Problems

Best Element: Great Variation of Songs and Perfect Production.

Genre: Indie Rock

Website: www.newgrenada,com

Label: Contraphonic

Band E-mail: info@newgrenada.com

I couldn’t wait to pop the well-constructed digipack entitled [url”>Modern Problems by the Detroit 4-piece New Grenada in my player when I received it. Throughout the booklet there are 11 retro diagrams (or Figures) which each represent a ‘Modern Problem’, like police brutality, prostitution, and acid reflux disease. Needless to say, I was intrigued by the initial packaging. Luckily New Grenada did not forget that it is what is on the inside that counts, and from a musical perspective the CD is even more impressive then its housing.

From opener “Emergency Brigade” I immediately noticed that this was not just another indie-rock band. The opening track begins with the rhythmic styles of the bass and drums, with organ-sounding keys soon following. This really sets a unique tone within the opening seconds. Catchy and aggressive vocal work joins next. Some subtle guitar work completes the flavorful blend of unique indie-rock, which even offers a sing-a-long chorus to boot!

I love a band which has variation and New Grenada definitely mixes it up. By the time “Parting Shots” comes on (track 3), you clearly have no idea what to expect next. The angst-filled voice of bass player Nicole Allie cuts through the sound like a knife with her bold, thought-provoking lyrics and intense vocal delivery. Her bass work is also more than admirable and sounds incredible in the mix. I love hearing a bass in rock music which has such a dominant sound. Truth is, everyone in this band is more than proficient… John Nelson and Shawn Knight contribute the male vocals and guitar duties. Their lead and back up vocal work is fantastic, especially when fused with the feminine voice of Nicole. Knight also contributes the keyboard work, which adds another dimension to their sound and really helps give the band an edge on the competition. Last and certainly not least is Dave Melkonian, the man behind the kit. Dave can play both a simple backdrop and more eclectic drumming styles, often trading them one moment to the next; this makes him a more than capable skinsman. The recording of Steve Albini is the cherry on top! His legendary engineering is more than apparent on this disc- it is crisp and clear and heard throughout the album… each instrument is perfectly blended in the overall mix and really makes this great CD even more entertaining.

I won’t bother detailing a full play-by-play of the tracks but there are a few more standout tracks I should mention. The socially conscious “Chumps” is marriage of indie and punk rock which can’t help but get your foot tapping and you singing along. The progressive style of “Episodes” is a well-crafted alternative rock song.

New Grenada is the kind of band that you can’t help but appreciate. Their music is simplistically catchy and entertaining, yet it has an abundance of complexity in its depth. The CD will make waves when it hits stores on June 13th…if you’re a fan of Indie Rock you can’t afford to miss this.

-Josh Hogan

josh@orchidscurse.com

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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