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Reviewed by Mojo Flucke, PhD
But take heart, because if you're 40 or older, there's a lot to like about Gringo Star, a band that already has the hipster 20-somethings in its back pocket, along with the 30-something contingent pretending they're still 20-somethings: First off, the band plays heavy, guitar based psychedelic pop, a throwback to '80s bangers like the Chesterfield Kings, Godfathers, and Fuzztones. Those acts hearkened back to the pure 1960s "Nuggets" one-hit wonder garage-psych bands that inspired every single guitar group from the Ramones to R.E.M. to the entire cool indie-rock power-pop scene that kept us alive during the deep, dark era of heavy metal power ballads and its makeup-laden, harmony laced drivel finally slain by the coming of Nirvana.
Gringo Star owes much to this lineage, and they're quite faithful to the milieu, down to singing in three-part harmonies on the chorus. The group's debut features a combination of funny little numbers juxtaposed with almost hippie-like themes of striving for a better, more peaceful world that's not quite yet arrived: "I Will Not Follow" is a seriously earnest psychedelic number that could have easily been on a damned Blue Cheer album—something difficult to achieve for polished rockers, let alone first-timers. The same could be said of "Holding on to Hate," full of blistering guitar distortion and a driving beat quite worthy of the title. The Mamas and Papas could have originally done "Transmission," a folky little electro-acoustic plea for peace.
But the cool thing about this band is that it lightens up every other track with these silly musical asides, like the call-to-arms, party-theme title cut. Or "All Day Long," and "March of the Gringo," Kinks-like off-kilter shuffles that would have fit perfectly in some acid-drenched compilation of original 1968 psychedelia, sandwiched between bands with names like The Electric Prunes and Strawberry Alarm Clock. In other spots, Gringo Star also is unafraid to acknowledge its Southern roots by dropping in some country riffs, such as in "Eve of Your Expression." Getting the picture? The band changes it up from track to track, almost from stanza to stanza, all of it unoriginal yet delightfully entertaining, garage-y rock. It's just the band's first record, but they already sound polished and well-rounded. Can't wait for their followup, already.