October 26, 2021

Gringo Star – “The Sides And In Between” is a joyful, whistling, lo-fi slice of modern psych-pop

NEVADO MUSIC                                        26th August 2016

I’m loving this more than more famous comparators like Tame Impala. Peddling the modern psych interpretation, Gringo Star manage to be simply approachable at the same time as being “out there”. Not only that, but the name is even better than Ringo Deathstarr. These songs are pop to the core, delivered with the tropes of the inhabitants of Lenny Kaye’s legendary Nuggets compilation. Songs like Magic just trip and skip like something full of joy and win attention immediately.

Big twangy guitar solos, recorded off the speaker with echo, accompany basic studio effects and all sorts of garage-level effects. Get Closer is a rush of energy, based on a basic thrash, with a treated vocal and simple backing chorus but the ultra-basic melody and structure recall bands like The Barracudas. A lot of time though, the pure love of tune makes me think of The Monkees but played with roots values and a deliberate lo-fi ethic. Going Home, with its whistling intro and sing-song vocal is almost a period piece, but informed by decades of development since, bringing us back to pure pop. Knee Deep does swamp blues with mandolin for colour and strangeness.

There are affectations, like an addiction to treated vocals almost as serious as Sparklehorse’s old school vocal effects but they just add to atmosphere. Heading South is as if The Monkees had written a song for The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper, old-time music hall blended with a sweet swoop of a chorus lick. Whistling is back for Undone, alongside, as usual, an assemblage of sounds like piano, organ, vibes, mandolin, effects and a big catchy chorus. It’s You is big, echoey and tragic – it sounds like something Del Shannon would have turned out in the fifties.

Out of Atlanta, the band are based around brothers Nick and Pete Furgiueles, who grew up on their parents’ record collection of Buddy Holly, The Animals and The Kinks. The influences show, as well as a love for the sound values of the era, carried on in the Nuggets-era underground bands (these mainly for financial reasons) and still trumpeted by the likes of Jack White for aesthetic reasons, leading to madness like Neil Young recording a whole album in a novelty record booth at Jack’s house.

The album, with ten tracks, is wrapped up in a mere thirty minutes, making it the perfect lunchtime refresher. Not a moment too long, all these songs are heavy on tune, big on atmosphere and full of love for a sound and aesthetic. This has sound-tracked a lot of Vanguard’s journeys to work, often on repeat, never failing to deposit me cheerfully ready for a day of grind.