The Greenhornes, “★★★★”

Published on November 9th, 2010 in: Current Faves, Music, Music Reviews, Reviews |

By Adam McIntyre

greenhornes four stars

It doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve heard The Greenhornes before before; a recent hiatus for the Cincinnati trio has only helped their legend grow.

The rhythm section of Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler, once great and intimidating, has only become more effective during their time with other bands (The Raconteurs, Dead Weather, and Loretta Lynn, to name a few). Front man Craig Fox, meanwhile, has created such a lean and well-written catalog of garage, pop, psychedelic, and soul numbers over the last few years that “★★★★” sounds much like a brilliant career retrospective. It’s suspiciously good.

Released on Jack White’s Third Man Records, “★★★★” is somehow both streamlined and lush, and represents eight years of evolution since the acclaimed Dual Mono. While that album was particularly engaging and hard-rocking, it was rocking over a far narrower cross-section, stylistically. Well-defined, you might say.

By contrast, “★★★★” opens itself to a much wider audience by freeing itself of a rigid “Garage Rock” definition and breaking from the hooky rockers like “Underestimator” and “Need Your Love” with the amazing “holy shit this is good” soul of “Better Off Without It” and “Hard To Find.” It brushes against the psychedelic chill of “Go Tell Henry” and the smirking Ray Davies hipshake of “Jacob’s Ladder.” Fox never stomps the easy way through a song; the melodies are unrelenting and fresh, and his quotable lyrics are always carried by a beautiful and soulful vocal performance.

Fans of The Greenhornes may be relieved to not simply get “another record of the same” on “★★★★” because it’s just so damn good, and yet few would call it a departure. I think it’s brilliant when a band can take a big step forward without losing any fans; they’re just delivering on their promise.

Thank fucking god The Greenhornes are back.

“★★★★” was released on November 9 from Third Man Records. To hear a soundcloud of three tracks from the new album (“My Sparrow,” “Saying Goodbye,” and “Better Off Without It”), click here.

The band plays Grimey’s in Nashville, TN tonight. Check out their website or MySpace page for more upcoming tour dates.

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