As strange as it might sound, for all of its cultural prominence, I sometimes think New York City is, at times, overlooked for its hard rock scene. Perhaps overshadowed by various strains of punk, hip hop and indie, The Big Apple’s tradition of heavy riffing is a storied one. Luckily, The Golden Grass have come along to carry on the torch once held by the likes of Mountain, Dust and Sir Lord Baltimore. Life Is Much Stranger is the trio’s latest offering from Heavy Psych Sounds Records and in keeping with my previous review of DeWolff’s latest album Love, Death & In Between, this is another fine example of ‘70s rock done right.
Bright bluesy chords and spirited drumming kick into gear with the aptly titled Howlin. Guitarist and lead vocalist Michael Rafalowich greatly enjoys playing ‘talkative’ leads that add just as much of a voice to the rest of the band’s vocal line-up. It’s a great rocker with a bit of a James Gang flare. The much crunchier follow up Springtime On Stanwoods is a perfect driving track, featuring some very lively lead guitar in the tradition of Thin Lizzy coupled against tongue-in-cheek lyrics warning of a lady that’s up to no good; ‘Well you should have known better/She’s a bad go-getter’.
Island In Your Head has a bit of a later ‘70s styling of chugging riffs while 100 Arrows is a high-octane diesel engine affair, with Rafalowich ending the track with some wonderfully reverb’d guitar soloing and bright chord voicings. I’m not the biggest Kiss fan, who also happen to be from NYC, but The Answers Never Know recalls their better Hotter Than Hell period, with strong dynamics and interplay between the three vocalists. The final track, A Peculiar Situation, opens with a somewhat dark riff before rollicking back into the good times with aplomb.
a deeply satisfying hard rock excursion…
All seven of the album’s tracks are remarkably consistent. They are generally not content to stick with one or two guitar parts and instead traverse peaks and valleys to give a real sense of depth and dynamism. Perhaps the only possible downside is that there are no ballads (in some circles, such a criticism would be seen as bizarre), and I only say this because I think The Golden Grass boys could pull off a very nice one.
Life Is Much Stranger is a ray of sunshine for a dark time. They certainly do their hometown proud and have put out a deeply satisfying hard rock excursion without sounding even remotely contrived or pretentious. Highly recommended for those who pine for the days of huge sideburns and neckerchiefs.
Scribed by: Rob Walsh