Album Review: Gringo Star – The Sides And In Between

The Sides And In Between

Released August 26th 2016

Words: Nick Jacques

gringo-star-the-sides-and-in-betweenAt first I thought Gringo Star were some piss-take covers band of Ringo Star’s solo material – but when I dug a little deeper, I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Gringo Star have been known to our musical hemisphere since late 2007 when they released their eponymous E.P. and then their debut long-player All Y’All (2008) Since then they have gone on to play at the much-hyped SXSW festivals, secure record deals on the strength of word-of-mouth and captivating live performances, become front-runners for the Atlanta indie-rock scene and more recently opened up for legendary 60s band The Zombies.

The foursome were founded by the brothers Nicholas and Peter Furgiuele and make music that throws up visions of guys standing around jukeboxes in a 50’s diner and impersonating their favourite Buddy Holly air-guitar moments. However, Gringo Star are more than just a band who appreciate the good old rock & roll legends. They take influences from various genres and blend them all into one distinctive and appealing package.

On the evidence of their 3rd offering The Sides And In Between it is easy to see why this is the case and that this is their chance to break free of the constraints of America and make the tough but arguably worthwhile journey across the pond.

Starting off with the swaggering Rotten; it’s upbeat, filled with Devendra Banhart crooner vocals, and lashings of nifty guitar strumming. These features are the main draw here. They set out their stool in impressive fashion here and continue to do so. Next up is Magic and it’s full of 50s surf rock licks which are executed effortlessly whilst still managing to retain a sound that wholly belongs to the band and not to the generations that have gone before them.

It’s clear that Gringo Star know what their strengths are here with distinctive 50s classic vocals and charming lead guitar riffs pirouetting in and out of the proceedings. Get Closer leans more towards the Pixies on this occasion and builds up a feel-good “straight to the point” rock vibe. The track adds depth and coherence to the album.

Throughout the album there is a sense of nostalgia that hovers but it’s all done a twist that sounds fresh and invigorating. For example Still Alive and Going Home feed us with quirky yet uplifting foot stomping moments and undeniable funky sea-shanty rhythms! A track that will get you whistling no problem.

The album takes more of a knees up approach halfway on Knee Deep. It offers a measured balance to TSAIB with its acoustics and shimmering string arrangements thrown into the mantra-like mix. I think a digeridoo is also present on the track too! It’s bold move from Gringo Star and it manages to work really well.

Heading south is the first single off the The Sides And In Between and provides the most accessible moment on here with its cute acoustic plucking, blissed out summer-tinged vocals and what sounds like a brisk Quentin Tarentino-esque guitar strumming.

The album in general seems to project a sound in motion vibe to it. Constantly on the move, going places and seeking new horizons. Both Undone and It’s You provide us with the more whimsical moments that are short and sweet but still manage to get their messages across its audience. Things pick up pace again with The last Trace and harks back to those sweet surf rock Buddy Holly melodies with Furgiuele’s crooning vocals supporting the music amicably.

The seductive pinch of A Smile briefly reminds of Black Rebel Motorcycle club and this has a slivering and playful atmosphere to it. Perhaps a bit too much on the short side and I think they could have built on this track and turned it into an epic 8 minute opus but keep it short and sweet. Like most of the album, the tracks finish around or just over the 3 minute mark – concentrating more on hitting the right notes rather than “all filler no killer” ones. It’s plain to see that they’re not ashamed of showing off their influences but at the same time maintaining their dignity by offering something different in the music word today.

Tracks like Going Home, Knee Deep, A Smile and the stomping opener Rotten definitely show a band that has depth and character rather than just hot air in the sides and in between.

They’re touring all over the USA and parts of Canada throughout August this year with no plans to tour Europe (apparently). I think on the strength of this album they will surely attract more admirers and hopefully build more of a fan base over here than they anticipate.

Watch the video for Rotten here:

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