The Grip Weeds – Speed Of Live / Live Vibes (2012)

Formed in 1988, the Grip Weeds made a huge impact right from the start. Pinching their name from John Lennon’s character, Private Grip Weed from the 1967 movie, “How I Won The War,” the Highland Park, New Jersey band struck all the proper chords when it came to playing psychedelic-tinged power pop music.

1992 was the year the Grip Weeds began their recording career, and since then they’ve released several albums, a few singles and have appeared on compilations. Rave reviews consistently abound, and the band is deeply admired and respected around the world. But they don’t tour often or extensively, so here they are, gifting us with the next best thing to being there, and that’s a live album!

Comprised of material recorded in 2007, 2008 and 2010 at various New Jersey locations, including the House of Vibes, the Court Tavern, the Record Collector and the Stone Pony, Speed Of Live (Ground Up Records) effectively replicates the enthusiasm and electricity provided on the band’s spectacular studio discs.

Starring Rick Reil on vocals and guitar, Kristin Pinell on guitar and vocals, Michael Kelly on bass and Kurt Reil on drums and vocals, the Grip Weeds possess a special relationship. The warmth and good feelings between the band members is readily noticeable. Seated securely on the same page, the Grip Weeds boast a composure bleeding with self-assurance.

Although threads and shreds of lauded luminaries such as the Who, the Pretty Things, the Move and Badfinger arise amidst the band’s excellent essays, they wisely avoid the retro tag by updating and upgrading their approach to the fashion of music they purvey. The songwriting is relevant, the energy is honest and the arrangements are resourceful and industrious. An timeless quality pervades the tunes, staunchly suggesting the Grip Weeds have developed an original and identifiable style of their own.

Built upon a sturdy foundation of shapely melodies and fetching rhythms, songs like “Salad Days,” “Close To The Sun,” Love‘s Lost On You,” “Every Minute” and “Close Descending Love” rock with reason and pop with purpose. The instrumentation is tight but spontaneous. Flashy guitar furnishings, trembling with hard-edged engravings, occasionally charge the climate, tempered by jangly riffage. Cool harmonies add punch to an already happening scene. Excitable singing is served in spades, emphasizing just how much the Grip Weeds enjoy creating music together.

The rough and gruff delivery of “The Law” suggests a Free or Bad Company influence, while covers of the Byrds’ “So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star” and Johnny Kidd and the Pirates’ “Shakin’ All Over” also pay tribute to the band’s roots. Spacey psychedelic sensations cast a light on “Strange Change Machine” and “Sun Ra Ga,” where “Astral Man” concludes the set on a no-nonsense pop rocking note. Void of onstage chatter and slow numbers, “Speed Of Live” pulsates with nothing but high-octane workouts.

Coinciding with the arrival of Speed Of Live is Live Vibes, a DVD documenting the Grip Weeds in action at their studio, House of Vibes. Interviews, performances and eye-pleasing visuals are included. What a great companion to the live album!

Most bands tend to lose hunger and desire as they age, but not the Grip Weeds, as they get better and better with each passing effort. The ideas keep flowing and the passion keeps growing. Rare is the group that sticks fast to a select sound, yet these folks have integrity and have never compromised their position. If there’s one band you can always rely on for a good blast of paisley-pricked power pop, it’s the Grip Weeds.

Encore! Encore! Encore!

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Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson