Ther artists formerly known as magnet have a fine new release titled Sparky’s Revenge. Guitarist/songwriter/singer Todd Mack produced, and wrote or co-wrote all but one track, and Beth Heidelberg contributes myriad woodwinds. In a very real way, it is heidelberg’s instrumental prowess that helps to set this band apart, along with the wide range of styles that pop up throughout the recording. The Griswolds have as many musical personalities as Sybil, yet manage them all in a way that goes down as smooth as Dickel and water.
Overall, the band comes across with a hippie-folk kind of thing, somewhere east of The Jefferson Airplane but firmly rooted in the south. Tracks like Tell Me and Empty Hand both rock, but the former sports aggressive electric guitar lines, while the latter relies on harmonies in the chorus and over-the-top flutework. I imagine both are killer live songs. Country Song isn’t much of a country song, but cruises through various tempo changes aboard whimsical woodwinds.
Mack’s ironic style of humor surfaces in The More You Drink (rest of line: “the better we sound”) and Shut Up, I’m Tryin’ to Sing, a tongue-in-cheek view of a singer whose “head’s so big it won’t fit in this bar.” (I’m reminded of my friend, Hurricane Jimmy, who had to compete with sports on a big-screen TV during his set. When the audience’s heads turned to watch Otis Nixon scale the center-field wall to make a spectacular catch, so did Jimmy, never missing a beat!!) Latte precisely portrays the trendy coffeehouse crowd. (“hangin’ at the bookstore with my latte in my hand/flippin’ through some Joyce, whose words I never did understand”) My favorites are The Game, because of its slinky, soft groove that lies just underneath the song, and Mary Go Round, a ‘60s AM single that somebody forgot to write till now.
The Griswolds drive up to Vic’s on December 13, in their wood-paneled station wagon. By the way, every promo I’ve read about these guys uses the word “eclectic” and I promised myself I wouldn’t use it, but dammit, there it is. wazzu!