[7 August 2003]
This old-style 45-rpm will never go out of trendy disc fashion. Just staring at it makes me want to get out the old record player and large ebony cylinder and go crazy. But, alas, those days are gone. You might have a difficult time conveying that message to Green Rode Shotgun, though. A Nashville band steeped in Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison circa Them, and next state neighbors R.E.M., Green Rose Shotgun formed in 2001. The group’s debut EP Persistence of Youth merited much praise. How well that transcends into its debut album, though, might be a different result.
Fronted by lead singer Jason Johnson, Green Rode Shotgun gets underway with the surf rock of “All the Same”. A fusion of Spaghetti Western guitar with a softness that nearly undermines the track, the head-bobbing beat and swaying rhythms makes the listener want to mix the tango with some spastic dance. Guitarists Shea Callahan and Dave Henderson complement each other perfectly, while bass player John Lane gives off traces of reggae or dub behind the scenes. The winding nature and energy could be the new century version of Tommy James & the Shondelles in certain regards. “Hopeless Crusades” is quirky as “la la la la la”‘s are done to near death. The dream pop branches out into a looser punk feeling. This early in the album, Green Rode Shotgun isn’t about being radio-friendly, but staying within itself. Don Sergio’s drum playing is the tune’s highlight for three minutes.
“Into the Light” has a distinct “summer punk” flavor to it along the lines of the Clash mixed with the Police. “It hits me so hard / It hits me everything, oh my god”, Johnson sings while the guitars work overtime with a tight rock structure. An ever-changing tempo is an obstacle for hordes of bands, but Green Rode Shotgun embrace it with a certain fondness. The latter half of this track is particularly evident of this trait as the tempo changes several times. A distant yet fair contemporary would have to be the New Pornographers, a group mixing pop with quirky arrangements that never leave your head. “My Will” has a certain amount of that attitude, listener or outcome be damned!
The punk characteristics on “Nothing Is Good Enough”, from the sing-a-long chorus to the downbeat verses that lead into it, Green Rode Shotgun shine on the song and gallop along with a great amount of flare. Again the rhythm section should be given a great amount of credit as a Latin percussion interrupts the homestretch. “Numbers on the Wall” is an early eighties rock track in the vein of the Knack or the Romantics. It reaches into a larger, Zeppelin-like blues aura as it ends as well. “Streets of the City” has a reggae meets pop sound that recalls Joe Strummer in his Mescaleros era—bouncy and infectious while keeping its global integrity. The Talking Heads can also be heard throughout the tune.
Perhaps summing up the group is the alternative rock tune “Nothing New”, a gorgeous narrative about the band on closer inspection. The Cure circa “Love Cats” is a prominent benchmark to this flawless sound and groove. “So now we’re all trying to get back to somewhere,” Johnson says with a possible reference to bands the group grew up idolizing. Stretching out over four minutes, it’s the other great track among several above average songs. Fans of Canadian rock band By Divine Right would appreciate this non-descriptive group. Green Rode Shotgun hit you in the gut, a refreshing change from the formatted regurgitated pop so prevalent on most radio play lists.