On their debut full-length, Count Yer Lucky Stars, the band Gringo Star likes to take a simple ‘60s pop template and add some crunch to it. This is not a very original idea considering time and time again musicians have returned to this golden age of popular music for different sorts of inspiration. When done well it can be nice to hear the sweet sentiment, harmony, and jangle of ‘60s pop paired with some extra pizzaz, some new ideas, different production, or even just the addition of more guitar voltage.
In recent years, think of the first Best Coast album or the best songs from the Dum Dum Girls, the Postelles, and Cults as examples of the successful melding of new moxie and occasionally harder-hitting instrumentation with old-school pop sentimentality. But unfortunately, Gringo Star do not succeed in putting together affecting songs throughout this release.
The lead singer of Gringo Star sounds a lot like the lead singer of the Animals or the Seeds. “Come Alive” is the strongest nod to these bands, starting with a looming organ, pounding drums and guitar piercing through the background (though soon it transitions into a weird chorus that sounds like it was sung by a different band). Backup “oohs” and “ahs” abound on Count Yer Lucky Stars, and there are some nice organ touches as well. But pop depends on melody and catchiness, and none of the melodies here really grab you.
The introduction to “Jessica” is the nicest thing on the album, with an easy bounce and precise guitar playing, though after the introduction, the song loses its momentum—it lacks a hook to follow through on that initial rhythmic rush. “Make You Mine” explores an age-old, ever-poignant concept of unrequited love with fuzzy power cords, but it leaves you cold and fails to connect to the almost universally identifiable sense of longing. You hear similar guitars on “Got It”, with its boring “Got it / You know you got it / You know you got it / I know you do” chorus over a shaking tambourine. It’s low on feeling and high on repetition. “Esmerelda” is ponderous and should have been left off the album.
Gringo Star is a harmless power-pop group with a fondness for the British invasion. Despite their playful name, their music lacks the sense of fun or the absolute devotion to ‘60s song-craft that such a name might suggest.
But Count Yer Lucky Stars mainly serves to remind us once again to revisit some of the oldies. Power-pop needs both power and pop, and Gringo Star don’t have enough of either to make this album worth revisiting.