[25 May 2004]
Troy Gregory might be known for a couple of things, mainly his frontman’s style with the group the Witches. But that is just the tip of his sonic iceberg. With several projects going on, Gregory has found time to release some solo albums. Last year he debuted with Sybil, which had him collaborating with a who’s who of the Detroit music scene, minus that White fellow and the Von Bondies. Now, it seems that the musician has returned from the Witches to land another record, or as the press kit calls it a “sister for Sybil named Laura”. The album itself is void of any effects, ambience, or Pro Tools. What you get is what you hear, a dreary and dark run-through of fine songwriting and bummer-inducing hues. Or a contemporary Tommy James & the Shondelles for a braver, bolder comparison. This is evident on the dirge-like guitar buzzsaws of “Dracula Has Risen from the Pond”, a track that resembles a few “buzz” bands like Singapore Sling. The drone and echoed lyrics create one wave of psychedelic shoe-gazing rock after another. “I would love to spend the night”, Gregory sings à la Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. It makes for a heady, almost trippy introduction into Gregory’s multi-colored musical easel.
He takes things down a notch into the Keith Richards guitar spacing of “Whatever Possessed U”, recalling the Stones legend’s solo work. The tambourines and drum beat try to recreate a ‘60s garage sound, but it’s the guitars that guide the song into various solid weaves, kind of like leaning into a turn on a motorcycle. You know it’s coming, but it’s still fun all the same. The opening verse has a bit of Bowie circa Ziggy Stardust embedded deep within. “Oh god whatever possessed you has got to be depressing me”, he sings as the riffs come to the fore early and often. The drums then take over as Gregory warbles through the last few lines. That distinctive Detroit sound is audible on the pretty and rather light “Yer Secret Santa”, which sounds like New Order or Joy Division doing their best to put a smile on a gothic St. Nick. An eerie organ keeps the intensity up as the jangles move to and fro. “Live/Dead Entertainment” is a softer, roots oriented tune with just enough jangle to conjure up images of Tom Petty or Roger McGuinn. The Attractions-esque keyboards propel it along lovingly, making for one McCartney-ish head bob after another.
The only truly retro sounding tune is “Setting off Firewerx at Dawn” which combines the girth of the Black Crowes with the brawn of Canadian act Big Sugar. Bluesy but not a blues track, the swaggering guitars again steal the spotlight despite being buried in the mix. But perhaps the album’s shining moment is the lo-fi of “As Coroner I Must Aver”, a thick slab of riffola that has next to no fat on it. That’s another strong trait to the album, the fact that Gregory gets by simply and keeps everything rather standard. Think of a demo from Primal Scream around XTRMNTR and you get the gist of the tune. Another nugget is the dirty and primitive “The Brood”, which indeed lives up to its name. “Today is your birthday and I can’t wait”, Gregory sings as if he’s trapped inside a garbage can in a dark alley. “In Thee Popsicle Patch” is the one curveball on the album as a rather synthesized, Depeche Mode feeling starts things off. Gregory doesn’t sing so much as bemoan his situation, kind of like the Cure’s Robert Smith on an off night, or “Wattsville Blues” by the Manic Street Preachers.
“There Is a Light That Never Goes On”, despite being a possible pun on the Smiths’ song, is the only tune that goes nowhere despite the eerie violins during the bridge. The brooding guitar and tempo don’t mesh well, making for an arduous yet brief listen. But overall, Gregory seems to be just as capable running the ball as a solo act as he is with the Witches. Sybil would be proud.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/gregorytroy-laura/