Members of Reigning Sound and the Ettes pair up to turn out an album that pays homage the sounds of old rock 'n roll, blues, country, and R&B. It's fun for them, but leaves the listening feeling empty.
The Parting Gifts exist as an opportunity for Reigning Sound’s Greg Cartwright and the Ettes’ Coco Hames to pair up, rope in some other indie/garage rock travelers (Dan Auerbach, Patrick Keeler), and play around with whatever tropes found in the dustier confines of their record collections strike their fancy. On the group’s debut album, the Gifts dabbled in everything from relaxed mid-tempo rockers (“Bound to Let Me Down”) and barn-burning country rousers (“My Mind’s Made Up”) to soulful R&B (“Hanna”)—basically anything that would sound great coming from any well-worn workmanlike band playing at your local dive bar. One of the satisfying attributes of Strychnine Dandelion is that the production is raw, yet nuanced enough to perfectly evoke the original feel of the sounds the assembled musicians are immersing themselves in. However, that also means that the Parting Gifts constantly straddle the line that divides homage and pastiche. There’s no greater purpose to the record than to replicate old sounds for the fun of it, and thus the record is limited to being a mere simulacrum. Despite the pleasing execution throughout, in particular, the lustful yearning of lounge-y blues number “My Baby Tonight” and the driving garage rock of “Don’t Hurt me Now”, it’s hard to fully accept that as a laudable purpose in of itself, and it results in a somewhat empty listening experience.