PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Gingersol: Eastern

Andrew Gilstrap



Label: Rubric
US Release Date: 2004-03-09
UK Release Date: Available as import

There's a sense of optimism to Eastern that, by all logic, shouldn't be there. This is a record with a big sound, with gorgeous pop hooks, with meticulous production choices -- all while its songs are fueled by life in post-9/11 New York and the dissolution of two marriages.

OK, so it isn't exactly a happy album, but it also doesn't reek of blackhearted poison and bile. Gingersol's leaders Seth Rothschild and Steve Tagliere have a lot to work through (especially those failed marriages, which drive nearly the entire album), but like Wilco's recent work, Gingersol's albums have a way of carrying you along even if you don't want to get "bogged down" in the words.

In fact, Wilco's an over-used but useful reference point for Gingersol's sound. The similarities aren't overpowering, but things like the chimes of "I Tried", the electronic swirls of "Blink", or the washes of mournful strings and pedal steel floating through "Please Let Me Go" definitely subscribe to the notion of textures within textures -- and deliberate pacing -- currently being explored by Jeff Tweedy and company. Add to that Tagliere's rasp, which lies somewhere between Tweedy and Matthew Ryan, and you have a sound that definitely starts in comfortable territory.

It's that seeming sense of familiarity, though, that threatens to let Eastern slip by unnoticed. It's a subtle record, and really takes a number of listens to firmly get its hooks into the listener. The arrangements aren't daring, Rothschild's and Taglier's vocals don't careen around in "watch me" style, and the emotions slowly unfold. It's not for those with short attention spans. The disc's closer, "Empty Canteen", is a perfect example as it basks in gentle organ tones, drops back to unaccompanied voices for a few bars, brings the organ back again, and then slowly winds down on clockwork guitars. This happens over eight-and-a-half minutes, and it never feels like Gingersol are just piddlin' around. Similarly, the disc's other long track, "None of My Friends", stands in place over a bed of shushed drums for nearly three minutes before flowering into a full-band arrangement.

Another good reason to give Eastern time, though, is the lyrics, which initially have a slightly skewed meaning-for-only-the-songwriter vibe. But there you are, listening to "Rome's Behind Us but the World is Round", and a line like "Rome burns behind us you're running fast / Slow down here comes your past" clicks in your brain and sticks. Or "I'm afraid I'll keep sinking / In your eyes I'm already shrinking / Promise that you'll notice when I'm gone" from "The Longest Word". Or "For better or worse should mean there's better / 'Til death do us part should mean we're one deader" from "I Did". Both Tagliere's and Rothchild's lyrics initially seem like they're skirting the issues, clouding things in generalizations, and then a phrase will cut through like a honed and sharpened blade.

"Empty Canteen" ends Eastern with a list of things that aren't feared ("I'm not afraid to stand out / I'm not afraid to blend in / I'm not afraid to change plans", etc.). It's the perfect ending to Eastern, especially after the soul-searching that's gone before. The band's own tongue-in-cheek term, "happy-choly", is also the perfect description of the neat trick Rothschild and Tagliere pull off on Eastern: working through their problems without turning things into a pity party. Eastern throws longtime fans a slight curve by ditching the band's Crazy Horse flavors, but for existing fans and newcomers alike, it's well worth checking out for a good dose of intelligent, thoughtful, rootsy rock.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.