The first time you hear something by the band Gingersol, you instantly think, "Why isn't this band more popular?" These guys have the goods, in ways that many American rock bands can't even fathom: the songs are laid-back, sunny rock music, tinged with nice helpings of country, and they're loaded with enough charming, hummable pop hooks that could win over even the most straight-faced cynic. The band has been putting out albums since 1996, but it wasn't until the release of 2001's The Train Wreck Is Behind You, which the band released and distributed themselves, that people really started to take notice. Rubric Records certainly noticed, adding the band to their roster early this year. As Gingersol readies its eagerly anticipated fourth album, Rubric has decided to re-release The Train Wreck Is Behind You, to help introduce more people to this fine little band.
Blending the countrified pop of Wilco with the aw-shucks charm of the Replacements, Gingersol sound remarkably confident on this album, infusing it with their own breezy, West Coast style. Led by singer/guitarist Steve Tagliere and singer/guitarist Seth Rothschild, the band has a potent duo of songwriters to lead the way, and there's no shortage of memorable material to work with, as both guys trade lead vocal duties, while drummer John Florance and bassist Chuck Bramlet hold down the fort. If The 'Mats had recorded their own version of Neil Young's On the Beach, it might have sounded like this album.
Tagliere wrote nine of the album's 15 tracks, and it's clear that Gingersol is his baby. In that distinctive, Jeff Tweedy-meets-Neil Young-meets-Johnny Rzeznik voice of his, Tagliere sounds perfectly suited for this kind of music. "Room to squirm / In teenage thought / The safest place / Is the saddest song", he sings on the gentle opening track, "Who Cares". A sweet blend of Neil Young acoustic guitar and harmonica with tender piano and slide guitar accents, it sets you up for the leisurely ride that lies ahead. "Sleep Alright", with its buoyant chorus, boasts more of a sunny, upbeat feel, while "Where Do I Stand?" uses a crunchy rhythm guitar riff (à la Crazy Horse), some backwards guitar overdubs, and a potent hook that would give the Goo Goo Dolls a good run for their money. "King Size Doubt" is a real beauty, with its plaintive melody, thrumming bass line by Bramlet, and Tagliere's lilting voice, which sings, "You still swear none of it is true / I want so bad to believe you". Meanwhile, "Make It Stick" is a pleasantly mild, Wallflowers-style rocker, while the charming songs "You Fall Off" and "Over the Handle Bars" show Tagliere at his most irrepressibly Westerbergian.
Seth Rothschild's input is a little more understated than his bandmate's, but his own compositions hold up very well. The lovely "Face up Again" brings to mind the music of Wilco in their early years, as Gingersol combines some superb guitar work and vocal melodies with some pleasant-sounding banjo thrown in. That banjo comes in again on the all-too-brief gem "Underneath the Radar", while "I'm Sure" is a simple, modest ballad that doesn't get mired in overproduction. "Amnesia" is the album's most raucous song, sounding like a Southern version of Dinosaur Jr., with plenty of distorted solos, with more of the same relaxed melodies waiting to come back in.
The Train Wreck Is Behind You has Gingersol continuing its steady growth into a fine band, and one can only hope they continue to build toward something special on their upcoming release. "The subtlety has lost its punch", sings Tagliere on "Where It Belongs", "I need to hear it plain". Gingersol doesn't mince words on this album; they just deliver some direct, from-the-gut, melodic rock music that sounds as honest as it is catchy. We need more bands like these guys.