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Gold Cash Gold: Paradise Pawned, Volume 1

Jason MacNeil

Gold Cash Gold

Paradise Pawned, Volume 1

Label: Times Beach
US Release Date: 2004-04-20
UK Release Date: 2004-04-19

Gold Cash Gold changed their lineup recently. While the core of the group -- Eric Hoegemeyer and Steve Zuccaro -- stayed the same, bass player Rose Mazzola was added. It's a fine addition, as her own career dates back to an early group known as the Distillers. Her father was also a member of the Detroit Cobras. Regardless of this kinship, Gold Cash Gold try to fuse various sounds, styles, and influences over the baker's dozen worth of tunes. It's the type of album that you won't be indifferent to, but there might be parts you'll want to skip over on the initial listen. "Diamond Mind" has all the pop smarts of Paisley Pop bands, but also conjures up images of a youthful and spry Big Star. The guitars and rhythm section are vital to the melody, as simple riffs morph into more of a quasi-funk during middle portion. Detroit is their stomping ground and this is abundantly clear, recalling a lightweight version of the Von Bondies or the Sights. It even touches a bit of Pink Floyd's prog rock during its conclusion, venturing into Dark Side of the Moon or Wish You Were Here territory.

"Vultures" has far more bite to it, fortunately for them. A toe-tapper that you know exactly where it's going, Gold Cash Gold mixes a rough brand of pop with solid rock leanings. It brings to mind Aerosmith circa Toxic Twins notoriety. Meaty riffs litter the tune, while the vocals have a certain snarl or cocksure swagger, much like Primal Scream performing "Rocks". Again though, they seem like they're on the verge of another spacey, trippy psychedelic trek before pulling it back in. "The World in My Head" tries to get the same oomph, but it's more of a creeping rock tune that could be leading into something greater but never does the trick. The chorus is an improvement, but they sound like they're doing it in their sleep. Unfortunately, it's never quite as primal or jagged as other Detroit bands would do it.

Gold Cash Gold say they're a reflection of one's record collection, so there will be some things you'll look at in hindsight and shake your head. The slow ballad that oozes next to little soul is "Hard Times", which falls flat from the get-go. An organ and guitar try to smooth things over, but it just doesn't work. Would this be better as a B-side? Perhaps. But the Def Leppard-ish tune rears its ugly head by the two-minute mark. A Southern Black Crowes slant would've paid off immensely. "Beautiful Stones" atones for things somewhat, as the Byrds-like harmonies recall Velvet Crush or a barren Tom Petty on the opening. A wall of '60s-powered sound makes it mesh splendidly as Zuccaro and Hoegemeyer deliver crisp leads and harmonies. However, the hit and miss of the album's middle portion continues with a twangy Stones-meets-Gram Parsons take on "Let It Go". Perhaps they're too urbane to pull the genre off despite the accents of tambourine, slide guitar, and acoustic guitar. Here, the Black Crowes influence doesn't work that well at all. Too late, too much a case of forcing the issue.

The third time is the charm, though, as they finally hit what they've intended on the beautiful Americana-influenced "Damaged". "Some folks don't want you to feel / They'll rob you blind / So you can't see them stealing", they sing as the song ebbs and flows quite nicely and effectively. And they keep the momentum with a very strong pop rocker entitled "Same Old Blues". "I'm just a preacher for rock and roll", they sing with all the swagger and sway of rock's finest front men, minus the pouty lips. Another plus is the fact they fully flush the song out more than they have with every other effort thus far. Bands like the Damnwells would do well to cover the slow-tempo, wide-open driving tune "Run Brother Run", which verges on near gospel thanks to the organ in the distance.

"Isolation" comes after a crazy bit of spacey-meets-country instrumental and it might be one of the album's high moments. They go over the same soul-meets-Southern-country style, but never get much more perfect than this slow, swaying number. The appropriately dubbed "Time to Go" is the finale, but Gold Cash Gold sound like they have more fire in their belly for future albums. It's uneven, but even the lower points on the album might come off better with a couple of more listens.

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