Rye Coalition: Curses

It's been five years in the making . . . was it worth the wait?

Rye Coalition


Label: Gern Blandsten
US Release Date: 2006-04-18
UK Release Date: 2006-04-18

Curses, indeed. For a band who have nicknamed themselves the Hard Luck Five, even they couldn't have foreseen the small drama and long wait it would take for their fourth long-player to see the light of day. Though not quite Wilco-worthy in its theatrics, Curses still has the albatross around its neck of once being in the hands of a major label. After dispensing with their more eccentric (and uniquely endearing) tendencies for something far more straightahead on their third disc, On Top, Rye Coalition found themselves courted and signed to Dreamworks. With a few more bucks to throw at producing their next record, the band enlisted none other than Dave Grohl to twiddle the knobs. But as is usually the case with these kind of stories, downsizing and merging at the label soon left the band in an awkward position, and with their A&R reps now out on the street, the band was nothing more than another expense on the ledger. The band was subsequently dropped, and after a bit of wrangling, they got their album back for free and are finally releasing it on Gern Blandsten, their longtime indie label home.

Now before I dig into Curses, let's just take a look back for a moment at Rye Coalition's near decade-long trajectory. When the band first started out, their sound was a lean, stripped-down, and slightly rock 'n' roll take on post-rock. While the muscle has always been present, their earlier material boasted adventurous riffing and, at times, prog-like tendencies, as evidenced on their fan favorite (and often considered their masterpiece), "Romancing the Italian Horn". The first two albums, Hee Saw Duh Kaet and Lipstick Game, kept close to this template, and resulted in two fiery, eclectic offerings. The aforementioned, Steve Albini-produced On Top was decidedly different, turning up the classic rock and toning down the off-kilter rhythms that marked their earlier work. It was exciting, if somewhat predictable, but provided more than a few proud moments.

Which brings us back to Curses. What was hinted at with On Top has been fully realized with Curses. What emerges is an album that any major label would be happy to have. Safe, MOR, mesquite-flavored rock 'n' roll, arena-made and completely derivative. The impeccably produced, massive-sounding album is made all the more disappointing by the lukewarm songs. Guitarist Jon Gonnelli and Herb Wiley V seem content with major chord stomps and tired blues-based lead riffs. The lyrics are distinctly and vaguely about girls (with one token anti-war song), with enough "oh yeahs" and "alrights" to keep an FM station running all night. It's all energetically delivered, with twin guitar riffs, thunderous drums, throat-shredding vocals and a not very subtle Van Halen reference. Rye Coalition have taken the easy road, and while it might make for a great live show, it's a yawner on disc.

I won't be surprised if Rye Coalition eventually land at another major label. Curses is full of songs ready to fill in the spaces of WB teen soap dramas or extreme sports reality shows. Yep, frat boys and party girls will eat this one up. But for those of us who've been with the band since day one, it's disheartening to see them trade in their more exploratory tendencies for something revoltingly ordinary.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.