Gringo Star – Count Yer Lucky Stars
The case could be made that the band Gringo Star only have one thing going for them, and that’d be an array of songs.
Sometimes that’s all it takes. I know bands that spend a career without that one signature burst to capture that gregarious aesthetic, and yet Count Yer Lucky Stars has eleven such songs.
Catchy, off-the-map arrangements that recall Arthur Lee-like cunning, an endless stream of lyrical wit reminiscent of Ray Davies, from the slightly warped, ghostly presence on “Shadow,” which opens the record, to the Joe Meek-ish “Mexican Coma,” there’s an intangible eagerness to this record’s chronology. Each track seems to challenge the next to add unique verbal phrasing or jolt past any bent and bruised expectations. It’s reassuring to hear a band with songs like “Make You Mine,” which could’ve been recorded by The Robbs or The Rubinoos, follow a song like “Light the Sky,” with its New American West effusion, touching close to Thin White Rope.
Driving along one evening, thinking just how pitifully radio is programmed nowadays by people who have no feel or exuberance for music, “You Want It” came on. I’d heard of Gringo Star, a band that grew out of A-Fir-Ju Well, but it was my first time hearing their material, and on car radio! Those of us who grew up and first heard rock ‘n’ roll on a three-inch Silvertone transistor know that music sounds different in a car, which is why during analog recording days, if the mix could pass the car muster, then it was a wrap! But it’s not merely multifaceted production or technical know-how – and I can’t stress this enough – it’s in the songwriting, where a quirky-smirk like “Beatnik Angel Georgia” makes sense the way “Randy Scouse Git” is among my favorite Monkees songs. Strategy and craft play into it, but you return to the song because its proto-weirdness carries a melodic punch. There’s nothing arbitrary – it’s button-down backed by harmonies that hoist a phenomenal energy.
It may come across as pliant, but it’s also mischievous to plant right dab in the middle of the record of the same name a foggy notion prelude to extended shelf-life called “Count Yer Lucky Stars,” yet it works. Any other band might’ve had it as lead-off, but it makes sense to attentively increase the dissolve between “Beatnik Angel” and this pop nucleus.
And the whole record is like that: in motion! Count Yer Lucky Stars is a demystified portent that pop/rock radio needs to grab ahold to.
Count Yer Lucky Stars