Gringo Star – Floating Out to See

An album’s lead track is often indicative of the work as a whole. When it’s a weird, snail-paced instrumental that goes nowhere, however, it’s not usually evident of what’s to come. That’s what you’d hope, at least, especially when it’s a band like Atlanta’s Gringo Star, who typically bend toward breezy, pop-minded indie rock. On their third effort, however, the opening cut is more than a placid, throwaway preamble. It’s a bad omen.

Floating Out to See is not entirely meritless. Nicholas and Peter Furgiuele are skilled players. In that respect, it’s a great album. The problem isn’t the musicianship – it’s the lack of crescendos, exciting buildups or drastic comedowns. Played start to finish, the whole thing washes over you. Nothing sticks.

Part of why this release feels so dull is that its direct predecessor, 2011’s Count Yer Lucky Stars, was chock-full of standouts. The repetitive sunny strum of “Shadow” and subsequent jangly chorus is memorable, and paves the way for more catchy numbers: “You Want It” and “Got It” are irresistible sing-alongs. The title track is a bombastic trip-out. And while “Jessica” is a little trite lyrically with all its amorous rhymes, the “whoas” make for momentous crests against a steadily rattling backdrop.

The culprit for this lackluster bout is a many-headed hydra grown from the casualties of personnel changes. And you can’t kill the variations without involuntarily spawning two new ones.

Sometime in the past two years the outfit lost Pete DeLorenzo, their longstanding drummer who was part of the songwriting trifecta. Now it’s just the brothers Furgiuele at the helm, and they’re apparently not so bent on pop as DeLorenzo was. The breeziness of “Find A Love” is halted by an accent not unlike what you’d expect from an antique jack-in-the-box in a hokey horror movie. “Want Some Fun” boasts the circus-y keys they’ve tinkered with throughout their repertoire, but this time they’re too heavily relied upon. Honestly, the track – for me, at least – evokes an incredibly ridiculous image of clowns hopping around in yellow jumpsuits and oversized red shoes, and I’m sure that wasn’t the intention.

That track also illustrates a second issue, which is poor aim in terms of risk-taking. In the same way that the keys were too much, dips in other influences are only toe-deep when a fearless, colossal cannonball would have served them better. The bluesy bedrock of “Taller” and the quick country twangs are an interesting shift in sound for Gringo Star, but they don’t fully commit: The chorus is a flash of brightly colored psych that disrupts the flow like a brick wall. “Satisfy My Mind” features guitar picking emblematic of the same inspirations and, once again, that nuance is diminished by another motif. This time it’s a drumbeat so steady and familiar it sounds like a sample and, about a minute later, there’s a strange interlude of sci-fi, outer-space recalling noises. What the hell?

Floating Out to See marks Gringo Star’s first home recording – their two previous bouts were guided by Georgia producer Ben Allen’s golden touch. A lo-fi texture is sort of assumed, but it’s restricted mostly on the vocals. There’s a crispness to the music, while the vocals are garbled as all get-out. The contrast is somewhat cacophonous.

All of this is quite disappointing. To be fair, the band did see some considerable changes since Count Yer Lucky Stars. Maybe they just didn’t give themselves enough time to regroup.

Gringo Star
Floating Out to See
[My Anxious Mouth]