Release Date: Aug 11, 2009
Record label: In The Red
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Punk
The Reigning Sound is the antithesis of fabricated pop music. Channeling pain, love, angst, and soul through Greg Cartwright’s passionate, dynamic songs, Love and Curses stands alongside Time Bomb High School as their finest hour to date. Cartwright relocated to Asheville, North Carolina from his longtime base in Memphis, and the band followed. The current version of the quartet is probably its most proficient musical alignment.
With Love and Curses, the fourth full-length from North Carolina-via-Memphis garage-rock combo the Reigning Sound, lead singer/guitarist Greg Cartwright just may have staked his claim as one of the finest songwriters in any genre working today. Fans of the former Oblivians shouter might quibble as to whether Love and Curses stacks up next to 2004's much-loved scorcher Too Much Guitar, but in fact the album recalls Time Bomb High School (the band's excellent 2002 disc) more than any other release in the Reigning Sound catalog, splitting the differences as it does between twangy ballads and broken-hearted invectives. And it is precisely that musical dichotomy that allows Cartwright’s talents as a songwriter to truly shine.
As good as Reigning Sound's 2004 album Too Much Guitar was, the title was both an accurate self-review and a preview of what was inside; the deep soul influences that made the group's first two albums so memorable were pushed to the side, and while the album rocked hard and strong, it seemed as if bandleader and songwriter Greg Cartwright was ignoring an integral part of his musical personality in favor of making his music better understood to the nuevo-garage crowd. After a three-year layoff and a rewarding detour backing up Shangri-Las' vocalist Mary Weiss on her fine solo album Dangerous Game (with Cartwright producing and writing most of the material), Reigning Sound have returned to the studio with Love and Curses. The album finds the group getting most of their balance back, and while calling it a return to form suggests Too Much Guitar was more flawed than it really was, Love and Curses gives a clearer and more compelling picture of what Reigning Sound does best.
One of Memphis' most popular local celebrities during the 1960s was television personality Watson Davis, who donned death-pallor make-up, exaggerated fangs, and a dapper Dracula tux to become Sivad. He cracked corny jokes and introduced cornier monster movies on WHBQ-TV's "Fantastic Features" and even recorded a few novelty hits, including the stiffly swinging "Sivad Buries Rock and Roll". Just a few years later, however, Davis was off television and mostly forgotten, working as a mechanic in rural Arkansas.
Greg Cartwright qualifies as a Memphis great. His ear for hooky, three-minute pop and penchant for heartbreak songs translated well when Reigning Sound backed Shangri-La Mary Weiss on 2007's Dangerous Game. Since then, the singer/guitarist has settled into his talents after nearly a decade with the Memphis-bred quartet. Love and Curses offers less blown-out rock & roll anthems than 2004's Too Much Guitar but more refinement, reflection, and soul.