Release Date: Nov 9, 2010
Record label: In the Red Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Garage Punk, Garage Rock Revival
Combining the talents of Greg Cartwright and Coco Hames seems like such a no-brainer that it feels like destiny. Cartwright's proven himself as the leading heartbroken poet of garage punk with the Reigning Sound; Hames has displayed all kinds of moxie and songwriting prowess as the leader of the Ettes. They got together when Cartwright produced the Ettes' album Do You Want Power in 2009.
Like a Deep South version of our own Billy Childish, Greg Cartwright has made scores of garage-rock albums, with scores of different bands over scores of years. His latest iteration seems him joined by Coco Hames of fellow nostalgists the Ettes, for a crunchy and ecstatic take on early 60s pop – the druggy album title is slightly misleading – with a backing band that includes members of the Black Keys and the Raconteurs. Speeded up and tidied a little, the Rolling Stones obscurity (Walking Through the) Sleepy City – sung by Hames, with a voice like Ronnie Spector – becomes some lost Wall of Sound obscurity.
Wow, I think I’m in love with Strychnine Dandelion, the new album by The Parting Gifts. They write the catchiest damn pop songs, drawing from the best of both 60s garage rock and early incarnations of British invasion acts like The Kinks and The Who. Their tunes are instantly ingratiating and deliciously sing-able, full of swoon-worthy chord changes, infectious hooks, and witty lyrics.
Greg Cartwright doesn't duet enough. With Oblivians and especially Reigning Sound, he has documented love's fallout from an inescapably male perspective, painting women as both the perpetrators and victims of emotional violence. Men suffer and inflict just as much pain, which means the genders are pretty well matched in his songs. Yet, aside from a brief dalliance with the Detroit Cobras, we rarely hear from the other parties in his songs or get any other side to his sad stories.
The Parting Gifts exist as an opportunity for Reigning Sound’s Greg Cartwright and the Ettes’ Coco Hames to pair up, rope in some other indie/garage rock travelers (Dan Auerbach, Patrick Keeler), and play around with whatever tropes found in the dustier confines of their record collections strike their fancy. On the group’s debut album, the Gifts dabbled in everything from relaxed mid-tempo rockers (“Bound to Let Me Down”) and barn-burning country rousers (“My Mind’s Made Up”) to soulful R&B (“Hanna”)—basically anything that would sound great coming from any well-worn workmanlike band playing at your local dive bar. One of the satisfying attributes of Strychnine Dandelion is that the production is raw, yet nuanced enough to perfectly evoke the original feel of the sounds the assembled musicians are immersing themselves in.