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The Gris Gris - For The Season

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Artist: The Gris Gris

Album: For The Season

Label: Birdman

Review date: Jan. 25, 2006

I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around this record for the past three months, attempting to find a way of adequately explaining it to you, the listening public. It has proven a remarkably difficult task to accomplish because Greg Ashley and his crew of psychedelic madmen are so schizophrenically slippery that the second I think I understand what is going on in this set of songs, along comes something that would catch me completely off-guard and consequently change my whole conception of the album. So I’m going to leave you with a list of the various associations and ideas that I’ve at least partially figured out. It’s probably a more appropriate way of really expressing this album than a simple prose review.

  • The comparisons to the Thirteenth Floor Elevators and Red Krayola that constantly get thrown at Ashley are simultaneously completely justified and full of shit. Yes, Ashley is very much in the Texas psych tradition of Roky Erikson and Mayo Thompson, but he is more than a simple nostalgist bent on recreating a bygone era. Listening to the opening six-song suite reveals a depth of songwriting and long-form dramatic arc that is occasionally lost in his progenitors’ freakouts. Not that Ashley doesn’t know how to freak out, but he uses it as a tool, not merely an end unto itself.

  • Ashley’s ears encompass much more than the traditional psych sources, ripping off “Paint it Black” on “Pick Up Your Raygun,” Funhouse’s saxophone for “Ecks Em Eye,” ’50s pop (or maybe just Reigning Sound) in “Medication #4,” Tom Wait’s percussion section in “Mademoiselle of the Morning,” and dub style reverb for whatever wobbly thing is running through the background of “Skin Mass Cat.” There is plenty more going on here, but to dissect it any more would be a bit pedantic and possibly take away some of the fun of listening to the myriad bits and pieces scattered over these 12 tracks.

  • Song breaks and titles mean very little on this album, which was clearly envisioned to be a slab of vinyl with no visible breaks. On the CD, song titles will be chronologically displaced from their related lyrics and requisite song, and track breaks will be five or 10 seconds off from where the songs actually begin and end.

  • If the funky song breaks weren’t enough, the Gris Gris spin you around even further by rapidly and drastically changing style from song to song. But despite the complete disregard for conventional structures or spatial constraints, the songs are all very much of a set, with elements in common despite near-constant sonic metamorphoses. Much of this may be due to the hazy production, but that alone isn’t enough of an explanation.

  • I’m not entirely sure which season Ashley is preparing us for here. My sense is that this is a very autumnal album, evoking a certain amount of nostalgia and regret interlaced with accusations of complacency. But then he might just be damning the generation whose music inspired him - boomer bashing being the pastime it is - while staking his claim that he owns this music, that it is his season to carry the proverbial psych rock torch. And who knows, if he keeps making music this ambitious, he could very well prove his point.

By Dan Ruccia

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