Cleopatra Records [Release date: 22.06.18]
Back in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s I was turned on to the jangling guitar sound of American “college radio” by my discovery of two bands – REM (before they hit paydirt) and The Gin Blossoms.
Championed by the likes of Bob Harris in particular, this sound reached its zenith with REM’s multi-platinum ‘Automatic For The People’ album but two albums released by the Gin Blossoms at the time – 1992’s ‘New Miserable Experience’ and ‘Congratulations I’m Sorry’ from 1996 were every bit its equal with tracks such as ‘Hey Jealousy’, ‘Found Out About You’, ‘Follow You Down’ and ’Til I Hear It From You’ reaching the upper echelons of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.
Fast forward to 2018 and the ‘Blossoms are back with a cracker.
‘Mixed Reality’ is a 15 track return to the glory days for the band – classic Gin Blossoms but with a contemporary twist that will satisfy existing fans and newcomers alike.
With veteran REM producer Mitch Easter in the engineer’s chair and power-pop legend Don Dixon producing, that wonderful jangling Byrdsian guitar is to the fore on an outstanding tracklist that runs from tasteful ballads to full-on rock and all points in between.
From the get-go of opening track ‘Break’ with its wonderful guitar arpeggios to the “REM all over it” closer of ‘Mega Pawn King’ the quality never drops.
I say never drops, but the thirty seconds of ‘The JFK Shit Show’ is excruciating – what they thought they were doing here is anyone’s guess.
Putting that aside, the highlights are profuse with tracks such as ‘Face The Dark’, ‘Here Again’, ‘Still Some Room In Heaven’ and ‘Miranda Chicago’ reinforcing the band’s legacy, the moving ‘Girl On The Side’ vying with opener ‘Break’ for the album’s high point and ‘Fortunate Street’ the sort of track you would hear coming from an open-top ’57 Chevvy as it cruised through Malibu.
I have my own version of the Old Grey Whistle Test – if my wife (who is neither old nor grey) shouts upstairs “what was that you were just playing” you know you are onto a winner and she duly obliged as the fade out of ‘Mega Pawn King’ ran out.
It is so good to have them back and on such good form – it’s like the last twenty years never happened and if you are looking for the soundtrack to the summer, this’ll do nicely.
Just fabulous. *****
Review by Alan Jones
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