Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Stories That Seem Real

Reigning Sound at Beat Kitchen, July 27, 2013

DOWN AT THE ROCK & ROLL CLUB—I saw Reigning Sound in Chicago at Beat Kitchen last weekend, and as usual the band delivered an emotionally satisfying, rocking, passionate set. Cartwright is backed these days by Benny Trokan on bass, Mike Catanese on guitar, Mikey Post drums, and stalwart Dave Amels on organ. I've written before about my admiration for Cartwright's songwriting. In Chicago, Reigning Sound played some old Obilvians and Compulsive Gamblers tunes, and it was nice to hear a set that drew upon all of Cartwright's eras. I also recently picked up the new Oblivians album, and I'm stupidly in love with "Pinball King," a throwaway that Cartwright invests, characteristically, with genuine, humane feel for adolescent drama, self-mythology, and low-ceilings of possibilities. It's a rocking gem that somehow transcends novelty.

In April, Cartwright spoke about songwriting with Creative Loafing out of Atlanta. Cartwright was reminded by Austin Ray that Cartwright said recently, "When you make serious mistakes, you can draw on that forever." Ray asked: Is there stuff on the new album about past mistakes?
Oh, absolutely. Not that I'm not making fresh ones [laughs]. But it's the deep cuts that leave the scars you always see. When you make a big mistake, it never leaves your mind completely. It's always there to reflect on, especially when the sensation comes around to make the same mistake again and you think you'll get a different outcome [laughs]. I've always got several strings of thought going on when I try to write songs. I could be thinking about something that happened to me, or a friend, 20 years ago, and also thinking about some conversation or gossip I heard in a bar. It's all those things converging, where, in a way, you jump from one to the other, and you can tell a story that seems real. I'm all for that. That's an aesthetic I strive for—something that's emotional but also crafted, at the same time, to be a good pop song.
That's Greg Cartwright: reckless passionate craftsman. We're lucky to have him. As a demonstration of Cartwright's range, check out the silly and wonderful and inexplicably moving "Pinball King" and "I'm So Thankful," a track from Reigning Sound's first album, and one of the best (and sexiest) love songs that Cartwright's written.

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