The Greenhornes

****

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While eight years separated the Greenhornes' third and fourth albums, it's not like the band sat around twiddling their thumbs after 2002's Dual Mono. The Greenhornes went through some lineup changes, they cut an EP during a short-lived deal with V2 Records, they did plenty of touring, and the rhythm section of Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler were recruited by friend and fan Jack White to play in his side project the Raconteurs. But though **** hardly sounds like the Greenhornes have been in a vacuum since the last time they cut an album, it shows the band is still firmly in touch with their strengths, and if some of the rougher edges of their music have gone, the soul and the fire are as strong as ever. Stripping the Greenhornes down to a trio hasn't thinned out their sound in the studio; Craig Fox's guitar work is still tough and gutsy while his vocals have retained the cool, bluesy authority of the group's earlier work, and Lawrence and Keeler remain a strong and versatile rhythm section. The grittier side of their garage rock influences have fallen by the wayside -- **** suggests these guys haven't listened to the Sonics much in a while -- but their enthusiasm for British R&B in the manner of the Stones, the Pretties, and the Who hasn't faded at all, and the opening hat trick of "Saying Goodbye," "Underestimator," and "Better Off Without It" confirms these guys can still write ‘em and play ‘em with the same force and conviction as ever. A touch of pop-psych has crept into the Greenhornes' repertoire, and "Left the World Behind," "Go Tell Henry," and "Cave Drawings" show they can do classic-era freakbeat pretty well, too, and the simple but full-bodied recording and production get this music down on plastic at full force. **** brings the Greenhornes back to the spotlight, sounding as good as they ever have, and in many respects, better. They're advised not to wait eight years before making another album, but if that's what it takes, the wait seems to be worth it.

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