The Grays

Ro Sham Bo

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Ro Sham Bo was an interesting experiment, and it remains one of the curious, off-the-path milestones of '90s pop. Four accomplished musicians disillusioned with being in rock bands formed the Grays based on utopian ideals: all members contributing songs, recording together and fleshing out each other's ideas, and playing each other's instruments when it fit certain songs, so no one was the true "leader." In practice, however, the members' strong personalities clashed and brought the project to an end soon after the recording of Ro Sham Bo. It's a very eclectic pop record, stemming from the fact that the different songwriters bring distinct styles to the table. Buddy Judge and Dan McCarroll's tunes tend to be more rhythmically focused jams, like "Everybody's World" and "Is It Now Yet," while Jon Brion and Jason Falkner stick to ultra-cool '70s-style pop/rock, Brion's harmonic melancholy on "Nothing Between Us" contrasting with Falkner's unabashedly catchy jubilation on "Both Belong." But everyone seems to have input into each track, and the result is a nice musical stew, none of the ingredients outshining the others in contribution to the overall taste. Although they weren't able to align musically for more than this one record, all members' attentions seem very focused on fully realizing the tunes on Ro Sham Bo. The instrumentation is thick and hearty, sometimes with four or five overlapping guitar parts and keyboards propelling a song toward its climax. Splashes of psychedelia (backwards tape loops, oddly distorted vocal harmonies) accentuate some of the later tunes, and Falkner displays some rare vitriolic screaming on "Spooky."

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