Reigning Sound is a band whose time has come. For 10 years now, Greg Cartwright and a myriad of bandmates have released consistently great music for the cream of the garage/punk label crop (Sympathy for the Record Industry, In the Red, Goner), but calling them a garage or punk band feels drastically limited in scope. After all, despite the fact that this is a group that’s worked with Jay Reatard in the studio and opened for The Hives on tour, this is not a band that douses itself in blood for album covers or bashes out energetic—if one dimensional—two-minute jams while wearing matching suits. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but Reigning Sound is more.
Indeed, Cartwright isn’t afraid to slow things down and play a country song. He’ll bring you to tears one minute with an ode to love, only to flip it around with a wall-puncher of a rock track next. He’s earned more underground cred with Oblivians and Compulsive Gamblers than any dozen blog bands can muster with their powers combined. He and his cohorts will back up Mary Weiss of The Shangri-Las on her first album in decades, and they’re certainly not above releasing a mini-album like this one for free through a car company. They are a fantastic rock band, plain and simple, no strings attached, insert cliche here. Why they haven’t achieved greater fame is a mystery, but hey, it’s cool that some suit cares enough to pay to put out their music so that we can have it for free. Small miracles, as they say.
Abdication… For Your Love operates in very much the same area Reigning Sounds’ last proper full-length, 2009’s thoroughly underrated Love & Curses, did. Which is to say the band eschews the blown-out-recording, all-rock-all-the-time modus operandi of 2004’s aptly named Too Much Guitar, and the considerably more laid back country-and-folk-influenced tunes of their 2001 debut, Break Up, Break Down, opting instead for that sweet spot that L&C inhabits: nicely recorded songs that sometimes rock, sometimes don’t, but are always well put together. While Abdication isn’t the band’s best release to date, it’s a damn good sign that Cartwright & Co. have found a sound that works for them, which is more than you can say for most rock ‘n’ roll bands who have been going strong for 10 years. All signs are pointing to a bright future for these middle-aged dudes. Maybe it really is their time.