Grinspoon, the multi-platinum Australian rock act named after Dr Lester Grinspoon, the famous Harvard Psychiatrist known for highlighting the positive medicinal uses of Marijuana, hit the UK this month to coincide with the release of the band’s latest album “Six to Midnight”.
Seems like a good time to investigate what the Antipodean fuss is all about.
“Six to Midnight”- the first release following the successful rehabilitation of lead singer Phil Jamieson from his publicised drug addiction troubles, isn’t a comeback record but somehow has the feel of one. Don’t panic, though. Fans of Grinspoon will take a lot of comfort in the fact that they haven’t suddenly had a massive change in artistic direction: this is still defiantly a Grinspoon album with everything that conjures in one’s minds eye.
So is it any good? Erm, no.
Part of me really wanted to warm to Grinspoon because they clearly have a dedicated following and I probably should recognise that multi-platinum status of theirs: you know, it would be really easy to say that this record is merely “ok, if you like this sort of thing”.
Actually, I do like this sort of thing- I fought in the trench warfare of the Alter Bridge wars back in the day when Myles Kennedy couldn’t get arrested and I know my Stone Temple Pilots from my Hoobastank . But, this- oh dear- is a very different kettle of fish.
Grinspoon are Velvet Revolver without the swagger and sway; they are Alice in Chains without the Chains. Or the Alice. They are Incubus-lite. If they were a soft drink they would be not Pepsi Max but Pepsi Min.
A decent production sheen from Rick Will (he of Skindred/Incubus duties) can’t disguise the fact that what you have here are 14 tracks of formulaic rock schtick. 40 odd mins of some of the most derivative, self-pitying, whiny pub rock this side of the Dog & Duck.
Opening track ‘Dogs’ (which even has some barking dogs on it, lest you forget the song’s title) is a ranty, shouty opener that has that uniquely annoying quality of a record that you think is going to kick your ass but doesn’t even begin to wipe it.
‘Run’ has much more going for it- a decent tune and chorus but it still leaves you wanting more, but not in a good way. ‘Comeback’- with its lyrical themes of drug addiction and rehabilitation is genuinely OK if you like this sort of thing and ‘Takes One’ is a fast paced rock track that will, I’ve no doubt, be very popular in their live sets.
‘Right Now’ has a decent opening riff before settling back into the lower division comfort zone of the bands song-writing. The perfunctory big ballad ‘Summer’ is as clichéd as you fear. An additional new version of fan favourite track ‘Champion’, mixed especially for this UK release by Rick Will, has a nice Skindred-style beat over it but part of me can’t help feeling that it’s decent wallpaper over a cracked wall.
Grinspoon are the sort of band who the mid-market tabloids will refer to as “wild boy rockers”, but to these ears they’re as dangerous as yoghurt. There’s no doubt that 1000s of people will disagree with me. You know what- they might be right and I might be wrong. However, my abiding memory of “Six to Midnight” is that I have spent two hours of my life that I’ll never get back.