Michael Grimm – Grimm
Passion is almost enough, but you need something to say. One listen to Michael Grimm’s new release, Grimm, will convince you that this is man who believes he has something to say. There’s no storming the ramparts here. Grimm’s revolution is internal – his album’s twelve songs concern themselves with the hardscrabble triumphs and tragedies of human life. The forty-six minute running time is further evidence that Grimm’s cup runeth over, but one has to admire him for such an apologetic display of self-indulgence. Passion is nothing without its convictions.
Grimm tries the hit all the right notes. “Generation Next” kicks off things with a call-to-arms spirit that the music bolsters with its sinewy strength. While Michael Grimm is obviously a singer with power and technique alike to burn, misguided attempts to enhance his vocal with various studio chicanery sabotages him. There isn’t enough of the wide-eyed optimist in his singing that the song requires, so things emerge resigned or half-hearted. “Generation Exit” has the needed energy, but some of the pieces are askew. Perhaps “She Drives Me Crazy” might prompt you to flashback to the Fine Young Cannibals’ early nineties hit of the same name, but we’re far from that. In fact, “She Drives Me Crazy” bristles with economized punk energy that makes it all the more likeable. “Black & White” follows formula in some respects – it’s a dissatisfied in love song, one of popular music’s underappreciated staples. The band gives an understated musical performance, however, and Grimm seizes on a number of phrases that play as uniquely his own.
“Roses” is a convincing blues pastiche given added credibility thanks to the band’s fantastic command of dynamics and atmospherics. The songwriting has its moments and Grimm invests each line with the same emotive edge, but he can’t ever claim enough of the song as his own to matter. Grimm’s lonely voice leads off “High School Stories” and this up-tempo exorcism has equally memorable narrative qualities. “Lonely” seems ready to finish overturning the apple cart by subverting some of the love song’s cheaper manipulations, but Grimm settles for comforting groove and smooth chorus. There isn’t much of lasting value, despite its shimmering surfaces, because all listeners get in these moments is aural junk food with the illusion of substance.
“Goodbye Sammy” is one of the album’s best songs. Grimm resists the temptation to overplay this rocket-ride punk backbeat and instead lays down staccato guitar lines to compliment the drummer. One wishes that the song’s fire breathing energy allowed for Grimm to focus more on his emotion and phrasing, but he’s consumed with merely trying to keep up here. “Bliss” follows a plot similar to the majority of preceding songs – Grimm gives another outstanding vocal performance over a sultry, guitar-driven groove. The rhythm section, an abiding musical strength of Grimm, stands out once again. “1982” is a wonderfully serio-comic track with a handful of wonderfully funny and creative lines. It’s excellent evidence that, when he has material comparable to his ability, Michael Grimm produces complete and memorable pieces of music.
Passion pushes this album out of mediocrity. Without the fully committed vocals that Grimm brings on every song, this album would sink without a trace under the weight of its clichés. It’s musically hit and miss too – while the rhythm section consistently plays at a high level, the guitar work plays like it’s content to hit its marks and nothing more. Grimm is, ultimately, a frustrating experience – it isn’t so terrible that you can dismiss it entirely, but it seems to forever teeter on the precipice of the exceptional without ever once falling over that ledge.
Robert E. Fulford