I love that title. Absolutely. It’s so charming. So affirmative. The Golden Grass, too, which sounds like a chip off the old rural-prog block made famous by the likes of Jethro Tull (though with a more obvious weed connotation). But despite strong ’60s and ’70s rock influences, Tull this is not. Hailing from Brooklyn, Absolutely represents the third full-length release by these chaps. Is it good? Absolu… well, partly.
There’s a distinctly ’60s and ’70s flavor to Absolutely, contouring its simplistic, rocking core with touches of psychedelic rock. To call it progressive would certainly be an overreach but it has its expansive moments and overlaps with early Yes, for example. The guitar tone used is also heavier than that from its era of influence, lending a definite crunch to the plentiful, hooky leads. The Golden Grass are at heart straight-forward in intent with grooving leads and catchy choruses leading the way. Such choruses are melodically simple and the tracks are largely bite-sized and structurally clear, with a few consistent verses, a few choruses, and a solo. The opening three tracks, “Catch your Eye,” “Show Your Hand” and “Never You Mind,” besides all being titled remarkably similarly, very much progress in this vein and are solid examples of the sound.
By track four, “Runaway,” this format becomes somewhat stale. Most tracks have decent licks, decent vocal melodies, decent solos and amplification and layering in choruses to highlight these parts. But I was struck by questions such as “what’s pushing this record forward?”; “what’s offering a fresh perspective?”; “what’s truly excelling?” Much of the record’s remainder doesn’t answer these. That spark which elevates the best albums is noticeably absent as the formula becomes unexciting. It’s an album derived from a particular musical epoch and lacks the novelty from that epoch’s first coming.
I am, however, pleased to report that progression into the back-half of Absolutely does indeed demonstrate some capacity for something more. “Walk Along” breaks down for passage of more muted noodling which generates an atmosphere in a way that isn’t typical for the remainder of the album. But most significant is “Out on the Road” which is the easy highlight. It’s a lengthier track and boasts the most expansive and engaging material throughout. It expands and contracts rather than immediately shoving its leads in your ears, tracking a path across the rocking moments on which The Golden Grass is grounded but also drifting in passages with gentler, jamming guitars. Sure, it loses its way a little in its extended instrumental interlude but in longer form, The Golden Grass illustrate to me that they can be thoughtful and diverse. All this with the best chorus too.
Absolutely is an enjoyable enough slice of retro rock but one which only develops itself to a limited extent. I don’t want to overstate the impact of “Out on the Road” as it is fairly exceptional when compared with the majority but it’s at least a glimpse of sophistication to sit alongside the more direct melodies. While the boilerplate remainder is formulaic, it’s a long way from uninteresting and represents solid blocks from which more could be developed. It’s absolutely worth a listen or two.