No more misery: Arizona artisans regain their smile and pack existence into a retrofuturistic gift box.
It took this ensemble almost three decades to embrace anew their erstwhile innocence as well as rhyme and reason that resonated throughout 1992’s “New Miserable Experience” to endear the quintet to many a heart. Marking the album’s 25th anniversary with an emotional tour, they came across jangle pop linchpins Don Dixon and Mitch Easter who were eager to man the board for the band’s forthcoming record, so “Mixed Reality” turned out to be much more upbeat than one might expect and is all the better for it, with the veterans’ youthful vigor contagious once the countdown ushers in the sweet melancholy of “Break” which is soon swept away in favor of less reflective, if no less deep, material.
There’s incessant rapture in “Here Again” spread over regret that group would vehemently deny, yet “Fortunate Street” has hope graffitied all over its vibrant sidewalks leading to “Wonder” to be filled with faux-orchestral solemnity, and the acoustic ripples of “Forever Is This Night” reach for ultimate romanticism. By setting up to be more than what he was, vocalist Robin Wilson may have embarked on a bumpy ride through modern America’s motley landscape, but the journey’s soundtrack is positively trippy. Jesse Valenzuela and Scotty Johnson’s robust riffs inject rock ‘n’ roll rumble in “New Mexico Trouble” and their warm licks smooth the pain on the likes of “Face The Dark” before introducing grandeur to the arrangements, while Bill Leen’s lean bass propels “Miranda Chicago” towards brass-smeared carnival.
“Come along with me, ’cause you’ll miss it on your own”: this line from “Mega Pawn King” is an offer the listener can’t refuse in case they plan to live in our reality. With GB’s sixth album any declining neighborhood should get reborn and celebrate its existence.