New Grenada – The Open Heart

New Grenada
The Open Heart

Upon first listen, Detroit’s New Grenada’s sometimes silly, sometimes sly approach to songwriting and their lead singer’s rather snotty vocals, tend to dominate the songs on this band’s debut full-length. But while the band may be playful and immature on first listen, the songs have great depth – both musically and lyrically – upon further listens. It makes The Open Heart a surprisingly satisfying listen throughout.
A lot of punk bands do the snotty vocals and playful lyricism schtick, but what they lack is New Grenada’s impressive musical depth. These songs are a little bit punk, a little bit rock, all with a definite pop structure, centered around John Nelson’s unique vocals, powerful guitar licks, and impressive percussion. Then throw in some casio keyboards and a twisted, playful approach to songwriting, organized by Detroit legend Brendan Benson behind the scenes, and you get an idea of this band’s sound.
The album starts with the straight-ahead rocking “Fashion Disaster,” a tease if I ever heard one, because it’s followed by the keyboard-driven Barcelona-meets-Bracket “I Know U R” with its repeated lines “I know you are but what am I?” and the contrast between John’s singing and Nicole’s spoken rants. The band’s ode to 70’s teen star Tiger Thompson includes the lyrics “Tap once for yes and two for no, whaaaaa!” As if that wasn’t odd enough, the mellow, almost melodramatic “Steady Diet of Slayer” is about how listening to Devil-music may prompt a phone call from the evil one himself. Quirky, yes, but sure to provoke a smile.
From there, things get a bit more focused, with the poppy and fun “Decoder,” a more rocking ode to your favorite kind of friend, “Fuckfriends,” which goes deeper than you may think, and the ultra-sweet “Zaxxon.” “It was close to fall, she wore her canvas shoes, they were decorated with marker, ink pen and wet with dew,” the song begins, and the imagery is almost surprising. The song also includes the insanely catchy “You can do that if you really wanted to / You might be shy, I’d be embarrassed for you.” I find myself singing those lines in the middle of the night, damn it! The band pays their dues to their hometown with the edgy, noisy “Detroit Rock Sucks,” and then proves they can play pure pop songs with the bouncy, up-beat “Commando.”
I can’t help but love this album. I find myself singing along to the lyrics even days after listening to it. And far more impressive than merely a guitar-rock album, the band adds in tape loops and keyboard sounds, mixing vocals and power-guitar chords for a very different but cohesive approach. And they don’t take themselves too seriously, which is a definite plus. This is great stuff, definitely worth the extra listens to truly enjoy their music.