Poets, philosophers, psychologists, and theologians have been writing about love since the dawn of time, but there’s something about its multi-faceted complexities that continues to intrigue us. It would be fair to assume that without amour as a subject, the film and music industries would’ve collapsed ages ago. Indeed, love – be it passion, adoration, infatuation, affection, or otherwise – continues to be a draw for artists in all forms of media. Unsurprisingly, the topic has always been a pervasive one in music, whether manifested in the hormonal swooning of the Beatles’ earliest hits or in the sexual heat of the Black Eyed Peas’ perverse pop.
Love as an overarching theme is something with which Boston’s Jen Grygiel is intimately acquainted. Having sung such songs as “All the Cowards in Her Path” and “Typical Asshole” in her time with glam/punk group MEandJOANCOLLINS, the topic of spurned paramours came up time and again. It should also be mentioned that the band – fronted by Grygiel’s husband Bo Barringer, no less – chose Love. Trust. Faith. Lust. as the title for its debut LP. Until the sophomore album arrives sometime this fall, Grygiel has chosen to focus her attention on a solo EP, a 14-minute set of scrappy rock that trades in the sordid debauchery and playful snark of her other outfit for an aesthetic which highlights the veritable emotions that arise when a serious relationship goes awry. The immediate melancholy, frantic disbelief, and lingering anger of a broken romance is prime territory for songwriters, and Grygiel seizes on the well-chronicled scenario with a succinct candidness that manages to feel bracing rather than banal.
Grygiel brings all the bleary-eyed intensity of an early morning split to life on opening cut “5:30 AM,” which, against a midtempo waltz groove, finds our protagonist pointing out the elephant in the room: “I’m tired / I can’t sleep / you’re awake right next to me.” The standard-issue rock instrumentation and Grygiel’s plaintive vocals lend the track a timeless bluesy quality that any fan of Jack White’s many bands would find appealing. From here, the next stop is “Drive Me,” a throbbing rock tune whose urgency is felt in both the incessant drive of the rhythm section and in the pleading lyrics (“When did we both lose our minds / I want to stay here / trapped in time”).
“Reckless Woman,” which recasts the wronged lover as a vengeance-seeking fireball, is both the EP’s most entertaining and impressive song, its punchy drum and bass combination providing a fitting backdrop for Grygiel’s vitriol. Things come to an expeditious close with “Just Say Maybe,” in which despondent requests are made (“Love me / give it a second chance / take another look”) while an acoustic guitar strums in isolation. Coming on the heels of “Reckless Woman,” the song is notable for its modest presentation and folksy bent.
Though the topic is certainly well-worn, it’s no less refreshing to hear Jen Grygiel explore love with a sense of intimacy and vulnerability. MEandJOANCOLLINS was all about lusty swagger; this first solo record strips away the glam rock spectacle and goes instead for substance.