If all my investments did as well as the rough-cost-of-an-upscale-burger-and-beer that I threw in the kitty for Green River Ordinance’s Kickstarter fund to make its new album Under Fire (buy at iTunes), I could develop half the vacant lots in downtown Phoenix.
As it is, I’ll have to settle for good cookies and good music. This round of cookies is savory: one variety is bacon-cheddar (recipe from Evil Shenanigans) and the other, inspired by bo08mo‘s adventures at Trader Joe’s, is cheddar-chocolate-chip.
Out of a primordial chaos of guitar effects, emerges “Dark Night.” It’s such pure hands-in-the-air, move-with-the-beat, can’t-hold-still rock that I’m distracted by planning the lighting effects to accompany it as a show opener.
This album is not, by the way, streamed all over the universe, so your options are to buy it or to take my word for it (and then buy it). That’s a hint.
Chop and fry some bacon. That’s not a hint. Since I’m making half a recipe of bacon-flavored cookies, I need only two strips of bacon, but I had other bacon-related plans. Should the thought of bacon make you shout “Hallelujah!”, GRO needs one of those in “New Day,” a song that starts “in the heart of the city” with drums like a heartbeat. The tension in the interaction between drums and guitar here thrills me: when the song hits the faster section with choral vocals, it’s a true resolution into something new.
The basic recipe is insanely easy. Take a stick of softened butter, two cups flour, two eggs, 2 tablespoons of milk, and a half teaspoon of your best pepper (I’m still working on my favorite ancho chili pepper). Use your most powerful mixer to turn this into a squishy short dough. If it’s crumbly, add a little more milk.
I’m going to skip the third track for the moment because I know it’s the one for which video exists, thereby whiffling right along to “Resting Hour,” at which point the mood aptly shifts to a more Americana-driven mode. Then, just when the listener is feeling complacent about stripped-down guitar and dusty dive bars… no, I’m going to make you wait for the surprise. It develops with surprising naturalness and is… uplifting. Soaringly uplifting.
Also uplifting is adding the crumbled and drained fragments of two strips of bacon, plus half a cup of sharp cheddar to the half of the dough. Mix mercilessly.
“Under Fire” moves to the top of pantheon of Songs About Fame and Fan Expectations, solely on the “singing your lullabies” line, though I could justify it with the relentless tension of the instrumentation on the second verse.
“Healing Touch” initially uses piano for the steady heartbeat of percussion. Here’s where it becomes clear there’s some sort of theme of rest versus struggle. “Love Laid Down” goes in the direction of struggle with a relentless maraca-like beat. (I think there’s a tambourine in here, maybe.) Once again, the song takes a twist midway through, and I’m only going to reveal the choral build and the shift from maracas to snare drum… because I’m a relentless tease. There’s more.
Have we forgotten the cookie dough? Not entirely. Form it into a log, wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap, and put it in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours. About half an hour before you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350. Slice the dough about 1/4″ thick. It can be baked on an ungreased pan, but I used parchment paper for tidiness.
The tense military beat shows up again in “Home” — but you want to know how long to bake the cookies. The recipe says 18 to 20 minutes, and this is about right. They’re done when they stop sweating and get a little brown around the edges. Oh — and the sheer triumph of the instrumentation as this song builds — turn it up. Buy better speakers. The way the beat itself develops as a motif is worth a couple listens.
The beat picks up with “Heart of the Young,” which is surely inspiring for adding 1/2 cup of cheddar, a generous handful of chopped pecans, and a very generous handful of semi-sweet mini-chocolate chips to the other half of the dough.
“Crawling” fooled me into thinking it was going to be a mournful song — reliance on piano and tambourine up front will do that — and then unfolds into a love song that echoes the themes of “Resting Hour” but takes development in a direction that instrumentally represents miles and miles of road unwinding.
Should you need miles and miles of anything, “San Antone” starts with that idea. Yes, I’m getting a kick out of a song that layers leisurely Texas-accented vocals over drums of almost military precision and speed. It’s damned close to being honky-tonk.
“Brother” really has me wondering (not for the first time on album) if there are supposed to be Christian overtones. Prodigal son, anybody?
As far as the cookie dough, you know the drill. Mix in the mix-ins. Roll, wrap, chill, slice, and bake.
The album wraps up with two songs of love and reassurance that fit the notion of some symbolism at work (though it’s not the only interpretation possible), “Don’t Be Afraid” and “Lost in the World.” Indeed, going back through the tracklist, reassurance, vulnerability, and faith seem to be consistently stacked against militaristic drums and a good deal of struggle. Under fire, indeed.
The motifs of the closing song, framed with minimal instrumentation, are also chillingly lovely. Where the vocals go… well, I’m going to be a tease again. It’s a true resolution of the issues raised in the opening track.
Now pack the cookies in plastic bags so you can drive across Oklahoma while listening to this album. They make a nice protein-rich snack. The bacon cookies can be breakfast. The chocolate ones leave me wishing I’d had bittersweet chocolate chips, but they still work.
It is, of course, de rigueur to pay some attention to the video for the album’s lead single, “Heart of Me,” which highlights GRO’s guitar style and layered style, though it’s one of the calmer and more conventional songs in terms of building narrative flow. Also: moody shots of instrument-playing.