What Gringo Star (@gringo_star_atl) accomplish with Count Yer Lucky Stars isn’t necessarily new, but damn it’s good. The songs on their second full-length album ooze a motley mix of classic Southern and British rock with just enough of a modern twist to avoid the “vintage” label. The Gringos, brothers Nicholas and Pete Furgiuele, Pete DeLorenzo and Chris Kaufmann, all take turns with vocals and songwriting; a somewhat risky endeavor that ended up being one of the album’s greatest strengths. Thanks to the addition of impeccable production (done by the acclaimed Ben Allen of Gnarls Barkley and Animal Collective fame) this musical variety never strays to incongruous territory.
“Shadow” kicks off the album with eerie, garage rock that creeps in, firmly implants itself, and gets your toes tapping. The song has an infectious opening guitar riff and perfectly displays the tight harmonies, catchy melodies and driving rhythms that carry through till the end of the album. The following tracks, “You Want It” and “Got It”, bounce off one another perfectly, each showcasing the Gringos ability to craft a song around choruses rife with pop hooks.
As the album unfolds, influences are exposed from all over the map. “Beatnik Angel Georgie” is undeniably reminiscent of the strange, new pop music the Beatles were producing during The White Album and “Esmarelda” is part steamy Argentinian tango part American folk song. In a similar manner as the flow between “You Want It” and “Got It”, “Esmarelda” leads into “Jessica”, a song somewhere between 1950’s doo-wop and an Eastern European polka. The Gringos then bring it on home with “Light in the Sky”. Complete with guitars right out of your favorite John Wayne Western and a pounding bass line, the track is sure to make anyone want to whip out their boots and spurs.
Their worldly influences are complemented throughout the record by the classic tone of their guitars and vocals. Songs like “Make You Mine” sound as though the guitars were recorded 30 years ago and the title track “Count Yer Lucky Stars” could be straight off of The Clash’s 1979 London Calling – from the guitar solos and the straight ahead drumbeat, to the way the vocals complement the driving piano instrumentation. However, unlike London Calling, Count Yer Lucky Stars is surprisingly positive. The lack of angst comes as a welcome relief and proves that not everyone needs a broken heart to write great music.
This informed exploration of many different genres is actually what makes Count Yer Lucky Stars so listenable. On paper it may seem TOO eclectic, but the simplistic instrumentation of Gringo Star prevents the music from getting too crazy. They know when to give everything but the kitchen sink, but also when to reel it back.
Gringo Star closes out the record with a pared down track reminiscent of the classic California-rock from the 70’s. Soaring lead guitar combined with warbling vocals and swooping “ooohs” result in an Eagles-esque song that provides a perfect end to Count Yer Lucky Stars. “Mexican Coma” brings to a close the band’s best album yet, leaving the listener satisfied and wanting to hear more.
With four songwriters in the band, I imagine that generating new material is much easier and gives them the freedom to choose the very best tracks from each person. This seems to be the case, as no track is superfluous or out of place. While some tracks surely shine more than others (“Shadow”, “Got It”, “Mexican Coma” to name a few) the album as a whole is amazingly solid and worth multiple listens.