Formed in Fall 2002 by Galactic Cowboys vocalist Ben Huggins and Len Sonnier, Gristle has been writing songs for several years and occasionally performing live in the Houston area. Len is bass player in the Sonnier Brother’s Band but handles guitar in this outfit, Ben’s son Shane Huggins playing bass in a rhythm section completed by Sonnier Bros’ drummer Chad Lyons.
Gristle live is neither heavy prog rocking nor bayou blues riffing, but instead high-quality, straight forward modern rock music. ‘Cold Blue Sky’ (Metal Blade) does a very good job capturing this. Opener ‘Save Me’ starts off with a riff reminiscent of Queens Of The Stone Age, and even though the voice is instantly recognizable as Huggins, the overall delivery is stripped down to the point that it would be impossible to confuse this outfit with his prior one. The chorus and bridge are a little closer to ‘Cowboys territory in terms of melody and style, but overall you know right from the start that you’re listening to something new.
‘Making It All Go Away’ looks at day-to-day life, its mechanistic opening and verses, lilting chorus, background keyboard washes, and strumming distorted bridge reflecting musically the stages we each go through making our way though a day. ‘Suddenly I’ brings a vaguely Petty/Young feel and syncopated chorus to a tale of girl leaving boy to head into the unknown as the boy slowly realizes what he’s lost. Both integrate musical tone and lyrical content perfectly.
Both ‘All Alone In Paradise’ and ‘All The Offenders’ veer towards the non-descript in their mid-tempo rockness, but these are definitely the exception, with both ‘The Weight Of The World’ and ‘Only Love Can Save Us Now’ bringing things fully together again before the record reaches its end. ‘…Weight…’ makes great use of a guitar riff that could have been pulled straight from 80s classics of the genre, while ‘Only…’ builds a searching tension that makes you wish the album had a couple of more tracks to go.
Fans of Galactic Cowboys will like this record for the Huggins vocal fix. Fans of well-crafted album rock will like it because it’s a better version of the form than most, calling on texture and subtelty to get the job done instead of relying on formula.