The five song EP Obscene from New Jersey based rockers The Gray Vines manages to make the high wire act of balancing 90’s style rock with a modern sound come off easy. The effortlessness of their performances and songwriting alike doesn’t seem possible for a band that initially came together thanks to the trio meeting each other on the Internet, but these guys sound like they’ve known each other all their lives and play with the naturalness of musicians born to work with each other. They do an excellent job of incorporating their influences into these songs and keep things uniformly brief, but the listener never feels cheated and the EP breezes by with sweeping, energetic confidence. Obscene builds on the band’s potential and clearly shows evidence of greatness to come.
There’s a lot of aggression burning in the chords and beats of Obscene and much of it comes out in the first two songs. “See Me” is a raucous assertion of identity – Jake Hoffman’s voice and heart demanding to be heard in a world looking to kick you aside if you don’t suit its purposes. There’s no question that The Gray Vines bring a strong side of pure rock spirit to their performances that’s lacking in a lot of modern music. “Gotta Say” has that same sneering demeanor, cloaked in some well employed the atmospheric post production effects, and seething with energy throughout. It’s hard to not hear the vindictive pleasures of denunciation seeping into Hoffman’s voice on this one. “In Her World” is the EP’s third song and, by this point, another possibly underrated weapon in the band’s arsenal takes hold. The band differs from a lot of young rock oriented outfits in the way they take such obvious care to make sure the vocals are right and that strength is only revealed more as the EP nears its end.
The title song is another subtle musical change of pace for the band and exhibits more of the songwriting detail that’s already become an important part of their presentation and will undoubtedly develop further in coming years. There’s some classic rock music sentiments coming across through Hoffman’s lyrics, but they are filtered through a truly individualistic sensibility that makes them fresh for listeners of every stripe. The EP’s best song, arguably, comes with its rousing closer “You Don’t Know” and the same knowing, yet dismissive, edge we heard in the first two cuts returns here, but framed bigger, writ larger. It stays on a direct course, despite that, and ends the EP with an emphatic statement that likewise bodes well for the future. The Gray Vines are a truly indispensible unit for anyone loving well-crafted, recognizable, and distinctive rock because they know how to do it and how to mix it up. Rarely has a young outfit sounded so ready so early and capable of much more to come.
Photo By Jesse Lisotte
By Pamela Bellmore