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Reviews: Grass Is Green's Ronson

Grass Is Green's Ronson

Approximately a minute and a half into my first spin of “Jesse’s Fashion Show,” the third song on Grass Is Green’s recently issued Ronson, I started getting the sense that the group made a quantum leap forward since 2011’s Chibimoon, like if my three-month-old daughter walked over to me and asked me to put on Fugazi’s Red Medicine. This feeling kept solidifying as the song continued and at exactly 3:13, it became a certainty: I wholeheartedly endorse whatever illegal riff-growth-hormone Grass Is Green imported from Mexico last year. They haven’t entirely lost the anxious angularity that appealed to me on Yeddo and Chibimoon, but the teasing nature of those albums—flashing a superb Polvo-meets-Faraquet passage in “Slow Machine,” then suddenly abandoning it—has been replaced by a new philosophy: write a great riff, then one-up it with a better one, then one-up it with a better one…

It’s a tall order to get past how smartly constructed “Jesse’s Fashion Show” is (the vocals dropping out midway through its four-minute runtime to prioritize the nimble lead exchanges, for one), but Ronson offers other expansions of Grass Is Green’s portfolio. “Panera” is the tightest, catchiest song they’ve written; it would have merited inclusion in nearly every mix tape I mailed out from 1997–2000. The slow-burning “Somebody’s Something” finds deeper catharsis with “It’s getting hard to ignite those kerosene eyes / Difficult for everyone else,” then allows Andy Chervenak’s vocals get overtaken by a pitch-perfect closing guitar part. The instrumental “Ruffleball” ends Ronson with satisfyingly bright interplay between the four members before fading to black. If you’d told me Grass Is Green had mastered any of these moves on their third album, I would have been impressed, but all of them? I’m still scratching my head.

It might sound like I’m disparaging Grass Is Green’s previous efforts, but it’s hard to go back to earlier records after a big leap. Returning to The Dismemberment Plan’s ! after Is Terrified proved largely impossible, I spent considerably less time with Smart Went Crazy’s worthy Now We’re Even after acquiring the superior Con Art, Shiner’s Starless felt like a dry run at a four-piece edition of Shiner after The Egg was birthed, et cetera. My question for Grass Is Green, now that they’ve written a score of guitar riffs I uncontrollably sing along to, is this: Where does Ronson fall in their evolutionary curve? Returning to the Dismemberment Plan comparison, is their Emergency & I coming up? That is what I’m so excited about: if they made this enormous leap for Ronson, imagine what could be next. Am I going to break my hands drumming on my steering wheel?

No pressure, guys.