Few times in music lore have albums dubbed with numbers reached unfathomable stardom. Take Led Zeppelin’s IV, Pearl Jam’s Ten, even Metallica’s hit “One”. Retribution Gospel Choir (RGC) dares to contend among legends with its witty sophomore effort 2, and appears to have all the screws in the right places. Well, at first glance at least.
“Hide it Away” creeps up until you realize the full potential of RGC. Alan Sparhawk’s voice commands the microphone and has no problem shifting from soft verses to a whining chorus. Not the whining of a toddler, but the stretching vocals of a matured singer comfortable with his range. Enter quality stoner-rock guitar solo, climax, climax, and wow. I want to keep listening. Mirage or the real deal? Too soon to tell.
Retribution Gospel Choir takes two more giant steps with “Your Bird” and “’68 Comeback”. Two solid riffs, matched by Sparhawk’s prowess and textures varying color and intensity. By this time my mind was blown. This is solid, to say the least, the kind of rock worthy of movie montages and Super Bowl halftime shows.
Alas, Smash Mouth was wrong. All that glitters is not gold.
2 is much like that middle-school girlfriend. The pinnacle is the beginning, where holding hands means the world and you could go to the grave with a hug before class. But where do you go from there? RGC’s sophomore album feels passionless during the second half, and without motive or clear reason. Weird ambiance, attempts at an eight-minute guitar saga, and an overall lack of focus leave a bitter taste in a disappointed mouth. It still bears artistic merit, yet it lacks the same rockability of the first tracks.
It seems as though Retribution Gospel Choir crammed its three best singles at the beginning of 2, and hopes that your stereo breaks by the time “Poor Man’s Daughter” comes on. What would have made a fantastic EP is ultimately a lethargic hodgepodge from an otherwise-promising band. This is one of the few times I can recommend buying the singles online — even if the idea makes me shudder.