The Golden Republic: full spectrum, four-course satisfaction
By
J. Gordon
11/14/2005 6:49:47 PM

If the Golden Republic can be knocked for anything, it’s for the fact that they can’t make up their minds which decade they’re in—the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s or now—and they do them all so damned well. In the spirit of great 90s alternative bands like dada, The Golden Republic has the interplay of backing vocal harmonies nailed down tight against lead singer Ben Grimes’ smooth cool lead. And the mod Ursa’s Café at St. Louis’ Washington University, the environment only seemed to enhance the Golden Republic’s retro feel.

The fashionable kids in the crowd looked more like rock stars than these next-door-neighbor guys from Kansas City, who took the stage looking like anybody you might know from down the road. With the exception of Ben’s artfully draped scarf, The Golden Republic lacks every rock star visual trapping and lets the music speak, or in this case, sing for itself.

Having recently lost founding member/drummer Ryan Shank (who is also Ben Grimes’ first cousin), TGR’s new drummer is the most serious-looking skins-man ever—rarely cracking a smile or showing much of any kind of emotion; a radical departure from the wild-man drummer stereotype. In contrast, bass player Harry Anderson is so goofy-cute it’s positively joyful, while lead guitarist/keyboardist Kenn Jankowski (who recently served some time on Nada Surf’s latest release) kept his fingers on the strings and a watchful eye on the pretty girls up front.

TGR’s tune, “She’s So Cold,” off of their eponymous CD [Astralwerks] and produced by Peter Katis (Interpol), got even the cool kids dangling at the room’s far corners to come up close to the stage. As the kids danced and took pictures on their cell phones, Ben introduced several new songs that had never before been performed in St. Louis. Playing on the band’s slightly-less-than-Top Ten-exposure, he laughed, “If you’ve never heard us before, it makes no difference what they’re called.”

Well, whatever they were called, they were great. Something with the chorus, “I know much better now” held a lilting, slightly-off melody that filled the listener with a wonderful worry for the singer’s heart in the lyrical message. Did he know much better? Doubt it. The song began as stripped-down vocal and acoustic number, and then grew full and swelled to fill the room with a lush, full-band orchestration. Can’t wait for that one on CD.

A couple of false starts throughout the set just made the guys that much more appealing and warm to the audience; usually because they broke up the tension with a few jokes.
Ben Grimes began the next unknown tune, kidding, “This is an acoustic guitar--that’s industry-speak. It’s such an exotic instrument…” Then, in a mock effort to say something of consequence, he added, “Stay in school, kids. Don’t use drugs. This hazing has got to stop.”

The next new tune had dreamy backing vocals as Ben again took the helm with a chorus singing of “all these buildings and mountains.” What was it about? We couldn’t get all the words over the synthesizer, but it kicked butt.

The next one on the set list sounded like it might have been called, “The Golden Way,” perhaps an inside joke or a team anthem. This tune was fun, with even more synth, tambourine and powerful dual vocals that really showed off what this band is capable of. The last new song slowed down to take us all to a gorgeous introspection as Ben sang, “It’s a long way to go…”

TGR’s new songs, in general, were heavier on the 1980s electronic pop influences and of course, less familiar to the handful of fans who’ve already got their record--but all songs from this band’s repertoire were well-received. When they got back to their album’s songs, “You Almost Had It” got things kicking again with its soulful hook.

They closed with “NYC”—another track so catchy that everyone left the place singing and dancing in the street to their quirky “oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh!” chorus. All in all, it felt like a very short set, but like a good meal at Ursa’s Cafe, The Golden Republic doesn’t need a four-course meal to satisfy.

 

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