The sad truth is while I’ve seen many musicians pump their fist in the air during a live performance, I’ve only known four to do it without looking, well…..dumb: Bruce Springstein (with the nickname The Boss, c’mon), Bono (up for debate), Wayne Coyne (who spends half his time in a bubble) and Win Butler (he might have been stretching). With those exceptions that prove the rule, I’ve always considered putting a closed fist above your head to be a silly Rock n Roll move. Learn how to do a cool kick or spin, I guess. Saturday August 14th at The Hotel Cafe, I saw James Grundler of Golden State do said fist pump, and actually didn’t cringe. It looked….fine, good even.
The reason why Grundler was able to pull off such a move successfully, while hundreds of other LA rockers can’t, is because Golden State write anthems, songs that are friendly and easy to listen to, while grabbing you by the throat and forcing you to pay attention (kind of like that ex-boyfriend, if only he were as nice). Their songs have been popping up on the tube, having licensed songs for both Apple commercials and the reality television series Deadliest Catch (Grundler dedicated their performance to Phil Harris, one of the captains on the show, who passed away earlier this year). And it isn’t a surprise that they license so much. By the time Golden State finished their set I had bought a Honda Civic, an iPad, and changed my auto insurance three times…..and it wasn’t their fault! Golden State is exactly the kind of band that marketing departments search for, conditioning anyone who watches television to open a new credit card whenever they hear a sweeping melodic hook.
And the reason Golden State gets this kind of attention is because they have a big sound. Call it Arena Rock if you will, it is crafted to hook your attention. Their sound is crafted around their songwriting, the vocals being the center piece. Grundler’s vocals draws many comparisons to U2’s Bono, but are just as indebted to classic soul singers like Marvin Gaye as well. With a group going for a big sound, there is the tendency to reach for theatrics, yet the group is disciplined. Bassist Alex Parnell, guitarist Noah Stone, and drummer Fern Sanchez all know what is best for the song, favoring tight, structured arrangements instead of overplaying. At times they sound like Muse, constantly moving forward with melodic hooks. It makes for a sound that is…easy. I love music to be challenging, but sometimes it is enough for a band to write emotionally sweeping songs and execute them perfectly.
Golden State has recently put out three EPs, Problem Reaction Solution Vol. 1, 2, and 3 and is scheduled to play The Cat Club August 22nd. They are currently considering recording a full length LP and going on a national tour.