The Grifters – Full Blown Possession

4 out of 5

Label: Sub Pop

Produced by: Doug Easley, Davis McCain & Stuart Sikes (recorded by, tracks 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12); Neil Martin & Jenny Hall (recorded by, tracks 1, 3, 6, 8, 11)

While The Grifts had made the step to Sub Pop with their previous release, Ain’t My Lookout, their bandly evolution had been pretty consistent from album to album: Cleaning up the rough edges, riffs getting more distinct.  Meanwhile, the casual attitude that informed their lyrics and song structures (it never felt like you were listening to a single so much as everyone happening to land on a shared groove for a few minutes) remained at about level; thus Lookout was really polished, but maintained some of the group’s inherent goofiness.

Swang song Full Blown Possession seems to suddenly go through puberty, emerging right into adulthood.  Comfortable with their style, The Grifts actually allow some of their edges to roughen up again, while the songs themselves become wholly distinct and focused.  Lyrically, things don’t stray too far from relationship woes, but here again we have focus, without that track or two with an eye-rollingly silly chorus or line.  Full Blown Possession might lack the instant impact of Crappin’ You Negative, but collectively, these are some of the best songs the group wrote.

The gutpunch riff and slide of opener Re-Entry Blues is an excellent way to kick things off, although it does far outshine the other bookend, album closer Contact Me Now.  This latter track is part of the disc’s few ‘good, not great’ songs;  at almost an hour, Possession is the longest Grifters release, making these lesser-than inclusions (the anti-climactic Hours, harmless instrumental You Be the Stranger) questionable as filler.  Prior to that, though, we get an amazing run of songs.  Wickedthing brings in a funky low end for some classic Grifts grit; Bloodthirsty Lovers is a ripping Stonesy rocker; Sweetest Thing is actually pretty damn emotional, juxtaposed by Dave Taylor’s wonderfully creaky vocals.  These tracks shuffle tone and pace perfectly, giving us a full album’s worth – about 40 minutes – of music stuffed into a larger album.

But having too much versus not enough ain’t a bad way to go out.  Full Blown Possession is both The Grifters most solid and consistent album as well as a welcome embracement of the rougher edges that made them such a stand out in the roots rock crowd from the get-go.