With Love and Curses, the fourth full-length from North Carolina-via-Memphis garage-rock combo the Reigning Sound, lead singer/guitarist Greg Cartwright just may have staked his claim as one of the finest songwriters in any genre working today. Fans of the former Oblivians shouter might quibble as to whether Love and Curses stacks up next to 2004’s much-loved scorcher Too Much Guitar, but in fact the album recalls Time Bomb High School (the band’s excellent 2002 disc) more than any other release in the Reigning Sound catalog, splitting the differences as it does between twangy ballads and broken-hearted invectives. And it is precisely that musical dichotomy that allows Cartwright’s talents as a songwriter to truly shine.
Generally wrestling with heartbreak, frustration, and overcoming the two, Cartwright’s songs are an outpouring of the soul tempered by a cool rock ‘n’ roll swagger. Again, Love and Curses alternates nicely between melancholy acoustic-tinged laments (“Love Won’t Leave You a Song,” “Something to Hold On To”) and swirling organ/guitar-driven rockers (“Break It,” “If I Can’t Come Back”). The album makes it clear that while garage rock might be the easy tag, Cartwright has fully processed the crates and crates of classic sounds upon which the Reigning Sound aesthetic is built.
The general feel of any Reigning Sound record is going to have elements of the Byrds, the Rolling Stones, and classic country, garage and R&B, yet Cartwright’s own voice as a tunesmith is so distinct it renders any one influence irrelevant. Love and Curses is filled with great melodies that burrow deep into the skull without being cloying, and offers lyrical sentiments that tug at universal truths without pandering. It is a fully formed statement from a great rock songwriter who has come fully into his own.