Since 2002's Time Bomb High School, Memphis-bred Reigning Sound has recorded two good live albums, plus two studio efforts: one fuzz-stuffed album aptly titled Too Much Guitar and a mellower remake of songs called Home for Orphans. You really can't go wrong with Reigning Sound since frontman Greg Cartwright (ex Oblivians) deftly digs into vintage R&B and 1950s rock 'n' roll without sounding like a faker. But Cartwright's rehashed old material for several years now, making this new album, Love and Curses, all the more sweet. It delivers the freshness Time Bomb had in spades.
"Brake It" and "Something to Hold Onto" showcase the classic Cartwright marriage between honeyed garage rock and lyrics bound by both afflicted heartache and biting bitterness. Cartwright calls out his lovers on vices and deceits all the while winding his way through Neil Diamond romantics, punk-rock angst and muddy guitar solos floating on a crest of organ melodies. Some songs, like "Debris," feel awkward, and the gothic polka style of "Banker and a Liar," though intriguing, seems like an unnecessary tribute to the Decemberists' overdone style. Most importantly, Love and Curses steps up to Time Bomb, but with the maturity of heartbreak slow-cooked over the years.