Great Thunder – Groovy Kinda Love (Album Review)

by Steven Spoerl

First off: apologies for the font issues yesterday’s Meredith Graves interview piece is still experiencing, those will hopefully be resolved at some point in the near future. Now, today’s event: Great Thunder.  Great Thunder have been one of the more hidden side projects for a while now, despite two incredible releases and the continuously rising profiles of both Swearin’ and Waxahatchee. Both their Strange Kicks EP and Sounds of Great Thunder LP showed flashes of their band members’ other projects influence. While this is still true of the absolutely massive Groovy Kinda Love, it’s to a much lesser extent.

Groovy Kind of Love utilizes an intimidating run time that nears 90 minutes to maximum effect. Great Thunder sheds all genre restrictions and just lets loose, exploring industrial, ambient, sludge, folk, drone, shoegaze, pop, and punk over the record’s 30 tracks. With that much material present, it could have been easy for Groovy Kinda Love to fall into a myriad of understandable traps. Instead, Great Thunder manage to subvert the litany of dangers that accompany this brand of over-stuffing through their wide-eyed earnestness. Each track avoids being relegated to filler status by utilizing a wildly different approach. One of the best examples of this comes around the two-thirds mark with an incredible five song run that’s book-ended by Katie Crutchfield’s signature stamp of defiant resignation in both “Sorta Prima Donna” and “Chapel of Pines”.

Unsurprisingly, the record’s most deliriously ragged moments seem to come from Keith Spencer, a key (if notoriously quiet) member of Swearin’. All of the stranger moments on that band’s most recent release, Surfing Strange, are wildly exceeded by the strangeness that runs rampant through the course of this one. Spencer gets to go into full on exploration mode and makes the most of everything he pulls into the band’s shape-shifting aesthetic. Jeff Bolt and Kyle Gilbride both step in to lend their talents to various parts of the record, essentially swapping one Crutchfield out for another momentarily. The results are just as thrilling as anything Swearin’ has accomplished so far.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a project worthy of either Swearin’ or Waxahatchee’s respective talents without a few moments of utter devastation. “Singer’s No Star” takes that hushed mentality to a place that cuts even deeper than the most emotionally unsettling moments of American Weekend. Crutchfield’s voice bleeds into a delicately handled piano line and resides in secret above a hauntingly effective doo-wop chorus. It’s a moment that can freeze even the most hardened listener. “You Left Me With an Ocean” utilizes a similar approach and achieves a similar effect, allowing a short run time to set up a quiet acoustic close.

While calling Groovy Kinda Love Great Thunder’s magnum opus may seem premature, it’s certainly not unwarranted or undeserved. It’s genuinely astonishing that this record actually achieves what it does. It’s not often a band makes a statement as bold, daring, or audacious as this record is. Unquestionably one of 2013’s most notable releases, it deserves to be in just about any serious record collector’s home. More importantly, it deserves to sit on the turntable, played into oblivion until the grooves have worn thin. This isn’t just a record. It’s a masterpiece.

Salinas is now taking pre-orders and the record can be streamed in full below.