Green River Ordinance is not a new band. They’ve been around for almost 10 years, quietly making music that a lot of people don’t know that they already know. They’ve been featured on countless TV shows and have been touring consistently for a decade. They are, by definition, not up and coming. But, they’re not known by enough people and, unfortunately for those people, there are some people that have never heard of them. I first got to see this Fort Worth, TX rock band open for NeedToBreathe in 2009, before both of them had achieved more success. The band’s latest album, “Under Fire,” is a collection of 15(?!) songs that are nearly flawless from beginning to end.
“Under Fire” comes on the heels of the band’s last album, “Out of My Hands”, and both are great alternative rock albums. These albums aren’t “indie rock” like Fleet Foxes; they are more like Kings of Leon, more rock with harmonies. Think the Eagles with more rock music. While that sounds like high praise, it’s appropriate. We haven’t heard rock music that was more focused on perfectly executed harmonies in a long time. From the very beginning of the album, which starts with 4 part harmonies without instruments, to the last song, a beautiful and nostalgic track called “Dancing Shoes”, this album is incredible.
The album is evenly paced with some of the faster and more rock songs at the beginning and the mellower and calmer songs at the end. When we had the opportunity to see them in concert, their show started much like the album does, with a slow building sounds of what seems like a train coming toward you. It led to an incredible 4 part harmony to kick things off (a huge part of what makes Green River Ordinance so special) and went straight into rock. “New Day” has a great bass drum beat that keeps the song moving and a tight rock sound, every note exactly where it needs to be. This theme continues on “Heart of Me”, a lyrically fast song, but with more strategically placed instrumentation. GRO is all about highlighting the excellent vocals and songwriting and, aside from the actually writing and singing, this is the most incredible part of the band: this is a rock band that plays relatively hard rock songs and yet that music never once overshadows the real meaning and strength of the band. Perfectly placed bridges and instrumental breaks make this album so varied and sonically pleasing, it’s had to find faults.
The album, “Under Fire”, has 15 (15?!) solid rock songs that are best listened to straight through in order. It’s impossible to talk about every song, but you need to hear them for yourself. The band does a great job of mixing fast songs and slow songs that gives the album a really unique quality: after a listen or two, the album stops existing as 15 songs and starts existing as 1 work. Each song blends into the next and you find yourself singing the next song before the last song is over. It’s a phenomena that you aren’t conscious of until the song ends and you’re singing along to no music.
“Resting Hour”, the album’s first acoustic/slower song, is an incredible song that sings of being the rock for someone else. “When your bridge is burned and you can’t find a quiet mouth, leave it behind and I’ll come runnin’.” Throw in a key change at the end and it’s a thing of beauty, definitely one of my favorite songs this year. The title track is a song that slowly builds until it hits the crescendo of “Because I’m under fire and I’m burning down slow, I’m walking on a wire, won’t you let me go?” The end of “Under Fire” is pure instrumental and harmonic bliss. The last song, “Dancing Shoes,” was originally released on an EP last year and is a perfect cap to the album. It’s a slow, nostalgic song that asks the listener to grab their dancing shoes. “Throw on a little Emmylou and we’ll dance into the night.”
One of the interesting things about GRO, from Fort Worth, TX, is their ability to write songs that have generational appeal. So much more than individual appeal or fan appeal, these songs are anthemic. The first is “Home”, a bass drum powered that sings of a longing to go home. “And I finally get to say I’m going home. I’m going home and I’m not looking back, not looking back.” But the most anthemic song I’ve hear this year is “Heart of the Young.” A driving rhythm and some piano add to the lyrics to make this some of the most inspiring music we’ve heard in a while (Dear Barack, Please listen to and use this song. Signed, Everyone.)
“Will we ever take back innocence?
We’re not going to stand for this.
With love we fight injustice.
Ready or not, here we come.
We are hope. We are the heart of the young.”
Green River Ordinance, with “Under Fire”, has crafted one of the most unique and special indie rock albums I’ve ever heard. It’s 15 songs that scream to be heard and absorbed as a singular work, a work of profound words and perfect musical accompaniment. Watch out Fleet Foxes, NeedToBreathe, Kings of Leon and the like, Green River Ordinance has crafted the best rock album in years.
These are here to show you how awesome these guys are and how much fun they have. Enjoy!