A few years ago, I wrote about the reissue of The One That Brought You. That’s probably Grand Champeen’s best album. But, Battle Cry For Help is where my love began. It’s kinda funny to think of this album marketed and/or thought of as alt.country when it was released in 2001. Not that it was devoid of rootsy touches, but in terms of influences Grand Champeen sounded way more like Superchunk and 1986-90 era Soul Asylum than they did Uncle Tupelo.
I’ve often said that hearing Champeen for the first time was like hearing a band step out of my record collection and onto stage. But, I fell in the love with the band because they took those influences and made them their own. Grand Theft Champeen, indeed. First were the dual guitars of Channing Lewis and Michael Crow playing off each other until Crow inevitably spun off one of his mindbending solos, full of assymetrical perfection and a steel feel a la Gary Louris. Next came Alex Livingstone’s limber basslines sweeping the floor and filling in the spaces behind the guitars. Alex joined Champeen a few months before they went into the studio for Battle Cry, so you can make a good argument that the reason The One That Brought You is better than this album is because Alex himself got better. Finally, if you’re playing bass (or guitar, for that matter) in Grand Champeen, you’re gonna get better playing with the luminous Ned Stewart on drums. He was the band’s secret weapon. Heavy right foot, deceptive swing, perfect timing, totally in the pocket, and a great feel with the sticks. Ned was the guy keeping the juggernaut moving forward.
If I have one criticism of Battle Cry it’s in the mix or mastering. The album should be beefier than it clearly wants to be. But, that hasn’t stopped me from playing this album hundreds of times. And as far as mission statement you couldn’t much better than the opening lines to “Broken Records”:
Broken records lyin’ in the yard again
Whoa whoa whoa whoa
Broken records …
Let It Be
Let It Bleed
On The Beach
The Gilded Palace Of Sin
Heaven Tonight and
The Kids Are Alright
Grand Champeen – Broken Records – 2001 [Amazon]
Grand Champeen – The Sound That Made My Year – 2001 [Amazon]
Grand Champeen – Cottonmouth – 2001 [Amazon]