[Scion A/V; 2011]

Reigning Sound has been one of the finest garage rock bands since the turn of the century, and after four studio LPs, a compilation and a couple of live releases they return with a brand new EP, released for free online via Scion A/V. When a band with such a consistent discography as Reigning Sound announce a new release the expectations are naturally very high, and it is those high expectations, not the quality of the new songs, that leads to any disappoint with the new release. Abdication is certainly a worthy inclusion in their catalogue, but hardly a necessity to anyone who is not already familiar with their studio albums.

Abdication is Reigning Sound’s most mellow release since their debut album Break Up… Break Down (“Everything I Do Is Wrong” and “Eve” especially are far more mellow than your average Reigning Sound song). While Break Up… Break Down was basically a country rock record, Abdication is closer to the classic rock spirit of their 2002 LP Time Bomb High School and their latest record Love & Curses. Country and soul influence are sprinkled throughout, but in the end Abdication remains faithfully in the rock corner of room, taking its cues from The Rolling Stones and The Sonics, while not being “retro” in any way.

As with every Reigning Sound record the main focus is frontman Greg Cartwright’s wonderful songwriting, a distillation of what made ‘60s British Invasion and garage rock so great, with lyrics about relationships, often failing ones, depicted in ways that one can easily identify with. Abdication does not break away from this formula, and why should it when it has been working so well for over a decade? Unfortunately, this is where those high expectations come in. To call these tracks weak would be wrong though, because there’s not a bad track in sight, but neither is there anything nearly as good as the best tracks on their studio albums.

Considering Cartwright’s track record, one can’t help but be a bit underwhelmed by this release, but most other bands would consider Abdication to be a among their finest moments. It’s probably unfair to judge it too harshly though, considering that it’s a fine EP without a single bad song. Since it is being released for free one should probably just consider it a pleasant bonus. It is “merely” a really good garage rock EP, and hopefully only a stopgap release, keeping us satisfied until Reigning Sound returns with a full LP.