Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
We're going to say something, Master Grieves, and we ask that you take it like a grain of salt or sugar or a dash of pepper and do not take it for our real impressions or feelings. This comment will simply be used as a jumping off point, a lede that banters more with exaggeration and a table-setting than anything we would ever legitimately think about you. It's all an act and as we learned this week from a Gordon Lish interview, "There is no realm wherein we have the truth. All endeavor is an act…Oh, there is one exception, City Bakery's peanut butter cookies. On the other hand, a baker baking is an act."
This is just an act and we've got the student volunteers constructing sloppily painted and nailed together backdrops of streets and lampposts and more than enough shadows to supply a twilight in the city, not to mention a half dozen fog machines to make this shit stunning. It's a cosmetic job and here it goes: Grieves looks like that punk ass kid who's always about to say something crass about a pretty girl and who probably started smoking when he was eight, just because it was what the old man did. He looks like he'd have a smart remark for any act of kindness and also like he knows more about NWA and mixtapes than you or I ever will.
Frankly, he just looks like a scrawny kid with a lip ring who wants to be a rapper - just a saggy trousered imposter. These are all likely implications that Marshall Bruce Mathers had to answer for back on the 8th Mile in Detroit when he was growing up and just trying to become the expressive artist he eventually became. As it is though, we like the way that Grieves dresses and we think that he's the real deal because those superficialities are shallow and only cloud the real facts and those are that this Seattlite has shown dependable strength for years now.
It's a very swirled, Neapolitan ice cream sort of sound that Grieves goes for, bringing in many disjointed elements and influences that range from George Clinton's deep-throated goofiness at times, to Ice Cube-type flow, to Alkaline Trio black eyeliner, gothic punk rock tones, to the romantic side of the coin. It's a mutt of a sound, but he's showing himself to not only have exceptional lyrical game, but also to have spectacular musical chops by doing away with the majority of samples that he previously relied on, for homemade music that he used his own hands to make. It turns out that he's really good at it and hearing him talk about it with the kind of perkiness of a kid who just learned how to ride a bike without training wheels tells us that his work is only going to get better.
The themes that bring into play demons and devils and vices that tend to get the better of people are what he does best and he's convincing as a kid who's been drunk a lot, as well as a kid who likes his recreational pot smoking. He's convincing as a guy who learning how to avoid trouble by having gotten into it and how to avoid pessimism and depression by getting slung through that mess, taking a face plant into it a time or two and just hitting the showers to get it all off. But while he's in the shower, he's turning over the frustrations of it all - of the reason he's cleaning all of that shit off - and out it comes from the mouth and tongue, words that encapsulate his grievances, giving them a better covering, something that can be put to use. Something that will get a guy respected, not flipped off. Something that will get a guy the girls, not ignored.
*Essay originally published January, 2009