When The Greenhornes burst onto the Cincinnati scene in the late ’90s, the southern Indiana quintet opened up a psychedelic garageful of snarling kickass and were an immediate sensation. Pushing out a sound that combined the maximum R&B amplitude of early Who and The Pretty Things with the sneering sophistication of the earliest Kinks, The Greenhornes attracted a local, regional and national fanbase with a handful of studio releases and an incendiary live presence. (Remember when they nearly wiped the stage with The Strokes at the Southgate House?)
Ultimately reduced to a trio, The Greenhornes went on indefinite hiatus five years ago, sparking an incredible talent split — keyboardist Brian Olive had already begun his solo career, bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler formed The Raconteurs with Jack White and Brendan Benson (Lawrence also plays bass with White in Dead Weather and banjo with Detroit Roots Rock outfit Blanche) and vocalist/guitarist Craig Fox formed garage vaudevillians Cincinnati Suds and psychedelic bluesmasters Oxford Cotton.
With The Raconteurs and Dead Weather on breaks, Lawrence and Keeler reconnected with Fox, revived The Greenhornes and are finally able to release the 12 blazing tracks that comprise (just say “Four Stars”), the trio’s first full-length of new material in nearly eight years, which they’ve been working on sporadically for close to three years.
The album snaps to attention from its first track, “Saying Goodbye,” a reverbed shot of R&B whiskey that burns like raw Who and warms like early Guided By Voices. And therein lies the fascinating advance for the Greenhornes on the new release — the trio has grown and evolved and play with infinitely subtler shades than on their previous works while still offering the undercurrent of intensity that is the hallmark of their first three albums.“Better Off Without It” and “Cave Paintings” almost sound like the Hornes covering lost early Dylan nuggets, although the latter gives way to a little Blue Cheer at its conclusion. But just as “My Sparrow” offers touches of Beatlesque melodicism and “Get Me Out of Here” finds the trio channeling their inner Davies brothers, the ’hornes don’t forget their Yardbirds’ roots on the blistering “Need Your Love.” Given the spotlight that has been focused on Keeler and Lawrence because of their Jack White connection, could give The Greenhornes the wider audience they’ve deserved all along.