The short, sharp pop gems on Grand Champeen’s sophomore effort, Battle Cry For Help, present the sound of a band stripping rock to its barest essence and making glorious noise from the remains. Gorgeously haphazard tracks such as “The Guts” and “Sister” crash and clatter with garage-jangle guitars, full-throttle rhythms and more hooks than a tackle box. The group isn’t afraid to reveal its influences, either. Hell, GC revels in them. “Broken Records” offers a laundry list of favorites as frontman Channing Lewis sings the album titles Let It Be, Let It Bleed, On The Beach, The Gilded Palace of Sin, Heaven Tonight, and The Kids Are Alright, as if everyone keeps – or should keep – Cheap Trick, the Replacements, and the Flying Burrito Brothers in regular rotation. It is only on Battle Cry’s final number, “The Angels’ Share,” that the Austin-based quartet reluctantly digs into its Texas roots, crafting a drunken blast of Southern flavored twang. Live, The Champs bring pill-popping energy and super-sized chunks of crunch to the party. This hard touring unit spends most of its stage time in perpetual motion, cranking out head-rushing tunes with the unchecked brutality of a Doc Martin to the teeth.
GRAND CHAMPEEN: Picture Soul Asylum after ...And the Horse They Rode in On (circa 1990) looking at two possible futures: One involves power ballads and MTV, the other more friggin' rock. Austin's Grand Champeen is what could have been had Dave Pirner et al. made a better choice. Their second release, Battle Cry for Help, proves they did.
Grand Champeen does Clam Dip and Made to Be Broken-era Soul Asylum as well as Soul Asylum ever did...and on Battle Cry for Help, the local foursome's second full-length effort, Grand Champeen connects with Barry Bonds-like power and frequency...The album may be best described in terms of what it's not. It's not boring, not slow, not dimwitted, not clumsy, not always nice ("Miss Out"), not for expectant mothers or the weak at heart, song-to-song not much longer than Bob Pollard's attention span can handle, and not much for wasted motion. On just about each of the LP's 14 tracks, the formula is pretty simple: get in, tear it up, get out, do it again...grab the volume knob and crank it just a little further to the right.
At a recent show at the Mercury Lounge in Austin, Texas, opening for hot indie-rock band Spoon, the gritty Grand Champeen proved they have the pure rock 'n' roll guts that folks in the Twin Towns appreciate. Sounding at times like a cross between the Jayhawks and Honeydogs, and at other moments like Soul Asylum meets the Replacements, Grand Champeen's sound comes from a rootsy, power-pop heart. Make no mistake, they do not disappoint live.
Grand Champeen's "Battle Cry For Help" is equal parts Superchunk pop bluster
and Soul Asylum/Replacements guitar ache. Majority songwriter Channing Lewis knows
his classics: That 10 second solo on the compulsively name-checking "Broken Records" is
straight out of the Bob Stinson fakebook.
Yeah, I know it's kinda weird to spotlight an opening band, but Austin's Grand Champeen are worth getting to the club early for. Their disc, Battle Cry For Help, is a shout out to bands like The Replacements and early Soul Asylum (who they're constantly compared to). The rockin' quartet, who open for the likes of Spoon back in Tejas, deliver hard, punchy rock that literally leaps off the disc. Hearing frontman Channing Lewis tear up on track like "Nothin' on Me"--delivering screams that call to mind a young Paul Westerberg (think "Run It") is enough to make you want to chug a few Mickey's and gobble trucker speed. But Lewis can bring it down too (check out the lonesome twang of the pedal-steel driven "Sparks").
I don’t know what "alt-country" is. I say this even though I own everything Uncle Tupelo ever recorded and I even sometimes wear a t-shirt with Johnny Cash giving the middle finger. The problem I have with "alt-country" is that it’s just another easy label that’s been attached to dumb it down for people with trouble accepting something that isn’t easily classifiable. Folks say Grand Champeen is the best young alt-country band around. I’m willing to agree with part of it. They are absolutely one of the best young bands around. They’re easy to classify, too. Label them simply as a great band. Few "rockers" these days, country or otherwise, so purely distill a rock and roll heart with the substance and truth of these guys. In style and passion, they are the bar-rocking post-posits of the Replacements and the aforementioned Uncle Tupelo. Need proof? Give Battle Cry for Help a test run. It’s a sorta concept record triptyching a genuine love of music and playing in a band. "Broken Records" is an ode to the best collection ever committed to vinyl and "The Sounds That Made My Year" dredges up entirely different memories via the same context. The wistful "One Foot On the Stage" reminisces a young group’s naivete. It veers right into jaded, with the Cheap Trick-out of maximum riffage and meaty beat that takes a front seat on "Paper Rock Scissors". The years past are lamented on the twangy "Four Years". The playing throughout is big, loose and loud.
Battle Cry for Hel gets better with each listen. Can’t wait for a live record from these Austin, Texas boys. Until then, I’ll settle for this record and the chance to see the band live again.
Touring in support of an album with possibly the best title ever—Battle Cry For Help (Glurp)—Grand Champeen proffer solid corn-fed indie rock that comes off like The Replacements if, instead of wanting to be The Stones, they wanted to be cowboys. The one-two punch of One Foot on the Stage, a smoky alt-country hopper, leading into early-period Soul Asylum-styled thrasher Nothin’ on Me shows the two extremes of Grand Champeen better than anything else. Occasionally the album tries to get too cute for its own good and meanders, but you can’t fault the energy or individualistic flair of the Austin (by way of Chapel Hill and Colorado) four-piece.