Greg Kihn Again

Greg Kihn

Beserkley, 1977

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Everyone loves the story of the hometown boy made good. Plenty of folks in the Bay Area were happy for East Bay natives the Greg Kihn Band when they hit it big with the singles “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ’Em)” (#16) and “Jeopardy” (#2) off their albums Rockihnroll (1981) and Kihnspiracy (1983), respectively. What fewer appreciated is the long and winding path they had already traveled to reach that point.

The band was originally singer-songwriter Kihn on acoustic and rhythm guitar backed by the rhythm section of Steve Wright (bass & harmony vocals) and Larry Lynch (drums & harmony vocals). Kihn’s self-titled 1976 debut leaned strongly on his coffeehouse folk roots, rarely turning up the electric guitars, which were mostly played by guest Robbie Dunbar of Kihn’s Beserkley label mates Earth Quake.

When the time came to tour behind that debut album, Kihn recruited Dave Carpender to play lead guitar, a role he would hold through the next six years and six albums. Greg Kihn Again, the nascent’s band’s 1977 second album, was the first to feature Carpender and the first to consistently showcase the new-traditionalist sound that would become Kihn’s bread and butter, harmony-rich melodic guitar pop that drew inspiration from early rock acts like Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, and the Beatles.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Kihn wore the Holly influence on his sleeve from the start, opening his second album with an energetic cover of the latter’s “Love’s Made A Fool Of You,” with Lynch, Wright and Carpender recreating the galloping gait of the original while Kihn throws a little Elvis into his swerving vocal up front. Side one is filled out by a series of Kihn staples: reggae with call-and-answer vocals (“Island”), an earnest love ballad (“Last Of Me”), a ringing riff-rocker (“Real Man”), and an amped-up folk-rock tune with corny lyrics (“Politics”) that’s rescued in the late going by a soaring Carpender solo. Beyond the enthusiastic Holly cover, none of side one is especially impressive, but it firmly establishes Kihn’s vibe: throwback guitar music with abundant energy and melody.

Side two (what can I say, I still have my original vinyl) is where the band feels like it really comes into its own. “Hurt So Bad” opens with an airy scene-setting instrumental fragment before putting the pedal down for a ringing, punchy rocker that the band plays hard on the verses before deploying their three-strong vocal harmony attack on the choruses. And then they really go for it with a brilliant cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “For You” that locates the empathetic heart of the story and does it enough justice to have inspired Springsteen himself to give Kihn a brand new song two years later (“Rendezvous”).

The Everly Brothers feel like the inspiration behind “If You Be My Love,” a sentimental acoustic ballad featuring Kihn’s lead vocal against a backdrop of Kihn-Wright-Lynch close harmonies. By contrast, “Madison Avenue Man”—a concert staple for years afterwards—is pure Kihn, a riffy mid-tempo story-song whose earnest lyric gets an enthusiastic reading from its author. The album closes with an anomaly, the lone instrumental in the band’s entire catalog, the moody Wright-composed, Wright-Lynch-Carpender arranged “Untie My Hands.”

Greg Kihn Again would end up serving as the foundation for the band’s sound for years to come. It’s an album rich with melodic charms as well as some “still on the learning curve” weak spots, that’s nonetheless a sentimental favorite for any longtime fan of East Bay homeboys the Greg Kihn Band.  

Rating: B

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