As indie-pop supergroups go, Washington DC’s Grenadine is right up there on the talent meter, containing as it does singer/guitarists Mark Robinson (Unrest/Air Miami) and Jenny Toomey (Tsunami) and trombonist/guitarist Robert Christiansen (Eggs). With a fixation on los productos Goya (pictured on the covers of both albums) and a dynamic level of guitar strumming, spare drumming (by Christiansen) and gentle vocals that hovers around early Association records, the shimmering trio makes very pretty music together.
Despite hijacked liner notes that misleadingly promise an album of ’40s pop standards, Goya — produced with disarming airiness and clarity (if gallons too much echo) by Kramer — includes only one known cover, the Flamingos’ “I Only Have Eyes for You,” which Toomey sings in an arrangement that owes a little something to Art Garfunkel. In keeping with the campy dress-up nostalgia of the entire enterprise, the breezy originals have titles like “Philco” and “Decca.” Although the froth of Grenadine’s jangly frappe occasionally slides from light to cloying, Goya generally succeeds in blending three compatible ingredients into a flavorful cocktail. (The unlisted bonus spoken/sung tape pastiche that follows “Decca Reprise” gets the bizarre aftertaste of this Shirley Temple out of the way even before the record ends.)
In much the same way Unrest could combine the same set of components into delectable treats that were just a little off, the second shot of Grenadine is one too many. A joint release on Robinson’s TeenBeat label and Toomey’s Simple Machines (the spine lists a serial number for each), Nopalitos was produced by Warren Defever (His Name Is Alive, Elvis Hitler), who loosens the spigot enough to allow thicker rock to color several songs. The problem with Nopalitos is its conflicted purpose. Hamstrung between the silliness of Robinson’s whimsical excursions (the vo-de-oh-de vaudeville of “Hell Over Hickory Dew” and “Roundabout on a Tuesday,” the clip-clop instruction of “What on Earth Has Happened to Today’s Youth?”) and the clammy seriousness of Toomey songs like “Steely Daniel” and “Drama Club,” the album shares only one significant feature — a kindred oldie — with Goya. This time, “This Girl’s in Love With You” gets a cruddy, cavalier reading by Toomey.