by Matt Cibula


Fri March 5

Berbati's Pan

231 SW Ankeny

There's this guy named Steve Tagliere and he's fighting for his soul. He sings and plays instruments in Gingersol, and writes songs laden with pretension and bad puns that sometimes tear your heart out like an Aztec priest. And it's not like you can tell which one is going where, either. "Yesterday" starts off with sludge-metal for a few bars and expands into a Rubber Soul shimmy, with awful and fabulous lines like, "Lions and tigers and lawyers and bears/ High on the self-help and nobody cares." Tagliere is at his un-best when he overdoes the cutesy thing (like on "Blink," which is all just punchlines with no real set-up), but even his un-best is perfect pop on a stick.

Then he goes ahead and hits it with "None of My Friends"--a multipart, seven-and-a-half minute suite that never fails to make me question my place in the universe. When Tagliere sings, "Like a razor/ Like a black box/ Can I trust you?/ Do I need to?" you think, okay, that's kinda deep. But when he jumps up an octave in his wasted voice and howls the same words into the abyss, you realize you'd follow him into his hell, because clearly, he'd follow you into yours.

The other main Gingersol, Seth Rothschild, contributes 3.5 nice songs, especially "Rome's Behind Us But the World Is Round," and his production work adds about six left-field "WTF" moments per song. On the final track, "Empty Canteen," we see what it would be like if the two worked together: a world both bleak and lovely, slow and sad and hopeful all at the same time.

I don't know if this is pop rock or rock pop or alt. country or adult alternative or what. I don't even like this kind of music, especially when there's a song about the September 11 bombings called "A Great Day for a War." But I just can't stop listening to the damned thing, because when Tagliere and/or Rothschild nail a song, it stays nailed.