What is it about the phrase ‘limited edition’ that has us reaching so hastily for our wallets? Is it the promise of otherness, of newness and never before seen exclusivity? Or are we just Pavlovian suckers for an entry-level marketing ploy? As a company, Gretsch is no slouch when it comes to a certain level of prestige at the best of times. However, every so often they square their collective shoulders, take a deep breath and pour their work-worn hands all over a virgin block of wood, taking a little extra time and care to create some actual magic. The three bounteous Electromatics I see before me today – the G5420TG, G5422TG and G5435TG – are prime examples of what can happen when luthiers really care about what they’re doing.
The G5420TG is the heftiest of the three by far. Its oversized, bound F-holes and early fifties headstock hark back to the glory days of big band swing while the fact that the rosewood base of the patented Adjustomatic bridge piece is firmly secured to the face of the guitar lends a thankful hint of modern tuning stability. The Black Top Filter’Tron humbuckers have all that famously brash mid-focus while retaining a delicate, descriptive voicing and lyrical warmth that leans into chord movements and jazz wandering like a lover into a bear-hug. For this iteration the builders have given your left hand a break with a slightly slimmer and more lenient neck profile, which only serves to make the guitar as good to dance with as it is to look at.
Leaner, faster and with another cutaway, the G5422TG is like the motorcycle riding, bad-boy version of its bigger brother. The spec sheet is pretty similar, from the pick-ups to the treble-bleed friendly circuitry behind the pots, but there’s just a little bit more attitude on tap here. While the width of the G5420TG lends itself to the laps of legends, the slim-line body profile makes this guitar feel and sound a little bit more lively and energetic. You only lose the tiniest bit of warmth in the downsizing, but that has a way of focusing the tonality and rendering it better for use in higher volume settings. It may not have the centre block knocking feedback out of the park, but this is not a guitar that is afraid of being flung around at a more frenetic pace.
Then we get to the brattiest of the bunch. Modeled on the much sought-after Penguin body shape that appears on a slightly lower branch of the Gretsch family tree, the G5435TG’s chambered body and solid top make it far and away the most ferocious of the trio. Again, the spec sheet is universal, but it’s the uniqueness of the shape, the length of the body alone and the smooth playability of the neck that make this the Deuce Coupe next to the Cadillac and Pontiac parked beside it in the garage.
All vehicular analogies aside, as soon as they’re out of the box these three designs are truly something to behold. The pigment in both the Candy Apple Red and Bottle Green is as deep as a well and offset by the ball-gown class of the sparkle strewn throughout. The gold hardware and champagne plexi pick-guards look like something Liz Taylor would have lying around, while somehow tying the visage together without pretense or snootiness. Not only are they absolute eye candy, but all three Electromatics also play like the nothing else and sing with a refined, resonant voicing befitting the ‘limited edition’ rubric. Once again Gretsch have managed to pour every ounce of their decades of distinction into a line of guitars that look like collectors items but beg to be played well into the wee hours.
Hits and Misses
Tasteful yet decadent, both to look at and to play
I have to give them back