Some embarrassing disclosure: I always thought GusGus was a side project of this early Manchester rave act called Sub Sub—or maybe it was the other way around, where GusGus comprised the main crew and Sub Sub the side project. I figured you flip the name “Sub Sub” upside-down, and voila! Instant alter ego. Of course, in doing research for this review I learned Sub Sub slowly morphed into today’s indie darlings Doves, and GusGus are a standalone electronic act from Iceland.
I could say my disappointment in the new GusGus album 24/7 stemmed solely from that revelation, but I’d be lying. Frankly, this complete work has less substance than the only Sub Sub song I possess, an album cut called “Valium Jazz.” That song has a bunch of funk in common with GusGus’ biggest contribution to the lexicon, “Polyesterday,” a song made in 1997 when the GusGus lineup fluctuated between nine and 12 members. Twelve years later they are down to three thinly-stretched, corner-cutting players, and where others use modern technology to great artistic effect this trio merely loads up six techno cuts with 52 minutes of filler.
The problems with 24/7 are simple but pervasive: Not enough drums, too many insipid vocals. Absent significant kick-drum bass and more midrange percussion to loop and accent, songs like “Thin Ice” and “On the Job” become long transitions with no climax or resolution, and therefore no real strength as standalone works. Then there are Daníel Ágúst Haraldsson’s songwriting missteps. The lyrics of “Hateful,” for intstance, are incredibly bitter for the dancefloor, and his delivery on album closer “Add This Song” (and elsewhere) is unconvincing, sadly far from anthemic on the only track with enough drum loops to make it so.
24/7 wasn’t meant to be minimal techno, yet GusGus seem to put forth minimal effort on a release that isn’t indie-dance, progressive house, trance—it’s really not much of anything. For an act with seven albums under their belts in about 15 years, their listeners (casual and committed) deserve more and better.
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Adam Blyweiss is associate editor of Treble. A graphic designer and design teacher by trade, Adam has written about music since his 1990s college days and been published at MXDWN and e|i magazine. Based in Philadelphia, Adam has also DJ’d for terrestrial and streaming radio from WXPN and WKDU.