After I got the new Guster album in the mail, I immediately burned it onto my computer, and shockingly discovered that the genre iTunes placed it under was Pop. Normally, I wouldn’t give two shits what they categorized music as, but for some reason, I give a shit for this, maybe even 1 and 1/2 shits. I know Guster’s music, modestly, but I know what they sound like. Have they gone a different way with their new album? Does Ganging Up on the Sun contain a music video with back up dancers and the three guys going into lots multi-tiered poses? This whole pop thing got me sort of riled up, possibly because typical summer boredom was coupled with flash floods, leaving me nothing much else to get riled up about, but as soon as my computer was done importing, I went headlong into this album, determined to chop away any thought of this being a pop album.
Guster is a band who just doesn’t get called “pop.” Three guys meeting at Tufts University in freshman year, earning 5 incompletes to record their first album in their junior year, playing on the streets in Harvard square, selling tapes for 5 bucks, getting ticketed, peeing in a bottle in front of hundreds of Princeton students, environmentally informed and friendly while still maintaining to keep it out of their songs for the most part, multi-instrumental, and known just as equally for their live albums and performances as their studio works is one hell of a long list (sorry) of evidence against this whole pop stuff.
“Lightning Rod” is a slow song, and a first person account of a lightning rod. “Satellite” takes its time, letting rhythms grow, while sure, it retreats to the chorus every once in a while. That’s to be expected in music. “One Man Wrecking Machine”… okay well its sort of poppy, but nothing to hold against them, and the lyrics avoid the all too easy escape into traditional teenage love. “Captain” is much quicker paced, and in some ways, reminiscent of their earlier tunes, sort of, but there’s a sense of limit to it, where some of the melodies don’t get a chance to fully bloom. Album’s about halfway over, and no doubt about it, its good, but there’s a sort of glass ceiling on the album, so clear I can barely touch it myself, but I know its there. The vibrations are just slightly interrupted.
“Ruby Falls.” This one’s seven minutes long, that almost disqualifies it already. It maintains the same rhythm throughout, pretty much. Is that good or bad? How much time’s gone by? Wow, already halfway over. On the breach of the chorus, Guster goes into a confusing mixture of drums and guitar, switching back-up percussive rhythm into the forefront, but it went back just as quickly, and in the slight fraction of a moment there was something seen only by the ears of the searching, a humble diamond lodged in a license plate, found by the vigilant metal detector sweepers on the beach.
Ganging Up on the Sun, while, of course, is not going to be thick and random underbrush of Parachutes from way back in 1994 that had nothing to do but grow into the wild and branching jungle of what it could be, still has the gems it always has, but they’re a little bit more hidden as the underbrush has ran its course, grown, changed, and become the jungle.
Josh Rouse – 1972
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Golden Smog – Weird Tales