Thursday, August 10
If I'd had a blog back in 2004 and had compiled a Top 10 album list for that year, Guster's Keep It Together would have likely made my top five. So it was with much anticipation that I popped their new record, Ganging Up on the Sun, into my CD player and punched PLAY. Alas, beware great expectations....
Way back in 1999, I wrote a review of Guster's then most recent release, Goldfly. At the time, I referred to them as a "bongo-pop band," as they did seem to have an affinity for that particular instrument back in the day. I also made the point that the trio had made whatever reputation it had at the time through its tireless touring and eagerly-received live performances. In reviewing the album, however, I found their sound to be somewhat generic. I compared them to everyone from Counting Crows to Gin Blossoms; Rusted Root to Ben Folds Five. Well, what goes around comes around, I guess, as the Ben Folds reference seems fresh and fitting again on Ganging Up's piano-poppy "Manifest Destiny." And "One Man Wrecking Machine" - one of the new album's true highlights - nonetheless veers uncomfortably close to mid-tempo Fountains of Wayne.
The last point I made in my Goldfly review of yesteryear was that it sometimes takes time for performance-oriented bands to find their feet in the recording studio. Hell, some never do.
But Guster proved with Keep It Together that they could master the recorded form by expanding their sound and slickening it up without selling out to the suits. Production-wise, Ganging Up on the Sun continues in the same expansive, layered vein, but the tunes just aren't as sharp as the ones that appeared on its predecessor. The melodies just aren't as memorable. And the second half of the record drags a bit, pace-wise.
Still, Guster has made great strides in their 14 or so years of existence, and there's every reason to believe that their next album could be an absolute masterpiece. In the meantime, I'll pull Keep It Together off the shelf, shake off the dust, pop it into my CD player, and punch PLAY.
Guster's MySpace page.
[Guster will be performing with members of the Boston Pops on Late Night with Conan O'Brien tonight. Check your local listings.]
From the LP Ganging Up on the Sun, 2006 >>>
[MP3] "The New Underground"
From the LP Keep It Together, 2004 >>>
From the LP Goldfly, 1997 >>>