Archive for April, 2010
Official review posted at The Ripple Effect – http://ripplemusic.blogspot.com/2010/04/extended-play-wednesday-gumshen-and.html
I’ve been following Gumshen for a couple of years now, and the greatest lesson that I’ve learned is to expect the unexpected with their music. March of the Februaries carries on with the adept sonic exploration that these guys have been undertaking since their days as Menthol James. Stew was the first EP to capture our attention with its alt-rock-y leanings, Super Buffet took those alt-rock-y leanings and a added flair of 70’s-era classic rock, and March of the Februaries . . . takes another step, nay . . . leap into the future while staying firmly rooted in the sounds of the past. It has rock elements, but not the knuckle dragging, Neanderthal rock to toss beers back to; it has a jazzy element as well, but not that so far over your head type of jazz that makes it inaccessible. This EP represents the most complete production that I’ve had the good fortune of hearing from the band and what I wouldn’t give to have a major label come along and hole them up in a studio for three months so they could put together a full album! In the past, I’ve said that their sound can never be pigeon-holed and that case hasn’t changed in the least . . . if anything, they’ve further separated themselves from any known genre.
Nothing quite captures the Gumshen sound like the opening track, “Perfect.” Stylistically, this song is all over the place, but in classic Gumshen fashion, they keep the tune flowing without making the stylistic transitions sound forced or out of place. If there were one song out there that defines who these guys are, then this song should pretty much do it. The song kicks off with a huge drum sound echoing over the crisp arpeggios, and then the dynamics that define the band start falling into place. Dual vocals, one melodic and pleading, the other rapped and immediate, intermingle over swells of distorted guitars, keyboards, and feedback, giving the song a haunting Beatles-esque vibe. Yes! That’s exactly what’s going on here . . . think late era Beatles and the musical experimentation that those guys were doing, and then give it a modern sensibility and laser sharp focus. That’s what this song is. Once “Perfect” hits the mid-point and erupts in a blast of distorted guitars and angst-y vocals, then flows into a searing, emotion laden guitar solo, phew . . . it takes the breath away. The title may very well do all the description that is necessary.
“Hit the Shed” and “Delicious” are two funked out rockers that bring in elements of artists such as Stevie Wonder and have him dancing a jig with Gavin Rossdale . . . ballsy, but danceable, and quite possibly the two songs that best capture the bands ability to cut loose and simply have fun. But then, Gumshen go down a path that I didn’t see tucked there in the trees. “Illusia” is the grand epic EP closer, full of musical majesty and as ambitious a song as I ever thought I’d hear. It’s actually quite stunning. Part circus show tune, part 70’s rocker, part acid trip, part night in a martini lounge, part jam band magic, part interstellar space ride, part hitchhiking through the desert . . . my God, this song is all over the freaking place and a sonic treasure! Pay special attention to the guitar solo about a third of the way in and the utterly tasteful licks that they squeeze from the instrument, and then how it blends in with the synthesizers . . . brilliant work! Oh, and after the space-y musical amoeba of sound, the Supertramp-y clang of the piano keys is absolutely thrilling. The song then weaves along its way like a drunken sailor on shore leave, narrowly pitching itself into the blackness of the chilling harbor waters only to right itself at the moment that all looks lost, and our hero stumbles into the loving arms of a beautiful woman for a safe nights sleep. One could make the analogy of the pilot of a small Cesna suddenly passing away and an inexperienced passenger taking over the controls and safely landing the bird on the ground. Either works. Magnificent performance from all players and the kind of songwriting that gives me hope for the future. Gumshen . . . you’ve outdone yourselves.