Guster - Ganging Up On The Sun Review
by Patrick Muldowney
Blahck is back! Who's excited? Surely nobody, because the twenty-somethings jamming out to the new Guster album put about as little energy into musical consumption as it took to write this album. You could rub wet twigs together and get more sparks than Ganging Up On The Sun, but that is just the view of someone who appreciated previous efforts from the band. All in all, that's okay, because there are plenty of people who get into college, having been previous MTV-programmed listeners, and realize (possibly after smoking a few) that it's not cool to listen to Evanescence or Three Doors Down anymore, but they don't want to think too much because they really don't care much about music or lyrics, so they need a name to drop, which will raise an eyebrow with the ones they'd like to impress. Voila, Guster!
I had to look to the sticker on the jewel box to figure out the single (a bad sign), then had to rewind back to track four, because one through three were the only songs that stood out at all, to find "One Man Wrecking Machine". Listening closely and incredulously, it wasn't until "Pass another skinny joint" that everything clicked: Guster is the drug pop band. Noting how well "Amsterdam" did, which was a quality pop song, they're simply expected to deliver some blatant lyrical allusion to drugs, and the label will deliver it to the dabbling stoners (dedicated stoners get into the harder drug rock). Honorably, through the droning vocals and trudging rhythm, Ryan Miller tries to point out that those attempting to relive high school are damaging themselves, yet by the 4th minute of a song without any dynamic movement, the subtle change in words is lost.
"Lightning Rod" is a gentle, atmospheric start for Ganging Up On The Sun. With clean tone finger-picking courtesy of Adam Gardner, Ryan Miller displays how his vocal range has grown through soaring melodies, accented by the hand-played percussion of Brian Rosenworcel. "Satellite", the apex of Ganging Up On The Sun, survives my personal hang-up that too many damn bands have written a song with this title. Although lyricists should show more originality, and let the title rest with Lou Reed, Guster, like the first song, provides a polished pop tune, although the band kicks into a fuller sound here. Stemming from their rootsy appeal, which does not require amps or mics, Guster appropriately mixes sonic guitar effects, soothing vocals, and a driving rhythm, with the piano of Jason Lehning, to provide an effective hook. Lehning really seems to provide more quality work than the official members of Guster, given that his keyboards completely command "Manifest Destiny", a Something Corporate-like track, which is not personally up my alley, but would be understandably enjoyed by fans of piano pop.
After one full listen and the disillusion of revisiting "One Man Wrecking Machine", I spent a few times combing, albeit in vain, tracks 5-12 for musical changes or witty lyrics. With admitted disbelief that this anticipated release failed so miserably, all I found was blahck. In a trance (or on drugs), Ganging Up On The Sun might fly by effortlessly without even making a blip on your brainwaves, but for us sober listeners who are not making Guster our cool band, or some excuse to be involved in the alternative crowd, this is a yawner, providing no reason to feel like the gang or take on the sun.
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