Monday, February 2, 2009

Gumshen - Super Buffet

After a week of what felt like I had competed in a tractor pull sans the tractor, I needed some music that would ease my weary body, mind, and soul. You gotta’ know where I’m coming from. Traffic congestion to and from the office, dealing with people who you’d swear have multiple personalities and aren’t afraid to use them, old coffee left in the coffee pot. It was enough to make me go all Ripple on someone. And then . . . enter Gumshen. It’s almost as if these lads from Seattle were psychically connected with my plight and wanted to do their part to stem the carnage. Super Buffet immediately made its way into my CD player and slowly began to rinse the deluge of the outside world from my being. I’m better now. You can tell the nice people at 911 that it was all just a big misunderstanding.

Once I gave Super Buffet a good three or four spins, it became glaringly obvious that Gumshen had taken a slightly different approach to this recording than they had on the (my) critically acclaimed E.P. Stew. All of the same elements are present on this latest offering, but the songs develop in a slower and more patient manner, finely crafted and more deliberate. The songs still shift from heavily distorted guitars and loud passages of musical angst to mellow, acoustic based runs that build about twelve metric tons of mood. Each song is like embarking on some soul searching journey. Throw in some ‘70’s piano driven introspective pop with a touch of ‘90’s guitar rock and a healthy dose of personal commentary, and then for giggles, add a shovel of experimentation. Heady and mature, Gumshen seem to be separating themselves from ever being pigeon holed into any one musical genre.

“Start of Something Good” opens with a wall of distorted guitars reminiscent of the early ‘90’s grunge thing, but quickly fades out to a sparse musical piece, driven by understated bass notes and Ron Hippe’s crooning vocals. With all of its musical layers, the song seems longer than its three and half minutes. Dynamics will do that to a song. You know, give it depth. And that’s one of the things that I’ve noticed with this band. Gumshen can take a standard length pop song and add so much character and nuance to it that the song feels more dramatic. Take a listen to the vocal harmonies after the subtle guitar solo, and listen to how the song reaches a beautiful crescendo. Almost likes it’s taking a life of its own.

The final song, “Down Like Me” is a heavy burner of a tune. Kicking off with a bruising blues riff, the band changes things up to keep us on our toes by adding some odd effects over the riff. Whoa! After listening to this tune through a pair of headphones, I noticed this awesome little guitar thing going on behind the main clean toned riff. That’s fucking awesome! I’ve heard this song a billion times already and I had never heard that! Me thinks that I need to go back and listen to this disc a few more times through the headphones. What ear candy! Check out the mellowed out passage in the middle of the song and how they break into an aggressive vocal rap . . . and then the heavy guitar / keyboard riff to wrap things up. Man, that’s a massive riff!

However, I think Gumshen shine brightest when they bring their sound down to a bare basic nature. “Gone Too Soon” is a show stopper. It’s got this great ‘70’s classic rock, funky jazz vibe going on throughout. Imagine Billy Joel or Elton John with an edgey David Bowie air of showmanship. The vocal performance is littered with soul and the harmonies tug at the heart strings. The guitar solo is one of those additions that provides color and texture to an already vibrant tapestry of sound. Every time this one comes on I have to stop and just listen. Every instrument is played with precise notes and perfect accents. This is a song that could be all over the airwaves. One that could be used to sell a lot full of cars. One that you could hear while shopping for groceries. Now the big question is should it be in all of those places? I would hate to think of this brilliant tune being used for commercialism, but damn it! If it puts money in the pockets of these fine gentlemen . . . well. That’s a decision better left for the band. Truly amazing song! I shit you not . . . this song is climbing my top songs chart in leaps and bounds. Keep an ear out for the radio show. It’ll be spinnin’!

Gumshen have once again knocked me out. I expected Super Buffet to kick my ass based on the strength of Stew, but the boys laid down a lickin’ in a more subdued manner this time around. But that’s not to say this disc doesn’t have its down and out rockers. “Guts” and “Down Like Me” have balls, but it’s almost like you’re getting a beat down through diplomacy than with sheer force. Without a doubt, this disc will find itself living in my car for those days when I need something that both rocks and soothes. Those days when someone didn’t refresh the coffee pot. Oh, those awful days. - Pope JTE

Buy Super Buffet here: Buy the CD

Buy Stew here: Buy the CD

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