Ganging Up on the Sun
First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2006, Volume 13, #11
Written by John Metzger
The addition of Jay Bennett caused a seismic shift within Wilcoís sound; the same could be said of Joe Pisapiaís recent contributions to Guster. Like Bennett, Pisapia is a multi-instrumentalist whose restless energy has led him to concoct adventurous, layered arrangements for an outfit that was struggling to transcend its past. If Gusterís Keep It Together was akin to Wilcoís Being There, then its latest offering Ganging Up on the Sun effectively serves as its Summerteeth. Further shedding its airy, conga-driven, folk-pop ways, the Boston-based group has opted, instead, to slather its rich harmonies and indelible melodies with lush, sonic treatments.
On Lightning Rod, for example, Guster drapes its tightly knit, Beach Boys-style vocals around the songís hushed, melancholy ambience; with the soaring anthem Címon, it melds together Motown, Jackson Browne, and R.E.M.; and on the epic Ruby Falls, it captivatingly tucks its Fastball-oriented power pop inside the gloomy majesty of Pink Floyd before allowing the tune to settle softly into the refrains of a jazz-inflected lullaby. Elsewhere, The New Underground bears the propulsive drive of R.E.M. at its peak, and the country twang of The Captain evokes Rubber Soul-era Beatles as the guitars, which squall on the former and twirl on the latter, paint psychedelic trails of color across the musicís wide-sweeping terrain.
Lyrically, too, Guster has matured considerably, and throughout Ganging Up on the Sunís 12 tracks, the ensemble wrestles with the new world orders of its global (Empire State) and personal (One Man Wrecking Machine) politics. Taken in full, the collective turns the albumís variegated textures into something that is cinematic in scope. Although the set lacks the sort of overarching flow that made Summerteeth such a masterpiece, Ganging Up on the Sun still stands as a landmark effort from a band that many had deemed too lightweight to matter. Ĺ
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box