Tuesday 8 March 2016

Review of 'Eraser Stargazer' by Guerilla Toss

Noise rock is, by its very nature, rather unmelodious and can therefore be a lot of hard work. 

These Boston brain-curdlers and their signature din of dissonant guitars, squealing synths and screechy vocals have always appealed to me in small doses. They’re like a storm – exciting for the first few minutes, but then the fence panels start flying off and your wheely bin is halfway down the road and the house is shaking like an arthritic rattlesnake and you’re under the duvet unable to sleep reciting that Thunder-buddies song from Ted.

Me during a thunderstorm. 

In simpler terms, the thought of a whole Guerilla Toss album intimidated me. I expected it to be uncomfortable, disorientating and unforgiving. But alas that was not the case at all. In fact, if anything, the band seem to have settled down a little for their debut.

Maybe it’s the departure of their long-serving bonkers bassist, forever losing his underpants and playing live shows bollock-naked. Maybe the band are all out of crack. Maybe they’re just preserving their energy reserves for future freak-outs. Whatever the case, they’ve decided to ease off on the sheer noisiness, each song adopting a structured sense of groove and hence a sense of direction. Previous EPs felt like being air-dropped into Dehli’s chaotic streets during rush hour and being expected to drive. Eraser Stargazer feels very much the same but with a satnav-wielding-professional-chauffeur at the helm, giving the listener the chance to gaze out the window at the passing crazy surroundings without feeling totally lost.

Guerilla Toss

The newfound calmness on this record after all is relative. Guerilla Toss aren’t about to start writing lounge music for sit-down audiences any time soon. The Mr-Bungle-esque sour melodies and Kassie Carlson’s demented sing-shouting are still very much a part of their identity. The difference is that the songs feel more cohesive this time around and therefore more enjoyable. Dissonant though they may be, many of the songs also feel infectious, my favourite moments being the groovy guitar of ‘Diamond Girls', the cowbell-driven funk of ‘Grass Shack’ and the dancey outro of ‘Perfume’.

Clearly, some moments still also demand patience. Although there is a definite riff driving ‘Eraser Stargazer Forever’ it becomes swiftly swamped in acrid disharmony by the end of the song turning more endurable than enjoyable. And there are moments when Kassie Carlson’s oddly-pitched shrieking gets a little grating as on ‘Diamond Girls’. However, these challenging moments never reach levels of Behold-the-Arctopus-inaccessibility maintaining some respect for melody. The breakneck pace also ensures these moments don’t linger around for too long to become tiresome. They're just the right level of unhinged without making me want to rip my ears off, which doesn't sound like a complement, but as an equally unhinged listener, I assure you it is.