Not Just a One-trick Pony
There is much that is tantalizing about this sophomore effort, entitled simply 2, by Italian instrumentalists Guano Padano. Though theirs is a small niche, these soundtrack fetishists have firmly staked their claim with a wonderfully captivating second effort.
Similar to their debut, the band has gathered a nice set of guest musicians here for the proceedings, most notably Mike Patton, who lends his trademark snarl to the Dead Kennedys-esque “Praire Fire.” However, the band’s talents are never diminished or overshadowed by novel guest spots. “One Man Bank” is a good example of this, as although the listener is no doubt charmed by the Appalachian-style plucking placed front and center, its cautious and measured groove is held down with a cool and rugged grip.
Much of what you read about Guano Padano will make note of their ability to fashion wonderful pieces in a style reminiscent of the “Spaghetti Western” film genre. And make no mistake, when the donging bell (which might as well be the international symbol of Ennio Morricone) hits during “Zebulon,” it’s clear an allegiance to the genre is in full effect. However well-intentioned this classification is meant though, to peg that attribute as the only thing this trio does well is a tad disrespectful.
A few of the tracks on 2 are nice replications of other genres. Guano Padano show they are equally adept at approximating excellent surf rock with a track like “The Grand Bazaar,” as well as a slice of Colonial America in the spunky hoedown of “Bellavista.” Both tracks are wonderfully composed with attention to the nuances of each genre, but are nonetheless imbued with the band’s own personal flair.
To ensure the listener recognizes the band can also tip-toe along genre barriers, a wonderful track like “Lynch” emerges, presumably in tribute to the hallowed filmmaker. The track is an example of the band placing their low-buzzing reverbed guitars in non-familiar territory—in this case, a bizarre noir-jazz romp.
The biggest detraction for the album might seem a little cruel in suggestion, but it bears being said: Ending the proceedings on a cover of “Sleep Walk,” while not altogether offensive, especially considering the spirit of the band and the album, is regardless a misstep. Throughout the fifty some minutes of all-original content preceding this track, the band offers a slew of wonderful musical ideas that do well in highlighting their range as musicians, so finishing on a conservative run-through of an old standard seems a timid close to an otherwise flourishing set. Regardless, Guano Pandano is an excellent group, and that 2 is a cinematic stroll through limitless musical terrains suggests their journey is far from over.