Punk space disco
Coming to listeners from somewhere past the orbit of Neptune, Guerilla Toss presents their latest collection of psych-punk-dance fusion. Removing some of the more inaccessible elements of last year’s Twisted Crystal, the band whittles their far-flung sounds down to a brief, but nonetheless, worthy EP, What Would the Odd Do? In under twenty minutes, the set speeds from one song to the next, teetering on losing control, but managing to maintain coherence through tightly written compositions and a lyrical undercurrent that manages to be heard beneath the barrage of sound.
The heavily distorted instruments and synthesized flurries dominate the character of the collection. At times melodic, and at others atmospheric and extra-musical, they can be almost overwhelming; they provide the band with their unique sound but threaten to obscure some of the album’s other components. Similarly, the treatment of lead singer Kassie Carlson’s vocals creates its own conundrum. Omnipresent and vital to the sound, their delivery and affectations can, at times, make the lyrics difficult to discern.
A steady drum thump and synthesizer reminiscent of a descending UFO announce the arrival of the titular, “What Would the Odd Do?” The main three-note payoff repeats over a spacey mixture of sonic textures, all serving as a backdrop for a litany of questions, which can be interpreted as philosophical musings, nonsense, or perhaps koans from another planet. On the immediately danceable “Plants,” the band shuffles roles with the rhythmic groove taking center stage and Carlson’s voice carrying the simple, but effective, main melodic phrase. As simple as the individual melodies are, Guerilla Toss manages to throw in a few of them by means of a middle section that is starkly different. Changing instrumentation, melody and most importantly, vocal timbre, it provides a nice respite without veering too far away from the song’s dance intentions.
“Future Doesn’t Know” feels like a diversion into funky rap-rock with its heavy guitar riff and staccato vocals. Like its predecessor, the song’s sections are uncomplicated, but the piece is kept interesting with multiple changes and layers of lush sounds. “Moth Like Me” works better within the context of the album, than it does alone. Frantically written and played, it tells of “Flapping, flying into a dream” and claims “I like, I like in front of me.” It conveys an off-kilter state of mind, singularly focused on chasing…something. “Land Where Money’s Nightmare Lives” rescues and rebuffs its antecedent thematically and musically with its laid back mood and Stephe Cooper’s infectious bassline. Laser-like sounds and an extra-terrestrial aura punctuate the critique of modern culture’s excesses, in stark juxtaposition to “Moth Like Me.”
What Would the Odd Do? largely succeeds in balancing the competing forces of band identity and musical content. The group’s variety in voicings and instrumental focus entertain as always, but it is the well-composed and focused songwriting that makes the EP a winner, even if “Moth Like Me” doesn’t reach the level of the other four tracks. It’s not a masterpiece, but the biggest complaint most fans of Guerilla Toss will have with the set is that it isn’t longer.