The Shit List: The Ten Most Under-Appreciated Rock Albums Of The Modern Age (1980-Present) - #8 Guster "Ganging Up On The Sun" (2006)



Like an attentive girlfriend with only modest boobage,  It's easy to take Guster for granted.

Aside from having no visual presence whatsoever (important to those of us who grew up worshiping Kiss), the name is completely forgettable.  Buster? Gustav?  Fuck, what were they called?  Heck, I've seen them live a handful of times, but I wouldn't recognize a band member if I bumped into them.  But every time I hear a Guster song, whether it be on the radio or in the grocery store (Dominick's on North Clybourn), I find myself really appreciating what this band has going on and kinda hating myself for initially writing them off for completely superficial reasons.

To those who wish to be properly introduced to the greatness of this Boston-born band (Tufts University in da hizouse!), might I suggest their 2006 gangbuster Ganging Up On The Sun?  It, more than any of their other albums, packs the most concentrated punch.

If at all possible, smoke a joint and listen to this album on an above-average pair of headphones.  It will blow your mind.  Your low expectations (because, admit it, you don't remember Guster, are soon slapped like a hysterical passenger on a plane when you hear "Satellite".  After the obligatory "They do that song?!", we can now settle into a proper listening groove.

Imagine an album that contains all the things you love about bands like Death Cab For Cutie, Nada Surf, late great Jellyfish, Steely Dan and none of the things you don't.  That's Ganging Up On The Sun.


The song that made me go "Holy fuck, who does this song?" was "One Man Wrecking Crew".  At the time, it perfectly matched my state-of-mind (unexpected break-up) and a line like "take her to the Christmas dance, maybe now I'll get in her pants, whatever." is the sort of thing when played in the right situations can lead to the creation of a cherished romantic memory right on the spot.

A lot of bands that mine similar musical territory differ in that they imbue their music with a vulnerability that keeps them from ever standing upright.  You know, those bands whose music sounds like everybody's hunched over while playing - and then you go see them and they ARE all fucking hunched over...I won't name any names, but you know who you are.  Were Kiss ever vulnerable?  Hell no.  What about Cheap Trick?  Devo?  The Ramones?

Guster?

There is a sureness to the band's steps that makes the scratchy out-of-step guitar that bobs and weaves throughout "Satellite" (they're there, trust us) all the more refreshing when it starts tapping us on the shoulder coming off of that first chorus..

Half the fun of listening to this album for the zillionth time (you'll get there, trust me) and noticing something new, like the note-perfect Jellyfish impersonation that is "Ruby Falls" or the wistful post-grad rocker "C'mon" that makes you think of all your favorite scenes from "Animal House" for some reason.

"Empire State" and "Manifest Destiny" are flat-out the best songs Ben Folds never wrote.  Both should be a huge hits, not unlike a moderately-revered Simon & Garfunkel song ("I Am A Rock, perhaps?) or maybe a Chicago song that hasn't been played to death on radio our whole life.  Not something the stupid kids will ever get, but that anyone with a brain appreciates the hell out of, like a Martin Amis novel, or Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity (not to be confused with the movie, which i liked mostly because I like John Cusack and it was set in fucking CHICAGO, hell yes!)

I hear a lot of folks yapping about the death of the album.  Hell, I've made the argument myself, but if you want to see a glimmer of hope in the future of the art form, wrap your loving ears around this record and float on a momentary cloud of hopeful retrospection.

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