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Guster - Ganging Up on the Sun Album Cover

Guster - Ganging Up on the Sun

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6.2
Guster - Ganging Up on the Sun
Release Date: June 20, 2006
Record Label: Reprise Records


Where do you end up when you fall somewhere in the no-man's-land purgatory between pulling on the heartstrings of your listeners and making music that is simply "fun" at its core? Well, the answer most definitely lies somewhere captured in the layers of indecisive monotony on Guster's latest, Ganging Up on the Sun.

Don't get me wrong, now. I am not one of those people that needlessly hates on them because they are not "scene" or what have you. On the contrary, I have steadily gained an appreciation for the guys, ever since being introduced to the warm, organic folkiness of 1997's Goldfly (note: I did not care much for Parachute). When 1999’s Lost and Gone Forever hit, let's say I was far from prepared. Teaming up with the venerable Steve Lillywhite, Guster rectified the most severe shortcoming of Goldfly, and tossed out a record with brilliant production, a bittersweet mix of hooks, thoughtfully minimalist instrumentation, and most importantly, a tangible sense of heart. A quick look at the highlights of that album - "So Long," "Two Points for Honesty," "Happier," and "I Spy" - makes you realize just how influential and strong that work was. The end result made for one of my favorite albums of all time, and quickly bolstered Guster an act on my short list of band loyalties.

When Keep it Together dropped about three years ago, it again caught a lot of people off guard, and was widely viewed as a stumbling block for the grassroots heroes. In attempting to break out of their proverbial shells, they went from an album that was damn near perfect to one that almost equally straddled the centerline of notability. This trip-up made many a listener leery as to what the future might bring, and unfortunately, these fears were well-placed, as Guster has returned with its weakest album to date in Ganging Up on the Sun.

In harnessing all of the less affecting components of Keep it Together, Guster has haphazardly stitched together a record that is the complete embodiment of a band "going through the motions." The tunes here carry forward the same molasses momentum of songs like "Ramona" and "Diane" but here the quaintness of the presentation no longer has the requisite novelty. Now, as everything sounds rehashed and sloppily glued together, the boys have successfully fallen well below the threshold of excitement required for even mix radio.

Individually, tracks such as the opener, "Lightning Rod," are good indicators of what to expect to from the record. And quite frankly, few other tracks step out of the opener's shadow, with blasé acoustic/electric arrangements, forced melodies, and muted instrumentation (why can I not hear the Thunder God?). "Satellite" makes a half-assed run for personality, but its pacing is so trapped in the awkward middle and its lyrics are so braindead that it too comes out stillborn. Really, the only track to do anything at all for me is the fragile, sparse, and beautiful "Empire State" that hints at shades of a prior Guster, and more than anything else, makes me yearn for a band that is no longer how I remember them.

When all is said and done, Ganging Up on the Sun is a bland, boring, and ultimately unconvincing album. Having waited patiently for new material from these guys for over three years has made this record successfully surpass Yellowcard's Lights and Sounds for my biggest disappointment of 2006. At least with Yellowcard, I wasn't expecting much. But when listeners know you are capable of making a record like Lost and Gone Forever, and you put out something as pedestrian as this, I can't help but shake my head and hope I don't have to wait three more years for a mistake of this magnitude to be rectified.


Recommended if you like: The Format, Sherwood, Kings of Convenience, Limbeck, Dave Matthews Band
This review is a user submitted review from Steve Henderson. You can see all of Steve Henderson's submitted reviews here.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 30
06:27 PM on 07/09/06
#2
astereo
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New Underground's alright as a single, I still liked KIT & LAGF so much more.
06:32 PM on 07/09/06
#3
jklo16
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really? i like this album SO much more than keep it together. it's nowhere near as good as their old albums....but i think they definitley did better with this.
06:39 PM on 07/09/06
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Steve Henderson
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Originally Posted by jklo16
really? i like this album SO much more than keep it together. it's nowhere near as good as their old albums....but i think they definitley did better with this.
Yeah, I just do not get it. Seems so boring to me.

At least KIT had standout tracks like "Amsterdam," "Backyard," "Jesus on the Radio," and "Com Downstairs..." This album has no tracks of that caliber if you ask me.
06:42 PM on 07/09/06
#5
jklo16
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Originally Posted by Steve Henderson
Yeah, I just do not get it. Seems so boring to me.

At least KIT had standout tracks like "Amsterdam," "Backyard," "Jesus on the Radio," and "Com Downstairs..." This album has no tracks of that caliber if you ask me.


difference in taste i guess. i LOVE empire state, and the captain. the others are growing on me a lot faster than any tracks on KIT. But, i think i was more prepared for this release to sound this way than I was when KIT came out. I wasn't expecting another "two points for honesty" or "either way" this time around.....
06:47 PM on 07/09/06
#6
Steve Henderson
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Originally Posted by jklo16
difference in taste i guess. i LOVE empire state, and the captain. the others are growing on me a lot faster than any tracks on KIT. But, i think i was more prepared for this release to sound this way than I was when KIT came out. I wasn't expecting another "two points for honesty" or "either way" this time around.....
Neither was I, but I can pick up any of their old CDs still and jive on a few tunes. I have had this CD for a few weeks now, and it was a chore to spin it for review purposes even.
07:14 PM on 07/09/06
#7
Scott Weber
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Steve, when your individual ratings are all over the place like on this review, I would love to see an overall score at the top - it's so hard to tell at a quick glance what you thought of an album when the numbers range from 2-7.5 - and that 55% isn't always a good rep. of what you thought of the record overall.
07:59 PM on 07/09/06
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Steve Henderson
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Originally Posted by Scott Weber
Steve, when your individual ratings are all over the place like on this review, I would love to see an overall score at the top - it's so hard to tell at a quick glance what you thought of an album when the numbers range from 2-7.5 - and that 55% isn't always a good rep. of what you thought of the record overall.
Scott, the aggregate rating is an accurate representation of my overall thoughts.
08:04 PM on 07/09/06
#9
Scott Weber
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Originally Posted by Steve Henderson
Scott, the aggregate rating is an accurate representation of my overall thoughts.
That's bizzare to me. I don't see how an album can get a 2 and 4 in replayability and staying power and get a 5.5 overall. Just doesn't make sense from a reviewer's standpoint. Either way, it'd be nice to see a 5.5 at the top. I hate the percentage sidebar.
08:14 PM on 07/09/06
Steve Henderson
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Originally Posted by Scott Weber
That's bizzare to me. I don't see how an album can get a 2 and 4 in replayability and staying power and get a 5.5 overall. Just doesn't make sense from a reviewer's standpoint. Either way, it'd be nice to see a 5.5 at the top. I hate the percentage sidebar.
Okay, let me clarify. It is a technically proficient record, but there is nothing about the songs that make we want to replay the record much at all. That's one of the reasons I wanted a "reviewer's tilt" category.
08:53 PM on 07/09/06
Scott Weber
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Originally Posted by Steve Henderson
Okay, let me clarify. It is a technically proficient record, but there is nothing about the songs that make we want to replay the record much at all. That's one of the reasons I wanted a "reviewer's tilt" category.
The reviewers tilt is an overall score at the top. Haha.
10:51 PM on 07/09/06
hitchum
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I completely agree with this review. I loved Lost and Gone Forever. Ganging Up and Keep it Together were complete dissapointments. Nothing on their last two albums can match the catchiness or sincerity of songs like "Either Way" or "Two Points for Honesty". Where have the great lyrics, vocals and bongos from LAGF gone? I almost didn't buy Ganging Up, and I almost wish I didn't. It's hard to keep supporting them when they keep putting out garbage.
01:10 AM on 07/10/06
quiksilver21k
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I have not agreed with one thing you have said yet on any posts on this site...the new mars volta is crap? the new guster is not good? Not a big fan of your musical tastes. Do you listen to the lyrics?
01:22 AM on 07/10/06
DanEmo
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steve...i really like your reviews! they're easy to read through and i agree with you on most things usually..

with that said, i hope you're wrong this time...haven't heard this album yet and i am still really looking forward to it...
02:37 AM on 07/10/06
Steve Henderson
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Originally Posted by quiksilver21k
I have not agreed with one thing you have said yet on any posts on this site...the new mars volta is crap? the new guster is not good? Not a big fan of your musical tastes. Do you listen to the lyrics?
Settle down, man. I made my comments about the Mars Volta on the first few released songs. They sound like crap to me because they are selfish and arrogant. They are essentially the musical versions of a David Lynch film. But even with shit like Mulholland Drive, there is always some yutz to claim the work is brilliant just because he doesn't want to look like he doesn't "get it."

As for the Guster record, I just gave a few pages worth of backup on my views. Where are yours? If you are going to try and argue your point, go ahead - make an argument, not a half-assed call-out.

Oh, and...
You're my satellite
You're riding with me tonight
Passenger side, lighting the sky
Always the first star that I find
You're my satellite


...sounds pretty silly to me. Bands can stop writing songs about satellites any day now.

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