Friday, January 25, 2013

Black Soul by Gayze (2013)

"Record collectors shouldn't be in bands."  As I listened to Black Soul, the debut EP by the quasi-local project Gayze, I thought about this Joe Carducci quote.  I thought about it because Black Soul feels so self-conscious.  The whole thing comes across as an objet d'art made by collectors for collectors.

How else can one regard these fourteen minutes of sun-bleached tunes, fuzzy surf-guitar riffs, chunky acoustic strumming, unwavering 4/4 beats, trash organ and muffled, studiously detached, predominantly incomprehensible vocals?  This group--whose membership on record consists of David Wood and Gabe Rudow from the Boise band Teens and Cody Mauser from the San Antonio band the Rich Hands--seems hell-bent on making their record sound like some dusty, worn-out seven-inch that you stumbled across at the Record Exchange.  The shoe seems to fit even better when you consider that the only physical copies of Black Soul currently available (as far as I know) are 250 clear vinyl seven-inches.  If that doesn't scream, "COLLECTOR'S ITEM!", I don't know what does.

In a way, Black Soul makes me think of the change-up that Bob Dylan made when he released John Wesley Harding back in 1967.  At a time when things seemed to be falling apart and the center could not hold, Dylan put out an album that was all about Tradition and The Good Ol' Days: black-and-white band portrait on the cover, overwhelmingly acoustic instrumentation, lyrics that seemed to cry out for historical footnotes, jes' plain folk melodies.  Conversely, in a time when proponents of so-called Traditional Values (laissez-faire capitalism, fundamentalist Christian dogma, etc.) usurp, pervert and otherwise squander our resources, liberties and opportunities, Gayze releases a record that, from its acid-dropping cover art to its hazily menacing undertow, evokes a period in our nation's history when it felt as if everything was on the table and the future was out there for the taking.  In both cases, an idealized past seems to be invoked to compensate for--or, at the very least, distract from--an unsettling present.

But enough of this academic noodling (and, admittedly, rather reductive political analysis).  Bottom line: is Black Soul worth your time?  Well, there are certainly worse ways to spend fourteen minutes.  Aside from a few megabytes, it literally doesn't cost you anything to stream the record or download it via Bleeding Gold Records' Bandcamp page.  Also, as a guy who grew up listening to "Dead Man's Curve," "96 Tears," "Pipeline" and "I'm Waiting for the Man," I do find said fuzzy riffs and sun-bleached tunes pretty groovy when I give them a play.  Given their built-in obsolescence, however, I can't imagine that I'll play them that often.  As for buying the vinyl, if you wanna slip these guys a few bucks, good on ya.  But caveat emptor if you wonder what it'll get you on eBay in ten years.

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