Review Summary: Here's a "Totally '80s" band that's not a Cars or Duran Duran knockoff for once.
If you've ever felt the strong desire to go back in time to score yourself some original pressings from SST Records circa 1984, it turns out you can have the next best thing, no magical hot tub necessary. On their recent release Dim Light
, Gun Outfit sound uncannily like a band directly out of the venerated punk label's earlier years. The male-female vocals are an obvious analog to Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon's often unsettling interplay in Sonic Youth. The twisting guitar riffs are noisy, but hypnotic. To call the record catchy could potentially be misleading, but I'll do it anyway; while the album doesn't beat you over the head with overt hooks, the melodies are subtly infectious in the same way that, say, You're Living All Over Me
is. A slight taste for the subversive is probably required, but if you meet that prerequisite, Dim Light
should prove an entertaining listen.
Breaking away from some of their forebears' propensities to create sprawling compositions, Gun Outfit opt for brevity, cruising through eleven tracks in a shade under a half-hour, earning definite points for succinctness. There's no shortage of punk rock fury, as right from the get-go we're treated to buzzing Husker Du-like stabs on the opener "Work Experience", though it's tempered a bit by the deadpanned vocals and a few less aggressive songs like the shimmery, trance-inducing "The Valley". When the band combine their talents for both tension building and visceral release, the result is "In the Dark", arguably the album's strongest cut.
When listening to Dim Light
, I do get the feeling that its potential audience is likely to be rather limited. If they haven't given up on new music entirely by now, the '80s punks, who are now closing in on middle age if not already there, would probably have a "been there, heard that" mentality toward it or otherwise have completely different tastes altogether. In effect, that pretty much leaves record nerds with a fascination for classic American Underground. As such, I'm won over by Gun Outfit. Imitation it most certainly is, but with every band of high schoolers who've learned their three chords jockeying to be the next All Time Low (or even worse, the swoopy-haired Never Shout Never clones), it's notable that Gun Outfit have no prominent present-day peers. It's refreshing for once to hear a new band taking cues from old-school artists actually worth borrowing from.