Review Summary: Coming to fruition.
I’ve been passively following Guerilla Toss since I first heard Gay Disco sometime in 2014. I found that particular album and their following releases to be sonically frustrating, grating, and honestly just downright difficult to listen to, thus leading to my passive following. Compounding that frustration is the fact that their music is labelled and described as being dance-punk, so maybe I set myself up for disappointment by going into those records expecting to be able to dance to them, but to me they sounded more like something I would listen to if I wanted to make myself do homework since that would be more appealing. GT Ultra, however, turns those preconceived notions on their respective heads and realizes Guerilla Toss’s true potential as a dance-punk group, and although it sacrifices some of the experimentation that surely drew in most of their fans, I think there is a net gain here as this album is a blast from start to finish.
The duo of “Can I Get The Real Stuff” and “Crystal Run” is unquestionably the strongest segment of the album. The underlying percussion to “Real Stuff” is initially arrhythmic before becoming accompanied by frantic, repetitive synthesizers and vocals, showcasing a hook that somehow evokes a lot of emotion for a record as dance-y as this. “Crystal Run” features manipulated vocal melodies that sound like twisted versions of the pop songs that I used to hear at Middle School Dances when I stood in the corner, and I mean that in the best way possible. The bottom line here is that these songs are difficult not to dance to. It’s what Guerilla Toss should have been all along and it makes me wish I had friends cool enough to play this stuff around so we could dance to it like sweaty, rolling idiots underneath fluorescent and strobe lights in a basement with concrete walls and exposed plumbing, which is where this music belongs.
There are of course some dull moments. I’m still not exactly sure what the point of “TV Do Tell” is. It has all of the elements of a great dance number but fails to pull it all together in a way that makes it work. “The String Game” and “Skull Pop” both have sections that absolutely jam and retain the funky guitars that I found to be the only redeemable quality of the Guerilla Toss I had heard prior to this (I still think “Multibeast TV from Eraser Stargazer is and will always be their best song), but their linear structures are not conducive to what the songs are trying to accomplish and I feel like they’re limited because of this. “The String Game” isn’t as much of a victim of this as “Skull Pop” is, but I still think both would benefit from being more direct and utilizing more of those guitars and arpeggiating synthesizers.
I foresee this album being polarizing amongst the Guerilla Toss fanbase. Those who were fans of the experimental and off-putting aspects of Guerilla Toss will likely feel this album is a step backwards. I think it is Guerilla Toss finally realizing their true strengths and stepping into the mold they were always meant to fill while retaining enough of their uniqueness to set them apart from other bands making dance music. Those who feel that way, or those looking for something to bump for the rest of the summer will find enjoyment here.