Review Summary: Guerilla Toss are here to please as many ears as possible while still retaining their bona fides and roots in psychedelic music and noise rock.
The early music of the Boston band Guerilla Toss was raucous, discordant, bassy–roughshod post-punk skronk that would never draw a large audience but which could consistently bust the doors off a Boston DIY venue with no regard for human life. Now, with 2022’s Famously Alive
, they find their restless instincts settling on a sound that is decidedly “pop” at its core: catchy, repetitive melodies, groovy drum machine rhythms, and a polychromatic sheen of psychedelic synths and vocal effects that emphasize Guerilla Toss’ arty aspirations while remaining eminently pleasurable to the Billboard-trained ear.
, with its intense opening drone, hints lightly at the cacophony of early releases like 2013’s Gay Disco
, but the album is pretty much smooth sailing throughout, from “Cannibal Capital”’s roving-detective bassline and digital-maracas shuffle to “Excitable Girls” considerably more vivid stomper of an acoustic guitar riff. Guerilla Toss are here to please as many ears as possible while still retaining their bona fides and roots in psychedelic music and noise rock; the result is goddamn dialectical, the two tendencies sustaining and providing counterpoint to the other. Guerilla Toss were always good, but Famously Alive
offers the most satisfying music of their career thus far.
Though none of them strikes one as an unadulterated masterpiece, nine of the ten songs on Famously Alive
are somewhat to entirely great, and there’s a bounty of bright and bouncy melodic ideas filtered through wonderfully effervescent production. I dunno what to tell you if you aren’t infected with a bit of the album’s exuberant spirit when you hear the ripples of synthesizer fireworks in the climax of “Free Exponential,” or the moment “Pyramid Humm” transforms from a floating carnival show of synth organ to a genuinely sexy and sassy straight-ahead groover. “Who do you see when you look beyond raw now?”, lead singer Cassie Karlson (a superlative force) asks of the listener, and while she probably refers to the overwhelming power of recent crisis to cloud our sense of self, she also unintentionally proffers a question about how Guerilla Toss sounds: synthetic, Auto-Tuned to light abstraction, kaleidoscopic yet retaining a coherent sonic shape, Famously Alive
’s lava-lamp glow might track as garish to old fans and new skeptics. But look beyond raw, now, and see the fun there is to be had in the world of the hyperreal, the uncanny, a land of crystal castles and claws made of candy. Enter that world; let it enter you; consult therein the magic mirror. You might like who you see.