Ganser "Just Look At That Sky" Solar Swirl LP (2020)
Details: Ganser's "Just Look At That Sky," reissued (3rd pressing/limited to 500) on Solar Swirl (turquoise and yellow vinyl) released on Felte Records (2020).
Description: "Growth with no reward. Finding strength in your less desirable traits. Coming up with the perfect comeback hours later in bed, glaring at the ceiling. Asking yourself: am I improving, or am I just changing into something unrecognizable? Chicago quartet Ganser probe the futility of striving for self-growth during the chaos of our times for dark comedy and jagged sounds on their potent new album Just Look at That Sky, out July 31st on Felte.
Equal parts Space Odyssey and Ghost World, Ganser released their debut LP Odd Talk in 2018 to favorable coverage from The New York Times, Billboard, and Stereogum. Building on their dissociative disorder namesake, the album’s tone vacillated between frenzied and contemplative, probing on questions of communication, intimacy, and avoidance. On Just Look at That Sky, Ganser further explores the personal inner climate of uncertain times.
Opening track “Lucky” announces an explosive energy that evokes the Midwest noise-rock legacy of bands like Jesus Lizard and Shellac, while embracing a more colorful palette of post-punk and art-rock influences. Nadia Garofalo and Alicia Gaines, a self-described two-headed monster who share lead vocal duties, can bring both a recalcitrant cool worthy of Kim Gordon and a booming sneer that recalls Poly Styrene; the discordant interplay of Charlie Landsman’s guitar and Brian Cundiff’s drums on standouts “Self Service” and “Bad Form” build to blistering climaxes that wouldn’t feel out of place on Red Medicine-era Fugazi.
And then there’s Ganser’s lyrics: manic explorations of worry and dread mark this record, the epic messiness of daily life in our damaged times attacked with sardonic specificity as often as generalized doom. Just Look at That Sky isn’t afraid to acknowledge that we’re all Extremely Online all the time, but rather explicitly owns it. These songs chart inner monologues of emphatic confusion, emotions already deeply felt further ratcheted up by the anxiety of always having too much information about other people, and always being just one tweet or status update away from knowing what everyone really thinks about us. This culminates in closing track “Bags for Life,” which imagines how online discourse might tackle a front-row seat for the end of the world.
Nadia Garofalo (keyboards/vocals) and Alicia Gaines (bass/vocals) met in art school, bonding over their shared love of The Residents, outsider communities, and transgressive filmmakers like John Waters and David Lynch. The hands-on, DIY craftsmanship honed in those years has carried over into a group that shares writing duties, collaborates closely on music videos and album art, and crafts Brechtian visuals to accompany their maximalist live show. Having shared stages with the likes of Daughters, Oh Sees, Algiers, as well as Modern English, Ganser is a band that refuses to be pinned down, four individuals of diverse backgrounds functioning with the collective consciousness of four people in uncertain times.
These are songs that never shy away from ugliness and confusion, that believe embracing the totality of the self sometimes means leaning into our dickish behavior. In the past, some listeners have had trouble reconciling non-male voices with the sorts of topics Ganser writes about, but that comes to an end with Just Look at That Sky. Co-produced with Electrelane's Mia Clarke and engineer Brian Fox, this is an assured, fully realized triumph of a record from an art-punk band that’s figured out how to focus on making great art, even if everything else around them falls apart."
Grade: M (new stock)
TRACK LISTING SIDE A:
A2. Self Service
A4. Emergency Equipment and Exits
TRACK LISTING SIDE B:
B1. Told You So
B3. Bad Form
B4. [NO YES]
B5. Bags For Life