CD Review of Ganging Up on the Sun by Guster

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Ganging Up on the Sun
starstarstarno starno star Label: Reprise
Released: 2006
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You are getting very sleepy. Okay, so you’re not really getting sleepy. You are just listening to the opening track of Guster’s new album, Ganging Up on the Sun. The song, “Lightning Rod,” is a good rainy day song in a Seattle-ish, Death Cab sort of way, but it still is too sleep-inducing of a track to be the opener. Luckily for the boys from Boston, there is a bit of a caffeine jolt if you make it to track two.

While Guster has been around for the better part of fifteen years now, they have managed to, for the most part, remain under the radar. Part of what made them charming, in an indie, college jam rock sort of way, was that they were quirky in a Barenaked Ladies way without being nearly as annoying. Ganging Up on the Sun, however, shows a Guster that can be likened to someone that has graduated college and moved into the work force. Yep, Guster has grown up.

“Satellite” is the second track and is catchy as hell, almost tailor made for AAA radio, or for one of those alt-rock stations on, um, satellite radio. “One Man Wrecking Machine” uses guitars to perfection in a way many bands have forgotten about – embellishing in the verses and loud but crunchy in the choruses. “The New Underground” and “The Beginning of the End” are also up-tempo, guitar-driven rockers with nice hooks, but alas, there are more sleepy tunes on here. Witness “Ruby Falls,” and the almost painful “Empire State,” which is like a plane that can never get off the ground.

All in all, Guster is a band that knows its way around a hook. Industry vets like this can write pop songs in their sleep. But when bands like this try a little too hard, the art suffers a bit – as is the case when Guster tries to slow things down. Dudes should stick to what got them here, and that’s the catchy, jangly hot modern bongo rock action. It’s evident here, but not nearly enough to earn them more than a B or B-minus. .

~Mike Farley