It’s difficult to label Guerilla Toss, whether you prefer to class them as art punk, synth pop, psychedelic or no wave, the only definite is that they’re bloody insane. Last year’s ‘Eraser Stargazer’ saw the band get the credit they deserve, with capricious poetry, chunky production and Wonderland-level imagination. ‘GT Ultra’ sees Guerilla Toss follow in the footsteps of its predecessor, though somehow, it might be even more entertaining.
As mentioned, one of Guerilla Toss’s most important attributes would be their lyrics. ‘Eraser Stargazer’ saw the band splice together whatever mad subjects they could think of, and while ‘GT Ultra’ is similar, it’s a lot more controlled, with more of a focus on making individual hooks stand out a bit more based on their lyrics. Opening track ‘Betty Dreams of Green Men’ has a very punchy vocal refrain of “do not call me, do not say my name, waiting for the alien okay”, but the best songwriting performance on the album, and perhaps the best song in general, comes on the Talking Heads-esque ‘The String Game’ with its curious “I’m driving the car, but I’m not the owner, I’m moving the car ever so slowly” recurrence.
Speaking of Talking Heads, you could argue that the way the music feels on ‘GT Ultra’ is quite reminiscent of one or two of their early ‘80s albums, particularly ‘Dose Rate’, which has this strange little funky guitar flicker that you could imagine being looped on ‘Remain in Light’, especially alongside the song’s tormented spoken-word vocals. That being said, the brashness of tracks like ‘Can I Get the Real Stuff’ and ‘Skull Pop’ remind the listener that Guerilla Toss still see themselves as a punk band, that loves focussing on raw energy and chaos.
Kassie Carlson’s vocal performances are, for the most part, very original and her own. You’ll struggle to find a singer that sounds and feels like her, except maybe for songs like ‘Crystal Run’ and ‘Dog in the Mirror’ where she seems to be going for the off-the-cuff aloofness you’d associate with B-52s, and on ‘Dose Rate’, her delivery is a little bit Nico. But generally, few are as animated as she is, few are as invigorating, and few are as beautifully freaky.
Without a doubt, it’s another job well done by Guerilla Toss, a band with ideas, a band with the ability to deliver. With greater highs and fewer lows, ‘GT Ultra’ is their best album yet, and another that proves just how versatile Guerilla Toss are.
‘GT Ultra’ is out now via DFA Records