Release Date: 25 June 2021
Record Label: Rumble Heap Records
For Fans Of: Metz, Raketkanon, The Jesus Lizard
One of Europe’s most uncategorizable bands has swiftly followed up last year’s acclaimed Point Fingers with a double EP. One half of completely new material and one of live recordings from a seemingly frenetic show at WAO Trix in Antwerp, in their home country of Belgium. The latter is only available on the vinyl release, but is well worth the extra buck. This release strikes the same balance of humorous playful alt-rock with harsh edges and queasy basslines, but this time with the shadow of the pandemic hanging right over it.
The live side acts as a really warm reminder of how hard The Guru Guru’s live shows rip, and the new tracks lyrically feel like deranged cabin-fever-ramblings that one could only have come up with in the middle of lockdown, making for a nice contrast. Considering it’s essentially a stop-gap release, the Doggy Dog tracks have real meat on their bones instrumentally too, and mark some brand new avenues in The Guru Guru’s bizarre explorations.
The biggest curveball comes as soon as you hit play on “Where’s My Rum”. The listener is not greeted with a motorik drum beat or a searing post-hardcore riff, but a stumbling electronic dirge that reeks more of Death Grips and Madvillain than it does Fugazi.
Elsewhere, “Who Died (Made You King Of Anything) sounds like a grooved-up version of Polvo, striking that balance between fun eccentricities and walloping emotional heft, and “Honestly (I Don’t Feel like Dancing)” closes the Doggy Dog EP with a slice of sinister tongue-twisted disco-rock, with gang vocals that are legitimately unnerving.
Live In Antwerp is a really pleasant surprise from the band, and gives some fresh energy to a tasteful selection of the band’s hits. The bleed, the feedback and the touch of extra clunk on the bass tones here create a lot of atmosphere. The lack of production sucks out some of the laser-tight math-rock energy from the songs, making them more akin to the grimy and scratchy post-hardcore and no-wave which likely inspired them. If anything, it makes you realise The Guru Guru’s studio efforts may be a little tame and clean for how squalling and fuzzy the band can get.
“Charmer” really sticks out here, a streamlined math-belter from Point Fingers that manages to sound like And So I Watch You From Afar jamming with Idles this time around, and “Mache” reeks of 00’s Brit-Emos Yourcodenameismilo in a way it never did on the record. The only real flaw is the running order. It feels like the band have cherry picked the best bits from this live set and tried their best to cram it into a fraction of its size, and the results sound a little erratic, as you might expect. They try to hide this with a fade out at the end of each segment, but this only ruins the flow even more. But hey, maybe it’s a good trade off for a solid release which doesn’t overstay any welcomes.
The Guru Guru continues to dazzle in their weirdness, and stray further from any box you’ve tried to put them in. They’re still a little way off being one of the smartest bands in the underground, but they’re definitely amongst the most original.