Sounding like all your favourite gruff punk bands had spent far too long listening to Owls or This Town Needs Guns, ‘What Gives?’ is an interesting mash-up of intense face melting vocals and gorgeous math-rock textures. As a disciple of both genres, I’m enamoured.
The first thing you notice – especially on the first couple of listens – is just how dense ‘What Gives?’ is. It maybe only seven songs long but there’s so many flourishes and changes of tempo and intensity that even the most complicated of double albums would struggle to match it for sounds and textures. Take, for example ‘Battlefield (Most Of My Time)’ which starts at barely a whisper before building to a glorious, repetitious, noodling finish. Throw in a wonderful, parping American Football style superman trumpet (something used to great effect throughout the album), some gang vocal harmonies and an amazing math rock breakdown and you have all the ingredients of a killer song.
It’s a similar trick replicated brilliantly on the other songs. The result is an album that possesses a gorgeous ebb and flow. At times powerful and intense, at others contemplative and reflective, it switches between the two with effortless ease. Songs such as ‘Trim it Short’, help to propel it forward at pace, but then you find yourself in the achingly beautiful interlude of ‘Altalalaval’. It means there’s an artistry to the pacing that is often neglected, making ‘What Gives?’ an album that you want to enjoy from start to finish rather than dipping in and dipping out.
That said, Gulfer are masters of taking you through their repertoire in a single song, and closer ‘Almost Sterling’ is the best example of this. It sounds like it was concocted with magic, such is its otherworldliness, yet the powerful, emotionally driven vocals keep you hooked as it drags you through its winding journey. It’s thrilling stuff – much like the rest of the album.
My only criticism is that I wish there was more of it. Even though many of the songs clock in over the four minute mark, ‘What Gives?’ constantly feels like it’s over before it has even started. If there’s any truth to the adage of leave them wanting more then take a bow Gulfer, you’ve just nailed it…
’What Gives?’ by Gulfer is out now on Texas Is Funny.
Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)