sad cactus

Gorgeous "Sapsucker" [CS][CD] SAD074

Gorgeous writes fractured and fragmented - and here, on their second long-playing album ‘Sapsucker’, richly fermented - songs about technological dread, literal and figurative monsters, liars, dreamers, and true believers, and other things too. They make love songs for deep fakes in occasional odd time. They call themselves a pop band because rock is dead and experimental noise punk in half and waltz and quintuple shuffle time is a hard sell. Or at least it often felt that way when they started the band back in 2017, as a challenge to convention and conventional meter, and a dare to one another.

Made in virtual isolation with close collaborator, mixer-producer-sound whisperer Michael DiSanto for much of 2020 and 2021 - albeit with a number of breaks and near breakdowns, ‘Sapsucker’ builds on the strengths of Gorgeous’s previous releases and frequently conjures the raw kinetic energy of the pair’s live show. Clearly emboldened by the flattering distortions and reverberations contrived by their engineer (enabler?) via his precise and exacting control of their hermetic yet cheerfully contaminated acoustical environment, the group have advanced in ambition and achievement on this recording.

Space and prime numbers remain animating concerns, of course, but whereas old work was characterized by a certain sweet and sour major-key melodicism, these new songs survey a broader set of intervalic configurations and psycho-emotional effects. In earlier compositions, Lipperman’s voice and guitar were often deployed in purely functional arrangements of counterpoint. Here on ‘Sapsucker’ her singing is newly confident, disarmingly exposed, emotionally intimate, vulnerable. Lyrics that were once rife with insider jokes and innuendos remain ripe with cynicism, but have been placed in the service of genuine storytelling. A mysterious, unreliable narrator at safe ironic distance has given way to a motley assortment of desperate and deranged characters.

‘Sapsucker’ is a claustrophobic, dense, and somewhat strange experimental pop gem, which suggests a band finding its footing, settling into its own weird and warped groove. To borrow a developmental metaphor, the ensemble’s once soft, juvenile scales have hardened into an impenetrable armor of musical defiance, and unexpectedly, an odd number of horns have also appeared. To admiring audiences and to critics alike, ‘Sapsucker’ offers an unambiguous invitation to get bent.