Welcome to the latest edition of KNEEJERK, where we preview some new releases and give our short, "kneejerk" reaction...
Guster “Easy Wonderful”
We haven’t heard from alt rockers Guster since their 2006 release, “Ganging Up on the Sun”, a somewhat uneven follow up to what many refer to as their masterpiece, “Keep It Together”. After a four year break, one would hope that the new full-length studio release would be stellar – four years is plenty time to gather an abundant crop of songs and sort the wheat from the chaff. My kneejerk reaction is that Guster still needs to work at this…yes, there are some crafty harmonies and clever instrumentation, but all of this means nothing if the song is not set on a solid foundation. Too many overt religious references also make the record uncomfortable for me to hear. “Easy Wonderful” is going to please their devoted indie pop fans and people who like hearing Jesus in the lyrics, but I do not anticipate that Guster will draw in too many new recruits with this one. The key tracks that work best include “Do You Love Me”, “This Could All Be Yours”, “Bad Bad World”, and “This Is How It Feels To Have A Broken Heart”. If Guster can play on these strengths more consistently, they might produce another cross-over hit to rival “Keep It Together”.
Finger Eleven “Life Turns Electric”
I’ve often wondered what it feels like for a band that has a breakthrough single that is nothing like most of what they write and perform. Canadian hard rockers Finger Eleven had a huge single in the sparse acoustic track “One Thing” a few years back, but this song is far from representative of what they normally sound like. Finger Eleven rock, and have been doing so in an increasingly melodic manner since “One Thing” hit it big. Three years since their last offering, “Life Turns Electric” continues along this trajectory, bursting with hard riffing verses and king size choruses. This time out the songs are short and to the point – mostly upbeat or mid-tempo numbers. The first single is “Living In A Dream”, which is a heavy funk rocker, but it is not as good as some of the other tracks. More radio-friendly cuts include the excellent “Whatever Doesn’t Kill Me”, the groovy acoustic rocker “Stone Soul”, and pop rocker “Ordinary Life”. There is a lone ballad at the end, “Love's What You Left Me With”, but like the other final few tracks it fails to thrill. There are only ten tracks, six worthy of repeat listens, so not a perfect album by any means, but a solid attempt.