Release Date: Mar 4, 2016
Record label: DFA
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Post-Rock, Experimental Rock, Noise-Rock
Stepping politely around this group’s cringeworthy name and the psychedelic vomit of the sleeve art, the contents within are pretty exciting. Birthed from the Boston experimental rock scene that’s given rise to the New Weird America ensemble Sunburned Hand Of The Man, they have now clambered onto DFA’s radar. The label has always had one foot in that milieu and Guerilla Toss’ arthouse “party band” stylings are a good fit for the trendy New York enclave.
Over the years, Guerilla Toss gave their outbursts a kinetic backbone that made comparisons to highly experimental acts like Ponytail and Black Dice as well as pioneering punk-funkers like Public Image Ltd. equally apt. The band's first full-length for DFA, Eraser Stargazer, builds on the growing sophistication they displayed on the Flood Dosed EP, which suggested that Guerilla Toss learned that hinting at all-out chaos is more effective than diving headlong into it.
At the turn of the 2010s, the leftover strands of the swaggering American youth and its posturing angry punks got yanked against their wishes into the twenty-first century. Cheap beer became a joke, craft beer the norm. Sleeve tatts and vegan diets ceased to carry any meaningful anti-establishment sentiment. The children of yuppies stood around in dive bars moaning about the prevalence of yuppies.
Guerilla Toss may project themselves as deeply weeded hippie-punks, but they are not slackers. In just the last three years, the group has checked a number of boxes on the avant-rock bucket list: Releases on Digitalis Limited, NNA Tapes, Feeding Tube, and a CD on composer John Zorn’s Tzadik label, where they appeared as part of the Spotlight Series, a sub-imprint meant to highlight young and emerging weirdo talent. That honor is well earned.
Small-time as they’ve always been, Guerilla Toss hold claim to mastery of a very particular art form. It’s music where lines, time signatures, and interactions are rigorously, anti-intuitively fixed, and everything else must be — or appear to be — completely out of control. They’re conscious of what they play, sure, but more focused on the twitch frequencies of their listeners’ convulsions or the pitches of the pulsating walls and floors around them.
Eraser Stargazer, Guerilla Toss’s first album for DFA, is the band’s least frenetic, chaotic record yet. But Guerilla Toss, even in a more subdued mode, is more edged and unpredictable than most bands. On this record they haven’t so much dulled their eccentricities as they have given them a better focus than on previous work like Gay Disco. They’ve found a focus somewhere in the center of this shuffling storm of beats and synths and shouts, and the album’s best moments offer a tighter freak out than the band has ever accomplished before.
According to the Census Bureau, more people are moving out of Massachusetts than moving in. And while that might be easy to overlook, sometimes those losses feel like they disproportionately affect our creative community. Case in point: “Eraser Stargazer,” the new album from former Bostonians/current New Yorkers Guerilla Toss. “Eraser Stargazer” is a confrontational dadaist dance album filled with anarcho-art anthems that push the boundaries of what melody and songcraft can be.
Mind bombs never aim for the middle. Accordingly, this mutant party noisescape for the maladroit demands submission or retreat. Guerilla Toss summons skull-rattling intrigue by crossing maker lab art-punk with distressed basslines and salvage-yard funk percussion. The latter elements distinguish this NYC-by-way-of-Boston crew from workaday cacophony merchants.
Guerilla Toss seem capable of doing anything except repeating themselves. They've carved a haphazard trail through dozens of genres since forming in Boston in 2010, picking up comparisons to bands as diverse as Melt-Banana and Red Hot Chili Peppers. In terms of their musicianship and approach to composition, however, they're closer to Deerhoof: music-school weirdos playing unruly, idiosyncratic songs propelled more by explosive dynamism than by hooks, melody or chord progressions.