September 15, 2010

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Douglas Martin thinks Gun Outfit should ask the NRA to sponsor their next tour.

During the second verse of opener “Feeling Good” (a misnomer to say the least), Gun Outfit’s Dylan Sharp sings about being choked by a man with the sort of emotional distance that makes you believe it’s a casual encounter with a stranger. That is, until Sharp diffidently intones, “Yeah, he knows my name.” Whether it’s to keep in tune with the casual, “keep it cool” mentality of the forebears of Gun Outfit’s particular brand of loosey-goosey indie-rock or to offset co-vocalist Carrie Keith’s untrained-but-emotive singing remains unclear, but the way it fits snugly with the other components of the band’s sound is noteworthy.

Gun Outfit’s debut record, Dim Light, weaned off the K Records bands of Olympia that Sharp, Keith, and drummer Reuben Storey probably grew up on, also bore similarities to Canadian Sub Pop band Eric’s Trip and their male/female push-and-pull, as well as Dinosaur Jr. Ultimately, Dim Light ended up being solid but slightly homogenous — it was an album that only seemed to go in first and third-gear, one with only two types of songs barely distinguishable from the other. On Possession Sound, the band uses the full-length format as an opportunity to show how much they’ve grown as songwriters.

“Feeling Good” is a pacesetter, building a bridge between Possession Sound and its predecessor, pushing the bass-less trio straight through the line. It’s followed by “Last Chants,” a breezy tune led by a bright, cascading guitar line, that succeeds in being Keith’s first turn behind the microphone. Winningly, she delivers with warbly-but-cool vocals. Turns out that Keith’s voice was the secret weapon the band forgot to use on Dim Light, but they more than make up for it by using her on lead for four of the album’s twelve tracks, including  “Southern Chill” where she goes from brooding and confident, to completely losing control and breaking down in the song’s 1:52 running time.

That’s not to say that Sharp is a slouch. In addition to his dexterous guitar work, his baritone provides an excellent foil for his female counterpart’s vocals. Meanwhile, Keith’s airy voice meanders through the octave scale (sometimes not quite hitting every single note), while Sharp’s singing is solid, stationary, low to the ground, never careening off. Even when getting worked up singing the line “Money’s just a metaphor/A sad symbolic game” on “Dead Broke”, Sharp never completely loses his cool and only slightly misses the key. It’s a moment akin to The Fonz tripping over something on the floor and doing a trivial hop over it while secretly looking around to make sure nobody noticed.

Though Gun Outfit have taken a significant leap forward with Possession Sound, they’re still a young band trying to work out the kinks. “The Flower Beneath the Foot” and “My Whole Life” would have fit nicely on Dim Light, but standing alongside so many standout tracks gives them the distinction on filler tracks, only there so the band could have a Standard Rock Album of eleven songs. While these missteps demonstrate that Gun Outfit still have a lot to learn, Possession Sound is definitely a step in the right direction for a young band, who are doing exactly what young bands are supposed to do: improve with experience.

Download:
MP3: Gun Outfit-“Washed Up”

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