With the second installment of the Too Much Rock single series, we have the first-ever physical release from Kansas City power-pop group Rev Gusto. As longtime readers will recall, we were super-hyped on their first EP when it was released digitally. It's good to see that the band has managed to both retain their loose, shimmery tones, as well as tightening up their melodies and harmonies. The a-side is an original, "Still There," which balances that shimmering guitar with tight drums and bass, resulting in a song that bridges the gap between slightly psychedelic '60s and early '80s power-pop. The cover of Graham Parker's "Local Girls" on the flip only makes that comparison more accurate. I'd not heard Parker's original in years (it's not like anything along those lines except Marshall Crenshaw's "Someday Someway" ever makes it on the radio anymore), and it was interesting to revisit the song after hearing Rev Gusto's take. They do a lovely job of energizing the slightly-lethargic original, in the process rendering it less morose, and more snotty. The band's goddamn catchy and everyone who sees or hears them just can't help but fall in love with these guys. Here's to hoping some of you pick up the single and do the same. It's a delightfully catchy pair of songs, just in time for summer. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/sidmuchrock/rev-gusto-still-there[/embed] More info on the single series can be found at Too Much Rock.
Two Lawrence acts have both recently put out EPs, and while the album lengths might be the same, the content couldn't be more different. On one hand, you have Rev Gusto, with their sun-drenched indie pop, and on the other, you have the gruff punk of the Rackatees. At first glance, it's pretty unlikely that either would share the stage with the other. Rev Gusto's Element is a series of catchy pop nuggets especially suited to backyard barbecues and warm nights. The likes of "Goodnight Laura" and "Click Click" are upbeat numbers, but only slightly so. There's a laconic element to most songs, which are softly crooned throughout, with only the occasional yelp or yowl to up the energy level. "Put You In the Ground" is a rocker, slightly menacing in terms of title, but the message is actually more like an angry break-up letter than anything else -- "I'll love you 'til the day you die," but not the "I'll be the one who kills you" vein. It does a great job of boosting the energy level from swaying to bopping. The Rackatees' Tribes couldn't be more different. The group works in furious guitars -- while Rev Gusto works in strummed acoustics and flourishes of electric organ, the Rackatees are all riffs and power chords. Rat-a-tat drums move the songs along like a train going down the tracks. It's a hell-bent pace, relaxed only by the ska break in "The Next Chapter of Extinction." It's also during that song that the vocals lose a bit of their gravelly quality, and come closer to singing than declamatory statements ripped out of someone's throat. The Rackatees certainly veer close to the Dillinger 4/Banner Pilot/Off With Their Heads end of the genre, but the last two tracks stray away from the gruff side of pop-punk. The end of "Through the Fingers of an Iron Fist" gets a little crossover, dancing that line between metal and hardcore, which is almost completely erased by the start of "Resisting the Oppression of a Middle Class Existence," which is a full-on guitar solo that wouldn't seem out of place as the intro to something by Iron Maiden. It's these welcome bits of flourish that keep the Tribes EP from becoming just another cog in the pop-punk machine.
Once past the surface elements, you can find quite a few similarities between the two acts -- they both play out regularly, and operate on via some serious DIY ethos. Neither are likely to be found playing the more high-visibility places here in town, yet both play regularly via a series of alternate venues like house shows, breweries, and the like. Both EPs break in the middle for something out of the ordinary, and provide a wonderful glimpse into what's being done locally in the realm of less-than-hip -- yet actually fun -- music.