Ahead of tours with both Idles and Pillow Queens, Gustaf release their debut album ‘Audio Drag for Ego Slobs’ via Royal Mountain Records. Having already gained acclaim from the likes of NME, NPR, Beck and James Chance, the album finds the fuzz-filled art rockers examining the contrast of existential dread with sheer optimism.
Angular post-punk guitar hooks, a driving Breeders-like bass line and melodic grooves signal the start of album opener ‘Mine’ – a frantic song full of defiance: ‘You say that I’m much to old to still be lo-fi’. The short and sharp two minutes of ‘Book’ follows with its blend of Talking Heads-meets-Life Without Buildings intelligent art pop and depreciating self-awareness: ‘Now that you’ve pushed me to the edge, I can’t return’. ‘Best Behaviour’ is another song with a soulful bass line, but this time combined with an alt-folk drawl: ‘This is my best behaviour, I wanted you to know that I was good today, I was very good, I was well behaved’.
‘Dream’ has repeats of ‘We love you’ and ‘I love you’ delivered with tentative optimism before a back-and-forth with the backing group-chanted vocals suggests happiness isn’t so easy to find: ‘You’re doing great – it was only a dream’. ‘Liquid Frown’ follows a similar theme, opening with a discussion of moving on and a declaration that ‘We are happy at the same time’ before changing tack with the words ‘You say I changed, you say you hate my new ways’ being delivered against a ’60s-inspired avant-garde soundtrack.
There are moments of Art Brut-esque brutal honesty scattered throughout the album – especially on ‘Dog’ which offers the hard-hitting observation that ‘I forgot I had ever loved you and then I saw your dog’ before going on to offer a loving ode to the canine. It’s fair to say the former suitor did not leave such a positive impression… The penultimate ‘Package’ is full of danceable hooks while ‘Happy’ finds the band deciding ‘Let’s just wrap it up’ before the sound moves along in restrained fashion and they leave a message to the subject, while also looking over their own behaviour: ‘I hope you’re happy, I hope you’re singing along’; ‘I want you happy’.
This album is anything but a drag…