Defiantly oddball, endearingly goofy, grin pleasingly off-kilter cute… Welcome to the world of Gus Englehorn, where the main and only question that bites your ass urgently is ‘who the New-York-Fuck is Gus Englehorn’? This is dum-dum punk indie post CBGS, with all types of best-kicks thrown in.
This type of sonic tomfoolery and song-crafting eccentricity has been traditionally left to us Brits, think of Cleaners from Venus or Kinks. But here in the haze of NY and Seattle spray, it’s a wash with all good US touchstones. Beach Boys V Shangri-Las shoop-shoop backing vocals pepper the cluttered and grand ‘Ups and Downs’. The voice and the ego that Gus summons gleefully bakes snot-nosed brat-bunk with geek grunge. Maybe this gives a hint of the sound. Though in truth none above truly fit. Just as much as they all do and more.
So let’s stick with an image of a very early Pixies studio sparring with Violent Femmes, with ‘Rock Lobster’ leaking in through the walls, and let’s move to the to the songs and the noise.
Scared of tarantulas? You won’t be. Not after you’ve heard the word wonderfully delivered on repeat in DIY matchstick operatics. That track, by the way, is ‘Tarantula‘. It’s a showcase of play filled cheap thrills. ‘Exercise your Demons’ has enough cough and splutter and idiosyncrasies to bring smiles to the hearts of the heartless, with unexpected self-reflection thrown in. Starting to feel like there’s bite to the album? We’ll get to that a little bit later. Before then ‘Sunset Strip‘ could be a Russ Mayer movie soundtrack re-imagined by Gun Club or X. Those Russ movies always had some bite too.
So now we get down to the teeth. There’s a Gus that’s beginning to show. Beneath the panache for surreal presentation, light bouncing guitars and warm humour, there’s a once-soft now tough underbelly. ‘Dungeon Master‘ is an album of jangle stuffed joy but there’s anchors and chains to trip up on. Just take in ‘Oh Well Unwell’ and it’s want for clean minds and co-dependency. Dressed in messed sounds and wrapped up in stomp, you’d almost listen through without noticing. ‘Lips’ runs through it’s cartoonish quips, lifts and drops with an air of regret. ‘Terrible Horse‘ sounds and looks like a Gilbert Shelton illustration, coming the closest we get to claustrophobic. It’s a pleasure to unpick this album, frayed at the edges and thread bare.
So I take back all opening sentences. This isn’t oddball it’s endearing. This isn’t just goofy, it’s glorious. It’s a husband and wife making music they like with scant disregard for discretion. As for who the New-York-Fuck is Gus Englehorn… take a poke and get some hint below.