Gun Outfit is off the charts with its direct reference, both literally and figuratively. There just hasn’t been enough room for pot-addled desert crawler guitar pop, the sound of modest ambition and the genuine feel of discovery that they bring about in quite a while. I was initially attracted to Possession Sound by its cover. Looks like a small boat dock at high tide, and the playfulness of the image (waves, sun, but no beach) was something I’d rather be looking at out my window. Gun Outfit’s music was, thankfully, able to meet that expectation, without caving into the laziness of so many bands trying to mine “Nerf surf” pop these days.
Here’s a band that dines out on its personality, and rightfully so. Two guitarists and a drummer need all the help they can get in that sense, as there’s no good way to ground their leads with counter melodies and rhythmic reinforcement, unless one of the guitarists develops a good rhythmic lead. But the way Dylan Sharp and Carrie Keith trade off on clean, doleful melodies, and how her wispy, countrified voice provides a contrast, if not an anchor, to his drowsy Depuy Dawg drawl and naptime delivery. Their latest batch of songs sounds as if rooted in mood than antecedent, though their efforts align closely with some of New Zealand’s legacy rubbing off on them — The 3Ds in particular, more in the vocals and songwriting than the overall approach. There’s the acknowledgement of The Feelies’ energetically alienated strum-rage here, channeled through the quiet reservation of The Verlaines.
And that’s a really good thing — a foundational corrective to so much baseless, cheery music that never lives up to the hope it offers. Drummer Reuben Storey’s vibe merch drumming gives the guitarists enough space and room to let things get a little rubbery and free-flowing, and you’ll be surprised how much you’ll be reminded of great things largely in our past — Barbara Manning flourishing through the languid “Phaedra,” The Meat Puppets hitting their stride on “Fantasy World,” Dinosaur Jr. just waking up in the A.M.
The time for a band like Olympia, Wash.’s Gun Outfit is, it would seem, anywhere but now. Touring the USA on self-booked expeditions through what’s left of punk house basements and raw loft spaces in 2010 is a different proposition than what existed five or 10 years ago. Apparently there are a growing number of kids who figure that, since they don’t pay for recorded music, that there’s no reason to support a touring band with a $5 cover charge either. Actions such as these are going to ensure that bands who want to operate as Gun Outfit does (on the van tour circuit, with contacts farmed from their connections to punk and hardcore) would be compromised, or defeated altogether. Yet Possession Sound gives the impression that its members don’t care about that so much. They’re standing on that dock, looking out at the sea, hoping to catch a glimpse of something from beyond.