By : Steve Bychowski
3 min read
Guerilla Toss — Famously Alive (alternative)
Henry Rollins said of Guerilla Toss:
What a band. I mean damn, what a band. Like one of the first great bands of the new century great. Who would you compare them to? Who do they sound like? They are their own thing and what an excellent thing it is.
What more do you want? What more needs to be said? If that doesn’t convince you to dive into Guerilla Toss, there is nothing I can do to change your mind. But because I am expected to fill more space with this review, let’s start from the beginning.
Guerilla Toss formed in Boston in 2012 and was a staple of the local underground scene before moving to New York City in 2015. Their core sound from the early years was a unique mixture of punk, noise, art rock, and no wave that barrels forward at a frenetic pace and incorporates a healthy dose of dissonance and shrinking vocals that rise to maddening crescendos. Later albums incorporated more funk, electronic, and dance music. Their live shows have a definite jam band influence with collective improvisation connecting songs and psychedelic video projections. If you are looking for a good place to start, I highly recommend Live in Nashville.
The 2019 EP What Would The Odd Do? marked a turning point for the band. Kassie Carlson, the band’s singer and songwriter, overcame an opiate addiction and moved to upstate New York, and the EP expresses her newfound joy and optimism towards life. The edges of their sound are rounded off, and the pop, dance, and electronic influences are dialed up.
On March 25th, the band released their next album Famously Alive on Sub Pop. Throughout the album, you can see the direction signaled in What Would The Odd Do? grow into something new and exciting. The psychedelic textures, complex rhythms, sudden shifts, and expansive sonic dissonance that make the band great are there in force. The title track even starts with the characteristic driving drum beat over distortion reminiscent of their earlier albums. But what is new is the increased incorporation of contemporary pop sounds (including auto tune) and the positive messages and overall tone. Band member Peter Negroponte says, “We thought the sleekness of current radio pop would make our dense wall-of-sound aesthetic both more bizarre and more accessible and fun at the same time.” Carlson noted, “The [the title track] ‘Famously Alive’ is about living with purpose and excitement whether you’re famous or not, accepting your strangeness and thriving even if your successes look different than other people’s.” Negroponte added, “To me, ‘Famously Alive’ means flipping the notion of dying famously to living famously. I also like to think of it as a way to describe living through something traumatic and coming out of it a stronger, wiser person.”
Famously Alive is out now on the major platforms, and the band will be playing live at the Somerville Theater on April 26th.
* Originally published in-print in Boston Compass Newspaper April #145 2022
Check out all the art and columns of April's Boston Compass at www.issuu.com/bostoncccompass