Guider, the second Kranky full-length by Chicago quartet Disappears, is pretty great, and thatâ€™s a big relief to me.Â The band snowballed a lot of momentum in 2010, garnering a significant amount of local press and accolades for their Kranky debut, Lux. Although I was definitely in the minority, as most people who heard the album seemed to really dig it, that albumâ€™s flat production was very disappointing for me.
When I read that drummer-engineer Graeme Gibson had left the band to be replaced by Sonic Youthâ€™s Steve Shelley, I became even more skeptical about the bandâ€™s next move.Â His participation added an even higher layer of expectation that made Guider kind of a make-it-or-break-it album for me in a way. Â The band shows amply that their momentum is well-deserved.
Because along with momentum, this is a band with a lot of creative energy, and one gets the sense on Guider that it urgently needs to be tapped.Â The album is shortâ€”only 31 minutes, including one 16-minute trackâ€”but itâ€™s gale-forced from start to finish, sweeping the listener into its simple songs in the opening bars and holding them in until the finish.Â In many cases, the barked, slap-backed vocals are daringly up-front, reminiscent of (among others) the Clashâ€™s Joe Strummer in their directness and delivery. Â But itâ€™s not just production that Disappears shares with a band like that.Â Thereâ€™s an accessibility here that Disappears seems to just toss off, a sense of natural personality that most other bands donâ€™t possess.
These spontaneous-feeling, dynamic performances show off the talents unique to their lineup, as when the band is more than equal to a classic Shelley driving beat on â€śHalo.â€ťÂ The rhythm sectionâ€™s swing and tightness at this moment is reminiscent of Creedence Clearwater Revival as much as anything else.Â Guitar wah squalls at the end of that tune also make for a great jam. Â Elsewhere, the best moments are when the songs open up into space, as in the end of â€śNot Romantic,â€ť which seems to empty into a deep dark pool, swirling menacingly around nothingness like a Joy Division groove (though it doesnâ€™t resemble one sonically).Â The title track brims with punkish urgency, again bringing the Clash to mind.
16-minute closer â€śRevisitingâ€ť falls along the lines of early Stereolab with distorted rhythm guitars, unchanging one-chord grooves. Â It isnâ€™t exactly a coup, but it is dynamic enough to be interesting over its full length.Â And it feels deceptively short. Most importantly, it shows the band stretching against their mold even more, swirling faster towards the eye.