Click to hear: “Brown Corduroy”
Gully is a relatively new Portland indie rock band that just released an impressive EP, the modestly titled Six Songs By Gully.
Of the six tracks here, one’s good, three are really good, one’s great and one sucks. That’s a promising ratio. Consider, by way of comparison, R.E.M.’s debut EP, Chronic Town, which had one great song (“Gardening at Night”) and four others that ranged from good to “not bad.” Or Guided By Voices’ Forever Since Breakfast EP: a couple nuggets, a turd or two, and some stuff that could have been on Chronic Town.
The trick, of course, is to follow up the debut EP with a couple decades’ worth of excellent albums. I’m not sayin’ Gully’s got that in ‘em, but at the very least, this release points toward an even better full-length, which the band says we can expect next year.
The great track here has already been reviewed on this site by David Pence, who wrote about “Georgians” in the September edition of The Online Underground. The good news is that Six Songs begins with three that are nearly as great.
The opener, “Brown Corduroy,” has the shifting dynamics and pleasingly unpredictable chord progressions that make “Georgians” a treat. The lyrics are an interesting mix of sentimentality and obscurity, the detuned electric guitars kick and snarl, and the harmonica break – against all odds – works. The tinkling piano and hungover backing choir are gravy.
“Ex Attack,” the next track, is a lunging punk-country number with a catchy, off-kilter chorus complete with cowbell. The reverb-heavy guitar stampede tramples Romero’s lyrics in places – the vocals are a bit mushy now and again throughout these recordings – but loudness serves this song well.
Romero sounds not a little like Greg Dulli of Afghan Whigs fame, a singer making the most of an un-pretty voice. He never sounds better than on the third track, “Hard to Find,” a heartbreaking tune about loneliness that alternately shuffles and soars before petering out with an extended outro that’s about a minute too long.
“Tenderfootin’” is less likeable at first listen for its jarring tempos and anticlimaxes, though closer listenings pay off. The band’s zeal to rearrange conventional song structures is laudable, even when it misses the mark, as happens on “(Quiet Those) Whisper Campaigns.” I can live with the first half of this edgy tune, but when it segues into a spacey section followed by a choppy temper tantrum, the vibe’s shot.
Romero’s got something here. The drawback of Six Songs is that he’s got a better handle on this material than the rest of the band, which makes for some messy transitions. Tighter playing and a cleaner sound would elevate this release, but as a sign of rock to come, it’s a high achievement as is.
— Chris Busby
For more on Gully, see myspace.com/gullytheband.