Guerilla Toss – Famously Alive
There are few bands quite like Guerilla Toss currently out there. The New York based outfit occupy a space in the rock-electronica crossover sphere that has often been traversed by groups in the past like The Naked And Famous or LCD Soundsystem, but while most art rockers these days have moved further into the analog in the vein of Yves Tumor, Guerilla Toss have pushed further into the abstract. Synthesising psych-rock with elements of funk, synthpop, and post-punk, Guerilla Toss’s sound is an abrasive, jagged little pill. Beginning with 2019’s What Would The Odd Do? though, things began to get a little less acidic and a lot sharper. This may be due in part to lead singer Kassie Carlson’s recovery from an opioid addiction, an experience that informed much of the direction of What Would The Odd Do?. Famously Alive picks up where tracks like Moth Like Me left off, a more propulsive formulation of Guerilla Toss’s eclecticism with a renewed sense of clarity.
Thematically, Famously Alive follows on from What Would The Odd Do? as well, this time mapping Carlson’s renewed appreciation for the experience of being alive. As such, the album is buzzing with a sort of cheery positivity. On Live Exponential, against a thrumming backdrop of shimmering synths and hard chords like bursts of sunlight, Carlson chants self-help quotes like “you’re special, live exponential!”, her voice dipping in and out of the half-time pulse as if being swathed in the rolling waves of light. On this album, their psychedelia takes a turn toward the outright fantastical. On tracks like Mermaid Airplane and Pyramid Human, their music squelches and squiggles with the awe-struck wanderlust of a cosmonaut reduced to childlike wonder. These are some of the most playful, joyously absurd entries in the band’s catalogue, and a celebration of the oft fantastical moments of life that slip by us when we are programmed to fixate on the hardships. Famously Alive is whimsical beyond expectation, mostly syrupy sweet and bursting with rainbows. Still, there’s a sense of pathos to the frivolities on the album that can only be grounded in lived experience. Happy Me recounts this somewhat, a dumbstruck late album standout that’s honestly just thankful to be alive.
Famously Alive is both the band’s most stylistically sprawling work to date but also their most accessible. There’s a pop sensibility that lends itself to the whimsy which makes Famously Alive feel far more approachable than the acid trip of Twisted Crystal. Album closer Heathen In Me is a gloriously nostalgic fusion of 80’s tinged synthwave and melancholic indie rock dressed in tie-dye, while Excitable Girls is a woozy pop-punk hyperpop hybrid that fuses the most anthemic parts of Avril Lavigne with the most bubblegum parts of hyperpop. Coming out of the past two years, it’s not difficult to connect to the sentiments Guerilla Toss share on Famously Alive. After all the trauma and uncertainty, there’s a breathless joy to just appreciating life unconditionally. “You’re famous. Famously alive,” Carlson tells us on the title track, reminding us that often, that is enough.
See the visualiser for Live Exponential from Famously Alive below.
Follow Guerilla Toss