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21 July 2016

Guru Guru - 'Dance of the Flames' (Atlantic)

Guru Guru, on a wider release (and American major label) get back to business with the crunchy rock-riffage found on side one of the self-titled album. It's not a genre I'm super qualified to critique, but after typing this I realise how 'rockist' this vinyl accumulation is. I've always liked things on the cerebral side, but weirdly as I grow older the gut-punching guitar epics make more and more sense to me. It's like I'm aging in reverse, or maybe the few times I've read Carducci's Rock and the Pop Narcotic sunk in, and I have a real appreciation/understanding of what makes a rock band great (and ignore all the homophobic stuff in there). So yeah, Guru Guru know how to shred and this for the most part resembles the first side of the previous record, not the spacey, sci-fi second. But things start opening up a bit on 'The Girl from Hirschorn', containing a long, long shredding guitar solo before a nice singing part comes in, the pieces slows to a gentle 60's psych vibe, and concludes. It's well-recorded too, sounding like a psychedelic rock record should, and maybe the two sides of Guru Guru find symbiosis here. 'Samba Das Rosas' is the album's other wildcard, being a genre exercise in samba, with the guitarist singing in a falsetto and a nice atmosphere - no one does samba like a bunch of Germans from Heidelberg!  'Rallulli' is the record's most collectively improvised feel, sounding like Dutch free jazz in the beginning before the almighty rhythm comes in, though it stays acoustic (including upright bass) and sneaks around without ever getting settled. On the rare times I listen to Guru Guru this is a record to skip around rather than play straight through - I prefer the previous record's second half for the focused listen and there's about 40 other albums I could investigate were I so inclined. This band still exists! And when one thinks about how a rock band can persevere for almost a half-century without major commercial success, it makes one see a sort of musical purity there, even if that's just a bit of hindsight and conjecture. Sometimes I like to pronounce the word 'guru' as guh-ROO, like if I'm describing some weird yoga instructor in a mocking way; and saying guh-ROO guh-ROO as a band name is almost as funny as saying "zed zed Top". If I were to rank my favourite rock bands Guru Guru are probably somewhere around 286th, or maybe lower, but that's still pretty high if you think about how many rock bands there are.

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