Since their formation in 2010, Guerilla Toss have always been unconventional and never boring. Their forays into dance-punk even defied categorization since the quintet would unveil a surprising guitar riff or punch a wicked dance beat like an unexpected Mike Tyson uppercut. If their previous five albums didn’t push the experimental boundaries enough for some, then Twisted Crystal should more than suffice. Check that, Guerilla Toss not only push the boundaries of what is possible; they completely dismantle the walls and unleash one colorful, energetic, and mind-altering record.
Twisted Crystal is otherworldly and derived from another dimension. Forget spinning down the rabbit. The entire record comes from a place that can only be visited by traveling through a worm hole. Or through a “computer hole”, as front woman Kassie Carlson deadpans sings on “Hacking Machine”. Archaic outer space effects (think the original Lost in Space from 1965) combine with oft-kilter guitar arrangements and carnival chimes, and the result yields one wild hallucination. The approach, however, is perfect, as the chaos reflects Carlson’s tale of how strangers can know so much about another person simply by logging in to a computer.
Equally far out and clever is “Walls of the Universe”, which is a cosmic psychedelic trip lyrically and sonically. On the latter, the tune sounds like what a King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard song would resemble if Brian Eno was the producer. Meanwhile, Carlson delivers some of her most imaginative and trippy lyrics. Her tale follows a person who travels across the universe and spends his time reflecting on his past, which includes knowing a parrot who made a living talking about bird watching. A sense of uncertainty builds on the whirling and chilling “Retreat”. As elongated synths and a spine-tingling, crystalline guitar spin in the background, Carlson seeks to escape from her concrete prison.
“Look out there, what do you see?
In that wave, my retreat.
Let me be floating out there.
Turn your ears salty.”
There are, however, flourishes of their past dance-oriented tunes, but they are dressed in much different arrangements. Surf-rock fuses with ’70s new wave and krautrock on “Jesus Rabbit”. Its quirky, stuttering, futuristic vibe and bizarre tale belongs in a Tim Burton film. “Jesus, take me from this planet. / You’re the leader and I’m your little rabbit”, Carlson teases. Electro-disco funk bursts on the rapturous “Meteorological”. It’s a groovy and fun number made for the glittering lights of a ’70s dance club. Carlson’s lyrics are intelligent, as she years “to be natural” within this growing artificial world.
“Come Up with Me” takes fun to manic levels. The track echoes the frenetic mad genius of David Byrne and The Talking Heads mixed with the infectious pop of The New Pornographers and the oft-kilter lyrical dynamism of Deerhoof. Or in other words, this tune would be perfect for a Magenta and Riff Raff party (a reference to The Rocky Horror Picture Show). Likewise, “Green Apple” is a treasure trove of musical delights. Industrial, krautrock, Goth-punk, psychedelic, and alt-pop all converge to create a chaotic but unexpectedly addictive melody. It would be easy to say the five-piece have sent us spiraling through the rabbit hole, but this isn’t some Alice in Wonderland concoction. Instead, Guerilla Toss have ripped apart reality like how Morpheus subtly encouraged Neo to take the red pill. Even Carlson’s words, which re-imagine the scene of the forbidden apple, question what is real and what is not:
“Do you really see?
Did you really think that?
What do you believe
Bringing apple insects?”
With Twisted Crystal, Guerilla Toss make us believe that music can still be fresh and inventive yet accessible and entertaining. The record, as such, is a triumphant piece of art, as it demonstrates that there is more in this world than cookie-cutter patterns. It’s not just the sonic brilliance, however, but the imaginative tales and insightful social commentary also separate this record from the rest. As the band spin their way to the end of the universe, take control of their identity, and consume the red pill to reveal their reality, they’ve opened our eyes to what is possible. They’ve opened our eyes to see what awaits us.
Guerilla Toss are Kassie Carlson, Peter Negroponte, Arian Shafiee, Samuel Lisabeth, and Stephen Cooper, and they are currently on tour. Dates and information are available here.
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