A lot of the time these days we’re constantly reminded that yes; guitar music is dead, or no; guitar music isn’t dead. Then we have punky bands like The Vaccines, Palma Violets and Catfish and the Bottlemen that resurrect rock music like Frankenstein’s monster. But I’ve been of the mind that instead of insisting that guitar music is the same as it was 20 years ago, we should be looking at how it’s adapted. Alt-J are one fine example of how guitars can be relevant without being boring. Then we have Gengahr who follow in the steps of this modernisation of guitar music with their debut album A Dream Outside.
Flaunting Talking Heads sensibility with Radiohead-esque vocals and an Alt-J flourish, London based band Gengahr (not to be confused with the Pokémon of the same name) draw from modern day Indie Pop to give a surprisingly clean sound. Peace and Swim Deep are footnoted on tracks like ‘Heroine’ and ‘Lonely As A Shark’, but Gengahr avoid the Baggy influences, instead keeping their sound tight and to a point. Much like Foals, Gengahr draw from the use of staccato guitar and stable bass lines, utilising these to create memorable and funky riffs.
But that doesn’t mean Gengahr aren’t afraid to get a little mad. Thankfully keeping the use of reverb to a minimum, some tracks, such as ‘Where I Lie’, let guitar distortion roam free amongst a field of catchy vocal melodies. There are even some examples of funk bass lines here on ‘Embers’, as well as In Rainbows style guitar on ‘Where I Lie’. In fact, on the whole Gengahr do a great job of making very likeable music.
Halfway point ‘Dark Star’ is actually one of my favourite points on the album. Gengahr abandon their intriguing vocals yet still manage to keep the audience captivated with a Hip-Hop like beats and some exquisite guitar work. ‘Fill My Gums With Blood’ is a more subdued song with a chilled rhythm section and even a restrained vocal performance. Closer ‘Trampoline’ gives us effects-laden and ghostly vocals over a cheery swing beat and Indie guitars. A surprising, yet fitting, end to this LP.
Do I have any criticisms? Not particularly. What with the slightly single-heavy first side, with songs ‘She’s A Witch’, ‘Heroine’ and ‘Bathed in Light’, the second side seems slightly weaker, but the songs are far from bad. Apart from that, there isn’t really anything to criticise. A Dream Outside certainly doesn’t dramatically advance the world of Alt Rock and Dream Pop, but when the songs are this good, does it really need to?
Aside from cracking out some excellent songs on this debut, Gengahr prove that guitar music isn’t dead and that with a little experimentation you can help bring an entire genre into the present. Taking inspiration from contemporaries like Peace, Alt-J and Foals, A Dream Outside makes for enjoyable listening if nothing else. I look forward to seeing what Gengahr can bring to the table in the future.
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