Guerilla Toss, Gay Disco

Douglas Wolk

By Douglas Wolk

on 12.10.13 in Reviews

Gay Disco

Guerilla Toss

Step 1 in listening to Guerilla Toss: Bleed from the ears; assume the band is just spasmodically flailing at their instruments while Kassie Carlson shrieks unintelligibly into a mostly destroyed microphone. Step 2: Notice that not only do they miraculously flail in sync with one another, they’re hitting some incredibly precise, deep rhythms (sometimes in number-crunching time signatures), and sustaining them. Step 3: Dance your ass off; continue to bleed from the ears.

Turning nails-on-chalkboard noise into hooks

A quintet from Boston’s punk rock underground, Guerilla Toss belongs to the odd, persistent strain of brutally dissonant groove bands: the Contortions, the Big Boys, Dog Faced Hermans, Melt-Banana. Their take on that tradition incorporates their gift for turning nails-on-chalkboard noise into hooks — they lean into the skipping-CD beat of the album’s highlight, “Pink Elephant,” until it becomes genuinely funky, while guitarist Arian Shaifee slashes across the rhythmic grain and keyboardist Ian Kovac smears gobbets of squiggly analog-synth mucus all over. (They’re moderately serious about the “disco” part of the album’s title, at least: Drummer Peter Negroponte’s approach to his hi-hat cymbal definitely has some Earl Young in its DNA.) It’s never quite clear what Carlson’s squealing, although it’s probably not meant to be; her voice is another high-precision rhythmic instrument, insistent and furiously sarcastic. The group can hurt to listen to — that’s kind of the point — but they’re so playful about it that they come off like a puppy tussling a little too hard.