Listening to Stew, the latest EP from Seattle, WA's Gumshen, is like taking a time machine back to the early 90s, when grunge bands such as Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and Soundgarden were household names. Like their forbearers, Gumshen's music is loud, abrasive, and raw, conjuring up memories of flannel shirts, torn jeans, stringy hair, loud guitars, and even louder vocals.
Out With The Old, In With The New:,
Gumshen do some tinkering on their latest EP
This is most evident on tracks like Start of Something Good and Scapegoat, which sound akin to songs Alice In Chains and Soundgarden might have put out, respectively. Both songs derive their energy from crunching guitars, singing that's at turns angry (Scapegoat) and depressingly soulful (Start of Something Good), and the punk-meets-heavy metal-meets-classic rock musical approach.
It would be a mistake to write Gumshen off as a grunge revival band, however. Even on their grunge-heavy Stew EP, there are hints of changes to come. Dandelions, for example, has a laidback country twang and a backing piano riff that would be at home in a gospel song. There's also D'Mac & Grits, an instrumental piece that relies more on grooving basslines, blues-drenched guitar riffing, and free-form jazz to get your attention than on your typical grunge line-up of guitars, drums, and bass.
"Around the time we were recording the Stew EP, we made a conscious decision to move away from the grunge sound that had dominated our earlier release, the Menthol James EP," Ron Hippe, lead singer/guitarist for Gumshen says by way of explanation.
To understand the band's change in artistic direction, we have to go back to the beginning, when Gumshen was a quartet calling themselves Menthol James. "Back then, the band was influenced mainly by grunge, classic rock, and jazz," Hippe explains. "The grunge sound was a result of those early influences, the fact that we were a new band, and people telling us to focus on one genre of music to make ourselves more marketable."
If the Stew EP was fraught with the 'marketable' sounds of grunge, Gumshen's upcoming EP, Super Buffet, will be fraught with anything but. In fact, Super Buffet will be a sort of musical housecleaning for the band. Instead of your typical meat and potatoes stew, the band will stretch themselves in ways previously unseen in order to serve up a true super buffet of musical styles.
Hippe explains: "With the Super Buffet EP, we're going away from the grunge sound for something more eclectic, similar to The Beatles' White Album."
Expect more variety, in other words -- odd time signatures, songs that borrow their inspiration from the musical virtuosity of The Beatles and the sharp singing and songcraft of Elton John. It's all fair game.