Stand Out Albums has been a showcase for my favorite albums across the vast performers that I love. Covering a little bit of everything from classic rock to country hits, much like Key Movies of My Life, it has been the albums that shaped me.
Welcome back to part two in our Guster series where we explore each and every studio album that has been released so far. Today we come to the album that got me into Guster to start with and would lead to me becoming a fan of these guys. Once again, we welcome guest blogger Ryan Nims who will share his experiences with Guster and weather he agrees with my assessment of these albums or thinks I am completely bonkers.
Why This Album?
As I mentioned in the review of Parachute, Goldfly was my gateway drug for Guster. Once again, like so many before it, it was CMJ New Music Monthly that led me to this band via Volume 57 of their monthly magazine. The song was The Airport Song and, I immediately went out and had to find out what else this band had to offer. Seeing that The Airport Song was on their second album, Goldfly, well, that’s what I went for.
As soon as I got this one home I was amazed at what I had discovered. While I absolutely adored the Airport Song and it’s very dark themes, the album itself was full of incredible harmonies, deep lyrics and songs that would stay with me for the rest of my life. The crazy thing was, this was this band’s second album and, for many bands, well this is where they flounder. If you read my review of Parachute, I think this album is where Guster actually started their evolution into what they are today. While they have certainly come a long way since this one, you can hear all of the parts that make up the greatness to come. How did they come to this astounding change in tone and sound, well, I think it has to do with the fact that it was a much tighter lineup than their first album.
In my research for these reviews, I noticed that Parachute credited nearly 20 musicians on that album. Now, that isn’t a bad thing, but for new bands, this kind of massive collaboration can be severely limiting. However, on Goldfly, the personnel is boiled down to the three main members, Ryan Miller, Adam Gardner and Brian Rosenworcel along with five additional contributors spread throughout the album. That is less than half of the original album’s lineup and, honestly, you can tell. Goldfly is a much more polished and developed album that really shows that the core members wanted to take this band somewhere special and, boy is this one something special. In past reviews I have mentioned those ‘rare’ perfect albums, if this one isn’t among them, it is damned close. It is an album that, while you can absolutely listen to individual tracks and get an enjoyment out of them, there is something magical about listening to it from start to finish. Each track work together perfectly in every way and, what makes this more astonishing is that every single song recorded during this session was used, leaving no extras for singles. What that means is these folks didn’t have the luxury of picking and choosing what they wanted, and that in and of itself is telling. Not even many seasoned bands can pull that off and well, that is pretty impressive.
To me, THIS is where Guster really started. Sure, they had a parachute, but when they pulled the ripcord, they flew and boy was it something to sing about.
So now, I leave it to Ryan to tell you his take on this album and, maybe we align…or not… Take it away!
Ryan’s take on Goldfly: Again, I can’t really argue with any of Kheas’s thoughts on this album. It really holds the place of my first favorite Guster album! (Ok, several successive Guster albums would become my favorite Guster albums…) But, being that this was effectively their first major label record (released on Warner Bros/Sire’s indie sub-label Hybrid) Goldfly feels like it had more of a budget. The production feels cleaner, the music tighter, even while being pretty experimental (who knew the sounds of bouncing ping-pong balls could sound sinister, as used in the outro to Airport song?)
As mentioned in the last issue of Stand Out Albums, I joined Guster’s street team, becoming an official Guster Rep, with the official codename: Motormouth. Back in the day, before music was 1s and 0s released on streaming platforms for all to hear for free, indie acts had to rely on things like word of mouth to get their music out to the world (unless they were among the lucky few with major label backing and radio promotion!) So, while Guster were technically under the Warner Bros umbrella, they were pretty low on the major label marketing machine food chain for at least the next two records (before moving up to Reprise Records and much higher notoriety for 2003’s Keep it Together).
Historical footnotes aside, and keeping with Goldfly’s seeming interest in cults, I had drunk the Guster-Ade, and I wanted to share it! So basically, I would send Guster money (I think each CD was $5 U.S. in late 1990s money), and would receive discs to resell to friends/family/unsuspecting folks looking to buy CD’s from a dude in a trench coat (Ed. Ryan has never owned a trench coat.) But, early-twenty-something-Ryan worked as assistant manager at CD Warehouse (remember those?) and felt pretty icky about the idea of selling CDs outside of normal business hours–or much less ethically, selling CDs inside normal working hours and pocketing 100% of the proceeds. So I would buy discs from Guster, and just give ’em to friends! A win-win: I was directly supporting one of my favorite bands with my hard-earned music store cash, and spreading the good word about Guster–all without taking a dime. (Side note: allegedly Guster Reps may have been sent misprints of Goldfly in which the first two songs were written onto a single track… But I’m suspiciously having trouble finding a reliable source on this, and no such variant exists on Discogs (and the folks over there are usually on top of all kinds of variants!) However, to any of my friends who may have been gifted a copy by me containing this alleged misprint, to you I say “you’re welcome!”)
Ok, enough about me, back to the actual owner of the blog:
Of course, Airport Song. This is a DARK song that riffs off of the dangers of following any beliefs too blindly. With lyrics like ‘I’ll be hiding in your dirty room, I’ll Go There Seeking Only What I Need, La De Da We’ll stay there till we bleed’. yeah, it’s intense but what makes it amazing are the signature harmonies and lyrical tradeoffs between Ryan and Adam with some incredible bongo action from Brian. Oh yeah, did I mention this band can pull off Bongos? Yeah, they can like no one you have ever heard before in your life.
Demons. The second track on this album is one that I gravitated to immediately and, honestly, has really only gotten more poignant the older I get. Everyone of us have demon(s) inside that we struggle with and, this song has always been one that felt like it was about those demons. Whether you are using your inner demons to protect yourself from pain or if you let them lie to you making you feel like you shouldn’t, they are there and, we are always battling them. This song, well, it really gives that idea a voice.
Rocketship. Ryan Nims and I discussed this one a bit before I started this article and we realized that this could have been inspired by the Heaven’s Gate cult. I mean, that did happen this same year and, talking about going off on a Rocketship with the very sudo-religious overtones, well, if it’s not it is certainly prophetic. Needless to say, this is a song I always loved. It really captured that idea of loneliness and desire to belong while being tempted to find a ‘group’ even if that group wasn’t all that healthy to begin with. It’s good and, is a melodic masterpiece.
Ok, Where do I get it?
Once again, much like Parachute, this one is kinda harder to get as it seems to have also fallen out of print. You can grab a copy here fairly cheap or, as usual, listen via Spotify. Either way, give this one a go, trust me, it will create an addition….
Next week, we discuss the 1999 Album Lost and Gone Forever which I somehow missed my first go around with this band and, thankfully caught up soon after. Until then…
Late to the Game 7/13/2021
Thanks for reading, If you would like to read more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and also check out some retro tv goodness with the ongoing series Retro TV Reviews here. You can also find a few of my other Music Reviews Here.
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