by Chris Jones (@casperthejoke)
Guerilla Toss’ Twisted Crystal picks up where last year’s GT Ultra left off, mining the sounds of new wave and psychedelia while staying true to their noisy roots. What sets this record apart from the bands previous efforts is the complexity of its arrangements and the breadth of its influences. Each song is awash in layers of synths, effected guitars and warped drum sounds. Furthermore, Guerilla Toss merge so many different styles of music that by the end it feels like they have created a genre of their own. What’s even more mind-blowing is that this is the most accessible the band has ever sounded, featuring catchy sing-along hooks and infectious dance beats.
Although the record displays a wide range of influences, Guerilla Toss seem more interested in breathing new life into old ideas than simply copying them. The record kicks off with “Magic is Easy,” a track that features surreal lyrics, a wonky bass part and an extended guitar break that sounds like an old VHS tape from the eighties coming unraveled. This song is interesting because it does new things with old forms, blending funk, new wave and psychedelia with Guerilla Toss’ noisy trademark. This is a consistent trend throughout the album: Guerilla Toss seem intent on taking the ideas of the predecessors and contorting them into new shapes. “Hacking Machine” sounds like XTC sent through the washing machine, especially when Arian Shafiee’s de-tuned guitar harmonies take center stage, and “Jackie’s Daughter” sounds like a more chaotic version of the Talking Heads due to the complex interplay between plucky guitars and analog synthesizers. Even “Walls of the Universe,” the trippiest song on the record, avoids mimicking prehistoric psychedelic rock bands by implementing sounds that could only be executed with modern technology, including splashes of futuristic keys and mesmerizing vocal layering.
Beyond how it offers a new take on old genres, one of the joys of Twisted Crystal is the way it showcases Kassie Carlson’s versatility as a vocalist. While the second track, “Jesus Rabbit” features a sweetly-sung, albeit cheeky, refrain about following Jesus into space, Carlson’s more aggressive approach on “Meteorological” reminds the listener of Guerilla Toss’ punk origins. Another vocal highlight is “Come Up With Me,” a song that sounds like the Breakfast Club being launched into space. Here, Carlson delivers perfectly executed harmonies along with one of her catchiest hooks, “Why don’t you just come up with me / Mystery space new identity.”
Indeed, it seems like Guerilla Toss have finally arrived at a new identity on this record, one where their wild, wonderful experimentation seems like it could finally reach out to a wider audience.