This sucks. No, not the CD. I like the CD. Call me old-fashioned, but whatever happened to emerging artists that no one ever heard of? Small-named artists like Gus on small-named labels like Almo. No one bought their records, no one heard their songs and life was good. Tonight I went clothes shopping in Abercrombie & Fitch and to my horror, amidst large posters of half-naked, muscular teens in loose-fitting underwear, the speakers spewed “Baby Blue Airplane” off of Gus’ latest release Word of Mouth Parade. “Shit!” I barked while trying on oversized, overpriced spring wear. This was almost as upsetting as hearing Huffamoose at Bally’s Total Fitness. Was his word of mouth parade televised or something? Was there a 300-foot tall, inflated Gus balloon barreling down 42nd Street, knocking over innocent bystanders and street lamps? Why wasn’t I notified? Damn clothing chains, and damn them for catching on to cool music.
It’s hard not to like Gus. A simple name for a simple formula of breezy pop songs found on Word of Mouth Parade. Eleven songs – seemingly one for every nail in his heart from a former love. Despite the sullen nature, the songs remain camouflaged in optimism with happy grooves like “Baby Blue Airplane” and the Jars of Clay-ish “Laugh I Could Learn to Love.” Gus’ voice is an even mixture of Better Than Ezra, the late Jeff Buckley and Something Happens. Gus’ inventive use of atmospheric guitar effects and subtle slides combined with a liquid smooth falsetto prevents him from being the second coming of Better Than Ezra. Thank God. One is enough. I only wish that Gus exploited these strengths even more than he does. At times his sharpest tools are only used sparingly – brilliant slide guitar soundscapes in the too distant background. “Floodlights” encapsulates it all though – a soft sweeping chorus surrounded by spacey distortion.
Word of Mouth Parade is all-around catchy and ripe for spring. But don’t take my word for it. Ask the girl behind the counter at Banana Republic.