I wanted to like this album. It’s one of those records you read about and get really excited to hear. One of those albums you see in a really cool record store next to some other really cool stuff and get these flighty butterfly feelings in your intestines because you just know you’re about to discover something really cool and spend the rest of the year listening to it and talking about it. It’s made by cool people; it’s on a cool, little-known indie label. It’s even got a really cool cover with the song titles in one of those cool hand-written graffiti fonts.
But A Gun Called Tension’s eponymous debut is what happens when cool goes wrong. Terribly, horribly wrong.
The band is the brainchild of Sean Reveron and Dann Gallucci. If those names don’t ring a bell, the bands they’ve worked with will: Reveron has ties with the Beta Band, and Gallucci was a member of Murder City Devils and has gotten snuggly with Modest Mouse. Those associations alone should’ve carried this album to at least a 3.0. Instead, they call up some friends from bands including Pretty Girls Make Graves, Murder City Devils, Airborn Audio and Built to Spill, as well as Roots Manuva and Supercat; they hop on board the experimental music train; and they get derailed somewhere near the second track.
Like most of you, I was excited for Supercat to record a follow-up to “Dolly My Baby,” but clearly this album wasn’t the right opportunity to indulge that fantasy. Instead we get “Foundation,” which, along with a couple other tracks (“Electric Chair” being the best of them), make parts of A Gun Called Tension sort of listenable. There’s just way too much going on from one moment to the next for it to fall into any kind of comfortable groove. Some songs incorporate spiky shards of post-punk venom; some ride carefree electro rhythms. At least one, “Interview,” sounds like Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit.” But most of it’s frustratingly hollow, and all of it’s directionless. At this rate, the band’s next record will be ten songs of absolute silence followed by a fifteen-minute hidden track comprised entirely of bathroom noises.
Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe we’re re-entering the age of irony and no one bothered to e-mail me. Bad is actually good because it was made that way on purpose, the e-memo would’ve mockingly stated. The Irony Police would pull me in for questioning based on the low rating I bestowed on A Gun Called Tension’s debut. “Michael,” Officer Sardonic would begin, “We’ve got a slight problem here. You didn’t pick up on the ironic tone of this record at all. Your review completely misses the boat.” But his gentle prodding is soon cut-off by Lt. Satire, playing his half of the good-cop/bad-cop roles to a T: “It’s supposed to sound like shit! Don’t you get that? Do you even know what irony is when you hear it, you fucking fake hipster fraud?!”
Within minutes I crumble, my body a heap of exhaustion pressed against the hard, cold questioning table. “Fine,” I squeak out, my head tucked in the bend of my arm and my voice muffled behind a mix of sweat and tears. “Give it a 2.5.”