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Album Review: Ganglians - 'Still Living'

The tuns sound as sweet as ever, but who knew the sunny Calfornians could do angsty and bleak?

Album Review: Ganglians - 'Still Living'

Sarcasm and American indie-rock are longtime bedfellows, lubricated with bilious flecks of bitter, unkind spittle. Well, except in the Hipstamatic viewfinder of Sacramento’s Ganglians, a foursome whose jangling psych-pop was up until now powered purely by sunshine and a none-more-wistful worldview.

No longer, though. “This is a sad, sad song/For all you sad, sad people”, chirps leader Ryan Grubbs in ‘Drop The Act’, before forcing a fistful of sardonic sonic anti-depressants laced with sugar-shelled psychotropics down your ears. “Why don’t you pick up the phone and tell me what you’re going through?” Don’t call. He doesn’t really want to know about your problems. He’s at it again on ‘Sleep’, which recalls the half-there aural shadows cast throughout Foals’ ‘Total Life Forever’, asking, “Hey man/What d’you know about that?” in a tone so far removed from his borderline threatening words that they take a few rewinds to grasp.

It’s not all snarky mutterings smuggled in under a blanket of sunshine vibes, though. ‘Faster’ offers a calm respite; hillside brook babbles precede a carefree three-minute reimagination of grunge on much cheerier drugs. It evokes the dappled woodland world in which we imagine the band dwelling; if Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes resemble a well-presented, urbanite study in mild-mannered demi-psychedelia, then Ganglians look more as though they’ve stumbled in after a three-month campfires-and-insanity expedition.

What they’ve brought down from them there hills, however, is a strikingly odd juxtaposition, a brand of California dreaming diametrically opposed to the outfit with whom they are most often compared: The Beach Boys. If Brian Wilson’s ‘Smile’ sounded happy while it was feeling grey, ‘Still Living’ is breezy with only an outside chance of showers, but too sulkily self-aware to really plumb the depths of the soul. It’s a summer album, sure, but one that’s more sunny peculiar than sunny ha-ha.

David Westle

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