With the charming, life-affirming ethos that playing music with your closest friends becomes more joyous with each passing show than going it alone does, Connecticut’s The Guru are a mysterious, technicolour relic of a time gone by, a troupe of young companions that enjoy the same simple pleasures — fond memories, shimmering shorelines, hanging out, that one girl — and, with refreshing maturity, do not mistake thematic complexity for substance. Pretty Things is just that, pretty things, hand-crafted by infectious indie-math loops, fun-loving surf-pop harmonies, jazz-fusion psychedelia and an honest, sun-kissed sentiment.
And, such is the transparency of The Guru’s angle, you’d need not look further than the albums’ cover to determine these things — note the playful script typeface, the colourful ‘60s patterns and those teethy grins — and by the time ‘How I Love That Girl’ reaches its oddball conclusion of the band dicking around during the recording session (‘I messed up a couple of the guitar parts’), you’ll likely already have half a dozen miasmic melodies swishing around your tap-dancing skull before the smooth grooves of ‘Golden Brown’ even have chance to park their smooth, round asses on your cerebrums’ nerve-endings.
But for all the finger-picked guitars, tight-knit percussion and rip-roaring sing-alongs that populate these energetic excursions, Pretty Things is really an album about growing up. ’Nostalgia’ — which dawns on me is a feeling only consciously felt in your early twenties — deals with family memories and what lies ahead in our future, yet it also presents the first tinge of resentment. It’s also a prime example of The Guru’s musical nous; a minute in, they slam the brakes on a typical surf-pop lick and launch into a violin-led barn-dance with repetitious chants of ‘I don’t like your attitude’, before cycling back round to the original melody as if nothing had happened. It’s supple, creative songwriting — the kind that a lot of math-led indie lacks in favour of an endless stream of polyrhythm.
It is these moments of surprise that delight the most, none more-so than on ‘Some Things Die’, which is so atypical to the rest of Pretty Things that — despite being the most powerful song on the record — also highlights chief vocalist Eddie Golden III’s range in all its expressive glory. Despite his young years, he carries here an air of weariness usually only associated with frontmen who have been beaten down by years on the road, as he sheds the strained falsetto that came before and replaces it with a borderline husk. It’s a dark, down-tempo exploration of mortality, with Golden clinging on to the last strains of melody despite the heart-breaking croons of ‘I look into her eyes, it’s magic, it’s magic. She likes to watch me die, she’s lovely, she’s lovely’.
Pretty Things may want to be a fun record at heart, and it is, but magnificent closer ‘The Parrot’ aims at a higher purpose, and hints that beyond the glazed eyes of indie-pop jaunts like ‘California Girl’ and ‘Real Nice’, The Guru have something more important to say. ‘I’m feeling my age, yeah I’m feeling my age’ Golden muses, and it would be easy to dismiss as an ironic quip if it weren’t prefaced by the admittance that its because they’re all ‘so young’. It’s refreshing that the naivety of youth is admitted so bluntly, and within a musical context rather than a Facebook retraction. It is apt, then, that the last few seconds of Pretty Things is filled by the soothing sound of slow, bobbing water, and these four friends laughing. They don’t know shit, but at least they don’t know shit together.
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