Sunday, September 4, 2016

See Gulls - Curtain Call EP (Potluck)

See Gulls have had enough, and they’re fed up.  Their frustration is mostly apparent in the push-pull relationship dynamic of the songs penned by front-gull Sarah Fuller… tales of overbearing exes and sleazy broheems.  But Curtain Call, the excellent follow-up EP to You Can’t See Me, opens with bassist Leah Gibson venting workplace anxieties on Boss Hogg (which she penned).  It’s a crunchy, grinding number that’s musically perfect for the topic:  a boring job and a boorish boss; See Gulls’ own Slack Motherfucker (I’ll go fetch some coffees while you sit and take a rest / let me guess / at your desk).

When …Hogg premiered as a single a few weeks back, I thought it marked somewhat of a departure from band’s sound.  But upon hearing the entire record, it actually sets a tone for and completely meshes with the overall vibe of this collection.

Curtain Call is certainly less angular, more curvy, than the debut.  But it does hop on and continue down the same road traveled by Long Gone (perhaps the best cut off that record).   While the themes here are often of defiance and strength, there’s also a soft, bittersweet side.

The second entry, Where Are We Going, exemplifies this.  See Gulls have always been great at incorporating a kind of heart-achy, ‘50s-‘60s vibe into a more contemporary style.  That’s perhaps realized better than ever in this song.  From the “ba da da da dom” intro whispering up from somewhere deep in the past, to the archetypal setting of driving down a lonely road.  Reflecting on the past, with the ghost of a long gone significant other riding shotgun, Fuller sings “It’s an older tune your Daddy played for you.”  This song sounds and feels like it might actually be one of those tunes.

Kidding Me shelves the tenderness, though.  Can’t a lady have a beer to herself without being harassed by her ex?!  He whispering “not-so-sweet nothings” in her ear (to more crunchy guitar and sick, funky little organ bloops), she telling him to “hush your mouth” like the petulant child he is.

I Want It also visits the “so familiar” (as Kidding Me put it) chore of trying to get rid of a guy.  Hard shots of reverb, and again that ‘50s vibe, back this one. “I wanted you to have me, ‘til I found him” / “I wanted him to have me, ‘til I found you.”  Here, it seems conflicted, like being caught in an endless cycle, obsessed again.  Despite the doubts, there are great lyrics of reclamation and control.  “Could you see that I am not / just the thought you have of me!”

I Wrote It is maybe the most musically upbeat song.  While the title and lyrics revolve around intra-band dynamics and coming out of the shadow of a boorsish frontman, they could just as easily refer to any relationship one’s seen before and is -- simply -- tired of. “You will never see what becomes of me / and you’re blowin’ it.”

You’re Here returns to the bittersweet vibe of Where Are We Going.  It’s the slowest cut, and filled with more cool echoes and reverb.  But despite feelings of reminiscence and loss, the closing statement is another of control, relegating the memory to being that, and only that, repeating “You’re here / in my song.”

Besides great songs and wonderful all-around musicianship and production, one thing that can’t be understated on Curtain Call is Fuller’s voice.  She’s honed into a finely tuned instrument; little changes in tone alone evoke different, even conflicting, emotions, sometimes within the same line.  It’s been fun to watch her stage presence blossom from the band’s first gigs… a little hesitant at the beginning, now fully in control.  Appropriate, then, that I Want It ends with a twist on the earlier line:  “You will never see what becomes of me / and I’m runnin’ it!”  She sure is.

I’m hesitant to say any song here is the “best.”  I DO like the quieter, soulful vibe of …Going and You’re Here.  But this is an extraordinarily consistent EP.  Every song is a gem.  All I really want out of it is, maybe, 2 or 3 more.  Please?

Curtain Call proves that See Gulls early splash was totally deserved.  While it may be right up my (admittedly subjective) alley of musical preference, I’d still say by any standard, it’s one of the best local releases this year.

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