Review - Gozer Goodspeed

With the album out soon, and available to pre-order now on Bandcamp thanks to Lights & Lines record label, Susan Omand got an early listen to Escape Hatch Fever by Gozer Goodspeed ...

The blurb from the record company, the wonderful Lights & Lines, headlined the album Escape Hatch Fever by Gozer Goodspeed as “blues, but not as you know it” and, oh heck, were they right about that. I thought I knew Mr Goodspeed’s music style, and I loved it as it was. I also thought I had deduced the direction of evolution that his style would take and I was happy, oh so happy, to sit in that comfort zone of my favourite bluesy folk rock sound. With that in mind, I settled to listen to the album while I was doing something else.

Dear reader, that “something else” I was going to do never even got started. This album is phenomenal! It has been on almost constant repeat for the last week and I’m still finding new things to get excited about. Let’s go track by track, ten songs in all:

The album opens with a short intro called Bruised Bones and an Ego that is about as Doorsy as you can get without Jim Morrison – it’s dark, it’s hippy and it’s twisted in a very good way. That guitar sound is goosebump-inducing.

What if Everything Goes Right – from the darkness into the light and there’s full on 70s disco-funk in the intro to this one. The song is a definite chairbop that has overtones of REM about it in that the lyrics are a lot bleaker than the music suggests. The sludginess of the guitar in the chorus is brilliant and that guitar maestrism [it’s a word – Ed] continues with the sublime solo mid-track.

Escape Hatch Fever – this is the title track and one of the singles off the album, and rightly so. There’s a change of pace again from the previous rocky/funky feeling; this is much more bluesy and laid back. I’ve written about the single in more detail already - - so suffice here to say, it’s a great example of how much Goodspeed’s work has evolved.

Sense in the Age of Excess – never mind Excess, it’s a very INXS sound this time with that guitar. The lyrics are a lot more to the fore in this one too as the orchestration is a lot less layered here than previously, letting each individual part stand out. It’s an absolute benefit here, making the chorus incredibly singable and the repeated riffs really stick in your head.

Vagus Nerve – Now, don’t take this the wrong way, Mr Goodspeed, as this is very nearly my favourite song on the album, but OH WOW does it remind me of Oasis’ Don’t Look Back in Anger with that intro. I’m not the world’s biggest [or even mediocrest – Ed] fan of Oasis, so the fact that I loved this track so much says a LOT for Gozer Goodspeed’s talent. That talent is absolutely realised here, with the stunning heavy guitar in the middle a testament to his versatility.

Full Tilt Revival – It’s good to hear this track in the context of the full album. I talked about it when it was the first single showcased in last year’s Lights & Lines Summer Singles [see Susan’s comments on some of the singles here – Ed] and I do think it has grown on me a lot. It’s bluesy, festivally and so laid back it’s almost horizontal. The remix for the album is perfect, the echo on the harmonies and the wooziness of the guitar bends imply more than a flagon of festival cider.

You Alone Choose the Table – Talking of laid back… *contented sigh* this track has such a gorgeous intro. The guitar is on point and very melodic, the keys and the percussion lull you, just shut your eyes and let this one wash over you a la Albatross.

Scattershot Comeback King – my first notes on this said, “what the hell is going on with that intro?” I want to now expand on that because, after several listens, I now know why it’s like that. Because this isn’t blues, it’s jazz and it’s bloody good jazz. The complexity of the syncopated percussion, the almost ska-like bass, the wandering of the lead guitar - this track is by turns stripped back and intricately layered. It’s stunning. But then there’s …

The Last Blood Moon of the Year – Remember I said that Vagus Nerve was “very nearly” my favourite track on the album? Well, it was… until I heard this. Oh. My. God. This is INCREDIBLE. The minor riff, the almost monotonic (in a very very good way) delivery of the lyrics. It’s dark, it’s folky, it’s instinctual. It hits the solar plexus before it hits the brain. It’s almost pagan. It ticks all the boxes for me and then conjures up more boxes and ticks them too. This. This is the song that, if someone asked me “What is Gozer Goodspeed about?” I would play them. It sums up everything I love about his artistry.

The album rounds out with a short Reprise that, to be honest, for me, blunts the elation of the previous track but that’s just because Last Blood Moon is so SO stunning that it deserves to be the song that lives long in the memory once you finish listening.

Talking of listening to Escape Hatch Fever, something that I love about this album is that it’s a complete “thing”. What I mean is that the track order has been very well considered and carefully curated to make the most of contrasts as well as continuations – a tiny, neat thing I found myself noticing were lyrics in some songs that reference other song titles on the album. It all ties together beautifully. If this is the direction that Gozer Goodspeed is taking with his music evolution, I am very excited. Very excited indeed.

Escape Hatch Fever, the album from Gozer Goodspeed, is available everywhere from 14th April 2023. CDs and Downloads also available from Bandcamp

Image - Lights & Lines

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