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Gun Outfit - Hard Coming Down

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Artist: Gun Outfit

Album: Hard Coming Down

Label: Post Present Medium

Review date: Apr. 1, 2013

Not long ago, I was having a conversation about White Lung, Merchandise, Milk Music, The Young, and other bands who donít exactly play hardcore, but who owe a large artistic debt to their past connections to the hardcore scene. Different from the typical route of using basement shows and the like as a stepping stone or farm system, these bands have maintained a meaningful connection to the DIY circuit that birthed them while focusing about an eye and a half on what can be done on a larger and more varied musical stage.

Toward the end of that conversation, I wondered aloud what had happened to Gun Outfit. It hasnít been that long since 2010ís Possession Sound LP, but their approach -- one theyíve been steadfastly refining and sticking by since their 2008 debut -- seems to be reaching a kind of fever pitch. Fast forward a few months, and would you look at that: Weíve got Hard Coming Down, a new Gun Outfit LP full of downtempo bumouts and Sonic Youth/Meat Puppets dance numbers. In short, itís exactly what I was hoping guitarists/songwriters Carrie Keith and Dylan Sharp still had in them.

Having left their native Olympia for the sunnier climes of Los Angeles, it would have been no surprise if Gun Outfit had brightened (or at least broadened) their approach a little, but if anything Hard Coming Down shows more maturity and restraint than Possession Sound did. Weariness, too, is a major through-line: "High as Iíve always been," sings Dylan Sharp on "Young Lord," "Itís never really meant that much to me."

Itís possibly a testament to their weariness, then, that Hard Coming Downís biggest shortcoming is the way its expressions thereof tend to run together. Sharpís slower songs, in particular, end up awfully samey, and his flat, creaky croon has character to spare but lacks the weight necessary to carry them.

To Sharpís credit, his songs "Iíve Got a Gift" and "Death Drive" serve as the energetic centerpieces of Hard Coming Down. But itís the downtempo tunes where Keith takes the reins that distinguish the album. Keithís songs recall Gun Outfitís fellow Pacific Northwesterners The Whines in the way her fragile, forceful voice seems to push the music and arrangements aside, demanding room for what sheís saying and how sheís saying it. Thereís a distinctly unrehearsed intensity behind her contributions to Hard Coming Down; her performances are sad and striking, and they seem content to exist on their own terms. As much as Gun Outfit try to reach past the conventions of 90ís revivalism, itís Keithís vocals that do the most in helping them actually grasp something.

As best I can tell, to know Gun Outfit is to like them. Theyíve quietly amassed admirers since they formed, but have seemed content to build steam slowly and steadily rather than make any kind of power play toward crossover success. Theyíre seemingly built around not attracting the kind of attention that brings negative vibes to the table. They moved to Los Angeles, but didnít let the weather talk them into going pop. They write slow, sad songs without any cheap heartstrings-yanking inanity. And theyíve stuck by a highly personal, sparse mode whose best chance at widespread marketability is tied pretty closely to being inaccurately compared to Dinosaur Jr. I donít know what kind of repeated listening Hard Coming Down will get in these parts, but I canít help but admire Gun Outfitís methods.

By Joe Bernardi

Other Reviews of Gun Outfit

Dim Light

Possession Sound

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