EP Review: Guerilla Toss’ ‘What Would the Odd Do?’

Jem Aswad

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As someone who grew up with the notion that a band’s name had to be something cool, like Led Zeppelin, the Fall or Guided by Voices, I’ll confess that my persistent misreading of this Boston-spawned/New York-based band’s name as Guerilla Toes may have delayed me from rating them as the innovative outfit they really are. And although the prolific group’s releases over the past few years have been increasingly intriguing, it all truly comes together on this 20-minute EP.

Originally formed at the New England Conservatory of Music, Guerilla Toss’ approach is seemingly as deeply thought-through as it is unhinged: Basically, it’s rock music informed by electronics and technology, with a dizzying array of stated influences ranging from post-punk acts (the Slits) and post-funk (ESG, Grace Jones) to krautrock and Todd Rundgren. The group combines pulsating electronic rhythms, fierce guitars and whizzing analog synthesizers with singer Kassie Carlson’s wildly original melodies and vocals — and then melds it all into mind-melting mixes that buzz around the listener’s head like a cloud of insects (actually, the EP’s cover artwork represents the band’s sound pretty well).

While you’d never really know it upon listening, the lyrics on the album (which are often obscured by the aforementioned mixes) address Carlson’s near-fatal experience with an opiate addiction that required open heart surgery. “In this way, I hope to help other people who are struggling, and anything else that is a result of a corroded society that has left so many people in the dust — especially women,” she writes in the band’s press materials.

Considering that backstory, the EP’s songs are deceptively boisterous and exuberant, retaining the postpunk bounce of their previous album, “Twisted Crystal,” but twisting it into even wilder shapes — the EP’s closing track, “Land Where Money’s Nightmare Lives,” is described as “an anthemic punk rock homage to 90’s trip-hop.” Which, at the end of the day, is about as accurate a description of this monumentally unpredictable band’s sound as any.

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