GUAPO — Towers Open Fire (review)

GUAPO — Towers Open Fire album cover Album · 1997 · Avant-garde Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
1.5/5 ·
Conor Fynes
'Towers Open Fire' - Guapo (3/10)

The 90's in rock music represented a bitter rebellion against the overproduced glitz of the decade prior. Although few bands would take the dissonance and fuzz as far as Guapo, it was not unprecedented for an artist to give their music a darker atmosphere. In the case of Guapo's experimental rock debut 'Towers Open Fire', the best word to describe it may be 'jarring'. Bringing in a bevy of sounds from every corner of the ugly spectrum, this is a difficult and inaccessible listen. That does not mean however, that there is much depth to the sound. Although Guapo's ambition to hurt their listeners' ears is admirable, with each listen to 'Towers Open Fire', the failed mixture of noise, hardcore punk, and jazz fusion only gets more irritating to listen to.

Guapo's sound may be compared to 90's era King Crimson, without the technical proficiency. They most reminded me of the Japanese noise rock act Zeni Geva, however scarce of KK Null's samurai yell and distinctive charm. For a three piece, Guapo can certainly get a lot of sounds going at once. Sadly, none of them are particularly well done, and many are downright unpleasant to listen to. Matt Thompson's vocals are not so much 'singing' as what I might liken to the sound of a drunk British teenager yelling at authority figures. The bass sparks an interesting thought or two- an eerie passage on 'Ceasefire Ends' illustrates this- but it's more than usually flooded over by guitars and waves of sharp electronic noise. Although 'Towers Open Fire' is unsuccessful as an album overall, many of the guitar ideas are quite interesting. Despite being executed in a rough, untuned, punk-like style, there are jazz fusion chords at work. It makes for a surprising dichotomy.

Had Guapo simply been composed of a bass, guitar, and uncoordinated drums, I would dismiss the work as amateurish and mediocre, but not 'bad'. Where 'Towers Open Fire' really goes wrong is with the electronic 'ambiance'. Dissonance has alot of untapped potential for emotional impact and power, but the noise here evokes only a dull pain inside my skull that some people like to call a headache. Not only that, but the ideas come together in such an incoherent way; although Guapo may repeat ideas, they're never concise enough to make for memorable songwriting, and never drawn out enough to create a sense of atmosphere. In short, 'Towers Open Fire' has ambition, but it falls short on virtually every front. To many people, this will be unlistenable, but even for someone open- minded enough to confront the ugly textures and freeform structure, it is difficult to recognize any depth underneath the shell. I won't say that Guapo's debut is utterly terrible, but for the effort a listener will have to put into this album, there is very little payoff.
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