Broken Guru - Bent Up Halo
Post Punk I feel like bands really shouldn't put a 'sounds like' section in their bios. It always gets my expectations up or has me constantly comparing. At worst I get annoyed and think thoughts like, "Wow, what an ego on these guys, comparing themselves to X." That's sort of the case here. Broken Guru have compared themselves to the likes of The Pixies and PJ Harvey, and really nothing could be further from the truth. They really sound nothing like either of those 90s legends, also two of my favourites, so here I am, stuck battling GenX grumpiness for the rest of this review. I'll try to cope.

Aside from sounding nothing like their influences, Broken Guru have a pretty decent alternative/grunge/punk sound. An EP version of their debut album was released on Bandcamp in advance of the full album. Bent Up Halo is the title, and it is musically a lovely combination of 60s mod, punk and grungy guitars. Most of the songs are composed well and the lyrics are interesting and philosophical. Generally the group has taken the best parts of a number of indie acts from the 90s and put a fun modern twist on them.

The only other snag aside from their poor comparison of themselves to The Pixies is that the vocals are a bit lackluster. I think the idea Broken Guru were going for with vocalist Rich Guerzon, who also plays guitar and wrote all the songs, was to add another mod element to the sound. They sort of succeed there as Guerzon's voice does have a bit of a 60s mod tone to it, but it's also a bit tired and pedestrian-sounding. It's not tonally flat, it just falls flat, and it's also a little raspy. The result isn't the clean, crisp mod sound I think Guerzon and crew were aiming for. It instead ended up rather boring and pedestrian. Vocally, we're sounding less like Frank Black or PJ Harvey and more like the dude from Smashmouth.

The vocals don't take away from Broken Guru's sound too much, however. "Bent Up Halo" opens with a cheeky and fun track called 'Got to Be Mean,' which not only features the band's now characteristic and charming mod style with some other fun and unexpected elements like Guerzon's interjection of 80s metal scream-singing in the chorus. In this case, although it's clearly supposed to be ironic, Guerzon's vocals have a little passion to them and it makes for a more interesting composition. The lyrics are also kind of funny and meant to be tongue-in-cheek, while there is a slight grunge/punk tinge to the guitars and drums which works well with said lyrics.

Another highlight on "Bent Up Halo" is 'Behind the Mouth,' a really punky college radio track. In this case we also hear some longed for passion in Guerzon's vocals; he sounds a bit like Cracker's David Lowery here. Trust me when I say this is much preferable to Smashmouth. This is also some of Guerzon's best guitar work, and he comes as close as humanly possible to replicating the magic of Black Francis' guitar work from The Pixies. If the album were all songs like this, I'd give it much higher marks.

After listening to Bent Up Halo a few times in its entirety, I was able to enjoy it for what it is: a good first effort from a newer band who may not have fully found their sound yet. If I had a vote, I would recommend moving more toward a style like what is found in 'Behind the Mouth.' I think in this track the merging of all the elements the band is trying to put together is really achieved. College rock, 60s mod, punk rock, grunge, good lyrical content and clean music and production are all there on Bent Up Halo. I think it's just a matter of finding the right ratio and possibly another vocalist to compliment and bring out a bigger edge to Guerzon's voice. Also maybe not comparing themselves to two alt rock legends would help in the future. This Bent Up Halo will be available as a full album with eight more songs on April 28.
4
Brutal Resonance

Broken Guru - Bent Up Halo

7.0
"Good"
Released off label 2015
I feel like bands really shouldn't put a 'sounds like' section in their bios. It always gets my expectations up or has me constantly comparing. At worst I get annoyed and think thoughts like, "Wow, what an ego on these guys, comparing themselves to X." That's sort of the case here. Broken Guru have compared themselves to the likes of The Pixies and PJ Harvey, and really nothing could be further from the truth. They really sound nothing like either of those 90s legends, also two of my favourites, so here I am, stuck battling GenX grumpiness for the rest of this review. I'll try to cope.

Aside from sounding nothing like their influences, Broken Guru have a pretty decent alternative/grunge/punk sound. An EP version of their debut album was released on Bandcamp in advance of the full album. Bent Up Halo is the title, and it is musically a lovely combination of 60s mod, punk and grungy guitars. Most of the songs are composed well and the lyrics are interesting and philosophical. Generally the group has taken the best parts of a number of indie acts from the 90s and put a fun modern twist on them.

The only other snag aside from their poor comparison of themselves to The Pixies is that the vocals are a bit lackluster. I think the idea Broken Guru were going for with vocalist Rich Guerzon, who also plays guitar and wrote all the songs, was to add another mod element to the sound. They sort of succeed there as Guerzon's voice does have a bit of a 60s mod tone to it, but it's also a bit tired and pedestrian-sounding. It's not tonally flat, it just falls flat, and it's also a little raspy. The result isn't the clean, crisp mod sound I think Guerzon and crew were aiming for. It instead ended up rather boring and pedestrian. Vocally, we're sounding less like Frank Black or PJ Harvey and more like the dude from Smashmouth.

The vocals don't take away from Broken Guru's sound too much, however. "Bent Up Halo" opens with a cheeky and fun track called 'Got to Be Mean,' which not only features the band's now characteristic and charming mod style with some other fun and unexpected elements like Guerzon's interjection of 80s metal scream-singing in the chorus. In this case, although it's clearly supposed to be ironic, Guerzon's vocals have a little passion to them and it makes for a more interesting composition. The lyrics are also kind of funny and meant to be tongue-in-cheek, while there is a slight grunge/punk tinge to the guitars and drums which works well with said lyrics.

Another highlight on "Bent Up Halo" is 'Behind the Mouth,' a really punky college radio track. In this case we also hear some longed for passion in Guerzon's vocals; he sounds a bit like Cracker's David Lowery here. Trust me when I say this is much preferable to Smashmouth. This is also some of Guerzon's best guitar work, and he comes as close as humanly possible to replicating the magic of Black Francis' guitar work from The Pixies. If the album were all songs like this, I'd give it much higher marks.

After listening to Bent Up Halo a few times in its entirety, I was able to enjoy it for what it is: a good first effort from a newer band who may not have fully found their sound yet. If I had a vote, I would recommend moving more toward a style like what is found in 'Behind the Mouth.' I think in this track the merging of all the elements the band is trying to put together is really achieved. College rock, 60s mod, punk rock, grunge, good lyrical content and clean music and production are all there on Bent Up Halo. I think it's just a matter of finding the right ratio and possibly another vocalist to compliment and bring out a bigger edge to Guerzon's voice. Also maybe not comparing themselves to two alt rock legends would help in the future. This Bent Up Halo will be available as a full album with eight more songs on April 28. Apr 10 2015

Off label

Official release released by the artist themselves without the backing of a label.

Layla Marino

info@brutalresonance.com
Writer and contributor on Brutal Resonance

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