With Gozer Goodspeed's new Impossible to Pick Up EP out today, the Defective Inspector fired up his headphones and listened to the entire Goodspeed back catalogue...
Okay so I am no musician, I can barely play the spoons let alone an actual instrument. But occasionally I get struck by a rhythm stick and told to listen to some music and do as I am told. While I continue to question if writing the word “rhythm” on a curtain rail discounts the abuse, I would still be willing listen to Gozer Goodspeed’s entire studio discography. Heck I even get the brand-new EP Impossible to Pick Up.
Claiming to be gifted a guitar by the weather gods Gozer Goodspeed sits in a hard to define genre. At first you’d be comfortable to say acoustic or indie but then suddenly I’d hear something like small hand drum, piano or synth keyboard. While Gozer Goodspeed seems to be the frontman of the band he seems to recruit Josiah Manning in all his albums to be some sort of supporting artist. As a general rule if you hear guitar and vocals you’re probably hearing Gozer Goodspeed, and a tasty sound it is indeed, but the choice to throw in something a little different from time to time kept the EPs from being too pub musician.
Now I know AlbieMedia have covered his work, (find Steve's reviews of the first 2 EPs here and here), so I am going to touch on those very briefly. Honestly I agree with a lot Steve said in his review, but I also wanted to get a feel for Gozer Goodspeed as a whole and more than just 4 tracks in one EP. Looking back that is important but I’ll explain why later.
I grabbed the first EP Rattlebone Colour, and it felt like someone’s first EP. By that I mean the total number of instruments were much more limited than the other two EPs. I thought of it as an introduction to Gozer Goodspeed and that would be accurate. Bluesy/Country/Jazzy acoustic guitar, slightly jaded but surprisingly soft vocals, lyrics placed firmly in stories. I can imagine a lot of this EP being favourite when touring in the early days in small venues across Plymouth. It is an honest, upfront and (to quote Steve) tickle worthy collection of songs.
I then go onto The Barrell Headlong Into The Night. Apart from being a remarkably long name I felt there was little room for improvement, I loved every track. The introduction of a few more instruments. Percussions and even the tambourine allowed Gozer Goodspeed to expand into a full-sized band and complimented his talent well. The style of the EP got grittier and more bayou really putting the lyrics of down trodden wayward folk into focus. Granted there was an unusual addition of the mandolin, but I like the mandolin. Throwing a curve ball in a second EP felt right, it gives Gozer Goodspeed room to show off and grow.
We then come to the newest EP, Impossible To Pick Up. Experimental would be the word I’d use here, while still retaining the acoustic charm I came to love from the first two EPs. The addition of more mandolin, piano and synth keys pushed the boundaries of what I expected from a predominately folk/blues style. It took me a few minutes to adjust my expectations but once I sat down with the songs for a while, I appreciated them much more than I thought I would.
Impossible to Pick Up should have been a foreshadowing, with an almost echoey feel about it the song was destined to be a little different. I spent about 10 minutes trying to work out exactly how this was achieved but Gozer decided to flip my head by invoking a glissando effect during what I think is a bongo solo. It sounds insane, but it was actually rather good! I did warn you it was experimental.
Amusingly the next title, Keep Your Expectations Low, kept my expectations rather high. This felt much closer to the previous styles and kept the envelope un-pushed. A true driving tune with a catchy chorus and complimentary keyboard has been placed firmly on my work long drive playlist, considering I regularly drive from Bristol to Portsmouth that’s a compliment!
Survivor by Habit returns to the bayou allowing his vocals to resonate effectively throughout the track. The chords are honest, the tune is rhythmically blessed and the style is the most trusted for Gozer so far.
Then… The Key Broke Off Clean In the Lock. This excessively named title was actually my favourite despite being the most experimental. We’ve got piano, we’ve got synth, we’ve got mellow melody and a never-ending wave of calmness. It was like being lifted off my chair and being drifted through space in a musical balloon. Perhaps it’s because I am a sucker for pianos but this was unquestionably my favourite track.
So I turned back, looked at the Gozer timeline, asked myself one question… Would I keep listening to Gozer Goodspeed? It was a resounding and resonating yes. Each EP has its own style and they seem to work despite being fairly different. While the guitar and vocals remain front and centre throughout the tweaks and changes are welcomed in every song. My only qualm with his work is how long the damn titles are, I’ve never been so afraid of typos when writing a review since I was 15 and I reviewed SOAD’s I-E-A-I-A-I-O.
Jokes aside I genuinely enjoy Gozer Goodspeed and I cannot wait to see what direction he takes in the future. He is an evolving force refusing to stay exactly the same and I love him for that.
Images - Gozer Goodspeed