I’ve always found the Night Guants’ particular sound a little hard to settle to. On the one hand, I always love it when a band takes ska and tries to do something new it; Skacore was a genre that absolutely killed it this past year. At the same time, even if you’re fairly accustomed to Ska at its kitschiest, Night Gaunts can be a little overwhelming. I remember once trying to listening to “Love, Life & The Devil,” and the whole experience felt like someone had just slipped me Ecstasy before shoving me into the Circus casino from Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas. The band’s style is just so overly-hyperactive, that it wasn’t until I heard their cover of the Dayz n Daze song “Post Party Depression” that I started to understand their rather unique approach to their genre. I think the problem I had with their previous albums is that they were taking so many different musical styles- punk, rap, ska, sing-a-long pop- and trying to compress them into a single, eclectic unit. In contrast, Conversation With Creation mostly works because it has the patience to experiment with different combinations. Sometimes it’s focused more on punk and rap, other times it’s using dub influences to create something that’s borderline pop, but the end result is definitely something unique.
The album definitely gets off to a weird start with the super sugary and psychedelic tune “Tripping In The Basement” which, while fun at first, definitely overstays its welcome by replaying a lot of the same guitar riffs and electronic loops, and isn’t really helped by just how unintelligibly fast and distorted Paul’s rapping is. But what’s strange, is that this song is followed by “Welcome To The Show”, which begins with a squeakily voiced Paul welcoming listener to the new album. With this track, the tempo’s a lot slower, which eases the listener into the band’s weirdly charming idiosyncrasies such as the electronic instruments, the reggae rhetoric, and the general noisy clutter of their whole sound. I can’t for the life of me figure out why this track didn’t come first, especially seeing as so little of “Tripping In The Basement” sticks with you, aside from the overly repetitive chorus.
It’s with “8 Dollars” that things really pick up. There’s something hypnotic about just how much is going on within the song, with separate riffs on the guitar, bass, and keyboards, along with furious drumming and Paul’s fast, high-pitched rapping. It would be overwhelming if it didn’t have a funky consistent rhythm that grounds the song to a certain level of consistency. That said, at three and a half minutes, it does run a bit too long. From there, you’ve got “Apple Tree”, which definitely takes things in more of a pop direction, placing greater emphasis on a slow, peppy chorus that you can sing-a-long too. What’s interesting, is that while the melody and singing give the song an upbeat tone, the lyrics actually skirt around issues of death and failure in an endearingly intelligent and optimistic way.
From there, we move onto “We Are Not Afraid (We’re Terrified),” which is the definite highlight of the album. The flow of the rapping weaves in with the bass and guitar perfectly, meanwhile the electronic input is reigned in, just jumping in every now and then to add some pop to the rhythm. I’d also say that the guitar playing is at its strongest here, as the other instruments know when to reign it in and give the guitar solos the attention they deserve. Combine all this with a genuinely endearing lyrics of love, and you’ve got a winner.
Unfortunately, none of the songs that follow have the same impact, as a lot of the melodies just feel too similar. The electronic opening of “Nights & Daze” sounds just like “Tripping In The Basement”, likewise “W.A.S.P.S” has almost the exact same steady guitar driven rhythm as “Sunday,” its successor. These are all good songs that share the band’s trademark endearingly hyperactive positive energy, but they’re just too homogenized to leave a mark. The one exception to this being “Coaster,” which really drags things out to a slower, swampy tempo, incorporating moody horns and dreamily swinging guitar riffs to perfectly encapsulate the feeling of stumbling home drunk on a 4 a.m.
“Blink,” the final track, is simultaneously a nice farewell of the album, and an indictment of some of the longer running problems. The song starts out entirely electronic-free, with just some sweet shredding guitar riffs, before switching to a slower tempo, then suddenly adapting an entirely new rhythm. All of these moments work well, but the song’s ever-changing pace is just hard to keep up with. What’s ironic is that even though things keep switching up, these moments of transition also feel cloned from other moments within the album. It’s as if, to keep trying to bridge the gap of the same sub-genres, the songs find themselves treading the same paths to get to the repeated destinations.
Ultimately, this is one of those albums that works best in small doses. All the songs range from pretty-good to fantastic, but only in isolation. Listening to too many is like shoving a whole handful of Skittles into your mouth at once; it all just devolves into something indefinably sickly sweet.
3.5 / 5
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