Dream All Over
A1. “Gotta Wanna” 3.32
A2. “Legends of My Own” 2.23
A3. “Matters to a Head” 3.09
A4. “Compromise” 3.06
A5. “Angelino” 4.53
A6. “Came to Be” 2.32
B1. “Scorpios Vegas” 3.32
B2. “Pass On Through” 2.49
B3. “In Orbit” 3.07
B4. “Blue Hour” 3.35
B5. “Worldly Way” 3.42
B6. “Only Ever Over” 3.59
On their most refined and ruefully elegant album, Gun Outfit perfect their incandescent sonic signature: a dusky, canyon-cult blues fueled by melodic dual-guitar weaving and seductive male/female incantations at zero hour. It’s the nocturnal sound of desert-damaged L.A. burnout, a soured American surrealism in rock and roll creole: white line fever, paint fume flashbacks, a stranger wading out alone into the black surf.
“Inflammable desires dampened by day under the cold water of consciousness are ignited that night by the libertarian matches of sleep, and burst forth in showers of shimmering incandescence. These imaginary displays provide a temporary relief.”
– Kenneth Anger, Fireworks
Opening credits. One weekend in 1947, teenaged filmmaker, music video forefather, fledgling occultist, and eventual Mick Jagger collaborator Kenneth Anger shoots a short film of homoerotic surrealism called Fireworks in his parents’ empty house in Beverly Hills. The stated intention is to capture “the explosive pyrotechnics of a dream,” and it does so with ghostly brutality, distilling a potent, symbolically charged amalgam of desire, dread, violence, and the tentative trappings of magick that would occupy Anger (an Aleister Crowley acolyte) in later years.
Almost seventy years later, Dream All Over, the fourth full-length album by the cinematically-minded Los Angeles rock and roll band Gun Outfit—and their first with Paradise of Bachelors—describes a comparable flickering and dimming of dreams, that moment when the lights go up, and the “temporary relief” of sleep’s “imaginary displays” dissolves into stark, deadening lucidity. The songs are suffused with a slyly cynical hangover/hangman’s humor that evokes, from the perspective of “a stranger / getting stranger still,” L.A.’s disorienting simulacrum kingdom of crawling pictures: “I looked familiar in a foreign land / I couldn’t speak, but I could understand / From another life I rode / Into a desert of my own / And when I put my blanket down / I’m going to dream all over” (“Legends of My Own”).
The dangerous California obliquely mapped by Gun Outfit herein bears little resemblance to Tinseltown fantasies, except insofar as the incantatory dialogues of singers Carrie Keith (guitar, vocals, slide) and Dylan Sharp (guitar, vocals, banjo, balalaika) throw off a muted, wary carnal heat, the lingering afterimage of spent desire. (“Isn’t enchantment what we like?” asks the song “In Orbit,” dubiously.) Instead the inscape drawn through Dream All Over navigates the dark side of the moon—the Hollywood Babylon L.A. of Kenneth Anger and David Lynch, Father Yod and Charlie Manson, muscle cars and drought—as reflected upon a pair of road-weary human hearts. As Dylan sings in “Only Ever Over,” “Out here on the West coast where the ocean eats the sun / We’ve known for a long time the end’s already come.”
The band members, all of whom have made or worked on their own and others’ low-budget, homebrew art films in various capacities, draw from the syntax and systems of cinema, in two senses: the songs invoke imagistic memories and unfold like dreams unremembered upon waking, but they also rely on staunchly collaborative team processes. The unmistakable rhythm section of Daniel Swire (drums, percussion) and Adam Payne (bass, also of Residual Echoes) fuel Dylan and Carrie’s spacious, enmeshed guitar work with a corporeal throb, and all decisions are democratically decided. Friend and mentor Henry Barnes (Amps for Christ/Man Is the Bastard) plays three different homemade electric sitars on the record. Facundo Bermudez (Ty Segall, No Age) engineered and co-produced.
Although reared in the realm of hardcore punk aesthetics, these days Gun Outfit bears a greater sonic and songwriterly kinship to the likes of Lee Hazlewood or Blaze Foley than to anything released in the heyday of the SST label. But there is an unspoken understanding throughout their recordings, but pointedly so on Dream All Over, that punk rock is folk music, certainly as much as honky-tonk belongs to the American folk tradition. But the band somehow communicates this kinship by barely acknowledging the formal tropes of either genre. It’s a compellingly elusive aesthetic strategy articulated in the withering “Gotta Wanna”: “I wanna squirm around / I’m a wild primate / Can’t never make no art / When my clothing chafes.”
There are many such moments on Dream All Over, deflating lyrical reversals that frame these plainspoken riddles with devastating regret and resignation, in the manner of all great country songs. The existential beach-blanket bingo ritual of “Came to Be” (“futility,” we learn, is “the reason for the partying”) ends with a scathingly dismissive indictment: “And that’s what I know of Paradise.” “Worldly Way” finishes with a desolate aphorism: “Oh world, what knowledge do you teach? / To grow a tail and chase it / Or sit awhile in grief.” The album begins with a cautious, nodding admission of our powerlessness to resist the dominion “Of the often noticed clock / And its fascist frame.” But it ends with a glimmer of prehistoric hope, a “temporary relief”: “So cup a little coal / Try to make it glow / We’re going to have a fire before we go.” End credits.
- RIYL Sonic Youth, Meat Puppets, Steve Gunn, Lee Hazlewood, Blaze Foley, Amps for Christ, Ty Segall, desert noir
- Featuring Henry Barnes (Amps for Christ/Man Is the Bastard); engineered and co-produced by Facundo Bermudez (Ty Segall, No Age.)
- Available on virgin vinyl as an LP, with heavy-duty reverse board matte jacket, as well as on gatefold matte CD and digital formats.
- Vinyl edition includes digital download coupon.
8.1 Dream All Over recalls the most crucial lesson of all underground rock music: become your own sound, and create a universe for it to exist in… [It’s] Gun Outfit’s most consistent record by some margin. With its echoing grooves, drifting landscapes, and new textures—bits of bluegrass banjo, homemade electric sitars—Dream All Over has the blue-sky sensibility of a soul-searching road trip. Levitating hooks and an emotional heaviness co-exist in their impressionistic songs, like the light-and-dark glow of a perpetual magic hour.
– Jenn Pelly, Pitchfork
Dreamers wielding slide guitars. The band’s songs, particularly on its 2015 album Dream All Over, commemorate a forgotten, more foreboding side of California, hidden just beneath the traditions of glamour and gumshoe noir.
– The New York Times
This band has a punk aesthetic deep at the center and, especially now, slow and drifting, double-guitar desert-rock psychedelia at the surface. Dream All Over is the latest installment in the output of a band that’s remained open-ended, slow and steady.
– Ben Ratliff, The New York Times
NPR Music’s Favorite Songs of 2015: “Gotta Wanna.” This L.A. bummer-punk band rides the sweet spot between choogle and apache beat for three and a half zenned-out minutes.
– Otis Hart, NPR Music
As the Olympia punks in Gun Outfit have stretched out and let their hair down, the band’s vibe has followed suit, getting looser with each record. Recorded just before the duo’s move to L.A., Dream All Over is a dusty piece of good-time rock ‘n’ roll that just wants to hit the open road.
– Lars Gotrich, NPR Music
8/10. Peyote for the ears… Expansive, arid, and dusty. Darkness and trippiness coexist with the West Coast sun. Key is that cinematic, slight dreamy quality combined with the desert sun. Lo-fi and understated, the twin vocals of Dylan Sharp and Carrie Keith are also strong throughout.
– Marcus O’Dair, Uncut
It’s postmodern malaise re-imagined as simple country dream poetry, languid and crawling with ennui. Dylan Sharp salutes his namesake with figure eight phrasing, and Carrie Keith’s dreamcatcher alto is always just around the corner, blowing on the coals of the chorus till they catch fire. Stoic and weird as ever.
– Caitlin White, Stereogum
Exquisite, shambolic songs. Dream All Over is full of droning ragas, sunburned country twang, paisley underground vibes, electric folk rock, and West Coast mysticism—its punkness is ideological. They’re as capable of drifting up into space as descending into the canyons, cosmic like a midnight drive.
– Jason Woodbury, FLOOD Magazine
Harmony-rich, slow-building, guitar-rock glory. It’s easy to get psychically lost in these songs: some are jaunty, some are more menacing, but they’re all perfectly designed for some long, Vanishing Point-esque car ride to nowhere along a clay-colored, distinctly American stretch of highway.
– Patrick McDermott, The Fader
Supported by two tessellating guitars and a rhythm section that seems stuck in an infinite, italicized shuffle, [“Gotta Wanna”] is a classic get-free anthem, sourced from the great, open American tradition that birthed the Grateful Dead and, more recently, Brightblack Morning Light or even Kurt Vile. “I wanna squirm around/ I’m a wild primate,” sings Sharp, his voice cresting at the end of that line, as though a smile has suddenly crossed his lips. That’s the at-large feeling of this hymn for liberation, too, a song so simple but subtle you want to get lost inside of it, to turn it up on a road trip that lasts for weeks. Or you can just build a one-song playlist loaded only with “Gotta Wanna”, and let it cycle forever as summer slowly relents to fall.
– Grayson Currin Haver, Pitchfork
The latest outing from Gun Outfit crystallizes from nothingness like a Yo La Tengo song slowly surfacing out of primordial ooze. Lazily lilting guitar lines slowly meander into recognizable shapes, drums putter and clatter until they lock into a kraut-lite groove, and intersecting vocals dance around the slowly forming structures as if they’re seeking out the sticky melody they’ll eventually settle on. This is music of becoming, indie rock that sounds more like the process of making a pop song than a pop song itself.
– Colin Joyce, SPIN
This release is a whole barrel of lovely. If you consider the Jim O’Rourke years to be Wilco’s greatest era, then a) you’d be right, and b) Dream All Over could be right up your dusty street. Sharing vocals with Carrie Keith, Dylan Sharp has a drawl to die for, especially when he’s burring out lines about “trying to buy some time to fuck around”. Most of Dream All Over’s cuts are under four minutes long but they feel lengthier, in a good way, twisting and writhing around, with the guitars, sitars and other bits and pieces of stringed wooden apparatus weaving in and out of one another like a rustic Sonic Youth with one ear to India, as East meets Wild West.
– JR Moores, The Quietus
Cinematic… a groove so sexy it’s doubly devastating. This expansive collection tunes plays like a post-party, pre-hangover wander under a freeway.
– Mariana Timony, Noisey
A devotion to disharmony and an amused understanding of an absurd world exemplify just how punk Gun Outfit is to their core. A perfect blend of grace and unrest… elegant songs both for easy listening and for deep introspection, depending on what you’re in the mood for.
– Ava Myint, Impose Magazine
A tradition-warping band. Draws strangely close to unpuzzling mellow rock while still remaining puzzling.
– Ben Ratliff, New York Times
As warmly elegiac as any late-summer sunset.
– Under the Radar
“Gotta Wanna,” our first taste of the L.A.-via-Olympia outfit’s gorgeous new full-length, is a dusty outlaw anthem, featuring Carrie Keith and co-vocalist Dylan Sharp trading off narration over desert-hued guitar tangles. Listen close enough and you can almost hear the buzzing of neon bulbs in some low-lit Old Hollywood dive.
– The Fader
– James Rettig, Stereogum
A band whose currency is the yawning soundscapes of the expansive American West.
– Ad Hoc
This is hardcore for the nature scene.
– Recommended Listen
The casual profundity in [their] existential musings hits hard. Gun Outfit is a group incapable of making bad record. In a time when it’s hard to tell what’s a band and what’s a brand, it’s a long-game approach.
– Seattle Times
The way the rhythms spread out across the cymbals and the liquid guitars stream sounds downy and welcoming. I keep listening to it, again and again.
– Autumn Roses
Wonderfully evocative, channeling a line of road-worn blues that exudes Zen-like calm and collectedness. Sublimely textured guitars spin off one another into an ether of faded memory, next to skeletal patches of warm, crawling psychedelia. One of the most overlooked guitar bands going.
– Jenn Pelly, Pitchfork
Dylan Sharp is starting to remind me more and more of Lee Hazlewood as both a singer and writer, and Carrie Keith’s voice has bent into something between Stevie Nicks and Courtney Love, rasping with beautiful, weatherbeaten soul.
– Doug Mosurock, Dusted