2. Niki Heartbreaker
3. Paper Heart
5. Black Umbrella
6. Carry On
7. Rush *Hidden Bonus Track*
Before anything is said in analysis, let me make it clear that I speak with a considerably substantial bias towards the band. There are few bands I have seen as often and yet enjoyed every single show. The amount of dedication put into every performance is staggering and they have always been very good to their fans. It seems almost cruel that this should be the band subjected to the tumult of having to change guitarists twice in less than a year. But, Job-like, they trudged on and somehow the song(s) remained the same. By this I mean that the music is still awesome and every show is still a party, and that indicates just how sure the Gunns are of what
But, this is not a piece about Shotgun Politics the live band, but the recording outfit. This lineup still has Niall in it, and there’s a certain spark that familiarity brings that you can’t rehearse. That’s why Glow sounds definitively like the same band that did Broadcast (you don’t need to read the sheet), only better. For, you see, they have gotten better at committing songs to record, be it the better production or better executed vocals. Their instrumentation and compositions (especially the hooks) have long been impressive, achieving that “simple, not simplistic” formulation of good rock songs. The singing has been improved just enough so that it’s tuneful but not overly melodic (the harmonies between Timmy and Niall in particular are vastly improved since Broadcast). No one overplays, and yet the music is hard-hitting and dynamic in gale-force like proportions, with some winds of spontaneity to accompany it. They seem to always have been comfortable writing in a layered manner within the typical structure of rock songs, and this hasn’t changed. That’s a lot of fine lines they’ve successfully walked with this CD – and it’s a really fun listen precisely because it’s been done without reckless caution.
Their penchant for writing grand, rousing anthems has taken a step forward here with them being better crafted and more varied, while still maintaining the pummelling hook-ery that makes the songs so catchy. 852 is a fiercely pro-HK song, while Glow is Buddhist-like in its advocacy of living in the present and acceptance of life. On the other hand, there are also personal vignettes like Niki Heartbreaker, about someone who sounds suspiciously like the character in Mama’s Girl from Broadcast, and Paper Heart, an advisory to someone telling them to just let go. Overall, they sound something like pre-2006 Queens of the Stone Age. Black Umbrella, though immensely fun, is a bit of a throwaway, middling sort of song, lyrically speaking, with a more generic pop-rock feel (though it is clever to have written a song using around 4 phrases).
The only problem is that the inherent simplicity of the music and ideas makes the lyrical quality of the verses hit-or-miss. This is even more noticeable because the choruses are consistently very good. The Foo Fighters and Smashing Pumpkins have had similar troubles, so this is not about songwriting prowess; merely its engineering. The metering can be quite choppy, like on Niki…, and the lines can be trite and platitudinous, especially in songs making larger points. Perhaps in these cases they ought to just slow it down and go a bit mellower on the feel behind the lyrics, because Carry On executes this excellently. A beautifully crafted song, it solves the problem of the “larger message” by personalising the narrative and easing up its intensity. The choral singers really help here, and the song rises towards the end and makes the spirit really soar. There’s also a cool hidden track that’s typical of SP – a very clever move, since it’s an older song, and a bit of a variation on their own theme and could have made the CD a bit repetitive. But, since it’s not, it becomes another great thing to discover on the CD.
This CD is a hella fun listen, and deceptively well-crafted. Listen closely to the parts after the last line sung of every song and you’ll hear some truly awesome guitar-work – equal parts classic-most rock and late 70s metal. Or, if you just wanna get your heart-rate going, forget about my convoluted dissection and just bloody listen to the songs. The Gunns have a joy in their music that is clearly audible – and it’s infectious.
— Shashwati Kala