The career of Reykjavik beat combo Gus Gus has been a restless one, but richly rewarding for those who’ve tracked them from the outset.
Inevitably receiving comparisons with compatriots The Sugarcubes, the band have seen their membership and record labels change like the seasons, yet that seems not to have disrupted their ability to make good danceable music.
The emphasis remains on making people dance, while ensuring their songwriting craft is simultaneously applied. The vocal club tracks here all have sing-along potential, but of rather more substance than the standard ‘are you ready to party’ vibe. And just to keep the balance finely tuned, the band add a few instrumentals to keep their feet on the dancefloor.
Vocalist Earth lifts this record from her first appearance. Her sultry, slightly smoky delivery is made for soundtracking after-hours hedonism. Need In Me is classic house in an early 1990s style, not retro for the sake of being fashionable but updated with electro flavouring.
Similarly riff powered, Hold You is more thrilling still, a full song delivered before a euphoric keyboard riff ghosts in to steal the glory. Sweetsmoke is Earth’s tour de force though, the vocal come-on at the start matched by a high register delivery that misses the highest notes but still works.
Throughout the house music standard is high, concentrating on the late 1980s style borne from Manchester, where riffs really could take you higher and piano breakdowns were the key for much emoting – often fuelled by other substances, of course, but never emotionally dry.
Gus Gus build on that, the songs and lyrics made of strong stuff so that even repeated listening doesn’t fully plumb their depths. The album goes on a bit too long though, thanks chiefly to the instrumental closing track Mallflowers, a strong club cut but sounding like a bit of an afterthought here.
That said, it doesn’t take away from what is a superbly vital and energizing album, aimed squarely at the head as well as the feet – and hitting both of its targets handsomely.