The release of Gauge’s I is a fan’s tribute to one of his favorite underheard bands. It’s a collection of previously released, out-of-print music by an early ‘90s band that is no more, but whose members went on to play in a bunch of other bands, like Radio Flyer, The Sky Corvair, Joan of Arc and Traluma. This CD was put together by Ken Shipley of Tree Records, the Gauge fan in question, and includes 23 tracks taken from the band’s demo cassette, first LP, and three 7” records. Shipley writes glowingly of them in the liner notes. He writes that they “in a sense…redefined music in the Midwest” and that they “had a passion that was unparalleled in its day and an explosive chemistry that made you move with them.”
Gauge play punk rock with a dash of pop melody and a dose of hardcore edge. They have an infectious energy that makes them sound like a bunch of guys having a great time playing together. Taken a few songs at a time, Gauge’s music is powerful and fun, with rolling bass and sharp guitars right in sync with each other and a rough vocalist singing enigmatic lyrics with force. But as the CD progresses it sounds more and more the same, and it gets harder for me to resist using the skip and stop buttons.
My biggest problem with this collection is also one of the things I find endearing about it: that it sounds so familiar. Gauge could be a ton of bands that I’ve heard in passing over the years. Four music fans get together and write a bunch of songs that rock hard but aren’t especially original. I can imagine that Gauge live would be a blast, but they can’t carry over 70 minutes of listening time for me. After about a half hour I just keep thinking about how much the singer sounds like he’s trying to sing like Guy Picciotto from Fugazi, or how much one song sounds like the one that came before.
Yet it’s obvious Gauge had a lot of heart, and I can understand both why fans would like them and why those same fans would be bowled over by this CD. This is a really comprehensive collection, complete with a band timeline in the liner notes, with anecdotes about interesting or odd points in the band’s history. The fact that Gauge sound like a bunch of regular guys playing music they like makes me appreciate the loving, detailed collection of this material on CD. There are so many bands around nowadays and they will all one day split. In a perfect world every underheard band would have a fan with the ability and wherewithal it takes to get their music out to the masses.