Gooch is a wonderfully sloppy and vulgar debut album.
Video Beast’s Gooch is a wonderfully sloppy and vulgar debut album. The trio feel like they could fall apart at any moment, especially with their herky-jerky songwriting that finds them shifting tempos and styles multiple times within most songs. The band is held together by drummer Dave Weinstein’s complete command of his instrument, guiding singer/guitarist Fabian Jimenez and bassist Matt Gevaza through every change with confidence.
It helps that Jimenez has an ear for melody, be it a vocal line or guitar riff. With a vocalist that focused on shouting or screaming, Gooch would be a much tougher listen. Jimenez’s singing voice is no great shakes, tending toward the nasal (and intentionally exaggerating that nasal tone at times) but he sings with passion and he keeps his melodies right in his limited vocal range. By keeping the focus mostly on those catchy bits, it makes Video Beast’s tendencies towards post-punk influenced weirdness much more palatable.
“Chimp Strength” is an interesting choice for the band’s first single. With lyrics seemingly about a young couple that doesn’t want to wait for sex and where the woman is the aggressor, the band presents the song as a driving punk romp. For all the praise I just gave the band about their reliance on melody, “Chimp Strength” operates on energy more than anything else. The de facto chorus, “She loves you / Yeah yeah / She loves you / Yeah yeah” only gets melodic when Weinstein’s “ooh”ing backing vocals come in to soften things up a bit. The song also contains a very effective bridge with more wordless “Ooh”s while the band backs off before launching into a guitar solo featuring a very unusual tone. And then it’s right back to the driving punk.
Gooch’s opening track “Hombre” is more in Video Beast’s wheelhouse. There is a catchy guitar/bass riff under the verses, and in lieu of a traditional chorus, the center section features a very melodic sing along. Then the song fades away into acoustic guitar strumming for a kind of coda, undercut by the intentionally silly inclusion of a twanging jaw harp. “Teenscreams” has the album’s hookiest guitar line running through the verses, and an easy to sing chorus where Jimenez repeats, “Faith / Will never get you nowhere”. It is probably the record’s most straightforward song; it’s a straight-ahead, mid-tempo pop-punk song.
On the other end of the spectrum is the song “Buzzcuca”, which begins with a slow, heavy, buzzing bassline and a creepy guitar riff before launching into a hardcore-style break that lasts for about 30 seconds before sliding back into the opening riff. The song goes back and forth between these two extremes several times before settling back into the original riff, which at this point has been repeated ad nauseam. And then the band acknowledges and punctures this by stopping the song right in the middle of one of those riffs.
The album finishes on an unusual note. “Tropical Fantasy” is a laid-back slow jam filled out with violin, cello, and pedal steel guitar that lasts a full seven minutes. The odd chorus manages to be genuinely unsettling without really changing the feel of the song much. Jimenez’s guitar just makes things creepy with a simple riff change. But it’s that laid-back jam that dominates the song, and as the song comes to a close, Jimenez puts a pin on why the song’s chord progression feels so familiar. He changes his part just slightly and suddenly, the song sounds exactly like Stone Temple Pilots’ ‘90s hit “Plush”. That seems to be how Video Beast operates: they may take their music seriously, but they certainly don’t take themselves seriously.