The woozy beach party vibe of “Gotta Wanna”, the opening track from Los Angeles duo Gun Outfit’s Dream All Over, promises Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello with its closing proclamation of, “It’s body moving time”. Singers Dylan Sharp and Carrie Keith opt instead to invite Darwin, Hegel and Heraclitus to their blanket bingo.
Relocating from the punk haven of Spokane, Washington prior to the release of 2013’s Hard Coming Down, Gun Outfit is now fully integrated into the fabric of LA, yet hold the gilded promise of Hollywood at arm’s length. Such reluctance permeates the constant flux of Dream All Over, a collection of surrealist studies on isolation in an “empty universe” of four million souls. Only occasionally resembling picture postcards glistening with California sun, the songs on Dream All Over reside in a smoggy troposphere, cinematic astral projections of flipped reality only a fresh-eyed transplant could understand. Singing on “Legends of My Own”, Keith describes this reality as thus: “I woke up in a foreign land / I played the parts I could understand / But for now I am alone / Nowhere to go”.
Sharp, no stranger to philosophical musings given his now-annual online postings on topics such as Bob Dylan, Chris Isaak, acting, and marijuana, always circles back to art: art as impulse, art as commerce, art as identity. All three come into play on “Compromise”, a treatise on creative expression versus commercial viability that borders on a Mark Eitzel level of self-deprecation. Positing “With all this ambivalence / I could get a hit or two”, Sharp wryly dismisses such a notion with the rhetorical rebuttal “But then I’d have to compromise / Wouldn’t I?” Potential royalty checks are less a concern than the freedom to create for Sharp who, on “Gotta Wanna”, acknowledges ” I wanna squirm around / I’m a wild primate / Can’t ever make no art / When my clothing chafes”. Devolving on “Came to Be”, Sharp complains “I’ve hit my head so many times / I wish I never learned to walk upright”.
Sharing songwriting and vocal duties, Keith follows Sharp’s reluctance to bring definitive closure to any given song. Keith, with her Kim Gordon meets Lucinda Williams delivery, belongs more to the dust of Route 66 than Sharp’s suburban existence in Los Angeles, while no less isolated. Forever racing against dawn, the fleeting nursery rhyme of “Angelino” and the fever dream of “Scorpio’s Vegas” unfold like a tarot reading, with the denouement of the pleading “Blue Hour” left dangling at a fork in the road.
While worthy of dissertations in multiple academic disciplines, one need not require a degree to appreciate Dream All Over. The peerless Gun Outfit maps out its own musical cartography, be it a seaside drive with the top down or a globetrotting carpet ride via the liberal use of sitars courtesy of Henry Barnes, the evaporating songs of Sharp and Keith transport listeners on a ride that’s a treasure to behold. For those who dissect every word of Dream All Over, the funeral pyre of closer “Only Ever Over” will be quickly doused to ensure future output.