The first time I heard the band GusGus was in a commercial for the 1998 movie Out of Sight. The loud, distorted crunch of an organ, followed by an oft-sampled drum break led into the song “Ladyshave” (from their 1999 release This Is Normal). From that point, I had to hear and know more. I found that this (then) nine-piece collective of artists, producers, filmmakers and DJs hailed from Reykjavík, Iceland, home of the Sugarcubes, Björk, and Sigur Rós. I also found that they didn’t get their name from the chubby little mouse in Disney’s Cinderella, but from a 1974 German film entitled Fear Eats the Soul (a prostitute in the film makes couscous, but pronounces it “GusGus”).
In 1997, the band released their debut album Polydistortion on London-based indie label 4AD, home to the Pixies and the Cocteau Twins. Obviously, GusGus’ funky house/hip-hop/techno composite stuck out like a sore thumb on 4AD, but they were welcomed nonetheless with critical acclaim. Upon release of Polydistortion, which contained the classic tracks “Purple” and “Believe”, GusGus toured Europe and America with Lamb and Cornershop as opening acts. Looking back, I think I would have given one or more vital organs for tickets to that show. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20.
1999 saw the release of their follow-up collection This Is Normal, 11 tracks of extreme diversity. From chill-out cuts “Bambi” and “Dominique”, to the head-nodding/booty-shaking grooves of “Very Important People” and the aforementioned “Ladyshave”, This Is Normal had something for everyone. In 2000, a mini remix album entitled GusGus vs. T-World was released, featuring a Sasha remix of “Purple” and DJ favorite “Anthem” (incidentally, T-World is a dance music duo comprised of GusGus member Biggi Thorarinsson and DJ Herb Legowitz).
Attention, the group’s fourth release, just continues in the GusGus tradition of decent, thinking-man’s dance music. Downsizing from a nine-piece ensemble to a quartet, leaving 4AD for a multi-album deal with the Moonshine Music label, and adding a female vocalist named Earth, Attention fuses their signature style with an electro-pop/’80s vibe. This almost stands to reason, since Depeche Mode producer Gareth Jones does some production on the disc.
The opening track, “Unnecessary”, would definitely fit in on a retro mix tape blended with the Eurhythmics, Depeche Mode, and/or the Cure. With its drum machine backbeat and near-minimalist bass line, you almost expect original MTV VJ Martha Quinn to drop in with some obscure GusGus trivia as the track fades out. This is followed by the dance floor ready “David”, whose beat is reminiscent of Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”, or Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough”. When Earth sings “I still have last night in my body / I wish you were with me”, the listener is left to decide whether she means (a) memories of last night’s trip to the club, or (b) something of a more sexual nature. Other standouts include “Desire”, “Call of the Wild”, and the title track. The only downside to the album would be cut number six, “I.I.E.”, a full-on hard house/techno song. Not being a fan of this genre (Be sure to see my review of DJ Venom’s Houseblend 7), this track sent me scrambling for the “skip” button.
With solid production and 10 out of 11 repeat-worthy selections, GusGus’ Attention is definitely worth yours.