CMJ JACKPOT 10/27/97 #543
The title of Guppyboy's debut is not only a reference to the band's recording home base in Vermont, but a pretty apropos one-word reduction of its rustic sound. Taking inspiration from oldsters like The Band and late-period Byrds, with unlikely hints of Galaxie 500 thrown in for good measure, this five-piece outfit manages its own kind of sweet, lazy-day pop that oozes equal parts small-town innocence and a kind of drugged lethargy. "Washington Square" opens the album with some gentle guitar and vocal prettiness, as its protagonist makes his way from the confines of New York to the rolling hillsides of the Vermont country. The open-air breeziness of banjo and pedal steel that colors "Trouble" place the band under the Palace-led indie kids-cum-folkies canopy, while the Dylan-on-ludes vibe of "The A.M." cements the band's interest in rock's yesteryear as filtered through its own post-Velvets intuition. "Ball In The Sky" underscored by some spooky organ and lazily strummed guitar, hints at late 60's psychedelia; "Holiday" makes good on its crude, endearing musicianship with some coy melodies and sunny backing harmonies. "Jeffersonville " is an eclectic, organically rooted collection of late-afternoon ideas and easy-come-easy-go beauty. COLIN HELMS
No matter what kind of music you play, I think there's something to be said for diversity. Guppyboy (who are now known as The Essex Green and includes members of The Ladybug Transistor) is one of the few indiepop bands that seems to realize the importance of diversity. This album starts out pretty typical - slow, pretty, kinda reminiscent of Galaxie 500. But just when you think you've got this band figured out, they throw you a curve with the second track, "Trouble," which sounds about country as hell and features a banjo. They stay with this laid-back, country-meets-pop feel for a while, but then they really mix things up with "Affection." While the music continues in a slow, mellow feel, the singer's voice suddenly sounds like Ozzy! Weird, but it surprisingly works well for this tune, and it definitely gets your attention. The next track, "Twisted," is one of my favorites, due to it's pretty, melancholy sing-along harmonies. "Holiday" is more upbeat and probably the most straightforward pop song of the album. It was interesting to hear the Guppyboy version of "Wendy," which I had heard on Ladybug's Beverley Atonale (except they spell it "Windy"). This is another pretty, catchy, sing-along song, and while I think I prefer Ladybug's version (sorry, guys), it was nice to hear a different rendition of a great song. "Urb's Lament" is another favorite (but I guess you can tell I like them all!) and wins the award for best lyrics - "You shouldn't smoke as much pot as I do/my boss said to me/as he cut my shifts at the coffeehouse." So that's how they got so mellow! (Kidding!) Overall, this is a fantastic album that has the ability to keep the listener interested and entertained even throughout its entirety - 15 songs - a feat that's commendable in itself. I highly recommend it, particularly if you enjoy melancholy, pretty pop in the vein of Galaxie 500. I'm anxious to hear more from these guys. KIM
SEVEN DAYS 7/30/97
GUPPYBOY Jeffersonville (Sudden Shame Records, CD & LP)
Follow a direct line from the Velvet Underground, steer it through Palace Brothers and Cowboy Junkies, throw in a little psychedelia, a little yee-haw along the way, and you'll arrive at Burlington's Guppyboy. The band known for its narcotically slow, dreamy, oddball songs offers more of the same on its latest, Jeffersonville, recorded on eight-track over the last two years by the band and "Pistol Stamen" of The Pants.It also offers some pleasant sonic details that are absent or hard to hear in live shows. You might think this outfit was from New York, what with picutresque songs like "Washington Square," "Seventh Avenue" and "Avalon Ballroom." Except for a nod to Jonathan Richman, all songs are credited collectively to Guppyboy; vocal duties and instrumentation are shared, too. Michael Barrett, Jeff Baron, Sasha Bell, Chris Ziter and Zach Ward are a most democratic bunch. Nine guests are acknowledged on this recording, too - David Kamm's banjo and Nelson Caldwell's cello are particularly nice touches. Some of the songwriting here recalls the solo work of John Lennon in his depressed period - and I mean this in a good way. The slow-poke pacing can be either wearying or soothing, depending on your mood, but Jeffersonville also hands out silly bon-bons like "Holiday," countrified toe-tappers like "Trouble," and memorable folk-pop gems like "New Orleans." Always cult-faves, Guppyboy reach a level of near-apotheosis with Jeffersonville, but it's a Pyrrhic victory: With various members going in different directions, this may well be Guppyboy's swan song. Catch them before they get away, at Toast this Friday with The Pants and Steve. P.S. There's also an on-air preview of Jeffersonville Thursday, 3 p.m. on WRUV. PAMELA POLSTON
THE BURLINGTON FREE PRESS 7/31/97
"VERMONT'S VERY OWN VELVET UNDERGROUND"
Having made it through a week without a review, I'm glad to be back in business. With the release of Guppyboy's debut CD "Jeffersonville," I finally get a taste of the smorgasbord or releases that will be unveiled in the fall. Guppyboy has been around for more than five years, putting out numerous basement-quality tapes and one very good 7-inch, and making numerous appearances seen by few. Personnel changes and living situations have plagues the band's artistic continuity, but those few early fans have grown into an ultra-loyal following: When talking to people who like Guppyboy, that glow of nerd love and fellow dork recognition just washes over their faces. They are the only band in Burlington that has its own tribute album. "Guppylove: A Tribute to Guppboy," dedicated to the power their songs have over other musicians and songwriters. So as a geek myself, I have been ripe with anticipation for the first full-length CD from the band, and expectant for music reflecting the members' easy-going attitudes, their pleasantly lackadaisical approach to music and their noted lack of self-promotion. Plus, they write very good songs.
How to describe those songs? Guppyboy is a quintet that reflects neither this place nor this time. Their music show them to be a psychedelic pop band of the old school, stuck in the mid to late '60s with one foot in New York and another in California. If they had a third foot (and who's to say Guppyboys can't?) it would be England at the same time. "Jeffersonville" works at the one speed Guppyboy is awsome at: slower tra-la-la psychedelia. No full rock power. No bad trips. Guppyboy is much too subtle for that: Light and airy, and nary a bummer in the whole sheet of acid. "Trouble" which gets some help from David Kamm of Construction Joe an banjo and pedal steel, is an upbeat shtick-kicker of a countrified rock tune, but most of the album stays in the sleepy dreamworld of psychedelic preludes, interludes (I think I'll call it "lude rock"... which is better than "lewd rock"), sween 'n' sour harmonies and fine production touches. Their sound stays diverse and the songs fresh from track to track. Having three or four songwriters and switching around of instruments to accomodate all these singers in the band sure helps. The production of Jeffersonville is top-notch. Recorded on 8-tracks, each setting gives full resonance and does the songs justice. More than simple justice, actually: They get a fat settlement, and an apology fron the judge. Kudos to Pistol Stamen of The Pants for the competent knob-turning. Kudos also to Colin Clary, leader of the local indie megaconglomerate, Sudden Shame Records, for getting Guppyboy off their lazy butts to get this done, and kudos for Guppyboy for working with Clary. (Kudos, moreover, to the guy who first starting using the word "kudos," without whom this paragraph wouldn't have been written.) Colin, I know you don't want to be a big player in this town, but keep putting out good records like this and you won't be able to avoid it. Some of the lyrics on "Jeffersonville" get a little too mundane, depicting what the band members did on a certain afternoon or whatever (7th Ave.," "Washington Square"). I don't see the secret meaning of it all. But the band is generally very aware when their songs might be going a little too far in the retro department; the players will push it even further, showing they don't take themselves too seriously (as on "Holiday"). I greatly enjoyed "Jeffersonville." The group adds an new layer of slackerocity to slacker rock: Guppyboy makes Pavement look like a speed-metal outfit. I am pleased that the songwriters of Guppyboy have captured much of the band's essence. The CD offers good songs not always to perfection - a good representation of what Guppyboy is about. Find out for yourself Friday night at Club Toast when Guppyboy fetes "Jeffersonville" with The Pants and assorted friends. For all you vinyl junkies out there, "Jeffersonville" will be released in that format in two weeks. It may cost a little more, but the only thing that could make Guppyboy sound better would be if there were pips and pops. I can safely say it would just add to the whole time-warp experience. STEVE LEMCKE
"SUBSTANCE AND SOUL"
Jeffersonville (Sudden Shame Records, 1997), a fifteen song body of work representing a year and a half in the life of Burlington's indie-rock pioneers, Guppyboy, delivers the substance and soul the genre can sometimes lack. An ethereal grittiness pervades these plaintive pop songs, peppered with folky inflections and moments of quirky texture which the band is known for. The most amazing thing about this record is the fact that it was recorded on 8-track at home, with excellent sound quality resulting. It's a production which, while slightly raw, works well, with the music. Frequent vocal swaps between the five members have character in common, recalling the weathered voices of Lou Reed and Bob Dylan. Also in the interest of variety, a slew of local musicians lend a hand with horns, banjo, and cello. Even with these additions, the record is throughout a consistent piece of rock. No doubt about it, local label Sudden Shame has another solid release on its hands. Listen for an on-air preview at 3 p.m. this Thursday on WRUV, or get your own copy at the release party with The Pants at Club Toast on Friday. SIMON BRODY
GOOD CITIZEN Spring '96
GUPPYBOY 3-Song 7" York/Wendy/Affection
Not too long after Guppylove- the now famous local tribute to Burlington's then-departed Guppies- was released in the Summer of 1993, I had a conversation with guitarist/bassist/singer Zach Ward. We were talking about the tribute album. Zach, who was visiting Burlington, having split town with fellow bandmates for Chicago, was a little confused. He expressed a good-natured perplexity at the fact that now, when -as he said- Guppyboy was living and playing in Burlington, nobody ever came to their shows. "So we left," Ward lamented, "and all of a sudden everybody loved us." Indeed, as Guppyboy's cult status continued to grow in their absence, so too did an urge on their parts to return and reap the benefits. (After all, the Velvet Underground were never very popular when they were around, either.) And now that they're back, Burlington's resident kings of doleful lo-fi slop rock have also returned to the studio (Zach's house). Having abandoned some of the cut-and-paste basement tape style of 1992's "Aloha", Guppyboy's latest release is a slick, three song vinyl recording that melodiously oozes from your speakers like hot maple syrup onto snow. Filled with maudlin harmonies that plaintively weave their way into the tearfully sentimental core of your soul, the songs tap a nostalgia not unlike, say, rereading an old journal after a bit too much red wine. Though singing duties and instruments are shared, it's the wandering, unstable vocals of Ward and guitarist/keyboardist Chris Ziter that penetrate the symphonic drone of the music, exquisitely falling in and out of harmonies as if the whole thing could cave in around them at any moment. It doesn't though, and the result is magnificent - a weeping ethereal blend of somehow accordant dissonance that makes you wonder why everyone hasn't heard of these guys. Try the intellect of Pavement crossed with the graceful despair of the Palace Brothers and maybe just a hint of, say, distorted Uncle Tupelo. Jeff Baron also plays guitar and Mike Barrett drums on this exceptional EP by a band that is hopefully back to stay for good. MATTHEW TAYLOR
SEVEN DAYS 2/14/96
GUPPYBOY 3 Song 7" York/Wendy/Affection
(Tup Keewah Recordings, seven inch single) - Burlington's lo-fi heroes Guppyboy get all poignant on this homemade three-song single: Lovelorn lyrics that'll make your turntable weep, Lugubrious pop, like, say, The Association meets Palace Brothers. Chris Ziter, Zach Ward, Jeff Baron and Mike Barrett churn out plaintive pop, guitar-driven - though driven may be too strong a word - and with a wonderfully cheesy, retro organ wiggling its way through unrestrained melody. "Affection" recalls the later musical meanderings of John Lennon, except these Guppies are swimming in molasses. Sweet. Guppyboy, with Steam Genie and The Pants, play Valentine's Day at Last Elm Cafe. PAMELA POLSTON
THE BURLINGTON FREE PRESS 2/1/96
GUPPYBOY 3-song 7" York/Wendy/Affection
And for something al little less different: Guppyboy is a name that may or may not be known to a lot of you in readerland. They should be. Guppyboy had its birth in Burlington in 1992 and has become Burlington's answer to Pavement: Call it indie/riot nrrrd pop/rock with lazy vocals and odd, prolific songwrtiting. So beloved was the band and its songs that the six-song "Guppylove: A Tribute to Guppboy" was released in 1993. The songs on that tape proved that, as with the work of Bob Dylan, Guppyboy's songs were often performed better by other acts. But that's changed with the performances found on their new 7-inch. The three-song self-titled record was recorded last October in Jeffersonville by Pistol Stamen of The Pants on Tup Keewah Records. The use of the 8-track analog give the 7-inch a warm, undigitized sound that proves these guys have advanced far beyond their lo-fi origins. Each of the three principal songwriters in the band gets a tune. All three- "York," "Wendy," "Affection" - are strong. It's in the vintage Guppyboy vein, but sounds lyrically more astute. Musically, they might still fall into the slacker-rock category if it weren't for the painstaking production. Each track has that drawn-out, lugubrious Velvet Underground fell to it; and the reverbed vocals and the organ give it all a tinge of the retro. The songs are simple and effective. My favorite is "Wendy," but I'm a sap for those romantic, mellow indie-pop tunes. Check out Guppyboy when they play Metronome Monday Feb 5 with Sub Rosa and Starlight Conspiracy. The concert is free, but bring cash all the same: The 7-inch should be on sale at the show. STEVE LEMCKE
GUPPYBOY 3 song 7" York/Wendy/Affection
"THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN"
For the past year and a half the members of Burlington alt-rock band Guppyboy have been trickling back to the Queen City. With the New Year's arrival of band member Jeff Baron the foursome is now intact. Formed during the summer of 1991, the high school and college pals hit the local scene with a new energy and originality that has been met with much praise. Although Guppyboy wasn't even dead or defunct, local musicians honored the band, which had recently moved to the windy city in 1993, Guppylove: A Tribute to Guppyboy came out - a six song tape of Guppyboy originals covered by Chin Ho!, Jesse Sargent, Hover and others. The Guppy guys spent the fall in Jeffersonville self-producing and recording tracks for and upcoming CD (Tup Keewah Records), with the help of Pistol Stamen of The Pants. The three-song, self-titled EP features "York," "Wendy," "Affection," and a cover shot of Zach Ward's family dog Otto. All four band members share credit for the songwriting and, on-stage, exchange instruments and switch vocal combinations. The full-length CD will not be out until this summer, but they are teasing their audience now with the new vinyl seven-inch EP. Celebrate Valentine's Day at the official Guppyboy release party, along with The Pants and Steam Genie, during an all-acoustic show at the Last Elm. AIMEÉ PETRIN
BURLINGTON FREE PRESS 8/11/93
GUPPYLOVE: A Tribute to Guppyboy
Guppylove: Who ever said the music scene is dog eat dog? Six local bands got together last July in Brad Searles' basement to cut a tribute album to Guppyboy. "Guppyboy is a band that's been around for a couple of years," said Searles, who plays in Hover. "They didn't get a lot of attention because they're not too accessible, but they write great songs." The first single is Hover's rendition of "North Hyde Park," which is getting airplay on WNCS and WIZN. All proceeds benefit Guppyboy, aka Mike Barrett, Jeff Baron, Zach Ward and Chris Ziter, who tried to make a go of it in Chicago last January, and will soon return to Burlington. "We each spent a day with an eight track recorder, and they came out incredible," Searles said. "Not only is it a tribute to them, but it tells a lot about the local scene." The contributing bands are the usual suspects: Chin Ho!, Hover, Jedd Kettler, Jesse Sargent of Invisible Jet, PYG Roast and Spray 9. A Guppylobe release party Saturday at Middle Earth Cafe, 38 Main St., Winooski, features performances by the contributing bands. The tape goes on sale for $5 Monday at Buch Speiler in Montpelier and Pure Pop and Sound Effects in Burlington.
VERMONT TIMES 8/92
THE FAT TAPE: Chin Ho!, Hover, Guppyboy - Three bands from Burlington, VT
Fat Chance: Three area bands, Chin Ho!, Hover and Guppyboy- share the spotlight on "The Fat Tape," a new collection that bills itself as a "Burlington, VT Musical Sampler." While a few other area bands might dispute their exclusion (where's Do It Now Foundation?), it's a tuneful assortment of songs nonetheless; for the uninitiated, it's the place to start. Guppyboy boasts the most idiosyncratic, experimental sound of the three. Their cuts, "Fall," "Chopper" and "Number Four," have a coyly psychedelic grind. For what it's worth, imagine a cruder They Might Be Giants mixed with some of Trip Shakespeare's inspired dreaminess. "The Fat Tape" can be found at area record stores. You've got to start somewhere. DWIGHT GARNER
BOSTON ROCK Jan 1993 - Burning Chrome
I suppose that Burlington, Vermont is stretching the definition of "local" in relation to Boston, but because of that cool Vermontstress festival they had, we'll throw this band, Guppyboy, a bone. First of all, this 16-song cassette is just too long. The use of vocal effects and varied distortion techniques keep things fresh from track to track, but volume is a problem easily solved. I can't say that anything here has commercial potential, but the creativity level is way up there. Each song seems to begin with some strange effect or mix-mash thing before kicking in. "Guppyboy Theme" seems to be the only flop of the bunch -- I mean this Jen Fogliano who sits in on vocals for this track must be someone's girlfriend. I guess i'd like to see a little better recording quality, but don't change anything else. I know this whole review sounds a little vague, but i won't even attempt to pigeonhole this band. BILL JACKSON