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Gisli “How About That?” Review

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

Now living in Norway, Icelandic drummer/singer Gisli’s album How About That? comes as somewhat of a reminder as to what was both good and bad about one-man-band self-indulgence. On one hand, artistic freedom can allow a unique sound to blossom, but, sometimes a little outside input doesn’t hurt. With musical reference points plucked from just about anywhere within the ’90s Gisli reprises a variety of rolls that various musicians took during the decade. It’s hard listening to the album without remembering certain points in time, certain styles, artists, songs, videos, or television programs. It’s like watching an episode of VH1’s program I Love The 90s. For those of you better than I, who haven’t seen the show, it’s essentially a recap of all the pop culture from the decade, with just enough humor and credibility (or just humor) to keep one watching.

Do you remember the first time that you ever heard Mellow Gold? Or maybe it wasn’t the first time, maybe it was the third or fourth time you came by the CD at a pawn shop somewhere and couldn’t remember why you pawned it in the first place. Did you like it? Chances are Gisli did. Growing out of a musical era which saw what could be considered the rise of Caucasian-rap, and the subsequent rise of folk-rappers, jam-band-rappers and most recently Hasidic-rap, has its obvious effects, and from time to time on How About That? it shows. The basic riff backing “Go Get’m Tiger” mimics the crackling-voiced J. Mascis rapping in all his glory, if he were to ever give the genre a try. Except it’s Gisli, not Mascis. It’s not Beck, it’s Gisli. And to some degree it’s predictable, it’s Gisli.

What’s appealing about Gisli is what’s appealing about I Love The 90s. It’s all something we’ve seen before, heard before and enjoyed before. There’s nothing wrong with rehashing a bit of the past every now and then, even if the past wasn’t necessarily that great to begin with. It’s not like Gisli is attempting to recapture the pre-millennium via covers of Chumbawumba, he’s taking a stab at some pretty decent music. And entirely effective at pulling off a variety of popular retro sounds (can the 90s be considered retro yet?), How About That? could be either an effective first mover in recapturing a decade, or just a copycat. Either way, it still sounds good.