Gayngs plays the kind of syrupy soft rock you might hear at your dentist’s office –if your dentist wanted to seduce you. If their music were any cheesier or any more retro, it would be served in a fondue pot.
In their embrace of soft rock, Gayngs joins a movement that revitalizes maudlin, corny, or passe music from the 1970s and 80s. If bands like Chromeo and The Hundred in the Hands wear their retro influences on their sleeves; Gayngs trumpets theirs on a neon billboard. Their Yacht Rock blends the boudoir noir of Roxy Music, the antiseptic blues of Fleetwood Mac, and the saccharine soul of Tears for Fears. At a concert last week in Brooklyn, the band joined forces with FP Favorite Glasser to cover Sade’s “By Your Side.” And for the third song of their debut album –a spot in the order where bands typically put their most commercial tune– Gayngs covers “Cry,” the 1985 Godley and Creme classic. (The homage doesn’t stop there; the video for “Cry” mimics the original’s multiplicity of dissolving faces.)
On Relayted, Gayngs walks the line between schmaltz and sincerity, between parody and earnestness, with song titles such as “The Gaudy Side of Town” and “The Last Prom on Earth.” With their stew of dirty bass grooves, sultry synthesizers, bombastic blues guitars, and Kenny G. saxophones, it’s unclear whether Gayngs wants to seduce their listeners or make them cringe.
Gayngs, The Gaudy Side of Town
The swankiness of their R&B infused sound disguises the band’s identity as an ensemble of indie rockers: 23 Midwestern musicians led by Ryan Olson of Building Better Bombs and Digitata. Among the multiplicity of voices, the most distinct sound belongs to Justin Vernon, better known as Bon Iver. Whether he’s singing lead on songs like “Spanish Platinum” or contributing backing vocals, Vernon’s falsetto cuts through the clutter and lends cohesion to the album’s chaos.
Gayngs, Spanish Platinum
Relayted often strikes a melancholy mood. Elsewhere, the narcotic languidness turns romantic, as if to say: Slow down, baby. The night is young. Indeed, Gayngs likes to take their time. Most songs feature instrumental jams that stretch them past the 3-4 minute length of standard radio fare. Furthermore, the band recorded every song at a tempo of 69 beats per minute. Sure, this is a sex joke, but one with a purpose. Playing at nearly half the speed of most rock songs lends the album a slinkiness that sounds like an hour of foreplay.
It makes sense that Gayngs chose Glasser as their opening band on their current tour. Both groups recently released debut records of sexy mood music that recalls a prior generation. But while Cameron Mesirow’s voice unifies Glasser’s Ring, Gayngs seems more disjointed. The musical sensibility vacillates between pop tunes and experimental collages of sound, such as “False Bottom” and “The Beatdown.” And the sheer number of male and female lead singers detracts from the sense of unity.
Even Vernon disguises the uniqueness of his voice. At times, his falsetto recalls his 2007 debut, For Emma Forever Ago. But on “The Gaudy Side of Town,” his breathy croon sounds more like George Michael than the broken-hearted angst of “Skinny Love.” Then again, maybes Gayngs signals Vernon’s shift from troubled troubadour to pop prince. Lately, he recorded a few tracks with Kanye West; some should appear on Kanye’s forthcoming album in November.
Ultimately, Gayngs is pure cheese. Depending on your age, attitude toward soft rock, and tolerance for irony, you may find this fromage stale or fresh, moldy or sublime.
Keith Meatto is co-editor of Frontier Psychiatrist. Last week, he reviewed Glasser’s debut album, Ring.