New York City trio Broken Guru names a diverse group as their influences. The likes of The Pixies, PJ Harvey, Silverchair and other 90s rock groups top the list of groups Broken Guru aspires to sound like. Their Debut EP, Bent Up Halo, does not sound exactly like any of those influential bands, but with a healthy dose of 60s mod, grunge and college radio guitars and pop vocals, Broken Guru seems on their way to creating a new sound all their own.
The mod sound is a theme which is seen throughout the entirety of Broken Guru’s Bent Up Halo, oftentimes paired with a semi-heavy grunge guitar from vocalist and guitarist Rich Guerzon. The bass from Chrisy Fiero is quite funky, while her brother Ray’s drums are good old hard-nosed rock. The one unfortunate piece of the band’s sound comes from Guerzon’s vocals, which seem to be a bit lackluster in places.
For a band who pride themselves on their champion levels of energy and passion, it seems a bit odd that tired-sounding and rather boring vocals would appear on Broken Guru’s debut album. More than likely Guerzon, who also wrote all the songs on Bent Up Halo, was trying to inject a little more 60s mod funkiness into the mix, but because of the raspy timbre and monotone feel of his vocals, Broken Guru end up sounding a bit like 90s mod pop a’la Smashmouth. This is more than likely not what Guerzon was aiming for.
Got to Be Mean is an example of when Guerzon’s vocals contain some passion and fun, rather than falling flat. This cheeky track puts together all of the elements Broken Guru wishes to get across like grunge guitars, a mod tune and energetic vocals in a balanced and interesting way. In this case, Guerzon sounds like he is having fun and the tone of his voice compliments the ironic and slightly political lyrics. He even employs an 80s-style hair metal scream which, if nothing else, wakes up the listener and adds an unexpected charge to the song.
Behind the Mouth is another example of what Broken Guru can accomplish if they strike the right balance with their sound. Here the backing tune, and specifically Guerzon’s guitars, come as close as is possible to mimicking a song by idols The Pixies. The raspiness of Guerzon’s voice takes on a different timbre here, and he sounds a bit like David Lowery from Cracker, another iconic 90s band. These grungy vocals pair nicely with the feedback-driven and discordant guitars. The mod sound is still present in this song, but it is slightly muted in favor of the grunge and college radio tones, and this seems to be a good fit for Broken Guru.
The bluesy title track on Bent Up Halo is also a lot of fun. The 60s flavor here may remind some listeners of early Doors. The running bass-line and addition of a piano create a sort of “on the road” feel to this track, which also typified many 60s rock songs. Guerzon’s guitar takes a back seat to this traveling structure, and thus lets the blues of the backing tune take over even further.
As a debut album, Bent Up Halo is a solid effort from the relatively new Broken Guru. It seems the band is still working on nailing down their sound and want to explore different styles. Each band member clearly has quite a bit of versatility and talent to bring to the table, so now it is just a question of figuring out what elements to put where for Broken Guru. No doubt their next album will have all of the kinks ironed out. Bent Up Halo will not be available as a full release until April 28, but in the meantime the 5-song EP preview is available on Broken Guru’s Bandcamp page for purchase. Fans who want to stream the entire album can find it on Soundcloud as well. Both links are posted below in “Sources.”
Review by Layla Klamt