Gun Outfit quietly existed in Olympia, Wash. as a band less flashy in riffs and energy than its contemporaries that have reached a similar level in their lives as bands. Where Broken Water broke into a larger conscious with its intricate swells of noise popularized by groups like Sonic Youth, Milk Music by mining the bones of Neil Young and Dinosaur Jr., Gun Outfit has existed as a band very orthodox in its indie roots. Sure there are elements of the aforementioned groups, but by and large Gun Outfit has carved a path that is more in tune with the oft-kilter, go for it attitudes of groups like the Meat Puppets, or even Luna. On their latest album, Hard Coming Down, Gun Outfit drifts from indie, to country, to far-oft reaches of punk with ease and fluidity.
Perhaps this is because Gun Outfit has had more time to develop than the pack, over a wonderful debut single and several 12”’s the group has had the luxury of filtering their sound down to its essence. Hard Coming Down is the product of such a process, warts and all. Though they share a similar SST-inspired path as a slew of bands producing albums circa now, they never come off gimmicky or nostalgic – there is a sincerity in the delivery of songs like “I Got A Gift” that balances out some of the more obvious music nerd references. A quick glance at the first paragraph of this article only serves as a signpost towards that conversation.
Having left Olympia last year, Gun Outfit has matured past the point of parochial association. Hard Coming Down transcends location. The down tempo, airy sound suits them. When the album works it almost feels weary and worn. “High Price to Pay” has a immediacy in it forlorn, dusty delivery. The duality of having two principal singers and songwriters, Dylan Sharp and Carrie Keith, could have a schizophrenic feel in a lesser album, but the overall burn of Hard Coming Down is an album of introspective narrative that bubbles within each of its twelve songs.
This isn’t to say that Hard Coming Down is a perfect album. “Death Drive” is the least singular song on the album, where most of the songs work on a level as being easy to identify simply as a product of a band who has defined its voice, for some reason “Death Drive”, a rare duet, feels more like a product of a more noted group, Luna. It doesn’t help that “You’ll Go First” carries the same sort of baggage.
But for every song that ventures down the path of derivation, there are four or five more that are wonderfully unique and executed with such ease that you get the feeling that the album is less a product of intense laboring in several studios across the country, and more of a free form pouring of expression. The fact that the album did take two years and several studios to finish points more toward a level of sophistication that a lot of similarly lumped together acts lack.
Despite the tendency to lock a band to location, Hard Coming Down is not an Olympia album in the typical sense. However, the band, who gestated in the sleepy music rich environment feels quintessentially Olympia: bucking trends, doing it themselves and not seeming to care what the world things otherwise.
This review originally ran May 15, 2013 at SSG Music.