Gouge Away’s 2018 release Burnt Sugar seethes with irreverent and ambitious modern punk that keeps listeners wide awake. There’s no “easy listening” or “turn it on and forget about it” here. Gouge Away demands to be heard.
The band does not follow many obvious set musical conventions, thus leaving listeners solely in their hands as they’re taken along for the Burnt Sugar ride. Each song makes its at times frenzied way forward while vocalist Christina Michelle adds unique textural jumps and dives. She sings at times through incredibly memorable — and truly vulnerable — metaphor. She’s not just offering vague sentiments or simply serving as a placeholder. She adds something unique to the broadly punk framework in part because she doesn’t feel concerned with just being aggressive. Whereas plenty of other vocalists sound perpetually angry, and it works as part of their craft, that’s not Christina. She sounds human, to put it one way.
The band sounds human behind her, too. Gouge Away’s instrumentalists support Michelle’s vocal work well while at the same time veering off into their own exploratory paths. Burnt Sugar‘s instrumental side swirls through aggression, melancholy, and just pure energy at times. The instrumental work mirrors the vocals, but at the same time, it’s unique. The rest of the band doesn’t just offer a monotonous support.
Burnt Sugar carves its own place in the music community that sounds like what would happen if the punk and grunge movements had a child. It’s got the speed and agility of punk with the wavering, personal nature of grunge.
That’s really not all there is too it, though. As a piece of musical exploration, it would be interesting enough, but Burnt Sugar is more than that.
The record is also a strikingly personal work of art. It sounds like all the members of the band find their voice via Burnt Sugar, so to speak. They sound unafraid to go “there,” wherever that “there” may be. The band members’ personal perspectives and experiences don’t get lost under the weight of their music — and listeners can turn on Burnt Sugar to themselves be “found,” too.
Check out “Only Friend,” released as a single ahead of Burnt Sugar, below.