Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

One of those bands that seems to sell more T-shirts than albums, Guster has built a fervent fan base through smart self-promotion, a muscular touring schedule, and by writing clever, catchy, guitar-based pop songs with gorgeous harmonies. There was a time when that last factor was enough to break a band, but pop songs and pop music stopped meaning the same thing a long time ago. Still, bubbling under seems to suit Guster, which follows up its winning 2003 album Keep It Together with a worthy companion piece.

Ganging Up On The Sun doesn't include anything as instantly winning as Together's irresistible single "Amsterdam," but its songs of escape and disappointment have a way of sticking in the head anyway. "Manifest Destiny" balances a jaunty piano line with a lover's not entirely convincing plea that starting over somewhere else might solve some relationship problems. "One Man Wrecking Machine" summons a fantasy of getting a second chance at adolescence, but the lush, loud melody can't hide the knowledge that things wouldn't necessarily have turned out any better. It's pop music that's smart, and maybe even a little wise.


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