The Gufs: Safety in (Their) Numbers

The Gufs - Holiday From You
(Lava / Atlantic Records)
2 stars (out of 5 stars)

By Tony Bonyata

It's got strong choruses, shimmering guitars, catchy melodies and pleasing vocals. So what is it about The Guf's sophomore album, Holiday From You, that's so mediocre?
Maybe it's the predictability, by the fourth song you've pretty much figured out where the rest of the album is going. Maybe it's the catchy but cliched hooks and melodies that dominate throughout. Or maybe it's just that this Milwaukee-based quartet, in all their effort to put together an album of safe, satisfying songs, has forgotten to add a little of rock's dangerous side to the mix.
Holiday From You is dominated with emotional tragedy as singer / songwriter / guitarist Goran Kralj reflects on his recent divorce, which probably is an underlying cause in bringing this album down. Let's face it, divorce is ugly and singing about it doesn't make it any prettier, at least for the listener anyway.
Getting their fair share of exposure from their 1996 self titled albumThe Gufs backed up the likes Hootie & The Blowfish, Milwaukee's golden boys The Violent Femmes, Big Head Todd & The Monsters as well as matchbox 20. The band is, in fact, joined on their latest album by matchbox 20's vocalist Rob Thomas on "Give Back Yourself".
While the snap, crackle and pop of songs like "Last Goodbye" and "Surrounded", as well as the frail to fiery number "Dumb", complete with a smart melody and clean guitar tones, hold up on their own, it's the rest of this alleged 'holiday' that leaves you feeling more you've just punched into a 9-to-5 grind.
With a sound more akin to slightly bruising pumpkins than smashing them, the band gingerly plods through the Billy Corgan-light, grunge on "Stuck". Although the songs "Mistake" and "Dead And Gone" are somewhat pleasing for a couple of spins their ultimately,empty melodies make them just what their titles imply. Ending out the album is the depressing, melancholic mush of "Ashes".
The Gufs are band that definitely has what it takes to make a good rock album, but unfortunately the safe, middle-of-the-road, alternative-lightness of Holiday From You isn't that album.

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