Gospel Claws - Put Your Sunshine Away
Record Label: Common Wall Media
Release Date: November 20, 2012
Dear and the Headlights may no longer be a band, but former guitarist Joel Marquard is staying true to form and infusing Gospel Claws with an eclectic array of influences. On Put Your Sunshine Away Gospel Claws sound like the indie rock reincarnation of The Beach Boys. Marquard may not have the voice of Brian Wilson and the band is from the deserts of Arizona rather than the beach, but the record nevertheless overflows with sun drenched California rock. It’s easy to label Gospel Claws as a vintage sounding rock band, however, it may be impossible to name a single band from the sixties or seventies, or ever, to release a record that sounds entirely similar to Put Your Sunshine Away.
Although the album title makes reference to extinguishing sunshine, the band spends the entirety of Put Your Sunshine Away overdosing on the brightside and pasting a sunny veneer over even their darkest moments. For an indie rock band the pop sensibilities are overwhelming. The instrumentals are bright and upbeat, interspersed with handclaps and whistles. The vocals are full of hope, aided by harmonies and frequently layered, even when the lyrical content visits the less enjoyable aspects of life and love. Most impressively, the record never becomes theatrically over the top or saccharine sweet. Gospel Claws share The Beach Boys ability to make sunny rock music that is honest and relatable no matter how joyous or despairful the subject matter of the songs become.
The album begins with “Pale Horse Dry Cleaning,” which is a relatively understated number on an album that continuously flirts with excess. While there are some strained vocals and scattered bells and whistles before the song finishes, it is just as memorable for the poppy strumming that frames the track. The song, which never betrays its bright demeanor, demonstrates the talents of Gospel Claws in turning “got my claws out for you / all the cities flame, I'm the one, I'm the one all for you” into equal parts endearing and foreboding. It’s just as much a dark love song as it is a romanticization of questionable desires.
“I Want It All” is the most intriguing track on Sunshine. It’s a three minute hit single that was written with the express purpose of becoming a summer radio fixture, albeit naively misguided by the belief that there’s some number of stations willing to play rock this comfortable in its pop gleam. That’s essentially what Gospel Claws is. Hip enough to be featured on NPR but catchy enough to get stuck in your head. Whether that’s a warning or an invitation is left to the listeners discretion. Over nine tracks the band confidently maneuvers between sounds that feel at once vintage and fresh. It speaks to their talents that the end result is cohesive and engaging. An album that is equally enjoyable whether experienced through overpriced headphones or a creaky record player.
Put Your Sunshine Away concludes with the title track, which was destined to be the album closer from moment it was written. The band manages to close the album with the line “I don’t feel like a smiley face / I just wanna sit, sit in my misery” without sounding ridiculous or depressing. Gospel Claws never appear to be trying too hard even during their most exaggerated moments. In fact, the band deserves a degree of credit for the few missteps on Sunshine being attributable to ambition rather than dullness. On their sophomore release Gospel Claws show that it is possible to advance as a band and push things forward without losing the momentum their creativity has fostered to date. There is suspense as to where Gospel Claws take their sound from here, but there is little doubt that it is to a place that reflects the fearless originality that has already propelled the band this far.
yeaaahh Gospel Claws. I went to the release party (or maybe it was the common wall showcase?) and heard them play some of the songs live. they're completely awesome. I was an avid DATH fan though so seeing Joel use some of their old equipment cases made me kinda sad.