Guilt Ring

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California-based songwriter Vinny Vaguess apparently started his namesake band as a joke, and while there is a sense of humor to his music, it's a very bleak one. It's not uncommon for him to sing about how life is too long, and that he either wishes he'd died young, or he wants to kill himself. It wouldn't make sense for his music to be anything other than straightforward, amped-up, bashed-out garage punk, and that's exactly what it is. Arriving in 2017, two years after Bodhi Collection, which compiled 20 tracks from earlier Vaguess cassettes, Guilt Ring contains 14 songs and is about half as long, making Bodhi Collection seem like a prog rock concept album in comparison. These songs are even more stripped-down and punchy, and have noticeably higher production values while still sounding like they were cranked out in a basement on a sweaty summer afternoon for no other reason than because the musicians were angry and/or bored to death and needed to vent. Vinny is joined by Useless Eaters' Miles Lutrell, whose basic, energetic drumming propels the songs and stops on a dime. Many of these tunes are laced with buzzing keyboards, recalling Jay Reatard's legendary synth-punk band Lost Sounds. Most of the songs whiz by in a minute or two, because there isn't any point to a song called "Life's Long Enough" being any longer than that. As he says on "Can Complain," "I don't have the patience to wait around my whole damn life." On a few occasions, the songs are a bit slower, more melodic, and closer to power pop, but of course these moments are fleeting. "OG 1" is considerably more ambitious at three minutes, and it seems a bit more frantic and over the edge than the other songs, with a livid Vinny yelling "I'm going out of my mind!" His anger and disappointment aren't just directed at himself, however. On "Sober Cvlt," he mocks a group of hippies, sarcastically saying that he wants to join their brainwashed cult. Even as his sense of humor is vicious and often morbid, it's hard to take everything he says at face value, since his music is so spirited and urgent, and even joyful in a perverse way.

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