Ganser syndrome is a rare type of condition in which a person deliberately acts as if they have a physical or mental illness when they really aren’t sick, usually in order to obtain special care. It is also the name of a Chicago punk quartet that describes themselves in their bandcamp page as “Dissociative shouts and murmurs”, which could easily be considered as a symptom of said condition.
Ganser’s (the band) latest LP “Just Look At The Sky” embraces this feeling quite aptly. It is a propulsive punk offering that screeches with razor-sharp guitars, with bass lines that throb in boiling frustration and drums that pound with brooding force. A surging storm of turbulence that tackles feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing, feelings that the world is about to crash and burn and that we’re all just here watching helplessly as we scroll through our digital feeds.
“Lucky” opens the album with sneering riffs that rake across the chalkboard. This is mirrored by vocalist Alicia Gaines with her wry and ironic delivery that is seemingly done in self anguish: “You thought you’d be more than this / Thought you’d be OK / Hell of a day, kid Hell of a day”. In “Self Service”, the energy is directed outward, where Gaines seems to be bombarded by the blistering heat of the guitars mimicking the overwhelming noise of the outside world: “It’s so crowded / There’s too many to breathe.” In “Projector” Ganser seemingly predicts the state of the current year despite the album being recorded in 2019 with the line : “A climate of catastrophes / That’ll never get better.” Seeing our current situation, the irony of Gaines dryly singing “Don’t you worry” seems even more chilling.
These three opening tracks are consistent in their format and style of provocative art punk, which is already brilliant by itself. Yet Ganser flexes their range and shifts their tone with experimental additions, which still captures the same feelings of unease and dissociation from reality. “Emergency Equipment and Exits” ends in a breakdown where the guitars dive into a swirl of psychedelic anxiety, a nauseating spiral of vertigo with the lines “It’s a long way down / “I don’t want to be here.” “Shadowcasting” is stripped down and the tempo subsides, creating a platform for the guitars and keys to shine. The lines “Want what you can’t have / Have what you don’t want” rings with every repetition. The album closes with “Bags for Life” which is accompanied by militaristic trumpets and horns. The rhythms and vocals follow suit, seemingly trapped in a dystopian wasteland where fear and conformity is a means to survive.
With crisp production and starkly evocative material, Ganser pieces together a brilliantly made sophomore album.