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Ryan Miller's wistful vocal is the perfect instrument for delivering this plaintive melody.

Single Review: Guster – “Satellite”

My day job is big on metrics.  If you don't work in the Land of Corporate Stupid, you don't know what metrics are.  Allow me to explain.  Metrics are useless statistics kept in order to justify your organization's existence.  Metrics are the statistics to prove your organization does whatever the hell it does faster, better, and cheaper.  Managers and human resources goobs love metrics.   Metrics get turned into spreadsheets and PowerPoint charts.  PowerPoint charts are the sacred text of the Land of Corporate Stupid.

I have written about Guster on several occasions since hearing Ganging Up on the Sun.  I wrote about them twice in my Confessions of a Fanboy series: Vol. 6 and Vol. 7.  I also wrote a review of their show in Birmingham, Alabama last month.  Thousands of words have been committed to page to declare my love and admiration for their music.

I have a new metric for you:  $16.19 ($14.99, plus 8% Alabama sales tax). 

My evangelistic fervor is so intense that I gave away the promo copy of Ganging Up on the Sun to a friend with only one condition:  if he did not like it he had to promise to return it to me so I could try it on someone else. 

I went and purchased — PURCHASED, I say — my own copy of Ganging Up on the Sun.  I had a copy of the album which I had received for free.  I had kept my part of the bargain — I wrote a review of it for the site.  I ripped the songs to my iPod.  I could have listened to those songs forever and it would not cost me a dime.  Still, I purchased a copy of the album.

So what is the big deal?  I do not have metrics to properly illustrate my inner cheapness but I do have stories to explain the DJRadiohead Hierarchy of Needs™.

The inside of the left shoe I am currently wearing is so chewed up that my heel is being buggered by plastic.  There used to be fabric covering this plastic. Not anymore.  It is gone and the plastic beneath this missing fabric has begun to pull away from the shoe and it stabs me intermittently throughout the day. 

Why are my shoes in this condition?  Because I would rather have shredded heels and new music than shoes.  Folks, I don't rate particularly high on the GQ scale.  Good fashion is wasted on me.  Why bother?  Why bother when there are homeless CDs to purchase?

I shudder to tell you this because The Wife to Whom I Am Married is now part of the Blogcritics editorial team and she might read this.  If that happens, her retribution will be terrible.  I will have to buy new shoes!

Just this weekend, I rescued innumerable CDs from the wonderful shelter where they lived (Grimey's).  Among those adopted is Guster's One Man Wrecking Machine single (available only at independent music stores like Grimey's).  "One Man Wrecking Machine" was the first single released from GUOTS.  I purchased this single just in time for the band to release a new single, "Satellite."

I can no longer choose a favorite song from GUOTS.  I like all of them, which is a rarity, and my favorite song shifts from listen to listen (tonight while running to the grocery store I was hooked for the first time on "The Captain").  "Satellite" has been my favorite song on the album more than once. 

"Satellite" sounds simple and pleasant upon first listen.  Repeated listens reveal an abundance of beautiful sonic subtleties.  Ryan Miller's wistful vocal is the perfect instrument for delivering this plaintive melody.  The lyrics are slightly opaque but the vocal provides enough color to make the metaphor decodable.  That the words work so well is amazing because it took three members of the band to finish them (Miller, drummer Brian Rosenworcel, and multi-instrumentalist Joe Pisapia). 

Miller's understated vocal is bathed in some wonderful playing by the band.  The instrumental break at approximately the three-minute mark is a moment of sonic beauty.  The understated, chiming electric guitar melody is enhanced with some wonderful use of keyboards and piano:  one keyboard part mimics a string section, another sounds very much like an electric piano (a personal favorite instrument of mine) while a piano melody floats in between them.  Understanding there can be too much of a good thing, the band segues from this back to the chorus and then rides out with some more marvelous playing.  Working that much into four and a half minutes without rushing things or sounding forced is the epitome of efficiency and craftsmanship. 

This is a great song.  I am just not sure if it is a hit song.  It probably has no chance on the pop charts because those stations, for reasons defying sense, style, and taste, don't play Guster.  The alternative and modern rock charts will be kinder but not much.  "Satellite" is not the kind of song that screams to be played on the radio once an hour. 

Does that matter?  I suppose only because this is a single review and chart success is one criterion upon which a single is often judged.  I have guessed right and wrong about whether or not a song will be a hit.  I would love to be pleasantly surprised.  I would love it if "Satellite" got some traction on the airwaves.  My feelings toward the song won't be changed either way.

This would be a great segue into another discussion of artistic merit versus commercial success.  But why fucking bother with that?  We could spend our time talking about a great song from the best album released to this point in 2006.  Besides, I can solve that conundrum.  Commercial success does not equal artistic merit.  Commercial success and artistic merit are not inherently mutually exclusive.  It just feels that way most of the time.

We can do something about that.  With "Satellite," Guster is giving you your second chance this year.

About Josh Hathaway

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