Gutbucket is a free-range band. The New York quartet is not only equally comfortable playing in front of 900 sweatily pogo-ing teenage skate-punks, or a crowd of stoned jamband freaks, or on an anarchist German art collective houseboat, but also. most importantly, their music fits right in, too. On Dry Humping the American Dream, the band the Village Voice dubbed "stomprovisors" thrashes and twitches (sometimes literally) through 10 cartoonishly complex compositions, injecting a shot of glorious spazmitude into the minimalist cool of Bang on a Can's hip Cantaloupe label.
Flitting from Latin to thrash to polka to klezmer and back, often within the space of a few bars, the group veritably attacks their music with the kind of ferocity usually reserved for punk, despite having earned their jazz bona fides. "We're all pretty serious about rock," says saxophonist Ken Thomson, "and not just a token throwing-in of some different tunes. It's something intrinsic to who we are as people. We've all had training in jazz, but we'd like to move outside that world into the rock world, and actually bring something new to that."
Gutbucket set to work building the all-important live rep, gigging first throughout Manhattan, before spreading across the collegiate markets of the east coast and - with the release of InsomniacsDream - making the leap over the big pond to Europe in 2001. "They think we're jazz over there," Ty says of the idyllic trips. "Over there, we stay in hotels and get fed. We like to go there. We're art over there. I'm not sure what we are over here."
If Gutbucket themselves don't know, it can be forgiven. In the past three years, they have engaged in numerous projects -- many of them more akin to the artrock stage antics of The Flaming Lips or even Phish than the somber-minded blowing of the downtown atonalists. While their shows are legendarily frenzied ("Keep all limbs, drinks and small children well clear of manic sax dervish Ken Thomson," Time Out New York warned), they are also events unto themselves.
There have been specially prepared collaborations with Bang on a Can family friends, Ethel, a string quartet with a predilection for distortion pedals; there have been live volleyball games; there have been blindfolds; and there have been Dixie cups filled with rice and passed to enthralled crowds. "We like having [musical] conversations with each other and seeing where that goes," Rockwin says. "But we like engaging the audience in that conversation, too."
Dry Humping the American Dream, then, presents enticing slabs of the band's vast songbook - by turns uncontrollable, measured, and sweetly ethereal - a panoramic view of music at the turn of the century presented by four young musicians yearning to break free.