Gauge - Mints [7-inch] / Gauge : 153 DVD (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Mints [7-inch] / Gauge : 153 📀 (2010)


Chicago's relatively groundbreaking, mathy emo/post-hardcore act Gauge was only around for a few short years in the early '90s, but they managed to inspire some pretty important bands: It's hard not to find them mentioned in the same breath as Cap'n Jazz and Braid. It makes sense, then, that when Cap'n Jazz did their scattered reunion shows last year, Gauge joined them. Gauge went one further, though: They issued a full-length DVD and accompanying 7" of new material.

The 7" part of this package is titled Mints–perhaps a corny reference to it being the band's first "fresh" batch of material in about 15 years. However, at least two of these are actually re-recordings of older tracks. I haven't heard the originals, so it's hard to compare, but with these versions, I don't know if I'd put it in the same realm as Braid or Cap'n Jazz: These songs remind me more of Torche's vocals (at least, on record) with a much noisier and shellacked version of the playful guitars Gauge might have helped popularize almost two decades ago (!). More D.C., really, and a lot less noodly and spidery than I might have imagined in other words. Opener "Feed the Dry" (one such redux) is one of the more expansive and anthemic extensions of this, while closer "Stinksmell Boy" (another apparent re-recording) is smeared across the landscape a bit more. The songs are kinda forgettable, but played well and fervent enough to be a comeback that doesn't merely try to rehash what Gauge helped pioneer all those years ago.

As for the DVD, Gauge : 153 is a biographical documentary of sorts, interspersed with some performance footage from their reunion shows. At the beginning of the doc, some facts are ticked off while we watch the band play "38", like "10.9.92: Gauge record Soothe album." They list a few details of certain shows, ranging from Green Day and Smoking Popes to, of course, Cap'n Jazz. (Strangely, the band don't talk on camera until about halfway through, when they talk about the breakup.) Then the documentary moves quickly into the talking-head discussions, which feature Bob Nanna, the Kinsella brothers, a dude from Ghosts and Vodka and plenty more (each demonstrating just how crucial and influential Gauge were to them), with enough shots of old flyers, album covers and photos (and a little bit of video from their '90s shows–it's wild to watch how reckless they were as kids) to instill the nostalgic factor. Even present-day practice sessions are on (crisply shot) tape here, though, connecting the past with the present well. The live songs from the reunion sets feel intimately shot and they sound pretty clear to boot–even if saying the band is comparatively tempered these days is an understatement. (Bonus features include another five songs from the reunion sets shot just as well, the DVD trailer, and some extra talking-head stuff.)

Between the compact (a tidy 50 minutes), in-depth look and a revamp of Gauge's elder songs, this makes both DVD and 7" a decent package for Midwest emo historians.

Mints 7" EP