Gatsbys American Dream - Ribbons & Sugar (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Gatsbys American Dream

Ribbons & Sugar (2003)


Hein Terweduwe announced this bands previous effort "Why We Fight" as one of his favourites and declared Gatsby's American Dream, his favourite new act of 2002. Based on his prodding, I gave the first record a chance, and it had little or no last effect on me. It wasn't that it lacked honesty, or that the musicianship was lacking. It was simply that it seemed to tread the same water that so many bands who 'borrowed' their sound from Lagwagon had. In some fairness, the band did mix things up a little, but not enough to differentiate themselves in my eyes.

Nevertheless, when I recieved Gatsby's latest record, "Ribbons and Sugar, audaciously named after a theme from George Orwell's stunning indictment of communism, Animal Farm. I vowed to listen to it with an open mind.

The first thing to mention is that, while the album flits through themes from the novel, it is mostly a tangental relation, which is fine by me, since I have little or no interest in an audio version of Animal Farm Cliff's Notes.

So onto the record. The best way to illustrate the progression of this band between this record and the last, would be to compare the change between Jimmy Eat World's Static Prevails, and Clarity; that is, a completely drastic change from fairly strong pop-punk to melodic pop in the most literal sense.

So drastic is the change, that I imagine a significant chunk of this band's punk fanbase will be completely turned off, and frankly, that would be a mistake. Ribbons and Sugar will be described a "maturing" or as "experimentation" but I would like to can the euphamisms and say it plainly. It's a beautifully produced, musically adventurous and clever record. It's catchy, and taken without the bands lineage, a strong debut for a reborn band.

At it's simplest, the band does play what some people confusingly call "mathcore" and I'm not going to fall into the trap, because all it really means, is that the band plays post-punk with surgical precision. Every note, snare hit, and vocal line is impeccably assembled, and you have to assume that any band that credits (or even has) a 'vocal coach' is probably aiming for perfectionism.

The band experiments with tempo changes, time signatures, and a variety of intruments to assemble their pop collage, and for the most part, you get something between experimental indie and straightforward catchy rock. Putting a label on the sound isn't fair to you or to the band, since it's not really a genre they're playing in, but combining a mish mash of influences from Green Day and Lag Wagon to Ben Folds and the Beatles.

For the most part, the band suceeds in it's ambitious effort to redefine itself; it handily straddles genre barriers, and manages to be catchy, and intense, albeit poppy and a little pretentious. You have to take any band that names itself after a Fitzgerald character a little less seriously, because otherwise the sheer pretention will overwhelm you. But stripping away the overly delicate and magniloquent emphasis on perfectionism, which is occaisonally like sitting in a museum - that is, pretty. but sterile and a little impersonal - you have an damn good record.

• A second opinion from our friends at