Reggatta De Blanc
The Police have reunited for a tour this summer which, with nosebleed seats hovering at nearly $200 a ticket, may not send fans clamoring to the local Enormo-Dome but may at least have them digging out old copies of Reggatta De Blanc to re-examine the wonders a power trio can muster when turned loose in a bare room with a couple of microphones. Thus it seems an apt time for Guava Duff, the brainchild of guitarist/songwriter Larson Sutton, to take shape. Though Guava Duff does not traffic in the kind of raw-edged roar that would brand them a true “power trio,” they have nevertheless crafted an album of simple, muscular songs.
Much of Does it Matter? evokes the Sting-led trio, from Sutton’s supple, high register vocals to the tightly drawn drumming of Jim O’Brien. The songwriting is terse and melodic and forsakes solos for structure, but things never feel airtight. Guava Duff is spawned less from the no-frills rubble of UK punk than the warm, earthen clods of American rock. Tracks such as “Nothing New” describe a straight line to bittersweet FM radio staples you wish would play the whole car trip, while “Street Corner Rose” calls to mind roots-rock apostle Ray LaMontagne and even Neil Young himself.
Sutton and O’Brien are girded by the light-touch basswork of a fellow elusively identified on the band’s MySpace page as Ed T., who does some very fine fretwork throughout, setting the pace on the chugging opener “Through the Cracks,” then exercising restraint in the next breath on the John Mayer-meets-The Magic Numbers potential hit “Don’t Even Try.” The booty shaking “One Less Bad Idea” dips a toe in the same waters as John Scofield’s recent afrobeat workouts, with a gratifying complexity that ends in ominous feedback: perhaps a squadron of Blackhawks coming to spoil the clambake? Not implausible as a lyrical darkness lurks beneath Does it Matter’s sunburnt funk. Sutton’s words hint at regret and longing, but never to a fault. In fact there are few faults on Does it Matter? The Duff Men have turned in an appealing, low-key affair which at its best channels one’s inner beachcomber – after all, they take their name from a Bahamanian confection – and at its worst leaves the listener wishing the boys would have turned up the amps a bit and not been quite so polite.