By Bob McMahon
By Allison Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By Carolina de Busto
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
You won't find better poster boys for the idea that less is more than the three members of Boston-based band Guster. With just two acoustic guitars, a set of conga drums and gorgeous vocal harmonies, the group puts a contemporary spin on the sweet but spare pop sound of acts like Simon and Garfunkel and the Hollies.
After forming in 1992, when all the group's members were freshmen at Tufts University, Guster recorded the album Parachute during their junior year (narrowly escaping the Zen notion that, had it been a year earlier, their debut could have also been their sophomore album). After graduation, they recorded Goldfly, which was released independently but then picked up by Sire Records, which also footed the bill for last year's Lost and Gone Forever, the first album to really show off the band's full capabilities.
Produced by Steve Lillywhite (U2, Dave Matthews), Lost has a big, bold sound, but with the exception of some well-placed horns, a bit of bass, cello and a touch of theremin, it doesn't stray far from Guster's guitar/voice/congas concept. Songs like "What You Wish For," "I Spy" and "Fa Fa" may be regarded as flyweight pop by those looking for something harder or angrier, but how can you not like a band that invited a bunch of hardcore fans into the studio to whistle on the track "All the Way Up to Heaven"?
In concert, the group plays with enough energy and volume that their spare instrumentation isn't a problem. Expect a healthy sampling from all three Guster albums, plus an oddball cover or two -- "Wind Beneath My Wings," say, or "Sweet Caroline."