What Does Good Luck Bring?
- A Little Confusion
- More More
- Stranger’s March
- For The Last Time
- 8:45 AM
- Is It True?
- Good Intentions
- What Does Good Luck Bring?
- Who’s Behind The Door?
Reissue of this classic piece of Portland rock history. 500 copies on 180 gram orange vinyl.
In 2002, singer/songwriter Neil Gust found himself untethered. He was frustrated by a career marked by the “could have been” promise of Heatmiser, the Portland indie rock band he formed with Elliott Smith. The band was a vital institution unfairly reduced to a footnote in Smith’s broader story.
With What Does Good Luck Bring?, the second album by Gust’s rock & roll band No. 2, he confronted the bummers of 30-something malaise head on. A charged pop record blending British Invasion melodies, bold choruses, and chiming power pop, it’s an album defined by battered strength, a document of personal realization in the face of disillusion.
Following the breakup of Heatmiser, Gust formed No. 2. The group’s No Memory was released in 1999. After bassist Gilly Ann Hanner (Calamity Jane) departed, Gust recruited bassist Jim Talstra (The Minus 5, Eyelids) to join him alongside drummer Paul Pulvirenti for What Does Good Luck Bring?
Familiar guests stopped by too. The LP features contributions by Joanna Bolme (The Jicks) and Sam Coomes (Quasi) and Jealous Butcher’s 2017 reissue — presenting the album on vinyl for the first time — also includes the bonus track Who’s Behind The Door?, an unreleased recoding which reunites Gust with his Heatmiser bandmate Elliott Smith and drummer John Moen (The Decemberists), offering a taste of what future collaborations could have sounded like if not for Smith’s passing in 2003.
“I just wanted to get epic,” Gust says of the album’s scope. “My favorite records are these worlds that you dive into. They’re cinematic. I listen to them over and over and over. That was what I wanted to make; I wanted to make a record where you had something to unpack.”
Balancing heavy rockers (Little Confusion, WXYZ) with literate folk rock (8:45 AM, Traveling), the taut, indie pop of the album suggests a continuation of Heatmiser’s trajectory. There are traces of the pomp of Smith’s major label albums (XO, Figure 8), and the record evokes Gust’s love of classic rock while sharing space with the work of Lou Barlow, Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, and Stephen Malkmus’ classic rock-indebted post-Pavement LPs.
Packed with smart, melodic hooks, songs like For the Last Time and Traveling linger long after the needle lifts off the record. But there’s sadness in the songs too, a recognition of the kind of weariness that sets in after the glory days of your carefree 20s, when it becomes necessary to reconcile hopes with the mundane bummers of the 9-5 work week.
“I’d been playing music for a long time,” Gust says. “I wasn’t in a relationship. I was going to work, coming home, writing songs, going to band practice. Trying to play shows on the weekend. We didn’t have a booking agent or a label. It started to really become a drag. That’s what a lot of the songs ended up being about. It’s sort of looking around asking how did I end up here, and now what?”
Fifteen years after its initial release to little fanfare, that ache still resonates. Both exuberant and bruised, the album’s unafraid to confront reality honestly. Like Gust proclaims on “More More,” “The truth is so much better than the bullshit I was told.”
What Does Good Luck Bring? is the sound of that truth in song.