Monday, September 9, 2013

Ghost Wave Tries To Ride With Ages

Ghost Wave
Last year, Ghost Wave was just getting started stateside as the then three-piece band from Aukland, New Zealand, landed a few festival slots in Los Angeles and New York City. It was there that they won more over people with their fuzzy 60s Brit-pop sound. Their self-titled EP proved they had character.

This year, Ghost Wave is trying to catch another ride with their full-length debut Ages. It's an expansive 10-track album that feels much longer than the track listing suggests, mostly because Matt Paul wanted to stick so close to what the band does best.

They center their sound on the 60s Brit-pop scene and then occasionally twist songs a few degrees toward surf rock or in another direction toward psychedelic. Doing so provides some variety beyond the band's central sound, even if it might not be enough for a full length.

Ghost Wave plays for Ages, but some tracks sound better when they stand alone.

As a debut, Ages will likely have the unfortunate destiny to be an album with several devour worthy tracks that don't necessarily stack well together. It's not that any track is off. It's that every track is steady to near sameness.

In other words, when the needle drops on Horsemouth, you already know Ghost Wave is going to plant it. The first track is pitch perfect with a lazy, throwback shoegaze vibe. But the band also sneaks in this subtle sense of urgency as Paul repeats his line over and over: "Sun come up and sun come down, that's the only time I see."

It plays perfectly if you have the good fortune of seeing the coastline off to your left or right. You can say the same thing about Here She Comes, which tosses in some psychedelic pop underpinnings. The band filmed the video in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn.

Here She Comes sets down some of the benefits of the band's decision to add Jamie Kennedy on guitar. Kennedy adds more depth to the band, freeing up Paul to focus more on vocals. He's also seems like a good fit for long-time drummer Eammon Logan (Basketball Nightmare) and bassist Mike Ellis.

Originally Paul considered picking up more guitar duties instead of adding another member. It was reasonably plausible because most Ghost Wave songs are written as a three pieces. But be glad that didn't happen. Paul can play, but there is a little more than jangly guitar tabs to master. Kennedy could run away with some tracks if he wanted.

Standout tracks include the manic precision of the beat-driven Bootlegs, the atmospheric, hazy and sometimes listless dozer Country Drifter, and taut and lively infusion of the head-bobbing Orb. It comes closest to the amphetamine-like feel Paul said he was pursuing to set this album apart. On all of those tracks, they come close to it.

Other tracks come close, but don't carry the same sense of urgency. The title track Ages, for example, is decent but never truly ascends to the high water mark set by earlier tracks. And other than the instrumental jams inside I Don't Mind and Arkestra, the tracks themselves are almost too laid back.

The result is that the slower-paced songs tend to drag the album down in quiet disinterest. They play well enough on their own but there isn't anything heavy enough to lift the album out of the mood they set. The same can be said about Mountain and Teenage Jesus. Medicated can overdose contemplative.

Ages By Ghost Wave Catches 6.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

There isn't any question that Ghost Wave retains its right to remain on any octane-fueled band-to-watch list. It's all in how you listen to what they've laid down. If you stick to the best of it or add in tracks between heavier garage rock bands, you will be much more likely to be glad that you haven't missed the experience.

Ages by Ghost Wave can be found on Amazon. You can also download the album from iTunes. The best place to keep up with Ghost Wave is Facebook, where the band will likely start listing its upcoming shows and appearances.
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