(The first portion of this review is inconsequential, more or less, to my critique of Radical Face’s “Ghost”. Therefore, feel free to begin reading below the dotted line if you are running late for your work, bar mitzvah, or loved one’s murder trial.)
Hey fuckers, stop talking about ghosts. For the last few years, you have felt the need to stick it in your band names, album titles, and lyrics like it just got invented. I’d rather hear songs referencing blogs. And don’t give me that shit where you say you didn’t notice. Type “Ghost” and any other word in the English language, and seven indie rock bands have already used it. It’s getting fucking boring. Try and hide it among a bunch of unrelated words, and then it’s boring AND annoying (Ghostland Observatory, I’m looking in your direction). Just please stop. And while I’m here, if you still talk about ninjas, pirates, unicorns, and robots like you just cracked the fucking pop culture code- you’re just as bad if not worse.
At some point Ben Cooper decided “Radical Face” was a good name for his solo project and as much as I’d like to disagree, there is a better chance of me forgetting the names of my own STD’s before I forget that particular moniker. Unfortunately, not all of his ideas are quite so indelible, and end up crippling the otherwise formidable debut, “Ghost”.
Opening with the sound of a train rumbling under a heavy-hearted accordion piece, “Ghost” sounds very much at home with bands such as The Arcade Fire, with its scads of instruments, loops, field recordings and stomping percussion. What separates the record from The ‘Cade, though, is that Cooper is just a much better songwriter. He’s a one-man tune factory, pumping out song after song of memorable hooks that go from teary-eyed eulogies to optimistic marches. If these songs were stripped to bare acoustic pieces they would still retain much of their impact. But it’s not a bare acoustic record. And it still kind of sounds like Arcade Fire. Then at other times it sounds like Enya. Oh fuck, you remember Enya?
The production of this record is very professional, sleek, and bad. Not terrible but polished and, aside from a rare distorted loop, detached. With Radical Face overcompensating for being a solo project, and having so many guitars, pianos, triangles, whatever crammed into the record, everything sounds de-fanged. Many times it almost takes on that adult contemporary 90’s Enigma sound. Oh shit, you remember Enigma? It ends up choking the emotion of the record, replacing heart wrenching choruses with visions of a girl astride a pony in a cloud or something equally lame. Call me close-minded, but I’m still not real into music that sounds recorded in a billowing wheat field.
For someone so adept at writing songs, it’s too bad that so much of this record has to wallow in some sort of uncomfortable 90’s Peter Gabriel ballad limbo. Maybe there is a lack of confidence in his songwriting, or maybe it’s just that he was caught up in digital recording and the ease of throwing 47 tracks on every song. But even if you can’t stand the production, Arcade Fire, or Enya, the songs are still there and they’re still pretty damn good.