Both the beauty and downfall of Holy Ghost!’s debut is that it’s best heard under a blanket of blue sky and sun. The fact the deep ’80s disco is most irresistible under the influence of vitamin D positivity makes it an album not suited to all situations. It epitomises style and polish, but lacks permanency and ultimately, substance.
The New York duo – Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel – are dab hands at deftly weaving clean beats and soulful melody. Their disco synth sound makes them trademark DFA record label artists from across the pond, who often feel like the slightly older, less frivolous brothers of French/Parisian house – like Phoenix but without the unpredictability, or Digitalism without the hedonism.
It’s hard not to draw comparison between Holy Ghost! and LCD Soundsystem. Not least because DFA’s founders include ex-LCD James Murphy, but also because not two weeks have passed since his eponymous band bowed out at New York’s Madison Square Garden, leaving a gaping hole on DFA that’s begging to be filled.
So far, the two have produced some sublime tracks, but Holy Ghost! still doesn’t display a formula built for longevity, mostly because its lyrical content – preoccupied largely with nights out and girls – feels too shallow for the quality of the band’s sound.
Two tracks from last year’s Static On The Wire EP – Say My Name and Static On The Wire – have found their way onto the album, along with 2007 single Hold On. It’s testament to their quality that some of these were picked up by Kitsuné and The Bang Gang’s compilations.
Frustratingly though, these earlier moments still feel like most of the highlights from the debut. Hold On’s looped synth and Frankel’s pared-down vocals feel like the ingredients of a dancefloor classic, harmonising perfectly with c’est la vie lyrics like, “I love this city but I hate my job, and this whole city loves me back”.
This could all make quite damning reading for the debut, which is actually far from disappointing. As well as the older material, there are some of the same breathtaking moments we already knew the pair are capable of. Do It Again has a slow burning ’80s, Kraut-influenced, insistent beat that’s reminiscent of an Aeroplane remix. And Wait And See is a sleek example of their poppy side, with doorbell keyboards and more of Frankel’s pigeon-toed vocals that give the album an endearing quality throughout.
Catchy hooks are peppered across the album, with the oriental chimes and Chromeo cool of Hold My Breath, the early New Order beat signature of Jam For Jerry, and even the rather odd Some Children, whose choir in the latter half alludes to what a mashmix of the Rozalla and Romeo and Juliet versions of Everybody’s Free might sound like.
Like a lot of artists on the label though – Shit Robot and YACHT included – Holy Ghost! lack the depth of LCD Soundsystem. By virtue of being on DFA and releasing an album so soon in their wake, this sets an inherently unreachable yardstick for the band. It’s a competent disco celebration of an album, but Holy Ghost! will need to dig a little deeper into their souls and diversify their influences to make more of a mark in the long run.