Now this is fun. Hot out of the New Jersey bars roar the ever so cutely named The Gay Blades with the UK release of their debut long-player Ghosts, an album that has been knocking about in form or another since summer 2007.
Though you might not believe it from the full-on rock swagger of the opening O Shot, this band comprises solely of guitarist/vocalist Clark Westfield and drummer/vocalist Puppy Mills. Not a bass player in sight.
Westfield and Mills call their music ‘trash pop’, and there are echoes of Paul Westerberg and The Replacements all over Ghosts. O Shot is the most obvious, a delirious and largely nonsensical slice of pure guitar scuzz. It gets the album off to a flyer and sets a standard that they never quite match, although Westfield and Mills (aka ‘The Aristocrat of Crime’ and ‘The Snitch’ respectively) give it a damn good try.
Despite its dreadfully arch title, Bob Dylan‘s 115th Nightmare is another enjoyable stomper, while Hey She Say reveals a hitherto suppressed capacity for musical inventiveness and one of the album’s best lyrics to boot.
Ghosts is not all about thrusting in your face guitar rock, much as though you get the feeling Westfield and Mills would love it to be. Dog Day Afternoon and the closing Prologue For The Pure Of Heart are bluesy ballads that wear their hearts on their sleeves, although the cod dramatics of the former wear thin very quickly with repeated listens.
N.H.D.N. and Why Can’t I Grow A Beard? are Arctic Monkeys style indie pop, albeit with a few dramatic left turns thrown in for good measure. Westfield and Mills really can’t help themselves at times, and it’s a quirk that hopefully they will grow out of. Hell, it took Westberg and The Replacements at least four albums to get out of their rebellious teenager phase.
We Wear Mittens and Robots Can Fuck Your Shit Up also outstay their welcome after a couple of listens. Humour is a difficult emotion to master in popular music. While it’s nice to hear a change from the usual boy loses girl emo rock shtick, it is also difficult to shrug off the realisation that what sounded funny when it was being recorded in the studio soon becomes tiresome and juvenile on record.
Fortunately, this edition of Ghosts is stripped of the dance remixes that Westfield and Mills chose to burden the unsuspecting record buyer with on the American release. There is a really good rock album beneath all the arch theatrics that punctuate Ghosts, one that the intrepid listener can discover for themselves.