There’s no getting away from Cherry Ghost at the moment. Every way you turn, radio, TV, Glastonbury, there they are. But it’s very welcome and their debut album doesn’t disappoint. Thirst for Romance is a beautiful blend of country and indie with track after track of melodic and catchy tunes. The band, which amazingly only formed 12 months ago, has a maturer sound than many of its contemporaries, and a more interesting sound it has to be said.
The opening title track is a great introduction to the Bolton boys. Straight in with an uplifting chorus and its Texan guitars and a chorus that stays in your head for days ‘ a good ploy to remember the name of the album.
The wonder of Cherry Ghost comes from the voice of Simon Aldred, the principle songwriter, who draws his influence from the likes of country gods Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. Even the band’s name is from a Wilco song. But his main inspiration is his hometown. “You get all these out of town shopping areas and what’s left in the town is pound shops and bars. It’s pretty depressing actually,” he says about the industrial northern town. “But it’s great for songs. You get a lot of soul and integrity that can come through that.”
And soul and integrity is something this debut has in bucketfuls, as well as a return to the good old pop song. Nine out the 11 tracks are less than four minutes long – something hard to come by these days. It makes the album fast paced, leaving the listener wanting more. It’s easy to listen to Thirst a couple of times back to back without even thinking about it.
One magical moment is the second single, People Help The People, and its beautiful “And if you’re homesick, give me your hand and I’ll hold it” lyric – simple and moving. It’s a change from the opening numbers and sits perfectly after the loudest song on the album, Mountain Bird, which gets your attention with its rolling Hammond, screeching chorus and crashing percussion.
The album continues with tales about the folk in his hometown. The people Aldred has loved and lost and the people he passes on the street, who have so many stories to tell, but no one to listen to them. Just like Mary On The Mend, the only ‘epic’ on the album at almost eight minutes. A love story with a positive outlook for a woman on her wedding day, who has three failed marriages behind her. “It’s not about becoming bitter about your situation even though your surroundings are shitty,” Aldred says.
Dead Man’s Suit, one of the finest songs I’ve heard this year, let alone on this album, also tells a tale. Its military percussion, soft piano, explosive chorus and dark lyrics about people who try so hard, but never quite make it, can stop you in your tracks. It’s the feeling of the sun suddenly bursting through a rain cloud – poignant in today’s dreariness.
The delicate strings and harmony backings of False Alarm, mixed with Aldred’s double tracked vocal and distorted drums, is another marvel, as is the punchy guitar pop of Alfred The Great, all helped by produce Dan Austin of Massive Attack fame.
The album comes to a close with the song that brought us Cherry Ghost, Mathmatics. And what a way to end.