Album Reviews

CocoRosie – The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn

(Touch & Go) UK release date: 9 April 2007

Whenever I am told that an album sounds ‘like nothing you have ever heard before’ (unqualified acclaim or veiled criticism?), I am aware of its power to make me call my sanity into question.

To describe CocoRosie’s music as ‘polarising’ would be a grave understatement. The Casady sisters’ incomparable brand of freak folk has given rise to a spectrum of flat out contradictory reviews. In 2005, our very own editor-in-chief astutely described Noah’s Ark, the duo’s previous effort, as a Marmite album. Two years later, I have duly completed the naturalisation prerequisite of being incapable of existing without Marmite. However, The Adventures Of Ghosthorse And Stillborn manages to confirm the prognosis that when it comes to CocoRosie’s music, I remain mildly schizophrenic.

On those days when I am my usual introspective self, The Adventures Of Ghosthorse And Stillborn is ingenious. Every bit as memorable, fantastical and harrowing as the sisters’ previous efforts, the album employs twisted themes pertaining to death, magic, werewolves and dreamscapes, inviting listeners to embark upon a journey which questions their notion of reality.

If thematic albums were children’s books, this album would be of the scratch n’ sniff, free mirror included, choose your own adventure, pop-ups/pull-outs and invisible ink activities on every other page variety. Standout opener Rainbowarriors is a shimmering gem which infuses hip hop beats with dreamlike vocal stylings. Any description does no justice to its wonderful eclecticism.

Promise is powerful poetry, only with electronic warbles shuffling in the background. Overall, the album cleverly balances its promiscuous exploration of idiosyncratic styles with the maintenance of some semblance of continuity. The hypnotic, piano-driven Sunshine could not be more different from the aforementioned tracks, yet it manages not to sound out of place. The sisters drift seamlessly from more straightforward songs such as Werewolf to the atmospherically unsettling Animal and the beguilingly beautiful Raphael. It all seems so effortlessly masterful.

Then there is the occasional (and I emphasis the ‘occasional’) day when an indeterminable trigger entices me to crave something frivolous and uncomplicated. On these rare occasions when I am compelled to break out Playlist 14 (my ‘I hope no one sees this when they rummage through my room after I die’ playlist), The Adventures Of Ghosthorse And Stillborn sounds like pseudo-intellectual drivel. The overall absence of melodicism, coupled with the meowing, wailing and cooing, suddenly accentuates the album’s hit-and-miss nature. Japan, with its whimsical circus-themed arrangement, resembles the soundtrack to all my prepubescent nightmares.

The misguided inclusion of infant noises in Black Poppies highlights the fact that ‘eclectic’ is often a euphemism for ‘directionless’, and Bloody Twins just sounds bloody awful. The weaker moments of this album are not just forgettable. Rather, Ghosthorse and Stillborn is far worse in its occasional propensity to sound both gratingly arty and superficially metaphorical.

Nevertheless, this reviewer remains inclined to give The Adventures Of Ghosthorse And Stillborn the 4 stars it rightfully deserves. In the absence of a schizophrenic episode, this album provides a gateway to a spine-tingling and thought-provoking experience which more than compensates for the intermittent poor man’s Bjork moments. But before you are compelled by these words to grab a copy, it may be worth asking the following question: Are you most likely to listen to an album, psychoanalyse it, or both?

buy CocoRosie MP3s or CDs
Spotify CocoRosie on Spotify

More on CocoRosie
CocoRosie – Put The Shine On
CocoRosie @ Barbican, London
CocoRosie – Tales Of A GrassWidow
CocoRosie – Grey Oceans
CocoRosie – The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn