It’s a dramatic start for The Black Ghosts‘ debut – none of the old Simian psychedelic mildness we all knew and loved and without the craziness of electro spin-off Simian Mobile Disco. Its opening cinematic strings are joined by some deep, percussive bass and a frantic beat, all with that great voice of former Simian front man Simon Lord and a Sgt Pepper screeching orchestra ending.
So, good start with Some Way Through This. But hang on, what’s this awful, tinny and overused rhythm of the self-titled album’s first single, Anyway You Choose To Give It? Okay, the chorus is catchy and it could be a dance floor hit, but the originality that drenched Simian so many years ago is completely gone. Lord’s vocals seem out of place and the song is a weird hybrid of distorted guitar and piano with some kind of Garage Band backing.
Next on to It’s Your Touch. What is happening? When you think retro soul in modern-day funky dance, this is what you get time and time again. It kind of works, but only because it has worked better a hundred times before. Lord’s voice is mixed so badly, it’s like a nasty karaoke at your local discotheque, where the 2-4-1 cocktails are the only reason you’re dancing in the first place.
Seven years ago, I watched Simian play in front of…well, me and the support band’s bassist (the band was called Ghosts, strangely). My fellow music lovers didn’t know what they were missing when tracks from Chemistry Is What We Are filled the empty hall.
Its spin-off, Simian Mobile Disco, which featured Lord on many of its tracks, became a hit because it didn’t take itself seriously and tried something new because it was fun.
Black Ghosts are trying the same, trying to tread in the footsteps of Hot Chip and the like, but they’re trying too hard. Almost every track on the album is amazingly unoriginal, but trying to be something different by snippets of weirdness, like a sudden thrash guitar riff or Gregorian style backing chants.
What it comes down to is the songs aren’t good and the production is awful. Lord has swapped his understated and slightly off the wall vocals for what can only be described as some wannabe who’s landed himself a guest spot on the village hall DJ’s debut. Sorry Theo Keating, former Wiseguy and part two of the Black Ghosts duo, but it sounds like this album was thrown together in five minutes.
When you take away the Sunshine Disco bad club sound track, something a bit better shines through. Full Moon features a lone violin, double bass and Spanish guitar over a more bearable hip-hop beat, leading in to something a little more orchestral and a lot more pleasant. This is something that Lord’s voice can adapt to. He shines because it’s something a bit different.
I’m not going to pretend I know anything about dance, and the experts out there might be thinking this album features the ‘tune’ of the summer, but for a former Simian fan, this is nothing but a huge disappointment.