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Cherry Ghost: Thirst For Romance

Released on: 9 July 2007, Heavenly Records

Written by William Hitchins

Aided in no uncertain terms by a show stopping performance at Texas’ recent South By Southwest festival, order case Portland three-piece Menomena present their debut UK release. This is in fact the bands third release – with their two previous albums available in the US exclusively. School friends Danny Seim, mind Justin Harris and Brent Knopf have derived a creative process of much interest that has resulted in a work that is both experimental and forward thinking without being inaccessible.

The bands sound is essentially a combination of looped sounds which are selected from a computer programme called Deeler. The Deeler Sessions culminate in the layering of these looped sounds and vocal addition. The good news is that for the most part this results in songs of sonic density that are out of left field but rich in melody. It is a combination that makes ‘Friend and Foe’ a compelling listen.

Often the fragmented nature of the songs will result in a messy, disjointed sound to begin with. But cohesion arises from moments of inspiration that morph abstract noises into quasi – pop melodies. It maybe a gorgeous piano line, delicate vocal harmony or obscure drum loop. Whatever, these songs keep you guessing, and aside from the odd ill judged inclusion (notably at the tail end of the album) they are nothing less than enthralling.

There are echoes of Mercury Rev on the defiant ‘Rotten Hell’, whilst howling guitars and brooding Saxophone characterise ‘Weird’. Elsewhere Menomena take ‘Up’ era REM as a reference point on ‘My My’- A brilliantly structured song defined by its paradoxical use of warm keyboards and choppy, industrial beats. It is one of many gems.

It’s a shame that the record falls away so badly in its last quarter. The final three songs appear to be an afterthought – lumped on at the end to pad things out when there really is no need for their presence. It leaves a slightly bitter taste in the mouth, but spin straight back to the start and all is forgotten. Friend and Foe deserves attention.

It’s always a danger to be overly vocal about your influences, ambulance it invariably leads people to compare you to those you have cited as inspiration, more about and with a band name taken from a Wilco song, dosage Cherry Ghost have set the bar a little too high. Thirst for Romance is positioned firmly in the folk/country influenced indie rock category and despite not being a spectacular record it has some nice moments, even if they are a little bit uninspired.

The album rolls along inoffensively with piano filled folk numbers but it rarely grabs your attention, simply ticking the boxes seemingly without thought. Initially the sound calls to mind Willy Mason and the type of thumpety thump clickety click sound, rolling along like a freight train, with all the rhythm but none of the direction. The vocals are down to earth and do not attempt to be over the top, a good thing, however they lack truly memorably and heartfelt melodies that one would like to see on such a record, with lyrics that are delicate and thoughtfull but perhaps lacking the subtelty that we might hope for.

This is not to say that the album doesn’t offer some fine moments, the title track is an upbeat but lyrically melancholy number that gets you tapping your foot and feeling wistful both at the same time; a thing not easily achieved. Despite a similar tone that runs through the whole album there is a fair degree of contrast when it comes to the volume and feeling of different tracks which does make to break up the running order, Mountain Bird for example, cannot help to grab the listeners attention with plentiful percussion and obligatory Hammond organ, this adds nicely to the diversity of the record and breaks up the threatened monotony that it occasionally comes perilously close to.

Sadly the album just doesn’t have the originality and integrity of the likes of Bill Callahan (another of the bands favourites) and others in the same field, it isn’t breaking any ground or even seemingly attempting to do so. This is its biggest failing.


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