Album Review: Various artists – Ghost Babes Compilation, Vol. 1

By on Thursday, 12th February 2015 at 1:00 pm
 

Ghost Babes Records of Dalston was founded in late 2014 and with some rather unusual principles. The label will be releasing music from only certain genres: lo-fi, slacker, surf rock, beach pop and punk rock. They’ll only be putting out compilations, allowing them to put together best-of groupings of the best and brightest these genres have to offer. The compilations from Ghost Babes will all be released on only two formats, digital download and old school cassette tape.

But the really unexpected twist came as a complete surprise to this Yankee: only American bands will be featured on the compilations; the press sheets asserts, “Inspired by great US underground labels like Kanine and Exploding in Sound, Ghost Babes is here to bring the American DIY spirit back to the UK”. As an American, I always wondered what the big deal was about Best Coast and why they and other American guitar bands were so popular in Britain. Maybe too much familiarity towards the supposed next great British guitar band being splashed on the cover of NME really does breed contempt? With just one listen through this 12-track collection of blistering guitar brilliance, you might just want to turn in your Union Jack for the Stars and Stripes.

The line between lo-fi and punk can often be blurred, and this American compilation starts off strong with Boston’s Slothrust and ‘Cubicle’, which sees a disaffected lead vocal paired with hooks aplenty and runaway drums. Brooklyn’s The So So Glos are like the 21st Century Ramones, with lighter, more melodic guitars and an ever so slight pop edge evident on the cheekily-named ‘Diss Town’. Dances take the craziness up a notch with ‘Rats’, their brand of punk going into psych rock territory.

But it’s not just the Northeast of America that can kick up a big noise. Baby Ghosts (pictured at top), as they scream, shout and bash their guitars on ‘Ghost Boyfriend’, prove West Coasties (or at least folks from the Mormon stronghold of Salt Lake City, Utah) can rock out too. Jayson Gerycz, more famously known as the drummer for Cleveland band Cloud Nothings, has a side project Total Babes that makes music so fuzzy and lo-fi (as evidenced on ‘Tip of My Tongue’), you’re expecting them to be bratty and sticking their tongues out at you on the other side of the speakers.

There is also some nice female vocal stylings on display here, which I might not have expected from a collection of songs that begins so…loud. ’90s grunge era Courtney Love would be so proud. Philly natives Bleeding Rainbow have an affinity for psych, and having a female lead vocalist gives their ‘So You Know’ additional cachet. Brooklyn’s Beverly may only be a duo, but their huge guitar and drum sounds are paired with Drew Citron’s ethereal vocals for an unexpected treat of two extremes. Check out their official video for ‘Madora’ below. Another Brooklyn band, BOYTOY, favours even fuzzier guitars on their song ‘Blazed’, I suppose to act as a counterpoint to their singer’s echoey vocals.

On the lighter side of things, LVL UP have a band name that honestly sounds like the band members were reared on playing Super Mario on the original Nintendo consoles of the ’80s. Perhaps their lighter, sunnier sound, exemplified on ‘Stoned Alone’, is reflective of their Westchester County origin? Turning our attention back to Brooklyn, trio Painted Zeros‘ ‘Too Drunk’ sounds like you’ve been transported to a fun house party. You can enjoy the tunes on offer and not have to suffer the hangover the next morning: score! Fellow Brooklynites Bellows might share a part of New York but offer up a much more subtle take on pop, evocative of Eighties dream pop band The Dream Academy as demonstrated on ‘White Sheet’.

The album ends with Dee Dee Mayo‘s ‘It’s Not Hard’, an experimental surf pop sound coming straight from Howler‘s Ian Nygaard. While there are lyrics, Nygaard mostly offers up an instrumental soundscape with a catchy beat that makes you imagine having a tropical drink in hand by Waikiki Beach rather than his hometown of Minneapolis. And that feeling best sums up this collection: it may be February, but armed with this compilation featuring tunes that range from frenetic shout-a-longs to dreamier, slacker anthems, you can feel like you’re driving down the Pacific Coast Highway in the middle of summer with the top of your convertible rolled down, all year long.

8/10

‘Ghost Babes Compilation, Vol. 1’ will be out on the 23rd of February on Ghost Babes Records. It will be available on limited edition white-coloured cassettes (with only 100 being made) and digital download. Purchase your copy through this link on Ghost Babes’ Bandcamp. You can also have a listen to the tracks in the player below.

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