Wednesday, November 12, 2014

REVIEW: Cool Ghouls - A Swirling Fire Burning Through the Rye

Ah, the Cool Ghouls.  How cool are these ghouls?  Well, for one thing they are releasing a fall album and, despite their self-proclaimed status as ghouls, felt no pressure to release A Swirling Fire Burning Through the Rye on Halloween.  Perhaps the lesson is that cool, playful, noisy ghouls are welcome in any season.  It certainly is a lesson to which I can subscribe.  In fact, I'd endorse these guys to be the WYMA house band.  Why?  They check a large number of boxes critical for listening around here.  There is the garage rock base with reminders of the '60s and plenty of West Coast psychedelia layered on, and the guitars satisfy my yearning for a dose of jangle and a swath of acid with my garage rock.  The band's arrangements make the most of their multiple strong vocalists, and their delivery is energetic and infectiously focused on fun.  Recorded by fellow San Francisco musician Sonny Smith and mixed and mastered by Melbourne's Mr. Music Everyman Mikey Young, this sophomore LP is a powerful statement of the band's abilities.

The album kicks off with the energetic "And It Grows", with chunky, psych guitar riffs and soaring harmonies.  The following "The Mile" is a garage nugget featuring a muscular groove and ringing guitar accents.  The boys may not consider themselves retro, but this is one of those songs that reminds me of the Sir Douglas Quintet.  "What A Dream I Had" is a slower paced psychedelic track.  The proceedings shift back to the garage rock side of the ledger for the duration, providing my favorite songs of the set.  Running the table are "Orange Light", "Insight", the glorious anthem "Get A Feeling" (this one should be on everyone's party mix), "Across the River", the delightfully Byrdsian "Reelin'" and "New Moon", and the relaxed swing of "Sweet Rain".  They unspool like a band recorded live in a single setting, with increasing confidence and swagger.  In fact, I assure you that as good as the three songs embedded below are, to my ears they aren't even the best songs on the album.  From track four on this album races into garage rock gold standard territory -- a band that is instrumentally tight, focused and completely dialed in to their songs.  Make this album yours, and you'll get many hours of pleasure out of it.

A Swirling Fire Burning Through the Rye is out now via Empty Cellar Records.

Empty Cellar Records

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