Skeleton House – Crooked Ghost (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Imagine if The Cult had, instead of embracing foot on the monitor, leather clad rock, gone down a more 4AD inspire route around album three. Imagine if Echo and The Bunnymen had been inspired by Kate Bush rather than their retro-American influences. Imagine if The Church had opted for a  shoegaze infused sound rather than the iconic 12-string jangle. All strange and hypothetical scenarios, but all ones that go some way to describe the glorious sound that Crooked Ghost make on this, their second album. I guess it is only journalists flailing for a handle who conjure such ridiculous images but it says a lot about a band when you need to resort to such extremes. Although, I must admit, it is also a fun thing to do. 

Crooked Ghost sound like a missing band from the mid-eighties, UK post-punk circuit, perhaps a band who toured regularly with The Cure and The Smiths, were regular at The Electric Ballroom, who played halfway up the bill on Reading Festivals Friday alternative bill.  The fact that the band are actually the product of modern day Seattle may come as a bit of a surprise but I reckon I could have a good stab at many of the albums in instigator Ray Clark’s record collection. To his credit he manages to  encapsulate the sound of that era perfectly but without ever resorting to pastiche or plundering.

Sleepwalker has a splendid jagged-edged quality, a blend of chiming riffs and crashing chords and a wonderful intensity, but one that stops short of the dark gothic sound of the era and thus avoids the cliched traps but with enough spikiness to swerve its emerging, and slightly twee, New Pop sound as well. Body In Stars is a shimmering, slow-burning slice of tense and terse drama, Catch Fire mixes brooding outsiderism with commercial catch and the title track is dirge-like and brilliantly claustrophobic.

Pop with a purpose? Indie with attitude? The sound of the underground clawing its way into the light..or half-light at least? Maybe I should stop trying to foist my pointless scenarios on the band and just tell it like it is. A great band, a great album and a great sound. They may wear their musical hearts on their sleeves but when the influences are this cool and the music  that results from them this innovative then it can only be a badge of honour. Right?

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