The Gay Blades – Ghosts
Released Date: August 22nd, 2007
Record Label: Unsigned
I believe there are two kinds of cock rock. On one end, there is wild riffage fit for jungle expeditions, skin-tight leather, and stadium seating. And then there is the dive bar sort. It’s a grittier experience and usually involves swashbuckling over the cheapest beer in the house, intimate howling from the leading man, and a parade of crunchy (but still just as wild) shredding. Both varieties provoke images of steamy men and sexy mic poses. When The Gay Blades start off their full-length Ghosts with “O Shot,” a sassy and abrasive guitar-centered piece, my latter version of c-rock is already starting up for a retro surf rock-like whiplash. I’m thinking it’s going to be a night for the ages ... if I can remember the next morning.
And then Ghosts takes it to a whole new level, a level TGB like to call “trash pop.” Apparently, “trash pop is what happens two keenly observant wannabe hipsters write songs the same pair couldn’t possibly pull off live and make up for their missing bass player with consistent TNT like performances and a heaping spoonful of swagger.” There is more swagger and attitude on Ghosts than most bands could handle, and this is what sets TGB apart from any other similar effort. Some songs bring on a bluesy ballad (“Prologue For The Pure Of Heart”), some songs take on poppier rock with capturing melodies (“N.H.D.N.”), and some could even fill out the score of RENT (“Dog Day Afternoon”). TGB’s in-your-face rock is always cool, always impressively arranged, and always entertaining.
For only two dudes, Clark Westfield and Puppy Mills output a HUGE product. With transitions, textures and elements to spare, these are not simple rock songs, even though they do simply rock. A song on Ghosts can hang a left turn at any moment, and none of these jumps are unfortunate. As spazzy as the album is on a whole, I am never lost in the mix. I think this has to do with guitarist/vocalist Westfield. He gives off an eager and emotional energy that matches the mood of the moment. “Robots Fuck Your Shit Up” begins self-reflecting and worried. Background vocals kick in with some kosher bah bahs towards the end, and Westfield reacts with a more confident croon-yell syndicate. When the guitars are anxious, so is Westfield. When the song is silly, so is Westfield. When the vibes are flirtatious, Westfield is unbuttoning his shirt. And when Westfield wants a sing-along on “Why Can’t I Grow A Beard,” he fucking gets one. Ghosts is a hotbed of complexities, and this is from a band that doesn’t even have a real bass player.
A common problem I have with gritty pop bands: their work is either over-produced, leaving out the good smut, or under-produced and the sound equivalent to muddy water. Ghosts is a fit arrangement of both slick and raw tones. The final straw of satisfaction comes with sharp song titles like my personal favorite, “You’re A Garbage Barge, I’m A Dream Boat.” There is an underlying (and sometimes obvious) absurdity/quirkiness on Ghosts that is part ridiculous and part brilliance. Besides being indie rock that actually rocks, The Gay Blades keep it fun. And that’s something you can take beyond the dive bar.