Monday, April 16, 2012

Gross Ghost - Brer Rabbit (Grip Tapes)

Spring has sprung, and local releases are popping out like the ubiquitous tree pollen. So I'm gonna use the next few blog entries to give my humble opinion of a few of them.

Let's start with Carrboro's Gross Ghost. What started as Mike Dillon (Spader, Old Bricks), roommate Tre Acklen, and a tape machine, has grown into a full-fledged band. Their new album, Brer Rabbit (on Grip Tapes), lives up to its namesake. It hides a sharp edge behind a veneer of breeziness, luring us into a thorny patch that, thankfully, Gross Ghost has no problem navigating.

From the beginning, on Architect, Dillon's vocals darkly echo like a plugged-in Donovan in front of a wall of guitars. The feel from the get-go is one of summer, but in a contemplative, end-of-the-day kind of way. The second song, Leslie is a real highlight. It's very "beachy" the way he the name is wailed in a high 5 or 6 syllables... but then you hit the briars, when it's followed by "feels like I'm watching you but no one's watching me".

Up next is maybe the best cut on the album, Meltdown. It's a soaring melody that starts with "Giving up on you today" and proceeds through falling chords that sing of "every boy, every girl, having meltdowns". The song captures the feeling of a meltdown, but in an oh-so-sweet way. Right about now, the guitars are getting about as dense as a Built to Spill/Jesus and Mary Chain mash-up (see Hopscotch lineup!).

Rabbit gets even poppier with Lurker (is there a stalker theme going here?), complete with clap-clap-claps, before heading down a dark alley or two with the gutsy jazz/pop/zen meld of Lazy Little Walk, and the Hurdy-Gurdy-esque Soft Focus.

There are a couple of pop-punk "singles" -- driving bass, slightly snarly vocals -- on songs like Devious (which definitely owes a debt to the Descendents) and Sooner or Later, great songs on their own. That's how, to me, the band struck me live: garage-y fun punk. But that's normal for a band's live alter-ego. The strength the Gross Ghost, however, and of Brer Rabbit , comes when it merges that sense of pop with odder, darker elements... something it does very well.

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