Quick Spins: The Ghost Is Dancing, Amanda Blank, Muse
By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 1, 2009 4:20PM
In which we take a quick look at a few recent musical releases.
The Ghost Is Dancing will doubtless bring up comparisons to the Black Kids since both bands tend to create frenzied and chiming backing tracks underneath adenoidal male yelps cut by velvety female counter-vocals. There is a difference between the groups though. While both do indeed charm upon first listen, The Black Kids' tunes begin to grate pretty quickly upon repeated listens while The Ghost Is Dancing reveal deeper layers underneath their shimmering chords. There's an epic quality to The Ghost Is Dancing's Battles On that isn't immediately apparent which allows this read. The title track is a surging victory lap that's only two songs in, but it sets up the cheering section fro the remainder of the album. The Ghost Is Dancing comes across as a band caught up in the eternal battle of a visionary quest. With each song they try ever harder to get at something that can be both jubilant and darkly real, and it's the thirst that sets them apart from any comparisons too hastily made. Sometime the idea of RIYL is misleading, and in this case it's an insult to The Ghost Is Dancing.
Philadelphia's Amanda Blank is best down for bawdy guest spots, primarily alongside fellow locals Spank Rock. Her rapid-fire rhymes are often cheeky and sexy at the same time, and we've always enjoyed it when she popped up on records we were listening to. She appeared with Spank Rock at Lollapalooza and cemented her image in our head as a performer that could easily dominate the stage and steal the focus from whoever was around her. That's probably why we're pretty disappointed by her solo debut, I Love You. She tries on so many guises we feel like it the verbal equivalent of Cher undergoing a thousand costume changes. This fluidity wouldn't bother us if we felt there was something more solid at the base of it, mooring her delivery. The production is mostly inventive, but the songs don't sit together as if on an album. Instead they skitter against each other, fighting for dominance as Blank channels a pseudo-Peaches on one and an enjoyable if pointless imitation of Luscious Jackson on another. the whole album underscores the danger of forcing an MC to come up with an album's worth of material when their talent might be more suited to the single format.
We've really enjoyed the last few Muse albums, but with The Resistance the band has finally overdone it in their bid to steal the title of biggest band in the world from U2 / Coldplay. Leader Matthew Bellamy had a way of pushing the melodrama without ever breaking our trust in his power to walk the line between actual thrills and histrionics. Taking equal cues from early Queen, Bowie glam, (yes) guitar period Radiohead, and the bands that populate the pages of the NME in the '80s, Muse concocted a blend that was slightly silly but always satisfying. The Resistance still has a few of those triumphs in the "Starlight" rewrite of "Uprising" of their previous album, and the ELO/Queen pastiche of the album's title song. But too often Bellamy allows his vision to become bloated as on the ridiculous multi-part mess of "United States Of Eurasia (+Collateral Damage)" and the unlistenable three-song closer, the pointless "Exogenesis: Symphony." Our advice? Buy the best tracks through iTunes and create your own killer EP.