(By David ‘Sunshine’ Lamay, Staff Writer, RiffRelevant.com)
It’s quite hard to not get behind bands like The Midnight Ghost Train. They manage to both sit comfortably within stoner elements, and still seemingly challenge the whys and hows of it all at every possible turn.
If you’re expecting dishwater blues lazily blanketed in hazy weed clouds and fuzz pedal battery, you are likely to be disappointed. This is most especially true with their third and latest offering, “Cypress Ave.“
Rather than simply step right to the present, it might be best to go back to 2015’s excellent Cold Was The Ground. Oh sure, there was the prerequisite fat, buzzy guitar, but really that was the only “norm”. Most every track was barn-burning in speed and execution, with tasty lead flashes stitched snugly into the wall of riffs. These, in turn, were complimented by tight, almost tribal, rhythmic passages.
None of the aforementioned endeavors are often explored – and/or properly implemented – options for such music. Throw in Steve Moss‘ Tom Wait-isms in both voice and cryptic street prose styling, and you have a fine recipe for a true identity.
And so, to “Cypress Ave.” we must return. Right away, and actually, throughout most of the first half of the record, “Cold” is a strong frame of reference. Rest assured, that is not a bad thing at all as the sound is, as previously mentioned, something rather unique.
However, that is not enough for the band. Within the latter portion of songs is where things really get interesting. Track six, “Break My Love“, sparks things up in convincing, shuffling fashion. It is very much like it was conceived and honed in a Chicago alley speakeasy so many decades back.
“The Boogie Down” is next to make an impression, but not without a possible caveat. Musically, I love the funky horn-driven trip back to the 70s, via War and Brainchild, but the hip-hop ramblings atop are definitely a challenge for me to get past… but not impossible.
Moving on, we get a warm, bass-y piece of alterna-quiet introspection, with “Black Wave“. I found myself recalling J. Mascis at his most approachable. Now, three striking songs out a total of eleven may not seem to mean that much, yet when some-to-many of the elements in them are also deftly placed into what you already expect, know, and have heard, you have to start thinking about the promising bigger picture.
The Midnight Ghost Train are laying out some none-too-subtle hints that change is coming. That said, I’ll just spell it out finally: “Cypress Ave.” is, like it or not, a transitional album. Thankfully, it is a damn fine one. So fine, in fact, that rather than cringing at the scenario that likely lies ahead, I am eager to hear the more enveloping changes that I almost guarantee are sure to arise.
The Midnight Ghost Train:
Steve Moss – Vocals, Guitar
Brandon Burghart – Drums
Mike Boyne – Bass
Visit The Midnight Ghost Train website for all that is happening in the band now and on the horizon. Here are their latest tour dates:
Feb 4 – Rocksound – Barcelona, ES
Feb 5 – Dabadaba – San Sebastián, ES
Feb 6 – Sala Memphis – Gijón, ES
Feb 7 – La Ley Seca – Zaragoza, ES
Feb 8 – Raindogs – Savonna, IT
Feb 9 – All’Una e TrentaCinque Circa – Cantù CO, IT
Feb 10 – Börom Club – Oberentfelden, CH
Feb 12 – Scumm – Pescara, IT
Feb 13 – Pit – Bellinzona, CH
Feb 15 – TBA – Ludwisburg, DE
Feb 16 – Pitcher – Düsseldorf, DE
Feb 17 – Little Devil – Tilburg, NL
Feb 18 – The Dev – Camden, UK
Feb 19 – The Exchange – Bristol, UK
Feb 20 – The Phoenix – Coventry, UK
Feb 21 – Bannermans – Edinburgh, UK
Feb 22 – N.E.S.T – Gent, BE
Feb 23 – Baroeg – Rotterdam, NL
Feb 24 – DB’s – Utrecht, NL
Feb 27 – Zukunft am Ostkreuz – Berlin, DE
Mar 1 – Gonzobar – Tegelen, NL
Mar 2 – Nikola Tesla – Chemnitz, DE
Mar 3 – Kulturbahnhof – Jena, DE