*Brief preface: the band has since informed me of my serious negligence to mention guitarist Simon Olander as the wizard behind many of the pedal technics I mention below. I apologize and offer only the lowly excuse that I do a lot of these reviews and can apparently sometimes slip into laziness and unprofessionalism. I fully respect them for not listing all of the exact guitar techniques on Bandcamp and have elected not to request such information.
I think it’s safe to say that at this point, I’m getting tipped off to my most obscure DD selections by way of Seattle’s radio station KEXP. This time they brought me Mhostly Ghostly, a band from a place called Bellingham, Washington. Their first ever album is this A Faceless Fiction. Google searches only slightly helpful, too, toward upturning any pertinent information (luckily a Bandcamp result did just shoot up). Actually, what I mostly got were links to some children’s horror book series of the late-’00s, presumably sort of like Goosebumps, titled “mostly ghostly.” So then this band takes that already juvenile theme and even misspells it, dumbing down the proceedings down what one would think would be some inescapable well of stoned-out preposterousness. Eh, fu** it. Let’s listen. It is getting toward Halloween, anyway.
My first point to raise about this album is somewhat of a statement of pride because the party I’m about to name happens to be one of my absolute favorites: but The Entrance Band is a strong influence in the A Faceless Fiction stew. It’s psyched-out blues-rock, basically, heavy on the distortion pedal, although in this case taking the m.o. charmingly of the surf-rock tomfoolery churned out by Chicago’s Cave. Here, the beach-ready groove is quintessentially Northern, “ghostly,” the Beach House synth replaced by a fruitful bevy of effects pedals and, to be honest, one of the best garage-rock rhythm sections I’ve heard, Isaac Bartick and Reid Immedl, since Eric Judy and Jeremiah Green.
“Bleed Over” is a crushing epic rock song of cosmic proportions, sectioned out into sophisticated phases and divided between sessions of distortion, harmonically textural guitar plurality, liquefied vocal effects, phrasing unorthodoxies, tense use of the blues scale and… even… PALM MUTING!… around the five-and-a-half-minute mark. Sorry, I’m getting a rush back to my Blink-182/Eve 6 glory days here.
Lots of these songs are too fu**ing short. This is a problem. Basically, you guessed it, it’s the short ones, “Ophelia Drive” being a hyper-rhythmic, jazz-informed album interlude, a side B opener, with spliced, fearsome and atonal vocals which domineer over the soundscape in an anthemic sort of way, and then “Red,” which is far more steeped in blues, but seems to carry this band’s quintessential feel of overarching POIGNANCE, as even the rhythm of this guy’s snoring would be in some way anthemic. This song has no business being under seven minutes long. But then, this is actually pretty common in our day and age, see that Common/Stevie Wonder song released a year ago, and indeed actually makes sense, in that we’re not actually paying any MONEY to hear this array of music to which we’re privy nowadays. Here’s hoping they lengthen this puppy for the live show. “Lizard Queen” finds the guitar more bulbous and Billy Corgan-y over more standard ominous beach rock. “Europa” orchestrates a somewhat pointless meter moderation into 7/4, but makes up for it with a sharp percussion pause at the end, showcasing Jeremy Bias’ effects-pedal arsenal, the distortion this time barking amidst the higher registers, giving it that sort of shrill, annoying-but-distinct sound which earlier I’d described as “Billy Corgan-y,” Mhostly Ghostly having undeniably the better bassist there. There’s also a vague Beatles-esque foray into bubble-gum-pop melody here, just enough to allow the album to employ it as a sort of secondary garnish, never seeing it materialize into a staying theme. “Ghostly,” then, plays as a classic, faux-psychedelic outro in the vein of Califone’s “Two Sisters Drunk on Each Other” or Stone Roses’ “Fools Gold,” before collapsing into frantic sped-up expressway-rock mayhem about four minutes in. Here the band fall into major chord convalescence, in my opinion, whereas they’d be better off just leaving things sinister, the whole way. But that’s just my friendly advice.
Actually, along the lines of “Ghostly”’s metamorphosis, this accelerando in fact marks the second tempo change on A Faceless Fiction, the other one coming when “Europa” similarly explodes into the sort of galloping gusto, albeit airtight, we see a lot with this band and all over this masterpiece album. In this way, it’s nice to see some type of uniforming group phenomenon such as these amphetamine crank-ups of the tempo, because truly, this thing threatens at other points to devolve into one big noise competition between the gaggle of effects pedals unleashed by Jeremy Bias, and the astonishing tightness of the drums/bass henchmen Bartick and Immel.
By the time closeur, “LWCA,” comes on, I obviously have no idea of what to expect of it at this point, but I am glad for one thing it accomplishes right away: it reminds me of this band’s preternatural knack for laying down an incredibly simple, but infectious bassline, and having it act as a unifying, melodic cornerstone of the song, hardly altered at all throughout. Like the last track “Ghostly,” this finale finally finds Bias loosening the shackles on his picking and fretting fingers, and not just his noise-box kicking, moving as we do here from close-pick shredding to a sort of hair-metal doodling in the solo. But again, all of these songs are busy, polymorphous and amazing, and the bludgeoning punk-rock groove is still there on “LWCA,” loud and clear, all the way, so it’s all the more impressive obviously if Bias can cram in some serious egotistical axe-yammering. Overall, A Faceless Fiction reminds me a lot of The Stooges best work, but with one key difference: the technical skill on display here stands head and shoulders above Iggy and the gang.