"The King Of Louisiana"
October 15, 2013 - Broken Circles
Ghost Thrower's long-gestating full-length debut is a sprawling affair that shows the Boston/Brooklyn-based band metamorphisized once again. On a pair of introductory EPs for Equal Vision Records, ex-Therefore I Am guitarist Travis Alexander unleashed a somber sound that was delightfully miserable, imagining some hellish valley both Conor Oberst and Thursday might inhabit. A split with upstart friends Foreign Tongues [released on AP managing editor Scott Heisel's Youth Conspiracy Records —full-disclosure ed.] marked a distinct change, channeling the more playful spirit of the Weakerthans and Jets To Brazil with pristine tone and sharp playing. Their self-titled LP wields rougher production and an almost recklessly loose cohesion, but it's a largely endearing collection of lively, punk-inflected indie rock, setting self-pitying matters to mostly upbeat, forward-moving fare.
It's easy to get a mixtape vibe from Ghost Thrower at times, with echoes of diverse artists like Wavves ("The Unexamined Life"), the Get Up Kids ("Lemons"), Smokine Popes (Alexander's often restrained vocal delivery is reminiscent of Josh Caterer), and At The Drive-In (who certainly influenced TIA, but never quite inspired them in a way that resulted in something as focused, concise or abrasive as "When Are You Coming Home?"). But it's all tied together by the embittered themes Alexander has dabbled in since Day 1, from the emptiness of hipster bar culture (opener "Halloween In Brooklyn") and soured relationships ("Lemons," slow heartbreaker "The King Of Louisiana," vicious closer "Worry Addled Brain") to the absurdity of religious affiliation ("Illuminatus!") and self-destruction ("Young Luck," which harkens back to the band's early days).
While it feels like it would be stronger with a clearer focal point, it shouldn't be a surprise that a band as exploratory as Ghost Thrower have been remains that way within the confines of their first proper LP. Ghost Thrower are pretty-to-very good at seemingly any style or mood they attempt, and an experiment's rate of success like that warrants recognition.