TV Ghost, ‘Disconnect’ – Album Review
Indiana’s TV Ghost have taken a noticeable turn to the dark side on their newest LP, eschewing much of the wiry, riff-heavy post-punk of their earlier releases for a sound that is infinitely gloomier.
While comparisons to Pere Ubu, the Birthday Party or even a male version of the Slits were fitting in the past, TV Ghost now come off like Echo & the Bunnymen circa ‘Heaven Up Here’ or ‘Porcupine,’ when they were at their most melancholic. The 10 songs on ‘Disconnect’ are awash in reverb-drenched atmospherics and psychedelic instrumentation, carried along at a stoner’s pace by a slow-marching rhythm section and imbued with morbid crooning by frontman Tim Gick.
The track ‘Placid Deep’ is a good example of the band’s somber new sound. The ending drones on for roughly a minute, as a haunting organ snakes its way through a wall of noise and repetitive, slow-building bass and drums. It leaves the listener in a trance, likely to forget this is the same band that released the manic post-punk album ‘Cold Fish’ only a few years ago.
Aside from the obvious push to go darker, TV Ghost are clearly experimenting with space on ‘Disconnect.’ The breathing room helps the songs feel bigger and at times almost cinematic, and repeated listens reveal subtle intricacies based on the interaction of bass, drums and guitar. The chorus of ‘Stranger,’ for example, includes a simple tremolo-affected guitar line tucked under the mix that recreates the sound of a distant violin, while the sparse rhythm section provides Gick with enough space to release the kind of blood-curdling yelps that would make Scott Walker proud.
There’s also ‘Dread Park,’ in which Gick whispers his way through a morose dirge of watery guitar chords and a restrained drum beat. If this tune were a film, it would be a David Lynch flick, and the rest of ‘Disconnect’ could serve as the soundtrack.
For fans of the slightly more upbeat (but never joyful) TV Ghost heard on prior releases, ‘Others Will Be Born’ and ‘Maze of Death’ channel some of that bygone punk rock aggression, albeit with a heavy dose of atmospherics thrown in. The band hasn’t completely abandoned its rawer roots in the attempt to expand its sound, and that’s a good thing.
At times, ‘Disconnect’ leans too heavily on guitar effects and layers of synth to create a mood. The first half of opener ‘Five Colors Blind,’ for example, sounds like TV Ghost playing around with their new gear for the first time, layering noise and inaudible vocals over an uninspired beat. Nonetheless, the band has taken a chance updating their sonic palette, and the results are rewarding.
TV Ghost is arguably noisier and more innovative than Interpol and more unsettling than contemporaries Weekend. They’re clearly well versed in the dark post-punk of countless ’80s bands, and with ‘Disconnect,’ they’ve returned with a worthy addition to the record collection of anyone who likes to revel in the gloomier side of rock music.