The Upshot: If you like drawling guitars and the springy thud of basslines, if you prefer sunny melodies dredged in fog and dissonance, this is as good a bet as any.
BY JENNIFER KELLY
Cool Ghouls, out of San Francisco, fit very neatly into that city’s tripped out, fuzzed over vibe. It’s no stretch at all to imagine this band sharing a bill with the Mantles or Ty Segall or the Fresh & Onlys. It’s no surprise to find that Kelley Stoltz produced this album (and Sonny Smith the one before it). If you like drawling guitars and the springy thud of basslines, if you prefer sunny melodies dredged in fog and dissonance, Cool Ghouls is as good a bet as any.
Where these Ghouls – that’s Pat McDonald on guitar and vocals, Pat Thomas on bass, Ryan Wong on lead guitar and Alex Fleshman on drums — pull away from the competition, a bit, is in the vocals. Three part harmonies tip the verse into choral ecstasies on cuts like “When You Were Gone.” Waves of “wahs” and “ahs” swirl around “Never You Mind,” lifting the cut into euphoric overdrive. Counterparts cut and soar through “Just Like Me,” the “la-di-das” as vital a sound as the tightly harmonized verse. The vocals overflow the melodies, spilling out over the corners and soaking the tunes in fizzy warm good feelings.
The instrumental work is good, too, especially the guitars, from the sitar-like twang of 1960s redolent “Sundial” to the driving, feedback cloaked “Time Capsule,” to the countrified lilt of “(If I Can’t Be) The Man.” In fact, I’d say Animal Races is another good one, and if it doesn’t have any song as memorable as “What a Dream I Had” from A Swirling Fire Burning Through Rye (which still plays on the mental phonograph with almost no encouragement some two years later), it doesn’t have any real laggards either.
DOWNLOAD: “When You Were Gone” “Sundial” “Time Capsule”