The Ghost – This is a Hospital

The Ghost
This is a Hospital

I remember when I first heard Hot Water Music. After getting by the fact that the singer sounded like he gargled with acid, I was impressed by the band’s style, somewhere between hardcore and impassioned rock. The Ghost fall into the same territory on their debut full-length. For a debut, This is a Hospital presents a very mature, well-packaged product, high-powered and given even more clout by the backing of Some Records (who have released some Hot Water Music releases) and Steve Albini manning the boards.
I knew from the first listen that I could not help but like this album. It’s high-powered rock from start to finish, with tight but ripping guitar lines, powerful and moody percussion, and vocals that are both sung and shouted (with some nice background screams that sometimes evoke Planes Mistaken for Stars). Yet The Ghost are not totally hardcore. With punk and rock roots equally evident, at times I’m more reminded of Samiam in their energy and indie-rock foundation. That makes for a great mix.
“Death By the Bay” starts with high-potent rock in the vein of Hot Water Music, fast but restrained. “I’ve seen these kingdoms rise and fall / I’ve seen these faces change with the seasons,” belts out lead singer Brian Moss somewhere between a deep singing voice and a shout. It’s on the stellar “On and On” that I first make my Samiam comparisons in the confident, powerful vocals and more intricate guitar work. It may sound odd, but I almost hear a grounding of good-ol’ indie-rock ala Guided By Voices in the inflection and rock base of “Gem, Mint Ten,” another great song.
Much more melodic and introspective, “My First and Last” is the required more mellow song, although it does pick up in intensity and has nice lyrics like “I’ve built this castle in sand / it becomes smaller with every grain.” Much more in-your-face, especially in terms of vocals, “By the Books” is a nice straight-forward rock song, made more unique by the powerful vocal delivery and an emphasis on percussion. “The Exhibition” is much more laid-back, just a very light, soft song that helps to break things up before the closer, “Red Slippers Red Wheels,” which it flows nicely into. This song is more up-tempo rocking, although not too powerful, but with a lofty chorus and powerful guitar work that elevates it by the end.
Part of me wants to point out that this style of music has been done before – and in truth, it feels very much like 1998 or thereabouts. But that wouldn’t be fair, because The Ghost really does not sound derivative. Their music is powerful and intense, mixing emo with hardcore and punk-rock for a wonderful hybrid that gets better with every listen. This is a stellar debut.