Daniel Friel – Ghost Town

Daniel Friel
Ghost Town

Daniel Friel’s main band, Parts and Labor, offers up slabs of rock tempered with a little noise. Lots of bands have done that over the years, some to great effect and some to little. Parts and Labor always fell somewhere near the better end of the middle of that spectrum to me. On Ghost Town, Friel offers up pure pop tempered with noise. Keep in mind that this is NOT noise-pop, which is an entirely different beast. No, what we’ve got here is something like what would happen if you compressed the hell out a Merzbow recording and added the bouncing digital pop that made up the soundtracks to the original NES greats such as Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda, Kid Icarus, etc. There are no vocals to get in the way but Ghost Town still manages to retain a vibrant sense of playfulness that just isn’t present in most noise records (Incapacitants being the one exception). THIS is what that Fuck Buttons record should have been like.

So let’s get something else out of the way right now too. Some of the press releases and descriptions from Important Records have been touting Ghost Town as the antecedent to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. I don’t even know how to explain the connection but it seems pretty accurate to me. Somehow the melodies Friel is playing with on this album just work; they function to serve the same purpose as the melodies on that Neutral Milk Hotel album by providing a firm foundation for something that might not otherwise make sense. In the case of Neutral Milk Hotel it’s Jeff Mangum’s voice that benefits from those melodies, on Ghost Town it’s this static blast of noise that might otherwise overwhelm the listener. Let me be even more direct, this is a noise record that even the most squeamish indie fan might be able to listen to and enjoy. It’s amazing how Friel has managed to temper these inexplicably perfect pop pieces from a source that’s normally not conducive to doing so. It’s as if the noise just rides in on a wave of melody and happens to make intensity a secondary thought. When most groups are trying to be the harshest of the harsh, Friel quietly steps away from that competition and delivers something singular sounding and definitive.

Ghost Town works on so many levels at the same time it almost seems unfair. Aside from being noise and pop at the same time, some of it almost treads on dance territory as well. Not that I could really imagine people in a club getting into this or even dancing to it, but as I mentioned before it has a certain amount of bounce to it. This is where the comparisons to the music of 8-bit video games seems to hold weight. All of this noise and melody are draped over a latticework of percussionless unrepetitive rhythm. It’s almost like Ghost Town was made with the intention of people hearing it, nodding their heads and going “shit yeah!”

Daniel Friel has inadvertently created a noise record for people who don’t like noise. This is the antithesis to No Fun Fest and all of its participants. Instead of making a record of insular music for a ready-made audience, Friel has managed to make a noise record that maybe for the first time feels inclusive. Don’t like noise, Ghost Town will choke you with its melodies. Tired of straight pop, it’ll broaden the scope of what that term now encompasses. If you’re looking for another great record in a year filled with them, look no further.