Like with most other genres, there is a solid set of rules that can or can not be followed when creating an album. An example of a band that does not necessarily follow the genre’s rules is Opeth. Their primary appeal is that they are able to almost seamlessly change style many times throughout a song, thus they are stepping off the beaten Death Metal track. Conversely, an example of an album that does follow the genre’s rules, thereby becoming overly generic, would be the Foo Fighters Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace
. The trend seems to be that the band that rigidly follows the formula is not as good as the album that strays away from its roots. Of course, all rules have their exceptions, and Cherry Ghost’s debut seems to be one of those exceptions.
Simon Aldred, who was the sole member of Cherry Ghost before it became a fully functioning band, hails from the town of Bolton that can be found in the Northern end of England. Bolton can be renowned for the size of heavy industry there. As a result of so many job opportunities, people flock there and strangely perhaps, Bolton is not renowned for anything else. Aldred himself has been noted for saying ‘[the album] is about escaping the confines of the explainable and the mundane and trying to seek something of beauty.’ While that may be a cliché statement, it makes sense considering his roots.
This feeling of escaping something can be seen in several places before even listening to the album. The first of which is the cover. That face is perhaps too angry for this particular album, but it portrays the desire for change reasonably well, just with that young yet experienced stare. The second place that this conviction can be seen is the lyrics. As with many Indie albums, lyrics are the key to this record because Aldred’s voice is the centre of it all. While the meanings behind the lyrics are nothing new, Aldred handles them in such a way that they would not be out of place in a poetry anthology even though there is no confusion to their meaning. A prime example of this is from the song Mary On The Mend
, where the song opens with the lines, ‘By rights we should have been choking, on every word the preacher had us repeat, a stiff drink and napkins in your handbag, the first aid of a three time divorcee’. It is fairly obvious what this song is about just from those four lines but it is effective in the way that it does not just state it obviously. The rest of the album follows this pattern, therefore retaining the benefits of actually bothering to work out the lyrics, even if they effectively mean nothing.
Musically, the album is a pretty standard affair. The main instruments are mostly acoustically strummed guitars, drums and piano. And that’s nothing revolutionary for an Indie album. This album is in no way trying to reinvent the wheel or anything of that nature. It is a very simple album that can be listened to at any time, which forms part of its appeal. This album is never very taxing to listen to and could potentially be listened to for hours on repeat without it really, really beginning to grate. As said before, the music on offer here is nothing innovative. There are the piano tracks, such as People Help The People
where there is the easy single notes dancing around the even easier, deeper chords. This procedure is used to good effect throughout the song, even after being joined by the rest of the band. On the other hand, there is the more guitar driven songs on the record, the best of which is Alfred The Great
. As a result of the guitar, this is one of the fastest songs on the record. The song takes the form of one vocal line followed by a brief, unchallenging guitar riff or solo. One of this song’s strengths is its position on the track list. The songs that precede it are very slow and calming, then to have this charged up song follow them was expertly done, mixing up the album and keeping things rolling. The rest of the album falls somewhere in between these two songs, generally containing an even mix between the acoustic guitars and the piano with good and simple interplays between them. However, there are more instruments than just those two. The inevitable swooping string sections are used from time to time with great effect, usually towards the end of the slower songs. They are always used appropriately and the songs benefit from this slow and reserved approach.
However, the lynchpin of the album is Simon Aldred himself. We already know that he can write good songs, but is he able to vocally perform to a high standard? Thankfully, yes. His voice is well suited to any occasion that this album calls for. He never gets too ambitious and tries to sing beyond his range. In fact, he remains in quite a short range for much of the album. Despite this, his voice never gets monotonous or grating. It might just be that he has the type of voice that you can equate to a kind stranger, or a close friend giving advice. There always seems to be an invitation to join in the song if you know the words, which can never be a negative thing. While it is a stretch to call these songs anthems, it is very easy to get involved with the song yourself. It is hard to not enjoy Aldred’s voice as it just seems so welcoming and amicable.
So here is one of those albums that follows the genre almost blindly, and still succeeds. It fills all the criteria for being generic, but it isn’t. It is an album that on the surface, only has good tunes and good lyrics, but it is also an album that can truly envelop the listener within a sense of identity. The whole album bleeds with this sense of help and friendship, mainly due to the empathetic and relatable lyrics and the jaunty tunes. It will be very interesting to see whether this ghost turns out to be a full-fledged friendly ghost or just a flicker in the corner of an eye before moving on.