Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Album Review - Real Ghosts Caught On Tape

Fake Problems - Real Ghosts Caught On Tape (SideOneDummy 2010)

Fake Problems have made a lot of progress in a very short time. Their first album, 2007's How Far Our Bodies Go, was a modern classic of folk-punk, cementing them firmly in the place of Against Me!, who had already abandoned the genre. They followed that up with their 2009 SideOneDummy debut, It's Great To Be Alive. On their second album, Fake Problems traded their acoustic guitars for electric and traded the folk prefix for pop. The difference in styles between the two albums is very noticeable, but both are unmistakably the work of a unique band.

That uniqueness carries over to their new album, Real Ghosts Caught On Tape. The band is now far removed from their folk-punk origins, fully embracing the pop side of punk rock. After listening to the album, I read some reviews, and several of them mentioned the 60's pop vibe. I fully agree. As I was listening I kept thinking, "it's like a modern day Kinks." Like, imagine if Ray Davies grew up on The Ramones, and that's kinda how the album sounds. "Soulless" in particular sounds like a proto-punk gem with a somewhat modernized sound. Yet for all the retro feel, this is a distinctively 21st century punk album. As we begin the second decade of the new millenium, I wouldn't be surprised if more punk albums started sounding like this. I hope not, because I hate cookie-cutter bands, but there are worse styles to be copying.

The album is full of fun beats and great guitar parts. "Songs For Teenagers," "Complaint Dept," and "The Magazines" especially have some very catchy, melodic lead guitar lines, while "5678," "White Lies," and "Grand Finale" have fun, danceable drums parts. This is an album that is going to sound great live. Especially "5678," which has an odd vocal effect that hopefully won't be used in concert (it's actually the only complain I have about the album).

The real strength (for me at least) is in the lyrics. Frontman Chris Farren writes some great lines. And the lyrical themes shift throughout the album, from depressing themes like self-doubt ("If confidence is key I must be locked out of the house") and addiction ("looking for drugs in all the wrong places," "I spent every last dime in a stranger's trunk"), to more positive themes like cautious optimism ("The future is brighter than you'll ever know now that we're on our own") and salvation ("I was soulless, broken down, hollow as a ghost, but you have brought me back to life and revived the hope").

Overall, it's a great album, and I recommend it. To anyone. And everyone.

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