May 1, 2020
Everything Old Is New Again: Holy Ghost! – Dynamics
So much of the so-new-it’s-retro/so-retro-it’s-new music can be tarred with the same brush, which is a delightful shade of BO-RING, and it seemed like the Holy Ghost! homage to the ’80s would be more of the same. But the guys in Holy Ghost! were also the guys in Automato and in that incarnation they did white-boy rap but it wasn’t sad panda backpacker rap like some other white-boy rap people we will not name because it is too early for that sort of fighting. Automato was glitchy and punchy and awesome and signed to James Murphy’s DFA label when they were practically fetuses…and then they were gone.
Enter Holy Ghost! Beginning in 2007 there was this maddeningly slow trickle of singles and remixes until finally the official debut, Holy Ghost!, dropped in 2011. This followup release has been hotly anticipated; is it worth the wait and the hype? Only if you love pop and dancing and goodness and fun.
The first video, “Dumb Disco Ideas,” made it seem like this record would be the lesser, later version of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories because the single was an 8-minute mid-tempo disco song:
…and that is 4 minutes longer than it needs to be. The full album, though, has none of the self-indulgence you might worry about given an 8-minute lead song. Or maybe you’re the kind of person that really digs on 8-minute songs, in which case go you.
The lead track, “Okay,” has bubbly bass, superfluous but awesome little synth stabs, and an 808 playing the drum part for that super-80s feel. If you are older than 35, you could have danced to this somewhere in high school. It could have popped up in a John Hughes movie when a lead character felt nostalgic for something ineffable. The beginning of “Dance a Little Closer” could be an outtake from when Wham! was recording “I’m Your Man” — and if you think that isn’t a selling point or a ringing endorsement, you are reading the wrong blog.
For reals, the whole disc/mp3/record/wax cylinder all has a great ’80s feel, despite being billed as a late-summer disco record. It is much better than the recent breed of ’80s-stylee bands that just sound distant and boring (side-eye to you, The Faint). This record is unironic and happy. Did you like Howard Jones? That’s here. Tears for Fears? Yep, here too. Did you like movie montage songs, even in lesser 1980s films? OF COURSE YOU DID. So you will like this record. Q.E.D.
Is there a weak spot? Sure. This is not a record from which you will extract great lyrical meaning. Witness “I Wanna Be Your Hand:”
I wanna be your hand/
Running through your hair/
As you’re sitting there/
Laying in the sand/
I wanna be your hand again.
So…you want to be her hand, so you can touch her hair, which is already super creepy, but you used to be her hand previously?? This makes no sense, but you will not care, because you will drive around in your car and sing it without an ounce of shame.
Should you buy it? Of course you should buy it, unless you hate music.
Holy Ghost! – Dynamics – is out now on DFA Records.
Rating: 4 out of 5 kittens with whips (highly recommended)