PITCHFORK MEDIA

The Ghost
This Is A Hospital

Rating: 8.1

Just in time for Scooby Doo we have The Ghost, a high-energy indie quartet hailing from Berkeley, California. And like every phantom wannabe rooted out by those meddling kids, there's a man behind this mask: superproducer Steve Albini. The debut LP from The Ghost, This Is a Hospital, proves a point about Albini, and it's not the point you think I'm going to make. For all you know, Albini is a total hack. He may as well be Al Bundy. The reason? Albini works exclusively with brilliance. (Well, except Bush. But that was for the cash.) Albini may be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but when you're already working with sliced bread-- well, you get my point.
The Ghost may not be "brilliance" per se, but the seeds are certainly there. The quartet has been an official 'band' for just over a year (they played their first show in April of 2001), and they're already producing material twice the quality of some of their peers. The key lies in their formula, which, while familiar and easy on the ears, is awfully difficult to pin down.
Musically, it's clear that the Ghost worships at the altar of The Rock, and I'm not talking about The Scorpion King (though it would be brilliant if they prayed to that guy). The majority of This Is a Hospital blends straightforward indie rock with some jagged post-punk hues for a rhythmic, powerful, incisive guitar-and-bass attack. The vocals, however, are the hallmark of The Ghost: probably a quarter of the time, lead vocalist Brian Moss just flat-out screams. And I don't mean that calculated, affected caterwaul his punky brethren swear by; I'm talking raw, shredded throat gore with damn-near judicial conviction.
The Ghost also distinguish themselves with some impressive songwriting. There are a number of mix-tape gems on This Is a Hospital, and two of them open the album: the minor key, post-punkish "Death by the Bay" and the similarly unsettled "On and On," which opens with jagged guitars and poignant lyricism ("I fell in love every night/ How could I not?/ Somebody kiss me and prove me wrong"), but resolves its tension in the potent, poppy, chant-along chorus, "So it goes, we've clipped our own wings/ My arms have become roots." That's horror shit, dude!
Closer "Red Slippers Red Wheels" begins with a bright, midtempo pop rhythm, cutting back to just bass and drums for the verse. Something about the mood seems to promise an anthem, and as the song reaches its peak, The Ghost delivers on that promise, first halting the track altogether, then bringing back the opening chords for a rousing, top-of-their lungs chorus: "In this empty room/ I will live with my mistakes/ Hold this straw until it's gold/ It will, or I will, break."
I don't want to oversell, though, so I'll come clean and admit that the middle of this disc is a bit flat. However! The bookends more than make up for any perceived deficiencies. Besides, it's sort of an Oreo thing. I don't go for the chalky, jizzy center, preferring the crunchy chocolate punch of the surrounding cookie crisp. You might love jizz, I don't know. But I do know this, and look at me when I say it to you: baby, it's your money. You can put it down on a half-ton of horseshit (check eBay) or you can give it up for The Ghost. It's like Velma said: "Oh no! MY GLAAAAAASSES!!"

-Brad Haywood, June 11th, 2002


 
KERRANG

The Ghost
This Is A Hospital

Although raw emotion floods from every pore of The Ghost's debut album, they would undoubtedly slap you hard across the face and storm out of the room in a huff if you were to associate them with such a bogus genre as emo.
Over-flowing with discordant guitar noise and bizarre song dynamics, the quartet's music is a million miles away from the radio friendly pop-rock of Jimmy Eat World and Rival Schools. Instead it incorporates the Dismemberment Plan's ear for melody and experimentation and mixes it with some tough, gritty Jawbreaker-style guitar anger. It's topped off with a typically brilliant Steve Albini production job and mood swings that switch between screaming hate and melancholic sadness.
The post-hardcore scene just got itself a new band it can truly be proud of. Embrace them.

JAMES SHERRY


 
PUNK PLANET

The Ghost
This Is A Hospital

From the sonically great recording done at Electrical Aduio by Steve Albini, to the skilled layout and design put into the packaging, it is obivous that a lot of work has gone into this release. The Ghost have hit upon a fresh approach to the stale genre of emotional punk. The songwriting is tight and polished, the two guitars dual great leads, and the vocals have a dynamic delivery that keeps me listening with a sincere interest. Is it luck, or are they that good? I'm keeping my eye on this band, and I don't want to be disappointed. (SY)


 
ACTION ATTACK HELICOPTER

The Ghost
This Is A Hospital

Here's the deal with this: The Ghost sounds like a lot of bands that are popular right now. They have this sound that is vaguely reminiscent of all your favorite indie bands. You know, they kinda sound like a big mix of Promise Ring, Cursive, Jets To Brazil, etc. The strange part about this band is that they do it so fucking well that you kinda forget how much they remind you of everything. They're dark and affecting, and they have an obvious passion that comes through in their songs. I mean, if you don't like the style that the bands I mentioned play, then obviously you don't want this, but if you do, The Ghost is definitely a standout in the genre. Also, Steve Albini produced this album, so all you hip indie scenesters better go buy it before someone finds out you didn't know about this. Hurry up!

-Matt The Greek


 
ALL MUSIC

The Ghost
This Is A Hospital

The Ghost is the average college indie rock band, playing songs that convey emotion without relying on thunderous guitar sequences or screechy bellowing. Actually, This Is a Hospital is an album that is unnaturally laid-back, despite Brian Moss' slight tendency to holler out lyrics as if they were too painful to be contained. Shane Stevens' melodic guitar playing keeps the tone light, skipping happily from chord to chord in a never-ending waterfall of positivity. Lyrically, This Is a Hospital doesn't hold back; songs like "By the Books" and "The Exhibition" are scathing in their intensity yet brutally honest. The Ghost shows solid knowledge of harmonic dissonance, aligning beautiful melodies with abrasive screams, yet their brand of emocore music is quite satisfying to the ears. Vocal patterns and musical arrangements on This Is a Hospital are reminiscent of Thursday, and are equally pleasurable. Standout songs include "Death by the Bay" and "My First and Last"; each have memorable hooks that work their way into one's subconscious and are worthy of multiple listens. Though the Ghost is apt to be the type of band you might see playing a smoky pool hall on a college campus, This Is a Hospital displays much potential for a group who only played their first show less than a year before this album's release.

-Jason D. Taylor


 
PASTE PUNK

The Ghost
This Is A Hospital

Imagine that you're reading some kind of horror/murder mystery story. As you make your way through the various plot turns, scene scrapers, and extensive, unnecessary literary devices, all concocted to throw you off in your way to solving the unspeakable riddle, you find a crack in the dam. The guarded mystery is now weakened, and it's powers in keeping you on your toes no longer seems overbearing - you're excited, enthralled with impending victory, but cautious in that you don't want to blow your cover. So you celebrate - you cheer widely in your mind, but not quite out in the open, and as the dancing angels in your mind keep up their wicked beat, you can do nothing revel in the amazement. There's a band in the corner of your mind, keeping the soundtrack up, and that band is THE GHOST.
In putting forth a musical style that's beyond the vocabulary of my mere mortal labels, THE GHOST rock in that creepy, eerie, post-hardcore kinda way, but well, not really. There's a very primal feel to the recording of this (courtesy of Steve Albini) that prohibits these guys from coming off as clean or polished, and the plodding guitar work, which never moves more than mid-paced, only enhances this rather methodical style. "This Is A Hospital" is at it's peak when the four-member band decides to all sing together in those few moments of rabid-breakout-anger. The music builds up gently, but then everything stops and it's an all out screamfest, but only for a second, and then it's back to the rock. Lyrically, these guys remind me a lot of THE ALKALINE TRIO or LAWRENCE ARMS in that smoky, dark, poetic kinda way, where all of one's ills are centered around a cloudy personal life and a penchant for swimming in sorrow. At times there's a slight RIVAL SCHOOLS influence and maybe some Q AND NOT U, but THE GHOST seem far more downtrodden, and I definitely like the somber aspects of this band even though the music shows plenty of pep.


 
SPLENDID EZINE

The Ghost
This Is A Hospital

Some Records has always been run on the rationale that "quality is better than quantity", a sentiment that most labels (particularly the majors) apparently don't share -- choosing instead to fill store racks with hundreds upon hundreds of what Brian Eno refers to as "useless little plastic boxes". This is a Hospital is the first useful plastic box to be fired from the Some cannon this year; its searing post-punk sound and thought-provoking lyrics make it a perfect addition to their already stellar roster. Rising from the ashes of cult faves The Wonder Years, this Chicago-by-way-of-Berkley quartet is quickly making a name for themselves with a blistering live show and brain-shattering tunes like "Death by the Bay" and "A New Trick for the Old Dog". On standouts like "Gem, Mint Ten", producer (or should we say Engineer) Steve Albini has harnessed the ragged punch of the band's live performance, while his deft studio touch adds subtle sonic elements to slow-burning rockers like "By the Books". While their sound isn't always the most original (think Gang of Four and Gorilla Biscuits with a dash of Fugazi), The Ghost's impressive punk pedigree and infectious energy make them more than worthy scions of the Some Records empire.

-- Jason Jackowiak


 
IN MUSIC WE TRUST


The Ghost
This Is A Hospital

Emo spiked with hardcore, The Ghost travel a trail already blazed, but do it well enough to make you enjoy it again. They put their heart and blood into it, shouting out their feelings as the guitars roar and the rhythm section crashes down on the songs. One thing is for sure, there is never a dull moment here, as every song is fast and powerful, laying down beat after beat while pushing the rock to the extreme. Hear and feel it at the same time, as The Ghost relives it all to entertain you. I'll give it an A-.

- Alex Steininger


 
GENERATION

The Ghost
This Is A Hospital

When The Wunder Years broke up after the release of their EP, Take It Off, Let It Go, Start From Scratch, I was disappointed. Their EP was a wonderful mix of Hot Water Music and Jawbreaker, and brought a refreshing style of rock and roll with an emotional side (reread that sentence if you thought I said "emo," because I didn't). Brian Moss and Shane Stevens reformed with Jordan Schalich and Randall Bleichner to form The Ghost. Quite often, when members from a previous band start a new one together, they sound alike (case in point: Knapsack and The Jealous Sound). Moss and Stevens stay true to their song writing past, but The Ghost shows where The Wunder Years were heading.

The Ghost sheds their old skin like a snake, and starts anew with This Is a Hospital, released on Some Records. This full length starts out fast and intimidating, reaches its denouement towards the middle, slows towards the end, and finishes with an upbeat twist. Read it like a novel, or read it like a set list; whichever way you choose, you won't be disappointed. Though Moss' vocals can be rough at points, they can also be charismatically soft, deep, and soulful.

With "On and On," the second track on the album, the catchy nature of the rest of the songs begins. "Gem, Mint Ten" is reminiscent of the Wunder Years, but is still a defining song for the band's new style. Later on, songs like "My First and Last," "By the Books," and "The Exhibition" take on a softer approach, but deliver very strong and punchy guitars and drums during the choruses and towards the end. The last song, "Red Slippers Red Wheels," is truly full of pop swagger and picturesque lyrics: "Home is where the heart is / Mine is scattered by miles and times / On this slow suicide with this pack of smokes and a cheap bottle of wine." After a brief pause (as in life, a deep breath; or in a novel, a chapter break), Moss reflects on the album in the form of meta-music, and sings, "All this talk it makes me sick / And I always wrote better than I spoke."

I do hope Moss and The Ghost write better songs this time, because, unlike The Wunder Years, I hope they stick around. Maybe Moss will have a more positive view on life after taking the band on the road, maybe not. Either way, The Ghost's lyrics and music, like their namesake, will continue to shadow life.

by Gary Huber


 
DELUSIONS OF ADEQUACY

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.

- Jeff


 
ACTIONMAN MAGAZINE

The Ghost
This Is A Hospital

In case the existence of Alkaline Trio, Q and Not U, Twinstar, and just about any band that comes out of the DC scene these days wasn't proof enough that Jawbox and Jawbreaker were two of the most influential indie bands of the 1990s, along comes The Ghost and their debut full-length, This is a Hospital. Filled with the powerful, accent-heavy, conductor-style drumming that Zach Barocas perfected in Jawbox, and the accompanying t-square-exacto-knife guitar riffs perfected by those two bands, The Ghost have put together a very solid outing into the realm of emotive post-punk. The second track, "On and On," grooves with a driving stop-start bass line that would make Kim Coletta proud; credit bassist Jordan Schalich for doing his homework.
But that's the problem: it's very solid and very well executed, but that's really about it. There's nothing on this record that makes it stand out from the zillions of other bands of this ilk out there. The one-sheet attached to the promo copy of this CD proudly claims that, "The Ghost make a conscious effort to incorporate sincerity, honesty, originality and true passion in their music and their everyday lives." A noble cause, sure, but the music The Ghost play is, by definition, honest, sincere, and passionate. This makes a "genuine" effort by The Ghost completely indistinguishable from a similar-sounding band that I suppose would be faking it. They're darn good at what they do, but its similarity to the other 836,295 bands in indie-rock-land who sound like this means that their talent is completely lost on me. Fortunately for them, I don't represent most punk rock kids out there. Expect The Ghost to pack the Fireside Bowl by the end of the year.
DJ Hostility


 
DEEP FRY BONANZA

The Ghost
This Is A Hospital

I tend to go for music that comes from the heart rather than the head. Whether it's Leatherface, Minor Threat or AC/DC I like my music visceral and immediate. When I do like music that seems to come from a thoughtful place rather than an angry or emotional one it's only because it's incredibly unique and mind-blowing. Captain Beefheart, the Buzzcocks' more Can-ish anti-pop songs, Wire... the work by these groups are so engaging on an intellectual level that I dive into it the same way that I might approach a poem.

As for other headier, more math rock-y music I generally don't get it. Perhaps it's because I'm not a musician myself, but I generally find little enjoyment in slight variation on standard rhythmic patters or "dynamic" shifts in key. As a rule I can recognize and appreciate innovation, but when it comes at the expense of songwriting craft that's when I begin to lose interest.

After the first track of This Is a Hospital I lost interest in the Ghost. It's sad, too, because the first track ("Death and the Bay" in case you're wondering) was great. Like some of Fugazi's best songs it's built around a very angular, math-y riff but that riff is laid into by some comeptent and energetic fingers. Occassionally the tension from all of this angular guitar work is released in a gigantic power chord-laden punk rock chorus and the recipe is complete.

Unfortunately after that first track the Ghost lose their focus; they plod along at a leisurely pace running their fingers deftly up and down their guitars' necks, but where's the anger? The hurt? the emotion? Don't tell me it's in those vocals, which are terribly bland. The lyrics aren't doing anything for me either with their wordy slants on themes I've heard a thousand times before.

The only thing that gets me really, really excited about the Ghost is the graphics on their CD. It's sort of like if Tim Burton had drawn a triple-gatefold cover for Sunny Day Real Estate's Diary using the same little block figures. It's almost worth the ten bucks just to see the talented Josh Marshall break it down with his strange grape-coloured pen for a few pages.

The Ghost's music isn't bad, they're just after something that I don't want. If you dig would-be jazz boys playing post-hardcore like Lungfish, Faraquet and a lot of the other non-Fugazi / Q and Not U Dischord acts the Ghost could very well be up your alley. As for me, I'm going to spend my time listening to music that makes me want to jump around the room like an animal.

Check this out if you like:
Hot Water Music A Flight and a Crash
Faraquet The View From This Tower
Capitol City Dusters Rock Creek Park

Reviewer: Daniel


 
FIRESIDEOMETER

The Ghost
This Is A Hospital

This cd has fantastic artwork. Unfortunately, it's all downhill from there. It's not that The Ghost is a bad band, it's just that they're kind of bland. I feel like I've heard this sort of thing before, sometimes done very well (Quicksand, Orange 9mm, Sick Of It All, etc.) but moreoften done with the same lack of ingenuity present on The Ghost's This Is a Hospital. They're about on par with other B-grade hardcore-emo rockers like As Friends Rust, Thursday, Boy Sets Fire, etc. - the kind of bands who think that the more they scream the more "emotional" their music will sound.

Anyway, this album didn't really do much for me, but I'm sure some people will dig it. In fact, I can almost guarantee that our very own David Loyd will eat this shit up with the utmost enthusiasm.

-Eric


 
INVISIBLE YOUTH

The Ghost
This Is A Hospital

Review: Everything I heard about this band, prior to hearing this, for one reason or another made me think they were another Saves The Day ripoff. I was mistaken, as they instead are pop, yet in a very unique way. The only band I could remotely make a comparison to would be Jawbreaker, who the sing seems to be heavily influenced by with his angst filled vocals. The Ghost are poppy without melodicism, quite a feat. They take a pop type framework and build up chaotic layer upon layer, until they are about as far from Saves The Day type jams as a band can be and still be in the same category.


 
PUNKBANDS.COM

The Ghost
This Is A Hospital

The Ghost, who now hail from Chicago, are one of those bands that can't really decide what kind of music they want to play. This album blends a whole mess of different genres. The first track opens with guitars and a bass line that reminds me of Hot Water Music. Thankfully, the vocals are not nearly as harsh as Hot Water Music's, and The Ghost's singer actually has quite a range. He goes from singing in a nice and melodic voice to shouting for more emphasis. The Ghost also brings with them a bit of the Chicago punk sound of bands like the Alkaline Trio and the Honor System, even though they're originally from California. Perhaps that's why they relocated. As the album progresses, they have tracks that would definitely fit with the Deep Elm style of emo/indie rock. The last track is much poppier, and even reminds me of Hot Rod Circuit a little bit. Thankfully, the Ghost combines all of their influences into a sound of their own that's definitely interesting. I saw them live once, and they were pretty good, and I'm glad to see that they're able to carry their sound into their recordings.

(Marc)


 
ABHOR.ORG

The Ghost
This Is A Hospital

I had heard some buzz about these guys, but the first place I ever saw anything about them was, ironically enough, in a video. A video, from a band who, maybe not coincidentally, sounds a lot like this one. Yes, folks÷I'm talking about Thursday. If any of you saw the wonderful "Understanding a Car Crash" video, you would notice that resident retard Geoff was wearing a Ghost t-shirt. Funny enough, a lot of this sounds like Thursday, kind of without the screaming. Both singers have the same croon and the music is very similar. With even that being said, I don't think this album is bad, which is somewhat weird, I suppose. I can stomach this more than Thursday for two reasons: 1) Kids don't think this CD is the cure for cancer as they do with "Full Collapse" and 2) This meshes Thursday's sound more with rock than faux-hardcore. I will say that this CD fits very much into the category of Taking Back Sunday, meaning that although I could easily listen to this CD without complaining, it doesn't move me in any way. No real originality here, nor is there any true stand-out track that I can see, and I've listened to this about six times. Yawn. Thursday sucks. - Matty T

If you like this, you might like: Big gaps in your teeth; sounding like "the next big thing"; peroxide (?).


 
AIDING AND ABETTING

The Ghost
This Is A Hospital

Kepone did a single called "Ghost" a few years back, and what originally occurred to me was that the Ghost sounds a lot like what Kepone might if those Virginia boys decided to straighten out their idiosyncrasies and simply focus on making melodic noise.
Okay, so this was recorded in Chicago by Steve Albini. It doesn't take a genius to hear that now-famous touch with guitar sound. What's kinda interesting is how much melody these boys work into their noisy bashing. I like it a lot.
Mass throb. You might call this emo run through a Jesus Lizard filter (in fact, I kinda like that description myself), or you might simply say that after a while, even noise rockers like to find a real tune every now and again. Take your pick; the Ghost is pretty damned good any way you describe it.
I had fun listening to this disc. Sure, it got the ol' blood rolling, but more than that I really dug the way the notes came together. A little craft in the forest of distortion. A lot of craft, actually. And it sound like the folks just threw it together. Like I said, recorded by Albini. And here, that's a very good thing.


 
SLUG MAGAZINE

The Ghost
This Is A Hospital

Based out of Berkeley, CA, The Ghost rip it up with their debut release, This Is A Hospital. Recorded with famed producer Steve Albini (Nirvana, Big Black, The Pixies) at the helm, this gem rocks from start to end. Howling vocals, wailing guitars, and unnerving lyrics set the tone on the opening track "Death by the Bay." The entire album progresses in a similar manner. My favorite song "Red Slippers, Red Wheels" made my lips quiver, and my eyes fog with tears. This is emotionally charged music played with brutal honesty, and harnessed intensity. An absolute must for every good boy and girlís music collection.


 
JERSEY BEAT


The Ghost
This Is A Hospital

Produced by Steve Albini, the Ghost are [sic] noisy with a fully developed sound, but there is far greater depth to this band that seemed to emerge as the disc progressed. The musicianship was in Bluetip/Kerosene 454 style, with alternating tempos and vocal intensity. Vocalist Brian Moss has a solid set of pipes, and he is at his most convincing when delivering more melodic lines, allowing his mates, especially drummer Randall Bleichner, to fill in the gaps, not compete for attention. This is best heard on "Gem, Mint Ten," and "By the Books." I was most impressed with "Groundswell," a track that borrowed from Fugaziís early blueprint without blatantly copying the legendary sound. This is very intelligent, post-hardcore force [sic], and the Ghost is a band with a copius amount of talent and visionary qualities, as proven by the nearly perfect angered rhythms of "Diffuser" and "A New Trick For the Old Dog." This us band [sic] which strives to find a balance between fury and melody, and while the record is not perfect, this is one of the most promising acts I have heard in a long while.


 
ROCKPILE

The Ghost
This Is A Hospital

Falling somewhere between At the Drive-In and Thursday, The Ghost creates an interesting sound with oddly atmospheric, melodic hardcore periodically delving into screamo. The dark and slightly artsy lyrics blend well with the dark and slightly artsy music. Album opener "Death by the Bay" provides the perfect example of this with lyrics like "Burn my body on a windy night" and "Every night is Halloween." The Ghost, however, is just as well-equipped for more melodic songs taking their cue from emo as demonstrated on tunes like the excellent ìBy the Books: and the more subdues "The Exhibition." The latter sounds equal parts Thursday and Third Eye Blind. More points are awarded to the band for having the novel idea to end the CD with one of the albumís strongest tracks, "Red Slippers, Red Wheels." This is a Hospital is the sort of record sure to grow on its audience with each listen.