Cherry Ghost - Beneath This Burning Shoreline
Cherry Ghost are pitching themselves into a crowded musical space. Apart from anything else, so-called British indie has been in a decline (some would argue a terminal decline) for so long that it appears that the patient is moribund. Few could argue that the latter half of the last decade saw little that could be regarded as new or innovative. Perhaps that was because the bands in this space had little new to sing about - after all, the world was as shit as it was in 2000; people are at least as self-absorbed as they were in 2000; individuals still feel as crushed by the weight of expectation and authority as they were in 2000; and the government (or governments in general) are still as proto-authoritarian and unresponsive to popular need as they were in 2000.
Cherry Ghost therefore have a mountain to climb to make themselves heard above the sound of a hundred, maybe even a thousand other voices, all crowing about the same things in the same space, a space which no longer occupies any central point in the range of vision of most people. With their second album, Beneath This Burning Shoreline, Cherry Ghost have attempted to address that problem. The trouble is that they can only tread the path others have trod before them, albeit with a little more panache and style.
Many of the songs come across as the almost predictable mixture of the melancholy and the upbeat. Each song has the feel of a troubled romantic attempting to break free from the shackles of an inherently world-weary depressive - if only people wanted things to be better they would. The use of strings to emphasise the more soulful moments of the album stand out in the frequently elegant construction of the music and give it an almost Dickensian feel in places. For instance, the presumed pivot of the whole album, and the longest track on it, "The Night They Buried Sadie Clay", sounds as if some dirty blues rock has been put through a musical cleanser to produce a sound which is part-folk, part-rock and almost literary in its tribute the eponymous heroine. It is a brave move, but the song never really takes off in the way it was probably intended.
Other tracks concentrate on the grimmer side of life. The opener, "We Sleep on Stones", recounts a tale which seems intended to culminate and murder and uses the string section to raise the tension. A Month of Mornings", the best track on the album in my view, matches a driving guitar riff with low-key piano chords to create an atmosphere of false calm amid the chaos of city life - a perfect song for playing in your car at night while driving around a city in the rain. Yet at other times, the songs fail to match up to expectations. "Luddite" mixes post-industrial themes with an upbeat melody which comes across as being at odds with what the band appear to be trying to achieve, and generally fails to work on any meaningful level.
The impression one gets from listening to the album in its entirety is that the band has a story to tell, but either fails to tell it in a meaningful way or is reluctant to tell it as it is. At times it feels like a soundtrack, but any idea that this may have a theme running through it on any level other than the most basic should be spurned. This is not and was never intended to be a concept album. One is left with a feeling of incompleteness: something is missing but you do not know what. Imagine two people are watching some complex, psychological thriller on TV or in the cinema. One of them is blindfolded; the other has earplugs. The story is the same but the interpretations of it by the two participants is completely different. That is the feeling I get when I listen to Beneath This Burning Shoreline, a feeling that I may be missing something.
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