Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How the Beach Boys Sound to Those With No Feelings - Extra Happy Ghost!!!

How the Beach Boys Sound to Those With No Feelings

Extra Happy Ghost!!!
Saved By Radio Records.

SCQ Rating: 74%

If you like moody, lo-fi, kitchen recordings - it just might be for you,” claims a press statement for How the Beach Boys Sound to Those With No Feelings, and it’s about as honest an overarching quote about this record can get. These songs feel welded together of spare parts much like how Extra Happy Ghost!!!’s instruments sound built from scratch; half-tuned guitars and retro casios riff and squiggle through the record’s negative space while vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Matthew Swann ponders the dark alleys of consciousness and suburban misery. Truly, the screws sound ready to fall out at any moment and some of this EP’s best moments thrive from that anticipation.

Coming off like an impromptu jam session in your friend’s kitchen at 4am, How the Beach Boys Sound…, through false starts and broken riffs, depicts a group of musicians unafraid to fuck up in the search for meaningful songwriting. In fact, a promising song like ‘J and 3K’ seems to invite the ethos that what’s easy isn’t worth repeating, as Swann and co. (Joel Nye on drums, Lorrie Matheson on “special sounds”) channel a sweetly disarming acoustic song into dissonant madness then cut as if their 8 track collapsed. Right there in that minute-plus opener, Extra Happy Ghost!!! set the stage for what’s to come: an unpredictable assortment of sparsely psychedelic jams (‘These Are the Facts in an Endless Regress’) and acoustic experiments gone haywire (‘Sympathy for the Moron’). What prevents this EP from becoming a mismanaged hodgepodge is Swann’s singular vision, which utilizes brash noise in memorable, tight instances and approaches a few tracks without the desire for self-sabotage. ‘Mash-up: Neither Being Nor Nothingness’ strikes a steady groove of guitar and spritely percussion while ‘Hot Time Sartre in the City’ rises to a ear-pleasing climax of well-executed key codas under rabid distortion.

What is arguably among the most commendable things about How the Beach Boys Sound to Those With No Feelings is that it doesn’t call to mind any recognizable influence, lo-fi or otherwise, besides perhaps the Beach Boys. In the title track, Extra Happy Ghost!!!, while burying their muse’s sunny chorus in sullen irony, strike sonic gold, finding the perfect mix of unassuming vocals harmonized in echoes, organs swallowed by low-end guitar licks and muffled ambience to truly call their own. Fittingly, it’s the last song that acts as the culmination for all of How the Beach Boys Sound…’s wayward blessings, and the wall-of-sound style I could see Extra Happy Ghost!!! running with. Or at the very least, it’s that jam-band moment where everyone falls into place, nails their individual parts, then calls it a night because they know a high note when they hear one.

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