It’s been a surprisingly short time – only two and a half years – since Holy Ghost! released their debut LP. Or at least it seems like a short time when compared to the drawn out period spanning their first single, EP and album. Admittedly this was during their formative years, just after emerging from their previous incarnation as hip-hop duo Automato and were cultivating a new sound, learning their trade and unearthing their penchant for Italo influenced synth-pop.
And so, following the release of their first single ‘Hold On’ in 2007 the band slowly compiled a repertoire of top-notch pop tunes. Tracks like the incredible ‘I Will Come Back’, ‘Static On the Wire’ and ‘Say My Name’ started to trickle out, and were then all released together in the guise of the Static On the Wire EP, which was followed a year later by the excellent Holy Ghost! LP. To cut a long story short, it seems that Alex and Nick finally got into their groove, and with only one anomalous single released in the meantime they’ve come up with a whole album full of very ’80s flavoured pop tunes.
They say you should never go full ’80s, and thankfully Holy Ghost! manage to avoid that for the most part, although they do come pretty damn close at times. With Dynamics the band have mostly eschewed the disco influence in favour of a more downbeat approach that’s more reminiscent of pop ballads, with stomping bass drums and soft synth pads providing a backdrop for Alex’s vocal melodies. ‘I Wanna Be Your Hand’ and ‘Don’t Look Down’ are the worst offenders with dreadfully clichéd melodies, unconsciously borrowed from fragments of various old school hits.
‘It Must be the Weather’ is on the more enjoyable end of this spectrum with its melodic nod to Falco’s ‘Rock Me Amadeus’, while the album’s opener ‘Okay’ is beautifully melodic both in verse and chorus, with its lovely off-beat bass line and stripped back drums. ‘Bridge and Tunnel’ is another standout and one of the more straight up disco tracks along with ‘Changing of the Guard’ where Alex’s rhythmic vocal staccato really shines. The best is saved for last, although it only weighs in at less than two and a half minutes. Full of lazy synth bleeps and mingling guitar licks, ‘In the Red’ is really just getting going by the time the slow fade-out begins.
Maybe this is a promise of brighter things to come, when Alex and Nick have a little more self-belief and no longer feel the need to rely so heavily on pastiche. With Holy Ghost! they’ve already proven that they can write a great album. It’s just a shame that they didn’t quite pull it off this time round.