Friday, 8 May 2009

Bob Dylan and Ghostfire

Dylan has a huge back catalogue. Everyone has albums they always return to, and albums which quietly collect dust. Modern Times, Love and Theft and Time out of Mind (his last three studio albums) have all found a place in fan’s hearts, mine included. Full of twistingly poetic lyrics supported by a tight band, it’s what we expect from Bobby.

Together Through Life
was a bit of a disappointment for me. There are some good tracks, like Beyond Here Lies Nothin’, My Wife’s Home Town and It’s All Good. Bobby’s band plays like guys who have been playing in the same bar with each other every night for the past forty years. Bobby sings to us like we’re sitting by the fire in that same bar and he’s a much a part of the place as the stag’s head on the wall. When it works, it’s nice and cosy. When it doesn’t, though, we’re left with bland lyrics which lack the poetry I worship Bobby for. The songs sound a bit like they were doodled on bar mats in-between conversations which were far more interesting.

Some of the songs will find their way onto a playlist, but numbers like If You Ever Go To Huston, Shake Shake Mamma and This Dream of You will find collect dust with Wriggle Wriggle and, well, pretty much anything from the 80s. But it’s okay, it’s just a blip. This album sort of budded from a song he wrote for the film Life Is Hard, and he’ll get back to writing proper lyrics soon. He’s allowed his indulgences.

And I’m allowed mine. My latest is Ghostfire, a self-styled steampunk band with an utterly horrible MySpace page (LGT to it and it’s a sod to turn the music off, so you may want to mute your speakers). The lyrics are good but not great, but that’s no sin. The rhythm section gives a constant chugging engine and the lead guitar and organ add well-played and sympathetic augmentation. It’s a sound I’m utterly in love with.

I’ve been having a discussion at the Gaslamp Bazaar about what might go into steampunk music. My contention is that it should sound hand-made and by people who understand their instruments and understand that it’s about embracing the dirty innards of the machine making it beautiful. It’s not about sequences and synthesizers and sounding like any other darkwave or electronica band while singing about airships and wearing goggles. Ghostfire sound like people who agree with me. They sound like people who want to explore their instruments and work with them, not hide behind computer-generated sounds and tie themselves to pre-record samples. Music is about performing, not reproducing.

I actually brought Ghostfire’s EP. Best three quid I’ve spent in a very long time. They're playing in Lincoln... That'll be me, front-row-centre, screaming like a twenty-nine year old who should know better but stopped caring some time last year.

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