Ghost Town are one of those bands that provoke either borderline obsession or absolute hatred, and previously, it’s been fairly easy to see why. Their unorthodox concoction of pop, post-hardcore, electronica and dubstep is hardly going to be bathed in mass appeal, and the horror-themed lyrics only serve to shift opinions even more strongly in either direction. On new album Evolution, there’s very little to inspire such strong feelings either way, but that doesn’t stop it from being an somewhat decent album in its own right.
The best thing about Ghost Town used to be how each of the disparate elements of their sound would be configured in a way to get equal airtime. It was a bit haphazard, sure, but there was a certain charm to it. This time around though, it’s all been mashed together for a more streamlined sound. The EDM elements of their sound seem to have been shifted up a few gears too, given how a sizeable percentage of this album is constructed around pulsating beats layered over thin but still vaguely recognisable guitars. On paper it sounds a bit all over the place, but actually listening to it, it makes sense and really feels, at last, like a cohesive unit. Loner and the driving sleaze of the title track are legitimate bangers in their own rights, while Mean Kids has the kind of hook that could take Ghost Town much, much further than they already are. It says a lot how the more organic tracks are definite steps down from what they establish here, such as the fizzing stomp of Spark, or Down which could be a Sleeping With Sirens song with a coat of electronica, but even they make an impression to some degree, and are enough to prove that Ghost Town have a few genuinely great songs tucked away in their locker.
But when the quality on Evolution drops, it really takes a dive, particularly in the album’s back half. While the first clutch of songs sees Ghost Town solidifying a decent sound that does them justice, the last almost comes across as them seeing what they can get away with, and the results aren’t great. Candles and closer Let Go are the two main focal points – the former is a pointlessly weedy ballad that you have to wonder just how it made it past any sort of quality control, while the latter sees the album tail off with gutless acoustics and synths, an unwelcome contrast with the booming dance-rock of the album’s early tracks. The other weaker moments aren’t as bad – Internet Pirates sees obnoxiously omnipresent bells ruin what would’ve been a perfectly serviceable song – but there’s a definite divide between where Ghost Town thrive and fall, one that has to be acknowledged if they plan to achieve the success they’re obviously capable of.
Nevertheless, Evolution certainly lives up to its name, in that it sees Ghost Town laying down the blueprints for where to go next. It may yield mixed results overall, but they’re definitely heading in the right direction, and just choosing the right notes to capitalise on should see them hit the heights they’re after. For now though, Evolution stands as a conduit album for Ghost Town, and where they go next is ultimately up to them.
For fans of: I See Stars, Breathe Carolina, Sleeping With Sirens
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Evolution’ by Ghost Town is out now on Fueled By Ramen.