Apes Ghost Games

[Gypsy Eyes; 2008]

Styles: spooky rock, hockey rink organ rock, something I probably didn’t want playing at my birthday party when I turned four
Others: Edgar Winter, ELO, The Poor Man’s Braniac

Much fuss has been made regarding The Apes' decision to rock with (no!!!) six-string electric guitars. This can't be tolerated, can it? Even their official website still describes them as a "guitarless quartet." But considering The Apes' liberal use of distorted bass guitar and keyboard in addition to the appreciation of the almighty riff, there's really no reason for any fuss at all. Besides, the command of strut and swagger, not to mention the sonic palette, of Ghost Games stays pretty close to the 1970s and ‘80s ‘big classic rock' formula -- plus keyboards -- with slight errancy.

In contrast to previous Apes efforts, which featured the unpredictable tendencies of vocalist Paul Well, we are treated to the slightly more limited frontman stylings of newbie Breck Brunson, whose paranoid, double-tracked warblings make Ghost Games admittedly cartoonish. When he cries "Someone get me out of here right now" over dueling distorted keyboards, This Is Spinal Tap comes to mind way too easily. But The Apes know their way around a good pop hook. "Walk Thru Walls" in particular is a great romp through the history of glam rock and could be an easy nominee for their theme song should they become superheroes, complete with righteous keyboard-driven fanfare to be blasted out of the speakers of a VW van as our heroes approach danger.

In other places, the mystery-theatre storytelling of Ghost Games displays subtle political commentary: At times Brunson is daring us to "Sign on the dotted line," while by the same token he's making ends meet to get his hands on the "Green Grease." What exactly the deranged stories add up to probably gets lost somewhere in the haze, and it's alright because all The Apes ever really wanted to do in the first place was be weird and rock at the same time.

At the end of the ride, most of us will probably have to adjust our eyes to our original surroundings after spending time in The Apes' world. In fact, the listening experience of Ghost Games is much like being stranded with no wheels alongside the highway and hitching a ride with the first motorist you see, mistaking it for some kind of blessing. The boogie van pulls over and you get in, and things get as uncomfortable as possible for just under an hour, at which point you flee as your weirdo captains make their first 7-11 run. But you can't deny that in a way it was a bit groovy, and you may have fondly reminisced with them about the first time you smoked pot or saw a laser-light show. Ghost Games is nothing so profound, but it certainly is something to bring out of the closet once a year or so.

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