Review: Palm Ghosts materialize with a new, fresh sound

“Lifeboat Candidate,” Palm Ghosts (Ice Queen Records)

If ever there was a need for some good dystopian pop, 2021 is the year. And thankfully Palm Ghosts heard the call.

The band’s eight-track “Lifeboat Candidate” finds Palm Ghosts in a more propulsive, muscular rock mood, with tons more biting shards of guitar, arpeggiated synths and pulsating drums. It’s richer, with more textures and represents a great evolution.

If Palm Ghosts in the past veered from sounding like The Psychedelic Furs to Bob Mould with a dash of chilly paranoia from The National, this time they’re charting a distinct, coherent sound, albeit in heavy debt to ’80s new wave.

“Blind” is an electric jolt of political frustration, “The Kids” is a moody gem and “The Dead Inside” sounds as if Joy Division and Depeche Mode had a spiky little baby (dressed in a black onesie, naturally). “The Perfect Tool” is a dance song for Goths in Dr. Martens and “Revelation Engines” attacks political fanatics like the best Siouxsie and the Banshees track.

Singer and bassist Joseph Lekkas has never sounded clearer or more urgent, Jason Springman’s guitar is jangly and spicy, and returning drummer Walt Epting has created complex foundations for each song, biting into his kit in an almost tribal way. Guitarist and keyboardist Benjamin Douglas’ lyrics are sly and slightly unhinged. Some songs were stitched together with Lekkas in Nashville and Epting in New Jersey.

“Carry the World,” a very Psychedelic Furs-like track, is the most safe tune on the album, but the title song is the band’s most ambitious — a prog-alt-rock overstuffed beauty pushed by an addictive drum beat.

If Palm Ghosts before owed much of their sound to the past, they’ve broken out with “Lifeboat Candidate,” an album charting a course that’s both comforting yet dangerous. Or as Lekkas sings, “Safe as a gun under your pillow.”

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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