The Midnight Ghost Train – “Cypress Ave.” (Napalm Records)
I was debating this with some friends last week……this a weird kind’ve album cover for 3 guys from Kansas – and as one of my friends (who also likes rap) pointed out, even more so in the title. Regarded over the course of 4 prior albums in their near 10 year career for their blues, stoner rock sound lending more than an ear to Kyuss and hillbilly rockers Clutch, you couldn’t get anymore afar from NYC’s concrete jungle. So had the 3 Topeka boys gone jayglo? Hell no! Seems that once upon a time, founder guitarist vocalist Steve Moss actually grew up in NYC only a few subway stops in the Bronx from Cypress Avenue so this album is an intentional departure from the band’s mid west theme and an attempt to do something different. Musically, however, in the main they continue their style of driving fuzz toned rock like on ‘Red Eyed Junkie Queen’ complete with deep bass rumblings and hard hitting drums, along with Moss’s gravelly working man vocals. On ‘Glenn’s Promise’ it’s lighter and more trippy definitely erring towards desert rock especially with those Brant Bjork funk outs and on ‘Bury Me Deep’ their Maryland cousins show their blood link on this brooding, bass heavy number with a huskier, repetitive vocals style now adopted by Moss. However, on ‘The Watchers Nest’ things get somewhat lightweight with a gentle, melancholic guitar that gives way to a powerfully emotional chorus and Moss’s down n out vocals making the song more along the lines of Tom Waits as its fades – and then injects some stoner power warbling – like, totally weird! I did wonder if there was any rap in this album and finally ‘The Boogie Down’ drops an old school 70s funk beat a la Rappers Delight complete with horns and featuring local Bronx rapper Sonny Cheeba (Camp Lo) and along with the polka street jangle of ‘Break My Love’ it’s nice but I wouldn’t want things to stray any farther. Thankfully, the awesome might of ‘The Echo’ somehow – and amazingly so – mixes it all together in a massive fuzz tone sound, with trippy desert rock licks, lightweight sung spoken word contrasting with man beast roars, and completed by the pounding rhythm of Mike Boyne’s bass and Brandon Burghart’s drums! All in all a necessary departure for the band for personal reasons while hoping to get some new fans along the way, and while I thought that for the most part the not too radical experiment worked, only time will tell if their longtime fans see it that way too.