Ghost Story

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A stylistic chameleon, the nimble convections of Xavier's are held together by his phenomenal guitar work. Whether lush and pretty 12-string acoustic strumming, or acid lead electric, there is a palpable sense that it's all coming from the imagination of one man. On Ghost Story, Xavier has opted for a more balls-out rock approach to his music. He has split his head wide open to let all the demons loose, and they explode in innumerable directions with shards of musical references to just about everyone in the pop/rock lexicon. Most notable is the Jethro Tull influence on "Wily Creilly," abut it won't take too careful a listen to identify hat-tipping to White Album-era Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Nirvana. The musician wallows shamelessly in the grunge gutter on "Enter the Drag Queen," a track so hard and so loud, it would undoubtedly get 3 thumbs up from Beavis and Butthead. All of this works remarkably well, establishing an interesting future for rock & roll (now in its forties and going through a midlife crisis) without abandoning its best influences. Industrial-strength angst has been wrung from a troubled subconscious and laid tunefully at our feet. On "Ruffian on the Stairs," it sounds like Xavier is singing through suffocation as a mean and twisted cocksure master before switching his point of view to the sexual servant. The contrast of punk with urbane rock is theatrical, attention-grabbing, and another example that even in its sagging middle years, rock can be made interesting and alluring in the right hands.

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