The Contrast

Underground Ghosts

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The Contrast are often advertised as power pop, but there's a dark, cutting seriousness of intention here that skirts that designation, along with a sort of unspecifically '60s-influenced approach to what they do. (They telegraph '60s intentions in the broad way that the Smithereens did before them, without truly drawing a straight and direct musical correlation to any specific band or movement.) This is straight-ahead, full-bore rock, fraught with an almost grim seriousness, from the fatalistic groove of "Pocketful of Fear" to the melodic pummel and psychedelic guitar break of "Believe." Nevertheless, there's a missed connection here that keeps Underground Ghosts from being a great album (despite hyperbole-fraught accolades from Little Steven Van Zandt, via his Underground Garage radio show, wherein he proclaimed them "One of the best bands on the planet...and England too"). The seriousness and grim drive on this LP often cross that line into obtuseness and repetitiveness. In intention, the English group most accurately call to mind their countrymen and predecessors (from the late '80s and early '90s) the Godfathers. Here was another group with gutsy, '60s drive and a bold-voiced singer that had many appealing trappings yet something missing that kept them from greatness. The best song here is "My Peace of Mind," with its Davie Allan-like guitar buzz, chiming leads, and carnivalesque organ.

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