School Of Seven Bells // Ghostory // February 27 // Full Time Hobby
For a genre that has changed the course of rock music and revolutionised the ways that guitar feedback can be used in recorded sound, shoegaze has remained an incredibly still and self cannibalising genre since it first hit the airwaves just over twenty years ago. Many bands still try to make their best attempt at recreating Loveless or trying to sounds like something My Bloody Valentine would’ve done if they didn’t fizz out. Only a small number of artists are not afraid to take risks and take the next step in pushing dream pop forward. School Of Seven Bells are one of those bands.
Despite the incredibly cringe worthy title, Ghostory not really ghostly, dark or ambient. School Of Seven Bells’ third album is arguably their most upbeat yet and is vibrant with life and energy. The thing that is still setting the band apart from their contemporaries is the crisp hi-fi production of percussion that goes against everything that dream pop was at the beginning but feels necessary and unavoidable nowadays. Take the closing track When You Sing, the only song on the album that feels like it’s trying to rip off Loveless. Drums is one thing that saves it and makes it their own.
Sonically Ghostory is nothing that we haven’t heard from these guys before. They might have suffered from member changes since their inception but the sound they first shot at on their debut Alpinisms is still very much here. If it’s not broken, there is no reason to fix it. What School Of Seven Bells do instead is upgrading it to the next level that makes it interesting for a wider scale of people. Ghostory is immensely enjoyable even if the listener isn’t the fan of the genre. The nearly danceable sound of the record makes it sound like an electronic record. Ladytron’s 2005’s creative opus Witching Hour was the last album that managed to combine shoegaze and electronic influences which is exactly what made it a deeply enjoyable pop LP. Ghostory could easily be the spiritual follow up to that record. That is clearly obvious on album’s standout track Lafaye which packs guitar feedback and electronic beats to make one of the most captivating pop songs of the year so far. All the songs on here stick close to four minute mark, good choice as they all do their job at being interesting before becoming boring. The longer tracks on here are the ones that drag the record down. Low Times is one of them, a six minute track that has no real faults other than being too long and turning from interesting to repetitive in the final third. Moments like these show the wear side of the LP, it does not have enough variation to keep it interesting all the way throughout the more monotone moments of it. For a genre that is supposed to make drone interesting, School Of Seven Bells are not doing very well in that department.
While it contains only nine songs that sometimes drag on, most of them are filled with memorable hooks and Lafaye, Scavenger and When You Sing, the highlights of the record, make Ghostory the most refined, enjoyable and the best School Of Seven Bells record yet. Considering how much flack shoegaze as a genre is getting for being sluggish, self-indulgent lyricless drone, School Of Seven Bells managed to achieve something special with Ghostory, record an album of generic shoegaze where very little time feels wasted for sounds that doesn’t make you feel like throwing your hands in the air.