Written by: MAK on 15/09/2017 19:23:17

At one point I considered the London-based quintet Ghouls to be the next big British ska band, thanks to the releases of “Ten Thousand Words On” (2014) and “Great Expectations, Pt.2” (2015). However, upon listening to band’s most recent album, “Run”, I can’t help but think that Ghouls are abandoning what made them great in order to appeal to a more mainstream audience, or at least fall into what’s popular at the moment. I sense that there are more pop-punk and indie/alt-rock influences flowing through this release.

Kicking off the album is “Seasonal Affective”, which opens with fuzzy guitar chords and chunky bass-lines that better fit in with early Kings of Leon, if anything, which is nothing like what we’ve been used to on previous efforts from Ghouls. “Autophobia” then comes in with the much-missed brass melodies for a ska-infused pop-punk anthem full of catchy hooks and packing an infectious sing-along chorus; this is more like the band I fell in love with. The horn section kicks off “Better Places”, but instead of becoming a focal point, it’s more an added layer to a song that sounds like a punch punk hit that’s somewhere between Neck Deep and Yellowcard; it’s a trend that flows through most of the album, especially in a song like “Salt”.

This is a more mature Ghouls in terms of songwriting, as well as musically and lyrically. “Facebook Friend” is the perfect example of this, featuring an infectious saxophone introduction, bouncy vocal lines, and unloading about meeting unnecessary acquaintances and only being friends with them online. Quite a few of the songs on this album are infectiously chirpy in musical terms but deep down, the topics don’t seem to come across as happy. Singing guitarist Benedict Goold clearly has a lot to get off his chest.

The stand out track for me — maybe not my favourite, but the most impactful — is “Expect Greater Things”. It starts off as an acoustic slow-burner, with just Goold singing about needing to be better and strumming away on his own. Slowly but surely, the saxophone enters a crescendo and the beats kick in, unloading the hard-hitting type of riffs that we heard on “Great Expectations” from the last album, topped off by “da-da-da” vocal chants. “Oxytocin” then closes the album in a much more intense ska-punk way reminiscent of the Ghouls of old — a punchier track for sure, but perhaps too little, too late to appease the fans of the band’s older material.

Don’t get me wrong; “Run” is a solid release, full of catchy anthems and impressive musicianship, and the album is a lot more melodic instead of hard-hitting like previous releases. There is a focus on appealing to a greater audience for sure and I think that perhaps we did see this coming, as quite a few of these songs could have easily gone on “Great Expectations, Pt.2”. But the lack of shit-kicking grooves like on “London’s Burning” is rather disappointing to the ska-core fan in me. Still, I can’t deny that I’m impressed with how Ghouls have evolved and created some truly epic songs à la “Disavowal” that deserve radio-play.


Download: Oxytocin, Expect Greater Things, Autophobia
For the fans of: Yellowcard, Neck Deep, Millie Manders
Listen: Facebook

Release date 05.05.2017
1471 Records

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