WORDS: David Aston
PEARL JAM’s Jeff Ament has re-joined forces with vocalist Joseph Arthur and drummer Richard Struverud to produce RNDM’s sophomore album Ghost Riding.
A follow up to their 2013 release Acts; Ament admitted in a Rolling Stone Interview that this was the longest time he has ever spent on a record. “I think it was because we didn’t know what it was. We kept throwing paint on the canvas and paint on the canvas and at some point, we had to start actually taking some paint off the canvas or just start over.” The question is, did RNDM paint a masterpiece?
The opening track Stumbling Down starts off with broken beat, four to the floor drumming, from what has been quoted as being from an iPad app and the beats are almost indistinguishable from the real thing and are used to great effect.
Swirling synths give rise to melodic and at times, edging on psychedelic guitar solos, there is a very strong TAME IMPALA vibe from this track especially in the often high pitch vocals.
Comfortable, made me feel uncomfortable. Ament was quoted earlier this week saying that RNDM derived influence from the late DAVID BOWIE on this record and it is overtly apparent on this tack. Everything about this song screams BOWIE, not in an ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ sort of way, more of a ‘If you weren’t told you’d think this was a track BOWIE deemed unworthy of release.’ RNDM make no attempt at originality on this track, Arthur even adopts a British, Bowie-esque accent and it doesn’t lend him any favours.
The title track Ghost Riding employs a deeply emotionally theme as Arthur sites Ghost Riding, as metaphor for life and innocence lost. Ultimately it’s a song that celebrates the wonder of life through a child’s eyes. Floating synths and layered vocals alongside a subtle string section allow the song to drift between atmospheric rock and Jangle Pop creating what is perhaps the most memorable track on the record.
Listening to this album the audience would be forgiven for thinking that everything seems to be over produced, the songs don’t have any room to breathe. Got to Survive is a prime example, Arthur attempts frail high notes singing with his head voice and it just doesn’t come across well. To counteract this, the track is chocked out by groovy bass lines, auto-wah guitar and electric synths making any sort of connection to the song completely inaccessible to the listener.
In a change of pace, RNDM slow things down with the poignant Stronger Man with the addition of gospel backup vocals, Arthur adopts a raspy voice for what is a Heartland Rock Ballad, the instrumentals have elements of a toned down Bruce Springsteen whilst the vocals are delivered with a touch Bob Seger.
NYC Freaks is one of this album’s saving graces, it is effortlessly groovy, Ament delivers a superb bassline to form the backbone of the track, while the drums and synths serve to keep the melody going, without engulfing any other components of the song. NYC Freaks fuses elements of disco, distortion and dare I say shoegaze excellently, to form an absolute banger of an indie pop-rock song.
It would be of no surprise if this was the track that RNDM promote heavily in the upcoming weeks.
From then onwards, the album takes a dramatic decline Kingdom in The Sky, is undoubtedly the worst track on the album, lack lustre and cliché lyrics dominate with little to no originality in its execution, as it sounds like a B-side U2 song. It goes for the whole ‘Arena Rock’ feel but, falls well short of the mark and the end result is borderline cringe worthy.
Ghost Riding, ends with Dream your Life away, continuing on the Arena Rock vibe, but with added Peruvian Pan Flute, bringing closure to what is for all accounts a very forgettable album. This album had a lot of influences and many different styles were imitated to varying degrees of success, but the core issue is that this record doesn’t know what it is, there is little cohesion, it’s not that there’s a lack of artistic ability, just a lack of artistic direction.
Ghost Riding is out now via Dine Alone Records.