I have waited for a long time for an album from an up-and-coming band that I couldn’t choose a favourite track off of – for positive reasons, of course. I think it says something about not only the artist, but the album too, that each track stands out in its own way and doesn’t blend into one sound. I’ve found that album with Ghouls’s debut album, Ten Thousand Words On.
It’s hard to accurately describe the music Ghouls make – I think it’s best to say a cross between Frank Turner’s heavier songs, any alternative rocks band, and then throw in some trumpets, a little Madness-like. The ska edge brings back something that I suddenly want to see more of in rock music, and even though I occasionally find myself thinking “this sounds unnervingly like Rizzle Kicks”, I love it.
Opening track Letters is only half a minute long, but does a fine job of grabbing the attention – far away from preludes so many bands use to gradually break into the album. Nothing sells a band like energy, and if they’ve half as much energy live as they have in this track alone, the crowd should all be avid fans by the end of the set. The second track, Live, highlights how open and accessible the band’s music is – the bridge “doesn’t anybody wanna get out of here?” will inevitably leave you wanting to sing along, and the breakdown is very different from anything I’ve heard in a while – but then, how can a breakdown with trumpets in sound like anything else?
The majority of the album has the same style – catchy lyrics, clean and captivating vocals, magnificent electric guitar riffs and a splash of trumpet melody – but that by no means every song sounds the same. I have found that a lot of the time, small bands have very clever lyrics and step away from common clichés – in one song, Ghouls manage to both prove and disprove that rule. The eighth track off the album, Hollow Victories, includes the line “all I seem to achieve is hollow victories / never really getting that close, but getting further than most”, yet also has the dreaded mistake of rhyming “bed” and “head”.
In my opinion, the lyrical genius of this album peaks at penultimate track, Quit While You’re Ahead. If I had to choose a favourite of the record, it might well be this one, because not only does it break the normality of the album in the fact that it is mostly guitar, but the lines “yeah, I used the same three chords throughout this whole thing, and, yeah, I’m whining on, but you’re the one complaining. You might not be able to relate, and you might think I’m another one of those kids complaining when nothing’s really wrong, of course you’re right, whoever you are” hold such brutal honesty, it’s hard not to love this song.
Final track, London’s Burning, sounds like it was definitely influenced by Frank Turner – the positivity in the music and the pace end the album perfectly, and the lyrics stay stuck in your head for a fair while. If I had to criticise the album, I’d say that there’s a guitar riff in the intro of fifth track, Oceans, that sounds very much like that in Blur’s Song 2. That’s all I can knock this debut record for – I hope their live show lives up to the same standard.