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Cool Ghouls

Haunting parts of the Bay Area, San Francisco, since 2011 – sheet music a speciality – COOL GHOULS have risen to become… well… er… the nearly men of the post-ghost-post-psychedelic indie scene. Tipped for greater things if they can rid themselves of the invisibility cloak that has dogged them from the get-go, the retro quartet should scare the pants off record industry moguls one day in the future. Recommended is you at least listen to the track `Natural Life’ – now!
Named after a bit of FUNKADELIC/GEORGE CLINTON banter, but, indeed, very TROGGS or The BEACH BOYS (they’ve un-covered `Here Today’), Messrs Pat McDonald (vocals, guitar), Ryan Wong (guitar, sax, vocals), Pat Thomas (bass, keyboards, vocals) and Alex Fleshman (drums, piano), point out to interviewers that psych is in their blood – not 60s “retro”.
Their eponymous COOL GHOULS (2013) {*8} debut LP was produced by FRESH & ONLYS’ Nick Cohen, and recalled the garage-days of old when The BYRDS competed with The MONKEES for AM-pop air-time. The mopped-topped `Ballin’, `Things I Said’ and aforementioned semi-classic, `Natural Life’, whisk one back in a “magic bus” of sorts, only to whisk one back to the present day! A shake-down of the dandruff and it’s off to `The Barber’, where head-shaking is compulsory. Ditto `Witch’s Game’. If one’s joints have been “bogart” for a while, a suck on `Grace’, `Queen Sophie’, `Earthquake’, or the country-fied `In The Morning’, would re-install one’s mojo full-cycle.
Empty Cellar Records were on cue again 18 months on with sophomore set, the appropriately-titled A SWIRLING FIRE BURNING THROUGH THE RYE (2014) {*7}. If, however, BRIAN WILSON or ROGER McGUINN ear a taste of `What A Dream I Had’ (The MAMAS & THE PAPAS-meet-Strawberry Fields), and the grooves of `Orange Light’, then the cooler-than-cool COOL GHOULS will have hit first base. An album to replay and play in the future,
2016’s ANIMAL RACES {*8} was their third strike in as many years, and another to cherish while they grow into America’s best-kept-secret. Still unsigned by a major (and they sign some shit nowadays!), COOL GHOULS play it for the youth. Rolling stoned from the cosmic cogwheels of time, the toe-curling, head-swaying title track was only bettered by the set’s piece de resistance, `Sundial’ (fuse FOO FIGHTERS’ `Times Like These’ with McGUINN’s Rickenbacker), whilst `Time Capsule’ captured the very essence of the 60s. Country-rock also reared its not-so-ugly head with the slide-defying `When You Were Gone’ (and `The Man’), whereas bluegrass filtered through the moonshine of `Days’. The la-la-la’s and haunting harmonies of `Just Like Me’ pushing up the daisies beyond “flour-power” limits, fans of the genre – or indeed any rock’n’roll! – would swig down something from the `Brown Bag’ of tricks. One could wax lyrical all day… and so too could underground undertakers, COOL GHOULS.
© MC Strong/MCS Aug2016

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