On the Rebound
Rebound bands: easy to form when you've been a part of an established outfit and suddenly find yourself exiled and your equipment outside the studio door one day (and your face is cut out of any existing band pictures and your former bandmates refer to you in hushed tones at they roll their eyes), but risky if you make an abrupt departure from the type of music you used to make in the name of creative license (where you suddenly switch to soft rock ballads of confused, co-dependent love after years of screaming yourself hoarse in a thrash-metal band).
Fortunately, Louisville guitarist Zeke Buck, who recently underwent a sticky separation from VHS or Beta, has managed to take the sonic foundation of his former band and, with drummer Matt Johnson (formerly of Boom Bip), do something new with it that isn't entirely different from what both of them left: People Noise. And their debut release Ordinary Ghosts marks a promising, adventurous start.
Put another way, if you listen to the recording, it's clear Buck and Johnson haven't formed a Johnny Mann Singers tribute band.
For Ordinary Ghosts, Buck and Johnson have pick-pocketed the wall-of-sound guitar ambience from Buck's previous band's Night on Fire release, but they have mostly left behind the pop rhythms that drove it. Throughout Ghosts, we get songs with odd syncopation or rhythms that gently alter midway through the song, subtle touches of electronica and rumbling organ, lonely guitar wails, ethereal lyrics, all burnished in a dreamy, hypnotic undertone.
One song out of the 10 on Ordinary Ghosts probably best exemplifies the ambitions of People Noise: "Harrison Bergeron." It is based on the Kurt Vonnegut short story of the same name, about a future society where in order for all citizens to be equal, they must each have some sort of handicap, or a set of them. Bergeron, a genius, must wear thick glasses to give him headaches, plus he has had changes to his face that made him ugly and he had to carry three hundred pounds of excess weight. On television he strips himself of these handicaps and does the same to a ballerina there with him. As he dances with her, they are both shot dead by the Handicapper General.
Perhaps Ordinary Ghosts is Buck's and Johnson's defiantly stripping themselves of the handicaps of their pasts with other bands while still retaining the essence of what they had contributed to those outfits. To be sure, they won't be killed by the Former Band Member General, but Ordinary Ghosts shows that they do have a firm, fresh stage on which they can start to reinvent their careers.