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Black Fiction - Ghost Ride

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Artist: Black Fiction

Album: Ghost Ride

Label: Howells Transmitter

Review date: Jul. 24, 2006

To those who spend a certain amount of time following music, industry hype can often make a record sound more obnoxious than it is. I’d advise ignoring much of what you hear about San Francisco’s heavily ballyhooed Black Fiction. Ghost Ride itself is sweet ‘n’ sour campfire folk that’s more playful than pretentious.

Like a lot of new acts, Black Fiction is defined less by its gifts than by its experiments and inconsistencies, and for now, that’s fine and peachy. Every track encloses a surprise, whether it’s the creepy “Cabinessence” banjo on “You Must Not Bury Someone,” the raga-and-blues backdrop and falsetto vocals on “I Spread the Disease,” or echo effects on the lazy pop showstopper “Black Fiction.” The band has hardly found its path, but it kicks a lot of doors open here.

The vocals could use some work. A misanthropic darkness pervades the lyrics of Ghost Ride, which are nevertheless delivered with the flat affect of a Steve Malkmus. It’s hard to divine what sort of treatment might’ve best served the suicide note “You Can Find Me” or the apocalyptic vision “Great Mystery.” Passion might’ve made them scary; Beach Boys discipline would’ve made them terrifying; but an indie-fied flatness kind of leaves them hanging.

The bedroom production doesn’t do the music any significant favors, either. Black Fiction isn’t anyone’s Haunted Graffiti, and Ghost Ride is not Stereopathetic Soul Manure; fucked-uppedness is not essential to its aesthetic. For a band this festive and ambitious, Ghost Ride, as a recording, does too little with too much. It often sounds like a demo, if a surprisingly good one.

Equalize your expectations. Black Fiction isn’t the new way. Ghost Ride is a test of the waters. It doesn’t sound much like any of the overhyped weirdness-of-the-hour to which it’s drawn comparisons. But these guys are big dreamers, and they deserve some encouragement. Too often, a band will be lost because it doesn’t knock one out of the park in its first AB. It would be a shame if that happened here.

By Emerson Dameron

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