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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Album Review: The Midnight Ghost Train - "Buffalo"

Lightning never strikes twice, they say.  Its luminosity makes it seem far-thicker than its actual 1/2-inch diameter, but the true spectacle is the result.  Trees split, homes are set ablaze, and any human cracked by lightning can expect to enjoy cardiac and respiratory arrest, vascular spasms, neurological damage, and autonomic instability.  Devastating as it is, though, it's pretty awesome to behold.  What you're gonna hear at any live performance by The Midnight Ghost Train is electric, incendiary, and something you can't expect to experience ever again.  The intimacy and emotion of these shows, infused with thick fuzz and sweet sweat, are seemingly impossible to harness within the confines of a sterile and well-groomed studio, right?

For their upcoming Buffalo (July, Karate Body Records), the band enlisted accomplished engineer David Barbe to bottle the live sounds without losing fidelity or intensity.  The Midnight Ghost Train are three emotional guys, and these eight tracks are the better for it.  These delta-rooted jams ooze thick stoner rhythms that would stand in the rain holding withered daisies as quickly as they'd overstep the law to defend a dear friend.  The songs move from torrid clip to wispy cadence within a moment, and a metronome was never necessary.  Buffalo's soul is of a homegrown, deep-fried lineage.

 The album opens with the fuzz-drenched chops of A Passing Moment of Madness, immediately slugging your ribs via both your ears and your heart.  Building toward a psychedelic warble, we're greeted by a dusty groove that thrusts listeners directly through an arid canyon pass and into the neck-break guitar stomp of Henry.  The tandem is punctuated by a brief sludge pause before Steve Moss' thick licks marry Brandon Burghart's archaic, unrelenting drum assault.  Moss enlists his pipes, lifting tension with a vocal that's as wise as it is captivating.  This crunchy haze requires no chaser; a cool jam is intermittent and a clamor through *ahem* mossy willows does nothing to detract from outstanding structures.

The band released Foxhole as a single on April 13th, a fat, swinging rock-pendulum loaded with perfectly-executed timing and signatures.  The hum in your head is detectable only until the break into an ever-escalating barrage of slicing guitars and 5000rpm rhythms.  Pay attention, 'poke!  These heartland plains are flattened and the cattle are loose.  Tom's Trip, meanwhile, begins methodical and foreboding.  David Kimmell's low-end hitchhikes on Burghart's drums, laying a ragged and steady rumble through the flatlands.  Moss' licks sizzle until their drive is interrupted by the throwback of a heady breeze, while fuzz spurts and warbled fret worship pepper this slow, smoky dreamscape.  Throw your trans in neutral, kill the lights, and drop off your girl just down the block.  We're being attacked from every sonic direction.

Buffalo's back end is spearheaded by Spacefaze, a layered and atmospheric trip outward.  Burghart goes primitive and the sound returns to the album's inception: caustic, balanced, and full-circle.  These songs have been pregnant with promise, and The Midnight Ghost Train deliver at every whistle stop.  With the best stop-start dynamic Page Hamilton never invented, the crunch veers left and takes the long way home.  It ain't so bad gettin' lost sometimes.  And then you reach warped wooden floorboards, sweat stains, and slivers of dusty light cutting through a summer afternoon.  The cover of Lead Belly's Cotton Fields is soulful, gorgeous, and expertly executed.  Palms slap one another and boots strike hand-built carpentry, leading to a spread of pickin' and pluckin' that formulate Buffalo's most honest and organic moment.

Southern Belle's weathered anvils and oily pistons pair with the chug of Into the Fray to craft a vengeful, satisfying conclusion to the best thirty minutes of your life.  Belle's sticky sway is rife with rhythmic shifts and musicianship that no twenty-somethings should lay claim to.  You'll almost feel guilty liking this, the album's heaviest track.  The pacing of Into the Fray is fuckin' on-fire, and the locals are just pissed enough to let it pop, hiss, and crumble to the earth.

Named for the hometown of Steve Moss, Buffalo is that rare product that transcends geography,  generation, and genre.  Influences are detectable, but never dishonored.  Soul is never saturated, and The Midnight Ghost Train never trip over their own feet.  In fact, why are we wasting time discussing what this band doesn't do?  What this band DOES do is craft incredible, fuzzy, cerebral stoner rock songs.  They're not lying when they say their live shows are "intense and real."  And if anyone tells you Buffalo is the greatest stoner rock album they heard in 2012, they won't be lying either.

Band Site | Facebook | Karate Body Records


  1. I have had the good fortune to see them perform live... incredible band!

    Scott Johnson - Birmingham, Alabama USA

  2. Seen the band play live, and they ROCKED! Looking forward to hearing this album. Every review I've read says they captured the best elements of their live performance in this studio album, and that would be a wonderful thing!

    Bruce Arnold - Noel, Missouri CSA

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  5. Just one listening to become a favourite band!
    Congratulations and thanks for the blog!
    Ricardo Conti - Sao Paulo, Brazil

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