"Sure, we wanna party after the show. You like lemon and honey?" Holy Ghost! frontman Alex Frankel was downing tea between every song last night at Mercury Lounge, clearly not feeling so well, and I don't think the band have played very many shows yet anyway. There were other problems too. More than one false start, and Guitarist Chris Maher broke like three strings during their short set, pretty amazing given the light, Nile Rogers style rhythm playing.So I'm not gonna be too hard on their performance.
That said, but I did expect a little more from a band on DFA, especially one made of two former members of Automato. The band worked out the kinks mid-set, and finished extremely strong: Great new single and lead track from their album "Do It Again" — which sounds like Blancmange meets Roxette — had a great groove and the first time I've ever seen anyone play an Ipad on stage (the "do it again" sample); Paradise Garage electro-rockin "I Will Come Back," and "Jam for Jerry"* which almost sounds like Phoenix if produced by Arthur Baker.
Though really… almost every song Holy Ghost have is indebted to early '80s New York disco, when Baker and John Robie were behind any single worth dancing to. (When Frankel sings "It's a problem of mine" on "It's Not Over" you just know it's a tip of the hat to New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle.") Fading arpeggiated synths finished just about every song. They have the sound down cold.
I think my biggest problem was that too many of Holy Ghost!'s songs sound similar, at least in their current live setting. Show opener "Static on the Wire," which made my Favorite Singles of 2010 list, is kind of like a sped up, improved take on "Say My Name." On stage, with a stripped down sound and that bare-bones, heavy-on-the-hi-hat beat driving all the songs, many of the tunes just sort of ran together.
What I think would really help would be the addition of a real bassist. They do use the classic 303 sounds a lot, but drummer Nick Millhiser could really use someone to play off of instead of relying on his earbuds to guide him. I bet by the mid-point of their upcoming tour with Cut/Copy, the band will find live up to the lean, mean dance machine potential. Especially in good health, with a crowd ready to dance, not one that's about to go home and watch a particularly weak episode of Top Chef.
SETLIST: Static on the Wire | It's Not Over | Hold On | Say My Name | Hold My Breath | Wait and See | Slow Motion | Do it Again | I Will Come Back | Jam for Jerry
MP3: Holy Ghost! – Do It Again
No denying "Do It Again" is a great single. Like the best Holy Ghost songs, it rises above its obvious influences. The album is good too, out April 5 on DFA.
*An ode to the late Jerry Fuchs, a DFA mainstay who drummed for Holy Ghost and Juan Maclean among others. Nick Millhiser's kickdrum read "Jerry Forever" in that Barbara Kruger style the band uses on all their artwork.
If you want to see non blown-out contrast cameraphone pictures of last night's show, Nicky Digital was there.
Speaking of Arthur Baker and New Order, somehow I'd never seen the video to Holy Ghost's "I Will Come Back" which is a note perfect homage to (with swiped footage from) New Order clip for "Confusion." Note that's Juan Maclean/LCD-er Nancy Wang as the pizza girl in the HG! clip. Both videos and Holy Ghost tour dates are after the jump.