There's something perfect about the music of Cool Ghouls. Unassuming and unpretentious, these throwback jams echo a whole generation's worth of Byrds and Nuggets sides and, like the best moments from Allah-Las, for example, update a very basic rock and roll template for modern listeners.
Cool Ghouls are dropping their third album, Animal Races, today on Empty Cellar Records. Recorded by Kelley Stoltz, who also plays on the album, Animal Races is a little blast of the past done right. "Sundial" unwinds with the sort of spiky insistence that recalls the best bands from England's C86 wave as much as it does another era's best college rock stalwarts (R.E.M., The Three O'Clock). The mini-epic "Time Capsule" marries bits of McGuinn guitar to a V.U.-style breakdown, while "Days" has a melody that suggests bits of both Brian Wilson and Alex Chilton tunes. Simple but intricate, the cut is, like many on Animal Races, a slice of Sixties revivalism that isn't trying too hard to be a note-for-note recreation of some earlier, familiar hit. Stuff like the superb "Never You Mind" soars a bit like The Feelies attempting a run at a Jefferson Airplane number, which is to say how familiar the pieces are here even if the presentation makes everything feel new. If closer "Spectator" sounds a bit like "Eight Miles High", that's great; what better way to close an album?
Cool Ghouls are not trying to recreate the glory of Lou and and the boys, nor are they purely a Sixties tribute band. But, still, it's worth noting that their influences are apparent even if they have managed to again put them in the service of material that commands attention without being insistent about how note-perfect it is in spots. Animal Races by Cool Ghouls joins the likes of the first 2 Ultimate Painting albums as being an example of current indie that attempts to pay homage (at times) to the legends of the past.