Monday, October 3, 2005
"No Rest for Ghosts" is the band's fourth full-length and second for the Bloomington-based Jagjaguwar label (also home to current tour-mates Okkervil River). Like most Jagjaguwar artists, Minus Story plays an adventurous brand of music that both endears them to loyal fans and precludes a quick rise to notoriety. That's not to say the band is inaccessible - they just require a bit of investment.
"No Rest for Ghosts" is much like its predecessor "The Captain Is Dead, Let the Drum Corpse Dance." The album's foundation is a bunch of perfectly hummable folk songs peppered with existentialist lyrics. Its frame, however, is erected with a wide spectrum of sounds - slide guitar, bells, drum machines, piano, ramshackle percussion, etc. - that are often dramatically tweaked in post-production. To put it another way, Minus Story is the kind of band that lists instruments like "Wood Box" and "Bike Helmet" in the liner notes and makes up cool names like "The Fantasy Space" to describe their ProTools rack.
Whereas "The Captain is Dead..." sported a few fist-pumping rock numbers like "Joyless, Joyless," "No Rest for Ghosts" generally moves at a much slower pace. This isn't entirely a bad thing for a band that revels in nuances, and it translates into a cohesive recording that packs its best material towards the end of the disc.
Of particular interest throughout are Geiger's lyrics, which tend towards the absurd on tracks like "Little Wet Head" ("On your hand your claws are red / And your claws are wet / Down your mouth you're gonna drown / My little wet head"). Though rarely coherent of subject matter, Geiger excels at creating absorbingly descriptive miniatures: "There is a light that you have inside / It hides in your mouth and behind your eyes / It's gold and it's white and it's bright as the sky / And out through your mouth it leaves when you die."
Standout tracks include "Will I Be Fighting?," which showcases the band's aptitude for gorgeous 6/8 waltzes, and "There Is A Light," which recalls the haunted folk rock of Magnolia Electric Co. Also meritorious is Andy Byer's singing turn on "To the Ones You Haunted" and the cathartic closer "In Our Hands."
Fans of Minus Story's previous efforts should find a lot to like about "No Rest for Ghosts." It's equally if not more absorbing, and it refines the band's creative process into a slightly more listener-friendly product. Those unacquainted with the band might prefer "The Captain Is Dead..." as an introduction, but both discs prove that Minus Story isn't one to rest either.