Windsor for the Derby
Giving Up the Ghost
2005
C-



knock three times on the ceiling. You’re tired of throatless indie. Well, tracking that line, don’t ever jog to this record. The heat may sag, but Giving up the Ghost will have you coughing flat breath, hoping to instep a broken nail or a splinter of glass just to bring you around. It’ll turn a thirty-minute ramp into a marathon. You see where I’m going.

Windsor’s last record, the smoky avant-garde seamstress song We Fight Til Death, was a giant forward leap for the band. They progressed from whimsical post-rock to full-borne psych artistry, and in turn created one of 2004’s more promising records. Now, the principal duo of Jason McNeely and Dan Matz, who lived in Texas and various East Coast spots respectively for previous recordings and communicated like histrionic-partners-in-crime Postal Service, both moved to Philadelphia to record together in person.

Hearing Giving up the Ghost, one wonders if the added pressure of presence might not have ruined these recordings. Ghost lacks the dynamic swing of much of their past material, content to move towards unnecessary cohesion, one that takes all the wide-pupil joy out of their songs. It’s as though, freed of the facelessness of sending music across a distance, each member caved to the eyes and ears of the other. All of their reckless instincts, a talent that made them so damn enjoyable, have gone timid.

Perhaps we can lay the blame on a new sense of retro-experimentalism. A broken kettle of VU-inspired snooker-grooves, the record winds up more ode than statement. The band always owed a debt to Yo La Tengo, but now, their reds won’t ever approach black. The claimants will wind around the block. I can just see the BSS collective, uncertain and shy, butting in line to get in on the booty.

This leads to a majority of filler material, hodgepodge songs that sound like the band’s simply borrowing time. “The Front” is an airless acoustic space jam in desperate need of fuel, while “Gathering” takes far too much pleasure in its dissonant squall. “Giving Up” slurs listlessly through a patch of acoustic guitars and callused electrics, another example of just how ‘pretty’ inertia can be. Likewise, “Shadows” is a squelched and squeaking torch song, vocals burned and indeterminate in a bristle of synths and electronics.

Not that Windsor fails at every turn. “Praise” foams a stormy bulge of synths and starfoul electronics to its defense, and lives up to much of the sublime music coming out of Canada right now. “Every Word You Ever Said” finds Modest Mouse reinterpreted as a band no longer done eunuch by the pull of the mainstream. A thick gush of guitar and xylophonic pluck, the vocals are pushed up front for the first time. Claustrophobic, an ode to first breath, it’s a great closer for a record that really doesn’t’ deserve one.

Sadly here, they force us all out into the pinched sun with the threat of dense wetwoodsmoke. Besides “Every Word. . .” there are no Enoisms here like “The Melody of a Fallen Tree,” no wispy wooden hymns like “A Spring like Sixty.” There are few songs you really want to return to, play after play, to coat you this fall. Giving up the Ghost marks a band in retreat, and as a fan (oh, the other shoe), I can only hope they use this as a transition. Move, fuck-all: those are my hands urging you past this one.

Buy it at Insound!


Reviewed by: Derek Miller
Reviewed on: 2005-09-02
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