Thursday, October 20, 2016

EP Review: Ghost - "Popestar"

Okay, so after three albums, Ghost has a certain legacy that’s already prominent in the minds of their fans and the music journalism community.  There’s an implied irreverence in everything the band does, a glint in the shady eye of the band’s image that aims to keep people off balance and do the unexpected.

And that’s where the band injects their new EP “Popestar” into the mix, following quickly on the heels of their critically acclaimed record “Meliora.”  The EP is a five song cut-up, composed largely of covers of pop songs (hence the title, no doubt.)  Yeah, sure, there’s a new song on there, too, and we’ll get to that.  First and centermost in the talking points about this album is the band’s unusual rendition of the Eurythmics’ “Missionary Man.”  This is where the rubber genius of Ghost meets the road rule of cover songs – that to be great, a cover song must remake the song in the new band’s image.

This cover takes the original dark pop song and rolls it up inside a heavy cloak of modern rock and metal personality.  The end result is a song that maintains the catchiness of a pop song from the era, but rolls on with a hook-laden thud and a punchy bass personality that offsets the melodic incantations of vocalist Papa Emeritus.

There are other covers on “Popestar” as well, all of which contain the same strain of Ghost’s quirkiness that famously characterizes their covers dating back to “Here Comes the Sun,” but “Missionary Man” is easily the best of the bunch.

Now, to address what people came to hear, the new track.  “Square Hammer” fits well in the same motif as the rest of “Meliora,” a melodic but deadly keyboard-backed piece of church hymn turned on its rock and roll ear.  It more or less sells itself based on that sentence alone, since Ghost fans know what they’re looking for.  As reinforcement, the track is not a throwaway added to entice listeners who aren’t interested in cover songs; this is a legit composition, exhibiting every bit of the professional standard we know Ghost is capable of.

And that’s really the size of the whole thing.  In about twenty-five minutes, Ghost provides more intriguing and well-executed material than most bands can provide in a full album.  Not to forget, this comes after they’d already emptied the barrel on a full album.

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