So this is the sound of living between the coasts. I’ve often wondered what the middle of the country sounded like when it comes to something as nebulous as indie rock. I know what California sounds like: I hear the harmonies in my head without even trying, I hear Gram Parsons slightly affected take on the middle of the country, I hear the stereotypes of beach, sun and surf, I hear clean ringing guitars and I hear the angst of So Cal hardcore. I know what New York sounds like. I think we all know what New York sounds like at this stage of the game. But what does Lawrence, Kansas sound like? What does Nebraska sound like? (Wait, scratch that, we know what Nebraska sounds like and it wears a cowboy hat on national TV.) What does it mean to a band’s sound when there’s no scene or one that’s so insular it’s hard not to dine on the innards of other bands or bond with them so tightly that no one else can understand your language? No Rest For Ghosts answers my questions simply by sounding like nothing else that you’ll hear this year. And that is a good thing because Minus Story scores some serious points for love of craft and unqualified dedication to vision while, intentionally or not, giving a big fuck you to every next big thing that shimmies out from the coasts looking pressed, polished and ready for the red carpet pathway to indie rock blogutopia.
Hailing from the heartland and expanding upon their renowned “wall of crap” sound—which the band honed to a particularly viscous mish-mash of elements on last year’s Heaven And Hell EP—Minus Story has, well, um, I’ll just say it, matured. Their particular sound, which certainly falls into the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink style of arrangement, is theirs now. They occupy this little slice of peculiar sonic real estate so thoroughly that it will never be hard to pick a Minus Story song out of a line up. And really, what’s cooler than that? Bands try for entire careers to escape trite comparisons to bands they’ve cannibalized, before finally striking upon something uniquely theirs and discovering that no one wants to hear it. Minus Story have accomplished something on No Rest For Ghosts, simply by creating a record so uniquely their own. That it grows on you like a relentless tropical fungus seems appropriate. It would be odd, even a bit disappointing, to “get” a record as wonderfully idiosyncratic as this right off the bat.
The first thing you’ll notice about No Rest For Ghosts is the fact that the music is more organized. No Rest for Ghosts has a quality of polish that was lacking on both The Capitan Is Dead, Let The Drum Corpse Dance and Heaven And Hell. Even Heaven And Hell‘s most overly melodic moments didn’t hint at the gold that would be discovered in such No Rest For Ghosts songs as “Little Wet Head”, “Knocking On Your Head”, “In Our Hands” and “To The Ones You Haunted”. These songs clatter along on rails of organic and electronic percussion; accelerate when you think they should hit the brakes and taking off at a gallop when you’re sure that everything needs a rest. A vast outpost of instruments are injected mainline-style into the vein of the melody, creating surges of ringing guitar that get usurped by bells and keyboards that get the shit beaten out them by a fuzz-laden bass riff that walks out the door as quickly as it walked in. Through it all Jordan Geiger’s tortured stick of a voice flails madly at itself about all manner of subjects both real and imagined, worshipped and tortured.
Ultimately No Rest For Ghosts, despite its preponderance of odd lyrical subject matter (I don’t know about you but I’ve always wondered what it might be like to be ingested and regurgitated for food), is a thing of tortured beauty. There is no easy access to these songs, and because of that No Rest For Ghosts feels intensely personal. It is as if the band has granted us a membership to their club, though without any hints as to the untangling of their secret language. Understanding comes slowly but when it comes it’s a lightning bolt, and I haven’t felt much lightning this year.