Lafayette, Indiana must be a stark, barren and spooky place to live, as TV Ghost — which hails from that Midwestern city — has a convincingly unsettling sound that could only come from a corresponding setting. TV Ghost is an assaultive force, with bass lines that cut like barbed wire, spiky guitars that stab like sharp knives and a lead singer, in the form of one Tim Gick, who sounds like Joy Division’s Ian Curtis — that is, if Curtis had been frenzied with a hyperactive disorder. TV Ghost’s sophomore release, Mass Dream, will scare the bejesus out of you with its horrific cacophony of white noise, combining the surf guitar and rockabilly elements of the Cramps with the art-punk stylings of early Pere Ubu.
Mass Dream is a record with a singular vision: across the expanse of its nearly 41 minutes and 11 tracks, it paints a portrait of despair and bleakness not usually heard on the American side of the pond. It’s a disc that takes your head, dunks it underwater and holds it there until you’re too breathless even to scream. It is a powerful artistic statement propelled by songs that linger and cut deep into your psyche. With tracks like “Cancer”, “An Absurd Laceration” and “The Degradation of Film”, TV Ghost mire themselves in a sound that is about as bleak and black as Robert Smith on a particularly suicidal day. Taken apart, the songs are easily distinguishable from one another, but together they make up a collective vision that is remarkably cohesive as a whole. Mass Dream is not an album that you’ll want to listen to in a particularly happy mood, as it will only strive to bring you down, but for those who want to marinade in darkness and hopelessness, TV Ghost offers an affective and angular rhythm that is as captivating as watching rainbows form in oil slicks. Mass Dream is a haunting and absorbing album, one that isn’t easily forgotten when its final notes are wrenched free and clang out of its system.