PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Ghost Wave: Ages

Ages is a by-rote example of a group struggling to find its own identity by channeling its influences and winding up sounding more like a band playing covers rather than referencing their forbearers or offering homage

Ghost Wave


Label: Flying Nun
US Release Date: 2013-08-27
UK Release Date: Import
Artist website

The psychedelic garage rock subgenre is a dicey one, in the sense it’s so specific and self-limiting. To be in that mold and still stand apart from the pack, a band has to finagle some way to implement a degree of innovation. But go too far into left field, and you risk not being considered part of the typically minimalistic form at all. Thus, any new group is almost certainly tasked with using the same building blocks of their progenitors and tying to invent some new manner of organizing them. The surfeit amount of garage rock revivalists that appeared in the early aughts struggled with this; a decade on, an even steeper incline mars the path of upstart bands trying to adhere to tradition and break out on their own.

Such is the predicament faced by Auckland’s Ghost Waves on debut LP Ages. To get right to it, there is nothing bad about the album. At the same time, there is nothing impressive about it either, nothing that really grabs on and won’t let go. The album is a by-rote example of a group struggling to find its own identity by channeling its influences and winding up sounding more like a band playing covers rather than referencing their forbearers or offering homage.

This isn’t to say the group is lacking in youthful energy or enthusiasm. On the contrary, the record has a palpable sense of vitality, of four guys ecstatic to be jamming and having their tunes recorded. This is most evident in the jangly instrumental workout of “Arkestra”, set in the middle of the record and serving as its anchor. One of Ages highpoints, it ebbs and flows, rises and crashes, like a tumultuous surf. It’s the most natural cut on the record, the band unencumbered by concern and playing as though they don’t realize the tapes are still rolling.

As individual numbers, the songs are fine enough. Opening track “Horsemouth” is a driving and urgent ditty, electric organ and guitar effects propelling it forward as frontman Matthew L. Paul’s distorted voice drearily repeats the refrain, “Sun come up and sun come down / That’s the only time I see." The slacker approach carries on through the record, evident in its lo-fi sensibilities and specified in “I Don’t Mind”, a championing of insouciance as bliss. The hypnotic drift of “Country Rider” has some understated swagger to it, while lead single “Here She Comes” has a hazy dreaminess, accented by a twinge of Indian music.

Yet even at a cursory listen, the songs are all but drowned in their adherence to the template set by the ‘60s underground (hell, “Here She Comes” is a word away from sharing a title with a Velvet Underground song, something which doesn’t seem coincidental). Simple, catchy choruses and hooks abound, yet none linger once the record stops. Taken together as a whole album, the songs’ resistance to break convention in favor of playing it safe means they end up lacking variety, sounding too similar for the sum total to be enjoyable. What results is a flatness of sorts, a distance between the listener and the record, and the gulf can be characterized as the recognition on the audience’s part that good as the songs might be, they are covered by a sheen of mediocrity. That said, the germ of something that could grow fruitful and rewarding is here; Ghost Wave just might need another album or two to cultivate that prize.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.