Cherry Ghost: Thirst for Romance

Spencer Tricker

Are Cherry Ghost "Oprah-friendly losers" aping Wilco, or something more?

Cherry Ghost

Thirst for Romance

Label: Caroline
US Release Date: Available as import
UK Release Date: 2007-07-09

I’ve got to confess that I developed a decidedly negative attitude towards Manchester’s Cherry Ghost when I first got wind of their recent UK chart success and subsequently watched the video for “People Help the People” -- their second single, which, at the time, I thought sounded too much like an updated version of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts”.In fact, I had some pretty harsh words for Bolton native Simon Aldred’s pet project when I first winced upon noticing that he’d named his group after a Wilco lyric and, after watching the video for third single “4AM”, that he'd attempted to ape their inimitably American sound. “Blasphemy!”, said I.

In conversation with a friend, I moaned that they were just a bunch of “Oprah-friendly losers” who’d picked the wrong period of Wilco’s career to jump off of. After all, it took Jeff Tweedy and Co. over 10 years to begin writing innocuous tunes for Volkswagen commercials. When I first heard Cherry Ghost, I thought, “Here’s a band that hasn’t even earned it!” This of course, is a pretty unfair way to appraise an artist, but other hardcore fans of rock music will sympathize with me when I say that every now and then an integrity complex grips the best of us.

But when I finally gave a proper listen to Thirst for Romance, I also gave myself a major cause for embarrassment. That’s because it turns out that Cherry Ghost is actually pretty damn good. They’re definitely major-label material, with studio-friendly chops and a natural inclination towards glossy top-40 production values. And it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that they espouse certain ‘90s sensibilities; they sometimes call to mind the Wallflowers, Fastball, or even Goo Goo Dolls. But that doesn’t stop Aldred’s songs, which tackle isolation, pain, and working class heart-ache, from striking home with all the right chords.

Aldred, the nucleus of the band and its principal songwriter, possesses a rare gift in his ability to convey a great deal more with his voice than with his sometimes heavy-handed lyrics. Tinged with a grit shared by other comparable Mancunian singers like the La's' Lee Mavers, Oasis’ Noel Gallagher, and Elbow’s Guy Garvey, Aldred’s vocals cut deep against the stark arrangements of tunes like “Roses,” “People Help the People” (which, for all it’s heart-on-the-sleeve emoting, is actually a fairly moving song), and slow-burner “Mary on the Mend.”

Still, it’s on the punchier numbers like “4AM,” “Mountain Bird,” “Here Come the Romans,” and the title-track that the Ghost really draws on the spook. “4AM,’ for instance, is radio-friendly pop gold that rings true beyond its initial catchiness. Drawing on a Wilco-inspired picking pattern (see A Ghost Is Born’s “Muzzle of Bees”), it takes the well-worn, though tried and true, subject matter of modern loneliness and rises above, with fresh lyrics in the verses like, “It’ll get you on the last bus home, / Get you at the discount bend,” and a big sing-along chorus: “There ain’t no hiding place on earth / That loneliness ain’t been first.” It’s songs like this that re-affirm the idea that as long as contemporary songwriters and musicians continue to bring sharp perspectives and powerful instincts to their work, there’s no reason to fear rock ‘n’ roll ever growing stale and irrelevant.

The greatest success of Thirst for Romance is a strong, cohesive vision that unfolds through a variety of ballads, driving anthems, and high-octane rockers. It represents a broad range of emotions and musical ideas that, while occasionally faltering, makes for a powerful debut.

Who would’ve known that a bunch of “Oprah-ready losers” could write such life-affirming pop songs? Better yet, who could’ve expected that the progeny unknowingly christened on 2004’s A Ghost Is Born would turn out to be such a valuable addition to the modern music scene? At least somebody still knows how it’s done…

You hear me, Tweedy?





How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?


The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.


'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.


​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.


Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.


Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.


Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.


Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.


Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.


Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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