The five songs on alternative rock act Good Bison’s EP, Ghost on Mulholland, offer many pleasures. They are sonically rich, joyfully clever, thoughtful without being overly heavy, and infectious. The music has an earworm quality. The tunes can be simple or complexly layered. The words trip off the singer/head maven Pablo Alvarez’s tongue like the singer be trippin’—and that’s a positive thing. Sometimes he raps. Other times he sings in Spanish, but he sings most of the lyrics in English. The vibe is mellow even as the singer tells you not to trust his smile. The sunniness is just a true illusion.
Maybe that’s too serious a description. Alvarez just laid down five excellent tracks. To call them groovy would distort an understanding of how delightfully artistic these simple songs are constructed and delivered. He’s having fun here, and he wants his listeners to enjoy the music as well. That’s why he doesn’t dumb down what’s being said. Alvarez may dress the EP up (at times) with fancy verbal skills, but mostly he just lets the songs shine through.
The first-person narrators look at the sunny side of life while wearing serious shades. They are realistic enough to know that, more often than not, shit will happen. But that doesn’t stop them from running on empty or lying to someone one shouldn’t be lying to. The lyrics are multitracked to convey the thoughts floating around in one’s head. Is it the same person from track to track or a different person each time? These individuals are often self-described liars.
Good Bison offer a good-humored approach to their troubles. There is something canned and self-contained about their problems. The singer complains “Can’t Waste This High”, whines that “I’m Tired of Waiting, Come on Home” on another, and that he is stuck in traffic “10 Minutes Away”, and so on. He doesn’t want his audience to get hung up. The music and lyrics remind us that the protagonist is willing to keep pushing. He expects as much from others. What other choice do we have but to smile, even when it’s a lie?
Ghost on Mulholland riffs on our thoughts when being high while waiting for something to happen, getting lost in gridlock. The title of Good Bison’s EP reminds us of David Lynch’s mysterious movie, Mulholland Drive. The film’s conceit suggested that reality may be a matter of perspective. Life is funny even when it is not. And it’s a mystery, that’s for sure.
Or maybe not, as Good Bison put it in another song. Everything is haunted. The mystery is the reality. It’s all a bunch of “Better Lies” that we tell ourselves. The arguments we have in our heads may keep us awake at night, but we are all in this world together. Nothing else really matters. If there is no reason for anything, there’s comfort in another person’s smile. Let the mystery be. And crank up the volume on the music player.