Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Buffalo - The Midnight Ghost Train - 2012

Again, it's all one song. Except it isn't. The "new to me" (courtesy Rockthought.com) The Midnight Ghost Train have crafted an album so coherent and consistent as to feel like an extended suite punctuated only by shifts in riff, groove and bursts of Waitsian caterwauling. Buffalo is a honeyed slab of American blues rock that frequently and freely sprawls into stoner territory, staying just this side of metal and, while still heavily bearded, never dips into the easily dismissed pool of hirsute collegiate bullshit. Buffalo is rawk like we forgot it could sound.

The instrumental and vocal elements stay well-balanced and appropriately spaced on Buffalo as the band lay heavy rails of groove on ninety seconds of "A Passing Moment of Madness" before sliding seamlessly into "Henry" where Steve Moss unleashes a ragged vocal that would have Lemmy offering up a cup of warm tea atop a fat, quivering bassline from David Kimmell (departed from the lineup just prior to the record's release). The five minutes that comprise these two tracks leave the listener breathless and, ticket punched, fully bought in to whatever destination The Midnight Ghost Train have in mind.

A few rare silent seconds separate songs here before Brandon Burghart's percussion introduces "Tom's Trip" and Moss' guitar resets the compass for a desert landscape dotted with peyote cactus. Interstellar instrumental fuzz continues through "Spacefaze," it and its predecessor spreading across the mid-album (and splitting the LP sides) before giving way to the single, "Foxhole," which finds Kimmell and Burghart casting thunderbolts toward Moss and his earthen vocals, all the while using his axe to dig a veritable trench of groove within which he can weather the storm. It's the shit.

An a capella Lead Belly number here would sound contrived on paper but, dammit, a stomping "Cotton Fields" succeeds and a little instrumental noodling follows before the world itself is torn asunder by what is, lyrically, my favorite song to date of 2012. A murder ballad that would have Nick Cave green with envy, "Southern Belle" rages with the emotional intensity of its narrator, spewing out some options: won't you take out my hammer and slide it down in your skirt... 'cause if your death will come too early I want to know how much should I make it hurt. "Into the Fray" rages off the rails as intensely as the album opened with Burghart as engineer gone wrong, drumbeats all steel and timber colliding with the sea and stone of Moss and Kimmell's strings and that voice full of sand. It's a glorious, cacophonous juggernaut who builds momentum just to disappear into the mountainside, the sound seemingly swallowed up by the earth itself, a fitting, sudden end to Buffalo.

Buffalo on vinyl is a thing of beauty with the first 500 records pressed in a "ox blood spatter" mix of opaque, coagulated red and powderburn black. The LP comes with a download card for free and easy transition to iTunes, which is a good thing as this is a fandamntastic record saturated with soul and stacked with so many grooves that you need at least a couple formats in which to safely unleash this beast which threatens from beginning to end to stampede through your living room, shake the foundation and, ultimately, bring down the fucking house.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent read (as always)! First saw the Train on a Jucifer show a couple of years ago. Great guys. Heavy as hell. No b.s. - all riffage. I don't think they ever stop touring. That vinyl is worth owning, regardless. Hell...you could display that somewhere in the home and it'll still look a thousand times better than anything Pier 1 could ever put together. \m/ - RT