I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with this TV Ghost record. After several listens straight through it just wasn’t taking shape, it seemed all over the place in a way that was not parallel with their previously demonstrated mania. Then I realized it was my fault. Rather, my computer’s, an error of the current age: I was listening to a download that had been sent to me, and the songs imported in some fucked-up order that did not correlate to TV Ghost’s fucked-up order. Testament to the analog art of album-sequencing and a reminder never to trust machines—from Google and iTunes to GPS and Skynet, they’re all plotting to keep us ignorant and/or dead, figuratively or otherwise. (Not Facebook though—you Facebook users are safe, just relax and keep Liking.)
Not the worst segue into Mass Dream, a pretty goddamned great fear-blossom of a record, when you play the songs in order. “Every synapse / A wired trap,” reports frontman Tim Gick in what I now know to be the album’s opening moments, speaking in the desperately clipped tone of a mid-‘70s Spider-Man thought balloon. Gick is calling out from a darker, realer place, though: the permanent waking nightmare that’s both cast and setting in late-capitalism’s Grand Guignol. Okay, sure, that’s overwrought, but then again, if you haven’t been beset by demons and felt like clawing your face off trying to determine if they’re inside you bursting out or outside you attacking in, well, there are some educated free-thinkers who might suggest you’re not paying attention. TV Ghost is painfully attuned though, and each of the 11 songs here nick at a different nerve. If the above lyric doesn’t tell the tale (pay attention!) then the song titles do: “An Absurd Laceration,” “Doppleganger,” “Subterfuge,” “Sleep Composite”—together they sketch a blasted life of bleeding dread, meaningless identity and tension stampeding, unimpeded, to the breaking point.
Where exactly is that point? It’s generally a mistake to predict where a band might be headed (and often foolish to hope a band is headed anywhere), but after two killer albums of Birthday Party-style phantasmagoria—less rhythmically supernatural but possessing the same slashing-and-burning post-punk DNA—if TV Ghost were to follow with a similar record it might begin to seem recursive. Smart bets are on that not happening: “Wired Trap” and the title track bookend Mass Dream and they’re TV Ghost’s most vibey songs to date, with rolling toms and flesh-tearing riffs underpinning the howling, wide-eyed Gick, one of rock’s most galvanizing performers. This band drives through the night for a living, and even if it’s always dark out, the view from their window is gonna change. [In the Red]
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