May 1, 2003

Test Spin: Porch Ghouls

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I like the Porch Ghouls a lot — how could you not like a band whose lead guitarist calls himself “Slim Electro,” and whose fan club is called “Ghouls Gone Wild.” I like their appealing blend of blues sensibility and punk energy. I just wish that I liked their album. But I don’t.

Throughout Bluff City Ruckus, the band tends to find one basic riff per song and stick with that riff exclusively throughout. John Lee Hooker did the same thing, and it’s obvious that the Ghouls have been listening to him and other similar bluesmen — but, like Mike Smith said, the reason that John Lee Hooker had the blues was that he only knew one chord. Sonic monotony might be authentic, but it kind of sucks for the listener. Randy Valentine’s harmonica apparently has only three notes, which he never gets tired of playing, and Slim Electro’s slide resonator guitar is mostly wasted in tiresome three-chord progressions.

That’s the main problem: in their efforts to be authentic, they forgot to provide anything that stands out. That’s not to say that they don’t have some good tunes — “Ten Thousand Blueberry Crates” is as catchy a song as I’ve heard in a long time, and “Girl On The Road (Ford Fairlane)” rocks with a jubilant, manic energy. But, come on, if I was in the market for slavishly derivative white-boy honky-tonk, I’d rent Blues Brothers 2000. The Porch Ghouls have got potential — a lot of potential — and I predict that if they ever harness their potential and get beyond their influences they could put out a really great album. Bluff City Ruckus, however, just isn’t it.

Archived article by Justin Peters