Album number four from Portland’s party-rock ambassadors comes three years, almost to the date, since their last record Whales and Leeches earned them an appearance on Letterman and a debut in the Billboard Top 100. Though they were perhaps a little more commercial-sounding the last time around, they still maintained the fun-loving, nerd-rock sensibilities that have long defined their music… not to mention their music videos.
Only Ghosts opens with the up-tempo riff rocker “Flies,” which combines gritty and cleaner vocals in its two-microphone attack…but then it mellows out with an instrumental passage that seems to contain keyboards. This isn’t entirely a bad thing. “Cut It Short” is a mid-tempo, grunge/garage rock number with a decent, almost danceable verse culminating in a moderately heavy chorus. The slow section here that begins around the three-minute mark almost borders on reggae. Not really feeling this one.
The main riff of “No Air” reminds me slightly of QOTSA’s “Feel Good Hit of the Summer”—only this song’s not about drugs. The killer riff that first kicks in about one minute in will get your head noddin’ like Robitussin, however—and I really dig the doomy outro! On the other hand, I really don’t think the bass-heavy stomp of “Shadows” makes for their most memorable single, but they more than make up with it with the uber-heavy “The Smell of the Sound.” Of course, at five-and-a-half minutes, it clearly wasn’t meant for radio…
For heavy music snobs, the challenge has always been whether to file Red Fang under “Stoner” or “Doom.” I prefer the term “heavy rock” myself—but this might the closest they’ve ever leaned toward the latter.