Awkward Age‘s Demo 2011 is four punk tunes in 8 minutes and 1 second. The band isn’t into economy because it doesn’t know what it’s doing: the three-piece features ex-members of The Knockdown, New Bruises, Ghost Tales and Independent Clauses (yes, an old writer for this magazine!). These vets cram the material that would compose a whole three- or four-minute song in younger hands into two. The result is an EP that rules.
I’ve been a sucker for a drum intro ever since I heard Dave Douglas hammering away on Relient K’s “Kick-Off,” which opened The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek—the first rock album I ever heard. It is unsurprising that I fell in love with the pounding bass/tom/snare intro to “New Teen Fiction.” The rest of the song sets the template for the other tunes: block-chord guitars, uncomplicated bass lines, forceful yet hooky melodies and an irrepressible energy.
“Lucky Man” is a perfect eff you song (literally), and I can only imagine how much fun it is for audiences to yell it out live. “It Never Stops” sounds most like a snare-kick pop-punk song, and that’s totally fine. These guys are self-admittedly about ten years past high school, so this is the sound they were hearing when they were hanging out in the halls. It sounds authentic.
It’s only eight minutes, but it’s a great eight minutes. If you’re into punk, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be all over Demo 2011.
Some bands give off a distinct feel- MewithoutYou makes you want to flail wildly and break something, Coldplay turns the hardest man mellow, Fountains of Wayne can crack a smile on the driest face, and so on and so on. Ghost Tales transports you to that blissful time after you’ve just woken up from a long sleep.
The three songs on this EP each retain an untainted, very nearly unearthly aura that whispers you softly through them. “Fishing” is both the mellowest and best of the three mostly acoustic/guitar compositions (“Gloria” is filled out with bass and drums). The strikingly simple chorus of “I’ll be fine” allows Victor Alvarez’s smooth voice to most clearly exude the sleepy warmth and sincere beauty that is trademark to a Ghost Tales song.
Another trademark to a Ghost Tales song is storytelling- all three of these songs paint detailed scenes with dynamic, endearing characters in them. The most heartbreaking story is “Gloria”, the tale of a man who drank too much and lost his lover when her father married her off to the man with the most money. The explanation is simple, but once you hear the impassioned cry of “Our love was a savior, but we sinned just too much! Gloria!” you’ll feel the gravity of the situation as Alvarez imagined it- it’s unexplainable in text.
That really is the true test of music. If you can explain away all the nuances of music in words, then the music really isn’t as strong as it should be. When music is its own entity, given life that can’t be taken apart logically, then it’s amazing. Ghost Tales is amazing, because I can’t impress on you enough how much you want this simple little disc.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.