Ever since the release and runaway success of his much-buzzed-about single â€˜Mathematicsâ€™ a few months back, people have been talking about Simon Aldred (a.k.a. Cherry Ghost). Unsurprisingly, a lot of that talk has centred around Aldredâ€™s Americana-esque aural affinity to such acts as Sparklehorse and Starsailor, and while he may share a fondness for noun/noun monikers with those bands, Cherry Ghostâ€™s pop sensibility is far sharper than eitherâ€” indeed, much of â€˜Thirst For Romanceâ€™, his debut album, comes off as a slightly less whimsical version of fellow Bolton lad Damon Goughâ€™s (a.k.a. Badly Drawn Boyâ€™s) shtick than it does as Sparkle or Star retread. â€˜Romanceâ€™ is streamlined, radio-ready melancholia that youâ€™ll actually give a shit about (or, at the very least, a better version of Snow Patrol).
Take, for instance, the bittersweet bite of â€˜Mathematicsâ€™â€™ follow-up singleâ€” the lovely, slow-burning â€˜People Help The Peopleâ€™, which recalls BDB at the same time whispers of Richard Ashcroft and maybe even Oasis sneak into the margins. The speculation about â€œwhat is hiding in those weak and drunken heartsâ€? Thatâ€™s pure Aldred, and the sort of last call pathos that haunts much of â€˜Romanceâ€™, from the wistful, pleading title track (which finds Cheery Ghost thirsting for romance â€œin the sun between [his] toesâ€) to the (inter)stellar â€˜Rosesâ€™, an intriguing blend of American south western soul and Celtic sensibility that finally erupts into a spaced-outro as per its tale about â€œblushing brides and cosmonautsâ€.
So much of â€˜Romanceâ€™ relies on Aldredâ€™s ability to sell his stories (heâ€™s admitted a debt to Chekhov), but the man has such an unassuming, humble voice that he could probably sing a jingle for Fairly liquid and still elicit a tear. Case in point: â€˜Mary On The Mendâ€™, an almost eight minute ode to a thrice-married woman getting ready to walk down the aisle again, in which Aldred sings over little more than â€˜Whiter Shade Of Paleâ€™ organs for most of the song, occasional alien orchestra swells piping in at various points to give him a quick rest. Cherry Ghost has said he isnâ€™t above Disneyfied dirges, and never is that truer than in songs like â€˜Maryâ€™, the militaristic â€˜Dead Manâ€™s Suitâ€™, or the stirringly string-led cry of â€˜False Alarmâ€™; wouldnâ€™t you just love to hear an animated animal sing, â€œIâ€™m gonna drag you down with meâ€?
It isnâ€™t all doom and gloom, of courseâ€” Aldred can have a laugh, too, as he does on the awesome â€˜Alfred The Greatâ€™, which flies by on a deliciously 80s melody (think gleefully bastardized â€˜Centerfoldâ€™) and an â€˜Old Time Rock N Rollâ€™ solo. â€˜Here Come The Romansâ€™, meanwhile, is the regal retro shuffle number BDB forgot to write, and â€˜Mountain Birdâ€™ explains why Aldred nicked his name from Wilco (apparently the ghost born in â€˜Theologiansâ€™ was cherry flavoured!). But in what might constitute his boldest move, Aldred saves the gloriously glockenspiel-dotted â€˜Mathematicsâ€™ for lastâ€” itâ€™s a gesture that reminds you of why you loved Cherry Ghost in the first place, and leaves you â€˜Thirstyâ€™ for more, all over again.