streamlined, radio-ready melancholia that you’ll actually give a shit about...
Daniel Melia
13:31 10th July 2007

Ever since the release and runaway success of his much-buzzed-about single ‘Mathematics’ 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 Aldred’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 Ghost’s pop sensibility is far sharper than either— indeed, much of ‘Thirst For Romance’, his debut album, comes off as a slightly less whimsical version of fellow Bolton lad Damon Gough’s (a.k.a. Badly Drawn Boy’s) shtick than it does as Sparkle or Star retread. ‘Romance’ is streamlined, radio-ready melancholia that you’ll actually give a shit about (or, at the very least, a better version of Snow Patrol).

Take, for instance, the bittersweet bite of ‘Mathematics’’ follow-up single— the lovely, slow-burning ‘People Help The People’, which recalls BDB at the same time whispers of Richard Ashcroft and maybe even Oasis sneak into the margins. The speculation about “what is hiding in those weak and drunken hearts”? That’s pure Aldred, and the sort of last call pathos that haunts much of ‘Romance’, from the wistful, pleading title track (which finds Cheery Ghost thirsting for romance “in the sun between [his] toes”) to the (inter)stellar ‘Roses’, an intriguing blend of American south western soul and Celtic sensibility that finally erupts into a spaced-outro as per its tale about “blushing brides and cosmonauts”. 

So much of ‘Romance’ relies on Aldred’s ability to sell his stories (he’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: ‘Mary On The Mend’, 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 ‘Whiter Shade Of Pale’ 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 isn’t above Disneyfied dirges, and never is that truer than in songs like ‘Mary’, the militaristic ‘Dead Man’s Suit’, or the stirringly string-led cry of ‘False Alarm’; wouldn’t you just love to hear an animated animal sing, “I’m gonna drag you down with me”?

It isn’t all doom and gloom, of course— Aldred can have a laugh, too, as he does on the awesome ‘Alfred The Great’, which flies by on a deliciously 80s melody (think gleefully bastardized ‘Centerfold’) and an ‘Old Time Rock N Roll’ solo. ‘Here Come The Romans’, meanwhile, is the regal retro shuffle number BDB forgot to write, and ‘Mountain Bird’ explains why Aldred nicked his name from Wilco (apparently the ghost born in ‘Theologians’ was cherry flavoured!). But in what might constitute his boldest move, Aldred saves the gloriously glockenspiel-dotted ‘Mathematics’ for last— it’s a gesture that reminds you of why you loved Cherry Ghost in the first place, and leaves you ‘Thirsty’ for more, all over again.