- by Mark Steele Rating:8 Release Date:2016-08-19 Label: Empty Cellar Records
San Francisco's four roaming psych spectres, Cool Ghouls, haunt us once again with their brand of groovy garage rock and 60's psych pop-rock. The third album Animal Races, has 11-songs looking to continue on from 2014's A Swirling Fire Burning Through The Rye. The main roster has Pat McDonald - Vocals/Guitar, Ryan Wong - Vocals/Guitar, Pat Thomas - Vocals/Bass, and Alex Fleshman handling percussive duties. Joining them this time around on production (Thee Oh Sees - Sucks Blood) and guitar extras is Kelley Stoltz, also the record features pedal steel guitarman, Tom Heyman.
Hot off the starting blocks, the title-track 'Animal Races' tambourine in tow drums pump along with a learing Jack Cassidy-style bass, and clangy jangly guitars, are placed nicely in the mix under the smiley vocals. A familiar jangly guitar sound draws you on 'Sundial'' which has The Byrds/REM coming to mind, over a bustling rhythm section the vocals are as Bay Area sunny as you can get. Further on in the album in the spirit of The Byrds is the driving reverbed belter 'Brown Bag'.
Clanging delayed guitars - a 12-string guitar included to add depth - including lines lead in 'Time Capsule', from the start, plus grooving bass lines underneath a skippy off-beat bass and drums. The three vocalists add a cheerful ecstatic rush to the now powered-up experience . A slower catchy sunshine country meets merseyside pop number 'When You Were Gone', has the pedal steel guitar flourishes included. Though to be honest, the vocals are a strongpoint in carrrying the tune along.
A bright acoustic guitar intro, shows 'Days' move into a piano driven soulful number, while mesmerising hip shaker 'Just Like Me', has great harmonies, strong hooks and a incendary guitar solo. A country rock influenced love ditty 'The Man' mozies on down the line, including Tom's Pedal steel agile phrasing. A thrust of feel good vibes flows from 'Never You Mind', so much that it almost leads you airborne. A driving rhythm section, jubilant raga riffs - including a cookiing fuzz guitar solo, with well-knit three part harmonies under spritely lead vocals.
The finale songs here are a strong quirky bass/guitar plus cosmic synth loop groover 'Material Love', and The Byrds meets Cast can be heard on 'Spectator', whose pop-perfectness should put a smile on your face.
Bands like these spooks really do seem to be one of those leaves that fell off the 60s Haight-Ashbury love tree. Animal Races just like it's predecessor oozes with psych-pop potency, a potency that should fuel more of the same from these groovy ghoulies.