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Ghostland Observatory

Codename: Rondo

[Trashy Moped; 2010]

By ; November 8, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Austin, Texas electronic act Ghostland Observatory puts on quite the live show. Many people have raved about the band’s ability to perform live, leading many to believe that they sound just as good on record. Codename: Rondo says otherwise. There’s nothing particularly wrong with Codename: Rondo, but there isn’t anything great about it either. It’s an album that feels like a missed opportunity; the band clearly has talent, but it doesn’t shine through as well as it could.

Codename: Rondo, the duo’s fourth studio album, runs a little bit above the 30-minute mark, but it often felt like a task trying to make it through some songs. Take the spoken word title track “Codename: Rondo,” for example. After the track finishes the listener walks away feeling empty. It’s ultimately a forgettable moment that didn’t have to be, evoking the opposite result of what electronic dance ultimate aim is: to move the listener’s body.

Opener “Glitter” is certainly one of the album’s finer moments, setting the tone in a considerable fashion. The song grooves along with a chugging bass and colorful synths that are a perfect match with Aaron Behrens all too cool vocals. It’s one of the rare moments where his Freddie Mercury-like vocals coexist with the music. One can imagine the colorful display of lasers that would compliment the band on stage

“That’s Right” sounds grunge rock inspired, but it just meanders along, not capitalizing on what could have been a great moment. The robot effects on the vocals sound forced, and give the song a choppy feel. “Miracles” is loaded with an upbeat chorus that sounds welcome over the layers of synth, even if the result is a bit over the top. The track is forgivable because of its fun nature, plus it has some decent ideas floating the surface. “Give Me The Beat” is probably one of the more obvious Queen inspired songs, and one can have no problem listening to it. Just like a large majority of the album, you probably won’t want to return to it. This is a reoccurring problem.

The last two songs on the album, “Mama” and “Kick Clap Speaker” feel like they were placed on the wrong album. The slow, dull, attempt of a ballad like song in “Mama” just comes of as uneven and out of place. It sounds a bit like Queens infamous “Bohemian Rhapsody” at times with its cries of “mama,” but it isn’t enough to save it. “Kick Clap Speaker” seemed to be an awkward Daft Punk imitation that ends the album on a weird note.

This is the problem with Codename: Rondo, and the Ghostland Observatory as a whole. They write a decent electronic tune from time to time, but their albums seem uneven and pretty forgettable. They have some good ideas in their songs, but they seem to drag them out and they eventually lose their shine. These guys are probably able to deliver these songs in a memorable fashion live, but that’s the problem. I’m not watching them live. As a recorded band, Ghostland Observatory have a long way to go if they want to be known as a good act, not just a good live act.


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