TV Ghost Fail to Showcase Strengths at ‘Sco


Simeon Deutsch

TV Ghost Performs this past Tuesday night at the ‘Sco. The band’s noisy art-punk had plenty of variety but failed to surpass the intensity of their studio recordings.

Nora Kipnis, Staff Writer

The lead guitarist of TV Ghost crouches down to the ground, listening to a spooky sound coming from the speaker. Then he jumps up again in time with the harsh tones of a jarring guitar and howls incomprehensibly into the microphone as if to issue a harsh warning. The vibe of the band is encapsulated in his emphatic dancing and the headbanging of the other guitarists, their ethereal and haunting guitar sounds rolling over the beat.

This was Tuesday night at the ’Sco. The Lafayette, Ind., band calls its music a “sludgy and punishing brand of art-punk,” and they are unafraid to experiment with different filters and psychedelic effects. The band’s music has evolved to a more polished sound since its first release, 2007’s Atomic Rain, which brought the band some attention. Before that, their music was harsh and rough while developing its dark feel.

The group has progressed from garage rock sensibilities to a more sinister sound, heavy on synths and less so on the screaming and fuzz. In 2008 they played at South by Southwest, and their first full-length album, Cold Fish, was released in 2008 by independent label In the Red, placing the band in the company of the Black Lips and Vivian Girls. The band stopped in Oberlin as part of their two-month tour behind the release of their third album, Disconnect, released in September. Unfortunately, their performance, while enthusiastic, left something to be desired. The group failed to show off their dynamic approach to doom and gloom that shines through on their records.

The opening act fit the description of TV Ghost just as well. Reformers, a student group with an alternative-punk sound, features an Alice Glass-ish vocalist who sings about damaged goods and her inability to “take it” any more. They were a great introduction to the headlining act, although for many in the audience, they seemed to be the main event. Still, a small and loyal crowd gathered to listen to TV Ghost, who came on around 11:30 p.m.

The music was definitely high-energy in a familiar, late ’70s way. Singer Tim Gick allowed his voice to quiet down into a deep, haunting sound not unlike Ian Curtis’ of Joy Division. The basslines, too, developed an ominous, new-wave sound in their repetitiveness, and the songs from Disconnect didn’t jump around as much as the band’s older material. The majority of the songs performed were from TV Ghost’s newer repertoire, but the manner in which they were played was more reminiscent of the band’s earlier style — circa 2007, when the youngest member was only 14.

It was fascinating to observe the contrast between the band’s early recordings and newer songs they performed. Disconnect’s “Five Colors Blind” was far less jarring and intense but somehow more emotionally resonant in its eeriness than a studio track like 2007’s “The Amputee,” which, unfortunately, the band did not play. Their sound transitioned from industrial and jarring to ambient to experimental — almost supernatural sounding, which was appropriate for a show a few nights before Halloween. “Elevator,” from Disconnect, was a well-executed highlight that best showcased the band’s abilities.

At certain points, however, TV Ghost could have benefitted from branching out more in terms of rhythm and exploring different ways to express a feeling of doom without the gothic, ethereal sound effects and metal-on-metal crashes. Whether it was technical skill that was lacking or instrument levels, the less-than-an-hour-long set didn’t fully capture the abilities and strengths of the band that are evident in their albums.