The Murder City Devils’ The White Ghost Has Blood On Its Hands Again, their first full-length release since they reunited about eight years ago for their native Seattle’s Capitol Hill Block Party, is a spacey, blistering affair. The songs are abrasive in that stalwart Seattle way, but a healthy dose of pianos and organs augments an already intense pop sensibility.
Singer Spencer Moody’s trademark growl, which has the subtlety of a Schwarzenegger film and sounds a bit like Frank Black, graces the record in the most pleasant of ways. It’s quite amazing he’s able to keep it up after 17 years, but perhaps when the band decided to get back together they had to pluck him from atop some serene mountain where he was five years into a silent meditation.
The album kicks off with “I Don’t Wanna Work For Scum Anymore,” reminding everyone of the great band that they had fallen in love with in the 90s. Moody screams about the boss in a way that was easy to do when the band first got started: Hey, there were jobs and stuff back then.
“Pale Disguise” is a standout. The echoed guitar is laden with hooks and hovers smoothly over a lazy organ and a carnival of drums. Moody’s throaty wail blasts its way through the mix, peeling away at the listener’s ears in a fashion the guitars on this record only touch in the most flirtatious way.
“Not Everybody Get’s a Good Time” seems to be targeted at Millennials, that helicoptered generation whose parents ensured they never suffered life’s bruises. Or maybe it’s about pleasure addicts. Either way, Moody laughs his way through the lyrics, almost demonically. He’s goading either of those parties and finding schadenfreude in their failures over an imposing drum fill and brittle guitar.
Album closer, “Don’t Worry,” offers up an array of beautiful, vibrato, surf-infused rhythm guitars and some lone, chimey guitar leads that a saxophone dutifully joins as the song subtly moves along after an nearly an entire set of assaults and distorted good times. As Moody sings “Don’t you worry about me,” it’s easy to get sucked into feeling no anxiety at all about the future of the band.
As the record closes in this beautiful way, it’s easy to think that, of course, this is only the beginning of the band’s second life cycle. After all, bands like the Murder City Devils are becoming big again. They’ll stick around a while. Right?