Beautiful. Just fucking beautiful.
It’s been five years since Chasing Ghosts and the project’s sole musical core, Jimmy Kyle, put out a full-length record. 2011’s ‘Confessions From A Phone Booth’ was a decent offering, but at the risk of dismissing the record's emotional and personal input, it was a rather standard acoustic/singer-songwriter affair. The themes and the lyrics were deeply personal, sure, but the typical acoustic format made it all somewhat forgettable, as harsh as that sounds. As while there is a simplicity and a kind of honesty in just having vocals, an acoustic guitar, and nothing else to "hide" behind, there's also little to dig into musically and if the music and/or lyrics don't grab you instantly, well, you probably won't be coming back to try out seconds.
However, for this long-awaited second album, 'I Am Jimmy Kyle', the lineup of Chasing Ghosts has not only expanded but so too has the instrumental and sonic palate as well. So you've now got plenty of drums, bass, organ, piano, guitar (electric and acoustic), violins, cellos, and I swear at one point there was also a xylophone, as well as five other solid musicians all backing up Kyle's vocals and lyrics, adding some much-needed texture to Chasing Ghosts. As such, this album, which adds on elements of rock, folk, blues, and country onto the acoustic template, is quite simply leaps and bounds ahead of that debut record. And I feel that that really is because of both the musical and the lineup expansion. I don't think for a second that this record would be anywhere near as affecting or as potent if it was just another acoustic release. And holy shit, what a record this is!
These 13 songs are just drenched with deeply touching instrumentals and melodies, lyrics filled with palpable emotion and soulful honesty, and a real, lively sonic characteristic that culminates in one damn fine record. This music isn't for everyone, sure, but it definitely isn't background music, and to consider it as such would be a grave injustice upon the record. 'I Am Jimmy Kyle' flows beautifully from the terrific opener 'Cursed & Hopeless' right up to the finale of 'We Are The Rats', and as for the band's frontman, Kyle's vocals have never sounded this good. From the gravelly baritone of the dark ‘Grave Robbers’; the warm, inviting vocal contrast on 'Our Bones'; the unmistakably Australian vocal inflections on 'An Anthem For Bastards, Liars, & Cheats'; the restrained tempo and soothing reverb, delay-laden vocals of ‘The Straight Dope’; to the delicate and emotional timbre on 'A Parking Lot' and 'Betsy'. Look, I could just go on and on forever here but the kiss ass buck has got to stop somewhere, so I'll ease off a bit now.
However, also on the topic of vocals, much like Mourning Tide’s Tyrone Ross guest spot on ‘Dead Man's Bones ‘, there are a number of guest appearances here and each brings something to the table to help elevate these songs even further. First of which is Dream, On Dreamer’s Marcel Gadacz, who brings out a more punk rock vocal style on the rockier ‘Jane Doe’. The same goes for Comeback Kid’s Andrew Neufeld (who also helped produce this record), who guests on the upbeat sing-along anthem of ‘We Are The Rats’, one of the better songs by far. But seriously, it took me a little while to pick out the parts of those two aforementioned vocalists, as I’m so conditioned to their usual heavier timbres in their own bands. But within the framework of Chasing Ghosts, these moments all feel natural and they contrast well with Kyle's vocals. This also applies to both Mille Tizzard on the bittersweet yet defiant 'Death', and Doyle Perez/D At Sea and his vocals on the beautiful penultimate track, 'The Fever'.
But guest vocalists or not, 'I Am Jimmy Kyle' is a grand piece of work, as a whole and on an individual song level as well. And I'm sure for many out there, this will have been worth the half-decade wait and then some. Besides, the initial success and response to this record gives me great confidence that the next record won't take five fucking years to make!
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The first time that I actually listened to 'I Am Jimmy Kyle' was during a long drive back home recently. The sun was setting and I was sitting in my car deciding on what album to put on for the trip home. As this record was on my review list, I thought 'Fuck it, why not?'. As I began to drive and 'Cursed & Hopeless' surged through its wondrous soundscape, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. At first, I thought it was just because of the gorgeous setting sun and the relaxing drive coupled with a swell musical score yet that striking feeling remained across the following 12 songs. Despite the varying timbres and musical deliveries of each track, they all reached the same quality conclusion. Chasing Ghosts second record may not be the most complex or the most varied record that you'll listen to in 2016, but that could never hope to put a dent in the lyrical and musical beauty that this record houses.
'I Am Jimmy Kyle' is out now and it's really quite something. Read our interview with Jimmy Kyle himself here.