Cool Ghouls’ Pat Thomas ventures out solo for a second time, with a concise LP of tracks that pick at his personal indulgences outside of the breezy confines of his day gig with the Ghouls. Naturally there’s a general veneer of Cali-cool about the LP, but Thomas winds the album around a stylistic maze that sometimes meshes and sometimes clashes. There’s a prevalent thread of ‘70s AOR that pops up throughout the record, dipping his toes in the sharkskin slick pop of Steely Dan and tangling his tongue around the kind of pop nonsequitors that would make Joe Walsh check his hydration levels and belly back to the bar. Its here that Thomas seems most comfortable, flipping the background fizz of radio staples into winking pop nuggets. He dons the disguise well enough to slip into the grownups’ party but the sparkle in his eye and the flask in his pocket says he’s not planning on playing it cool for long.
Sometimes, though, the winking gets a bit too heavy and Thomas lets his disguises tumble and drop. He goes full ’60 bubblegum pop on “Are You Okay,” but rather than adopting the candy thick pop hooks and carefree attitude like The Dirtbombs achieved on their tribute to the sound, he goes for the clash and clang of The Banana Splits picking out covers of Sgt Pepper’s most over the top moments. It’s a bit too heavy on the sound effects to be more than pastiche leaning nostalgia. He finds the balance a bit better, though, on “What Is Coming,” a jittery new wave wobble that pecks at David Byrne’s bug-eyed ballast to great effect.
Horns get put through their paces on I Ain’t Buyin’ It, whip-lashing from grandeur to gloss to kinked-up skronk. They might actually be the most cohesive through-line to the whole record, shading each track with a brass sheen. Is a hodgepodge to be sure, but a well-constructed one and while the playing is ace it just feels like many of these might have been the start of a few different records all vying for dominance. Thomas has always had a deft hand in Cool Ghouls and its nice to see him shake out the wrinkles a bit and go for broke. If this is the odds and sods, then so be it, no one says every record is a front-to-back keeper. It’s a fun, if frivolous collection held together by faded yellow cellophane tape like the dollar bin names it checks. There’s definitely a few keepers in the bunch and in hindsight, I’ll be interested to see how this all leads to the next Cool Ghouls sound.
Support the artist. Buy it HERE.