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Ghost Outfit
I Want You To Destroy Me Austin Collings , June 26th, 2013 04:56

Dear Guitar,

I hope you don't mind me writing to you. There's this kid... or young man – what do you call somebody in their early 20s with a quasi-Biblical/D.H Lawrence-like beard? What's the new terminology for such people? I'm not sure. I'll opt for fella and not hold the beard - the chin-rug - against Jack Hardman. He's part of a duo - Ghost Outfit - with another fella called Mike Benson and he's got three arms; one's a guitar. Riffs emit from his fingers like powerful elements, like a Marvel superhero, like Spiderman's wrists. From scalp to sole, he lives guitar, that's why I'm writing to you, Guitar. He may be the one to rescue your flagging reputation.

We all know you've not had it easy over the years, that you've been touched by all sorts of dubious hands, including Miles Kane and the recent David Bowie hype-odyssey that fooled so many. Then there's the timelessly tiring guitar virtuoso, speedy fingers on fast-forward, bending squeals, creating a sound like that of a cat holocaust. All these little devils are proud of their own hell aren't they, these masters of musical murder. Their success is so saddening, I find. They're too impressed with themselves. I wish I had fewer ears whenever I hear them. The thrill has gone. They make me wish for silence. I yearn for alternatives to their bullying success, their powerful celebrity.

Talking of which, I saw somebody in The Red Lion a few months ago, a tribute act, Derek Clapton; I was in there enduring another Man Utd win on a big screen with bad sound via a Middle-Eastern TV link. I didn't really want to be there, but I felt compelled to pub out the day, and he wasn't so bad; better him than somebody more established; a professional, or Elbow. Point being, he knew his place, knew he wasn't kidding anybody, and his version of 'Layla' (including Goodfella's piano outro via a Casio keyboard) had some of us stilled like human furniture, and that's no mean feat on a Sunday in Prestwich where the Jaegerbombs are two for a fiver and door keys come caked in cocaine.

Jack falls somewhere in between the two, in that wonderful hinterland of the enlightened amateur, elevating the stink of life with a chord change, or a gale of feedback that blows through the holes where your skin has stopped working. Only recently, I devised a guitar percentage theory. Sometimes the sound of too many guitars makes you want to put your head through a window; maybe putting your head through a window sounds like too many guitars. My percentage theory was based on the beauty of minimalism - the art of subtraction. Top three tracks were: Elvis' 'Suspicious Minds', Nine Inch Nails' 'A Warm Place', and Cowboy Junkies' 'Sweet Jane'. I hope you get the thread of this musical maths. In short, anything else is too much, like David Mitchell and Charlie Brooker are just too much. But Ghost Outfit have made me re-think this theory.

This debut of theirs, recorded in a brass-cold bunker facing Strangeway's prison in Manchester, is a love letter to the guitar. It's full of them, layered like thick paint a la My Bloody Valentine – or MBV used to be before that last unnecessary comeback of theirs, mbv. And it's quite brilliant and perfectly flawed: the sort of album you don't mind getting run over whilst listening to. Crucially, Jack's playing is not show-offy. On 'Lexicon', he creates a (red brick) wall of fret-sound: distorted chords like dented bell chimes; his almost-ghost voice low in the mix, echoing like the maybe-sound of his older self haunting his here and now; the whole thing recalling the mornings of childhood slipping into crummy age; the acute desperation of dear dead days.

'Waste' is the aural equivalent of glimpsing the tears and jissom on a sad-man's pyjama top: yet more complex poignancy. There's a dumb punk spirit in there as well; pissing about behind the scenes amidst the desperation, on tracks like 'Too Soon' and 'Kids'; gleeful shouts and vocal barks that are both wonderfully embarrassing and deeply uplifting. I'm always struck how overlooked the importance of dumbness is in music: the likes of ACDC and the Beastie Boys were/are masters of it. It's not all great of course. The albums missing a musical centre - a defining moment: not a hit or an epic as such, but some kind of defining signature tune. The one track you're compelled to go back to. Maybe this gives them something to work towards. I don't know. I don't much care. The album's enough for now, until my ears demand silence again. I get the good feeling they're onto something that may well pass from meaning into true feeling given time and luck. Anyway, must go now Guitar, I hear knocking at the front door, could be wolves demanding bill payments, or maybe a ghost with gifted fingers.