It’s really unfortunate that music has gotten to the point where you can tell whether or not an album is going to be a good by the haircuts of the men who recorded it. The whole “faux-emo” scene is a breeding ground for hairspray and emo swoops, and Sullivan, throughout the course of Hey, I’m a Ghost ping pongs back and forth between the exception and the rule.
In between the high-pitched, grating vocals, and textbook, cliché lyrics, there’s some bright flashes of something better. A level of talent hiding behind the veneer of a band too complacent with being another head in the crowd, rather than the band willing to stand alone. They’re not musical virtuosos by any stretch, they’re not pushing bounds, breaking barriers, but when they sit down and actually write a good song, it’s not hard to take notice.
The problem is, that it’s not until the seventh track on the album that the band shows their real gusto. “Insurance for the Weak” may as well been a The Moon Is Down-era Further Seems Forever B-side, or, at very least, a Places You Have Come to Fear the Most B-side. Sullivan vocalist Brooks Paschal does his best to channel Chris Carrabba, and the rest of the band chimes in with some rather epic riffing and drum splashes during the chorus. This is side one of the band's identity. The identity has nothing to do with the first half of the album being so boring when compared to the second, per se, but the fact that diversity is much more prevalent in songs 7 through 11 is certainly something to take notice of.
The song immediately following “Insurance” is one that displays their much more mellow side. Amidst some extremely delicate acoustic strumming and morose strings, Paschal’s somber tones give a little bit more chance for closer examination of the lyrics. While this, by my own admission, is not necessarily a good thing for them, I’m sure plenty of people will enjoy the tales of heartbreak woven between the various instruments. “Under the Watchful Eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleberg” is a song that, even in its own small way, defies convention. An instrumental track not so much as breaching the one-minute mark, it sounds truly epic. The grandiose crescendo isn’t given much time to blossom, but it doesn’t need it. So the band does have a firm grip on what it takes to write quality material, which leaves me wondering, “what happened in the first 25 minutes of this album?”
I can’t in good faith and conscience recommend an album from a band who quite literally half-asses things, and it’s a shame, because the boring “faux-emo rock bullshit” tracks 1 through 6 peddle nothing more than that, while the second half of the album shows a quick glimpse of what could have been. So it would have been piggybacking on that of Chris Carrabba, so be it, at least it’d have crossed the finish line.