Fake Problems - Real Ghosts Caught on Tape (Cover Artwork)

Fake Problems

Fake Problems: Real Ghosts Caught on TapeReal Ghosts Caught on Tape (2010)
Side One Dummy Records

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:

Contributed by: Dante3000Rich
(others by this writer | submit your own)

If I can indulge for a second, I had the privilege of getting to sit with Fake Problems while they were listening to some rough mixes from their newly recorded Real Ghosts Caught on Tape back in June. After listening to a couple of tracks I was asked what I thought. With a bit of weight in my heart .
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If I can indulge for a second, I had the privilege of getting to sit with Fake Problems while they were listening to some rough mixes from their newly recorded Real Ghosts Caught on Tape back in June. After listening to a couple of tracks I was asked what I thought. With a bit of weight in my heart I replied, "It's good, but it better gain you a fan for every one you're going to lose." I could instantly tell it's not what the band wanted to hear. However, after receiving the final product and listening to it on repeat for several days, it's an assessment I still stand by.

To be clear, this doesn't mean that Real Ghosts is a bad album--quite the opposite. In many ways, this album features some of the strongest material Fake Problems has created to date. Vocalist/guitarist Chris Farren demonstrates some of his strongest lyrics and accompanying vocals. Farren has always been at his best when he takes his personal experiences and expands on them to make larger points than just a personal story (something I felt was missing in the band's full-length debut, How Far Our Bodies Go). This skill is highlighted in tracks like "Songs for Teenagers," which could easily be the soundtrack to so many wasted nights and hungover reflections.

Not to be outdone by their frontman, the rest of the band has stepped up their game musically. While Casey Lee has always been a standout guitarist, he really impresses on this album, not by becoming more prominent but by taking his skilled and ever-moving guitar style and working it seamlessly into each song. Additionally, there seems to be a playfulness between Lee and drummer Sean Stevenson on certain tracks. The intertwining in tracks like "Complaint Dept." or "Done with Fun" highlight that the band has done more than developed as talented musicians but as a single, cohesive band.

That said, Real Ghosts isn't going to be for everyone. More specifically, it may not be for fans of Fake Problems' previous work. The album lacks all traces of the folk-punk that initially snagged listeners in Spurs and Spokes / Bull > Matador or How Far Our Bodies Go. In its place is a much smoother brand of rock that borders on pop. However, this isn't totally unexpected, as the album was produced under the watchful eye of Ted Hutt--a man who is known for taking bands with a more punk edge and polishing them into pure rock gems (the Gaslight Anthem, Lucero, Chuck Ragan, etc.). Additionally, Real Ghosts lacks the intensely expanded instrumentation of It's Great to Be Alive. Sure, there's a tambourine here and there, a few handclaps and backup harmonies--but nothing like the cacophony of "Level with the Devil" or the full horn section of "Don't Worry Baby." The sound is far more pared back, highlighting the band's ability to play live more than the ability to record a huge album.

Perhaps the biggest thing going against the album is the timing. Entering October we are in full autumn mode, buying jackets, bundling up and preparing for a war-like midterm election (in America at least). In the midst of all this freezing weather and anger, Fake Problems have put together a record that sounds like it should produce unicorns that vomit rainbows. Rainbows that would turn into rivers that would flow through your city and cure the illnesses of all they touch. Sure, there's more melancholy and brooding tracks (the previously mentioned "Songs for Teenagers" or "Ghost to Coast"), but even tracks that tackle deeply personal subject matter have such a fun and poppy melody that you can't help but tap your foot and bob your head. This is a great summer album (and who could blame the band--it was recorded over the summer in Los Angeles while they all lived at a house with a pool...it's like Jersey Shore) that is being released in the depth of autumn. So, I can't help but think there may be a few more people picking this album up once the ice starts to melt after winter.

So, what do you have with Real Ghosts Caught on Tape? It's a great album that is very different than any of the band's other endeavors. So different that it does run the risk of alienating some of the band's previous fans. However, it would be shortsighted to say that this change is a negative thing. Fake Problems have always been a band whose tastes have changed faster than many of their listeners (just check out their split with Sedona). However, for those who stick with the band, the journey from album to album is bound to be an interesting one, even if it's one that is surprising and even confusing at times, and in a world where so many bands seem to just go through the album cycle, isn't that worth something?


People who liked this also liked:
The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 SoundThe Menzingers - Chamberlain WaitsThe Gaslight Anthem - American SlangThe Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!The Gaslight Anthem - Sink or SwimAgainst Me! - As The Eternal CowboyThe Clash - London CallingFake Problems - It's Great to Be AliveThe Flatliners - CavalcadeAgainst Me! - is Reinventing Axl Rose

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
thomascarty (November 25, 2013)

Easily one of my all time favorite records. Just super catchy, fun, and relative stuff.

timahelm (March 11, 2012)

this album really grew on me over past couple of years!

calvinrhodes1 (June 1, 2011)

I don't get it. Is their earlier stuff any better?

milesqtoast (May 8, 2011)


Levendus (January 25, 2011)

I have really clicked with this album, I absolutely love it. this is my first time listening to Fake Problems, I'd not heard of their earlier stuff.

Every song is great on this record, but apparently the readers have deemed it 'gay' so good job guys.

I think I need a new music community.

devianter (November 30, 2010)

this is gay

milesqtoast (November 18, 2010)

count me in the 'fan gained' camp. hated the earlier stuff.

frank_newland (November 6, 2010)

Their albums just keep getting better and better (though nothing on here beats "Dream Team" in my opinion).

brangelina (November 4, 2010)

Punkest band in the world!!!

sloopjonreiss (October 30, 2010)

I love this record, it's one of the best of 2010 without a doubt and it seems like a natural progression. I wrote about it at NY Press, http://www.nypress.com/blog-7338-fake-problems-at-bowery-ballroom .html

I would say in fact that it's their second best record. I suposse I'm the only one who feels this way but, I think Spokes and Spurs (is that right) is there best. "My First Million," "Caravans of Courage" that first track, (again forgot the name) some of my very favorite songs by this band. Still one of my favorite punk records from the...(cringe) aughts.

misfit4me (October 26, 2010)

It's Great to Be Alive was better than How Far Our Bodies Go. Sorry, it had to be said. And this is better than It's Great to Be Alive.

owneroperator (October 25, 2010)

How Far Our Bodies Go will never be beaten

i-type-poorly (October 24, 2010)

Coming back to this, it's only the first and last songs that I don't like. All the stuff in between is really good and has a lot of character. Good album!

slymer (October 21, 2010)

This is by far the best album they've released.

encorp (October 21, 2010)

Yeah, it took me a while to get to this.

But 1 for sure.

Good job boys.

Pimpedoutemail (October 19, 2010)

this shit sucks

misfit4me (October 7, 2010)

I thought the album sounded like Fake Problems. They've had a pretty natural progression to this point.

Anarchypants (October 5, 2010)

Now that I've heard this, it's really good!

that_band_changed_my_life (October 4, 2010)

Complaints about Complaint Dept? Humor? Anyone?

spoon_of_grimbo (October 3, 2010)

"grand finale" is probably my favourite song from them so far. that last half is just fucking amazing. and "soulless" is about the catchiest thing i've heard all year.

i never really got into HFOBG but this and IGTBA are solid albums, i can see these guys sticking around for a long time.

punkcdsampler (October 3, 2010)

So good. Not a big fan of Complaint Dept, but everything else is gold.

scientistrock (October 1, 2010)

I LUFFS this reckid.

anarchypants (October 1, 2010)

Very well written review, I'm pumped to hear this.

leatherface (September 30, 2010)

"It's good, but it better gain you a fan for every one you're going to lose." -- what honesty. and right to their faces? Rich, from here on out, i'm on your team!

Blackjaw_ (September 27, 2010)

I think album suffers from a bad midsection. The first 3 are good, but the next 5 sorta suck except Done With Fun (which rules), then the last 3 are good.

~~~~---~~~~!!!~~~iN mY OPinION!!!~~~~---111..1.1.1~~!!!XOxoxOXOo

alpod4 (September 27, 2010)

Complaint Dept. is so bad. takes me right out of the album. up to that point though, the album is really good.

mill83 (September 27, 2010)

I was mostly joking, Rich - it was a fine review and not biased at all. I just wanted an excuse to say how much I love the movie "Doom" in a public forum again.

R3vengeTherapy (September 26, 2010)

I've given every Fake Problems release since their first a chance. Every time they manage to impress me with a couple songs and totally turn me off with a bunch of other ones. I always felt like they had so much potential if they'd just be a more focused band, and I believe this is the album I've been waiting for. It really gets better the more you listen. I totally understand why fans of the band's other releases would be disappointed, but I think this is the best record they've made as a whole. It's consistent in style and feel while still hitting those high and low energy peaks and valleys that good albums need.

I think the next record this band makes could be the one that knocks it completely out of the park.

llmp (September 24, 2010)

I agree, very disappointing at first. But after I sat it down for about a week and eventually came back to it, I loved it. It's still undeniably Fake Problems, which is good. That said, I doubt it will have the staying power of the last two (which I still regularly play).

Now, the real question is, will I like their next release? I hope they still retain some "edge" to their music on it. Otherwise, I don't know..

NewKid (September 24, 2010)

This record didn't contain the initial punch that their last record and at first I was slightly turned off. With that said, this hasn't left my record player all week. It's a fantastic record to reflect on the weird dichotomy that growing up presents when you want to do something more then find yourself in an alley looking for handshake drugs, but aren't sure how to get there. I also completely disagree with the sentiment that this is a summer record. It's Great To Be Alive was a summer record. This record has the contemplation of fall all over it. Definitely going to make my best of list at the end of the year. Good job Fake Problems.


Jelone (September 24, 2010)

Welp, I'm done.

fucktheholymess (September 24, 2010)

Well written and informative review Rich. Looking foward to hearing this.

Dante3000 (September 24, 2010)

Steal it from a chain store. Band gets paid and Walmart doesn't make a profit, AND it's way more punk to steal things face to face.

mechpope13 (September 24, 2010)

should i buy this album at a major chain store or downland it for free off the internet? what is more punk?

Dante3000 (September 24, 2010)

Hey mill83, I actually considered not writing the review for fear of it being labeled bias. However, I felt I knew so much about the album (the recording process, the production, and the band) that I could probably provide a slightly more thorough view than perhaps a random reviewer. Additionally, I've always tried to be 100% honest to people I know. Some of my best friends are in shitty bands and sometimes people I would likely hate turn out amazing records.

That said, I would fully understand if someone went ahead and submitted a review of the same album (though I believe at the time I submitted mine, there were none in line).

mill83 (September 24, 2010)

Not my favorite from these guys for sure, but I'm warming up to it. It lacks the "different" sound that made their last two releases so good. This sounds like it could have been done by just about anyone.

And while I like the review, Dante as the critic seems like a conflict of interest. That's like me being the critic of the movie "Doom".

fastmath (September 24, 2010)

After a few listens, I finally came around to it. It is alright but, kind of disappointing

LinoleumMagazine (September 24, 2010)

Listened to this about three times a day since I got it and I fucking love it. It's just getting better and better! I was expecting something really different and it doesn't bother me at all. This will probably end up being my favorite FP release.

It definitely does feel like a summer album. Good think I'm in TX and it's still hot as shit outside.

swiftjustice (September 24, 2010)

good review, good cd, but I can see it being terribly boring live

thepopeofchili-town (September 24, 2010)

Pretty accurate review. I like it a lot, but IGTBA was my Album of the Year last year. This one won't be.

skankbook (September 24, 2010)

I really like it. They're definitely a band that plays around on each release. It's different from It's Great to Be Alive, which was different from the EPs & singles, which were different from How Far Our Bodies Go, etc.

I can see Fake Problems becoming the new Against Me! in terms of fan backlash. Some will grow with the band, some people will only love their first releases, others will only like this, while the rest will just plain hate.

I agree w/ dude below, ADT is one hell of an opener.

the_other_scott (September 24, 2010)

i just picked this up on Wednesday, so it's only had a few spins but so far the review is spot on. the thing that i have noticed so far is that the musicianship has stepped up a ton...You get the feeling that these kids could play whatever type of music they wanted and pull it off, which an impressive feat. i'm still not sold on the songwriting, but in general the albums that don't get me on first listen are the ones that i listen to the most over time.

StraightToHell82 (September 24, 2010)

This is a confusing album. It's hard to tell if it's cheesy-as-hell, or just incredibly laid-back.
Regardless, I do enjoy it, and though it's not as good as their last two full-lengths, it surely is better than everything they've done pre-2007 (which doesn't say much).

I do miss his "loud" voice though....

"ADT" and "Songs For Teenagers" are my favorites.

stingrayirwin (September 24, 2010)

I think "adt" was one the best opening tracks I've heard all year.

wyld_stallyns_rule (September 24, 2010)

I'm giving this album waay more plays than would normally be allowed, but I really like these guys, and I think the persistence is paying off. Hell, it took me a good month or so to really latch onto the new Menzingers album, and that's currently one of my favorite releases. Evolution!

MN_DrNick (September 24, 2010)

Its' good.... but It's Great To Be Alive had sooooooo much more to it.

punk_sk (September 24, 2010)

Songs For Teenagers is also one of the best songs of the year.

punk_sk (September 24, 2010)

I haven't listened to a lot of new records this year but this is one of my favorite of the year.

Blackjaw_ (September 24, 2010)

I guess I have been noticing myself enjoying it more already. I've only been listening to it once a day to make sure I don't get sick of it (with help from limited spare time), I won't be surprised if I find myself liking it a decent amount more with more listens. That does happen a lot, in a way it's like it takes you a while to "get (used to?) it". Or something. That just happened with Bars Of Gold recently. I liked it right away, but I didn't love it nearly as much as the Bear vs. Shark albums for quite a while. Now I realize it's a fucking monster. Haha, I've never described an album that way.

Dante3000 (September 24, 2010)

I'll be honest, I was a bit bummed when I heard some of the songs at first but so many of the tracks just drill themselves into your head. The more I listened to the album the more I appreciated songs that I didn't think were immediate stand outs ("Magazines" for example is one of my all time favorite songs by these guys now). Like I said, I can see why people may not like parts of it but I really don't see anything but positive growth in this album.

boobthemusicindustry (September 24, 2010)

I feel like this will certainly grow...if I decide to listen to it some more. It just really didn't grab my attention. Far from bad, but nothing spectacular...

Blackjaw_ (September 24, 2010)

This album is an awkward stepping stone in my opinion. I bet their next one will turn out great.

robalobadob (September 24, 2010)

I say yay. A good album produced by gentlemen.

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