The Marked Men - Ghosts (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Marked Men

Ghosts (2009)


If this really is the proverbial end of the road for the Marked Men (pertaining to proper full-lengths, anyway), their new LP Ghosts is one hell of a swan song. Fifteen songs in 30 minutes. Gritty and self-produced. Ghosts is just what you've likely come to expect from the band and is a natural progression of their sound.

What kills me most about the Marked Men is how deceptively original their songs are. Most listeners might classify them as simple pop-punk, but there's so much going on underneath the surface of these songs that once all the intricacies hit your ears, it might cause you to wonder aloud if anyone else who's not in the band notices them. Sure, anyone can listen to the Marked Men, but to hear them is a completely different experience. A few good examples of this would be the subtle dual guitar play in "Ditch," the infectious vocal harmonies in the chorus of "One More Time" or the ridiculous chord progressions in "Stay Away."

That's not to say that these songs don't just kick the listener in the balls, either. "Fortune" is easily the busiest song on this record, a barrage of crashing drums and rapidly strumming guitars, with a neat melodic bridge thrown in as well as some "ahh"s in the background, all underneath an extra thick layer of distortion.

There's hooks a-plenty in songs like "Red Light Rumors" and "My Love," and the guitar work in nearly all of these songs is impressive, showing that yes, there are new and exciting things that can be done with only a handful of chords in one's arsenal.

Notoriously and self-admittedly meticulous about their recording process (the band records all of their material themselves in a converted shed in their hometown of Denton, Texas). the production on Ghosts is expectedly top-notch. The reel-to-reel method the band employs gives their songs a warm, classic feel; you anticipate hearing the sound of vinyl scratching even though you're listening to the CD or digital version. The production also gives a lot of these songs warm, organic tones that enhance the instruments in ways that a proper studio session would be unable to replicate. Songs like the quicker "I Must Be Dead" and the more deliberate, mid-tempo "Get to You," among others, just sound...cozy.

There's no one song here that possesses the sheer immediacy of some of the band's earlier work -- contemporary classics from the band's past like "On the Outside," "Doctor Dan" or "Fix My Brain" -- but as a whole, Ghosts is the Marked Men's best effort to date, and hopefully not the last.