The Ghostwriters – Political Animal

Posted: March 15, 2007 in creativity
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politicalanimalI had never heard of The Ghostwriters before, and there is next to no info on them on the Net. Yet they are born out of Australian rock history, being the brainchild of Midnight Oil’s drummer Rob Hirst and the Hoodoo Gurus‘ bassist Rick Grossman. The group so far has produced 3 albums: the self-titled Ghostwriters (1991), Second Skin (1996) and Fibromoon (1999). They also played many live sessions in Sydney pubs.

Notable contributors to the Ghostwriters included Dorland Bray (Do Re Mi); Dominic Turner (backsliders); Chris Abrahams ( Jazz pianist – Benders, Laughing Clowns, The Necks and many others); Mark Moffatt (session musician with The Saints, Mental As Anything, Eurogliders, Yothu Yindi and many others); Warne Livesey (producer Midnight Oil); and Jeremy Smith , Jack Howard and Michael Waters of Hunters and Collectors fame. Fellow Oils members Jim Moginie and Bones Hillman made guest appearances at live gigs.

Allmusic calls this side project a “Richard Hell – indebted stepson”, a claim I cannot not judge, not having heard their music yet. What seems to have won some praise are the Ghostwriter’s rich lyricism, and what I personally like is the rotating support cast, which would I imagine add a bit of variety to the sound of the group. On the other hand: what has been lacking apparently is the classical political disobedience of Oil and the levity of the Gurus. Allmusic though mentioned their sweep of unpolished aboriginal garage rock … whatever that might mean.

Sony have announced the launch of Ghostwriters’ fourth album, Political Animal. It will be launched at the East Coast Blues & Roots Festival at Byron Bay on April 8-9, 2007, and it is this announcement combined with me listening to one of the songs (the single ‘Start the Day’) from that new album on my favourite radio station ‘fbi’ ) that made me write this post.

Rob Hirst and Rick Grossman return with the strongest ever Ghostwriters line-up: ex-Midnight Oil man Martin Rotsey on guitar, Lee Moloney on drums (Diesel, Lost Gospel), and producer/guitarist DC (Beau Young) on guitar/keys. The songs are tough, melodic, and retain the excitement and energy that comes from recording live in the studio. As Rick says, laughing: “This group is driven by powerful stuff – deep anger and resentment!” Well, let’s hope so! ‘Start the Day’ certainly is great: it’s anti-Bush, anti-Howard, anti-war etc, and it reminds me of the old Midnight Oil; it could be great if the Ghostwriters would continue the legacy – I’m sure traitor Garrett would not be missed at all.

Myspace (which also has a video clip for ‘Start the Day’) mentions that “Political Animal was prompted by a sense of foreboding about world conflicts, and frustration with the government and their media lickspittles: “I felt I needed to match my money with my big ARIA mouth,” says Rob, referring to his recent comments regarding the virtual disappearance of local protest music”. Rick Grossman sounds supportive: “Ghostwriters have evolved into a (shock, horror) rock band! The group has got the mix right, with a hard sound that mirrors the sentiment. And the passion burns bright.”

Let’s hope they mean it and they’re right! I do have some doubt though: there’s always a lot marketing spin in such statements, especially when coming from their official myspace page. An what political message does it send to me when all the public domain images I could find of Hurst and Grossman (except the one above) linked straight back to the Ghostwriters website, where all photos had a Sony copyright slapped onto them. And isn’t Sony the company that not too long ago embedded DRM technology into their music CD’s that gave hackers a backdoor to your computer when you played one of those Sony CDs that you actually legally bought in a shop! Rock is Money after all. And protest music of course keeps us off the street and rebellion in our heads; it too is opium of and for the masses. Capitalism transforms everything into a consumable good – from love to anger and political outrage to anarcho-capitalism. So, in the end, it’s all not as great as it sounds (literally).

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