Actress – Ghettoville

      3 Comments on Actress – Ghettoville

Released January 27, 2014

The opening track, “Forgiven,” creates a grey mood from its first notes. Its factory-like drone stretches for over seven minutes, the two chords changing in small and interesting ways yet staying the same. It’s the kind of song that could be annoying but makes me excited to hear more.

Unfortunately, Ghettoville doesn’t deliver on the promise of “Forgiven.” While every song has an interesting idea—a rhythm, a chord progression, a riff—few of the ideas evolve into anything special. Worse, the grey mood from the first few tracks slowly falls apart as the album progresses. “Corner” centers on a simplistic riff that could’ve come from an early Depeche Mode album, “Skyline” relies on a generic beat, and “Rap” sounds like one of The Weeknd’s throwaway riffs.

Years ago, I read an interesting piece of advice: unless your album is better than Rumours, make sure it’s shorter. If Darren Cunningham had cut Ghettoville from nearly 70 minutes to less than 40, he might have had a great album. As it is, this is simply a collection of unrelated ideas that never reach their potential.

About Chuck

Chuck is a lifelong music lover. He spent his 20s working as a professional musician before discovering he enjoys listening to music more than playing it. He knows a little bit about most genres, though electronic dance music, rock, and hip-hop are his favorites. Eleven albums/shows that transformed how he sees and hears the world (in order he encountered them): Fleetwood Mac Rumours; Van Halen Fair Warning; The Cure Standing on a Beach; John Coltrane Crescent; De La Soul Three Feet High and Rising; Puccini La Boheme (de los Angeles, Bjorling, Beecham); Everything but the Girl Walking Wounded; Carl Cox, Twilo, NYC, May 2000; Godspeed You! Black Emperor Yanqui U.X.O.; Grateful Dead. Fillmore East, NYC, April 1971; Taylor Swift 1989.

3 thoughts on “Actress – Ghettoville

  1. bobvinyl

    That Rumours advice is good and has become even more important in recent decades as album lengths are no longer constrained to the 45 or so minutes of a LP. There is an idea that restriction and restraint are the enemies of art, but I think that’s a cop-out. Breaking rules and expectations can be a good thing, but there has to be a reason. Lack of ideas or laziness are both bad reasons.

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  2. bobvinyl

    I’m only three tracks in and I hear what you’re saying. I was watching a video about Fugazi the other day and a lot of their songs were bits and pieces that they worked on for years until the right parts came together. Songs didn’t go out the door half-baked. That made me think of those wine commercials in the 70’s and 80’s with Orson Welles: “Paul Masson will sell no wine before its time.” Fugazi, oddly enough, seems to understand that and Cunningham does not. I heard good ideas in there, but not a lot of good songs so far.

    There is a Ghettoville deluxe box set that looks beautiful and complete though.

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  3. Chuck Post author

    It took years until I started to view constraints as positive. They are frustrating, but constraints almost always make work stronger. Self-imposed constraints are the hardest to enforce, though.

    Interesting point about Fugazi. I’d never heard that but, even as someone who isn’t a big Fugazi fan, I can recognize the truth of it in their music.

    I don’t even mind that there aren’t good “songs” on Ghettoville, because not every artist is about songs. What bothers me more is the lack of a cohesive mood. Cunningham created a mood with “Forgiven” even though there’s no “song,” so to speak, but then he threw the mood away. For me, the best electronic artists either take you on a journey or immerse you in a state of mind.

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