For the week of 10/8/2012…

“Friendly Ghost” by Harlem

Harlem is a band with two frontmen.  On some songs, Michael Coomer serves as lead singer and guitarist, while Curtis O’Mara drums; on others, they switch off.  “Friendly Ghost,” a track on Harlem’s 2010 album Hippies, falls into the latter category.  Thunder from Coomer’s drums signals the beginning of the song, and O’Mara enthusiastically delivers the song’s first line:  “I live in a graveyard!”

Harlem, one of the key bands of vibrant garage-rock scene in Austin, Texas, has a real knack for writing upbeat songs with unbelievably catchy hooks.  Hippies is full of songs like that, with memorable melodies and guitar parts enlivening lyrics that are sometimes amusingly twisted, sometimes irresistibly dumb, and often unintelligible.  The subject matter of “Friendly Ghost” is a foundering relationship, and O’Mara’s singing to an extent communicates the emotions of someone trying to figure out where a love affair went wrong.  At the same time, there’s plenty of graveyard goofiness mixed in; the protagonist declares that he’s “just as see-through as Casper the Ghost” and in the chorus mentions digging towards spinning coffins (or something; that’s one of the unintelligible parts!).  And with its fast tempo and major chords, this ’60s-influenced garage rumble is hard to describe as anything other than upbeat.  If you can listen to the chorus without wanting to get up and dance, you my friend are far too morose.

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