Minus Story - No Rest for Ghosts

Must they always be compared to Neutral Milk Hotel? Minus Story have been quietly releasing urgently beautiful, charmingly lo-fi albums since 2001. That year, the quartet released not one but two full lengh LP’s, the self-released Belle Ame and Moebius Syndrome on Mercrider Records. Picked up by Jagjaguwar in 2004, the band began to experiment with repeated themes of death, spirits, and otherworldly beings, and further honed their jokingly self-described “wall of crap” sound with The Captain is Dead, Let the Drum Corpse Dance. This was to be followed by the decidedly more cohesive and melodic EP, Heaven and Hell. With No Rest for Ghosts, Minus Story continue to expand upon their musings on the mysteries of “passing on,” yet keep things interesting by interspersing tales of fanciful dreams and fantastic creatures amidst more serious reflections.

Each song exhibits imagery relating to light and darkness, of mouths breathing life and expelling death, and watery wombs juxtaposed with watery graves. The keening, quivering vocals and moments of intentional sloppiness in production do bring to mind pop experimentalists, Neutral Milk Hotel, but Minus Story seem to bring a brighter, shinier, more cohesive package to the table. While NMH blend incomprehensible lyrics with a (pleasant) cacophony of archaic instruments, blips and buzzes, Minus Story’s approach to their album, though at times surprising and distorted, is more focused with a clearer sense of melody and direction. Even the album art (a colorful felt skull) convinces the listener that hey, there's a lighter side to the other side.

“Will I be Fighting?” with its gentle sing-song melody – an almost lullaby – gives a first person account of a loved one passing away, and a father’s attempts to provide explanations and euphemisms for death. The soothing, rocking melody creates a picture of death as a gentle, slumbering creature, the inevitable warmth of a Sunday afternoon nap. Contrast this to the off-putting, “Knocking on Your Head,” in which Jordan Geiger’s laments in his cringe-inducing caterwaul, "time won't bring you back" and "I won't heal this time!" This time around, he argues vehemently against the death-as-a-nap metaphor.

Though most of the songs on No Rest for Ghosts compare and contrast the complex emotions one feels about death, losing love, and moving on… there is one song that seems strangely out of place on Minus Story’s philosophical journey. “Little Wet Head” – perhaps a musical rendition of a particularly strange dream – is the first-person account of a baby monster who eats the song’s narrator, and then regurgitates him to feed its young. Um, yeah. Bizarre on many levels, the track nevertheless presents one of the most joyous, rollicking melodies from the album, calling to mind early, excessively silly Flaming Lips. The chorus, “Choke Me Down, Push Me Out!” is both a challenge and an empowered battle cry.

While Minus Story still exhibit their signature “wall of crap” sound, they have matured and have greatly developed their musical direction. They have successfully crafted a complex, fantastical dream-world of album that is more “artistic” than “experimental,” more “light and melody” than “darkness and cacophony,” and definitely more “Minus Story original” than “Neutral Milk Hotel.” Highly recommended.

--Courtney Wachs

Release Date: October 11, 2005

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