Recently signed to UK label Big Scary Monsters, London/Cambridge-based band The Tupolev Ghost is poised to finally break through to the semi-mainstream.
The new self-titled six-song EP is a bit of a mixed bag, sound-wise. The trebly Fugazi-esque guitar lines and clattering drums from their earlier releases are still here, but the vocals sound noticeably cleaner and at times less aggressive. The Tupolev Ghost is still a math rock/post-harcore band (because there is no way you could call the full-frontal aggro attack of “Giant Fucking Haystacks” anything but), however, a song like “The Night” suggests a movement away from punk fury and into straightforward “indie rock” territory. The song starts off with a sparse guitar riff that Guy Picciotto would be proud of, and the vocals channel the energy of Ian Mackaye, but the song soon transforms into something closer to Wowee Zowee-era Pavement, with the repeated line “We’ll feel bad when the money comes” sounding like Malkmus at his most resigned. But halfway through the song, singer James Parrish goes into straight-up plaintive balladeer mode.
If “The Night” is a perfect map for the course of The Tupolev Ghost’s musical evolution, then the rest of the EP seems to stick to one genre or the other. To balance out the franticness of “Giant Fucking Haystacks,” there is the sing-along power ballad “Diagrams.” Closing song “Our Great Destroyer” packs a wallop and reminds one of the earnest hardcore of bands like Jawbox or Sunny Day Real Estate. …that is not to say the song is formulaic, however. After a rather heartfelt line early in the song, instead of hearing a straightforward bridge into the next verse, we are treated to a buzzing guitar fill, more reminiscent of U.S. Maple and the weirder branch of math rock than anything else.
So, though The Tupolev Ghost is moving up in the world, don’t confuse this for an abandonment of their early raucousness. While the vocals are cleaned up and the band has traded in some of their Shellac records for a few Pavement ones, they are still, at heart, an energetic hardcore band with a few tricks up their sleeves.

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