Good Kids Sprouting Horns

gksh_ghostGood Kids Sprouting Horns
Give Up the Ghost
[dog] and [pony]

Click to hear: “Headache

Good Kids Sprouting Horns play what Jack Black’s character in High Fidelity would call “sad bastard music.” There’s already too much mopey folk-rock like this boring the local scene, but the Good Kids do have a couple redeeming qualities.

The first and foremost is the trio’s leader, guitarist Anthony Bitetti, an earnest singer-songwriter who conveys the bleakness of life in Bangor — the weather, the drug addiction, Stephen King — in stark details. “When I watched her slip, I couldn’t look away,” he sings on “Effigy.” “It wasn’t peaceful, I don’t care what they say. When I watched her twitch it wasn’t quick and the side effects of these prescriptions have left me feeling almost nothing at all.” Damn. That’s heavy.

The band’s other virtue is its weirdness. This is “Casio-folk,” as in the chintzy keyboard, here played by Jessamy Luthin, who also adds backing vocals on some of these home-recorded tracks.

Trouble is, the Casio’s cheesy tones are an incongruous counterpoint to Bitetti’s heartfelt delivery. For example, while he’s wrenching out the lyrics above, the keys are playing a bouncy, poppy line that sounds like the soundtrack to a Mario Brothers game. Why?

On the first song, “Popcorn Ceiling,” the keyboard blips sound like an elevator marking passing floors. On the next, “Double Digits, A Life Achievement,” its insistent notes sound like an old digital clock’s alarm. You wish there was a snooze button you could push to make them stop. That’s an unfortunate resemblance, as the more lethargic songs here are actually sleep-inducing — “Long Sleeves,” “Subaru Loyale,” “The Straw, The Coal, and the Bean.”

The hard-strummed, simmering “Woodwork” works, and “Headache” rouses from torpor in time to deliver a satisfyingly ragged second half. It’s also the shortest song on the album, which could be a clue to the formula the band needs to succeed.

The Good Kids have heart and an ear for the unconventional. Ghost isn’t very listenable, but it’s the debut album by a young band willing to take chances and just starting to write songs together (the contributions of Luthin and drummer Ryan Higgins were afterthoughts when Ghost was made). I hope they figure it out.

— Chris Busby

Good Kids Sprouting Horns play the Kahbang Music, Art & Film Festival in Bangor on Sat., Aug. 14. See for more info.