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Just Another Boston-Based Band?

Negative, Ghostrider

By Helana Kadyszewski

Brevity Thing

Negative Ghostrider

Five Prime Records

What can an MIT alum possibly have in common with three Boston College grads? Probably very little until you lock them all up in a sound recording studio for five straight days. Then you end up with either the soundtrack to the next Revenge of the Nerds sequel, or in this case, a solid, five-song debut album. That’s right; you heard it here first. MIT sends a representative to the rock and roll arena in bassist Charles Morton G ’97 and his musical cohorts, collectively constituting Negative Ghostrider, the next best thing since Boston-based alternapop.

The feeble beginnings of Negative Ghostrider came together back in 1997 when Morton met skinman Matt Doyle and van Halen disciple Mike Lawlor. After falling victim to the cutthroat Boston music scene, the trio searched desperately for a frontman who would bring a voice to their outfit. Enter Tommy Walsh. Fresh off laryngeal enhancement surgery and his duties as stunt double for John Travolta, Walsh filled the vocal void and Negative Ghostrider was born in or around 2000. Since then, the band has been tearing up the local scene, playing at venues such as T.T. the Bear’s, the SkyBar, Sharpshooters, and at the occasional bar mitzvah.

The band’s debut album, Brevity Thing was entirely self-produced and was released this fall. It is a crisp, clean 24 minutes of vocal and instrumental innocence. No, wait. That’s John Mayer’s annoying single, “Your Body is A Wonderland.” My bad.

The first track, “Search for Wind” establishes Walsh as a qualified balladeer. The track is complete with overdrive guitar, melodic harmonies, and Doyle’s percussive genius. “Oh you let it slide/ feel it all inside/ then it starts to flow/ ooh you wanna let it go.” Indeed. A strong introduction to both the delicate nuances and the boisterous power that the group has to offer.

Track number two, “Let Me Back In,” is a peppy little number that opens with a funky lick from Morton on bass and leaves the listener wondering if there isn’t a little more SpinDoctors in them than the band likes to admit. Clearly, these guys should be able to hang with the jam bands.

“Ripcord” is the unfortunate weakling among the album’s more mature tracks. In it, Walsh goes from bubbly baritone to “nu metal growl” in an abrupt and aerobic switch that leaves the listener with a bit of aural whiplash. The lyrics are trite and the sound quality is (strangely) hardly much better than your typical Super Bowl halftime show. Unfortunately, “Ripcord” lasts about as long as one too. Luckily, it’s the album’s only bad apple.

“Wanderlust” reveals Negative Ghostrider’s emo verve and marketing savvy. The band, known to cover the occasional Jimmy Eat World tune at their shows, has a real gem in “Wanderlust.” Look for it as the catchy theme for the next Olsen twins blockbuster hit (if it’s not already the soundtrack to their “Sweet 16: Licensed to Drive” Playstation game). I mean it. This is the one you won’t be able to stop whistling, or air guitaring, as it may be.

In the album finale, “Run Away,” Negative G goes tastefully ’80s (read: Spandau Ballet’s “True”) and plays to the mature crowd. Morton and Walsh hold some killer harmonies and the melancholy consonance is polished to perfection.

As for the band’s name, according to Morton, it is a tribute to Maverick’s irreverence in “the greatest American movie of the 1980s.” At 6’5” and sporting dreadlocks, Morton finds it easy to identify with Tom Cruise’s character in the film. “My volleyball career and penchant for t-shirts and jeans speaks to that. Never mind that sexual tension in elevators is a recurring theme with us.”

As for their staying power, one can only speculate. All the elements are there: guitars, drums, a catchy name, and of course, the band “cute guy” (even if it’s not quite clear which one he is). When asked to distinguish NG from the festering pool of shoestring alt-rock bands, Morton was quick to answer. “As far as I can tell, we’re the only ones trying to do funk and emo at the same time,” he said. “The jury is still out as to whether that’s a good idea, but we don’t care.” Irreverent indeed.

Negative Ghostrider is a foolproof recipe for aural amusement. They can jam, they can roar, they can croon, and rumor has it, at least one of them can calculate a Reynolds number. You can see this resonant rat pack for yourself this Thursday at Boston Rocks (Faneuil Hall). The show is 21+, starts at 9 p.m., and admission is $5.