Ghosts By The Riptide Movement – Review
It’s been almost two years since The Riptide Movement released their chart-topping album, Getting Through, and it’s been a productive two years since, to say the least. Their latest musical offering, Ghosts, is the band’s way of bridging the gap between their undeniable success since their last release and the expectation resting upon their follow up. The album itself is shaped by the journeys they’ve made – both physically and emotionally since then, with the band admitting that ‘Ghosts is a journey that began somewhere between the Caragh River and the Seefin mountains of Gleinbeigh, Co Kerry, and came to completion in Tornillo, Texas, thirty miles East of the Rio Grande’. So how does a band reflect such a geographical and metaphorical chasm? Well, through experience and under the astute guidance of Grammy award winning producer, Ted Hutt.
Gar, the drummer, explained that, ‘Throughout 2015 we had rented various houses around the country, we would pull all the furniture out and bring in all the amps and drums and we’d write solid for a week.’ They admit that these sessions, particularly the final session in Ballinaclash, were their favourite experiences. The surroundings were picturesque to say the least, an old mill house, precariously residing on the banks of River Avonbeg, is inspirational- no doubt. But the band cite the sublime elements, the roar of the waterway, the sheer energy it represented, as not only influential but very much prevalent throughout their recordings. From the sessions, over forty songs were produced, naturally a band so passionate about their craft can easily produce such a volume, the real challenge emerged on trying filter out the best, the ones that effectively reflected what the band had learnt. So with their cases full of songs, the band headed for Texas for their date with Ted Hutt and destiny.
So what does the sudden projection from the heart of the Irish countryside to the harsh dessert elements do to a potential album? Well, with an array of musical instruments that’s the equivalent of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory to musicians, the band relentlessly whittled their forty tracks down to twelve candidates. Ted Hutt, who had previously worked on their #1 Gold selling album Getting Through, was unashamedly abrupt and precise in his selection:
‘That was a shock to us. We all sat down together with Ted on the first day, we’d play the first four/eight bars and he’d put his hand up and say ‘next’. Ted would say ‘do you really want that on the album?’ None of us were too precious about it, everyone was geared towards the one direction – we wanted to make a deep and emotive album’, admits Gar.
It’s impressive to say the least that a band whose first two, albeit critically acclaimed, self-released albums would eventually be catapulted into mega stardom thanks to their insatiable drive and determination. Announcing a show in Dublin’s Olympia in 2012 (a formative cornerstone to any band’s burgeoning reputation), the band were met with the fear and concern of their peers. As Gerry, the bassist, notes even on the brink of success, their gamble was seen as impossible, ‘Everyone said we were crazy to do it, that we were overreaching. But we went on to sell it out three times.’ Yet, it was this gamble that would inevitably result in them being in Texas, being signed to Universal Music, and, ultimately, achieving their dreams. Their live shows are where they find their passion, performing like it’s the last time they’ll ever be on stage and it’s evident that this is something fans feel and feed off.
So does Ghosts live up to expectations? Is it too obvious to say yes? The energy from the album is palpable, the Midas touch that Hutt provides mean that this is an album simply rife with beautifully honed tracks. The lyrics are awash with deeply personal elements, each one telling a unique story but simultaneously weaving together to form a delicate tapestry of experiences. Without a doubt, there are tracks that are tracks with darker themes, elements of remorse and loss that seep in and take hold but in saying that, it brings you on a true musical experience with the band. One of the foremost tracks is ‘The Elephant in the Room’, while the melody maintains the beautiful elegance that comes so naturally to The Riptide Movement, the lyrics are clearly coming from a very real place. Similarly, ‘Skull and Crossbones’ is a slight departure from the band’s more happy-go-lucky themes of their previous elements. The vocals are wrought with emotion, the lyrics have a haunting beauty to them and yet, it works. These deeply emotive and personal songs become relatable on the most basic levels of love, passion, and lost.
Ghosts, as an album, has a cyclical range of emotions, there’s a link among songs and it’s obvious that out of the forty potential songs, the twelve that were chosen were ones that truly told a story. ‘Powerkick’ is a breakthrough for the band, a sombre belter of a track, full of resonance and a beautiful symphony of sound. There’s a seeping quality to this track, it sits in the back of your mind and clicks with your own experiences. What The Riptide Movement have honed in on is an ability to make the personal universal.
In the same breath though, the band don’t forget their roots and distinctive elements of Irish storytelling and poetry emerge throughout the album. The final track, ‘I Could Have Loved You’, is inspired by a poem that Gar’s grandmother wrote for his grandfather on the night before they were married in 1946. The track is a dichotomy of emotion, full of love and heartbreak, it sends shivers down your spine. The classic tin-whistle solo is the perfect homage to classic Irish music. It’s an emotional listen and the perfect bookend for a concept album that opens up conversations that span the generations.
What’s striking about this album is the genuine emotion present, that sense of sharing a story, and, of course, the sheer talent of the band to capture all of this range and emotion in song. This authenticity permeates their sound and is reflective of their approach to everything they do. Ghosts is not simply a reflection on their pass, it’s a contemplative approach to the future that lies ahead of them; past, present, and future, unite as one throughout song and form a perfectly curated album.
They are dreamers with a plan, on the journey of a lifetime.
The Riptide Movement play The Olympia Theatre on 21 October.