Feeling the spirit

Pub date February 21, 2007
WriterTodd Lavoie
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

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Yeah, I was a club kid once. It’s a bit of a blur, but somehow somewhere in the ’90s I went from punk and indie to baggy pants and glow sticks in the flick of a switch. I put away my Fall records and picked up endless white-label 12-inches and compilation CDs with titles like Ultimate Techno Explosion. Or something to that effect. Like I said, it’s a blur. I remember the dancing, though — suddenly my punk ass liked to shake! It’s a shame most of my indie friends chose to stay behind, but this was the ’90s. In those days, never the twain shall meet….

It’s now a full decade later, and — finally! — the indie kids are cutting loose without fear of bruising their street cred, thanks to artists such as the Rapture, !!!, and LCD Soundsystem. Turns out rock and dance music don’t have to be mutually exclusive terms. Need further proof? Take Austin’s finest ambassadors of electropunk mania, Ghostland Observatory. The duo — composed of vocalist-guitarist Aaron Behrens and keyboardist-drummer Thomas Ross Turner — whip up a mighty frenzy of swaggering rawk bravado and delirious vocal acrobatics delivered with a come-hither fluster over sweltering beds of booty-bouncing beats. Music for getting hot and bothered, certainly — or maybe songs for unleashing demons. Take your pick.

"We’re two entirely different people," Turner says, chuckling, over the phone from the Texas capital, in explanation of how their quite dissimilar influences have coalesced into the flipped disco of 2005’s delete.delete.i.eat.meat and last year’s Paparazzi Lightning (both Trashy Moped Recordings). "Aaron’s more into the rock showman thing — people like Prince and Freddie Mercury. For me, Daft Punk pretty much are my heroes — they got me into electronic music and club culture. That’s where we’re each coming from."

They might be coming from different places, but their destination is clearly shared, as evidenced on Paparazzi Lightning. Picture an evening of unbridled debauchery — one in which a club night teeters on the brink of collapse — condensed into 35 frantic minutes, and you’re on your way to understanding the Ghostland Observatory vision. Behrens can clearly work a room into whatever mood he sees fit, whether through stomping and yowling with wanton glee on the thundering "All You Rock and Rollers" and "Ghetto Magnet," or the seething taunts of "Move with Your Lover." Meanwhile, Turner effortlessly guides us on the emotional travelogue of a never-ending night, flashing away with the urgency of red-carpet paparazzi as he peppers the album with synth shrieks, squelches, and Daft Punk–worthy rhythms.

Asked about their live shows, Turner gives fair warning: "It’s really nonstop. We just give and give until everybody’s wiped out and goes home." All right, indie rockers and club kids — you heard the man. Better start stocking up on energy drinks. *


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