Featuring instrumentation by former members of Big Star, Sonic Youth, and Wilco, and vocals alternately performed by four different singers, End of Love’s debut album Ghosts on the Radio is a collection of songs that pay homage to the influential power pop and alt-country styles of bands like Son Volt. End of Love is the brainchild of Big Star drummer Jody Stephens whose collaboration with Irwin Menken and Jay Deegan was intended to bring to life compositions in the vein of their previous projects.
The first track on Ghosts on the Radio is a bit deceptive. “Falling Hard” begins with a crunching guitar riff that waxes and wanes with lovely female vocals which repeatedly build to a laid back chorus giving the initial impression that End of Love’s overall sound is a throwback to nineties grunge. This impression, however, is quickly crushed out. With its ambiguous first-person lyrics, country guitars, and soaring male/female vocals “Take This Heart” is perhaps the best example of the band’s sound and arguably the record’s finest moment. “Fade Away” follows in a similar style, though not as impactful emotionally, and closes out the first third of the album.
With its power pop riffs and catchy chorus, “100 Years” puts the album in high gear and is smartly placed back-to-back with the rocking “Who Do You See” which features Django Haskins on lead vocals and is the record’s heaviest song. The ballad “Scream Out Loud” wraps up the second third of Ghosts on the Radio, and while sung by one of the more than capable female vocalists on the roster, sounds so much like a Big Star ballad that you can’t help but imagine how much more powerful it could have been had Alex Chilton been alive to sing it. The final three songs on the album are a mixed bag of mid-tempo power pop numbers which culminate in “Beautiful”, a seven-minute track featuring breathy, swaying female vocals with psychedelic guitar undertones.
While there are certainly some fine moments, more often than not Ghosts on the Radio sounds like a collection of mediocre Big Star B-sides being covered by a group made up of accomplished admirers. While completists and curious diehards will find something to enjoy here, casual fans would be advised to stick to Big Star’s earliest recordings.