Ghostland Observatory: Codename: Rondo

Ghostland Observatory: Codename: Rondo
Austin, TX duo, Ghostland Observatory first showed up on my radar with the release of their third album, 2008’s Robotique Majestique. The album was one of the most universally panned records I have seen; it received a 1.5/10 from Pitchfork Media and an equally surprising half-a-star from The Stranger. With such low scores, the question became “how will Ghostland Observatory bounce back?” The short answer is with Codename: Rondo.
In order to understand the long answer you probably need to know a little bit about what made Robotique Majestique so bad. The critics seem to agree that the album sounded like a mash-up of Freddie Mercury acapellas and 1980s robot rock. If that does not sound appealing to you, it is probably because you are a human being that has ears.
So coming into Codename: Rondo the one expectation I had is that the album would sound nothing like Robotique Majestique. First let me give the band props for the album title. Robotique Majestique was set up for failure with its nod to Daft Punk. So at least Ghostland Observatory learned their lesson and improved that with Codename: Rondo. Unfortunately it does not appear they have improved much else.
Songs like “Freeze”, sees Ghostland doing the same Freddie Mercury impression over 80s schlock to similar results as on Robotique Majestique. “Time” mixes the novelty-rock of Thomas Dolby with the synth-punk sound of Devo. What is worse is that even when they mix the formula, they still miss the mark. “That’s Right” mixes a Primus-esque instrumental with Kraftwerk-like speech synthesized vocals.
In the end, it is apparent that critical lauding does not influence Ghostland Observatory and there is something noble about that. There is pressure on bands to bend to critics’ desires, commercial desires, and labels’ desires, but Ghostland Observatory seems to be okay with marching to their own drum. My only question is who is listening?
Rating: 2.3/10
MP3: Ghostland Observatory “That’s Right”
Buy: iTunes or Insound!