It was recently revealed that music was used as a torture device against detainees at government prisons, including Guantanamo Bay and Bagram, Afghanistan. Certain artists were sources of tremendous pain for the political prisoners (Nine Inch Nails, Barney the Dinosaur, Christina Aguilera) while others had little to no effect (Michael Jackson). While an admittedly heinous use for someone's creative output, it got me thinking about tastes and sensitivities based on who is exposed to what at what point in their lives. For example, the soundtrack to my youth included bands like Hole, Babes in Toyland, L7, and Bikini Kill. This is music that I still regularly listen to today. I consider it an integral part of myself. My father, on the other hand, considered it excruciating even coming into my teenage bedroom once when I was listening to Hole's “Beautiful Son” single to ask, “What IS that? Good God, do you have the cat in here or something?!”
The point? One person's agonizing pain is another's exquisite pleasure. One person's caterwauling cacophony is another's sweet symphony. So it was, in part, thanks to my predisposition to dissonance in music that I found myself keenly interested in Fleurs from indie-noise conglomerate Former Ghosts. They're kind of an underground supergroup trio, featuring Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu, Nika Roza from Zola Jesus, and Freddy Ruppert formerly with This Song Is a Mess But So Am I.
Familiar with the sweet glitchy pop sounds of The Postal Service? Their 2003 album Give Up has quickly become a contemporary classic. Imagine that as being the top exposed half of a rock buried halfway in the ground. Flip it over and underneath you are sure to find Fleurs by Former Ghosts. It's the darker underbelly of glitchy pop love songs. Unfortunately, it is also a flipside that some might say is better left buried.
I could not for the life of me tell you which songs from Fleurs are my favorite; it all starts to sound the same after the fourth track. I can tell you which songs annoyed the daylights out of me, though. First, there's the opening track, “Us And Now.” It's got a three-beat rhythm, off tempo with the pervasive rhythm (from which the listener is given a respite for only about 40 seconds) that courses throughout the song, making it seem much longer than it really is. There are also the prosaic details of “Mother,” a song about feeling cast adrift, without a home, in a sea of other people's lives.
There's a scene in the 1998 film The Wedding Singer where love-struck Robbie Hart (Adam Sandler) is about to board an airplane headed to Las Vegas. Before racing off to catch his flight, the agent at the ticket sales counter, sporting an awe-inspiring '80s hairdo, asks Hart, “Hey, do you like A Flock of Seagulls?” Hart quickly responds, “I can see YOU do,” while staring at the guy's sculpted hair tribute. That's kinda how I felt while listening to the three different voices that comprise Former Ghosts singing the twelve different tracks that comprise Fleurs. They all sounded pretty much... the same. These guys wear their influences—namely Joy Division's Ian Curtis—on their sleeves. It's like listening to a Joy Division tribute band at times. The crushing sounds of Michael Gira and his nihilistic '80s industrial group The Swans also seem to be haunting Former Ghosts.