The first song on “Haunted By The Holy Ghost” is called “Asshole”. I called Ryan Hamilton worse than that the other week.
I’d got to the end of the album. A country-tinged thing, “Sad Bastard Song” (on which our hero sings French by the way! Oh, and reckons he’ll be in bed with your missus) and went off to do something else. About five minutes later I had a heart attack. Why? Well, Hamilton has resurrected the “hidden” track.
For those in the Spotify generation, this phenomenon was all the rage back in the 90s. Monster Magnet stuck one at the start of one of their albums, bless ‘em, and one of Counting Crows finest tunes was tucked away at the end of “This Desert Life”. Anyway, here, Hamilton goes full on Jason And The Scorchers style cowpunk and tells you all his ex’s live in Texas.
Once defibrillators had helped me recover consciousness, I’m here to tell you that this here thing is – even by Ryan Hamilton’s standards – brilliant.
That song “Asshole”. It’s a glam stomper, and you imagine it comes from a personal place, much of this is confessional it seems.
The title track is, for sure. He’s spoken many times about his Conservative religious upbringing, and that runs all the way through the song. Perfect power pop, think Redd Kross back in the day, it’s the best song Hamilton has ever made.
This record should have been out in March, and has been beset by all sorts of problems, which is at odds with the positivity of the words of “Overdose” and others. Hamilton has always been open about his mental health issues and he seems to be in a good place here.
He’s always been gifted when it comes to hooks. “Paper Planes”, one of the singles here, underlines that once more, “On The Edge” is a glorious duet with Jessie Wagner, and “Broke My Heart, Fixed My Vision” is a message of defiance to those ex’s no doubt.
A lot of the record seems to be Hamilton pouring himself into the words. “Absence Of Love” is mid paced but seems to be reminding himself not to return to those “Asshole” days if you will, and he’s challenging himself in other ways too. “Yeah, Whatever is his most indie work – DMA’S have just filled Wembley with less, and the piano led “Strange Situation” is as fragile as can be. “I was never good at being alone” he offers, and Elton John comparisons write themselves.
Ryan Hamilton is one of those artists. The type who loves music. He is steeped in what he does, he is what he loves. But he also suffers from being “critically acclaimed”. That means, blokes like me with music websites and who write reviews tell you how good he is and it never quite gets him where it should.
And its not just nobodies like me, either. Clem Burke loves him. Adam Duritz of Counting Crows (who’s mention above was deliberate) and countless more line up to tell you how great he is. If there’s any justice – and in spite of its fraught beginnings – “Haunted By The Holy Ghost” might be the record that does it for him. If it does, I’ll believe myself. And I might just forgive him for the fright he gave me….