Nakatomi Plaza exits stage left on this interesting but angsty final album. Musically, “Ghosts” finds them somewhere between post-hardcore and Superchunk-style distortion-heavy indie. The tunes are dense, with a lot packed into 2-3 minutes, but there isn’t quite the dynamic energy to make it work. Male-female vocals are emotionally powerful but don’t seem to fit well over the flat music.
The album is also quite dark. The liner notes give a good sense of where the angst comes from: the insert includes notes from the band members on how critics, media, the record industry, and the DIY scene itself never really “got it,” leaving poor NP had to toil away at the fringes of obscurity for 10 years.
I have to digress from the review to respond to this, because it irked me. I can imagine that playing in Brooklyn for a decade and watching your hipster friends get big can be humbling, but what kind of post-hardcore band feels deserving of major league fame and spotlight? This is especially surprising for a band that preaches DIY and artistic integrity. Nakatomi Plaza blasts the industry for pushing “straight white male” bands like All-American Rejects and emo music, but clearly poppy music has more universal appeal than cerebral, dense post-hardcore. And in this digital age, it seems odd that NP felt their only chance at the big time, or at least to be financially self-sustainable, was through the old school model of wining and dining with A&R people.
Nakatomi Plaza attribute their lack of success not to their music but to not fitting the marketing mold. Superficially, though, they actually had a lot going for them. They had a diverse lineup, including a girl in the band who shared vocal duties (always a hit, and the best part of NP musically). They had an awesome name that nobody born before 1985 could possibly dislike. And they lived and played in Brooklyn, the epicenter for new hip music ever since the Seattle scene imploded.
I’m hoping that NP were just letting off steam, or that I’m reading too much into their tone, but their bitterness is seeped into their music. For example, the album ends with the melodramatic “The Finish Line” whose last lines are “You say we should stop, I’ll call us in sick / Who care if they fire us? We’ll just quit.”
C’mon guys, buck up.
Bottom Line: Angsty, bitter final album from post-hardcore mopesters.
Notable Tracks: Bomb Shelter, It Came From Outside