Release Date: Jun 7, 2011
Record label: Graveface Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Lo-Fi, Indie Pop
Some of the best rock music reads like a funhouse mirror of the prevailing culture. It’s a dialectic that’s been part of the American literary tradition since Whitman first admitted his evilness, a feeling that coursed through Link Wray’s straining amp in 1957 as he churned out the first hard rock power chords, parodying a cloying radio hit. Enter Jordan Geiger and his Hospital Ships, with what the press release informs me is an album of “midwestern existential fuzz-pop,” which doesn’t so much reflect or criticize as take on a completely alternate architecture.
When "Love or Death" kicks off Lonely Twin with a combination of piano, high vocals, and the general air of just-post-last-Beatles stateliness -- perhaps with a flicker of where the Move and ELO would eventually take that impulse -- the feeling is that Hospital Ships, centered around singer/songwriter Jordan Geiger, are at the logical end point of intersecting curves of nostalgic re-creation. On the one hand there's enough "proper" tunefulness to satisfy those who loved XTC and Jellyfish -- and perhaps most especially the Flaming Lips from The Soft Bulletin forward -- while on the other, there are enough squawks, fuzz, and zoning to sound like it's emerged a bit from the 21st century cassette underbrush. It generally leans toward the former, though, and with that as a start, Lonely Twin takes a sweetly woozy way through its length, at once enjoyable enough while still feeling like a recapitulation more than a way forward.
On his MySpace page, Jordan Geiger gently razzes the indie press bio form, noting, "I only record in REMOTE CABINS in the WINTER in BROOKLYN with a CANADIAN COLLECTIVE as my backing band. I have overcome MANY TRAGEDIES! My PARENTS are FAMOUS!" Tongue-in-cheek and perhaps a little too 2008, that blurb suggests the perspective of a guy who considers himself an outsider: a Lawrence, Kansas, native who's so far removed from any popular scene, whether it's Brooklyn or San Francisco or Montreal, that he can only look on with chagrin and perhaps a bit of scorn. Lonely Twin, Geiger's second album as Hospital Ships, seems preoccupied with centers and margins, inclusions and exclusions: "Open up the door and let me in," he sings at the beginning of opener "Love or Death".
Jordan Geiger, the frontman and brainchild of the Kansas project Hospital Ships, has got the melancholy and desperation of Conor Oberst and the voice of Ben Gibbard (which goes to show you just how melancholy and desperate Conor Oberst is when I didn’t even use Ben Gibbard as the full example). On Oh, Ramona, Hospital Ships’ debut album two and a half years ago, Geiger manifested a primarily acoustic LP in the vein of the Decemberists, disguising the destitution of his lyrics by pumping the songs full of life with percussion and organs. On Lonely Twin, however, Geiger takes on a much more Death Cab for Cutie-ish approach, processing his voice with that breathy wisp for which Gibbard is known and implementing strings and drum kits to back simple yet eloquent piano and guitar tunes.