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Album Review
Spirit Revival

Spirit Revival
by Haunted Love

Round Trip Mars

Review Date
6th October 2011
Reviewed by
Martyn Pepperell

The debut album proper from Auckland/Dunedin dark pop duo Haunted Love (Geva Downey and Rainy McMaster), Spirit Revival is a singularly weird exercise. Working with equally beguiling producer Ed Cake (Government Name: Edmund McWilliams), Haunted Love have fashioned an ethereal goth-lite song-writing platform. Making touchstones with not only the modern indie rock/singer songwriter fixation with RnB (think: Active Child, How To Dress Well, Dirty Projectors, etc), but also the musical theatre theatrics of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, the end result is mercurial.

Inspired by (and named after) a series of ghostly teenage love comics from the 1970s, Haunted Love's non-conformist soundworlds were incubated in Dunedin. Meeting while working together at the public art gallery, Downey and McMaster instantly entered into a super-friendship. Throw a haunted organ (which came with a seat full of Polaroid photos of cats), a love of the other, and the magical atmosphere evident around the local harbour into the mix, and you have a powerful set of base creative elements to build from.

Over the course of Spirit Revival's twelve song running order, these divergent idiosyncratic urges manifest themselves in a multiplicity of ways: vocal harmonies as tightly bound as Downey and McMasters friendship. Spiralling expansive synthesisers with a menacing outdoor feel. Teenage life oriented lyrical storylines ('Teenage Fever'). Judicious references to computer culture ('CONTROL/ALT/DEL'), and even first person perspective tales from the minds of robot boyfriends. As this suggests, Haunted Love are an act who, from a thematic perspective, much like infamous Grey Lynn Garage Rockers The Drab Doo-Riffs, draw heavily on full spectrum pulp culture. Be it the influence of sci-fi, fantasy or horror; Haunted Love feels heavily routed in the headspaces within which an earlier era interpreted these ideals.

That's not to say that Spirit Revival is a gimmick album however, far from it actually. The true genius of this voice, synthesiser, organ and programmed drum rhythm centralised album is the understated, earworm nature of the individual parts. Key songs 'Love Underwater', 'Solaris', 'San Domenico', 'Alonso Philippe' and 'Teenage Fever' all shimmer with slow smouldering hooks, which while shying away from showing too much too soon, much like a well executed burlesque routine sensually reveal more and more through extended engagement.

Falling in line with this sentiment, even more comical numbers like 'Robot Boyfriend' and 'Control/Alt/Del' carry enough weight to pull them beyond the novelty factor they initially suggest. If anything, where Spirit Revival begins to collapse is under the share volume of ideas captured across the record, hell they even investigate sea shanties on 'Ballast Rhyme'. As outgrowth of this, the melodramatic musical theatre sensibility displayed through the record feels an iota excessive at points. These are small niggles though, and considering the fact that the bulk of the work was constructed between Auckland and Dunedin over a four year period, achieving an aesthetic ornate, as opposed to OCD detailed, is an accomplishment.

Spirit Revival is a strong offering, one that suggests an illuminated creative future for these haunted lovers.


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