With all the genre-bending, experimental acts shaking up Pittsburgh, such as Starship Mantis and Beauty Slap, it’s sometimes easy to forget the virtues and appeal of straight-up rock n’ roll. Luckily, The Me Toos are here to remind us. Their brand new album, Ghost Fly By, which will have its release show this Saturday, April 29th, at Spirit, gives strong echoes of The Shins, in all the best ways.
The group consists of guitarist/singer Jesse Baldoni, bassist Ben Vivio, and drummer/backup singer Kevin Koch. This will be their second full-length record, alongside their previous two EP’s, since the band kicked off in 2008.
The record is a solid listen all the way through, from the head-nodding on-off guitar strums of the plaintive opener, “Spark My Embers,” to the contemplative slow swing of the closing track, “Suffer.” The band describes this collection of songs as being about “the lingering ghosts of regret and embarrassment, leading to the unhealthy catharsis of the suffering that comes along with dwelling on those thoughts.” That intimacy and honesty comes through in both the lyrics and the passionate tone of Baldoni’s vocals, who recalls a more openly pained James Mercer. (Other acts the band lists as influences include The Velvet Underground, The Sonics, and Car Seat Headrest.)
Ghost Fly By cycles through rollicking numbers like “Bloodshot Eyes” and the punk-inspired “I’ve Been Talking to Myself,” as well as softer moments, such as the acoustic-guitar-heavy “Skin & Bones,” which is downright pretty. This shows both impressive range and a keen sense of how an album should flow from one song to the next. Particular standouts include “Set the Moon on Fire” (with its slow, well-layered build and enjoyable moments of explosive guitar) and the song “Ghost Fly By” (whose repeated lyrics and melodic phrases musically embody old ghosts coming back to haunt the speaker.) There’s also a consistent emphasis on Vivio’s bass—it’s used to its full engrossing, rhythmic potential, adding enjoyable dimension throughout the record. I always appreciate when bands do this, because often the bass is left to be muddled in the background, essential but not special. It deserves more attention, and The Me Toos provide it.
The group goes on about the inspiration for this record: “the nostalgia of looking at pictures followed sharply by embarrassment at how cool you thought you were versus how uncool you actually were…in other words, turning thirty.” But they’ve managed to confront those cringeworthy moments with honesty and skill, and turn them into something better. If that’s not maturing, I’m not sure what is.
The Me Toos are celebrating Ghost Fly By with a free release show at Spirit this Saturday, April 29th. Vertigo Go and The Spectres will be opening up as well. Doors are at 8 PM, and the music starts at 9. Find the Facebook event page here, and follow along with the band here. And check out their Bandcamp now to hear the album for yourself.