The Ghost and the Hired Gun
Disclosure: One of the Alarmists, Jorge Raasch, works in the Classifieds department here at City Pages.
The crappy thing about potential is that until it's either realized or wasted, it's just this nebulous energy—constantly in the act of becoming. Sometimes it's breathtaking enough on its own, but seems a shade dimmer once the spotlight is fully fixed on it. (This explains why the highlights of LeBron James's high school career were palpably stunning, while his first full season in the league had merely a dull glow.) So it goes with the Alarmists, whose debut EP, A Detail of Soldiers, seemed to speak of great efforts to come, that would combine Britpop melodies and sneer with the tautness and swagger of Spoon.
The Ghost and the Hired Gun certainly has its share of superlative moments: "On the Way" jams a driving post-punk drum part and monomaniacal piano line against a jaunty '50s sock-hop chorus, while "Light a Smoke" revolves around a dark and echoing guitar line that evokes Coldplay's more brooding moments. Occasional bursts of irreverence like the filmstrip snippet that begins "Walking Away" add to the variety, but over the distance, the album feels a little flat. Drum and guitar tones sound more correct than inventive, lacking some of the snarl and grit that made tracks like "Good Advice" such winners on A Detail of Soldiers.
So we're back to potential—but the good news is that of the three options (realized, wasted, still waiting), the Alarmists certainly haven't wasted it. They've taken another step forward and gotten through their first full season, but they haven't won the championship yet. Although perhaps obscured by an excess of care, the seeds of a truly great Alarmists album still lay inside these songs.