Cool Ghouls are a modern psychedelic garage rock band from San Francisco that was formed in 2011. The group has a total of five studio albums listed on Apple Music, and they have some earlier work listed on their Bandcamp page that doesn’t seem to be listed on Apple Music. The biography for Cool Ghouls on AllMusic.com seems to suggest that their work has gradually evolved from raw psychedelic garage rock with their first album that you can find on Apple Music, towards other genres that you might have heard in the late 1960s including sunshine pop, baroque pop, and folk rock. This album, Cool Ghouls (2013), is the group’s first album that you can find on Apple Music, and some of the tags used for the album’s Bandcamp listing are rock, rock & roll, soul, garage, and San Francisco. I’m pretty stoked to give this album a listen, so with that said, I’m going to jump on into the music.
“Ballin'” starts out with some super groovy, somewhat pop-y, garage rock guitar chords that I’m really digging. Oh wow, I’m really digging the reverb on the vocals in this track, which remind me of artists like Dr. Dog or even Mac Demarco a bit. I’m really digging the sort of raw, pop-y style of the instrumentation in this track, which almost make me think of some sort of psychedelic pop version of the earliest days of the Grateful Dead. I really dig how the song seems to pick up an air of seriousness for a moment before moving into the next chorus. There are some really sweet guitar licks in this track that I’m really digging. Wow, great track and I’m really excited to hear more.
Oh wow, “Things I seen” gets grooving with some somewhat bluesy and pop-y guitar lines that harken back to psychedelic rock groups from the Bay area in 1967, while other layers of guitar and the vocals come in with a sort of modern psychedelic garage rock sound that remind me a bit of Frankie and the Witch Fingers. Holy smokes, there’s a really sweet drum break for a moment that seems to take the track further into psychedelic territory. Holy smokes, the bass line in this track grooves along really nicely. Oh wow, the lead guitar almost picks up a sort of surf rock sound as the reverb rides the waves of the other instrumentation. Oh wow, there’s some sort of saxophone at the end the song as well. Awesome track.
“Natural Life” gets grooving with an upbeat, psychedelic garage pop/rock feel that I’m really digging. I really dig the instrumentation in this track, and the album so far as a whole for that matter, as they seem to pay homage to the psychedelic sounds of the Bay area from the late 1960s, while introducing a sort of modern feel that the band makes their own. Holy smokes, the background vocals during the chorus have an almost sweet, reverberated doo-wop sound that I’m really digging. Oh wow, this track is super groovy. It’s almost like the band somehow captured the sound of a modern, care-free party that has a 1960s with this track. Awesome tune.
“The Barber” gets grooving with a groovy mixture of blues-inflected psychedelic garage rock and some psychedelic garage pop sounds. Holy smokes, the main guitar line almost reminds me a bit of some sort of pop version of the Grateful Dead’s version of “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl”. I really dig how big the harmonization of the vocals sound with the reverberation during the chorus. Great track.
“Witch’s Game” begins with some strange, almost spooky sound effects and feedback from some fuzzed out guitars set to a bass drum that seems to gradually pick up momentum. Oh wow, the track seems to pick up a sort of psychedelic garage pop sound for a bit, and then the track seems to break through into almost spacey territory as the soundscape enters another movement. I really dig the sort of cosmic sounds in the fuzzed-out guitar while the vocals get a bit guttural at times and the rhythm guitar and bass seem to gradually march the tune along with some classic garage rock sounds, and then drums seem to continually evolve and stay dynamic with each movement. Holy smokes, the track enters a really sweet, almost loose, spacey groove for the outro movment of the track. Great tune.
“Grace” gets started with some really sweet, steadily grooving psychedelic garage pop/rock sounds that almost combine a really sweet, ballad-like psychedelic pop rock song from the late 1960s with modern flavors that remind me a bit of groups like Ripe or even SixFoxWhiskey with the different use of brass instruments throughout the track. Wow, super sweet track.
“Queen Sophie” starts out with what sounds like a classic psychedelic garage rock line reminiscent of California-based from the mid-to-late 1960s. Oh wow, the rest of the instrumentation comes in with some super sweet flavors. Holy smokes, the track reminds me a lot of “Gloria” by Van Morrison and Them. Holy smokes, the lead guitar plays a super groovy blues-inflected psychedelic solo while the drums, bass, and rhythm guitar keep the soundscape grooving along on the other side of the soundscape. Somehow I continue to be pulled nearer to my speakers as this album plays. I’m almost reminded a bit of Garcia Peoples if they were from the San Francisco area. Great track.
Oh wow, “In the Morning” gets grooving with a strong fuzzed-out guitar line that is promptly joined by other instrumentation that almost brings about a punk-inflected psychedelic garage pop groove. Holy smokes, the soundscape seems to take a turn into country territory during some movements in the song, which makes me think a lot again of the Grateful Dead’s direction in their overall career. Wow, great track.
“Supernatural Forces” gets grooving with some really sweet, bluesy psychedelic garage pop/rock sound with some sweet, raw chords from the rhythm guitar that produce a really nice forward moving feeling with the drums and bass that remind me a bit of John Lennon in a roundabout manner. I really dig the lead guitar line in this track as well, which seems to almost be at the intersection of blues, garage pop, and country. Wow, great track.
Holy smokes, “Earthquake” starts out with a flurry of groovy flavors that almost have a sort of funk-inflected psychedelic feel, reminiscent of groups from the early 1970s like Magnum. Oh wow, I really dig the use of the brass instruments during the various building movements in the song. Holy smokes, the track gets into a super chaotic, tense jam/movement for a moment before resolving to a super sweet, mellow, funk-inflected psychedelic groove. Holy smokes, the track gets into a sort of marching groove as the song seems to gradually come to a super sweet crescendo to finish up the song itself, and the album as a whole. Wow, great track, and a great way to finish the album.
Holy smokes, this album is great. I’m fighting the urge to order this album on vinyl as I type this final paragraph, as I’m trying to save some money at the moment. With that said, it seems only 500 copies were pressed and I’m not sure how many more are available for the Cool Ghouls’ first studio album. I can definitely say that I’m very excited to check out the rest of the Cool Ghouls discography. The band reminded me of a few different bands during the listening experience, including The Blues Magoos from the mid-to-late 1960s, the earlier work of the Grateful Dead, the sort of psychedelic funk soul rock fusion stylings of Magnum from the early 1970s, as well as more modern artists like Dr. Dog, Mac Demarco, Frankie and the Witch Fingers, SixFoxWhiskey, and Ripe. The music seemed to pay homage to a lot of the psychedelic garage pop and rock styles of the mid-to-late 1960s from the San Francisco Bay area, while mainly creating a unique and modern sound that incorporates modern psychedelic garage rock elements, as well as elements that span other genres that continually hooked me in further. If you’re into psychedelic garage rock and/or psychedelic garage pop from any decade, then you might want to consider checking out this album. If you do decide to give this album a listen, then I sincerely do hope that you enjoy the listening experience at least as much as I did.