“Supergroup” is a term best used sparingly with regard to any assemblage of veteran rockers. The personnel of Velvet Revolver, for instance, may well have had broad name recognition, but in terms of actual songs, weren’t particularly super. The inverse is true of Portland’s Hungry Ghost, a trio of established if mostly underappreciated musicians from the Pacific Northwest whose combined talents definitely add up to something worth crowing about. Bassist Lorca Wood, formerly of The Drags, and guitarist Andrew Price, having once served as member of arty jazz rock combo The Irving Klaw Trio, share vocal duties, their fiery, bluesy back-and-forth echoing the charismatic dynamic of The Kills, or at its best, the punk rock harmonies of X’s John Doe and Exene Cervenka.
There is, however, a not-so-secret weapon that blows the group’s punk-blues numbers into a realm far beyond that of most post-Stones sleaze-rockers — drummer Sara Lund. Lund was named one of Treble’s 50 Favorite Drummers for her incendiary backing of Unwound’s darkly driving post-hardcore anthems, and offers up some equally powerful performances here, bolstering each gritty, raunchy strut with a kind of punk rock punch that kicks the band’s self-titled, self-released debut into overdrive.
Produced by Quasi’s Sam Coomes, Hungry Ghost’s debut sticks to a pretty simple approach. Guitar, bass and drums; blues riffs; reverb; male and female vocals; sneers and swagger make up essentially the entirety of this 33-minute session. But from these fairly straightforward means, the PDX trio wrings an impressive amount of variety and sustains a continuously exciting sound. The thunderous slam of “Powerman” injects some Sabbath-sized boom into Black Keys-style boogie. Slithering slides and some sassy maraca shakes get “Graham St. Massacre” slithering into a drunken, sexy mood. And the subdued slink of “Alice” allows Wood to take the lead, as Price taps into some delicious psychedelia with his guitar riffs. These are just a few of the album’s strongest moments, though there are no weak spots to speak of. When held up against each member’s previous band’s work, Hungry Ghost is a bit more back to basics, but for sheer thrills most definitely holds its own. It’s only rock and roll, but I like it.
Stream: Hungry Ghost – “Shame”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.