Shoegeeze: Monster Movies members attain elder-statesmen status.s members attain elder-statesmen status.

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Guitarist Christian Savill could have stopped making music after Souvlaki—the seminal 1993 Slowdive album that along with My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless and Ride’s Nowhere makes up the holy trinity of shoegazer albums—and still earned a spot in the dream-pop hall of fame. Savill left Slowdive in 1995 during the recording of Pygmalion, essentially a self-indulgent ambient-electronica project for bandleader Neil Halstead, but thankfully, he didn’t remain silent, at least for too long. In 2000, Savill reacquainted himself with Sean Hewson, a member of his pre-Slowdive outfit Eternal, and the two formed Monster Movie. Since then, the duo has been productive if unhurried, recording four full-lengths and an EP, even as a new generation of ’gazers, from Beach House to the xx, has garnered attention that has, for the most part, eluded Monster Movie. In a just world, the group’s excellent new album, Everyone Is a Ghost, would correct that. No longer should Monster Movie be runner-up behind Spoon in the popularity contest among bands with names inspired by Can: With Everyone Is a Ghost, Monster Movie proves why its members should be lauded as elder statesmen of ethereal downer-pop. Which might be a paradox, since the album’s key innovation over Monster Movie’s past releases is enthusiasm. Some credit must go to label owner and Black Moth Super Rainbow member Ryan Graveface, who plays and sings on the release. The songs crackle with vitality, which is only slightly odd for an album that is plainly obsessed with death. Consider “How the Dead Live,” with its softly strummed acoustic guitar and angelic synths, amid which the band sweetly sings of a town where the “people around here are always sad and lonely” and the houses are “always cold inside.” Or take the title track’s narcotized beats and whoosh-y synths, and this grim yet hopeful observation: “There is no heaven/There are just stars/That I try to catch as they fall past.” Just don’t be discouraged by the bleak vibes: As with all classic downer albums, Everyone Is a Ghost’s brilliant hooks and golden sounds dissipate the gloomy clouds like a strict regimen of Paxil. Of course, nothing turns a frown upside down like unintentionally comedic lyrics: “Bored Beyond Oblivion” features, in addition to a compellingly motorik beat, lyrics that could be a parody of teen ennui but that listeners may take on face value: “Outside of the strip mall, I feel confused.” (I know, right? Should I get a Subway footlong before or after I grab a pack of AAAs from Radio Shack?) Ultimately, Monster Movie has made a beautiful record, if an intermittently cheerless and vacuous one that no one will confuse for the most original album of the year—“Down, Down, Down” sounds like Grandaddy or the Flaming Lips, while “How the Dead Live” could easily pass for something by Richard Davies. Of course, all those musicians probably stole a bit from Slowdive in the first place, anyway.