This second Downes-Braide is a different beast to their lively pop-prog debut.
Suburban Ghosts reflects upon personal dislocation from the duo’s childhood world in Cheshire and late 70s and 80s British social history. Much is geared towards conjuring up echoes of that time, from the cover graphics to the keyboard sounds and programmed drums. The deliberate lack of extraneous instrumentation (a guitar solo from XTC/Big Big Train’s Dave Gregory excepted) focuses the listener perhaps towards the impressive Chris Braide and his affecting melodies and astute lyrics. Hints of The Pet Shop Boys pervade Machinery of Fate and Suburban Ghosts Pt.3; there’s a Tears For Fears quality to North Sea. Short piano-heavy tracks like Vanity and Interlude would sit happily on recent Yes albums, and passionate cry to the hopeless One Of The Few could almost be a Buggles track. However, both the songwriting and Braide’s voice provide an identity that transcends all these reference points. The album’s success doesn’t stem from any techno-flash (which it largely lacks). but rather in its personal reflections on the past and evocations of an era’s musical and social landscape.