Album Review: Buggy Jive’s “The Ghost of Alexander”

ALBANY – Some people seem to have no problem with constantly creating fantastic pieces of music. This is certainly the case for Buggy Jive, and his latest release, The Ghost of Alexander, which came out December 1st. The record is an amalgamation of soul, blues, funk, folk(?!), and more. With a sound that is as intriguing as it is unique, Buggy has crafted yet another collection of songs rife with prose – the lyrical concepts are, as always, stellar – groove, and heart.

Opening the album is “A Dream I Was to Remember and Dream Again.” It features an incredible funky, syncopated rhythm between drums, synth, and bass. The processing on the vocals for this track, which is mainly the same groove over and over again, really works to build intrigue. And, although it’s a good primer for the record, Buggy is just getting started.

“Encyclopedia Black and the Case of You,” track two, incorporates a drum and bass groove track that remind me of nostalgic music from some of my favorite video games from the 1990’s. Inserting random samples throughout the track, such as when he sings about “dropping a needle,” and then we hear a record scratch, makes the track very immersive and enjoyable. While the guitar is incredibly sparse on this track – consisting mainly of a part that has randomly placed harmonics – every bit of instrumentation is added in just the right way. Buggy Jive has a great sense of harmony, in terms of instrumental and vocal, and really showcases that ability in this song. During the latter half of the tune, we hear a heavily processed guitar solo that floats in and under the vocal part. At times, it’s hard to tell whether this is a synth made to sound like a guitar, or vice versa!

One thing that’s simply unmistakable is Buggy’s talent in blending instrumentation. Take for instance, “Law of Averages,” track three. The raucous guitars, bass, and drums, combine perfectly in this intro, and are even amplified further when the vocals enter. This piece’s lyrical content, as well as the complex time signature, makes for a compelling listen. Throughout the song, we hear the narrator proclaim how he “ain’t your average American,” yet at the very end of the tune, he states, before being cut off, that he’s average in a way that brilliantly outlines some of his social commentary.

Taking things in a much slower direction, the slow-paced swing tune, “She Wants to Party While the World Burns,” track five, has great elements of Americana, blended with classic Gospel sounds. The latter is especially true when evaluating the backup vocals. One of the things I particularly enjoy on this track is the guitar tone achieved by Buggy Jive: it’s deliciously creamy with tons of snarl. When considering his discography – in the view of this listener – upon an initial listen of The Ghost of Alexander, Buggy’s ability to coax certain tones from his instrument, has vastly improved, and is in a whole new level of production goodness!

“Let the Words Reveal Themselves,” track five, features a wonderfully ear-grabbing groove that outlines a set of lyrics that are perhaps autobiographical. Definitely tongue-in-cheek, I’d argue they are relatable to most songwriters. Phrases such as “this song can go to hell,” is a sentiment many – myself included – have felt from time to time. The chords formed by the vocal harmonies, in conjunction with the instrumentation, are extremely lush. It’s quite extraordinary how Buggy uses all of the notes across vocals and instruments to form an overall chord. The guitar solo that occurs during this track’s latter half is quite enjoyable, and well-placed.

The following track is “Lizard Brains and Tingly Parts.” A song whose title is introduced immediately in the a cappella intro, takes absolutely no time to establish a groove. All of these songs in the collection are fantastic, but this is by far my favorite. The robotic, spoken-word section that introduces the song’s bridge is unexpected, yet somehow feels familiar. I must admit, I didn’t expect to hear Stravinsky referenced on this record, but here we are! It’s instances like that which make Buggy Jive’s music so hard to pin down for influences, all that is abundantly clear is his talent in creating groove after groove. During the outro, the freneticism of the track is nullified, and the song becomes quite peaceful sounding, leading appropriately into the next song.

“Vivienne,” a chill piece that has a waltz-feel, is mainly accompanied by clean guitar parts, as well as defined harmonies. This is just another example showcasing how well-read Buggy is, which undoubtedly helps inform his unique and captivating prose within his lyrics.

Nearing the end of the record, we get to its title track, “The Ghost of Alexander.” For the intro, we hear a dreamy synth that serves as a bedrock for the guitar and bass. Much of this bass part sounds like the instrument is being strummed, rather than plucked. The synth seems to ebb and flow depending on whether or not we are listening to a musical interlude. For the most part, the groove remains constant. Though there are some staccato parts, the legato nature of the chorus really helps the song to flow along. Having string parts bring the song to its conclusion is a nice arrangement choice.

The closing track, “Make Me Water,” is rife with a nice, chugging rhythm. Buggy really explores great, overdriven and bluesy sonic textures here. Blending Gospel elements with other characteristics of the Blues reminds this listener of terrific soul records from the 1970’s. Serving as the longest track on The Ghost of Alexander, “Make Me Water,” is a journey through amalgamations of genres. During the middle section, Buggy introduces a rap section that carries its way through for a long time, before returning to the song’s refrain. The song is all about Buggy Jive’s appreciation for his hometown of Schenectady, and he executes it really well. Ending the song, and thus the record with a long outro of water whooshing to and fro, we come to the conclusion of yet another fantastic record from Buggy Jive!

Some artists just have a way about them. Buggy Jive, fits that characteristic to a T. It’s unclear how the artist manages to produce record after record with songs that never drift toward sounding like “filler,” but somehow, he does! Fans of Blues, Soul, Rock, and so much more will definitely be able to sink their teeth into this album. Check it out for yourself here.

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