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May 7th, 2008 12:00 am MICHAEL MANNHEIMER | Special Section Stories

10. World’s Greatest Ghosts

24 points


WHO: Jesse, Emily and Casey Laney, Brandon Anderson, John Damiani.

WHAT: Hook-laden synth rock.

SOUNDS LIKE: Wolf Parade covering New Order songs in a muggy North Portland basement.


MOST LIKELY TO BE FOUND: Eating “boozecakes” at the Florida Room, slaying house parties, hiking in the Gorge.

VOTER QUOTE: “Not only are they one of the best synth-pop/rock bands in Portland, they can deliver a song about dungeon-crawling or potion-quaffing without a hint of irony (or metal). I guess this is what happens when D&D players grow up listening to Devo instead of Dio.” —Art Santana, Ground Kontrol manager

Bands break up for many reasons. Wanting to sound like the Smashing Pumpkins usually isn’t one of them—especially for a synth-rock band more used to garnering New Order comparisons than zeitgeist affinity. Laughing between bites of bourbon-spiked boozecakes and Irish coffee, the members of World’s Greatest Ghosts are explaining how their self-imposed break—the band has taken a two-month show hiatus to work on new material—snowballed into one ridiculous rumor. “I think our friend started it,” guitarist Brandon Anderson admits. “If you could prolong that, I’d really appreciate it.”

Answers like this go a long way toward explaining the mystique of WGG, a quintet of out-of-state suburbanites who migrated here after hearing stories of Portland as a mecca for aspiring musicians. The band—composed of singer-keyboardist Jesse Laney, his wife Emily, brother Casey and two close friends—play tight and anthemic rock songs that rely just as much on video-game keyboard blips as killer guitar hooks. The band’s attention to detail and overall sense of, well, geekiness (whether talking favorite records or Lost mythology) is on display in all of its songs, with lyrics that read more like rules to an old Nintendo RPG than your standard boy-meets-girl set.

For all World’s Greatest Ghosts’ dorky tendencies, spending just a few minutes with the band feels more like reconnecting with a long lost friend than sharing a drink with a rock band. So it makes sense that the band, whose debut is on the horizon, prefers playing house shows—where the boundaries between audience and performer are broken within seconds. Then again, not all of WGG’s song subjects are so universal. When asked about his favorite dinosaur (standout song “Prehistoric Forest” mentions both Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex), singer and keyboardist Jesse Laney nonchalantly quips, “What era?” Try posing that question to Billy Corgan.


"Sleepwalkers" (demo) [audio:http://localcut.wweek.com/mp3/sleepwalkers.mp3]

SEE IT: World’s Greatest Ghosts play Tuesday, June 3, at Valentine’s. Website: myspace.com/worldsgreatestghosts
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