Pulse review! Jan 10th 2007 by DWIGHT HOBBES Chris Wilson is about as unorthodox a romantic as you're likely to come across, and his band, Bribe the Ghost, has a sound to match. Wilson basically is the group -- that's not a knock against the other guys, but he wrote everything on the debut album, Identity, and does the lion's share of the vocals. The music is along the lines of Tom Rapp from regrettably unsung, '60s folk-experimentalists Pearls Before Swine, but there's also a touch of The Cars in there. When Wilson sings it's a cross between Rex Fowler of durable Boston stalwarts Aztec Two-Step and the early Roger McGuinn - back when he was still calling himself Jim. The last time someone started such an imaginative soft-rock band Arthur Lee formed Love from a mixture of folk and R&B. It's premature, of course, to stack Bribe The Ghost up against the immortal Mr. Lee and cohorts. Still, without question, this group is legit. Especially with lyrics like these from 'Wounded Rock': 'Wounded brick, dimly lit street / shadows know what is in these / softly lead in one to one / meet me over there.' The most readily accessible cut, 'This Is The End,' strongly establishes the group's sound. It's got a driving, hip-slung backbeat with wall-of-sound guitars that intermittently ease off for some very tasty drum work by Michael Gunvalson. Over it all, Wilson sings, 'This is the end / where I can stand and be freely bold / I shattered a window / and found the incoming weather unsettling / well, I stopped caring / why all the drama?' You've also got the first single off the album, 'Lovelorn' a gentle, lilting piece that revolves around Wilson's bitter lyrics: 'Lovelorn, your story has just begun / say, 'sorry', beg forgiveness / this is love / he runs his hands through her hair / and sighs, 'These hands can't give you life / If you take the dive, you cannot return to love lost.'' 'The songs that I write are really an honest reflection of who I am,' says Chris Wilson. 'I don't believe that we are going to get anywhere in this world unless we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Our music is vulnerable.' It also has taken a great deal of care to come up with. Identity is the end result of a collection of songs that Wilson began recording in 2003 with his then band Friendly Contribution while working on the album Where I Am and What To Be. A solo album, Tractor Curtain, followed, but eventually, he decided the right vehicle was a full band. With with himself on guitar, Andrew Milstead on lead, Jordan Leininger on bass and background vocals and Gunvalson, Bribe the Ghost was born. It doesn't hurt that, as Michael Gunvalson (who plays well beyond his 18 years), states, 'Jordan and I have played together our whole lives and it feels that way with Chris and Andrew as well.' As for where the weird name came from, Wilson reflects, 'We got Bribe the Ghost as we were sitting at a restaurant the day of our first show as a band. We all agreed that we liked the idea of ghosts. A ghost can mean a lot of things. To us, Bribe the Ghost is a reflection on the way all people, and society as a whole, don't all necessarily face up to the ghosts in our lives; we just try to hide them or make them go away for a while.' Along with the determinedly industrious Chris Wilson, Bribe the Ghost benefits from one Thomas Smouse, who is co-producer/engineer on Identity as well as a hard-working PR flak and an all-purpose, fire-dousing guardian angel. He brings impressive credentials to this package. Smouse, who heads up his own outfit, Smice Productions, is a staff engineer at St. Paul's Fuzzy Slippers Studios, which is the recording home to, among others, Desdamona and Darnell Davis and the Remnant. He's worked there with The New Congress, premiere R&B songbird Erica West and a long list of others. Smouse is a firm believer in this band. 'I see a lot in Chris as an artist. When he was working on Tractor Curtain, it wasn't the standard guy to come in and say, 'Mic up these drums. I want 'em to sound good.'' Wilson came in with specific notes on what he wanted to walk out with. 'He kind of really pushed me to put mics in different spots. And try mics you never would've thought to try on the snare. Or the kicks. I want this to sound like this. The sounds for the guitar, for his voice. It was a lot more experimenting than any average band would've dealt with. He had a sonic image and the drive to do it.' Clearly, the experimentation paid off. As the title indicates, Identity inarguably establishes a distinct musical presence.