Making his bow in the early '80s from the somewhat unlikely locale of Jackson, MS as half of the songwriting quotient of the Windbreakers, Bobby, partnered with Tim Lee, would be responsible for three memorable albums of collegiate guitar pop (Terminal (1985), Run (1986) and A Different Sort (1987), not to mention a handful of preceding EPs. Fortified with national distribution, despite being anchored to smaller indie labels the Windbreakers were something of a staple on left-of-the-dial radio outlets, and were a decent live draw, but they didn't come close to breaching the mainstream. To fans of jangle-laden indie rock coming remotely from the same environs as R.E.M. (and maybe less so the Dream Syndicate) the Windbreakers were a breath of fresh air. They were advanced enough to exist in the '80s, yet managed to thoroughly sidestep the most egregious and embarrassing trends of the era. When OGR was released the 'breakers were still a going concern and from what I've been able to glean there was no acrimony between Sutliff and Lee. That said, it was advisable for Bobby to put the album's eleven songs under a separate umbrella.
Just to get a little bit of trivia out of the way, Only Ghosts..., essentially began life as a Mitch Easter-produced five song EP, the lovingly dubbed Another Jangly Mess, that was only available as a European import which I've seen conflicting release dates of 1986/87. Another one of Bobby's collaborators, not to mention erstwhile music publicist Howard Wuelfing was so enamored with what he heard that he encouraged PVC/Jem Records to bankroll the recording of another batch of songs, once again with Mitch Easter at his fabled Drive-in Studios to flesh out an entire LP. Thus, Only Ghosts... was born. Despite being culled from two sessions the album doesn't feel patchworked together in the least, and is as consistent if not more so than anything the Windbreakers had been responsible for up until that point.
During the era surrounding OGR's recording/release, the Windbreakers was ostensibly Bobby's main meal ticket - yet not one iota of the record sounds half-hearted, or casually strewn together. Retaining much of the 'breakers edgy, forward-thinking pallor while simultaneously emboldening Bobby's overarching sonic heft, this was an album that seemingly had one foot steeped in indie rock aesthetics, with the other sporting an ambitious stride that could have instantly impressed more pedestrian ears.
The Windbreakers were partial to downcast themes and moreover, were known to exude a pessimistic tenor when it suited them, but as a solo entity Bobby was discernably more assured, and even downright confident. The driving, decided "Same Way Tomorrow" made for a primo opening salvo, declaring something of a brash clarion call. "Always Love You" and "Couldn't Help Myself" mine a similar, if slightly less strenuous vein. Further in, Only Ghosts... reveals itself as more of a mid-tempo specimen, albeit our protagonist is wont to circumvent traditional ballads. The overall effect is comparable to the first couple of Matthew Sweet albums, not to mention the Sweet-adjacent Velvet Crush precursor Choo Choo Train. Intoxicating jangly and strummy notions like "Won't Be Feeling Blue" pour down like an unremitting waterfall, and while the context of any given Bobby Sutliff tune is a cinch to glom onto, there's more than surface level depth at play here. OGR may not rewrite or out-innovate anything that came before it (by the Windbreakers or otherwise) but it's nonetheless a life affirming example of par-excellence power pop, with an aptitude that's nothing short of wholly earnest.
As mentioned above, Only Ghosts Remain has been given a new lease on life on the label that originally minted it, Jem Records. The album's original running order has been bested with eleven additional cuts from three of Bobby's subsequent albums (Bitter Fruit, Perfect Dream and On a Ladder). Amazon has you covered via CD or digitally.