Friday, 17 August 2012

Spector - Enjoy It While It Lasts

The perceived wisdom is that in the early 2000’s British guitar music seemed to find a spark of life missing since the death throes of Britpop. Inspired by the sparky American sounds of The Strokes and The Killers and led by hot homegrown talent like Franz Ferdinand and Kasabian, picking up a battered guitar and a pair of Converse seemed like a sure fire way to musical success. Soon the gloss faded however and the latecomers to the party found themselves shut out in the cold. Spector frontman Fred Macpherson has done his time in indie also-rans Les Incompetents and Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man and seems to have spent most of it taking notes, possibly in rather flawed shorthand.

Still, his previous spells in the almost spotlight appear to have gifted him an apparently bulletproof stage persona; all self-consciously gawky glasses and ever-present comb in his top pocket. His presence may be more East London hipster than impeccably cool Brian Ferry-alike and the bon mots he drops in interviews may come across as snarky but calculated arrogance but if there’s one thing his band can’t be accused of its lacking a sense of the theatrical.

Unfortunately whilst a sense of drama is not something Spector are short on, a few lessons in both subtlety and originality would not go amiss. From the cover onwards ‘Enjoy It While It Lasts’ is the shallowest album of the year, a ridiculous dredging up of indie rock clichés and fourth-hand ideas. The guitars are limp facsimiles of The Strokes whilst with ‘No Adventure’ and ‘Twenty Nothing’ they deliver a cut-price take on the Killers synth-assisted bluster. And don’t get me started on the ‘soul’ backing vocals, which are just too toe-curlingly awful to warrant column inches. There also seems to be a misplaced belief at work that Phil Spector achieved his legendary Wall of Sound by adding lots of frills and dialling them all up to almost Spinal Tap levels of self-parody.

Despite the numerous flaws there are at least one or two upsides however. There are plenty of reasons to hate the faux-Americanisms of ‘Chevy Thunder’ but the hollering pedal to the metal chorus is not one of them. Instead feel free to pick on the cheesy guitar solo, the portentous lyrics or the fact that if you stole a car to take out your girlfriend out in East London you’d be more likely to be caught in tailbacks from Olympic traffic than live out your budget Springsteen fantasies. Elsewhere ‘Celestine’ manages to use the album’s best melody in its opening line and hits such a velocity that it’s almost impossible to be swept away by its full throttle momentum.

Coming into this album I was quite prepared to deliver a hatchet job and don’t get me wrong in many ways ‘Enjoy It While It Lasts’ is a wretched album but there comes a point when twisting the knife ceases to be fun. Part of the reason that the indie bands of the early 2000’s were so successful was that you really wanted to be Alex Kapranos, with his hand-on-hip come-on’s, or Jack White ripping out fretboard melting licks. With Spector you don’t so much want to be them as just give them a good slap. Enjoy it while it lasts? Advice the band should definitely bear in mind if this is as good as they get, but when Macpherson sings ‘You know I’ll never fade away’ you can tell that even if Spector themselves faded away tomorrow he’d be back sooner or later in another guise or another place, still desperate to hear his songs bellowed back by hordes of people, and that, in its own way, is kind of endearing.


Max Sefton

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