Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Spills 'Occam's Razor' Review

Occam's Razor
The Spills
Philophobia Music

Misconceptions. Rhubarb Bomb works hard to promote Wakefield and its music. A mistake is to presume everyone else is up to speed with the changes. It’s easy to forget people outside Wakefield (they do exist…) aren’t as keyed in. A lot of people I meet still think that Escobar is the only venue in Wakefield (it closed in Summer 2010). A lot of people think Lapels are the bright young things of its guitar driven Indie scene (they split in 2009). On occasion, I introduce myself as editor of RB and people think I am Rob Dee (he departed in 2008). What is all this hard work for?

During Rob’s period at the helm, Rhubarb Bomb released a compilation. My old band appeared on it, alongside many others, including The Spills. Since the tailend of 2007, my band split, side projects were formed and duly split or ignored. I started a record label, disbanded a record label and then restarted it 2 years later. I started writing for RB and then took control – it’s been two years now. I met a girl, fell in love and we’ve lived together for 3 years. It’s been a hectic time. One constant in all that time has been The Spills. Same lineup, just getting better, slowly but surely. The sick thing is, the part that blows MY mind is that they only finished Uni this summer. How they manage that?

Whilst Wakefield has transformed around them, The Spills have simply worked and worked and honed and started over and worked some more. With the wisdom of veterans and the sparkle of youth. And if ever anything was going to change those heavily outdated perceptions of Wakefield, it would be their debut album, Occam’s Razor. Not only does it prove how much Wakefield Music has blossomed in the last few years, but also that it - and they - have a fine future ahead.

Recorded mainly over two days, live on to 2 inch tape, it perfectly captures the wonderful energy of a live band. The drums ring and smash wonderfully. The bass rattles along, the guitars, clean as summer streams or raw as horse flesh sushi, fly out of the speakers, directly into your frontal lobe. But don’t be mistaken, it’s not a live cut of the band. So much care has been taken over every detail. Flourishes appear all over, little harmonies, breaks; it’s a great sounding record.

Things open with the lovely ‘Lockets’. A step on from last year’s opener ‘Fish Eye Lens’ (from Smoke Signals EP) it begins in a relaxed, laid back pose, as Guitarist / Singer Chad warmly draws us in, with an engaging, up close feel reminiscent of Russell from The Research. A couple of minutes in, the more familiar scream of singer Rob Slater arrives and all hell breaks loose; anthemic, bittersweet hell. This moment of interplay between Chad and Rob sets up the record and for me it is one of its greatest achievements. I love bands that have a few different singers. Like Sonic Youth, they bounce off one another with style to spare, yet is perhaps the knowing of that long band history that adds that extra special something to the childhood friends towing and froying.

Special moments are plentiful on this record. ‘Summer Vibes’ – wisely chosen as the free download prior to the albums release – is symptomatic of The Spills great leap forward. Equally hook filled pop and hard rocking melancholy it encapsulates the dusk of childhood summers disappearing into an unknown future; at once terrifying and thrilling. ‘Heat Death of The Universe’ channels some ‘In Utero’ heaviness for it’s grand opening and ‘Newton’s Flaming Laser Sword’ recalls labels mates Imp and the toxic, twisted riffology found across their excellent ‘Just Destroyer’ EP. Other Wakefield signposts are visible in some of the twisting guitar freefalls (Runaround Kids) or the heart on sleeve, big beat led poppier moments (The Old House). But overall, it is the sound of a very confident band making it sound easy and fun.

As with Runaround Kids, also on Philophobia Music, I am equal parts pleased, surprised and impressed that a debut album has been released that is this well formed and thought out. It’s a true ‘record’ – meaning it ebbs and flows over its running order. It has hidden moments, it has immediate rushes; it is effortless yet honed to perfection. Yet this shouldn’t be a surprise because though this is their debut, these four people have been playing together for an awful long time. They have worked their craft. The sense of four people in a room coming together and creating something great is palpable. Each plays their part. On some tracks I would say the drums are almost the lead instrument. It’s a perfect balance of musicianship that adds additional layers of sensed excitement, as well as emotion to the overall experience.

So how did a Wakefield band manage this eh? Are The Spills simply a fantastic, on form band that have totally found their groove? Or are there greater forces at work, a convergence of time and space aligning across this record, beamed across the ether from some far and distant future? As The Spills clearly know, the most obvious answer is usually the correct one.

Dean Freeman

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