ALBUM REVIEW: Spectrals – Bad Penny

spectrals bad penny

Written for DIY

Deliah’s Musical Recipes: Spectrals (serves 11)

  • 20 oz. Johnny Marr jangly lead guitar parts
  • 2 pints reverb
  • Half dozen self-aware, witty lyrics (or Jens Lekman Substitute)
  • 1 tblsp. sixties Merseybeat rhythm guitar
  • Dash of The La’s
  • 1 tsp. Essence of Sun Records
  • Seasoning

Spectrals are a sort of casserole of a band, combining a wide array of classic indie-rock ingredients into a tasty dish that is much more than simply the sum of its parts. Recalling, in varied measures (as mentioned above), the jangly indie-pop twee of the eighties – but with a bit of Smiths-style bite to the compositions and lyrics – as well as auteurs of the genre such as Lee Mavers and Edwyn Collins, Louis Jones (the man who is Spectrals) also exerts himself further, cherry-picking from the vast back catalogue of modern guitar music, even going so far as to grab some Little Richard boogie-woogie piano or Phil Spector drumming.

Not that we wish to paint Jones as some sort of cynical musical magpie, cannily nicking rock history’s best bits for his own gain. Far from it; everything about ‘Bad Penny’ comes across as entirely organic, with Jones filtering years of music-listening experience through his guitar-playing, funny and reverential lyrics, and at-times-lackadaisical vocals, into something that is entirely his own.

Stand out tracks include “Luck Is There To Be Pushed”, a ballad (although the album is fairly laid-back throughout) where the reverb-soaked vocals float around as a wonderful tinkling piano line which itself skips across a solid rock ‘n’ roll-slowie backing.

For the closest equivalent of this bright, refreshing, but not-unrecognisable act, we have to go across the pond; we’re talking, of course, about Girls, and even they struggled a bit to get over the first hurdle of the debut album at times. Meanwhile, Spectrals have emerged from a cocoon of musical history fully-formed, confident, and with more than the requisite number of quality, timeless songs to ensure their place on the discerning listener’s stereo for years to come (or at least place highly on their obsessively-compiled end-of-year list).

8/10

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