Spector ‘Enjoy It While It Lasts’ – Review

21 Aug

I’ve spent a lot of time recently lamenting the lack of good guitar music in the charts and pining for a return to the days of my youth when listening to the top 40 show on Radio 1 wasn’t (always) torture. Spector are pining for the same thing. They specialise in that particular type of indie pop that emphasises anthemic choruses and catchy guitar hooks, whilst keeping the lyrics simple and the rhythm section functional. Listen to them and it could be 2005 all over again, and I don’t think this is a bad thing. Recently I’ve been revisiting a lot of the albums from this time; records by The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party and, of course, The Strokes. What strikes me now, as it did then, is how fresh, urgent and necessary these records sound. Seasoned critics may have found these bands too derivative of older groups but to my generation, oblivious to The Ramones, Joy Division and Orange Juice, this was all new and exciting. Yes, they borrowed heavily from post-punk, New wave and whatever else, but what they lacked in originality they made up for in sheer charm, wit and an abundance of catchy tunes. They also made the top of the charts, which is more than can be said for the bands critics always compared them to!

Over 12 songs Spector perfect the formula they so clearly admire and they rarely (if ever) stray from it, which is both their strength and only real weakness. If this type of music is your thing, like it is mine, then you will love Spector.  I’d bet my life on it. They have anthems by the bucket-load (more than say The Killers or Kaiser Chiefs had at this point in their careers) and very little in terms of filler. If you aren’t a fan of this type of music then move on. There is nothing for you here.

You’ll probably be familiar with the singles so I won’t go in to detail to describe them, except to say that they’re as catchy/frantic/soaring/derivative/delightful (*delete where applicable*) as you remember. ‘Never Fade Away’ remains the highlight and the version they’ve put on the album is perfectly realised, with strings and harmonies galore. The same can not be said of ‘What You Wanted, their other fan favourite, which has been stripped of the spontaneity and energy it once possessed by that Nu-Rave relic Tom Vek who has (over)produced the track. The version here has clearly been built for the radio but unfortunately it’s a shiny, shimmering ghost of the song it used to be. Luckily the other singles haven’t been tampered with, and whilst they’re still a tad over-done, they sound great on the album.

Of the new songs ‘Lay Low’ is a highlight for similar reasons to ‘Never Fade Away’; say what you want about Spector but they know how to execute power ballads. They are also pretty masterful with the upbeat-indie-disco-sing-alongs. If  ‘Chevvy Thunder’ doesn’t knock you out with its  sonic ferocity then its sugary melody and hilariously melodramatic lyrics will. ‘Celestine’ and ‘Twenty Nothing’ are also impressively built pop songs that betray the fact that Fred has been studying his craft in various bands for the best part of a decade. Now, at last, he’s struck gold.

On first glance the album’s title might refer to the possibility of limited success and popularity, something Fred is only too used to, but it may equally refer to the fleeting nature of love. Every single song on the record deals with the breakdown of a relationship in one way or another; like the musical singularity there is very little diversity when it comes to the lyrics on ‘Enjoy It While It Lasts’, but they absolutely nail their subject. Anyone who’s seen Spector interviewed will know that if frontman Fred ever decides to quit music he will make a top-notch comedian. He converts his humorous wit into his lyrics, which, whilst fairly superficial, contain more than a few thoughtful soundbites. For example ‘now I’m riding shotgun, wonder how it feels, now his car’s got two third wheels’, ‘I tasted a hundred  friends of mine on your lips’ and ‘the night we took your boat out is still replaying in my mind, it’s moored to my memory, sunk by the passage of time’. As I say, not really insightful, but a cut above what we’re used to from this type of band.

So Spector know their strengths and they play too them – i.e making catchy, simple songs about being broken-hearted. Whilst there is nothing wrong with that, it makes for a rather two-dimensional album. Rather than being served a deliciously varied twelve course meal we’ve been given the desert course twelve times, and it’s lovely, but it leaves me feeling slightly nauseous. They could learn from their two most obvious contemporaries; The Drums make similar music to Spector but that group’s stripped back sound and lyrical approach reveals subtleties that Spector can still only dream of. The Vaccines also target a similar sound but their album contains peaks, valleys, contrasts and conflicts ‘Enjoy It While It Lasts’ struggles to match.

And still, with all that in mind, Spector have given us some of the best pop songs I’ve heard all year. As an album it sometimes struggles to make the grade but as a collection of stunning singles and better than average album tracks, It more than succeeds. Spector warn us that they may not last, but if they carry on making tunes as fantastic as these then I have no doubts that a big audience will demand album number two.

8.5/10

9/10

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