This is a review of "Sob Story" recorded by Spectrals. The review was written by Jimmy Horrigan in 2013.
I've been keen to review this for a while but trying to clear the queue down when you're an idle bugger is a taxing albeit infrequent chore. "Sob Story" has been playing in the car for weeks and more frequently since I saw Spectrals at Beacons. It's one of the best things I've heard all year. In fact it's one of my favourite albums of the last few years. I'm going to struggle to tell you why without sounding like I'm on the Wichita payroll which, sadly, I'm not. Trust me on this one if never again: this is one hell of an album.
An infinitesimal list of reasons explains why "Sob Story" and I get along so. The music's honest, achingly catchy and timeless, and although I can hear a host of possible influences, the Spectrals' sound rises above the the melting pot with unique and enticing aromas. The rhythms are simple yet they underpin an instant connection with the songs for me: the familial but not emulative. This isn't pretentious music either and I love it for that. It's as far removed from hipster platitudes as you can imagine but somehow the band and their sound exude a defined cool without any hint of effort or brag. It could be the dots I hear joining Spectrals to the British music of my teens (1988 - 1995), revivalists like France's Shit Browne ("Every single penny will be reinvested in the party" LP, 2010, on Asphalt Duchess.... track it down!), Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen and Detroit Cobras. I don't know what it is exactly. Maybe it's the acme of all these trails or that it just happens to be the sort of music I'd write if I was blessed with the requisite talent. It's damn effective whatever it is.
There are some brilliant song titles on "Sob Story" which after watching them perform and seeing their unassuming style shine subtly through in person bear an even more wry and northern tone. "Keep you magic out of my house", "Something to cry about" and "Karaoke" have a certain terroir or nomenclature about them that's as Yorkshire as Kes or Stott Hall Farm. As for the music you need to see for yourself. It'll take you little over forty minutes to see why I am the way I am about it.
I don't really do favourites on an album as consistently good but if pushed then the guitars on "Karaoke" are very special and dreamy - taking me back to sunny fields and carefree days of my youth, the strength of opener "Let me cave in" which sets the standard for the rest of the album with a Costello vibe as good as anything by The Imposter himself, the addictive punchiness and Bolan-esque throb of "A heartbeat behind" and the restrained anthem that is "Milky Way" are all up there for me. That said now I'm on my gazillionth listen of the week I've now discovered that it's "Limousine" I love the most. Or is it the refined glam racket of "Keep your magic out of my house"? Oh, I don't know! Oh well, such a great crop of songs for your second album - it's nothing to cry about.
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