This is a review of "Circle Cake" recorded by Spring. The review was written by Sam Saunders in 2004.
Spring have a smooth rock style that has not been much heard in the last twenty five years. Punk - first from America and then in its nastier English variant made it as good as compulsory to throw some tasty venom into each and every musical cake you could bake. Spring are, as far as I can tell, an entirely punk free zone. I tremble to think of the reaction in some Leeds Music Scene circles.
As a fully paid up old fart, I've always regretted the trashing that punk gave to good as well as bad music - I experienced it as the musical accompaniment to Margaret Thatcher I suppose.
But now I've heard Spring, I've got to rethink some of the basics. Have you ever eaten bread made without salt? My first listens to Spring were like that. Not obviously unpleasant or wrong, but deeply puzzling and very odd - and it takes a while to realise what has happened. Spring's album (their third) is unflinchingly nice and very well played, with no discords or shocks. But I find it very difficult to swallow.
Spring are mostly Richard Edward Gibson, guitar, vocal, piano, organ. The rest of the band add one other guitar, a bass and drums (featuring Jonny Wilkinson who has been in the band since the beginning). There is no harmony singing. And that would be very odd if they really were from 1975. The songs are "melodic" without being memorably tuneful. The chord structures tend to set up opportunities for comfortably AOR guitar solos - very often two per song. The single isolated voice (mellow and in tune but not particularly strong or distinctive) becomes hard work after the first six or seven songs. By the time I've heard the whole album three or four times I'm getting a bit twitchy. I have a solo album by David Knopfler* somewhere that I must get out sometime and listen to. I suspect there will be similarities.
The title tune "Circle Cake" is the liveliest and best of the bunch. There's a nice sharp-focus performance-style video to go with it. It’s a song about a circular cake in the mind that you want to take a bite of so you can break the chain. None of the lyrics on the album rise above the ordinary. Some are a bit clumsy. I fear some could be called meaningless: "...never face the facts / can, can care not / never, warmth for someone else", or "living every day with one eye on the stars". Now that's odd. I only ever see the stars at night, unpoetic dolt that I am.
All I can say is that it’s fluently played and that a lot of people have worked hard on producing a very professional looking product. People who buy it from the band's website or at gigs will not be disappointed or short changed in any way. I wish I could like it and say it was worth looking out for. But when I start going on Saga coach tours in a year or two I shall break the windows if they play this kind of stuff on the stereo. I suspect that John Peel would behave much worse.
* David Knopfler's album "Release" is dated 1983 (my copy is on the German Intercord label), and sounds like Dire Straits parodied for a Radio 4 comedy show with less guitar. There are some nice girl chorus bits, a piano song, some saxophone and bits of funkiness. It’s OK and it’s much more varied than Spring.