This is a review of "Robert The Bruces Spider" recorded by Instant Species. The review was written by Russell Leeming in 2006.
First, a little story...
It was at The Junction in York 2003 when I felt truly rock and roll for the first time. The sadly missed Liquid Blue wowed me with a selection of Wheeler/Dawson penned classics including 'Different Star', 'Lovin' It Now' and 'My Obsession'. The wonderfully talented Russell Leeming made his one and only performance on York's music scene, singing his own classic 'Wheeler's Chair' with the blue boys to rapturous applause.
Sample lyric - "Wheeler's chair / he bought it yesterday / from BHS / it's got no legs".
Almost as good as 'Dagenham Dave'. Almost. However, this was not my first true rock and roll moment - for that came around 45 minutes later with the arrival of the headline act, Instant Species.
You see that particular evening my Sixth Form history teacher made an appearance and the impact Instant Species made was huge. As the gig wore on the excitement factor grew and thus, more and more alcohol was being consumed. "This is fantastic!!" I thought to myself. "I'm getting pissed and my history teacher is here! Awesome!!". This was my first true rock moment.
And now I'm here again, feeling rather guilty. Having enjoyed the gig so much, I took my lime green Species badge and flaunted it round school - without ever listening to the band again. It felt cool to champion an 'unsigned' band, and people would come up to me and ask me who they were: "Ahh, Instant Species", I would reply. "They do a damn good cover of 'My Michelle'. You should check them out..."
It's time to put things right then, and 'Robert The Bruces Spider' certainly shows me what I've been missing in my transformation from Oasis worshipping indie boy to local music seeker. 'Waltz In A Minor' and 'The Shops Own' are two of the most immediate tracks, with the latter drawing comparisons with The Futureheads' finest moments - surely credit to Instant Species that of all the recent 'NME worshipped bands', it is one of the more unique whose influence shines through.
There are more refreshing moments that distinguish Instant Species from many of the bands more popularly well known to the public's ear. Even on their SIXTH album, Species manage to spread different styles over merely minutes of music. 'Poker Face', 'Your Brother Harry' and 'Love Hooks' is a three song sequence that intrigues the listener with an explosion of different genres, marking out Instant Species as the most forward thinking band of the moment - take 'Your Brother Harry' for example. With a mixture of upbeat sunshine sounds and interesting lyrics focusing on meeting a partners family (we've all been there), the song could EASILY be a hit single. Follow up 'Love Hooks' on the other hand, is a mysterious track that sounds like Nine Black Alps pouncing on an unsuspecting 'Parklife'-era Blur and taking their choruses through a rip-roaring rock assault. It's a journey that takes many twists and turns but still manages to be consistent.
If there is a filler here (and this is clutching at straws) it's the Ska-by-numbers 'Tax Man Funny Man'. The content of the song probably strikes a chord with everybody though ("It's not that funny / he took my money / and now he's laughing all the way to the bank") so I'll let them off. However, following track 'Hombrecide' is another would be single, a track that has a dirty Mexican disco sound. Maybe someone should play it to Ricardo Lavolpe, the Tom Jones lookalike chain smoking manager of Mexico. To see him smile would be a real treat for the poor pressured soul - it's the best track here and the ambiguity of the song title only adds to its success. There's also some “HEY”s in there too which make me want to punch the air. So that's good.
As 'You're So Right' brings the album to a riproaring close you have to wonder where Instant Species will go now. 'Robert The Bruces Spider' certainly has enough material to warrant a record deal and shows them to be a unique act, even six albums in to their careers. It has become a tedious cliché to call bands 'fresh' and 'exciting' but Instant Species really are more than this - 'Men Of The Sea' is a prime example in taking The Coral's sea shanty rhythm and developing it further. In doing so, they beat the scousers at their own game. The main ingredient that makes 'Robert The Bruces Spider' however is universal appeal. Yes, it's an album made for themselves, but it is also an album made for everyone else - a neat trick that so many acts fail to nail. All in all, If I hear a better 'unsigned' album this year I'll be very surprised.
Now, where's that badge gone?