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    Bad Penny 8 ( 2011 )
    Get a Grip / Lockjaw / You Don't Have to Tell Me / Big Baby / Many Happy Returns / You Can't Live on Love Alone / Doing Time / Confetti / Luck Is There to Be Pushed / Brain Freeze / If I Think About the Magic Will It Go Away?

    Spectrals are the work of Yorkshire based singer/songwriter Louis Jones, who found fame but no fortune in putting music up on the web, getting noticed, releasing a variety of singles on various DIY records to lead up to 'Bad Penny', his début full-length release. Fans of 80s indie-pop will find much to admire here, Spectrals is a lo-fi sounds with twee or jangling guitars, much echo and reverb and the odd, deliberately placed out-of-tune moment or three. 'Many Happy Returns' is delightful in reminding this listener of 80s band Microdisney, who comprised future members of High Llamas and Fatima Mansions. Jones lead vocals are often, well, always mixed no higher than any single instrument, so tends to fade into the overall sound - a typical 80s indie trick. He kind of croons in places, almost but not quite coming across as an actual singer. You do tend to think of his vocals as a means to an end, something to get his words out and to go with his melodies, rather than anything overly focused upon. 'You Can't Live On Love Alone' is an indie Phil Spector girl-group audition, the opening 'Get A Grip' features clever and playful lyrical couplets and chiming bell-like guitars amid a gloriously 80s indie kind of summery feel. 'You Don't Have To Tell Me' sounds almost identical to 'Get A Grip', slight variations musically and a vocal hidden beneath the guitars being enough to differentiate.

    With each song lasting an economical two to three minutes, any single track failing to convince hardly matters, 'Confetti' and 'Lockjaw' are much of nothing, but each song is over before you've even really noticed them, whilst the highlights have subtle melodies that stick in your mind but not enough to clumsily wedge themselves forcibly in. These melodies are the kind that welcome you back, listen after listen, 'Luck Is There To Be Pushed' reminds this listener of a lo-fi 'Style Council' albeit with a vocalist seemingly allowing his vocals to merely float lazily in from the garden outside whilst the widow is ajar to capture fragments of breeze. As a début, 'Bad Penny' demonstrates enough encouraging signs to hope for a decent future for Spectrals without being a demanding or shouty 'look at me' kind of record. No, this is a subtle album of occasional shimmering brilliance. If his early singles and tracks are anything to go by, the 2nd album will likely sound little like this one, but let's hope not too much so - I'm a real sucker for mid-eighties indie-pop. Long live Microdisney (RIP) and long live Spectrals.

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    Sob Story ( 2013 )
    Let Me Cave In / A Heartbeat Behind / Karaoke / Sob Story / Milky Way / Friend Zone / Limousine / Something To Cry About / Blue Whatever / Keep Your Magic Out of My House / Gentle / In A Bad Way

    If you want a long-lasting career like Bob Dylan or The Fall, it's best to make sure every single album you make has at least one duff track. One duff track? Yes, that way, you are never seen to peak, you never have an 'OK Computer' type albatross over your neck - even The Beatles saw fit to rope in Ringo to make sure each album could potentially have been that slightly bit better. So, Spectrals release their second album, with at least one absolute stinker of a song, along several which border on genius and others that see Spectrals try to be Marc Bolan fronting some undefined eighties rock band. As the first song fades out with Louis Jones emotive singing 'Let Me Cave In', 'A Heartbeat Behind' begins and immediately becomes the best indie pop song since about 1997. 'Karaoke' sees him fitting Marc Bolan type vocals into a jingle jangle indie mode, and marvellous it is too - these two songs alone should earn the album a ten out of ten, but of course, he has seen fit to also put a couple of clunkers in to keep us interested the next time around! Does anybody know Syd Barrett and his song 'Opel'? It was intriguing, the mind of a madmen strumming away on acoustic guitar and sounding painful, yet also somewhat stunning?

    The title track here features pedal steel guitar, mumbled vocals and sounds better when you have heard it ten times and not three - it is trying, the lethargic pace and dodgy vocals, yet ultimately it overcomes its own in-built flaws to reward a listener Spectrals are the best new act I've come across since about 2001, John Peel would love them. Are they one man, are they a band - hardly matters. 'Milky Way' opens with the most clichéd drum pattern possible, but then he opens with his mumbled and twisted Marc Bolan vocals, and melodies that are shining jewels that you cannot possibly put a price on - he's not afraid being simple and being passionate, and to enjoy his job as a singer songwriter. 'Friend Zone' stinks, this is the song I've hinted at as a stinker - he's not Bob Dylan or Marc Bolan and this isn't even a tune. 'Limousine' and 'Something To Cry About' pass by innocuously, but enjoyably. I enjoy the sound, it's indie re-born for the 21st century - no small matter! When 'Give Me Something To Cry About' gets going, and it's only two minutes long, it's like WOW - this guy was born with melodies in his fingertips. 'Blue Whatever' also isn't much of an actual song, but he twists his vocals and becomes Marc Bolan fronting Felt - a wet dream for this listener and a rock n roll solo exists for about 5 seconds a minute in! 'Keep Your Magic Out Of My House' is Sweet crossed with Velvet Underground, a combination never considered a sane one until now, and on Lou Reed's 'Transformer' LP, of course.

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    this page last updated 26/01/14

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