Spesh - Famous World - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Spesh - Famous World

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:7 Release Date:2018-09-28
Spesh - Famous World
Spesh - Famous World

Spesh are absolutely wallowing in late 80s/early 90s British alt-rock culture with their debut album Famous World, which is funny, considering they're a contemporary quartet based in Seattle. They're hitting all the right notes here, sounding like half a dozen different bands from those two decades. Even the album's cover reminds me of the Blur album Parklife. The set is mostly rock, broadly speaking, but with plenty of other flavors and charming flourishes mixed in. Throughout, they manage to keep things high-energy and engaging.

Opening track 'Teflon' sounds partly like a throwback, but also pretty fresh.  Like much of the album, it's upbeat and peppy, with a sense of fun for its own sake. In 'Orange Man', the band pulls off a decent impression of The Smiths, although lead singer Michael McKinney sounds nothing like Morrissey. Instead, he's got the slightly abrasive chops of some like Julian Casablancas of The Strokes. But the music here is energetic and fun, with redolent guitars. Single 'Candy Legs' too has a smoothly jangling guitar leading the way. It's the album's first single, and the video for it just screams early 90s, with stream-of-consciousness cavorting by everyone involved filling up the entire run time. On other tracks, like 'Tomato Rose', there's a decidedly more shoegaze approach, almost like a male vocalist fronting Lush.

I find 'Gorgeous' to be a bit tiresome, as it sounds more like Happy Mondays, a band for which I never had much patience. The same kind of lilting vocals and goofy melody turns me off just as I was back in the 90s. Luckily, this is an aberration on the generally solid set. 'Olympic Mango' is nearby stylistically, but works better with it's smartly snappy riffs and winking cynicism. There is a bit of a lull on the next track, 'P.A.R.K.A.', which is inoffensive and workmanlike, but relatively bland.

The band pull it back together on 'Counterfeit', which brightens up the guitar to good effect, becoming less muddy and definitely hitting that Smiths stride again. 'Leaves' keeps the party going, gently racing along with freewheeling joy and a noticeably more powerful bass and percussion. And just when it seems like the album might be out of surprises, final track 'Divine' goes all the way synth pop, with a bouncy, fun melody that could have been crafted by a group like Stepdad or Architecture in Helsinki.

The word that keeps popping up for me with this set is fun. There is a sense of wistful nostalgia with a lot of the work, but it deftly avoids slipping into maudlin melancholy. I've hit this point a few times already, but this most sounds like what The Smiths would have been with a happier lead singer. If you were listening to anything from England with melodies and guitars in the 80s and 90s, you'll be well pleased with this set.

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