Spiral Stairs - We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Spiral Stairs - We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized

by Alberto Andrés Rating:6 Release Date:2019-03-22
Spiral Stairs - We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized
Spiral Stairs - We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized

Though his solo work might not be as renowned as that of his former bandmate Stephen Malkmus, Pavement’s Scott Kannberg aka Spiral Stairs has been slowly building a solid solo catalogue over the years. Kannberg’s guitar chops are often recognised as a fundamental part of the Pavement sound, but he doesn’t get enough credit for having sung lead vocals on some of the band’s best songs. As a solo artist, Spiral Stairs is pretty much all about what he brought to the table with Pavement: nice catchy melodies and great guitar lines.

Two years after the release of the rock-solid Doris and the Daggers, Spiral Stairs is putting out his third album We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized. A ten-song collection of relatively straightforward rock tunes, this is your typical “middle-aged guitar guy past his prime” album. Unfortunately, most of the album marks a departure from Kannberg’s alternative rock roots. Much like with Stephen Malkmus’ least-inspired efforts, an overwhelming majority of the songs on We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized fall into dad-rock territory. That’s not a bad thing per se, and Kannberg certainly makes it work when his songwriting is up to standard. However, the songs aren’t strong enough to warrant repeated listens and, bar the odd example (namely “Hyp-No-Tized”), this isn’t the kind of an album you come back to because it sounds different than anything else out there. If you come back to We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized, it’s because you have a soft spot for Kannberg as a godfather of 90s alternative rock.

Unsurprisingly, the best thing about the album is Kannberg’s unaging ability to come up with memorable guitar parts. The starry-eyed ballad “Diario”, undoubtedly one of the strongest things here, features some classic Kannberg guitar licks, while the jangly “Them Cold Eyes” sees Spiral Stairs giving 80s guitar pop a solid go. Spiral Stairs is too good of a guitar player to make a song completely uninteresting, and even the most tepid material in We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized features some serious Kannberg shredding  - see the stomping rocker “Hold On (Till I Figure It Out)”.

Kannberg’s vocals do leave something to be desired, not so much because of their lack of proficiency (imagine complaining about a Pavement band member not sounding like Freddie Mercury) but because of their impersonality. There is a certain quirkiness in some of Kannberg’s best material that is simply lacking here. It really is a shame, because there is some incredibly strong songwriting in this thing: get any Iggy Pop imitator to sing the high-tempo lead single “Hyp-No-Tized” and you’ve got an undeniable 70s classic in your hands.

Even when it tries to get slightly out there, We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized doesn’t deviate from its recurrently safe and bland Tom Petty-ness, like with the horn arrangements on “Fingerprintz”. For the most part, Spiral Stairs fares better in the more up-tempo numbers and when he gets away from the meat and potatoes ballad-y songs. “BTG” is a fun rocker loaded with different types of instrumentation, while “Dear Husband” is one of the few songs on the album with a large focus on its rhythm section. For all its reluctance to venture beyond a more classic rock sound, We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized remains a fun and engaging front to back listen. It won’t win Spiral Stairs any new fans, but Pavement diehards will certainly be satisfied to have new Scott Kannberg material, especially when it’s as solid as We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized.

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