The Districts - A Flourish And A Spoil

by Jim Cunnar Rating:6.5 Release Date:2015-02-10

A Flourish and a Spoil, the sophomore album from The Districts, is a servicable and likeable effort.  The four-piece hail from Lititz, PA, a small town about an hour outside of Philadelphia. With nods towards The Strokes and definitely The Walkmen (not surprising since the album was produced by John Congleton, who has worked with The Walkmen), it's a nice collection of alt-country bluesy indie rock. 

That is the thing about this album - it's just nice. Opener '4th and Roebling' is followed by 'Peaches', the first single. Both songs are cool fusions of Julian Casablancas and Hamilton Leithauser, with lead singer Rob Grotes gravelly voice punctuating early Strokes guitar hooks. 

After giving the rest of the LP a few spins, you can definitely pull other influences - 'Chlorine' and 'Sing the Song' have Parachutes-era Coldplay vibes. However, 'Heavy Bags' is just a Walkmen knock-off, which makes it a good listen, but that's it.

The two best songs on the album are 'Suburban Smell' and the closer '6 AM' - a couple of lo-fi gems. Grote sings "All we are is all we are and still I will become" on the latter with such heartache and power, it stops you cold. The other songs are nice - but these two songs are raw, honest and powerful. Since those two songs didn't have the same generic feel of the rest of the album, I went back and listened to their debut album, Telephone. And was completely blown away. 

That 2014 debut, which has tinges of Austin, TX, stalwarts The Old 97s and early Kings of Leon, is a brilliant work. It's exactly what 'Suburban Smell' and '6 AM' are -  raw and powerful and loud and fuzzy. It was self-funded and produced, and is a so much bigger and better than A Flourish and a Spoil. I've listened to it three times, and now have it on repeat.  

And that is what makes A Flourish and a Spoil so completely frustrating. This group of 20-somethings, who obviously have the chops to write great American blues-based rock 'n' roll, have been turned into a karaoke band for established indie artists. This album will sell. These songs will get airplay. They've started to make the late night television rounds here in America.  

The shame of it is that this is not the sound that put them on the map at SXSW in 2014. There are glimpses of it, but if they aren't careful, they are in danger of becoming just another rock band. With the jaw-dropping magnitude of their debut, that would be the biggest shame of all.

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