Album Review: Spector – Moth Boys

By on Friday, 21st August 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

With a revamped roster and production assistance from none other than the multi-talented Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange, formerly Lightspeed Champion), London alt-pop quartet Spector are set to release their highly-anticipated sophomore album ‘Moth Boys’. Slick and streamlined, the new album is noticeably more synth-centric than the band’s energetic 2012 debut LP ‘Enjoy It While It Lasts’, and also much more ponderously deliberate in its overall ambience.

Frontman and lead vocalist Fred Macpherson channels the vocal style of Editors’ Tom Smith in this set of morose and melodramatic songs, taking advantage of his dark and ominous baritone timbre to convey the ostentatious misery in his lyrics through the course of the album. Though there are a fair few upbeat dance tempo tracks, even these tend to drag a bit, weighed down by Macpherson’s lyrical bitterness but also by the narrow, self-absorbed musical focus, which comes across as a very conscious effort by the band to take themselves more seriously.

The album opens with a strong sequence of tracks, starting with early single ‘All the Sad Young Men’, whose angular instrumental lines and pulsating rhythm underscore the rather bratty recurrent declaration “I don’t want to make love / I don’t want to make plans / I don’t want anyone to want to hold my hand”. Current single ‘Stay High’, which we featured recently in this live video, is similarly uptempo with a sharp guitar lick behind the double-tracked vocals in the chorus “stay high / you know tomorrow is a lie / and maybe so you and I” and is immediately followed by the shimmering disco hall effect of ‘Believe’.

The pretentious lyrical theme of emotional detachment begins to wear thin by the time fourth track ‘Don’t Make Me Try’ rolls around, its conceit showing through in the lines “these emails I draft but never send / works of art you couldn’t comprehend / I miss you / don’t make me try”. The song’s drone-like keyboard tone is likewise abrasive, but its crisp percussion and backing vocals redeem it somewhat, as does the subtle mood shift at the end when the title line changes to “don’t make me cry”.

The lengthy ‘Cocktail Party – Head Interlude’, co-written by Hynes, contains some of the album’s most dramatic and desperate lyrical imagery over bright keyboards and a skipping percussion rhythm that keeps the momentum going as Macpherson imagines the object of his affection “smearing off last night’s lips / you’re running from a 2 AM kiss / he makes you think about yourself / I hope you make it home”. The rhythm drops out in the coda, and a thin wash of synths leaves a lingering sense of desperation.

The jazz inflection of early single ‘Bad Boyfriend’ is a welcome change of pace in the middle of the tracklisting. While its gloomy lyrics are more of the same, alternating between insult and self-deprecation, the vivid harmonic colour in its chorus is one of the album’s most memorable musical moments.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/cRz93s8F_gs[/youtube]

From that point forward, the album slides from the morose into the purely maudlin. ‘Decade of Decay’ is precisely what you’d expect from a song with that title, and ‘Kyoto Garden’, while inventive in its musical references and rhythmic pulse, is a lyrical morass of depression centering around the lines “so what am I supposed to do / if I was you I’d hate me too / I get it”. The bitter jealousy of ‘West End’ dampens that song’s ragged dance tempo, while final tracks ‘Using’ and ‘Lately It’s You’ drag and plod into aimless self-absorption.

Spector were clearly feeling the weight of expectation after the success of ‘Enjoy It While It Lasts’, and it appears that they may have neglected to take their own advice. ‘Moth Boys’ is an intricately planned successor, but its meticulous machinations have left it completely devoid of joy. It might have been better off trimmed to an EP or even a more concise and focused shorter album. As it is, the album’s first half is a good listen, with songs that are more instinctive and visceral as compared to the intellectually and emotionally contrived later tracks.

6.5/10

Spector’s sophomore LP ‘Moth Boys’ is out today on Fiction Records. The band will tour the album through the UK this October; you can find the listing of live dates by clicking here. Previous TGTF coverage of Spector is right back this way.

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