Ventura, Calif. band The Spires have been around since 2004, and various incarnations have released EPs and albums on the Bee House label, which they founded, including a live album impersonating the Velvet Underground. They have gigged with the likes of Ariel Pink and the Fruit Bats, and received a fair number of happy reactions to their music. The group’s latest, A Way of Seeing, blends several decades of post-punk, indie and psychedelic pop. Straightforwardly enough, the most noteworthy things going on here are the songs…with no weak material in sight.
Perverse opener “Start At the Ending If You Can’t Begin” is a meandering slice of Lou Reed via Galaxie 500, warning that “the businessman will shake your hand but won’t look you in the eye.” “TAM” glistens with echoes of Teenage Fanclub, the Vaselines, and the Byrds. It’s unclear whether the chorus repeats, “some,” “sun” or something else amidst the warm crackle. “The Afterlife” has a lovely turn of the ’70s West Coast ambience, while “Lowercases” evokes Tom Verlaine and Moby Grape. “Famous Last Words” begins proclaiming “I want to fly a spitfire in the RAF,” and brings to mind Mark E Smith fronting Jefferson Airplane. “History of the Off Ramp” is a masterstroke, like Al Stewart, Steve Kilbey and Destroyer stomping around an approximation of the best bits of British new wave. It’s a nicely subdued ecstasy.
“Everything and Nothing at Once” is another exquisite nod to Reed, augmented by a driving melancholy which recalls Felt and Miaow Miaow. “Ballad of the Spires” has touches of the La’s, Dave Brubeck and Luna. The backdrop makes “I’ll always come back the next day” seem inspirationally gushing…reach for forced reservation. The album’s more sedate aspects are equally arresting. “What was I Saying?” is spectrally lovely, while “All You People” closes like early Malkmus harmonised…complete with concerns over paper clips. I played this record three times back to back upon receiving it. A Way of Seeing makes it seem like the sun is smiling back at you.
Lou Reed – Coney Island Baby
Miaow Miaow – Summertime for a Lifetime
Teenage Fanclub – Grand Prix