Second albums are supposed to be ‘difficult’ and ‘a little bit shit’… no surprises then that once again Watford 4-piece THE SPITFIRES buck this trend, as they have been all others.
Rattling cages, kicking down doors and taking the fight to the nations consciousness has been a full-time occupation for the band since their inception. A year ago they released their incendiary debut album RESPONSE an album chock-full of tunes that leap, spit and bark like a chained up dog, with singer, guitarist and song writer Billy Sullivan similarly straining at the leash – hard hitting lyrics, carried onwards and upwards by an energetic musicianship that is slick, dynamic and tight… very tight. Those that espouse that ‘bands aren’t saying anything anymore…’ well, YOU JUST AIN’T LISTENING BABY!!
But that was then and this is now! (Possibly the biggest of truisms about the band) and incredibly a mere 12 months later the follow up has arrived; A THOUSAND TIMES. This is only old-school in the sense of work ethic. Their fiery passion continues from its predecessor but takes its lead from the huge melodies amid the maelstrom and attack that really that defined the stand-out tracks such as Spoke to Soon, Stand Down, the mournful 4 a.m. and personal favourite When I call Out Your Name, all rich in melody and song-craft of the highest level.
A THOUSAND TIMES is ushered in by a sonic-reverberation that explodes into the force of nature that is the title tune. Its Spector-like wall-of-sound fills every part of your head; Chris’ Cure-esque keyboard melody tells you this is a POP record, full of hooks and sing-along chorus’ and defies you not to join in. THE LAST GOODBYE belies its sad lyrics with a lively romp in a similar pop rhythm, alive with nimble bass lines and solid assured drums, beneath swirling Hammond chops and guitar stabs and slashes that so define their sound.
DAY TO DAY swaggers into view like a modern day Graham Day meets early Deep Purple and is possibly my favourite track on the album ‘Got to get your shit together’ sings Billy over Sam’s funky bass and Matt’s percussion and drum mix – they’ve certainly done that on this track.
The Mariachi trumpets of Response have been replaced by sumptuous strings on this album and its deftness of touch and fleetness of foot are delicious; adding both light and shade to the melancholy OPEN MY EYES, with Billy on acoustic guitar and a greater emphasis on harmony and vocal interplay make this a thing of rare beauty.
The opening chord of single ON MY MIND all mid-sixties Who, Rickenbacker blasts a large pop-art POW! into the conscious before returning to that modern Spitfire Pop with huge euphoric choruses – songs like this are made to jump around to between gigs and bedrooms all lost in smiles. Its preceding single SO LONG follows next and harks back to Response and feels like an older tune; weightier than much of A THOUSAND THINGS it does add a heavier texture, but that the band all over; at times bludgeoning at others stiletto sharp.
Album highlight I DON’T EVEN KNOW MYSELF follows, with dextrous rhythmic changes, from soaring power-pop clatter to one-drop riddim all highlight just how far the band have come in a musical sense; melodies are clearer and the subtle nuances more apparent. Even in the other older sounding track THE SUBURBS (WE CAN’T COMPLAIN) the syncopated rhythms are spot on, jump-start, all shock and awe but what was once a calls to arms are now calls to the heart.
RETURN TO ME is simply stunning; a beautifully crafted song with a Suggs vocal line over luxurious strings. I can see this being many people’s favourite song and rightly so – It’s possibly as good a song as ANYONE has written this year. Clocking in at nearly six and a half minutes it is a genuine treat, the build-up from the string break makes the hairs bristle on the back of the neck in the way when you know you are in the presence of something just that little bit special.
A playful reprise of a semi a cappella of ON MY MIND segues into album closer A BETTER LIFE which after the joyous career through the rest of the album is surprisingly downbeat, recalling 4 a.m. from Response before a more life-affirming middle-eight full of clever lyrics and rhyming couplets.
A THOUSAND TIMES is a spectacular album; inventive, challenging and above all a joyful mix of guitar-driven pop and savvy lyrics. It knocks efforts by more established artists into a cocked hat. Those that want more from music should beg, steal or buy this album – fall in love again with what music can give to you. Never more let it be said that second albums are ‘difficult’ and ‘a little bit shit’… STUNNING!
‘A Thousand Times’ – the new album from The Spitfires
Out Friday 26th August 2016
Pre Order now at http://thespitfires.tmstor.es
This review was written by author and publisher Jason Brummell from The Suave Collective – to find out more and purchase Suave Collective paperbacks head over to their site here