Swindon band Tin Spirits return with their second album to the introductory slowed down sound of a match being struck and then burning, an aural image that is repeated in the visual of the cover artwork. Carnivore then lumbers in on a meaty riff jointly carved by Dave Gregory and fellow guitar wrangler Daniel Steinhardt, intent on its destination, not to be corralled. Hopefully, that has got the beefy puns out of the way!
I have not heard the first album, 2011’s Wired To Earth so consequentially I can enter the world of Tin Spirits without preconceptions, and from this first tune it seems to be a good planet to be on.
The band started out playing prog and XTC covers so it is no surprise that both these influences are to the fore on this record. Summer Now has that XTC vibe that Mr Gregory brings to his workplace, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. A laid back number, and a good choice for the summer single, it languidly drifts through the air, eventually calling forth a Bill Nelson-like solo from one of the guitarists. Very nice indeed.
All the songs are credited to the group on the CD cover, possibly with lead vocalist Mark Kilminster writing most of the lyrics. Occasionally flashes of classical guitar from Daniel crop up as in the beginning and ending of Old Hands. Heavier elements in the riffing on Binary Man are subsumed by the band’s overarching pop sensibilities. This also keeps them from straying into a stylised prog path, and gives the band their own identity.
Binary Man shines a light on a solid rhythm section that anchors the band with a weight that holds down their frothier pop traits, the muscular and direct drumming of Douglas Mussard to the fore. The four musicians, all obviously masters of their craft together make a cohesive and enjoyable sound. A delicate take on math-rock forms the basis of the opening section of album highlight Little Eyes, a song that takes its time to happen upon a light jazz-inflected groove, and is the sort of thing you would find a gig audience closing their eyes to as they drift and sway off into their own private worlds. If XTC had done eight-minute songs, they may have sounded like this.
A feature of the album is the twin guitars of Gregory and Steinhardt, but they never get into cheesy face-offs, it’s all done with a polite English reserve, the one complimenting the other. I have read of comparisons to Wishbone Ash, but here there is little of that “you go, I go” or “you go, I’ll do it a semitone lower” of the mighty fine 70s twin guitar band. Rather, when not playing together tight as a nut, they tend to go their own way, but always aware of the other, like two panthers circling prey. And, to be honest I have no idea who plays which line, not that it matters a jot!
The staccato rhythmic chops in the verses of Wrapped And Tied nicely contrast with the chorus and turnaround, and there’s the surprise of a very short burst of Frippian notes from one of the plank spankers, fleeting across the sonic spectrum like a crafty wink.
The short acoustic and classical interlude of She Moves Among Us, presumably and deftly played by Daniel gives us a breather before we conclude with the epic-length Garden State. Like many modern “long uns” I’m not too sure it works as well as the shorter songs. Sure there are many fine musical moments in the tune, but it seems the whole is less than the sum of its parts, and it is another of those prog fan appeasers. That does not mean I don’t dig it, I just feel that it is fifteen minutes long because that is what is expected. If we are being honest there are very few prog tunes, original era or modern era that can carry off being ten or more minutes long. The musicians involved have to be at the top of their game in the arrangement department to make an epic memorable after the first few plays. I’ve spun this a few times, and it has not stuck in my head, but probably as three separate songs at least one of them would be an earworm by now.
In conclusion Scorch is a good album, played by top-notch musicians, and there are more than a few songs worth going back to, Little Eyes in particular. I shall certainly investigate Wired To Earth on this evidence.
01. Carnivore (4:41)
02. Summer Now (6:08)
03. Old Hands (7:12)
04. Binary Man (5:19)
05. Little Eyes (8:26)
06. Wrapped And Tied (5:28)
07. She Moves Among Us (3:16)
08. Garden State (15:08)
Total Time – 55:41
Mark Kilminster – Vocals & Bass
Douglas Mussard – Drums, Percussion & Vocals
Daniel Steinhardt – Electric, Acoustic & Classical Guitars
Dave Gregory – Electric 6 & 12 String Guitars & Acoustic Guitar
Record Label: Esoteric Antenna/Vibrola Records
Catalogue#: EANTCD 1035
Year Of Release: 2014
Main Website: Tin Spirits
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