Monday, 26 May 2014

REVIEW: Spearmint - 'News From Nowhere' (Hitback Records)


Some bands grow more complacent and more mellow with age. Cult indie heroes Spearmint have been active for nearly twenty years, yet here they are with a surprising socially, politically and environmentally concerned new album that lyrically ventures into what is sometimes soapbox territory. 'News From Nowhere' is their first album in eight years, and as frontman Shirley Lee explains: "as the years pass, you either let go of the convictions you held in your youth, or your principles grow stronger and you become more fervent about your beliefs. Either way a gap opens between you and your younger self. This, more than anything, is what this album is about."

Moody resignation, superb guitar hooks and shuffling beats characterise the impressive opener 'It's Not As Far To Fall', while 'The Gleaners' serves up bright indie pop that understands the importance of being resourceful, inspired by an 1857 painting of the same name that depicts peasants making a simple living from the land. The sleeve notes even reference 'The Wombles' and their ability to make use of everyday things thrown away by man. The driving electro flavours and spacey synths of 'Light From A Dead Star' provide the musical accompaniment to thoughts about the shoddy treatment of animals, its chorus making the message pretty clear: "if you want to save the world stop eating meat".

If you feel overwhelmed by being given such a lecture, you'll prefer the light relief of the excellent 'Tony Wright', a song that seems to be about indie kids from the 90s growing old, and presumably named after the lead singer of Terrorvision. Either that or it's actually about Lee himself growing old and could very well be about a different Tony Wright. But the first one makes more sense to me. With one of the album's most memorable melodies and a heartwinning sense of fond reflection, it's classic Spearmint.

The slightly unconvincing 'Children Of The Sixties, Children Of The Seventies' is an urgent indie-rave rallying cry against complacency and apathy, with an underlying acknowledgement of the lack of protest in popular music. The stripped down acoustic, jazz-infused 'Not Small, Just Far Away' fails to make much of an impression compared to the brilliant, addictively tuneful Northern Soul-tinged 'My Anger', which charms and intrigues in effortless fashion, providing the album's finest moment. Elsewhere, the high reaching 'Punctuation' grows through a short series of tastily melodic movements before 'The Dolphins' warns of the dangers of overfishing and bleeding the world dry, setting the verses to cool, spaced out funk that promises more than its flaccid chorus delivers. It's set out in such a way, you can't be sure which is the chorus and which is the verse.


The title track is another pleasing moment, influenced by a book of the same name in which (as quoted inside the album) "the hero falls asleep in Hammersmith and wakes up the next morning to discover he is living in a socialist utopia one hundred years later". Breaking from the references and politics, the album closes with the playful, positive and beautifully understated 'I Will Sleep Tonight', a song which ends the record with a smile.

It's melodic indie pop music with a conscience, adding a refreshingly direct sense of confrontation and a sense of experienced wisdom to the sort of infectious tunes Spearmint have always excelled at. 6.2/10

Go HERE to listen to album track 'Punctuation'

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