Bad penny

As much as I enjoy the new Spectrals‘ album, Bad Penny, I can’t help but be slightly annoyed by the morose sentiment that carries throughout.  Louis Jones, aka Spectrals, is 21 years old.  He is likely a healthy and relatively well-off young man.  So why does he sound like he is singing off of a pink, tear-soaked lyric sheet.  I understand he is going through a breakup, and blah blah blah.  But, to my mind, only artists who have had a couple of wives and survived a heroine overdose are aloud to mope around this much on a release.  So, as I am sure you are reading this Jones, stop it and brighten up a little.

That little diatribe aside, Bad Penny is a pleasant and often excellent record.  Jones plays to his strengths right from the beginning.  “Get a Grip” weaves catchy guitar licks in and out of one another.  Reverb abounds, but it doesn’t substitute for apt songwriting.  Notably, the sound of this record is a bit of a departure from Spectrals’ first releases.  Jones, not unlike some of his other indie-pop counterparts, has decided to veer away from the uber-lo-fi sound. Some might take issue with the fact that Bad Penny doesn’t sound like it was recorded with a shitty tape recorder in a school gym in 1964.  “That grimy aesthetic made the sound,” someone who is kind of lame might say.  Fine.  But it seems to me that a lo-fi recording technique should be secondary to the quality of the songwriting.  Bad Penny brings Jones’ pop sensibilities to the fore and his songs are better for it.  Intensely lo-fi recordings may have drawn people in but groovy jaunts like “Doing Time” will make them want to stay.

Spectrals’ instrumentation is consistently enjoyable but, after repeat listens, Jones’ monotonous croon can become a little grating.  It worked alongside the similarly unadorned tracks on his first releases.  I even found it unique and interesting.  But now that his sounds are becoming more dynamic his voice is more obviously wanting.  Thankfully, he is still a young lad and I don’t doubt that his voice will become more and more formidable as he ages.  Older British men, as a rule, have awesome voices.

Bad Penny is harmless.  It is a perfectly enjoyable record that chugs along at its own pace, bemoans the perils of love, and makes casual Scott Walker references.  I doubt Jones will stick to that template and, for my part, I look forward to what comes next.

Bad Penny is out now on Wichita Records.

Spectrals – Get A Grip

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