Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Spottiswoode and His Enemies present a brilliant overview of pop music

October 3, 2011

One glance at the cover art for Wild Goosechase Expedition by Spottiswoode and His Enemies will tell you a great deal of what you need to know. Magical Mystery Tour is also invoked in sound, style and structure. For Beatlemaniacs among us, this is exciting.

The fact that Spottiswoode’s well-developed melodic touch is on full display should seal the deal for that group. For those less high on the Fab Four, there’s still a great chance of purchasing this album. If you hear the songs once, you’ll hear them replayed in your head multiple times — you’ll need the recorded versions so you can stop the earworm record player.

From the get-go, Spottiswoode pummels listeners with hook after hook. And like mid-era Beatles (and later pop fanatics Fountains of Wayne), each song takes on a different persona from the pop canon.

“Beautiful Monday” is a perky piano-pop tune that ELO could have written. “Happy or Not” has some upbeat Motown swagger to go with a saxophone and an incredible chorus. “Purple River Yellow Sun” is a hippie anthem; “All in the Past” is a Joseph Arthur tune that turns into a crushing rock song. “Just a Word I Use” appropriates/mocks faux-Parisian tunes that were popular in the ’50s and earlier. “I’d Even Follow You to Philadelphia” is a passionate piano-based crooner that rings completely true (an astonishing feat, honestly).

That’s just the first six of seventeen tracks. This album goes on for over an hour, and there’s barely a clunker in the batch. (Closer “You Won’t Forget Your Dream” does stretch the bounds of attention at 9 minutes, even if it does have a great deal of variation.) Spottiswoode’s complete control over his vocal timbre and arrangements makes him able to sell every one of the tunes. You’re guaranteed to not like the genre of one or two of these tunes, but that doesn’t mean it’s a cast-off.

Wild Goosechase Expedition is a fascinating, lengthy album exploring pop music in just about every form I can think of that existed prior to 1981 (there’s no electro-anything here). And the band pulls it off. I kept expecting it to fall on its face as I got further in to the run time, but it never did. If you still have an attention span that longs for albums, Spottiswoode and His Enemies have a present for you.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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