Spy Catcher


Written by: TL on 19/03/2014 23:56:23

I'm not entirely sure how Watford rockers Spy Catcher prefer to have their name styled - with or without the space, and/or with or without the capital letters - so I'm going to stick with grammar by default. What I do know however, is that the band flashed briefly with the contagious singles "Don't Like People" and "Remember Where You Were When Michael Jackson Died" from their debut LP "Honesty" from three years ago and subsequently faded off the radar a bit, to the point where they succeeded in sneaking up on me, dropping their sophomore last week with little - if any - prior hype reaching me beforehand.

Having embraced the word-playing label of "grit pop", likely in admission of singer/guitarist Steve Sears' rough-'round-the-edges punk-rock voice, Spy Catcher sounds a bit like you'd imagine Pure Love or The Gaslight Anthem would if they had somehow found and fallen in love with a keyboard on the way to the borderlands between punk and nostalgia-driven rock that both have tradionally resided in. It's a peculiar style, the keys chiming happily and at least slightly organically along to loads of bright guitar chord progressions, while Sears croons on like a man that should essentially front a band somewhat? Manlier? Or perhaps at least just a bit more bitter and conservative?

Like it or not though, such is the premise of Spy Catcher, and if you buy it, they've brought along some more hooks from the same vein that sourced the songs mentioned previously. In keeping with the band's style though, they feel a bit odd, because both opener "Peroxide" and single "Exactly" sound like slightly under-developed songs - You feel like they get at it a bit too quickly, or like something is persistently missing. Give the record a few spins however, and you'll find yourself humming their melodies anyway. It's a likely consequence of the shamelessly applied vocal dubs in their choruses, but it's hard to argue that it doesn't get the job done.

Moving on with the decent "Clapped Out", the band continues to appeal to people who enjoy the more Clash-like, poppy side to a band like The Menzingers, which only bolsters that feeling of Spy Catcher being a punk-rock band who - by indulging their love for cheesy hooks - are trying to awkwardly but endearingly back their way into radio-rock relevance. After "Nobody Needs To Know" however, it feels like the hook quality decreases steeply in consistency, and it becomes evident that without it, Spy Catcher's peculiar style doesn't have that much depth of emotion to it. Beyond the glossy signatures that are straight up infectious, it's easy to overlook any sense of real danger or energy that would've characterised a good, traditional punk-rock band, which then makes "L I E S" feel a bit domesticated.

It could be argued of course, that Sears' somewhat bleak lyricism strikes exactly the contrast that's needed to fortify Spy Catcher's personality. "It goes like this, work a job [...] 'til some mediocre girl comes along, you can relate to.." is a symptomatic bit from "Stay The Same" showing Sears setting a somewhat different tone than the album's instrumentals. Such lyrics however can be either 'charming bitter' or just 'bitter bitter', and often the singer comes off a bit more like the latter here, than a master of the trade like say, a Justin Pierre or a Max Bemis. Granted, those are big names to measure up to, but I simply wish to illustrate that this aspect of Spy Catcher you can find done more elegantly elsewhere. That said, when you add everything up "L I E S" is another hardly comparable manifestation of Spy Catcher's peculiar style mix, and it's just diverse enough in the hooks department to always surprise you a bit with its likability when you return to it, even if I'm not sure just how often that's going to be.

Download: Exactly, Clapped Out, Nobody Needs To Know,
For The Fans Of: Pure Love, Reggie And The Full Effect, Say Anything
Listen: facebook.com/spycatchermusic

Release date 10.03.2014

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