There is so much more to enjoy at DRC than just the music. The regular wrist-slap I receive for tardy blog posting, counting the minutes until Danny Baker gets name checked and how many times ‘Spirit of Eden’ can be mentioned in one meeting. My favourite feature recently has been the increasingly haunted looking expression on my more cultured colleague’s faces, as I prepare to reveal my selection.
Such foreboding can only really be generated by a combination of confidence and ignorance on my part and I would like to think I didn’t disappoint this week!
I have always really liked this album for the energy, enthusiasm and live ‘vibe’ that comes through on it. Yes, the band get carried away when they could have kept things a little more open and not so busy. Yes, there are moments when they decide to show off a bit too much, but I’ve always found a little bit of irresistible charm and exuberance here.
Like the millions who bought this, I heard “Two Princes” first, before buying the album. Strangely the album had been out for over a year before anything happened for the band. While genning up on this week’s selection, I am reliably informed that there was a pseudo-hippie, jam-oriented blues rock scene in New York in the early 90’s. Can’t say I was aware, and certainly hadn’t noticed this scene crossing the Atlantic over to Exeter. This album certainly doesn’t have any urban sophistication I might expect from a New York sound, though there are some jazzy touches here and there. As I said on the night, maybe I like this so much as it fills so many gaps in my collection.
Leaving the better known singles, “Two Princes” and “Little Miss….” aside, the rest of the album is a mash-up of blues/funk/boogie/jam etc., etc…., with bits of hillbilly/redneck thrown in for luck. Too much for some I’ll agree, but with energy of a band who had honed their live show before commercial success, I think they get away with it (with the notable exception of the last track on the original release, ‘Shin Bone Alley..”, which verges on Tappish “freefall jazz odyssey” territory).
My personal favourite is ‘Refrigerator Car’, which sounds like it could have been a demo from ‘Second Coming’, or a lift straight off “Physical Graffiti’.
If the single, ‘Cleopatra’s Cat’, didn’t put anyone off their follow up album, the reviews would have done. In the space of 3 albums the band went from selling millions to 75,000 and being dropped by Epic. Their last album in 2005 has had some good things said about it and I may give it a try one day. After a few break-ups and line up changes, the original line up were still touring last year.
Still sounds great to me and I’m sure my colleagues have a view (retires safe in the knowledge he has 2 rounds of comments to catch up on….)
Nick listened: I never know whether Graham’s going to play something I know and love (Dust by Screaming Trees, Scott 4, The The, Hendrix), or something I’ve subconsciously avoided (Roger Waters!). To be fair, his hit-rate is considerably better than he suggests above!
Spin Doctors, I’m afraid, probably fall into the latter camp, though. Whilst Two Princess is an all-time great pop single, a whole album of ostentatious funky guitar upstrokes, super-sharp 1991-vintage snare sounds, borderline slap-bass-playing, and wannabe-soulful vocals was a bit much to take. Especially when they went 12-minute funk odyssey at the end. There’s something over-eager, and thus “not quite tasteful”, about the whole thing. The strange thing is that, superficially at least, what Spin Doctors were doing wasn’t a billion miles from Jane’s Addiction, who are equally over-eager and “not quite tasteful” (not tasteful at lal, in fact), but somehow there’s an edge to JA which makes it acceptable to the music snob. I imagine Spin Doctors would have been a thoroughly rollicking live party band, but I’m not loving the record.
Interestingly, after The Modern Lovers last time out, Spin Doctors felt like the least “New York” band to come from New York ever. I have no idea why, but something about them screamed California at me.
Tom Listened: Sometimes music appreciation (or lack of appreciation) defies logical consideration. As I listened to Pocket Full of Kryptonite, I couldn’t really work out what it was about it that I found so unappealing. The guy’s voice is fine, the bass lines are funky and fun, the playing in general is accomplished, certainly in terms of what the band is setting out to do, but mashed together I found the whole to be much less than the sum of its parts (kind of the opposite of Spirit of Eden, which happens to be one of Graham’s favourite albums in case you didn’t know). Maybe the context didn’t do The Spin Doctors any favours – if it came on at a party I would probably have an enjoyable (and acutely embarrassing) boogie to it, but then I rarely get invited to those sorts of parties (or any parties come to think of it).
Rob listened: First things first. If any of the comments above, and obviously I can’t be bothered to read them, imply that the group found ‘Pocket Full of Kryptonite’ anything less than toe-tapping, then those what wrote them are damned liars. I was there and toes were tapped. Other than that, I agree with everything Tom and Nick said. I guess The Spin Doctors were, ultimately, victims of their own constraints, or limitations if you prefer. Nowhere to go from here except tighter or weirder and neither of those sound like interesting moves. Still, it sure sounds like they had a heap of fun making this record, and that’s something.