Despite two albums of viscerally excellent guitar-led noise rock, that Spectres’ profile peak to-date was their own Sam Smith fan-baiting unofficial theme song for Bond film Spectre, says much about the inner conflict they had about getting to a place where they could, with the “right” choices, have started grappling with the music industry.
Having emerged in-part due to being the driving force behind exciting Bristol DIY label and community Howling Owl that also spawned ascendant club duo Giant Swan, the four-piece weren’t exactly sticking a knife into their independence by releasing debut LP 'Dying' with respected shoegaze label Sonic Cathedral. However, alongside their Bond send-up was their Record Store Day Is Dying campaign – releasing a copy of a 7” each day for a year as a protest against the major label cannibalisation of what was once a staunchly indie event – while their music video for 'This Purgatory' depicted them turning a BBC Radio One live session into an arson-inspired murder scene complete with the fictional killing of Fearne Cotton.
In isolation, these events were the sort of things you might read about in enraged tones in a Sun newspaper side column; but in sequence it spoke of the band’s reticence to cross a certain line they had in their heads – and as It’s Never Going To Happen And This Is Why proves, opting for outsiderdom is their natural fit.
Released on their own new imprint 'Dark Habits' three years after second album 'Condition', Spectres are back scrapping for themselves again and artistically there’s a certain twisted joy amidst the punishing industrialism and noise. The band’s modus operandi is still the sound of My Bloody Valentine going through some kind of grizzly post-high psychosis, but on 'It’s Never Going To Happen…' for the first time in their existence, really, they make a concerted effort to really play about with its limits.
Aside from the towering eight minute closer 'I Was An Abattoir', which begins full of expanse and reverb only for all the air to get sucked out as it reaches its lacerating climax, tracks come in around the three minute mark, the group reasoning that they wanted to challenge themselves to more bleak into less time. Opener 'Idolise Us!' demonstrates their success in that regard to disorientating effect; it’s a furious beginning that, in the wake of MeToo, scorns the idea of bands as heroes and the dangers of putting musicians up on pedestals. The ferocious churn of 'Tanning The Albatross' re-lays the template, with drummer Andy Came punching holes through the thick wall of spiralling guitars; but where in the past Spectres have doubled down on this one idea, here – with the help of some collaborators - they begin to pull it apart.
'Define With' sees the band joined by saxophonist Ben Vince and Hyperdub producer Klein on a track that pulls down the density of their sound and scrambles amidst the left over rubble. It’s a disjointed, fever-nightmare that sees piano chords tumble amidst feedback hiss.
Housewives member and previous Joy Orbison collaborator Vince returns later to similarly unnerving effect on 'Emasculate Symphony', and these two moments work both as interludes to contrast the more structured songs of the rest of the album, and as windows into the expansion of Spectres’ own palette. It would be a cliché to attribute vocalist Joe Hatt’s move to Berlin with a newly enlightened experimental bent, and Spectres have always entertained such ideas as people in their existence as Howling Owl, but still it’s apparent that the group no longer being entirely centred around Bristol has broadened their horizons.
Elsewhere, 'On Nepotism' sees Hatt take a back seat and allows vocalist French Margot and Welsh sound artist and lyricist Elvin Brandhi tear through two and a half minutes of guttural punk that’s so blistering it renders the subsequent 'Sociopath Discotheque' as something of a tame reversion to the norm in its wake.
'It’s Never Going To Happen And This Is Why' possibly won’t push Spectres towards any kind of zeitgeist three albums in; it’s a record of nihilism and despair and at its heaviest it twists the pit of your stomach. Yet amidst the strife and turmoil of it all there undeniably lies the sound of a band revelling in a long looked-for sense of freedom – and they sound reinvigorated for it.
Words: Simon Jay Catling
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