Spring King were doomed and blessed the moment that Zane Lowe played ‘City’ as his first choice on Apple’s new radio station, Beats1. At the same time as exposing them to a world beyond that what they might have expected, it dragged them into ‘next big thing’ territory’. What followed hasn’t hyped them up to the lengths of Palma Violets and that’s probably been to their credit. There’s been a steady supply of singles and live shows that prove Spring King aren’t another hyper-serious indie band. Guitarist Pete Darlington’s dad used to play saxophone with them live and they make energetic, upbeat indie music. It’s another indie band that isn’t afraid of the mainstream or allowing accessible pop to bleed into their music. ‘City’ is the biggest example of this. It’s a mixture of fuzzy rock which stays put throughout the album with their poppy tendencies and a euphoric chorus. It’s not far from the kind of festival anthems the Vaccines, Bastille or Wolf Alice aim for. Spring King might be good for ‘City’, but their ability as a band to offer deeper cuts is somewhat less powerful.
They replicate the same fuzz-pop on ‘Who Are You?’, which throws the guitars to the front and lets them drown everything else out. Vocalist Tarek Musa, who also plays drums, is always fighting to try and rise to the top, but that heavy layer of fuzziness is hard to break through. A side-step on ‘Who Are You?’ is the saxophone solo, dutifully provided by Darlington’s dad. Unfortunately it only stays for a couple of seconds, but gives a glimpse of a much freakier band underneath. What other indie bands can so easily put a saxophone solo into their song? Unfortunately, it’s the last we see of that mysterious father. In the middle of the album, Spring King lower the pace down to a couple of mid-tempo swayers like ‘It’s So Dark’ and ‘Demons’, the former being your typical mid-00s indie (think Razorlight or Franz Ferdinand) and the latter recalling Humbug-era Arctic Monkeys, which is never a bad thing.
The problem is, Spring King pretty much perfected that quick-pace pop song on ‘City’, that anything that crosses the same path – ‘Rectifier’ (Which has a bit of a krautrock to it), ‘Tell Me If You Like To’, ‘Detroit’, and ‘Who Are You?’, is just a decent copy. That’s not to say Spring King are the only ones doing it, but their songs are such carbon copies that once you’ve heard ‘City’ and ‘It’s So Dark’, you’ve heard it all. Doubtless, they’re a good live band, and have a weird streak that’s begging to be exposed, but on record, I don’t think they have the variation or the heaviness to set them out from the rest of the pack. ‘Demons’ stands out though because it doesn’t fall into the categories of their slow or fast songs. The chorus of ‘Tonight the night comes alive / every time you’re in my… neighbourhood!’, where Musa actually sounds aggressive as opposed his usual vocals. Then there’s a glam-rock, screeching guitar line that doesn’t outstay its welcome. It’s one of the few times that the guitar really separates itself from the rest of the noise.
It bears a striking resemblance to the Last Shadow Puppets last album, minus the sprawling orchestra, but Tell Me If You Like To has more in common with the ‘get to the chorus’ Arctic Monkeys of 2006. They’re writing good pop songs and in their ‘City’ they might have found their own mini-‘Bros’ or ‘Best Of Friends’. It’s a festival song, and they might just be a festival band. I don’t think anyone will be fondly remembering this album for years to come, but if Spring King need a firm statement of intent, they have a good, if slightly wobbly, one here.
Funnel Recommends: City / Demons / Rectifier