DYING by Spectres
Genre: Shoegaze, Noise Rock
Favorite Tracks: “Blood in the Cups,” “Where Flies Sleep”
It’s such a cliche in “hipster” circles to say that a band was better before they went mainstream that it’s impossible to say it without feeling at least a little embarrassed. Yet, there’s a reason why that sentiment grew in the first place; any art that feels compromised or diluted for the benefit of the artists’ benefactors always feels as if it is missing some vital honesty. In the case of the UK’s Spectres, it’s disappointing that their first release with label Sonic Cathedral, DYING, comes through the process void of the things that make them interesting as a band. In their early catalogue they were a shoegaze act with a healthy dose of post-punk and noise-driven aggression to keep them tantalizing. This last October they also released the phenomenal single “Spectre,” apparently a fake/alternative theme song for the upcoming James Bond film of the same name, that takes the listener on a sweeping sonic journey. To push it even further, the B-side to “Spectre” was the noisy and terrifying “Bondage,” a fascinating Hellscape of distortion for anyone drawn to harsh music.
DYING sadly fails to truly capitalize on the varied wheelhouse of genres Spectres have clearly demonstrated they’re capable of. The album functions mostly as a straightforward, fuzzy wall of vaguely dark shoegaze guitars that makes for an overall pleasant experience, but never delivers on the unexpected detours into other genres their other music seems to suggest. It’s not a terrible record, it’s just more of a letdown when a band that seems full of potential produces something middling than when an average band produces something good. Had Spectres strictly made moody, Sonic Youth-inspired shoegaze up to this point, DYING would probably feel like a very solid effort. In 2015, however, the hunger for new combinations of genres is insatiable, and when an artist doesn’t deliver on this, it’s incredibly easy to get bored with them.
It may not strictly be that debuting on a label is what dragged DYING down. Most of Spectres’ other releases have been singles or EPs. In all likelihood, stretching out ideas about how to combine genres became too intimidating, and so releasing a record that played it safe seemed like a surefire way to acquire a fan base. In the ever-expanding landscape of niche subreddits, Rate Your Music threads, and various other forums, it’s better to do something new to turn heads than to play by a perceived rulebook. In all honesty, a collection of small but diverse EPs would be much more engaging from this group than a full album, and there’s no reason they couldn’t gather a fan base around those alone. The days of strictly having to craft full-length albums to gain attention are long gone. The internet has gladly changed the restrictions artists used to face in how they present their music. Hopefully, Spectres will find their way to even stranger sounds and showcase their talents all the better for it.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend (But Recommend Artist)