It’s shallow ground to walk on if you’re a band like Spector. First off, with a name possibly referring to the greatest gunslinging producer of all time, the bar was high before they’d even begun. Secondly, art-rock indie disco floorfillers have long had their mainstream sojourn at the early end of the noughties, and long been forgotten in the ears of your typical consumer. So, it’s a pretty commendably bold move to produce an album full of anthemic choruses, power chord-pissed riffs and tongue-in-cheek lyrics shrouded in the odd dose of probably intentionally ironic pretension. Not to mention being fronted by a man as polarising as Johnny ‘better-than-Bob-Dylan’ Borrell.
Fred Macpherson, dubbed the ‘Jarvis Cocker for the next generation’, solely because he wears glasses, basically, is that enigmatic frontman of the quintet. Something of a veteran already, he’s beat around the bush with bands that didn’t really make it out of the blocks, Les Incompetents and Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man, before tailoring himself into the flamboyant pro-Topman suits of Spector, spurning nihilistic wit (as evident in the title) that somewhat smugly manifest his battle scars. With these short fallings, you might even empathise with him, evermore considering he’s managed to pinpoint a time when his favourite music ruled supreme and voraciously make a band off of it. Take yourself back to 2004: Franz Ferdinand, The Killers and The Strokes et al. had just given birth to indie disco, the epitome of going batshit on the dancefloor without any control over your actions, or so I’m told by everybody who wasn’t ten at the time. In 2012, Spector have somehow managed to bring us back an iota of aforementioned guilty pleasure.
‘True Love (For Now)’ opens the album, with Macpherson sprinkling a thematic flavouring of teen angst – and doing no harm to the inevitable Jarvis comparison in lyrical intellect and acerbic bite – over the arty-piano plonks and synth-heavy Killers-esque chorus. He’s having “a quarter-life crisis, teen Dionysus,” you see. ‘Chevy Thunder’ follows, blustering in and sitting you immediately down in the passengers seat for a hedonistic ride of burning rubber and downing tequila, with rolling power chords, relentless drums and pure dynamism – almost a sort of dumbed-down Springsteen epic that’s got some serious energy. It’s a thrilling, immediate standout, the perfect embodiment of what this album and what this band is trying to be. Macpherson channels Brandon Flowers on ‘Grey Shirt & Tie’, languidly crooning over mellow synths, intending to be minimal but ultimately ending up sounding too contrived and self-conscious. Like Brandon Flowers. ‘Twenty Nothing’ sounds like Albert Hammond Jr. of The Strokes frenetically jamming and then instantly forgetting what he just did, with the dry wit and lyrical observations adding weight to the shimmering jaunts on show. “Heard he was your rock?”, Jarvis Jr. ponders, “does that make me your hard place?”
It’s not all Yankophile, though, Spector get to grips with their roots on ‘Friday Night, Don’t Ever Let It End’, immersing themselves in typical British cynicism, “I thought it was the weekend, but where all my friends?”, uncannily echoing Alex Kapranos’ sentiments over on Franz Ferdinand’s debut. It’s all going pretty well, until Roots Manuva ludicrously pops up at the end of ‘Upset Boulevard’ at the epicentre of the album, preaching about music piracy, and you start to imagine what’s real and what’s not anymore. At this moment, the quintet’s unlikeability temporarily sky rockets to John Terry levels. Moving on, ‘Lay Low’ is White Lies without the payoff, an indie ballad that lifts to an anthemic chorus, whilst ‘Celestine’ is more Kaiser Chiefs than the Kaiser Chiefs, or the Kaiser Chiefs if they were any good: poppy chorus that begs for festival exposure – check; obligatory repetition of ‘woah’ – check; lengthy bridge that ghosts into a millisecond of silence before eruption – check.
Spector aren’t exactly pushing boundaries, but they’re not trying to. Yes, they may be derivative. Yes, at times ‘Enjoy It While It Lasts’ begs to be tossed into the landfill. And yes, you often get the overwhelming desire to embed Macpherson’s ‘ironic’ glasses into his cranium. But you cannot deny Spector have achieved what they set out to: they’ve created an entertaining, endearing and enjoyable album of unashamed, old-school indie pop. Shallow ground, but comfortable shoes.