We’ve seen our share of supergroups come and go over the last couple of years: the Raconteurs, Them Crooked Vultures, Mt. Desolation. The latest? Divine Fits, starring Spoon’s Britt Daniel, Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner and New Bomb Turks’ Sam Brown, who made their live debut in Austin earlier this month. Most supergroups seem to form when the principals get bored with their original bands. Or their bands have gone on hiatus, as is the case here. The sound of Boeckner’s other band outside of Wolf Parade, the electronic-driven side project Handsome Furs he had with his wife that broke up this past spring, is strongly felt here in the keyboard action provided by fourth member Alex Fischel. This contribution serves up welcome New Wave and psychedelic tones to most of the tracks on this enjoyable first effort, dark but incredibly poppy.
The album cover is simple yet loud: one perfect, delicious-looking Maraschino cherry, as if plucked from a ladies’ Manhattan, sits centre stage on a bright yellow background. It’s your first clue that this is, for the most part, trying to sound like a summer record. The second is the track title ‘Ice Cream’, closer to the rear of the album; the song itself equates a relationship to the confection that melts in the sun, achieving a comparison that men can laugh about and women can appreciate (“I could have took this summer / but she waited for me / like ice cream”). ‘My Love Is Real’, the opening track and the first single from the release, is eerie in the sense of Soft Cell’s ‘Tainted Love’; the hypnotic notes keep you listening.
Another track the band released on their Soundcloud, ‘What That Not Be Nice’, is one soulful, sexy tune, with maracas and psychedelic synth effects adding additional layers of flair. You know that nice pair of trousers that you only take out for special occasions? Slick as it is, this song – and this album – they are those trousers. ‘What Gets You Alone’ is a fast-paced, minor key stomper; ‘Flaggin A Ride’ begins with a buzzing guitar line similar to that of the Phenomenal Handclap Band’s ‘You’ll Disappear’, but it is its swagger that will grab your attention. ‘Neapolitans’ and ‘The Salton Sea’, about a manmade lake in California that has turned into an ecological disaster, have repetitive rhythms that are borderline creepy. ‘Baby Gets Worse’ could have suffered this same fate, but with its driving keyboards, crashing guitars and a toe-tapping rhythm, it’s saved.
More serious subjects are broached later in the album. The song ‘Civilian Stripes’ is the story of a soldier returning home, but who is asked “Is it good, is it really good, the quiet life?” ‘Shivers’ starts with the unsettling lines “I’ve been contemplating suicide / but it really doesn’t suit my style”. This is a good signal as any that what is up ahead is a contemplative study of a former lover and her still far-reaching effects on his life: “The sound of her name / sends a permanent chill / down my spine / down my spine”. It’s not creepy at all; it’s beautiful in its fragility, this exposing of a man who has lost and whose pain is real, as if the screaming guitar of the outro is an extension of his feelings. It’s this genuine expression of these feelings after all that previous swanning about that gives this album a heart. ‘For Your Heart’ gets points for trying to be a ballad but pales in content to the simple beauty of ‘Shivers’.
What’s most astonishing about ‘A Thing Called Divine Fits’? The cohesiveness of the album, considering they’ve only just started this new band earlier this year. While Spoon and Wolf Parade fans may be mourning during the hiatus of their favourite bands, this is a tasty release in the interim.