Spectrals have always had an ear for a melody. On debut ‘Bad Penny’, though, it was hidden behind the lo-fi recording approach like a fog-obscured view of the Yorkshire Dales. So what do they do for the follow-up? Bring in buddy Chet ‘JR’ White on production duties, of course.
Just like the wonders the former Girls man worked on his own band’s transition from the ramshackle ‘Album’ to the epic ‘Father, Son, Holy Ghost’, here Louis Jones’ soulful croons and song craft are in the spotlight. Chet may have lurked in the shadows behind the fascinating Christopher Owens, but his contributions were evidently underestimated.
The remarkable difference he can make, providing the foundation from which a songwriter can stretch their wings from is plain to see. Take lead single, ‘Milky Way’, it may prance along with some hearty scoops of garage rock and soul, but it’s the slick mix of defiant vocals and warped noise that make all the difference.
That’s not to say it’s only Chet’s influence that’s developed Spectrals’ sound. Louis Jones is more self-assured, his voice full of confidence, his song writing laid bare. It’s glossier, like the Tiki-taka play of Jones’ beloved Barcelona compared to his scrappier debut. Jones switches effortlessly between the twin roles of crooner gently delivering ballads and rocker belting out up-tempo tunes (just without the quiff or leather jacket). Roller disco-friendly ‘A Heartbeat Behind’ is the brightest and breeziest song, one easy to imagine blasting from a jukebox, provoking mass foot-tapping and shoulder-jigging. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the title track, which echoes ‘Broken Dreams Club’ a little too much: if Christopher Owens had a vocal effect that’d chance his accent, Girls could’ve released it.
The Chet White effect hangs over the whole of ‘Sob Story’, to the extent it’s as much a follow-up to ‘Father, Son, Holy Ghost’ as ‘Bad Penny’. But don’t underestimate Louis: his new-found confidence oozes from the songs here; it may just be his first steps in the quest to emulate his old rock ‘n’ roll heroes.